Senior Awards Night

Tonight was Senior Awards Night where they gave out 75 different awards, often to multiple people. It was long and my hands hurt from clapping, but we had fun. Lex got a handful of recognitions:

  • Honors Program (certificate and sash thing to wear at graduation)
  • The Frank Kinison Scholarship (certificate and $)
  • Frank & Olivia Gilman Scholarship (certificate and $?)
  • English Department Award for Excellence in Film Study (certificate and bookmark)
  • Blue Honor Roll Scholar (certificate for being on the honor roll all through high school)
  • Vermont Principals’ Association Award (certificate)
  • Community Service Award (certificate)
  • President’s Award for Educational Excellence (certificate)

Not too shabby for little Lex. I was impressed with the variety of awards given. They didn’t all go to athletes or college bound scholars. A lot of them did, of course, but there were also lots of awards for everyone else as well.

Another day at WPI

Lex, Alan, and I went to WPI yesterday for their “First Year Welcome Experience” day. We had a fun time. We started together at the opening greeting, then the students went off to follow their schedule and the adults had an entirely different schedule. We didn’t see Lex again until the end of the day. There were lots of sessions about academics, financials, housing, and more. We had lunch in one of the dining halls. Lex got to visit some dorms. We met new people and got lots of questions answered. It was really nice.

I felt really assured that he made a good choice and would have a good experience at WPI. He signed up for the marching band (they perform at football games, among other things) and will get to move in a week early. He knows who is roommate will be, and will learn which dorm they will be in next month. The campus is a nice size, the dorms are good, the academics seem just right, and the overall energy of the place was really positive. He’s excited for this next step and I’m excited for him. 💗

He’s 18!

Holy moly! My baby is 18. Somehow that happened today.

At this time 18 years ago, we were snuggling a tiny baby. The first in the next generation of Collier/Johnsons. It was such a surreal experience.

And in the blink of an eye he turned into a giant, functioning human being, rocking his life in high school and preparing to spread his wings and fly.

For those who can’t do the math (me!) the answer is WPI. :)

We had a perfectly lovely, low-key Lex style birthday day. He wanted cookies instead of cake and an evening with the robotics team, which he hasn’t been to in awhile due to recent theater and band commitments. We all did the normal school thing, of course. Eve and friends sang to him at lunch and his buddies bought him Twizzlers. After school we had a quick appointment at the doctor’s office where Lex had to fill out his own medical forms and a separate form authorizing the doctor to talk to me and Alan. Welcome to adulthood, it comes with paperwork. :)

After that we came home to open presents. He got fun stuff like WPI gear and a new phone (sort of fun, he is a neophyte after all — Mom, this is not the right word! What is the word you always use?!), and boring stuff like sheets and towels for college. After a quick dinner of New York bagels, he was off to robotics to prep for their match at WPI next weekend!

We had another fun surprise this evening when I was tidying up the birthday celebration and we realized the bagels were a monthly subscription! Who knew you could get a subscription for authentic NY bagels?! (clearly Rosy knew!)

He has a few more weeks of senior-slide school left, then it’s summer vacation. I’m going to make those days last as long as possible before I deliver him to his new life on August 20th.

Happy Birthday Lex!! I could not have asked for a better kid. I love you forever and ever. 💗

Lex’s last concert

This week was Lex’s last concert at Hartford! He has come such a long way from his first concert so long ago. At this concert he programmed the lights and taught Eve to run them. He played with the concert band and the jazz band, he accompanied the Concert Choir and Chamber Choirs with some of their songs, and he won two awards! He got kudos and recognition and had a blast.

After the concert they had an ice cream social and all the kids stayed to socialize. It was another really nice night that left me smiling from ear to ear.

Side story: I got a new phone this week and have been setting up all the apps and stuff again. Google has been giving me a whole new series of “recommended photos” and “memories” and whatnot. I clicked through one today with a bunch of pictures of me with other people. In every picture I think I looked really good, but I remember hating the pictures back in the day. I reminded myself of that when I look at the two pictures of me above. I hate everything about how I look in those pictures, but 60yr old me might disagree. We’ll see. In the meantime, it was an awesome night I’ll stay focused on my amazing son and how proud I am to know him. 💗

Quick back update

I had an MRI on March 29th. It was the worst! The MRI showed two “bulging discs” (L5/S1 or L4/L5 depending on which report you read. 🤔) Then they sent me for a steroid shot and nerve block (4/18), xrays to check mobility (4/26), and a meeting with the neuro/spinal surgeon on April 26th. The surgeon recommended …. wait for it… surgery! The steroid shot and nerve block helped a lot to reduce the pain, but the tightness/numbness/pins&needles/tingling/etc. persisted. I also have what they call “weakness” in my left foot because I can’t lift my toes off the floor very much and can’t press up as firmly as I can with the other foot. The surgeon said the numbness etc. would possibly get better with PT, but the weakness was concerning to him and a reason for surgery. The whole surgery process and recovery sounds soooo much worse than the situation I’m already in. I told him I’d think about it. Truthfully I’m thinking about all the thing I can do to AVOID back surgery! I cried to my mom for awhile, took a nap, then chatted with doctor nurse Rosy for advice. Since then I’ve done some research on chronic pain, got a massage and schedule another, scheduled a PT appointment, and joined the aquatic center. I’m going to manage this pain and do what I can to get through it. Next year with Lex and Eve are both away, I’ve decided it’s my year to focus on ME. Someone please remind me of that when I’m a hot mess missing my kiddos. 😂

The MRI also found a suspicious adnexal mass that is completely unrelated to the back pain. It was an “incidental finding” they say. My primary care doctor sent me for a transvaginal ultrasound on May 10th. The doctor called me yesterday to say the ultrasound didn’t provide any useful information and he wants me to get another MRI or a CT scan. I told him no way on the MRI until the back pain is gone. He put in a referral for a CT scan. Sigh. I’m sure it’s nothing, because I don’t have time for anything else. I’ll keep y’all posted!

Gay Prom

Last weekend a local school hosted a Queer Prom and invited all of the LGBT…+ clubs in the area to attend. The SAGA club at Hartford decided to go. Eve and River and their friends all went and had a blast!! The host school covered the costs and Hartford provided a bus and photographer. The kids just had to dress up and show up. :)

It was such a fun and positive experience. Everyone was so supportive and happy. I was smiling from ear to ear. :)

Big day!

Yesterday we had our final (hopefully ever) court hearing for B’Lake. The judge awarded me Legal Guardianship, creating a permanent placement and removing all doubt that he would be sent back to his biological family. It was a good day. We celebrated with a goofy visit to Wendy’s for frosties and french fries. It was a sweet and silly and lovely day. I wonder if that means I can start using his real name. 

We had a baby shower for a coworker during staff meeting today. She’s having a boy. Towards the end my boss turns to me and says “We should have had a baby shower for you!” I said “What?!” and he laughed and said, “for your new baby boy!” I said “He’s a very big baby boy!” When they were packing up the cake leftovers my boss had them send home a piece for B’Lake.  I grabbed two more pieces too, so Lex and Eve could also eat cake.  The kids all appreciated the story and the cake. ❤️

Black belt!

Lex tested for his full black belt this weekend and did amazing! They had a 3+ hour technical exam in the morning, then a brief break for lunch, followed by the presentation and award ceremony. It was indoors and mask-free, which was really nice.

Lex (and the others) showed off a variety of katas (series of moves), including partner katas and weapons katas. He has been going to karate on his own since he got his license and a car, so I don’t get to watch anymore (and I’ve forgotten a lot of the words!). It was really awesome to see how powerful and confident he is in the dojo.

I didn’t have my camera out quick enough for that first video. He was doing the application drill with four “attackers” coming at him, one on each side. Each kata is a series of moves that can be done with a partner (“attacker”) doing the opposite moves, together creating a fight sequence. Katas are learned first on their own, then with a partner.

I’m super proud of Lex. He has really found something he enjoys and stuck with it through the good times and bad (masks!). He is so strong and confident on the floor. He even learned that Sensei Ken (head teacher) has a mentor who runs a dojo in Worcester, MA! We are going to look that up and see if it’s accessible from WPI. Lex had planned on letting karate go once he started college, but upon hearing about Sensei’s mentor, he is reconsidering and might try to continue through college. That would be cool.

Then and then and now. 🖤

School project

This is really a school post, but I’m proud of it so I’m putting it here too. I did a project with the kids at schools that was creative and fun and took forever and was a little nerve wracking, but ultimately awesome!

I read a cool book called Someone Builds the Dream, one of this year’s state book award nominees. As a related project, I taught the 3rd and 4th graders how to use Tinkercad, a 3D modeling program. They each go to design their own project and have it printed. I wanted the little kids to do a project too, so I had them draw something cool, then I had the 3rd and 4th graders model their drawings in Tinkercad and print them.

At school we have lodges, small groups of mixed grade kids with a single teacher or two. Lodges meet several times a month and do a variety of activities. We stick with the same lodges year after year so the kids can build relationships with each other, and so that all students have a relationship with a teacher (or two) that is consistent year after year. For my 3D printing project I had the 3rd and 4th graders model the designs of their younger lodge buddies.

It took many weeks for the big kids to do the modeling and for me to print everything. Kids asked about it frequently and I kept telling them soon, soon. This past week the day finally came. I gave each lodge teacher a ziploc bag with the 3D prints for all of the kids in their lodges, and the related drawings done by the younger kids. I also printed an #Otters4ever tag for the 5th graders so they weren’t left out (they don’t have library class this year 😞). I was nervous that kids wouldn’t be happy with their prints, that they weren’t a close enough match to their drawings, or the wrong color, or whatever. The projects were not perfect and I am a perfectionist.

The kids in my lodge loved their projects! I stood in the hall at the end of lodge time as all the kids returned to their classes and saw so many kids proudly showing off their work to classmate and friends. So many came up to me and said thank you. Teachers sent me raving emails throughout the day, and one lodge even took the time to write thank you notes. Many teachers said they skipped the usual lodge plans and just let the kids talk about their projects.

“I want to give a HUGE shout out to Tessa for this project. It was AWESOME. The kids receiving the items were so excited and happy. One of my favorite moments came with a first grader yelling, “IT’S GOLD!!!!!!!! How did you know?!” But even more rewarding was watching the third and fourth graders pride in their work. I have a particular member of my lodge who almost always contributes with random comments that take us off track. When my second grader asked who made her design he answered, “I did. I made it purple because that was the color of your drawing.” I can’t tell you how much of a win that was! Thank you Tessa for all of your hard work on this project. My bucket was filled.”

– DBS Teacher

I was happy and very relieved that it all went well! It was one of those projects that I’m so happy I did and so happy it’s done. 😄

Old friends

Somehow I failed to write about an awesome visit from old friends two weeks ago. Jim and Julie came to visit with their not-so-little ones. We ate pizza, played games, and visit alpacas. Like the old days. :)

Here are some of us on the new couches.

The only thing we DIDN’T do is take a picture together! D’oh! I guess we’ll have to get together again some time.