Sunday, July 12, 2015

Happy Camper, part 2

After only being home 1 week, 7 short days, from his first sleep-over camp, it was time to pack Wonder Boy's bags again and get him started on his NEXT camp of the summer. For the Boy, I think it was just a week to re-charge before jumping back into some serious summer fun. For me, it was a week to soak up time with my young man, trying to get a picture of all he did on his first camp experience.

And while that week ended much too quickly for my taste, by the time Sunday rolled around, Wonder Boy was packed and ready to go with hardly a second look back.

For this camp, at least, he was housed at the University here in town. And I'll admit, it was a lot easier saying our good-byes when I knew he was not a 3 hour car ride away this time.

We checked him in to the Youth Adventure Program (or YAP) for six days of robotics classes (& races!) and a LOT of fun and time with friends (both old and new)!

I can't answer for the Boy, but the highlight for me was the robot showcase and time trials on the last day of camp. Families and friends were invited to campus to see the robots the teams had built in only 4 short days and watch them travel a special course mapped out on the floor of the Rudder Exhibit Hall. Wonder Boy's team dubbed their bot "L.A.B.B.Z." and styled it to look like a tank. I was very impressed watching it run the course. The drag race was first and while "L.A.B.B.Z." was not the quickest off the line, it made a respectable run. But where it shined was on the full course. Many of the other bots got confused in tight turns and back tracked or even ended up completely off the track. But "L.A.B.B.Z." stayed the course and managed a very good time both times it ran. In the end, they finished in 3rd place. I think the guys did a GREAT job!

YAP Robotics Races - Team L.A.B.B.Z.

I don't know why I worried so much about sending the Boy away this summer. As you can see, he has had two really incredible experiences already! It's been an adjustment for me (now *I* am the one struggling through transitions), but to see how much he has matured through this process is truly a blessing. It's hard to let go, but to see him stand on his own (and to do so well with it) really helps me loosen that hold on him.

We don't have any other sleep-away camps planned for this summer, so I get some time now to enjoy some family time with both of my guys. But I hope we are not done with our adventures for the summer.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Happy Camper, part 1

Every summer, since the summer between his first and second grade school years, Wonder Boy has attended a local day camp for the majority of his summer vacation. It's been a great experience for the whole family - a fun, active schedule for the Boy and the peace of mind for Mom and Dad that the he was in a stimulating, yet safe environment.

However, as the Boy moved on up to Middle School, he aged out of the summer day camp opportunity. *sigh*

I'll be honest, as we faced this summer, I knew we would have to look at more than just day camps as there are just not many local day camp options for teenagers. So, no matter what plans we made for the summer, I knew we would have to let Wonder Boy venture out on his own a bit.

I will confess that this caused some serious misgivings on my part. Prior to this summer, Wonder Boy had never even been to an overnight sleep over. And, I may have mentioned that, in days past, Wonder Boy hasn't been one to thrive in novel environments.

But I guess that this too is a rite of passage. And one that we were going to have to face sooner rather than later.

During the school year, Wonder Boy was honored to be selected as part of the Duke Talent Identification Program (or TIP). This program singles out academically gifted 7th grade students and invites them to take college entrance exams to further determine their areas of academic success. Depending on the scores received, students are encouraged to attend summer programs. Wonder Boy qualified for one of these programs and when we asked him if he was interested in this kind of camp, he surprised us and JUMPED at the opportunity.

The first week of June rolled around and we packed up the boy and his bags and made the road trip to San Antonio. We checked him into a dorm room and, as hard as it was, said our good-byes so he could enjoy THREE SOLID WEEKS of "Engineering Problem Solving" camp.

Looking back, I can see this was an amazing opportunity for the Boy. He had a GREAT time. He made new friends. He learned new things. And he got his first taste of life away from home - kind of an "early introduction to college life." And Mikey, he LIKED it!

I need not have worried. He was ready for this step. In fact, it's safe to say he was much more ready for it than I was.

But I suspect that is the way of the world in general.

I'm really proud of my Wonder Boy. And so very glad that he got the opportunity to attend this incredible camp! I just need to work on his communication skills so that I'm not so starved for information while he's away from home.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Another Year in the Books

As I sit here, looking at Wonder Boy's stack of graded papers, discarded flyers, and spiral notebooks on their last leg, I can't believe another school year has come to a close.

I'm not sure how time seems to fly so fast for me, but so slowly for him, but as we close the book on Wonder Boy's 7th grade year, that again seems to be the case. The Boy and one of his best buds are upstairs playing video games and "unwinding" after a final farewell to 7th grade. They spent the afternoon telling me how LOOOOONG the school year had been and how they were ready for a nice, slow summer. And the whole time, all I could think was how fast this academic year had passed for me.

It was an action packed year, to be sure. The start of 7th grade brought a new school, new electives, and PLENTY of opportunity for the Boy to both learn and grow. And I have to say, he took to it like a duck to water. And watching him swim in these new waters was a true joy for me.

When he was small, transitions of ANY kind were ... well ... let's just say they required a serious adjustment period.

But that was then.

Now, my dear Wonder Boy is almost unrecognizable when it comes to facing and accepting changes and new challenges (unless we're talking about dinner time, but I won't get on that soapbox today). This is something that has been building with each passing grade. I noticed it as he moved from our small neighborhood elementary school into intermediate school and now even more so into middle school. He has a confidence, almost a swagger even, that back in those days of dreaded transitions I wondered if we would ever see in him.

This is the best part of watching your child grow - seeing them turn into PEOPLE; people who can stand on their own; people who can blaze their own trail; people you are proud to call family. Wonder Boy takes great strides down that path these days. And this mom is sure enjoying watching it all happen.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Spring Recital

Showcasing their UIL performance pieces, this week we got to enjoy the full school orchestra playing together. That is, all 7th and 8th grade orchestra students (both Symphonic and Philharmonic groups) came together for tonight's show.

As is usually the case, hearing the full concert piece of music is quite thrilling. We generally only get to hear Wonder Boy's line during his afternoon practices, so when the full group comes together, it's always a treat. But this concert was exceptionally enjoyable since both groups played together. Below you can watch the full performance.

Spring Orchestra Full Concert

The first 3 pieces played are the ones they performed for UIL. The others were recruiting pieces they played at area elementary schools this spring to encouraging in-coming 5th graders to give Orchestra a try.

We are so proud to report that the group did very well in competition this year, earning a superior rating for both their UIL performance as well as their concert at the Bluebonnet Music Festival in San Antonio. And while we are a little sad to be attending the final show of the school year, it sure gives us something to look forward to for next fall.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Road Trip - Part 4

Our last day was spent much like the first day - trying to make our way back across the great state of Texas. And like we did on Day 1, we planned a fun little caving adventure to break up the trip.

This time, we visited the Cave Without a Name in Boerne, TX.

We have been able to visit about a half dozen caves around Texas and I just have to tell you that this cave, the Cave Without a Name, was one of my most favorite experiences. I think maybe only the Longhorn Cavern northwest of Austin tops the Cave Without a Name in my book.

The tour was not as long as some of the others we have visited, but for some reason I just felt like we were closer to the formations. While touching is a strict no-no, everything in that room feels like it is right in your face. And for some reason, that just made the whole experience seem more personal.

We learned that the owners occasionally host musical events inside the cave. I would truly LOVE to experience a concert of this nature at some point. I'm going to have to keep an eye on their calendar of events for the next opportunity.

All in all, it was another great stop in a whirlwind adventure that I will carry in my memory for many years to come!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Road Trip - Part 3

Day 3 of our Spring Break Adventure didn't go quite like we had planned.

We had PLANNED a second day of exploring Big Bend. But a huge storm over night and continued rain off and on all day forced us to consider other options. In the end, that's pretty much what we did - we explored other options.

To start off the day, we drove from the tiny West Texas town of Alpine to the even smaller West Texas town of Marfa. Marfa was a pretty little town, but it is definitely one of those places that rolls up the sidewalks except on major holidays. We were a bit taken aback by how many things were closed. Even finding a place for lunch was a challenge - though the place we ended up had some of the best, fresh food I've ever enjoyed.

After lunch, we hit the road in search of more to see and do. And to that end, we wound our way to Fort Davis. Fort Davis was an unexpected and most pleasant surprise! It's a truly pretty little town with a lot to see and do. Our first stop was at the Davis Mountains State Park. We got really lucky and the weather cleared off a bit allowing us to get in a short, but enjoyable 3 mile hike through the park.

After all that hiking, we made our way back to town and strolled up and down the town square taking in the fun shops and storefronts surrounding it. The one thing that struck me as we ducked in and out of each place was the friendliness of the Fort Davis locals. We were welcome in each spot and made to feel right at home.

When our legs became weary from the walk, we hopped back in the car and headed back to Alpine, where we did some exploring as well. We spent some time in a couple of really lovely art galleries and some local artisan shops. Then we topped off the day with a tasty dinner and a soak in the hotel hot tub.

So while the day was not as planned, we ended up getting to visit areas we had noy planned on our itinerary. I also added a few places to my "must see if we ever come back here" list, most notably the McDonald's Observatory. Due to the weather, it was not an option for this particular visit, but I hope one day to head back in that direction in order to check it out.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Road Trip - Part 2

Day 2 of our Spring Break '15 Adventure we finally made it to Big Bend National Park as planned!

Day 1 of our trip was rainy and we worried we were not going to be able to spend the day outside hiking as we had hoped. But the weather cleared just enough to make it work. It stayed grey and cloudy all day, but that worked to our advantage as there is not a lot of shade in this arid part of Texas.

I have to tell you, as much as I enjoyed each and every adventure on this vacation, hiking Big Bend was the highlight of the trip for me! I spent the whole day in awe of the raw, natural beauty all around me. If it were not such a long drive to the park, I would go back monthly for as long as my car holds out.

We chose a mountain trail day hike called the Pinnacles trail. We parked at the Chisos Mountain Basin Lodge located in the park and started climbing from there. We covered about 8 miles of trail round trip and climbed to an elevation of about 7,000 ft above sea level. We had been hoping to make it all the way to the top of Emory Peak, but the Pinnacles trail proved to be enough of an effort for our first day of hiking.

Signs along the trail kept warning us about the presence of bears and mountain lions. We never saw any such beasts, but we did see a deer (mule deer are native to the region) and a Mexican Jay.

I would really love to stay at the Chisos Mountain Basin Lodge if we ever get the opportunity to return. To be able to just BE in that environment would really be a treat.