Friday, May 30, 2014

The Chapter Ends

I always imagined that my incredibly intelligent, infinitely talented son would take the well-marked path to graduation and beyond. And yet things did not happen that way at all. 

Adjusting my expectations and accepting my children for who whey are is probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do. If there were physical indicators of emotional holes the way would be obvious. But because it's not, I keep pushing and shoving my kids into situations where success is elusive (not for lack of trying). Bryce reminded me regarding Tyce's schooling, "He was in a life or death situation and he still couldn't save himself." It wasn't a matter of choice or laziness. It was paralysis due to a myriad of issues still untapped. But how does one finally figure that out? And what can be done?

Our dear friend Ronnie told us about a school in Texas called Northstar Christian Academy where a student can graduate from high school in an alternate way. This turned out to be an answer to prayer. Tyce was able to take a 400-question test and if he made at least 70%, he would earn his high school diploma. We knew the content would not be an issue--but doing the work was. Despite being thrown a lifeline (or perhaps because of it), he still struggled to get it done. There was a time I thought that graduation might not happen this way either. Bu t he finally completed the test and did indeed get his diploma. That was a few weeks ago and it has been such a relief for him. 

The only thing that kept his spirits up, literally, was choir. Not our family, church, his friends, or any other thing in the world but choir. That is where he put his heart and soul. That is where he felt love. That is where he felt his worth. If it were not for Mr. Duff and his amazing program I don't know where Tyce would have been. Even though he technically graduated, Tyce still attended high school so that he could have music in his life.

Last night was the culminating activity, the choir banquet. We came up to Mr. Duff to express our appreciation for everything and he said, "I thank God for Tyce every day." He thanks God for Tyce? After all the grief he has caused him? That got me right in the heart. Tears sprang to my eyes because of the Christ-like love and mentorship that this teacher has for one of his brilliant but difficult students. He takes him as he is, loves him for who he is, and gets the very best out of him. It sounded trite when we parroted back the sentiment of divine thanks. Really, what can you say to the person who has saved your son's life--if not physically, then surely emotionally? 

Mr. Duff and Tyce
Receiving his award for Choral Excellence

I am so grateful that Tyce is graduated even though he's not walking with his class, cap-and-gown. That's why the choir banquet was so significant to us--it was his graduation. And that is why I cried tears of joy and when he received his awards--more than any other student that night. They represented his hard work, his passion, and his leadership. He was awarded a plaque for Choral Excellence in concert choir. Mr. Duff said that Tyce was the person none of the boys could function without. He also got recognized for his many solo and ensemble superior and excellent ratings, leadership positions, and all-state achievement. He earned his choir pin and three service bars. He also earned his pink music cord to wear at graduation--and since this was it for him, he wore it proudly all night. 

Everyone said he looked like a general. He also had two plaques, a framed certificate, and three participation certificates: pop choir, concert choir, and chamber singers.

With our high school graduate.

That night I sent him a text.

I am so incredibly proud of you! It was awesome to see you get all those awards tonight. You deserve every one. I know you can do whatever you set your mind to . .  this is just the beginning of great things for you. Happy Graduation Night. :)

He replied back:

thanks mom ur the best :)

And so ends this chapter in his life, and in mine too. I may never have another student at this school; who knows? Mary is sticking with homeschool and I don't have any idea what the twins will need when they are freshmen. I will do whatever will help them be their best selves. My kids are different and that's okay--they are exactly who they are supposed to be. I am learning to parent the children I have, not the ones I thought I would. They are are doing great things with what they've been given and teach me every day how blessed I am go know such interesting, amazing people. 

And with that, high school was over. Goodnight, Basic.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Priests and Laurels Dating Activity

Instead of a formal event, our youth committee voted to have a casual dating activity. (Before I got here they'd had a really awesome, incredibly time-consuming, Prom-type extravaganza called "The Event". I was elated that they chose to do this instead.) There were two parts: a get-to-know-you game night; and the actual date which was dinner, dance and games.

On Wednesday for Mutual the 16-18 year old youth came for fun. If you can believe it--we had the exact same number of girls show up as boys! When they checked in they were given an animal sound. After Lynsie (our youth committee co-chair) welcomed everyone to the activity the kids had to make the sound of their animal and find the person making the same one. Some sounds were easy (for example, duck) and some were challenging. I heard a young man saying, "Cricket, cricket" and a girl singing, "Jacha-chacha-chacha-chow!" for the fox (as in the song, What does the Fox Say). After they found their partner they linked arms and introduced themselves.

After that they sat in partners for the etiquette lesson by the Longmans. The kids were riveted to their dating stories of what to do and and what not to do. They did a wonderful job.

Next came Human Bingo. This was a mingling game. They had to find 24 different people to fit the criteria in the Bingo square; for example, oldest in their family, was left-handed, had been to another country, or could name all the members of One Direction. That person signed their bingo square. You could only use one person per square, and 18 of those squares had to be someone of the opposite gender. The first boy and first girl to come to me with a black-out got a candy bar.

The last and best activity was partner ice cream eating. The kids absolutely loved that one! We had them wear trash bags to protect their clothes. One person stood behind the other and were the "arms" for the eater. The eater instructed her partner how to build her sundae: we had tons of toppings. Of course, the person behind could barely see or reach so it was hilarious. When it came to actually eating, some were a lot better at feeding their partners than others.

Leave it to teenagers to turn a messy activity messier. The whole thing ended with a lot of running, chasing, and smearing of ice cream. But man, they had a great time!

Hannah and Bo, Autumn and Tyce, and the other 40-something kids who came that night!

Austin and Lynsie

A shot of the chaos

Tanner feeding Rio, with Steven next to them

Another cute one of Austin and Lynsie, pre-fight--I went to get Lynsie to bring the kids back to order, only to find that she was the ringleader!
While the earlier games happened my secretary and counselor, Merridee and Julie, wrote every girl's name and rolled the paper into a balloon. After the closing prayer the boys came and threw a dart at a board to pop a balloon--whichever girl's name was inside was their date for the Saturday activity.

And that's when my stress-level went through the roof.

"Sister Jones, a young man says that he really wants to go with a certain girl who's date cancelled. Can we switch him and find a date for his girl?"

"Sister Jones, that girl we just let that boy ask--she actually has to work. So now he doesn't want to go. We need three more boys."

"Sister Jones, my date never asked me."

"Sister Jones, I have the flu."

Oh my word, it was a nightmare. My presidency and the stake YM sent probably 500 group texts between Friday morning and Saturday night trying to work all of this out. Bryce did a lot of the leg-work on Friday afternoon and I spent nearly every moment on Saturday, from 8 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon, on the phone. The date started at 5!

But as things usually do . . . it all worked out.

These kids will never know the anxiety they caused me. I know that because I probably did similar things to my parents or leaders and I can't even remember.

So Saturday evening the young men picked up their dates (or were chauffeured by parents) to one of six members' houses. There they enjoyed a lovely dinner prepared by their hosts, who went all out to entertain them.

The table at the Martins' house, complete with menu and placecards.
When they arrived at the church the Udalls' son and daughter-in-law, members of BYU's touring ballroom dance team, performed and then taught the couples how to dance! They were incredible.

They learned the rock step, cuddle step and a spin step that was really fun.
Some of the kids were naturals. Bryce and I danced right along with them--we were  not naturals. Haha. After a while we stopped to take pictures.

Later the kids played a modified game of Snort. Instead of just snorting they made all sorts of sounds. It was outrageously fun. It was interesting to see that some kids couldn't handle being looked at, let alone snorted at--while others had nerves of steel and would have lasted another hour.

The circle was big at first but didn't stay that way for long!

Kayley, Joaquin, Keara, and Chloe

Dane, Lynsie, Landon, Kade, and Dallin

Kade, Dallin, Ashley (on the floor), Jordan, Jaden, and Azure
Ziggy getting to Tayler to crack!

After that we had delicious dutch oven cobblers prepared by our stake YM president, Bro. Bragg. He made apple, peach, and cherry red velvet. I only tried the apple but I heard the others were equally delightful.

Enjoying their desserts before a crazy game of Missionary Tag.

The final activity of the evening was a water balloon fight. Merridee and Bryce filled up hundreds of balloons for a 5-minute showdown but the kids loved it.

I was en route to safety when I got bombed on the ear by my own husband!
So that was the dating activity. The youth committee came up with every activity and they really did a fabulous job. That's what I love about these kids--they work at becoming great leaders and we are just there to help them be successful.

We adult leaders learned a lot too, mostly about what not to do next time. Isn't that always the worst part of the learning curve--the inefficiency and the mistakes? Well now we know and we have experience. Our youth committee members don't yet know the difference so I hope what they take with them is a fun memory, and the confidence that they will be great at whatever they do.

Our objectives for the whole event were to meet new people, learn dating etiquette, and have fun on group dates. I think we can say after all of this--mission accomplished.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Presidential Fitness Awards

Man, my kids are cool. Both twins received medals for the Presidential Fitness Award: silver for Cameron and gold for Harrison. The kids only have P.E. twice a week and Cam got his good news first. In years past they've given out a nice round patch. I have those floating around from the big kids. What does one do with a patch? But this year . . . this year they got medals. And every kids knows what to do with those.

(Strut around, that's what.)

Cameron went to P.E. on Tuesday which is the same night as Cub Scouts. He wore his uniform and his medal both.

Harrison didn't got to P.E. until Friday and he found out that he'd earned the GOLD! Not many kids do that. 

I am really proud of them.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is touch and go around here as far as emotional stability goes (mainly mine). I don't think I ever considered the confusion and anxiety our kids felt from being adopted and then celebrating me, their mom . . . but not their only one. When they were young it never came up. That's why it hit me so hard as the years went on that the lovely day became so filled with venom. You may remember last year's holiday--that was the hardest one yet and I braced myself for a repeat this year. However, it was better. Tyce accepted the assignment to speak in church--that obligation is probably the only thing that got him there. It was down the wire but he made it and did a very fine job. Mary just happened to be in a good state emotionally and gave me no problems about attending church. I know it's crazy to say but getting all four of them there on the same day really does feel like a miracle lately.

My favorite girl and I, with funny Cam jumping up to bomb the photo

Proud mama and my four kiddos. This was all I wanted for Mother's Day, to have them all at church with me.

Close up of these good-looking kids.

Our friend Danette took a picture of the whole family for us.
So Tyce gave a very good talk, not mushy towards me at all, but complimentary to women and mothers everywhere. I sat by Bryce during he opening hymn, "Home Can Be a Heaven on Earth" and he amused me by changing the lyrics in the second verse, which are:

Drawing fam'ly near each week,
We'll keep love burning bright.
Serving Him with cheerful hearts,
We'll grow in truth and light.
Parents teach and lead the way,
Children honor and obey,
Reaching for our home in heaven,
Where we want to stay.

to ones that more fit our situation. Sacrilegious and hilarious.

The Primary kids didn't do a musical number but all of the men and boys came up to the front to sing the closing hymn, "Love At Home." That was very sweet even though I don't know a mother in the world who actually likes that song.

Relief Society was the bomb because we were treated to brunch and socialization with ALL the women of the ward. The men and youth taught the younger classes and Mary was assigned to the nursery! She hung onto her friend Madi like she was going to her execution. She said that the other girls tried to engage the little ones and were rebuffed. Mary sat in the rocking chair pretending to be asleep and was by far the most interesting person in the room to those toddlers. They wouldn't leave her alone! She thought it was funny and she actually had a great time.

After church Bryce made me an awesome lunch.

Beautiful and delicious. Baked cinnamon toast with fresh fruit and lemon cream.

Flowers and a gift.

Cameron made a cool card for me.

My wish for my mom is . . . "to get a Farrai {Ferrari} because she deserves a sports car. And would look fancy in a Farrai."

My mom is good at . . . "cooking. I like it when she reads to me at night when I go to bed. She is a good cook. She makes good chicken."

A picture of me!

Harrison made a super awesome pop-out card for me at home!
Dear Mom, Happy Mother's day. Thank you for all the things you have done for me. Thank you for loving me, taking care of me, and taking me places. I think about you every day and night. You help me whenever I need help. I like when you read to me. you take me to the park and throw me my football. I remember when you read us a book at the park. I love when you do that. Love, Harrison Jones

Wow, what a sweet kid, huh? I loved that letter. On a side note, Harrison has the best handwriting in the family.

Later that night Mary and I played a mega game of Sorry and it came down to both of us waiting on one card. After trailing me, she beat me in the comeback of the century and was thrilled to emerge victorious.

Just chillin' after my defeat.

My whole life I have wanted to be a mother and I feel honored that I am, to four wonderful children. I know that God's plan for me included motherhood through adoption--never a second choice or a consolation prize, but the best, the only plan for my life. I know that down to my core. I have never felt regret or sadness for my path; the only pain I feel is in my own children's struggles to accept their reality. Our time here is a journey and I pray that they come to appreciate and LOVE the life they've been given with us, because I truly appreciate and love the life they've given me.

I am blessed to have a wonderful, loving mother myself, Pat Cook. She is my rock. I am grateful to my mother-in-law Judy Jones for raising an excellent son and for being a good example to us both. I have many great examples of women who are mothers (physically or not), to teach me how to be the best I can be in the most important role I will ever have: MOM.

Monday, May 12, 2014

3rd Grade Field Trip

I volunteered to chaperone the field trip and I was chosen to go with Cam's class. The entire 3rd grade went to the movie theater at the Fiesta to see the Disney Nature film, "Bears." That's three bus-loads of kids, with three kids to a seat. I was lucky to be an adult because Cameron and I didn't have to share with anyone else.

(Have you ever wondered why, in our personal vehicles, people are obsessive about safety belts and restraints? And yet in school busses there is absolutely nothing of that kind?)

Part way through the trip there I realized I'd made a grave mistake that morning--Cam didn't take his ADHD pill. I knew because he was constantly hopping up, tapping the kid in front of him, and shouting "dibs" at every car that passed. No amount of verbal coaching tamed his energy or inability to sit still. It reminded me that this was how he used to be 24/7 and how grateful I am for medication.

How handsome is this little man?
We had the movie theater to ourselves. I sat by Cameron's classmates, who were very sweet and cute. The movie was quite an interesting documentary on the lives of a mama and two cubs. There were some scary moments when I thought, "Oh great, he's dead. No, *she's* dead." But luckily, not to ruin the movie for you, but everyone comes out of this alive. That was a relief.

Bouncy, bouncy boy who put the armrest up and down for over 60 minutes.

Doesn't this make you want to go to Alaska?

After returning to school I said hello to all of Harrison's friends and gave him a hug. I wished I could have been in both of their classes because Harrison is such a good boy too, so independent and interesting, and I enjoy hanging out with him. I was glad to be with him albeit briefly, and to spend time with Cameron.

And then I made a silent apology to Cameron's teacher for forgetting Cam's pill, and went to eat lunch in my very quiet house.

(Teachers do not get paid enough, I do know that.)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Harrison in the Art Show

The art teacher at the kids' elementary school chooses several of her best students' work to be featured in the art show gallery in the children's wing of St. Rose Siena hospital. Harrison was honored to be chosen for his oil pastel/watercolor picture of "Rainforest Frog". Mary, Cameron, and I went to the reception and enjoyed tiny cookies and brownie bites while we mingled with the other honorees. There were some impressive works!

One of the city council women was there to lend importance to the event. All the kids got a certificate presented by her and the art teacher; all the kids posed for a photo op with them. Harrison flatly refused to have his picture taken with the council woman, which I found hilarious.

"Rainforest Frog"

Harrison, 3rd grade artist.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

All-State and the Easter Cantata

God sent his Singers upon earth
With songs of sadness and of mirth,
That they might touch the hearts of men,
And bring them back to heaven again.

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Eleven kids from Basic made the All-State choir. Bryce was fortunate to be able to accompany them . . . on a bus . . . allllll the way to Reno (10 hours away). That's dedication. They left on a Wednesday and returned on Saturday night. The practices were long and intense, but  Bryce enjoyed working on the UNR campus while the kids were in rehearsal. Their director was the renowned conductor Jo-Michael Schiebe, who heads the choral department at USC. He was amazing and Bryce said that the performance on Saturday was phenomenal!

The men: James E., Kody M., Mr. Duff (one of the most wonderful men we know), Dane S., and Tyce

The group:  (back) Kody M., James E. Christina O., Emily D., Rachael O., Jenny B., Jordan M., Tyce, Dane S.
(front) Mr. Duff, Maddy S., Autumn D.


Out to dinner after practice.

Performance venue!

Imagine these desert-dwellers' surprise when it started to SNOW while they were there! For being in the same state, Reno really is another world away. Singing with such an elite group was a great experience for the All-Staters and they have every reason to be proud. 

The very next day was the stake youth-led Easter cantata. Tyce was the director, Emily D. was the pianist, and Autumn D. was the manager (she organized everything). Bryce and I oversaw the practices but left everything to the youth. They did a fabulous job. Their singing of the three group numbers--He Is Risen, Come Unto Christ (2014 Mutual theme song) and I Believe in Christ--was top-notch. The many solos, duets, and small groups were lovely. All Bryce and I did was type the program and provide pre-concert snacks. There were about 50 kids in the choir. They performed in the Burkholder building and people had to open the overflow area to accommodate the number of guests. It was a wonderful evening and every song testified of the Savior.

At practice.

He was a natural.
Tyce really did a stellar job. He was born to sing and music is his life. I am so glad he was given this opportunity to shine.