Back to School

The first day of school has come again. Every year I find it so stressful to plan and prep and get ready for back to school. There is always so much to do and pressure (from myself) to make everything perfect. Yesterday, our one and only paid day to set up our classrooms, I got to the point where I was just like, “the kids are coming, whether we’re ready or not.” And this morning they did come. They were happy and smiling (most of them) and generally glad to be there. Taller and in higher grades, but pretty much the same kids we said “see ya later” to back in June. By the end of day one it felt like the same old thing. I’m not sure if that’s good or not, but it is what it is.

On the home front I’ve got a senior, a junior, and a sophomore! The senior was pretty indifferent about going and said his day was “fine.” He’s happy to be back in band and happy that they’ll be doing pep band again. The junior is happy to be with his friends, but was super annoyed that the busses still aren’t running on schedule! It was a big problem last year due to driver shortages and we were hoping it would be fixed by this year, but apparently not. The sophomore was a little excited about her new classes, but last night she got anxious and had trouble sleeping. This morning I had to drag her out of bed and the afternoon report was that school is stupid and her classes are lame and she can’t believe she has two more years of this. Day one. Whee!

I meant to take a selfie of all of us together, but (as you can see) some of them weren’t too pleased about the photos, so I didn’t want to push my luck. I decided to take a selfie of just myself when I got to school, but when I got there I was already later than I wanted to be and the parking lot was full of people, so my selfie didn’t turn out great. I tried again in the afternoon. It came out a little better. :)

All about Lex

This handsome fellow had a birthday recently. He is thriving in all ways. We had a quiet birthday celebration with just a few gifts — cookies, books, Legos, and money — just what he wanted! :) Here are a few pics of my favorite 17yr old!

Spring brings concerts and plays as well, which Lex has been rocking. He had his spring concert, a district music festival, the high school musical and the middle school musical – both of which he ran the lights for. He even went in early before the spring concert so he could program nice lighting for the concert.

He won a few awards this spring too! At the spring concert he was given the Spirited Percussionist award, in celebration of Armand Zildjian. It came with a nice certificate, a personal note from a guy named Damian Poludin in Texas who manages (runs? is in charge of?) the award. It also came with a check an a cool laptop backpack with drumstick holders for percussionists. It’s pretty cool. He was pretty proud of himself. I am too!!

Yesterday I got a text from Eve saying “Lex just won an award.” I was confused because it was the middle of the school day. Lex replied, saying it was a “come to this college” book award and he was mostly just excited for the book. Apparently they announced a bunch of “college awards” over the loud speaker. So random! :) When I got him he showed me the certificate and note that says he can get his application fee waived and qualify to apply for an annual scholarship. Yep, definitely sounds like a “come to this college” recruiting award. Sadly he didn’t actually get a book. They gave him a paperweight instead. I’m not sure what the deal with that is. I told him to ask the counselor, but he said no. :)

I’m so proud of this kiddo. I miss the tiny baby and curious toddler (though I don’t miss the tantrums!), but I love seeing how well he has grown up and how happy he is with life in general.

💙💚💙💚💙💚💙💚💙💚💙💚💙💚💙💚💙

Two years later

Today we went back to school without masks. Almost two years to the day of when the world shut down. Three months of remote schooling, a full year of distanced/masked/isolated learning, and now, three quarters of the way through year three, things are starting to look normal again.

I stand outside the library door each morning, greeting the students as they come up the stairs. This morning I was lifted by the happy smiling faces everywhere. I was hesitant about not wearing a mask into the building (it felt so weird to walk in maskless!) but my reserves cleared away as more and more smiling kids walked by. One girl said “I just can’t stop smiling!” We all commented throughout the day on the missing teeth, changed faces, and even a nose ring (on a teacher!) that has all been hiding behind the masks. It was a normal, yet somehow surreal feeling today.

Every day I want to write here about what’s going on. I want to document and remember. Yet somehow, every day turns into every night and every night creeps closer and closer to the next day. I seem to never have the time to visit my favorite blog. My memory sucks and things will be lost, but I wanted to be sure to document the feeling of today. At least in my corner of the world. Relief. Joy. Connection. Smiles. It has been a long two years.

Minecraft in School

Lex had a project for his social studies class (Conflict, Chaos, and Counterculture) and he used Minecraft to show three different examples. I am SUPER impressed with how cool this looks. He showed me his work along the way and I was so impressed at every step.

This shows the whole scene. It makes me think of a digital diorama. On the left is the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the center shows the Jan 6th insurrection, and the right side shows a BLM protest in New York City.
Conflict
Chaos
Counterculture

I have heard a lot about using Minecraft in education, but this is the first real project that I’ve seen that really makes sense. Lex did a lot of reading about the events and looked at a lot of photos to create these scenes.

Math Dept Student of the Month

I got an email this morning….

“The Mathematics Department would like to award Alexander (Lex) Johnson with Student of the Month for October 2021. Lex is currently enrolled in both Computer Programming and AP Calculus with Mrs. Kent.

Lex is a strong AP Calculus student, constantly striving to achieve at the highest level. In computer programming, Lex quickly grasped the concepts and is now on his own, learning a higher-level language to apply it to Minecraft modifications. He sets high standards for himself and is fully invested in his education. Congratulations Lex!”

😊🤗

First day of school!

… was last week. I’m a little behind here. School kept me SUPER busy this week and it was over 90° every day! It was an exhausting week, but after and awesome Saturday I’m feeling more in the mood for blogging. :)

Back to school photos were, as usual, silly and rushed.

We got three in the picture this year! Three high schoolers!!

This boy drove himself to school on the first day! (and every day after)

Starting high school after 75 weeks, 525 days out of a school building. (I know those numbers because the high school principal commented on it in his back to school newsletter.)

Three high schoolers this year: freshman, sophomore, and a junior! One drove to school in his very own car, one chose to take the bus, and the third wanted me to drive her to school even though it meant she’d get to school 45 minutes early. We all made it to our respective schools and had a good first day, despite the ridiculous heat!

Welcome back to the library!

The AC in the library broke two years ago and needed to be replaced, a huge project that costs a ton of money. I was thrilled when my principal told me it was going to be fixed this year.  A little less thrilled when I walked in on the first day and found the AC guys at work! I was so excited to welcome students back to the library, but instead I had 90°+ temps, sweltering humidity, and construction. Sigh. The AC guys are great though and understanding, so I was able to get most classes in the library and only a few held outside under the tent.

Here’s to a new season!

A big day all around!

School starts tomorrow. In normal town this day would have been spent celebrating the last day of summer and getting ready for school. I think I need another month so I can do those things! Instead today we 1) got news from the judge 2) bought a car and 3) … umm… I guess that’s it. It just felt super big and busy!

The judge in B’Lake’s merits case ruled that merits were found and the boy are to remain in custody! It was a huge relief and I let out a big breath I didn’t realize I was holding. There are more steps in this process, but we now know that he’ll be staying here with us for the foreseeable future and brother will be safe as well. Thankfully!

On the car front, Lex and Alan have been doing some research on used electric cars. If you don’t know, the used car market is HOT these days. And by HOT I mean, cars are flying off the lot and dealers are charging a fortune. :/ They found several used Nissan Leafs and a used electric Ford Focus. We drove up to Burlington today to check them out. Lex drove a pretty red Nissan Leaf, but it was a little more money than we were hoping to spend and the dealer had zero interest in negotiating. He told us his dealership hasn’t sold below list price in many, many months. We decided to go check out the Ford Focus at a different dealership and Lex decided he liked that car better. It’s a 2014 (one year newer than the Leaf) and has a backup camera, which surprisingly, the Leaf didn’t have.

2013 Nissan Leaf

2014 Ford Focus Electric

Lex drove it, Alan drove it, we had a little discussion, and bought a car!! I’m in the process of refinancing the house and will get some money out of it to pay for the car, so Alan wrote a check against his stock account (or something) for the short term and I’ll pay it off when the house closes. I was shocked at how much quicker the car buying process goes when you don’t need a loan!

Eeek! Lex and his first car.

I mean, Lex and his first car and his silly dad. :)

The Focus doesn’t have a long enough range to get from the dealership to our house, so Lex stopped at Alan’s house for a few hours to charge, geek about the car, and have dinner. I headed right home to see Eve for a few minutes and then pick the other one up from his new job. Lex drove himself home in the rain and dark and fog. I worried just the right amount and everything was ok. :)

Alan’s car and Lex’s car. Can you tell the Tesla Model 3 from the Ford Focus? :)

Throughout the whole day I was getting incoming back-to-school emails, website update emails, and having conversations with the bank about the refi and an estate attorney about updating those docs. I felt like a very busy person! :)

Tomorrow we go back to school. Five full days a week. All in person. Lex will be driving himself to and from school. B is taking the bus (unlike the other two, B’Lake says the bus is just fine and he sees nothing wrong with it), and E has chosen to have me drop her off at school each morning, even though that means she’ll get there 45m early each day! She said that beats taking the bus. Our sweet carpool deal from last year was complicated this year because of the closed bridge right between our two houses, making a short drive much much longer and therefore way less convenient.

My bulletin board with 250ish student names on it. :) It looks like confetti to me. ❤

I’m looking forward to seeing all the kids again, and the fun of school, but dreading the humidity in my unairconditioned library and a little anxious about getting back into the swing of early mornings, work/school/work/karate/meetings/activities/etc. I’m already looking forward to next weekend! LOL!

This was my library last Friday morning. 🥵 I can’t wait until they fix the AC!

Last day of school!

This school year has been a hot mess since day one, but we did it! We survived a year of schooling in a pandemic. Everyone had their bets placed in August on how long we’d keep the building open and I don’t think a single person thought it would be all year! My money was on October. But instead we rocked the house with hand washing, masking, social distancing, and contact tracing. One class had to quarantine for a week because of one student, but otherwise we as a school were Covid-free! It’s hard to believe. And another school year has come and gone. The kids all finished school yesterday (technically today was a remote day for them, but none of them had any work to do) and I finished today. As I walk the hallways on the the last day of school I peek in classrooms and see how empty they look, then return to the library that is as full as ever, plus some as everyone brings their computers, iPads, library books, and Chromebook carts back. Every year it’s discouraging, but I have to remind myself that the library is different from a classroom and doesn’t do the transition that a classroom does each year. It serves a different function. I was happy today that the boss approved an extra paid day to inventory and organize the Chromebook carts, then a little less happy when he said it had to happen next week. So I’ll be back in the building a few times next week, once for a committee I signed up for (paid) and again for the computers. It’s ok though. It won’t be Monday! :)

Don’t worry fish, someone will feed you.

Yesterday was field day at my school and I volunteered, as I always do, to staff the “quiet space” for kids who have lost field day time (for being naughty!) and for kids who just need a break from the heat and excitement of field day. I’m sometimes a tiny bit sad to miss the field day excitement, but always happy to be out of the sun and get a few extra minutes to shelve books! I had 20 kids take advantage of the space yesterday and one non-reader who came in for a break and discovered a graphic novel he LOVES! He spent the remainder of the afternoon reading, then came in a few times today to read when he needed a break from the classroom. That might be my win for the year! 😁

Eve also had field day yesterday. She was remote all year and only went in to the building a few times in the past few weeks to take the required standardized testing. This week they had 8th grade graduation and field day. She didn’t want to do either, but I wanted her to do both. We compromised on one. She was adamant about field day right up until the night before, then she started considering graduation instead. The afternoon of graduation she switched her choice back to field day, so on graduation night we were all home. After the ceremony was over a friend surprised us by stopping by with a her kids (one just graduated from 5th and the other from 8th) and a celebration cake! It was a wonderful surprise! We moms had a nice visit and the kids talked over each other for an hour, anime anime and more anime. It was an awesome celebratory way to end an otherwise quiet day.

My friend offered to take a picture and I first said no, then said wait, yes! This is not at all what I wanted to look like in this photo (or any photo) but I’m trying to focus on the big smiles and the memories of the fun evening, and not focus so much on my width or Eve’s height!

The next morning Eve went to school for field day. My awesome neighbor/carpool partner even drove Eve, despite the fact that it wasn’t a regular school day for our carpool. This year has really emphasized the “it takes a village” philosophy. I reminded Eve a few times to bring sunscreen and water. She came home looking like this:

At least she wore her mask. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Sigh. She said she put sunscreen on in the morning, but insists sunscreen doesn’t work on her skin. I insist she doesn’t do it right. We both hate sunscreen. 🙄 Today she has some blisters on her arms and cheeks. I do what I can as a mother, but I guess we all learn in our own time. She keeps telling me what it feels like and saying “can you imagine…” I say YES, I can, I don’t even need to imagine, I’ve lived it, which is why I told you to wear sunscreen! Sigh.

The boys didn’t get field day or graduation at their school. No graduation, yet. We still have a few short years before that. They both finished all of their school work and projects and had nothing to do today, their final official day of school. I heard no complaints from any of them about that!

The first half of the week had brutal temps. High 90s for days on end. The AC in the library is broken (still!) so I felt a lot like Huxley, moving a bit, then looking for a cool place to sit down. On this particular walk we made it to the end of the street, then he laid down in the shade for a break. :)

While I worked my way through field day, remote academy wrap-up, step-up day, library cleaning, and all the other end-of-year busyness, I also tried to keep in touch with my family, many of whom were in NYC! Joyce successfully underwent a kidney donation surgery, with mom and dad by her side… in a Covid-safe way. It was not the usual scene that they are used to (and a little sad that they are used to a usual kidney transplant scene), but they are all troopers and got through it together. I sent love and good juju whenever I could. 😊💚

Now I have three days of R&R before heading back to school for a day of meetings. Then a day off (with playdates for the kids), then a day on with the computers, then a day off with twice vaccinated kids! Eve and B’Lake get their second dose on Thursday. Lex was also scheduled for that day until we realized his karate BLACK BELT test is on Friday. The unknown of the second vaccination coupled with the stress of the belt test seemed like a bad combo, so I rescheduled his appointment for Saturday. It’s a further drive, but he’s always happy to get driving practice anyway!

We celebrated the year end with sushi and a new show (Loki). Alan came over to play Minecraft with the kids. I got a bottle of wine, then dropped it in the garage, then while I cleaned that up Alan ran to the store and got me another one. He’s a good man.

I am so ready for vacation!! Happy summer!! 🌞

Musical Theater

Lex’s script binder and the program.

Another year of musical theater has come and gone. This year it involved outdoor rehearsals, unknown locations, prerecorded singing, clear masks, limited audiences, livestreaming, and day of quarantine concerns. Lex designed and ran the lights again. B’Lake was on the tech committee, but due to an unfortunate Covid exposure he had to quarantine this week and miss the play. He gave us some good inside info while we watched the livestream last night. Tonight I got to attend in person! They were allowed to have 20 people in the audience, but for some reason limited it to district teachers only. No complaints here! The show was fantastic, the audience enthusiastic, and my view of the stage was primo!

Friday night, watching from home. Live theater from the comfort of my couch.

Next year Lex will do lights again, B’Lake wants to do crew again, and Eve wants to (maybe) be in the show!

Fall Concert

The high school band and choir have been practicing outside all fall, doing their best to promote music and stay safe. I’m so glad they are making this effort! When I talked to Lex about remote learning or hybrid learning (alternating at-home/at-school) he choose hybrid and one of his big reasons was so that the could continue with band.

This weekend they put on an outdoor, socially distanced, Fall Concert. The band and choir are both small this year because some students are remote learning and because those who are there in person were asked to choose band or choir this year, but not both.  Many kids in the past have done both. Due to the hybrid schedule they also practice in halves, which Lex calls “red band” and “blue band” because the hybrid schedule is split that way. Lex goes on blue days and is therefore part of the “blue band.” For this concert they all performed together as one band, with only a half hours practice beforehand to come together. It was great!

Then I had a little fun with video editing to make this compilation: HHS Fall Concert

Enjoy!