Tuesday, May 31, 2011

8th Grade Graduation

Tonight Big Al had her graduation ceremony for her magnet program. A magnet is a "school within a school" for a specific purpose. Our district has many programs for the arts, science based, health, etc. Big Al and T-Rex go to the one for high achieving students. Only 80 kids are in her 4 classes and they have been together for 3 years. For the most part we have been exceptionally pleased with everything, and it has definitely been a positive experience.

In this ceremony the students performed individually and in pairs for about ten total pieces. Then the faculty from 6th - 8th all did their presentation. The 6th grade science teacher did a wonderful poem full of references to their activities and jokes about what the teachers "really" are. 7th grade did Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" with all of the kids names listed throughout the song. Part way through the other teachers brought out their lighters. It concluded with the 8th grade history teacher giving a speech about perseverance and profiling Howard Carter's persistance through his life.

After the certificates were handed out the families gathered downstairs to have some food and watch the slideshow of their three years together. It was fun to see everyone, and reminisce about all of the things the kids have accomplished. Afterwards there was a lot of picture taking...

Big Al will cheer with the two on the right next year.

"B" has been one of Big Al's best friends from the beginning. She is a lot of fun and a bundle of energy. We love her dearly and hope they keep in touch as they go to different high schools next year.
"J" has been a soccer buddy for quite a few years.
"A" was also one of Big Al's favorite people.... just like a brother.

These are all super kids who are going in many different directions, but I know these kids will definitely achieve their goals.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Today I decided to have a lazy day, although I did get the little girls' winter clothes put away. As I'm sitting in the chair watching tv and reading a book I hear Blondie endlessly playing Mary Had a Little Lamb on the keyboard in our library. Her music teacher at school taught the kids to play it and I hear it often, in different tones, and rhythms, so I sent Big Al in there to teach her another song. Big Al picked Jingle Bells. As I listen to her hit wrong notes, T-Rex runs upstairs and gets her violin. Suddenly just a big bunch of NOISE is coming into my lazy day space. I grabbed the camera to share with all of you who wish you were in my library, but are kept apart by distance.

I KNOW you're wishing you were HERE right now..... right?

T-Rex on a field study

Guest blogger: T-Rex

On Thursday, my school took a trip to Savannah. We visited a marine science lab by an estuary. One of the activities was a touch tank where we could hold crabs, horseshoe crabs, starfish, hermit crabs, and snails.

One of the first things I held were the starfish. I figured out that if you keep them flat on your hand they would start to crawl off. One of my classmates thought it would be a nice idea to hold one too, but another friend came behind him and accidently bumped into him. Unfortunately the boy was holding the starfish by the leg and it popped off. Above, is me holding the arm (still moving) with the starfish in the background. Here I am holding a crab.

One of the tanks held seahorses which my friends loved.

Our last activity was a trawler. It was a boat whereyou throw nets into the water and you pull them up and then study the animals. We caught two stingrays, a dozen squid, a jellyfish, a ton of fish, a few crabs, a couple shrimp, and a hermit crab.

This is one of the few shrimp that were caught being held by our guide.

This was one of the bigger squid that was caught.

It was a fun field study, and I had a great time.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

U.S. National Whitewater Center

My favorite teens (all but 3 of my cadette and senior girl scouts) took a quick trip up the road to the U.S. National Whitewater center on Saturday. It is a really big park with slightly extreme sports, as well as a training ground for Olympic whitewater kayak folks.

We started with the adventure course and canyon crossing. Both are essentially rope courses which the girls had experience with, but are always fun. We waited in line to get harnessed and helmeted up, and then took off to the adventure course.

I kept getting asked to put my camera away, so I only took pics when I reached a platform. No more than 2 on a line, and 3 on a platform at a time. In the above pic, T-Rex is waiting on MC to finish her crossing, while (below) Big Al waits on her platform for the next section.

Here, T-Rex and SLB are waiting to cross a rope holding on to a cargo net - and YES, I did all of these too. After we finished we skipped the small zipline (it was only 100 feet), and got in line for the canyon crossing.

Big Al was needing lunch at that point (it was almost 2) so she waited for the others to finish, but T-Rex was ready. Canyon Crossing was slightly different in that it moved between the trees and was a little higher and wasn't a solid structure like the Adventure Crossing.

T-Rex starting out on the first element. I couldn't take pics after that because she was too hard to find in the trees, but at the end she ziplined back to the starting point.

After the zip, we all ran to the car to gulp down food, and then headed back in for some water activities.

First we all kayaked. It was nice (although would have been better with seatbacks). The guys at the dock told us about a cut through creek that would be a little more interesting to the girls so we took it. We found kayak gates that we paddled through...

and shaded tree areas with plenty of obstacles to paddle around. Even though we were out for only about an hour, I'm counting this as my "May paddle" since I couldn't go to Sparkleberry swamp. Sadly, I still can't talk Big Al and T-Rex into going with me on my next one.

5 of the girls tried paddle boarding (T-Rex in the middle) with two of the girls (CC and SS) "falling" in. I wanted to do this too, but didn't want to make them wait so when they were finished we moved on to the mega jump.

On our way back up to turn in our paddles, the girls came across this sign and thought it was funny.

For the Mega Jump the girls were again put into a harness and attached to a cable. They then stepped off a 45 foot platform and floated to the ground (same apparatus used by stuntment). MUCH better for parents to watch than a bungee jump because it isn't head first, and there aren't any big jerks on the body. I watched safely from the ground, but have to find a way to turn my videos so you aren't watching them sideways.

After the Mega Jump all of the girls went rock wall climbing. They didn't think it was quite as tall as the one at Stronghold Athletic, but I think it was fairly close. I think it didn't look as tall because it was outside. Again, they put on the harnesses and spent 30 minutes climbing. I think all of the reached the top. (T-Rex on the left)

Here is Big Al on the rock wall. We all wished we had gone whitewater rafting, but we're thinking it might be a good way to bring the group together in the fall to bond for the new year. It amazes me that a majority of my girls will be returning despite going to high school next year, but they are determined to get their Gold Award and search out scholarships. They still enjoy hanging out together, and really missed the girls that weren't there today.

Friday, May 20, 2011

May 14, 2011 - Dream on Wings meetup

Every year on this weekend, for the last couple years, the hemispherectomy foundation has their walk to raise money. As a veteran "hemi mom" I thought that I would invite some folks from around the state to my house. It really looked like the weather wouldn't cooperate, so we all signed up as virtual runners but met at my house and ate instead.


There were the six of us, my mom, and sister. (The above is the whole crew shot)

Then there were the Brights. They live in the upstate of SC and hadn't met another hemi family before. Their girls were absolutely charming, and while they listened to all of us, my family actually watched their daughter "M". My mom thought that she was so similar to Blondie that it was like seeing what Blondie may be as a teen. All of their daughters were perfectly behaved and absolutely delightful.

The Hardy's came, Melissa, her daughters "A" and "H" and her infant son, as well as her mom, and sister. Those little girls were the CUTEST THINGS EVER. "A" never stopped talking, and was constantly asking very intelligent questions.

Robert and his mom Janet showed up (I'll use Robert's real name because he is an adult). This was the first hemi family I ever met, and it was so good to meet up with an adult who was successful. Robert just finished his Master's degree in Social Work and is job hunting. He lives on his own, and is doing everything I hope our daughter is able to do. He has a fantastic sense of humor, and an obviously close family.

All of the younger kids played and wandered in and out as the older folks chatted and got to know each other. It was nice to have such a range of ages: Rober (25), "M" (14), Blondie (9) and "A" (almost 5) to share our experiences, show off new braces, and just get to support each other. When your child has a rare disease then distance from others in a similar situation is a big hurdle. It isn't like have cancer and speaking in a support group. That is why the hemi foundation (http://www.hemifoundation.org/) is so important to families like ours. It brings us all together from around the world to support each other.

Through the foundation, that very same day, we learned of an older boy who was having a "redo." After the surgery, Eric Suzuki, had a massive seizure which severely damaged his brain. As we were celebrating other families, we were also VERY aware that one of our own families was saying goodbye to their wonderful son. Kelli, and Mike, are both very involved with the group and offered advice and support to others. This past Wednesday he was laid to rest. On his carepage, his father wrote: " Probably the most important reason that Eric was able to achieve all that he did, was because of all the love and care that Kelli, his mother, my wife, provided him. Because Eric was able to do so many things most people do not realize Kelli spent hours each day attending to his medical needs, getting him therapy, researching for better ways to care for him. & advocating for him to get the services he needed. She did this day after day, month after month, year after year, while at the same time being a great mother to Kaitlin and Emily. I know that Eric could not have had a better mother than Kelli, and she has my love and admiration for everything she did to make Eric the wonderful young man that we all new.

But more than just being thankful for the time we spent with Eric, we can all be inspired by how he lived his life. Even with his challenges, Eric did not sit around feeling sorry for himself. He just went out and to the best of his ability, did the things that came easily for most other kids. He didn't want people pitying him & had no time for people that wallowed in their own sorrow.

He just wanted people to treat him like any other kid, and be included in all of life's activities."

This totally and completely encapsulates what the hemi foundation means to me. As parents we can gather to find the best options for our children, supporting each other in new research efforts, and help others know how we included our own children in life's activities. The Suzuki family is in my thoughts and prayers daily.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

I'm a day late for Mother's Day, but I was busy celebrating it in a hammock. Initially the plan was to go hiking somewhere I hadn't been before, but I woke up to serious allergies, so I

switched gears to something very mellow.

I woke up to breakfast in bed, and the traditional natural presents. Instead of fruit trees this year I received some Gardenia bushes, tall boxwoods (who could resist after visiting Pearl Fryar) and the Calla Lillies below.

The weather was perfect - warm, but a serious breeze going, so I spent a long part of the day lying in the hammock reading a book, drinking a beverage.

T-Rex made me delicious chocolate covered strawberries. We later found similar ones in the store for $25.00 a dozen. T-Rex was shocked!

Hoping everyone else had a wonderful day. I know mine was just right for me.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A man named Pearl

If you go on Netflix you can watch an instant movie called, "A man named Pearl." He's from Bishopville, SC and a self-taught topiary artist. Big Al, T-Rex and I watched the documentary last weekend, and Brian surprised me today by saying, "let's go!" So we loaded up the three kids at home (Big Al was at a band concert at Carowinds) and drove up the road.

We arrived to find a typical ranch house on a little side street of 6 or 8 houses, parked, and started wandering around this man's yard. He has about 3 acres, and its constantly changing. I have this "thing" about geometric shapes in art, quilts, and gardens, and apparently boxwoods. My favorite set was by his driveway (right side of the house). There were boxwoods cut into saucers and balls that were absolutely wonderful. It was so very "Seuss-ish" to stand there and look at these bushes and trees.

He started by collecting the "throw away" plants of a local nursery and then training them into the shapes he saw for them. His yard is absolutely amazing. Thankfully, since the video came out he doesn't climb a gigantic ladder with a chainsaw anymore, he has a cherry picker type vehicle that keeps him safer. The tree below is the famous "fishbone" tree he planted after Hurricane Hugo.

Cheesie loved the umbrella/tent trees because there was a spot underneath them a lot like a fort (she thought they should go all the way to the ground), and Blondie liked his "found art" sculptures around the yard.

He doesn't use any fertilizers or pesticides in his yard (woohoo) so the little girls quickly started counting the ladybugs they found.

We didn't want to bother him, but Mr. Pearl eventually came over and chatted with us about his work, and how little education he had, but how he supports scholarships for at-risk kids. He also works with USC with speaking engagements and internships.

We didn't want to keep him from his work, but as we gathered up the kids he cleared off the seat next to him and said, "Now come sit here by me. You're going to make me famous." So they giggled and took their picture with him. Pearl Fryar is a SC treasure. To find out more about him you can visit http://www.pearlfryar.com/