Family Weekend at WPI

After six long weeks I finally got to hug my boy again!! And hug him I did!! LOL. He was warned and graciously accepted my (not-so)surprise hugs all weekend! 🤗

Alan and I drove down Friday night and met Lex on campus for dinner. We ate at one of the cafe on campus, then we went to a show. The VOX (theater group) put on a show called Something Rotten that was hysterical. We laughed all the way through!

After the show we brought Lex back to his dorm, then Alan and I drove to the sketchiest hotel EVER!! It was an Econolodge that seemed to also double as a homeless shelter and methadone clinic — best case scenario. It was AWFUL! The non-smoking room smelled like smoke, the beds felt like box springs, and I was pretty sure my Tesla would not survive the night in that parking lot. There was a big tent with some sketchy looking people in it, all lit up at 11pm. We didn’t even unpack the car! That was the night I discovered that I do, in fact, have standards in lodging. (Had I read the hotel reviews a little better I would have made a better choice. 🙄) We got back in the car and left! We drove down the road a bit and found a Hampton Inn. Turns out they are owned by Hilton and I have a Hilton membership, and we got a deal for night-of booking and it all worked out to be almost the same price as the skeezy drug hotel! Of course I can’t get my money back for the sketchy place, but at least I felt safe in the Hampton Inn. It was a pretty crazy experience, but we definitely made the right choice to switch hotels!

The next morning we met Lex on campus for brunch at his dining hall. Because it was Family Weekend they had dining tickets available for families. We got lucky though and there was a college kid standing by the line offering to use up his extra meal swipes on parents! He treated us to brunch so we didn’t have to pay! It was a pretty cool thing to do. Their meal swipes reset Saturday night and he had extras that would have just gotten wasted, so he treated 10 parents to a free meal. Pretty cool dude!

They had a whole bunch of random activities planned for Family Weekend, so we walked around and checked out some stuff. Nothing terribly exciting, but I loved just being there. We went to the bookstore and I bought him two shirts to hang in his closet and look at for a few months before maybe trying them on. I also got magnets for my car and the teen car, and some new hot cups since the lids for the ones I have broke last week!

Lex had some homework to do, so we left him for a few hours in the afternoon. Alan and I went to Lowes and Best Buy to get him a shelf and a webcam. Then we met back at his dorm to drop off the stuff and take him out to dinner. Dinner, of course, was at the Olive Garden! LOL. We video called with Eve while we were there. It was fun, but maybe not nice for her. I’m not sure. She said she was happy to talk with us and that she missed the Olive Garden.

After dinner we went back to campus to see a free movie, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. Friday night they had the movie on the quad on a giant inflatable screen, but on Saturday they moved it into an auditorium due to rain. It was a great movie! I would have prefered to see it on the quad (they have lots of cool Adirondack chairs on the quad!), but it was good in the lecture hall too. Apparently they do regular weekend movies on the quad or the lecture hall. They had free popcorn and candy available. It was fun.

Sunday morning Lex had marching band practice, so I slept in a bit then Alan and I got a great breakfast at little diner near campus After marching band, Lex had to prep for his Concert Band performance. They had three hours of band at Alden Hall. First an hour of Jazz Band, which Lex is in, but apparently there are three Jazz Band levels and level 1 (the freshman) didn’t perform this time, but will at future concerts. Then an hour of Concert Band, then an hour of Symphony. Lex is in Jazz Band and Concert Band. He said there are a lot of percussionists in Concert Band, so they didn’t all play in every song. Of the six songs they performed, he played in three. I might be a bit biased, but I think he was excellent in all three! :)

We chatted with him a little before Concert Band started and he said he wasn’t feeling too hot. It had been raining all morning and they did their marching practice in the rain. He thought that didn’t help with his overall well-being. He was feeling pretty ready to crash. After the concert, of course! He also has test on Monday that he was trying to prep for, in addition to homework due Monday. It was a busy weekend for him.

After the concert we checked in with him again. He said he was still feeling down (cough, sore throat, etc.) so Alan and I went to CVS and got him so meds. The campus health center is apparently closed on Sundays. Good to know for the future. I was texting with him a bit this evening and he said the meds were helping and he was looking forward to a Nyquil-assisted good night’s sleep.

I’m so, so happy we got to spend this weekend with him. I miss him (and he misses us!) and it filled my mommy hear to see him thriving in his new world. Now we begin the countdown to his week at home in October between terms! Then I’ll get to hug him all week!! <3

The one and only time I take just ONE photo, I get this “eyes closed” photo, but I’m going to share it anyway because we all look so happy. He wasn’t feeling great. We just brought him some meds and were saying goodbye before heading home. I think his eyes closed smile is fitting. 💗

3 for 3

Big R passed his driving test today. Now we officially have three teen drivers in the family and I have officially completed 120 hours of practice driving with a teen with a permit. Hallelujah!

We drove 2hrs for a DMV that had an appointment. For some reason (all the usual reasons, I’m sure) driving test appointments are few and far between. Instead of waiting indefinitely for one to become available in town, we opted to go to one that was available. He got some extra driving practice on the way. Bonus! :) It rained most of the way there, but mostly stopped in time for his test. The instructor didn’t make him parallel park “because it was raining” so that was a double bonus! I don’t think they take parallel parking too seriously in this little state. Eve didn’t have to do it for her test either.

By this point, my third time ’round, I had all the paperwork we could possibly need, so the process went smoothly. Mostly. Turns out his permit had expired 11 days ago. Oops! They let him renew online before taking the test, which is good, I guess, but annoying that we had to pay for two more years of a permit so that he could drive with it for half an hour. The instructor was friendly though and overall everyone had a good DMV experience.

I have been missing having a second driver in the house for the past few weeks. Glad to be using both cars again. He did his first solo drive this evening, bringing himself and mashed potato casserole he made to a band BBQ at the high school. He said he was feeling very grown up. :)

Eve conquers the world!

Eve began her amazing Swedish Rotary Exchange Student adventure yesterday. Today was her first day in Sweden.

Alan and I drove her to the airport for a 5:15pm departure. As a minor we had the option to pay an extra $150 for the “unaccompanied minor” program that includes many supports, including parents being allowed through security. We opted not to pay for that program, but the airline and airport on the phone a few weeks ago said frequently parents can go through security anyway with a minor, but it’s up to the discretion of the airport check-in agent. How’s that for stressful?! Her ticket was booked through KLM, but the first leg of the trip was run by Delta, so we weren’t sure where to check in. We started at the KLM desk who told us that parents could not go through at all (I almost cried!), but then noticed it was a Delta flight and sent us to their counter. The line at Delta was much longer, but we persevered and made our way to the counter. The woman there was more accomodating of my parental request. She asked which of us would be going to the gate and I was like “uh, both of us, please.” She turned to the agent next to her and asked if that was ok and he was like “sure, whatever.” I thanked them both profusely!

We made it through security with minimal trouble. They pulled Eve’s suitcase aside to check it because she had a weird high-tech looking reusable straw (thanks Joyce!) and a bag of metal stick pins (for Rotary). They TSA guy was confused by both, but figured it out and let her through. Thankfully!!

We got to the gate about 10 minutes before the started boarding. Perfect amount of time for a few pictures and an bathroom break. :) Then we said our goodbyes and she got on the plane. There were definitely tears on my end and probably on her’s as well.

The plane then sat at the gate for like 45 minutes before it finally pulled away. I don’t know what was going on all that time, but Alan and I sat at the window and made up stories to make ourselves laugh. There was another group that missed their multiple “final boarding” calls and only showed up after the gate was closed. The guy kept knocking on the door to the plane ramp, as though someone was standing on the other side, ready to open the door for him. It didn’t happen, but they made a scene so we figured that was probably the hold up. They didn’t get on the plane (I don’t think they ever reopen the door once it’s closed!) and finally it taxied to the runway and took to the air.

By this point Alan and I were very hungry and facing Boston traffic, so we decided to get dinner at the airport. :) Not the most thrity decision, but definitely made for a better ride home. Alan also need to get something from IKEA, so we swung by there first before heading north again.

I watched Eve’s flight on FlightAware, as though the love and support she was getting from me, Alan, and all the family was keeping that plane in the air!

She landed in Amsterdam around 12:30pm and I got a flood of texts that she had written during the flight! I’m glad I got them once her plan was safely on the ground.

She found her way to the next gate and had just a short wait before they boarded and departed. The second flight was just 1hr 20m. She was in the air. Later I saw a notification that the plane had landed so I started getting ready for bed. Then, much to my surprise and her frustration, I realized the plan had returned to Amsterdam! They found something wrong (she doesn’t know what) halfway through the flight and decided to turn around. The plan was in the air for 42 minutes before landing again in the same place. She was very frustrated and not feeling well at all.

Apparently they put everyone on a bus and “drove around for a long time,” stopping randomly and opening the door, then closing it and continuing to drive. She has no idea what was going on and said no one was making any announcements, in English or Dutch. The KLM app and the FlightAware website both said the flight had landed in Amsterdam and all is well. The flight app her host family was looking at said the flight had landed successfully in Sweden! Technology was no help and she was very frustrated and feeling bad.

Eventually they put her back on an plane and at 4am my time she took off again for Göteborg/Gothenburg. I set an alarm for one hour and took a power nap! LOL. At 5:30ish she texted again, on the ground in Sweden. She had some trouble figuring out which carrousel her luggage would be on, but eventually figured it out. At 6am my time I got a text from her host family that they had connected, so I sent hearts and zzzs to everyone and feel asleep!! (or at least tried to, the cat and dog made it difficult.)

She’s texted me a little a few times today. She’s feeling a little sad, a little lonely, and a lot nauseous, which I’m sure is stress related. She’ll be ok, I know. I am keeping the texting to a minimum at the beginning, to allow her time to make connections with her support people there.

She’ll be spending a few days with her Rotary Youth Coordinator while her host family gets their daughter off to Chile, then she has a week at a Rotary Orientation camp, then she’ll settle in with her host family and start school. Her host parents got her a new SIM card for her phone, and have taken care of getting tickets to a show for her and their teenage kids, and getting her a train pass to the orientation camp.

I’m sure many more Sweden stories will come, but I’m going to end this post with a HUGE shout out to my parents who went through this process in 1994 when I went to Sweden, without the ability to text with me or monitor my flights online. I don’t know how you did it, but I love you and so appreciate that you did! <3

She’s driving!

Evie got her license today!! She rocked her driving test and returned victorious! By the time her license actually comes in the mail she will be in Sweden, and she can’t drive there anyway (Rotary rules), but all that aside — she passed the test and is now legal to drive on her own!


Lex graduated this weekend!! He’s such an amazing young man. It has been amazing watching him grow from a tiny baby to a stubborn toddler to an anxious tween to a thriving teen. He wore the robe and the silly hat, he wore the FRC tassle I got for him. He wore the “hood” that he earned for rocking his Honors Program. He earned a few scholarships and a diploma. If the weather had been better, graduation would have been outside and we would have gotten to see him in one final band performance as well, but with the weather so iffy and so much rain all around, they moved graduation indoors and cancelled the bad. Sad. It was a great ceremony anyway!

We had had a little tiny party at our house after graduation. Alan’s new wife made cake (she’s a professional baker) and cookies, and I got pizza for the crew. We had a champagne toast with a goofy speech by me. LOL. It was a really great night all around!

My family rented a lake house nearby to combine graduation with our annual lake week. The weather didn’t fully cooperate, but it was a great house and location, and I was happy to be able to wrap up work, graduation, and all the other stuff while also spending some time at the lake with the family.

On Saturday we invited the D&D group that all three kids are a part of over to the lake house for swimming and gaming. It was only 60° but that didn’t stop the teens from getting in the lake!

It was a big, eventful weekend with lots of planning and prep. I’d like to say that now we rest, but truthfully now we are hard at work prepping for our Norway trip, Eve’s Rotary trip, and Lex’s college adventure. We have a big summer ahead of us, kicked off by an awesome graduation weekend.

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. 💗

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. 🖤

WPI Accepted Student Day

A sugar cookie that came with the swag bag.

WPI hosted several “Accepted Student Day” events. Lex was unsure at first if he cared to go, but last week decided it would be a good idea. I already had plans and also can’t walk for more than a few minutes, so I asked Alan to take him. They were both up super early in time to get to WPI by 8:30am, but both said it was well worth it! They learned about the robotics team (WPI has a FIRST FRC team that Lex could help coach!) and the music opportunities (Pep band and rock bands!) and some courses that interested Lex. He learned that May 1st is the deadline for enrollment (first round, I’m sure) and that lots of information will start flowing after that. I can’t wait! I love information. :)

I asked Alan to buy him a t-shirt for “Future Plans Day” at school. I got a text at 8:30 this morning from Alan saying “They gave him a t-shirt at registration, so one job done!” :)

Lex came home exhausted, but happy, and confident in his decision to attend WPI. That makes me happy. <3

Sweet 16

Happy birthday to this beautiful human being.

We had a pretty low-key day. I had to work, but the kids were home and Alan came down for the day. Lex and B’Lake had to leave at 3pm for a robotics event, so I came home at lunch time for the birthday celebration. I never got around to making a cake, but we have plenty of sweets around here these days and Alan brought her a birthday cupcake. She got a new laptop, an awesome hiking backpack, flowers, and more. She was pretty happy with the birthday presents. :)

The boys left at 3pm, I got home around 4pm, then Eve, Alan, and I spent the afternoon/evening watching silly TV and eating sushi. It was a good day.