Updates — It’s Crazy Up In Here!

It’s been awhile! And it is NOT because there is nothing to write. On the contrary, there is so much going on that I find myself overwhelmed with things to write.

For now, I’ll just stick to some updates. The end of the 2017-18 school year is upon us. I’ve thought many times over the past couple of weeks about how I could not be more proud of my kids. Each of them has done something recently that has made my heart burst! It’s exciting to watch my little-people grow into these incredibly awesome big-people. I don’t even know where to start…and so, whenever I don’t know I just start I do the updates top-down. πŸ™‚

Sarah is amazing. Still. That girl works so incredibly hard at everything she does. Even though she doesn’t HAVE to work hard at some things, she does. Her work ethic is one of her best qualities that will take her far in life.

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Junior Prom night photo

She accomplished the feat of scoring a 4.0 GPA for her entire Junior year. The 4.0 GPA isn’t anything new to Sarah, per se, but to maintain it during a year when there was ever-increasing pressure heaped upon her shoulders (both self-inflicted and other) is a feat that I don’t think she truly realizes. She takes Honors courses, took an AP course, and rocked her Honors Biology so hard that it was probably the highest percentage A she’s gotten in an course so far. She started visiting colleges, took the ACT a couple of times, and then took on a 26 hour ACT Prep class at Sylvan to prepare her for what we hope will be her final attempt on the ACT. She played volleyball for school and then club through the winter/spring, was on the high school swimming team, completed all her requirements for membership in National Honor Society and continued to serve the community at the local elementary school. Oh yeah, and she picked up a job at the nearby movie theater at the end of January…AND just got promoted to Shift Leader after only 4 months. Simply Amazing. Through all of this she has maintained an active faith life attending Mass with our family, attending our parish’s youth program on Sunday nights and also attending the weekly young women’s group, Sanctimonia, almost every Wednesday. She applied for Lead this year at what will be her fourth Steubenville conference, and was selected. In the midst of it all, her brakes went out on her car and she was financially fit enough to pay half of the cost of replacement. On top of that, she applied for and was accepted to a local university/medical center’s “Nursing Experience” — a week-long seminar where she will get to experience some real-life stuff to help her continue to discern her path to and through nursing school.

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Words don’t do justice to the emotions I have for this girl. I’m proud, yes, but I feel so lucky that God gave me this child. She has truly been one of the many joys of motherhood, and I can’t wait to see all that she will accomplish in the future.

Dani is incredible as well. And in a completely different capacity than her sister which I love! Dani works as well, though she is more choosy about the things she works at than her older sister.

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Dani loves to perform, okay? All school year, she’s been involved in theater, choir, honor choir, and musical. Every time I see her perform, it fills me with joy at her happiness. She exudes energy in everything. Earlier in second semester, the kids were getting set to enroll for high school classes, and Dani auditioned to join Treble Choir, which is an all female show choir (class) at her high school. She was selected and the director said that her sight-reading was “almost entirely perfect.” What a compliment! And it’s so incredible because when Dani auditioned for Honor Choir in 7th grade, she didn’t make it and was given feedback that her sight-reading was lacking. So, Dani spent time at the computer, with her guitar and on the ipad with apps that could help her improve her sight-reading. To get that compliment this year on her sight-reading was a testament to all of her hard work over the past 18-24 months on that area. Dani was one of the leads in the musical this year, which was an incredible experience for her. She took theater all year to continue to work on her stage presence and other theatrical skills. She also participated in Competitive Drama this year and ultimately earned medals at the District Middle School competition! She took 2nd with her partner in Improv and took 3rd with her (serious, I’ve heard) Prose piece. Dani also went to the 8th grade dance last night, which was kind of her “send-off” event to high school. She looked so pretty!

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Back in April, she decided to audition for our local Theater in the Park production. They do two productions and the first this year is Oklahoma!Β and the second is Big River. Dani knew with her taking two online courses (P.E. and Health) to make room in her schedule for Choir and Foreign Language in the school year, she couldn’t make the rehearsals for Oklahoma! so she auditioned for Big River. They only take adults (age 19 and up) for major roles in the productions, but they cast Dani in the Young Adult Ensemble. How exciting for her! The final 8th grade production for the Choir program at her school is their Spring Fling and they had a Broadway theme this year. Dani was able to sing a duet with a good friend of hers: they sang “Anything You Can Do” from Annie Get Your Gun. It was great! For all of the numbers with choreography, Dani was on point for everything and provided such a great amount of energy! This past week, she received an invitation to join Treble FX, which is the competition all-female show choir. She will be a busy girl next year and doing things she loves. She is also planning to play Tennis. I can’t wait to watch her perform on stage in choir, theater and most likely the musical productions.

Helen has had a good year, too. She is in the AVID program, which has been an incredible help to her with regard to readiness for ongoing learning. She played rec league volleyball this year and improved greatly. She’s now been offered and accepted a position with a local travel-volleyball club and is excited to work with the coaches there. She did band first semester, but discovered it wasn’t really for her. So, she did theater second semester and I really enjoyed their 6th grade theater class plan they did at the end of May. She was also in the musical and had a little cameo role which was cute. She looked like she enjoyed performing, too. πŸ™‚

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She’s grown up a lot this year and it wasn’t without some pains. Something always seems to happen to my kids around 6th grade — I literally wonder just where my kid went and what alien has taken her place…I mean, I see glimpses here and there of my sweet girl, Helen, but we’re going through the typical puberty type behavioral and relationship issues that I have figured must be par-for-the-course at this stage of development. She’s a good kid and she’s made great strides with her behavior and in her choices for friends and such. I’m excited to see how things pan out with the volleyball and with all her activities next school year.

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Like her sisters, Helen is taking Health/P.E. in summer school to keep room in her school schedule for choir and AVID. So she’ll be really busy through June with that and with private coaching sessions in the evenings with volleyball (since she can’t make the camps they are having during the day). But stay tuned…volleyball and choir and everything else is on the horizon for Helen!

Dominic asked to do Boy Scouts this year, so we did. And…we found out why we hadn’t done Boy Scouts before and why it’s unlikely to be something we commit to going forward. It’s a lot of time and other commitment. Dominic’s interest level isn’t where it should be to commit that much time and effort. He would prefer to spend that time at a Google Coder Dojo and learning to code or something. He is still reading at a high level, but I’ve noticed his interest has waned a bit, but maybe that’s just because we haven’t hit the latest gold mine as far as books he would be interested in. He’s still that sweet, sensitive kid he’s always been and smart, too. πŸ™‚ He’s progressing through swim lessons and starting to learn a little bit more than just front and back crawl. When it’s all said and done, though, his major interest is with computers and coding and all the things he can do in that realm. He spends his free time watching You Tube videos. I just caught him watching one on how to tell if your computer or phone has been hacked and what to do about it. hmmmm

Vincent did Boy Scouts, too. He seemed to enjoy it more than Dominic, but it is still a difficult commitment to make going forward. He really wants to play soccer and basketball, so in place of scouts, we may stick to sports next year. I can’t believe he will be in 2nd grade next year. Crazy. Here’s the thing about Vincent: he dislikes school. None of my other kids have ever actually disliked school. But Vincent is regularly making sure we know that he “already knows this stuff” and that school “is so boring” and has asked me to homeschool him. Oh my word! Home school will not work for us, so I need to figure something out. Here’s the thing…they do “Mad Minutes” for math facts and Vincent had progressed all the way into 2nd grade level “Mad Minutes” before the end of December. By the end of this school year, he was in 3rd grade “Mad Minutes” and working through multiplication. I think I need to keep those going during the summer, because he LOVES them so much. If you ever ask him his favorite thing about school, he might say “Nothing! School’s boring!” but he might say, “Braden” (his best buddy at school) and then he would say “…and ‘Mad Minutes.'” I have asked for a referral for Vincent for SAGE (Our district’s Gifted Education program) and they will likely evaluate him at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. Perhaps that one day a week in an environment that’s more enjoyable for Vincent, will make all the difference in his attitude about school. We’ll see. He’s also progressing through swim lessons. He wants to have a birthday party this year, so I really need to get on that. :/

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So, that’s what’s up in our family. As for the parents, we’re working hard to fund all these shenanigans. I do have my two-week vacation coming up, which will entail a trip to MN and another trip to TX. My sister, whom I haven’t seen in FOUR years….(!!!) is moving to TX and I can’t wait to go and see her and her family.

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I’m still weight-watching, maybe I’ll blog on that soon. It’s going well. I’m working on some skills at Crossfit and enjoying the benefits of that and walking as far as my activity goes. Our dog is still cute, though, he’s wearing us out lately with accidents in the house so we’re trying to figure that out.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend! Maybe I’ll blog again before end of summer. πŸ™‚

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Can Kids Be Taught to Communicate Effectively? (I think so!)

Over the past several months, I have noticed (in hindsight) ways I have worked with Sarah to develop strong communication skills. It hit me with the most recent occasion, that perhaps I could share what we’ve been doing, in case it helps someone else.

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Middle school and high school are, quite possibly, some of the most awkward times in life. My oldest is about to become a senior in high school — after which, she will be considered an adult and expected to communicate and behave as such. My next daughter is about to become a freshman in high school. Both girls, over the course of this school year, have grown in their communication skills, but it hasn’t been without concerted effort on my husband’s and my part as well as work from them.

For perspective, I manage a team of people in the banking and finance industry and that is probably why it is at the forefront of my mind to prepare my children to communicate as they grow up. I work with people who are afraid to give and receive feedback of any kind because they don’t want a confrontation. And they perceive a simple, straightforward discussion as a confrontation. I often receive verbal and written communication that is vague and ineffective. I am the type of person that operates in a straightforward manner with my peers and my team, because I don’t know any other way. I strive to maintain a respectful approach at all times, and have discovered that people respond well to this approach, even if they don’t have the tools to reciprocate the style.

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Because Sarah is a junior (soon to be senior, gah!) in high school, her teachers have required a bit more mature communication. Thankfully, Sarah has been up to the task most of the time. When she has struggled, we’ve worked through 1) what she doesn’t understand about the teacher’s expectations, 2) what she hopes to accomplish by talking with the teacher to get the information she needs and 3) how to ensure a desired course of action (both from her and her teacher/supervisor/etc).

Dani has been cruising through 8th grade and her communication issues are different. She is still at the point where we are trying to increase her communication with us (parents). She’s come out of her shell a little bit with us this year, and I hope that as time moves forward, she’ll continue to trust us with her questions and struggles so that we can help her.

At times, I’ve reflected on how important it is for the girls to learn how to be straightforward so that they communicate clearly, while maintaining a respectful tone and ensure they don’t lose sight to the purpose of the conversations they need to have with their teachers or even their peers. It seems as though there is not enough emphasis on face-to-face communication these days. Many people prefer to text even over a phone call. I have had to re-train myself, even, to pick up the phone and talk to someone rather than send e-mail after e-mail trying to get an answer to a question. Sarah even acknowledges this challenge among friendships because kids seem to be more interested in developing a friendship via Snapchat than just sitting down and grabbing a coke and talking.

I’m sure there have been nerve-racking times for both of my maturing daughters as they have explored the world of effective communication. If it hasn’t happened yet, it probably will, that they will find themselves with the “upper hand” with regard to communication skills and they’ll experience all of the frustration that can bring. But I’m glad they are working through those circumstances now, with a strong support system at home to help them sort through all of that. My goal is to set them up for success in work life and personal life — being able to communicate effectively is so very important!