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. 💗

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. 😄

High School Variety Show

We saw the very best ever high school variety show this evening. It had jokes and songs, some good and some terrible, and jazz band performances, and technical issues (so many!), and audience participation — it was fantastic! 

They were having a lot of issues with the music accompaniment for several of the acts, but the high schoolers were awesome at getting through it. The best was when our favorite amazing performer (not in our family) who is kind and funny and we’ve known since kindergarten. She’s short and sang a song called Short which totally dissed on short people. She played it up amazingly, especially half way through when her music stopped. She made a joke about her song being cut short, then proceeded to finish it without the music. She was funny and fantastic.

The flip side was another girl who was wearing lingerie, including garters, and sang a loud angsty song while practically making out with the mic and repeatedly flipping her hair in an awkward trying-to-be-sexy way. It was painful to watch.

The MC (master of ceremonies, and which apparently none of my teens knew what MC stood for) was also very funny.

The best part of the show, of course, was the jazz band, specifically the song that Lex arranged! He loves the video game Portal and the music in it. He took one of the songs and arranged it for his jazz band. At the Jazz Festival last month they learned that other local schools have singers accompanying the jazz band for many of the songs, so Lex thought it would be fun to do that in his song too. It was fantastic and the applause at the end made my heart full.



Another AMAZING high school musical is on the books! Lex ran the lights, while Eve and her bestie, Simon, ran the spot lights. Our old neighbors, Macy and Asher, stole the show! Well lit, of course, by my children. :)

They both had a great time and the show was fantastic.

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.

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!”