~my thoughts about life~

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Son #2 Update

Son #2 is quite a different character from his older brother.  We had serious concerns about him at one time.  He threw fits.  He didn't talk until he was older.  He didn't seem to want friends.  He was disruptive early in school.  We thought we were in for a tough road.  I have cried many tears over this child.  The word I would have picked to describe him best would have been difficult

Fast-forward several years.  Thankfully, he doesn't throw himself on the ground in public places, screaming.  He talks, but still not very much.  He's got some really amazing friends and they actually like him.  He's a straight A student and the favorite of many of his teachers.  I never imagined....

A few years ago, a mom friend of mine asked if #2 would be interested in joining their DI team. If you've never heard of Destination Imagination, it's quite interesting.  It's for kids from elementary all the way through university levels.  The teams choose from several challenges that vary in subject.  There are fine arts challenges, scientific, technical, service projects, and more. They are presented with this challenge and have specific rules they must follow.  In the end, they are given 8 minutes to present their solution, typically in the form of a skit.  The kids must do everything on their own without help from their coaches.  They build the set, make the costumes, write the script, etc.  Sometimes these presentations can be horribly boring and make little sense. 

#2 ended up joining a team made up of 3 girls and 3 boys.  These kids work together so well and really compliment one another.  B is kind of the leader of the group and is very technical.  C is very organized and helps everyone stay on task.  J is silly and outgoing and is a tremendous actress.  The other J helps write the script and also acts.  F is the muscle of the group and fills in wherever needed.  My kid has been elected the narrator of the group.  He has a very dry sense of humor and can be quite funny without cracking a smile.

Their first year, they did this presentation that didn't make much sense, but their technical execution was quite clever.  They placed at regional competition but didn't advance past states.

The second year, they wised up a bit and their skit was much more entertaining.  They built an amazing set, which was the innards of a whale.  They had ocean sound effects, lighting that resembled moving water, and a scent that smelled like the beach.  They won regionals, states, and advanced to Globals!  It was an amazing time!

This year, they chose a pirate theme.  Their set looked like it was built by a professional crew.  They built a cannon that made noise when it fired (one of the requirements of their challenge), had moving waves in front of their ship, and a sail that showed the results of the sound waves.  The girls made their pirate costumes and Son #2 was some kind of nerdy, old man narrator. 

At each competition, they also engage in an instant challenge.  They are given some sort of challenge and have just a few minutes to execute it.  Then they are sworn to silence and can't discuss it until after Globals.  Everyone has the same challenge.  Last year at Globals, the bombed their Instant Challenge and ended up placing 40-something.

This year, they won regionals and states and headed to Gobals once again.  It is held each year at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.  We loaded up the minivans and box truck and hauled all of our stuff down there.  The kids miss almost a week of school, which they love, and we have a great time.

This year, in addition to all the DI activities, we went zip lining and horseback riding!  Looking back at the photos, I still can't believe I actually did that!  It was incredibly amazing!  One of the boys wore a Go Pro camera as he zip lined!

Anyway, skip ahead.  On the day of our central challenge, we were one of the first of the day.  It was early and the kids had to get up super early to have everything ready.  We unloaded everything into the staging area and the kids started their presentation.  About 20 seconds into it, J froze.  She stared blankly ahead, grabbed her head, and stumbled.  It seemed like several minutes passed.  Finally, the other J just jumped ahead to her line and kept going.  The first J snapped out of it and picked right back up.  All our kids were shaken.  They kept it going but weren't as exuberant as usual.  Afterward, J cried and said she messed everything up.  She had recently experienced a concussion at a soccer game and we think her momentary blackout was a result of that.  The coaches were pretty deflated but the kids really supported her and lifted her up.

Instant Challenge was the next day and our kids rocked it out.  They felt like they achieved all the possible points.

Skip ahead to the closing ceremony.  The full size arena was packed with over 17,000 people from 17 countries!  Each state/country dresses in the same shirt and it looks like a rainbow around the arena.  They all wear funny hats that light up and it's an amazing sight when they turn out the lights!  We were really hopeful that we might make "The Big Board."  The top ten teams of each challenge get their name on the jumbotron.

Challenge B...it was our turn.  They show teams 7-10 on the jumbo screen.  Nope.  Then they show 4-6.  Nothing.  We were disappointed.  We would have to wait until after the ceremony to see our ranking online.  Then they announced the third place team.  From up in the nosebleed section, we got to hear our team's name and school called out!  We placed third!!!  Our kids got to run down to the floor and across the stage to receive their medals and trophy!  The other parents and I were jumping up and down, screaming!  It was an experience I'll never forget! No team in our district has ever placed at Globals! 

At the end of each challenge award, they present another award for the highest Instant Challenge score.  Again, it was our city and our team!  Our kids got to run across the stage for the second time and receive another medal!  We jumped and screamed again! 

We were on cloud nine for days afterward!  We were all over social media, there was an article in the local paper, and a local restaurant awarded our team with an ice cream social!  It's like our kids were small town celebrities!  It was so much fun and so awesome for my shy, awkward, anti-social son!

A couple days later, I went to DI's website, www.globalfinals.org, and found that our kids were the header picture for the closing ceremony!  Yep, my kid is the one in the middle with the crazy hat!  I was so proud he wore it on stage!  Following are some photos of the week.  Thanks for allowing me to brag for a few minutes and share this amazing experience with you.  It ranks in the top ten favorite memories of life!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Son #1 Update

The fancy ride he drove on the last day of school!
Sixteen.  Driving.  Attitude.  Job.  Pimples.  Growth Spurt.  These are all words that presently describe my tall, gangly teenage son.  Do you realize how hard it is to scold someone when you are inches from their face, on your tiptoes, and craning your neck to look up at them?  Once or twice, I've actually broken into laughter as I've tried to yell at the little boy who is now towering over me.  It's comical.  At last measurement, he was 5'8".  That was a good two months ago so I'm sure it's 5'9" by now.  And he just broke 120 lbs.  He is his father.

The teenage years have been somewhat of a struggle with Son #1.  He truly thinks he knows all there is to know about life and that I don't have a clue.  Yeah, he's normal.  We've had our share of smart-mouthing, arguing, disrespect, and everything else that goes along with being a young teen.  Looking back on the worst of it, I can now say that we learned a lot of life lessons through it.

Son #1 has always been a great student.  He has always been in Honors classes and is more motivated than a lot of kids his age.  He isn't always on task, however, and has made some blunders in the recent past.

Around here, our high school students are given the opportunity to enroll in college classes for free.  They have to get a minimum composite of 18 on their ACT and have a GPA of 3.0, I think.  My kid's GPA has been between 3.7 and 3.8 so we didn't have any worries there.  There was one more ACT offered before the school year was out so we planned on #1 taking that.  He missed the deadline to sign up by a day.  I was pretty ticked.  I also felt somewhat guilty for not remembering myself, but it was in the midst of all my Spring stress and it was his responsibility anyway.  Fortunately, we found out that we could register late and pay an additional fee.  I've already mentioned that we're struggling financially right now so that late fee wasn't something I was too excited about paying.  But I had to.  So, all was good. 

To take the ACT, you now have to upload a photo of yourself.  The guidelines and restrictions are pretty strict and I didn't have anything on file that met their requirements.  So we planned on taking the photo later, when his hair looked better.  This was still in the midst of my busiest time of year and I forgot.  ACT sent a reminder email a couple days in advance but #1 hadn't been checking his email.  That deadline passed also.  I lost it.  We paid EXTRA for him to take this test and I was staring at a letter saying that his registration has been cancelled.  No money back.  I was a raving lunatic.  We are now out the testing fee, the late fee, and the thousands of dollars lost on tuition because #1 has now twice dropped the ball. 

In desperation, I immediately picked up the phone and called ACT.  I explained that we missed the deadline for submitting the photo.  She explained that there's nothing she could do.  I begged and pleaded.  I explained that this was his last opportunity to take the test before the deadline to sign up for college classes.  She sympathized with me but said there was still nothing she could do.  I asked if there was any other person I could talk to.  I desperately asked her to try to do something.  She asked me to hold and went to talk to a supervisor.  I prayed.  Honey, I prayed and prayed the entire time I was on hold.  I begged God to allow someone to have compassion on me.  When she came back on the phone, she spoke softly and said that this has never been done before, but they were going to let me upload the photo late!  I started sobbing into the phone!  It was so embarrassing, but I told the woman that she did something that I would remember for the rest of my life!  I don't know how they worked this out for me, but I was the most grateful person on the face of the earth! 

I immediately went to my computer, cropped out a picture of Son #1's face from a family picture, and uploaded it.  I didn't care if it was grainy, I didn't care if he had changed his hairstyle since then.  I wanted it done!  I texted him at school and gave him the good news.  I was still furious at him for forgetting again.

Test day came and went.  He thought he did well and we were both confident he could score an 18.  Results would be mailed but you can also check results online.  One day, I noticed his login information lying on the desk, so I signed on to see if I could find out when results would be posted.  They already were and he scored a 21!  I was thrilled and sent him a screen shot at school.  He texted back saying that he was sick to his stomach.  I asked why because he scored several points above the minimum.  He explained that, although his composite was high enough, he didn't make the cut in English.  I didn't realize there was also a minimum for the English portion of the test.  He missed it by one point. 

I called the guidance counselor at school and she said she didn't think the college would overlook his English score.  She gave me the name of someone at the university.  I called and asked if there was any hope.  No, he said.  The English minimum was mandatory.  So now, three things have happened to hinder Son #1 from getting into this program.  I just couldn't understand why things kept happening.  I asked the guy if there was anything that could be done.  I gave God the credit for getting us over the last two obstacles...I knew He wasn't going to leave me stranded here.  The guy said there was one more residual ACT that would meet the deadline.  It was in two days.  A residual ACT is offered by a particular school and the results are only accepted by them.  They are non-transferrable.  Since it's a residual, you can register up until the day before.  Hallelujah- there was still hope!!!

I went online myself and registered #1.  I was tired of giving him chances.  I texted him at school and told him to cancel any plans for Saturday.  He was taking the ACT again.  Since there wasn't any time for test prep, I googled English ACT test prep and made him take all these practice tests. 

On Saturday, we dropped him off bright and early at the college.  An hour later, I got a phone call from #1 which about stopped my heart.  He was flipping out because the facilitator said you can't take this test if you've taken another residual in the past 30 days.  I knew that but didn't feel the need to share it with him.  He took a national test, not a residual.  The instructor had to listen to him make this call to me because the test booklets had already been passed out.  He was a nervous wreck now and knew his future depended on his ability to settle down and take this test. 

Fortunately, the results from a residual come back a lot sooner.  He got a 21 again and his English went up by a few points!  He was still disappointed in his score because Math & Science both dropped.  I didn't care what it was, as long as he met the requirements!

OK, the story is still not over.  I know it's getting long.  There was one more thing he had to do.  He had to fill out his college application.  The deadline was the day after he received his scores.  I nagged and nagged him to do it.  "I KNOW, Mom!" was his answer.  The boys were leaving Friday night for a weekend trip with their youth group.  Hubby & I had to go somewhere so I left them packing for their trip; they were driving to the church themselves.  The last words out of my mouth were, "Don't forget to fill out that application."  His answer:  "I KNOW, Mom!!!"

Late Saturday night, the boys got back and started telling us about the trip.  Hubby casually asked, "You filled out that application, right?"  My idiotic son covered his face with his hands and said, "Oh my gosh!"  Yes, he had ONCE AGAIN missed a deadline!  This is the maddest I've ever been in my entire life.  I screamed.  I yelled.  I lost my words and couldn't even speak.  I was absolutely furious!  Even though the girls were in bed, I slammed his bedroom door and told him I did not want to speak to him.

I stormed downstairs and went online.  I was hoping that, by some chance, the application was still online and they wouldn't notice the time stamp on it.  I filled it out myself.  It took 5 stinking minutes.  I couldn't sleep that night.  I could not figure out why my son was being so careless.  This is not how I raised him. 

Two days later, I signed onto his university student account.  I had to create the login information when I filled out the application.  I made the password "MYMOM" just in case he was admitted.  Every time he logs onto his account, he'll have to remember who made all this possible for him.  His Mom.  It said that his application was pending!  I got my hopes up once again.  Maybe God is taking me the long way through this valley for a reason.  Do I not trust Him?  Do I not think he's capable of performing miracle after miracle on my behalf?  I did some more praying.  I spoke in faith and told God I trusted that He wanted to work this out for insignificant, little me. 

The very next day, I logged on (password: MYMOM) and discovered that his application was accepted!!!  I cried!  I danced!  I took a screen shot of it, just in case!  I called Hubby so elated that this had all worked out! 

I still give God 100%  of the credit.  None of these things were possible without his intervention!  It also taught me a lot about trust, determination, persistence, and faith.  It taught Son #1 a lot about fear (of his raging mother), procrastination, and adulthood.  I am sooooo glad this is past us, but I have to say that the lessons learned were invaluable. 

Son #1 is signed up for two classes in the fall and I am simply elated!  I even got a great hug out of this entire process and he told me he really appreciated me!  Worth it.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Hubby Update

This week at Bible Study, the congregation broke up into men's and women's seminars.  Our pastor's wife spoke about relationships.  It was lovely.  As she was talking about the importance of respecting your husband, she made a comment that defines my present situation pretty well.  She said to allow your husband to live his dream.

Ever since we've been together, Hubby has wanted one of those intense, high action careers.  The top of the list included Firefighter, Police Officer, and Pilot.  I hindered him.  As the nervous girlfriend, then the paranoid wife, I discouraged him from having a dangerous job.  I've always regretted holding him back. 

Several years ago, Son #2 made a friend whose father was someone I graduated with.  The dad and I had several classes together in high school and he even dated one of my best friends.  Still, I don't think we ever once spoke.  I was a little on the shy side, comfortable only in my circle of friends.  He was shy too.  Since then, we've both broken out of our shells and have enjoyed a friendship that revolves around our sons.  At a school function a few years ago, he came in wearing a police uniform.  I realized that Hubby would immediately be smitten with him when he found out he was a cop.  He pestered me to ask Cop Dad if he could ride along sometime.  I didn't know him quite well enough to do that yet.  Finally, one day, it came up that Hubby would give his left arm for a ride-along.  Cop Dad happily obliged.

Since then, Cop Dad and Hubby have become, well BFFs, I guess.  Hubby rides along every chance he gets and all the guys at the station already know and tease with him.  They joke that the two of them have a Bromance going on because they're all huge cut-ups.  I've come to realize I will probably never get a ticket in this town now because of my connection to Hubby and his Bestie. 

As they rode together, Cop Dad started talking to Hubby about the possibility of him becoming a part time officer.  The cut off for full-time is age 40, which was Hubby's current age.  Despite his age, he would honestly make a perfect police officer.  He is very physically fit, has good morals, and is a quick thinker.  There is no age restriction for part-time officers though.  So Hubby decided to enroll in the academy.

He found a local, very small college that offered a night academy.  You know, the kind of college that meets in a little building next to a Chili's.  No mascot, no sports team, and a name you'd be kind of embarrassed to mention.  He bugged and pestered the administrators, yet they just couldn't seem to get the evening classes going.  He was supposed to begin last October or November, but nothing ever happened.  Finally, he realized that this place is a big joke and not capable of organizing classes.  He was pretty bummed.

He began exploring other options, finding another academy at a University 45 minutes away.  That would be a little difficult, trying to get there from work each day.  This is one of those accelerated programs that you cannot miss, no matter what the circumstance.  Finally, he found an evening class beginning in a few months at a real state college.  This one was only 30 minutes away.  (They even have a mascot.)  He told his boss at work that he would need a little bit of slack while he takes classes.  They obliged, thankful that he's still planning on keeping his day job.  (Sadly, he couldn't afford to be a full time officer.  Have you seen what these guys get paid for risking their lives each day???)

Classes started last week and I am now a college widow.  Hubby attends class Monday through Thursday, 5:30 to 9:30 (plus the half hour drive).  Saturdays go from 8:00 to 5:00 and about every other Sunday.  It's intense.  We know it's going to be a difficult road, but I think we can survive anything for six months.  He's expected to be done mid-December.  The Chief of Police in our town has already met and talked with Hubby.  He was excited about what he's doing and has promised him a commission when he graduates. 

We really wanted him to take classes through the winter when things are less busy.  He has a side lawn mowing business in the summer.  But that's not how things worked out.  All things happen for a reason, I think.  So I get to see him an hour or two in the middle of the day and for a couple minutes before he collapses into bed.  I'm kind of sporting the single parenting thing and family dinners aren't quite as gourmet as they used to be.  (The kids are just as happy with a Chef Boyardee pizza.)  But when I saw how cute he looked in his little fake cop uniform, I was proud of him.  He was most proud of passing the college entrance exam.  He's never attended college and didn't do exceptionally well in school.  When he got the acceptance letter on real college letterhead, I proudly hung it up.  We have a college student in the house now! 

So I don't need a Bible study lesson on respecting my husband.  He has my upmost respect and admiration as a husband, father, student, and future police officer.  I guess I'll have to call him Sir if he ever pulls me over! 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Being Me

School is out, clubs are over, there are no band concerts, parent meetings, or orchestra rehearsals for a couple more months.  I am ready to take a break from daily checking my kids' grades online, nagging them to finish homework and projects, and chauffeuring them to their daily activities.  I am ready to get back to being me.
My goal this summer was to chillax.  (OK, how weird is it that spellcheck didn't highlight the word "chillax?")  I wanted to read, keep a clean house, hang out with the kids, and recharge to get ready to do it all over again.  Unfortunately, a lot of stuff has come up that has prevented all this from happening.  I have plenty of material for many future blog posts. 

Some updates:  Hubby just informed me that we are about halfway done paying off our huge sewer bill!  I know it's taken an extremely long time, but I am so excited about that!

Son #1 is carrying a 3.7 in high school and was just accepted to take college classes next year as a Junior!  You guys don't know how huge that is for me!!!  We are struggling financially right now and that is a huge blessing for us!  He's taking 6 credit hours in the fall and doesn't have to pay for books or parking!  He will take both of his classes right there in his high school and will get both high school and college credit!  If he continues taking 6 credit hours each semester, he'll graduate high school with 24 hours!  How all this came to pass is a long story...

Son #2 received a 4.0 for his 8th grade year!  Also, he got perfect attendance!  I was so proud, I may have done a little happy dance!  He has SO much potential!  If we can figure out how to motivate him and get him to use his full potential, he'll be unstoppable!  (He's a tad bit on the lazy side right now!)  He just joined the golf team for the high school (with a lot of prodding from me) and will be playing the trombone again.  He had another great accomplishment, which is yet another long story...

Big Sis successfully completed her difficult transition year into accelerated middle school with all As and Bs!  We worked really hard to make that happen, but I must confess that I didn't think it would.  Even Son #2 got one C in that class.  She was in Student Council last year and has joined Gardening Club, Band, and Yearbook Club for next year.  This is the kid that is going to wear me out with activities!  She's definitely the social butterfly of our clan.

Baby Girl has graduated Kindergarten!  She had a couple struggles and they said she's not quite up to par.  I'm not concerned, however, because I know she'll be fine.  It's mind blowing what they expect out of these kids who were just babies a year ago!  She's reading and doing simple math.  I think she's doing exactly what her siblings were doing at this age and they're all in honors and accelerated programs.  Surprisingly, she didn't get into any trouble in school!  I thought she'd be a little more "active" than she was.  She's a good girl.

I'm still keeping my weight off, for the most part.  I'd like to get another 5 back off.  Maybe 7.  :)  I'm trying to walk 3 miles every day.  Tuesday, I walked 6.  I bailed out today because of how hot and humid it was.  Hubby goes with me when he can, but that's another story...

So anyway- I'm still alive, I've not completely lost my mind yet, and I'm finding some time to read here and there.  (I'm reading The Help again because I enjoyed it so much the first time.  I need another really good book like that!)

I've lost touch with my contacts in the blogging world but I'm going to try hard to do more frequent updates this summer.  I need the therapeutic benefits from it for sure!  Hope you're having some fabulous weather that you can enjoy, wherever you are!