Friday, April 30, 2010

Odyssey of the Mind









Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Southern gothic.

I've had a Steel Magnolias kind of week.

On Tuesday, I thanked the fabulous parent and teacher volunteers at Peachtree Charter Middle School during a "transition" party at Dunwoody North Driving Club AND sent the school's charter petition to the staff for distribution to the County and State for approval.  I ended the evening with a deep sense of relief that this responsibility is now OVER.

On Thursday, I fell on a slippery slope covered in pine straw and busted my ankle. Thought it was broken. My friend Lisa took me to St. Joe's, xrays proved it was "just badly sprained," and kind Wayne brought me home. (T was in Baltimore.)

On Friday, I came down with a really bad cold.

On Saturday, Big A went to the prom. I barely focused long enough to see him looking amazing in his very ultra cool tuxedo. And I missed seeing his date in her gorgeous green dress and the parent gathering after the prom-goers departed in their stretch limo. (He had a very good time, the girls looked beautiful, and the threatening tornado watch stayed north of the city. Relief.)

On Sunday, my shingles came back with a vengeance. Little A's Odyssey of the Mind team had their first fundraiser, a carwash at Burger King. They raised $600+ for their Big Trip to World Finals. Big A had a work day for his Eagle Project here at the house - Scouts tested the handheld game systems to see if they worked and determine what accessories they needed.

Isn't it all fairly ridiculous? This trifecta of plagues, all visiting at the same time?

When I'm not completely exasperated with the pain and feeling out of sorts, I have to laugh. Because this is just like me. I can't just take a little break when things are too busy and stressful. Nope - I have to get completely incapacitated.

I've slept around the clock, kept my ankle elevated and on ice, taken my meds on schedule, eaten lightly when my stomach wasn't protesting, and stayed thoroughly hydrated. I've also watched a plethora of old movies, knitted a few gifts, and caught up on a tall stack of magazines. Four days of bedrest and I'm hobbling pretty well, the shingles have resided, and my cold is mellowing to the sniffle stage.

Okay, I get it. Just because "I'm The Mom" doesn't mean I'm really indispensable to the kids, the school, my job, my church, my parents, and the host of other people and institutions I like to believe count on me.  For the four days I've been out of synch, things have proceeded just fine without me.

It's humbling.

And freeing.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Calendar bottlenecks

The Knitternall family has officially entered the insanely busy season of end-of-year wrap-ups. The calendar is an overly full, overlapping mess. I ask myself every year, "Why are you doing this to yourself?"

Evidently, I don't learn from experience!

A headline in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution caught my attention: "Worst commuting bottlenecks?" In addition to any road around Georgia Perimeter College and Perimeter Mall, I'd have to suggest every road in Dunwoody when the garbage guys are doing their weave back-and-forth through both sides of our two-lane roads. You just have to putt-putt behind them because the driver dodges happily into oncoming traffic. (I understand why - he's covering his crew. But it's darned frustrating.) Twice a week, I get stuck behind them during the long trek from the middle school back to Dunwoody Nature Center. Chamblee-Dunwoody Road has to be the straightest, pokiest road in town. Except when people are flying 50 miles an hour down it and lean on their horns because you're driving 35. (The legal speed limit.)


The reason that headline poked me in the stream-of-consciousness is that there are bottlenecks in the calendar, too. The worst calendar bottlenecks in the Knitternall biosphere are

  • the first two weeks of school, when all the things I volunteered to do somehow, magically, end up happening at the same time.
  • PTO and Scout meetings scheduled on the same night. Every month.
  • the perfect storm of April and May + sports teams + end of school meetings + drama productions in April and May + prom + SATs and AP Tests + . . .
  • Christmas - church celebrations + parties + semester finals + getting gifts for family and friends + son's birthday + travels back home to North Carolina.
  • This week, as I prep for an end-of-year meeting (with special presentations to much-valued volunteers), get a major project underway at the Nature Center, finalize the Charter revision and send it to the County Schools for their blessing before it heads back to the State Department of Education, monitor a few ongoing family projects, and the first of many, many fundraisers for Odyssey of the Mind to the calendar.
Unfortunately, there's no calendar construction project available to fix these bottlenecks. There's just me. The real culprit.

Maybe I need to learn from one of my friends. She has a two-item-per-day rule for her calendar.  And both items must be separated by at least two hours.

Would that work?


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another college tour moment . . .

My son and I visited North Georgia College in Dahlonega last week. It was quite a contrast to Kennesaw State. Small, preppy, intellectual, filled with traditions linked to its military school roots, and surrounded by mountain views, North Georgia was quite a pleasure. Like KSU, the tour  led us through the Student Center, Dining Hall, sample dorm, and classroom buildings.

Then we reached the large green space in the middle of the campus. At KSU, this spot was filled with Greeks enjoying a wild intramural game of some kind. Students sprawled everywhere, enjoying the early summer heat.

At North Georgia, the only students in sight were drilling (in camo gear) or sitting on benches around the perimeter.(The Corps of Cadets makes up a small percentage of the student body.)

"We have a tradition that you NEVER cut through the green," explained our guide. "If you do, they yell at you." Why? several prospects asked. "It's a drill field, and you don't cross drill fields." Oh.

"The first thing I'd do," said my son, "is cross that field."

So, maybe a tradition-bound school isn't my rebel thinker's cup of tea.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Congratulations. You're Going to Michigan!

The Dunwoody Homeowners Association-sponsored Odyssey of the Mind Middle School team took 2nd place in their division at the State Competition, so are heading to World trials!

We are proud, exhilerated, exhausted, thrilled, stunned - that whole host of emotions parents feel when their kids do something amazing all by themselves.

Congratulations to coach Karen Bass, who was recognized by the Georgia Odyssey of the Mind program for special achievement. Congratulations to Anna Grace Nall, Jennifer Kiser, Max Noto, Will Bass, and Jack Jarrell, (not pictured, teammates Kendall Lowrey and Sofia Gonzalo) for a stellar performance in the long term and spontaneous problems.

Their challenge? Discovered Treasures:   
Teams will create and present an original performance that includes the portrayal of the discovery of two archaeological treasures. One portrayal will be a team-created version of the discovery of an actual historical treasure. The other portrayal will be the team's depiction of a modern sculpture or structure that exists today but is discovered in the future. The performance will include an artistic representation of the two discovered treasures and characters that are part of the discovery teams.

The team headed to Easter Island, then segued to the London Eye through imaginative scripting, songs, props, and some rather hilarious acting.

Now, on to Michigan:

Odyssey of the Mind® 2010 World Finals
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI
May 26 - May 29

Students from around the world will compete in the 31st Odyssey of the Mind World Finals. This competition emphasizes creativity and teamwork. It has grown into such a huge event because OotM makes learning fun while giving kids the chance to explore their imaginations and express their creativity.

Millions of kids have been working hard all year perfecting their solutions to OotM problems and competing within their regions and states in order to advance to the 2010 World Finals. However, only the best of the best will make it to WF.

Yep. We're proud!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wake up!

We're convinced our son will sleep through college.

Thanks to the medications he takes and his typical teen sleep cycle (stay up late, sleep late), he sleeps through his alarm clock, cell phone alert, and my exasperated "get up!". Only when I literally push him out of bed does he finally show some small sign of consciousness. We are way past the time I should be getting him up, but letting him be tardy for school wouldn't help. He'd just oversleep again. And again.

He's worried, too.

So we're researching alarm clocks. Evidently, he's not alone in this. Several helpful blogs directed us to websites with products for the deaf and hard of hearing. Some of the products seem silly. A few seem punitive. Most fall into one of three categories:

1. Clocks that make noise, flash the lights, and shake you out of bed:

2. Clocks that make you perform some stupid trick to turn off the blasted thing: 
3. Clocks that are really, really, REALLY LOUD.
Now we get to try one on for size. Which means the entire family will hear the alarm. And the neighbors. And dogs in the next street over.

But if it gets him up on his own, it'll be worth it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

College Tour: Kennesaw State University

Ever since he attended a Boy Scout Merit Badge event at Kennesaw State University when he was 11, our son has set his sights on that school. Doesn't matter that most of the high school chatter is about the usual suspects - Auburn and UGA, Georgia Tech and Alabama, Vanderbilt and Ivies back east. He likes KSU.

Today we toured the campus. (We'd already checked out the majors and how the school is performing academically.) He honed in on the ancillary stuff - dining hall, apartments, student center, wireless access, comfy classrooms, campus walkability, girls (there were a bevy of beauties everywhere we went), etc. To give him credit, he was keen to see the computer science labs and classrooms, but those were not on the tour (we're definitely going back). I checked out the student life as well the campus clinic and accommodations for a student who will bring all the baggage of Crohn's Disease with him.

With his GPA and ACT score as well as his volunteer work and Boy Scout achievements, our son could be talking about any of those "usual suspects," including his parents' alma maters (hello, legacy!). But he knows what he likes and he likes Kennesaw State University.

If there's one thing I've finally learned as a parent, it's that this is his life, not mine.

Nonetheless, we're visiting several other colleges this week and in months ahead. Can't wait to see how the next one compares to KSU's amazing apartment/dormitories. They most definitely are not the cinderblock+linoleum+always broken elevators of my  university housing. Plush, new, private rooms with refrigerators and microwaves in a common area for EVERY SUITE.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

This is the day the Lord has made . . .

. . . and I rejoice.

Not blindly, as if all is right in the world.

Not in denial, as if I don't know I have some high expectations to live up to.

Not frivolously, as if the pageantry and traditions of the Easter service are enough to carry me for the rest of the year.

And not smugly, as if I think I know everything about worshiping our Maker.

I rejoice humbly, gratefully, and hopefully. Because God makes each day as a gift to us.

Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Do I have to wear this? Part 2.

My son asked a really great girl to the prom and she said yes! (Scene: cafeteria. He: "So, you want to go to the prom together?" She: "Sure.")  With our encouragement, he and his date have invited several other friends to share a limo (yes a limo is a luxury, but it's either that or parent drivers since the prom is in a less-than-stellar location for teen drivers). I've suggested they meet at one house so the parents can get photos, but beyond that I'm waiting to see what they come up with.

Then  my son realized that he'll have to wear a tuxedo.

"Aw, come on! Do I have to?"

Yep. Having also checked to see if the traditions have changed, I informed him that good manners, dancing, a tux, and a corsage were in order.

I'm mostly staying out of the way of the arrangements since the group is already talking nonstop about the prom, whether they'll have dinner together, when they'll arrive, etc. etc. But it's been illuminating to hear other parents talk about their teens' preparations and plans. From rentals of party buses and expensive meals at fine restaurants to the "anti prom" crowd hitting the Waffle House and keeping things simple, there's a whole range of expectations out there. Elaborate "asks" are a big deal at Dunwoody High School, including invitations broadcast over the school intercom or via the Media students' broadcast, on the baseball field's home plate, in serenades at the girl's house, and in floral deliveries.

My son's group appears to be on the low key side, thank goodness.

We'll hit the rental places this week to try on tuxes and choose the look he feels is appropriate. Nothing colorful - simple black and white is his preference.

The funniest part of this experience is balancing the "cool" factor of the transportation (an 8-passenger limo!) with parental controls. Fear not. The limo company is well versed in teens.
  • Haul over the maximum capacity in limousines and 2 passengers in sedans
  • Smoke in the vehicles
  • Drink alcoholic beverages of any type in its vehicles
  • Bring alcoholic beverages of any type in its vehicles
  • Take any type of illegal drugs, such as marijuana, while in its vehicles
  • Have any intimate relations in its vehicles
  • Hang any portion of their bodies out the windows in its vehicles
  • Vandalize its vehicles in any manner
  • Offer addition rides to passengers unrelated to the prom (including parents, friends, etc.)
Note: All cost for repairs or damages to Limousine vehicles resulting from the activity of teenagers, shall be borne by the parents, legal guardians or signer of this contract.

Note: In the event of any passenger in a (prom) group becomes intoxicated or under the influence of any alcoholic beverage, illegal drugs, substances, or violates any of the above activities, while at the facility outside/inside Limousine’s chauffeur to contact the passengers parents or legal guardian and notifying them that the prom charter is over as of the moment and all passengers are being returned to the first point of pick-up.

We showed our son the contract.  "As if I'd do any of that," he snorted. Sure, we said, but you need to make sure that everyone you invite to join your group has the same common sense. Because we're liable for everything that happens. "So you're saying you're trusting me to do the right thing."

Yes, we are, son.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The synergy of teens and menopausal moms.

Maybe "synergy" isn't the right word, but it's one of life's ironies that my teenagers and I are wrestling with insomnia, temperature fluctuations, and brain freeze. At the same time.


The night before last, I was up at 3 and stayed that way until dawn. My teens were up well past midnight because they couldn't fall asleep. By last evening, we were all stumbling around, snarling at each other, and wanting nothing more than to go to bed. But I'm working on Peachtree's charter petition rewrite every moment I'm not at work or sleeping, the kids had essays and an Analysis test to prep for, there were no clean jeans in the house so the washing machine needed to be fed, and . . .

At 8:00, my son gave up. He couldn't focus enough to eat the very late dinner I prepared (having realized at 7 that I hadn't even begun cooking). So I sent him to bed.

Then I gave up. I moved some data from one section of the charter to another, realized I was going to start making mistakes, shut down the computer and headed to bed.

Then my daughter gave up. She printed out her essay and crawled into her own bed.

The only person still vertical after 8:30 was my husband, who was working on several volunteer projects.

I understand that parents who have their kids when they're in their early 20's don't hit the crazies at the same time. But my generation postponed having children for the sake of careers and wanting to do it at the "perfect time" whatever that is. So I'm in good company.

It's morning, we've all slept, and now we're back to a more normal level of stress.

My son is sitting in the dark of the family room, eating a Pop Tart and studying for his Analysis test. My suggestion that he turn on a lamp was met by disdain. My daughter is cloistered in her bedroom, taking the usual inordinate amount of time to get dressed for school. And I'm running around, packing things for work, yelling at the kids to "move it or you'll be late to school!", and watching the clock.

Where's my coffee?