Graduation: Bittersweet End

Last night was MC’s graduation ceremony.

It occurred without this family, including MC himself, in attendance.

I am proud of his decision to not walk, because that decision was based on facts and looking to the future when he has to go off to college and he didn’t want anything to stand in the way of his being able to do that.

For MC, being able to be on campus as required, taking advantage of his scholarships in the process, was more important to him than that big moment, that event. He wasn’t willing to risk his ability to start college and for that I cannot be more proud of him.

At the same time, I’m so sad.

I thought I was fine with it all emotionally. I had no problems at all when he started getting texts from one of his friends that did attend with the latest updates on the event. Mostly updates that just confirmed for MC that he made the right choice (because yes, even though they said masks required, people didn’t wear them, even to hand out the diplomas).

Then I saw the pictures the school posted on their FB page and some of the quotes from the speakers.

It knocked the breath from my lungs seeing the evidence and having the realization that this incredibly important moment is now officially final. There were so many “He’s done! But… ” moments along the way. The last official day of school. The last AP test that happened after that last official day, getting those scores (he aced it, of course) and several other things that kept dragging the whole end of high school out just a little bit more.

He ran by the school the other day and picked up his diploma. It will be the last time he sets foot in that school unless he goes for something of BG’s. There are no more tests. No more grades to wait for.

No special recognition for graduating summa cum laude. No moment of cheering when his name is called or as he walks across the stage.

I’m incredibly sad that I don’t get that moment and that his incredible high school career ended without any kind of fanfare.

Instead, I have all these smaller, more personal moments with him. Our amazingly fun photo session of him in his cap and gown. The one and only time I will get to see him in it. His “last day of school” movie night that he wanted as his celebration. Just Hubby, BG, MC and me. And all of our smaller celebrations along the way of all those accomplishments he worked so hard to achieve.

Instead I get to hear him say that the only recognition he needs for those accomplishments, he’s already gotten in the form of his scholarships. I get to see my son making these incredibly tough, but thoughtful, grown up decisions. Decisions that show the incredible kind of man his is already well on his way to becoming.

As of last night, while we sat at home and listened to him relay the information being texted to him from his friend, my son quietly graduated from high school. I am sad and grieving a bit for those lost moments, but I am more proud than I am sad because I have a phenomenal son.

I’m going to have my sad moment before I suck it up and move on. At least for the next couple of weeks before I’m a mess again after move in day and he becomes a college student instead of just a high school graduate.

Elongation

I spent the majority of my day yesterday going through the 150+ photos I took of MC and making necessary edits. I’m still not quite ready to send them off for prints as I still have to go through them and decide which ones I’m getting for his final “package” of senior photos. I’m hoping to get that done today and crossed off my project list so I can start on getting a few others marked off as well.

I had played around with another project before I did his photo shoot. It’s started, but I still have a whole lot I want to get done, sooner rather than later, so that’s next up on my list.

Sadly, or maybe not, that project list is ever evolving and growing as it is my creative project list more than anything. I think I’ve taken it a bit to the extreme as I’ve set up an MS Excel workbook to keep track of it all. I have a sheet in there for my list and then additional sheets for the bigger, more detailed projects and all the ideas and pieces that go along with it.

It is kind of a hilarious example of how incredibly organized I can get and how utterly contradictory I can be at the exact same time because so many other things in my life are the antithesis of organized. Organized chaos is really the theme for my life.

Reconciling Choices

It is nearly impossible to be a parent of school age children, even those in college, and not be dealing with all the tough choices and situations facing us right now with back to school looming.

I thought that everything was made easier for me when BG’s school district allowed for an online only option for students. I was relieved. I wasn’t being forced into a position where the only option was to send her to an in person classroom environment or to try and figure out an alternative on my own.

Sadly, it really isn’t that easy.

There is a chance, potentially a big chance, that by going the online only route, some of BG’s higher level classes won’t be available to her and she will be forced to take other classes. I seriously doubt there are going to be many options to work her classes in a way that would meet her high school goals if those aren’t available. It was hard enough to make her schedule work in normal years and this is so far from normal.

Then add in the fact that she was supposed to be a part of the mentoring program this year, something that I don’t know if she can still be a part of if she is going the online route. We still haven’t heard anything on that front yet.

Another stressor, at least for me, is dance. It was such a relief to get past recital and feel like we were finally done with it, but we aren’t. Enrollment starts soon and dance isn’t being offered online at this point. It is in person only. This is not a required activity, but it is BG’s only real social interaction and where her group of friends exist rather than at school.

This is problematic on many levels. I’ve already seen the lax attitude towards some safety guidelines, especially surrounding masks. That gets amplified because the studio isn’t just attended by students from a single school or even district. If I had to count the districts and schools I’m already aware of (and I know I don’t know them all), there are at least 4 different districts and possibly upwards of at least 6 individual schools represented just in BG’s main class alone. That doesn’t even begin to account for all the lower level grade schools for the classes she assists.

Deciding how she is going to move forward with both school and dance is such a struggle for me as a parent. There are so many factors involved and things to consider. Seeing experts saying that the virus is airborne but not seeing practices and policies that fit that reality makes it even harder to make those decisions.

I say all of this as a parent, but I cannot imagine being in the position of a teacher at this point. As a parent, I’m only trying to make decisions that protect my children and in turn the rest of our family to the best of my ability. Teachers are being asked to make so many, even more complex decisions.

Go to work and potentially bring home the virus to your own children and family or even take it to work and spread it to your students. Or just as awful an option, do what you may feel is right to protect your own family from the virus and not work, but then not have the money to protect them in other ways.

I saw something written by a teacher (sorry, I don’t have the link for that one) where they said they were not only expected to take a bullet for their students, but were now being asked to bring that bullet home and aim it at their families.

Our teachers are already tasked with so many roles outside of just being an educator, but we continually ask them to take on more and more roles. It seems that each one is just more difficult, even more dangerous, than the last. This situation just shines a neon spotlight on that fact.

As a parent, you have to think about all of those aspects and filter them down into something you can work with to make the right choices for you children, but there isn’t a lot of consistent information to help you filter it down.

And in the middle of trying to filter all of that, I hear how a friend of MC went to a graduation party where someone had later tested positive. Said friend had also had a test done, but only because their boss required it (they work in a restaurant) and even then this person was still going about their day as if nothing had happened, interacting with people all before they even got the results back from their test.

This is followed shortly after by finding out that a coworker of Hubby’s (they are all still on a work from home mandate, thankfully!!) has been in quarantine for almost 2 weeks because his kids’ daycare was shutdown after an outbreak. Let me repeat that. A place specifically for young children was shut down because of an outbreak.

But we are STILL trying to force in person classes. What are parents and teachers supposed to do with all that information when none of it fits together in any kind of rational manner?!

One of the most driving forces in being a parent is to protect our children to the best of our ability. Right now, it feels like we are being forced to do the exact opposite.

I am grateful that BG will be able to do her classes online, at least for her first semester. I hate that she may not be able to get the classes she really wants because of that, but in the balance of things, I’ll take that little loss. I have a lot of thinking to do about dance because that is a very different beast, one that falls squarely in the mental wellness category for her.

I am also being forced to consider asking MC to not come home from college as he wants in an effort to keep everyone safe. How do you tell your child who is leaving to go to college for the first time to not come home when you live 20 minutes away? All because The Powers That BE demanded he live on campus and attend some in person classes.

To say that there is a whole lot of frustration and anger tied up in this is the understatement of the century.

 

 

Overboard?

What started out as a plan to get some good shots of MC in his cap and gown, especially now that he isn’t going to participate in the actual ceremony, turned into a multi-hour, full blown senior portrait session.

Oops!

Or not.

I now have dozens of some of the best photos of MC ever taken. I’m just absolutely blown away at how stunning these turned out.

It was also the first time I’d ever attempted a full on portrait session like this with lighting and backdrop and everything. I caved and got the set up because I found I could get these pieces for relatively cheap in comparison to the cost of a session with a professional photographer. I also figured I’d find ways to make use of it all over the years.

It was worth every single dime I spent on it.

Unfortunately, that means I now have to go through all those amazing photos and narrow it down to the few I want to get printed to put in an album for MC. Talk about trying to accomplish the impossible.

*ETA… While I won’t share a photo of MC, I can share this cropped image of him holding our cat Cleo who decided to investigate what was going on.

Our Cleo Kitty
Our Cleo Kitty

Rainy Day

It’s a rainy, dreary day today making it difficult to get motivated to work on much. At least I’m moving mostly pain free today, so that is definitely a win.

I might just have to take advantage of the overcast day and work on getting the only cap and gown photos I’m going to get from MC. I only have a couple of weeks left to get them before he moves into his dorm.

Yesterday he spent the day cleaning the hell out of his spaces, including the bathroom. I think he is in a college version of nesting mode. Is that even a thing?

With so many things feeling so unreal, the concept that he is actually going to be moving out of the house really hasn’t felt that real. It is starting to hit now, though. Between his impromptu cleaning session and the lists and purchases we’ve been doing to get him ready, there is no way to not have it feel real.

I guess I was still mostly expecting the school to not force him to live in a dorm. At least for this first semester.

It is all so very weird. Having a kid going off to college for the first time is bad enough. To have it happening with everything else, it is incredibly difficult to get my brain to work it all out.

What’s even more odd is knowing that he will only be doing this for one year. He fully intends to move back home after his required year on campus so he can save money. My brain knows this is temporary, so it keeps putting it into a category similar to an overnight stay at a friend’s or something.

Granted, that is still a year away and there is so much that could change his thoughts on that, especially if MCG’s plans for college drift this direction. What she decides to do will have a big impact on what he decides to do and when.

None of that helps my brain to put any of this into any kind of definite, reality based plan.

See, I’ve always had this thing. It’s kind of a little quirk I guess. I tend to visualize how things will potentially play out in future situations. Almost always, if I haven’t been able to visualize something, it never ends up happening. I struggled for the last couple of years being able to visualize MC walking at graduation, but have never had an issue visualizing BG doing the same (and yes, that kind of terrified me) and MC isn’t walking at graduation by choice.

Now, I’m really struggling to visualize this set of future events. I think that is part of why my brain refuses to make this all feel more real. I keep expecting to turn into an emotional mess, but so far I’m good. I can only hope it stays that way. I’m certain it will all hit eventually and I’ll be a sobbing, blubbery disaster when it does.

Pale Pink Rose Of Sharon

This one is not one of the best of the bunch, but still pretty. There may be a few of those for the next several days thanks to my seemingly epic talent of managing to hurt myself while essentially sitting still.

I still don’t know what exactly is off, but I’ve done something that makes pretty much all movement and non-movement painful. Even breathing. Breathing is painful. How did I pull off this miraculous feat?

By sitting at my sewing machine.

That’s it. No weird movement. No falling out of my chair. Just sitting. Bent over my machine working on more masks. It takes some serious skills to pull that off, ya know!

I had a slightly sore back after sitting and making those nearly 60 dance masks over a couple day period, a longer time period than I’ve done the last several days, but that is all it was. Just a little sore and achy. I do 12 for MC, pretty much the exact same thing I did before, and I manage to mess something up so bad that any movement and even just sitting still if I’m not in the exact right position makes me want to cry.

I honestly cannot figure out why or what I did so I’m just going with the fact that I have discovered an amazing new talent. The kind of amazing no one wants any part of, but… hey! It’s AMAZING!

I’d offer to spread that amazing by sharing it with you so you could experience being amazing too, but I’m not that mean. Or would that be selfish if I don’t want to share?

See what happens when I’m running on no sleep? All the stupid starts to just slip out.

But, hey! MC has masks to take to campus when he moves!

Surreal Back To School Mode

Things are starting to enter back to school mode around here even though I’m still not certain what exactly that is going to look like yet.

MC will be moving into a dorm in about a month, barring any changes that are still incredibly likely. Because of his dorm set up, there is actually very little he is going to need. It will be almost like packing for vacation instead of him actually moving out. That is also in part because he will only be 20 minutes from home and it is easy enough for him to run by and grab something if he needs it. It really isn’t anything at all like I expected him going off to college would be like.

We found out that over half of his classes will be online and the other half will be a blend of online and in person with the in person portion being limited. Even with that set up, he is still required to live on campus.

It is hard enough to see your kid off to college for the first time, but dumping that together with the current mess with the pandemic and I know I’m going to be a stressed out mess over the next several weeks. I just started breathing easier after the recital stress, so I’m not a complete mess just yet, but that reprieve isn’t going to last long.

There still isn’t a solid plan yet for BG’s school. The one thing that has been decided is that if they opt for in person or blended online and in person classes, students can opt out of in person and do online only. That was such a massive relief to me to know that she wouldn’t be forced to physically go to school.

She has some concerns about potentially missing out on important information in her AP or higher level classes if they have in person classes, that a teacher would fail to pass on the same info to the online students as was shared during a physical class. Even with that concern, she is solid in her stance on doing online.

The online option for her means I don’t have to make another dozen or so masks to get her through a school week. I do have to make a bunch for MC as he has left the house maybe 3 or 4 times since March and only has 1.

This is the oddest back to school season. I knew it would be anyway because of MC heading to college and not high school, but… yeah.

It’s doubtful that once we hit the point where they are both in school that my stress levels are going to drop. Having MC going back and forth from school to home could be a problem. Not by increasing his exposure, but by increasing BG’s, Hubby’s, and mine. That and I’m going to be normal-worried-mom times a thousand the second he is dropped off.

I’m not sure how we are going to work all the logistics of this yet. At this point, I’m still certain that something major is going to change between now and then.

The one worry I don’t have at the moment is with Hubby. He is still on an indefinite work from home order that will most likely last until at least the end of this year. I’ll take whatever wins I can get at this point.

 

 

Another Proud Mamma Moment

MC got his test scores for his AP calc class and nailed another 5. Somewhere along the lines he also managed to pull another small scholarship. My kid is nailing college and he hasn’t even started it yet.

This is yet another amazing moment one of my kids have made happen with so very little help from anyone. I’m just going to bask in the awesome for a while.

Reflections In The Aftermath

And we are done! And I’m am so relieved.

I still have so many conflicting emotions and thoughts about this dance recital and I’ve spent a chunk of the day so far trying to decompress and sort them all out, but I don’t know that it is entirely possible. One of the thoughts that keeps cropping to the top is “Am I going to regret this?”

So much about this event bothered me. Once things started being allowed to open up again and “going back to normal” I had my concerns about how this was going to play out. When they announced the mandatory mask rule and social distancing guidelines for our city, a lot of those concerns were relieved and I felt better about letting BG participate, though I still did not feel great.

The time Hubby, BG and I all spent talking about this and deciding that the risk was low because of those changes and our current area’s case counts seems to have been worthless. We were evaluating the risks based on those changes, but I saw most of those rules completely disregarded and ignored over the course of the last two days.

I don’t want to constantly harp on this stuff, but it is impossible not to. This event was HUGE. The exception the city gave to allow no masks on stage made the rule for backstage pointless, not that it was even observed in the first place.

If you were to only look at the surface of this event, it was a wonderful success and many parents along with studio staff are counting it as such. But you cannot look at it without the lens of the current pandemic in place.

I’m really worried that this will be one of those epicenter events in this city because of the lack of actual adherence to the rules and regulations. I wonder if health department officials saw even a handful of the photos being posted on social media by all these proud parents (and I’m included in that number) what their thoughts would be. Not just on this event, which turns out to have been the very first public event in the city since things started shutting down, but on all future events.

Because from a safe practice standpoint in the middle of a pandemic, I seriously doubt you could count this as a huge success.

There were supposedly people on site that were there to enforce the regulations, but I didn’t see any evidence of that. Two days worth of packed dressing rooms and back stage areas, nearly a thousand kids from pre-K all the way up to high school seniors (spread out between those 5 shows) and dozens of staff and faculty, all passing and interacting in those close quarters for hours, all without masks on, all without any kind of social distancing.

Seeing it for a second day in a row, with even less adherence to those rules the second day, I was really bothered by the whole thing. It felt like a whole lot of lip service being paid to get this approved to happen, but that is all it was. There were zero actions to back those rules up. Especially when you see the massive numbers of photos of students together in groups or with staff, smashing their cheeks together to get those memorable shots, because you just can’t have a recital without those sweet moments (insert maximum sarcasm here).

I just simply do not understand the mindset where any of that is okay right now.

It makes how I felt about BG’s mask stance yesterday even more profound. I debated doing my usual posting of photos and tagging the studio at first. Then I realized that I was worried about how other parents and families might react to all these photos of her and her mask and that by hesitating, I was dishonoring her courage and strength. I was the one having my actions intimidated by the pressure to go with the crowd and I wasn’t going to do that after what BG was able to do. I know we are very much in the minority when it comes to feelings about this event, but I refused to do anything other than stand proudly with my daughter on this, so I posted the hell out of those photos.

At the same time, I think we were just part of the problem and I wonder if I should have taken BG’s stance to heart and just asked her not to participate at all. We did give her the choice, but I wonder if maybe she was just hoping we’d tell her she couldn’t. I loved seeing her dance, but I still don’t know that it was worth it. I just don’t know.

The next several weeks are going to be intense while we wait to see what happens. Numbers don’t lie and infection rates would say that there were, at minimum, at least a large handful people infected in that venue at some point in the last two days, if not a whole lot more. With the number of people in attendance, the number of dancers and all the poor safe practices actually being observed, I worry what the outcome will be. We will be watching our own heath very closely and sticking as close to home as possible while we do so.

Even after this, the studio’s summer workshop is still scheduled to start 3 weeks from now and fall registration begins around then as well. We are NOT at a business as usual point with all of this, but that is how it seems everyone wants to behave.

To top off my level of bittersweet pride in my amazing kids, I have MC. Now that his high school has presented their final plans for an in person graduation ceremony, he has opted not to participate. He will not walk with his class.

Why? He will be at the start of his prep time for attending his college in the fall and he doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that process. He is content with the only acknowledgement of his hard work and amazing grades in high school being his scholarship to college. He doesn’t feel the need to do the whole ceremony and walk just because it is the thing that is done.

This is what he wants and it is important to him, so we are absolutely going to stand with him and support that. Even if it means he is the second of my kids I don’t get to see walk across the stage since OC didn’t graduate. I’m still proud that he is, like BG, willing to stick by what he feels is important even if it means it isn’t the popular thing.

I have the most amazing kids and I don’t think it is possible to feel more proud of them both.

Please excuse me if I’m an emotional mess for a while. There are only so many directions those can be pulled at the same time before something has to give. I think I’m just going to go bury my head and have a good cry for a while just to relive the pressure.

 

 

Another Day, New Chaos

The last couple of weeks have felt like I’ve been going constantly. Between projects I needed to get done, like the garage, and all the running to get BG to the studio and all the things that are wrapped up in nearing recital time, it seems like I’ve had very little down time. Doesn’t look like that is changing for at least a little while.

The new mask mandate from the city means that masks are required for BG’s dance recital. I’m still not 100% how exactly that is going to work, though it should seem very straight forward. I knew that the studio staff was going to be stressing about it, especially the visual of masks on stage.

I’ve offered to make masks for all the girls in opening tap that match their costumes. That is about 55 additional masks. I’d love to do enough for all the staff and assistants for the assistants dance as well, but I just won’t have the time for that many. I’ll be pushing the time frame as it is to get these done.

The teacher was a little stunned by my offer and more the willing to take it. It will give them at least one performance, their big one, where everyone on stage has the same look, something that will be impossible to pull off for every single other performance. Even though they will match the costume for that performance, they will still be basic enough to look really good with all their other costumes as well.

As with the masks I made for the staff earlier, it is kind of a selfish motivation. If I can get as many of these kids wearing masks as I can, it helps to protect my own kid and also helps to make her not feel like she stands out as the only one.

There is apparently still some question, despite the mask mandate, as to whether they are required while the dancers are on stage. The audience and everyone backstage, absolutely. On stage? There is some belief that it isn’t. I’m not sure how that works out as far as justification goes. Because of that, there is a chance that my efforts will be for nothing as the dancers will then be allowed a choice. If the classes I’ve seen over the last couple of weeks are any indication, I doubt there will be anyone on stage with a mask.

I’m still doing it anyway. Just in case. And as an encouragement. Anything at all to try and help.

Besides, everything could change in another week. Or day.

We’ve also got the official word that MC will be staying on campus this fall. They’ve made changes to the housing plans so that he will have his own bedroom and bathroom, but will still be sharing a living space with another student.

He has to follow a plan for a couple of weeks before going to campus to monitor his health and then he has to be tested before being allowed in his room. I have no idea what that means once he is on campus. Will they not be allowing students to leave at all once they are there? I don’t really know how they can control that or ensure that students don’t do something that could expose them and bring it back to campus.

I’m really surprised by it all. This school already has a large online presence, so I’m a little baffled by their push for not only in person classes but the requirement to stay on campus. Unfortunately, we don’t have a choice in the matter as MC’s scholarship has a requirement that he live on campus his freshman year.

I’m really not taking anything as definitive at this point, but I’m trying to think ahead, just in case.

The upside to finding out MC will be on campus is that he has already gotten the name and contact information of his roommate and has already reached out. So far, they don’t have a lot in common other than they both play a particular video game. MC was a little surprised they paired him with a nursing student and not another computer science student, but he doesn’t seem too bothered by it.

As of right now, we’ve gotten no communication from BG’s school with regards to going back in the fall, so that one is still very much an unknown. Even with all of this, I know that tomorrow may change it all, so whatever plans are in place are far from concrete.

I guess the big downside to living in an area that still has really low case numbers is that so many things still want to move forward like nothing is going on. It gives people a false sense of security or feeling of immunity. That doesn’t even take into account the anti-mask crowd and their attitudes.

I have no clue what it is actually going to look like in two weeks when we attempt to have this recital. The social distancing plan for the audience is still very much in place as is the dressing room assignments, though masks are now also required. For that, I’m hugely relieved, though I would not want to be in the position to have to attempt to enforce that rule.

For now, I’m back in mask making mode and thinking ahead to what kinds of things I will need to have in place if MC does actually end up on campus this fall.

 

End Of The Day

Dance picture day yesterday turned into “take all the pictures” day.

I always take photos of BG in her costumes at home, or as much as I can without making her change a billion times. For the first time, she allowed me to also take some outside the studio where they have their dancer silhouette on the wall. It is the standard parent kind of shot, but she’s never let me get one before, so I was really excited to finally be able to.

And, DAMN!! Those are some of the best photos I’ve take of her. I’m talking, a couple of them at least, look like the kind of shots you’d see on a magazine cover. It makes me so damn tempted to break my “no photos of the kids” rule here on my blog just to share it.

It helps that two of the costumes in those photos are some of my favorite ever, the top one being the costume for opening tap this year. It is this phenomenal get up and she absolutely rocks the hell out of it. I cannot get over how stunning she looks in it. He teacher even stole the image (with permission) and posted it on the studio’s page because it is so classic for the look and feel they try to get with that performance.

Since I was already deep into photo mode, I was keeping a close eye on the weather and lighting as I still had another set of photos MC wanted me to take to include in his “senior photo package” we’ve been working on. Shockingly, everything came together and we had a gorgeous evening with a long golden hour that was absolutely perfect.

I dragged both him and BG out because I also wanted to try and get a good one of the two of them together and we spent probably an hour taking photos. I took nearly 400 pictures in all yesterday (and no, they weren’t all good, not by a long shot) and, I think, managed to finish up the pictures that MC wanted. Hopefully. I did also manage to get a couple of really good ones of the two of them together so I have some new photos for my family photo walls.

Of course, because I was already there and the sky was gorgeous, I made them wait just a little longer after we were done before we could go home so I could grab a couple of sunset shots as well.

MC made it abundantly clear that he would prefer that if I had my camera nearby that someone else should be in the driver’s seat of the car because I spend as much time trying to see what’s going on with the sky as I do the road. He was teasing, but… he also isn’t entirely wrong. It is such a joy to drive with two newish driving teenagers in the car pointing out every single thing you do that isn’t strictly by the book.

In all, it was a great day. BG got her dance photos out of the way (I nailed the car dressing room perfectly). I was able to finish up with MC’s photos and got a few fun ones of my own along the way.

Of course, it was also a typical roulette wheel of “What New Random Loop Is Going To Get Thrown At You Today” kind of day as well because our mayor announced a mandatory mask requirement for all indoor public spaces (with a few strict exceptions) that is going to last for at least the next couple of weeks. This covers the time frame for recital, so I have zero clue how the studio is going to work that one out as it includes the dancers on stage.

I’m in “wait and see” mode again, but I still have to make sure she has everything that she needs, including new tights and a few extra small things. It is so odd waiting on things I ordered knowing there is a high chance they won’t be used, at least not this year. We may hear more today when she goes to the studio for her last ballet class before recital.

At least I have pictures!

Celebrations, Events, And Hard Decisions

The day after we get updated information about the plans for holding BG’s recital this year, Hubby gets notified that he will be working from home through the summer. Only critical infrastructure employees will be allowed back in the office.

Hearing that Hubby is going to be allowed to work from home for at least that long was such a massive relief. He works in a large building with a lot of other people. Their set up is currently a semi-shared space that doesn’t work with any kind of distancing. They are working on making changes to the entire building, but options and space are limited, so work from home for those that can is the current state. And I’m so very, very happy about that.

At the same time, BG is supposed to return to dance class the first part of June. The studio has made some changes to do what they can to ensure safety, including shortened class times to give time to sanitize and changes in routines that eliminate all physical contact (mostly only ever in the younger grades). Staff and assistants will wear masks as well.

While the changes are definitely good, it is still a very active thing and some classes, ALL of BG’s classes, are full of dancers. Even the change in how they utilize the space to give more room and limiting all space in the studio to dancers and teachers only, still leaves a pretty crowded studio for many of these classes.

Then there will be recital. There are some massive changes to their normal plan. What was previously broken into two shows will now be 5 and based on grade level. This reduces the number of girls in dressing rooms and the number of people in the audience.

What does not change is the fact that the older girls that participate in certain performances, which BG does for the first time this year, will still participate in every show. Instead of her performing those dances 4 times between dress rehearsal and recital, it will be 10. For each dance, of which she has potentially 3 (still waiting on word for one dance). This is on top of her other 5 dances she will do in her own show.

Also because she is in every show for those dances and to assist her younger girls, she will be at the venue from 9am until probably close to 9pm or after for two days in a row. This presents yet another issue.

They have asked that you only attend the show for your child. Technically, her show is the last one, but she is there all day. I either take her and drop her off, or I stay. In previous years, she was only ever there for the 1 show, but I had planned on just staying for both because the venue is not close to home. Parking sucks beyond belief and getting a decent seat is damn near like trying to get the latest “must have” item at a black friday sale (more on recital day than dress rehearsal, but still crazy).

Now, the last issue is more one of convenience for me over most anything else and , logically, the issues with parking and seating should be reduced drastically because of the smaller show sizes. It should also mean smaller audience sizes. But… how many people have you seen recently that follow the rules or suggestions? I’ve seen some of the family that attend this event. I’m not thinking overly positive about the outcome, even if the studio is doing their damnedest to make this happen in a safe way.

This is currently scheduled for the first half of July and, as has been seen lately, things that seem fine today may be horrible as soon as tomorrow.

I am so damn torn about the whole thing.

I 100% support their efforts in what they are trying to do and I know why they are so determined to still hold this event. This is on par with graduation, if not even more important, for a huge number of the girls that are seniors this year. Seniors are missing out on so much already. I get it. There is a need to find a balance that includes mental health and that is where their efforts come in.

I just have to wonder, when it is all said and done, if it is worth the risk.

They are asking that no one come to the studio that has even traveled outside the state, but will people abide by that request? There is no way to ensure absolutely that they do. They have also stated to not come if you aren’t feeling well or have been around someone that is sick. Again, it is only a request and really cannot be enforced other than to not let someone in that looks obviously ill. I have no clue how they are going to manage the recital at all.

None of that even begins to take into consideration the distribution of costumes (always a very close contact event) and picture day where the lobby is wall to wall students and parents.

Here we are with Hubby’s work running on an abundance of caution (which I am so incredibly grateful for) and then we are pulled in the other direction for BG’s dance.

The thought of not getting a recital this year breaks my heart, but… is it really worth it? I just don’t know.

Toss onto that dumpster fire of “no good solution” is the fact that we also have MC’s graduation scheduled for the end of July. I’m slightly less worried about this event because it is only a few hours tops on a single day in a venue that is more versatile for distancing, but you are still talking about a very large number of people gathering under one roof.

As of right now, I’m cautiously going to allow BG to go to classes when they resume and wait and see what other information will be forthcoming about recital. There is more control in the studio than there is at the venue and she will at least be able to wear a mask.

I’m also going to be watching the news in my area very closely. The studio has been following guidelines and they have made student safety a priority, but there isn’t a lot of clear guidance as to what is actually safe right now and that is my biggest concern.

I don’t want to have to tell either one of my kids that they shouldn’t participate in these incredibly important events, but when you look at the much larger picture, it isn’t just about them. It is about the friends and families of those girls (and a few guys). It is about the people that have to take care of them if they get sick. It is about the people that get left behind if the worst happens.

It makes it even harder to impress this on them, though they are listening, when we essentially live in this sort of bubble where the virus hasn’t really blown up. That sense that “it can’t happen to me” kind of invincibility is too easy to believe. I really believe that is playing a part in the decisions to move forward holding these events.

I’m lucky in that my kids are reasonable. I think that if it came down to it, they would understand. They would be hugely disappointed, but I do think they’d understand. It doesn’t make any of it even a fraction easier, though.

If I were pressed, I have to say that I really don’t think holding these events, even with precautions, is the smart thing to do. Feeling that way makes this so much harder as I just don’t know what the best plan is moving forward. I don’t want to be the bad guy, but I absolutely will if I feel that the situation in my area has gotten bad enough. I hate that I may actually be in the position to have to do that.

 

Rusty Red Iris

For some reason, I only have a couple of these and they are randomly placed, not clustered like all my other irises.

They are also a pain in the butt to photograph because the color almost never comes out correctly. There is something about my camera and accurately rendering reds that I haven’t quite gotten the hang of. This is where Photoshop becomes my friend. Unless of course, your monitor isn’t the same as mine, then who the hell knows what color you are seeing. This fact is a major point of frustration for me.

Yesterday, MC took his last remaining AP final (AP Calculus) and is officially done with all high school work. He has to go to the school next week to turn in equipment and books, pick up any honor sashes/cords for graduation and then make it to the ceremony scheduled for the end of July, but he is absolutely done with high school now.

Yesterday also brought news that we are probably looking at the new normal for our household, at least through the end of summer as Hubby will not be going back into the office until then at the earliest.

I’ve said before that for the most part, things around here feel much like they would around the holidays when Hubby is on vacation and everyone is home. While we are now well past the longest everyone has been at home at the same time and it still mostly feels that way, it is going to be interesting to see if it continues to feel that way.

After he got the word that this will extend (so damn grateful he works where he does), I joked around that I’m going to have to find some projects to work on in my studio so I have an “escape” from time to time. If I think about it, it is going to be a kind of test to see how well we handle retirement. The only real difference will be that the kids are still at home.

I’m seeing news of some universities saying at least the fall semester classes are going to be online only, but we haven’t heard anything along those lines from MC’s school yet. He is a little worried because there are certain requirements for his scholarship that he has to meet that, as of right now, requires in person interaction. It is also the requirement that he live on campus his first year. I’ve told him that I’m sure the school will make sure that whatever steps they take, it isn’t going to impact his scholarship. It is one of the very many things on the “wait and see” list.

He didn’t really stress about ending high school from home. The most stress he has really shown over the last couple of months was studying for his AP exam. With news about other schools starting to pop up, he is beginning to stress about what will or won’t happen in the fall.

It really does not help one bit that we live in an area that really hasn’t been hit yet. I’m 100% sure that a big part of the small number of cases in our area is because we have local leaders that stepped up fast and hard before it could and it did amazing things to slow down the spread. Sadly, with the push for things to start opening back up, we are going to see those numbers start to spike and everything that has current, tentative plans to happen will most likely change when that spike starts, so it is impossible to think anything will be as it looks right now.

We aren’t even close to being anywhere near out of the woods yet.

White Iris & MC Day

Today is MC’s official last day of high school, the end of a huge phase of his life up until now. Under normal circumstances, it would feel like a big, sharp end with him having done all the normal things that would lead up to this moment.

The district would normally have the students wear their caps and gowns and walk through their grade and middle schools, high fiving the younger kids and seeing old teachers. There would be the expected build up of excitement among the students, the kind you could hear and feel just walking through the halls. Kids planning parties and celebrations. Some even participating in a senior skip day or a prank (some not always well thought out).

This year, instead of a bright, distinct end with seniors walking out the doors of the high school for the last time, it has felt more like senior year has dissipated and just faded out to nothing while they sat alone at home. Spring break became indefinite, followed by a scramble to finish presenting needed material in an online format so that those seniors were still prepared to take their final exams for any dual credit classes or their AP tests.

Not a single traditional event has been able to be held. I actually saw a T-shirt that kind of said it all…

Senior Skip Day Champions, Class of 2020.

It is an attempt to laugh at something that isn’t all that funny and so incredibly difficult for a lot of young people.

For MC, he has done an amazing job of just going with the flow. I cannot begin to express how proud I am of him for weathering this as well as he has. I know that a lot of seniors are really having a hard time and my heart hurts for them.

My kid is just the typical introvert and is often happier at home playing his games, so, for the most part, this isn’t that much different from what he would have been doing. He is missing his friends, but they have made the time to do some gaming together online.

I’ll be spending the day putting together MC’s favorite finger foods and we have both Deadpool movies waiting to be watched. It may not be what many would think of as a great celebration to close out his high school career, but it is exactly the kind of thing he loves, so that is what we will be doing.

I still have to come up with a plan for his graduation, something that is still on the calendar but can change at any moment. Considering he will be graduating with honors, I refuse to let that moment pass without something to mark it, no matter what is going on in the world.

For now, we are making it MC day and marking the end of this massive stage in his life. If you know a senior, high school or college, take a moment or 10 to celebrate them and how incredibly odd and extra emotional the ending of this time is for them., even if they are as laid back about it as MC is.

Stretching The Creativity

This is MC’s last official week of high school. Most of his classes are already done and he has very little work left. He will have an AP final later in the month, but that was always set for that date. It will just be an online version instead. That’s because he is finishing out his high school senior year at home, which has made it one hell of a different experience than anyone expected.

It also means I’m having to really push my creativity when it comes to finding ways to acknowledge such a huge accomplishment. Not that we were intending much anyway as he isn’t much of a social person. If anything, I thought he and his gamer friends would get together for one of their gaming nights as a way to celebrate, but that can’t happen now.

I can’t do nothing because he deserves to be honored and recognized for all his hard work. With so many other things that have been canceled because of the pandemic, including his chance to get to take his girl, MCG, to prom and see her face to face for the first time or the senior walk through the grade and middle schools to see old teachers, I couldn’t let this slip by unrecognized.

The importance of this is something that has really been driven home while I’ve helped MC edit and polish one of his scholarship applications. It highlighted some of his biggest accomplishments throughout school and showed me how proud he was of his own hard work, something he so very rarely ever shows, so I really needed to make an effort to acknowledge all of that.

If things were normal, we’d still keep it small. Probably just taking him to out to eat at a restaurant of his choice. But that isn’t an option. I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with something fun that we can do here and that would be special for him.

I decided to kind of do a week of awesome for MC. It started last night with me making one of his favorite meals and will finish up on Friday, his last day, with a night of the family favorite finger foods and movies, capping it off with some death by chocolate.

While this is all very food heavy, that is kind of the main way we tend to do celebrations, so it is perfect. I’m going to try and squeeze in a night or two during the week to play some games. I have a feeling Fibbage is going to be coming out since that is one of MC’s favorite games to play as a family. Mostly because we get completely stupid and ridiculous in the process.

It might not seem like a lot when it is all said and done, but it is a way to show him how much he means to us and how proud of him we are. He not only survived high school, he kicked its butt in epic fashion. He will be going off to college with all 4 years of his tuition paid for and a potential for a one time scholarship of $5k (just submitted this one, so we are in wait mode on that, but chances are good), all because he set a goal to do his absolute best and he excelled at every single class.

He seems to be stoked for our little celebration, so that is really all that matters. Now I just have to figure out what I’m going to do for his actual graduation. My creativity muscles are getting one hell of a workout.

 

Making It Through

I was absolutely shocked when I went to check on my flowers this morning and found my daffodils still hanging in there. After having well over half of the days in April hit below freezing temps, I was stunned I had anything still looking good and working towards blooming. Sadly, of the last 4, two were broken over, so I just cut what was left and brought them inside to enjoy.

We finally got some communication from the school and they do have plans to have a graduation ceremony for the seniors, but it won’t be happening until the end of July. I have everything crossed that can be crossed that things have calmed down and are safe by then. I honestly haven’t a clue what they will do if it isn’t. There is still a chance that MC won’t have a graduation ceremony to walk in, but they are working to make it happen.

We are all going to be on pins and needles for the next several weeks (more than normal) as my FIL had to make a trip to the ER yesterday because of a messed up knee. While he is okay and probably needs a knee replacement (doubt he will go through with it) and the hospital had him in an area that was separate from anyone that was sick, there is still the very real chance that he could have been exposed.

It makes it incredibly hard when you can’t be there to help out. My SIL has been socializing with him and helping with his shopping since they are both alone and individually isolating (outside of those necessary runs). She will still help where she can, but a lot of these kinds of things are the things we normally help with and we can’t right now. He is still in a lot of pain and getting around is going to be extremely difficult, especially because he has stairs in his house. We were already worried about falls, but this has ramped that up by about a thousand.

Before all of this started, we were talking to him about moving to something that didn’t require him to navigate stairs, something it was well past time to consider, but no one wanted to make him feel like he was losing anything important. There are so many things tied up in that decision to move, which made pushing for that change a very delicate matter. Now, everything is on hold indefinitely when that change is most needed. It is something we are going to worry about even more now, but there is not a thing we can actually do.

As little as I am a scheduler or a planner and more of a by the seat of my pants kind of a person, I’m seeing how much I dislike uncertainty, or more accurately, a lack of control. Even when I just go with the flow, I’m in control of most of that flow. Right now, there is so little that is within my control or that I can do anything to make any kind of difference. It is an interesting perspective into the kind of person I am, at least in areas I hadn’t considered before now.

Bleeding Hearts

We dipped below freezing again last night. Figures it would come a day after we hit a record high temperature. Welcome to spring in the mid-west.

These still look good, but they sure felt a little limp, so I don’t know if the tiny buds that are waiting to get bigger and open (do they really open like a normal flower?) are going to actually make it. As with everything right now, I guess I will wait and see.

It was made official yesterday that the kids will not be going back to school this year. They will finish out the year doing their online work. I have no idea what that means for MC’s graduation as the school has yet to communicate with the parents about what plans or alternatives are in the works.

I understand that so much is up in the air right now and there isn’t a lot that can be done about that. I’m good with whatever they do decide. It just drives me crazy that there isn’t any kind of information at all about what may or may not be options. I’d kind of like to know if an out and out cancellation is even on the table at this point.

With BG and dance, the studio has been working tirelessly to work out alternatives, including setting up 2 different back up dates for their recital and letting parents know that this is the plan. It is still open to change and they’ve made that clear, but they’ve also kept the parents informed on an actual plan.

I think it is just the no plan or communication, the whole not knowing part that bothers me. There are so many things that already feel like they are just hanging, any little piece that feels like it is still moving and progressing helps, but this piece is still hanging. I’m not a huge organizer or planner (only certain areas), but I can only imagine how stressful all of this is for those that really need to make plans.

Will it be hard if there isn’t an actual ceremony? Hell yes! MC will be the first of my kids to graduate high school since OC dropped out, so this is a huge moment, especially after all the work he has put into being a phenomenal student. It would be hugely disappointing, but I’m still okay with that if that is how things need to happen. People’s lives, health and well being are so much more important. We will still find a way to celebrate his accomplishment. It just may look very different than expected.

MC is handling the whole thing amazingly well. He’s all “I’ll have some great stories to tell my kids when they are my age.” I’m sure he is still a little disappointed, but he is very chill about the whole thing. I know a lot of other seniors are having much harder time emotionally.

So Many Changes

Today is our first day of a completely new normal.

Over the weekend, our mayor put our city on a shelter-in-place order, so all non-essential business are shut down. We were already pretty much treating it like that, so it won’t be a massive change for us, though I’ve heard/seen a lot of people complaining or stressing over this order. For us, we are just going to keep doing what we have been and doing our best to not be a part of the problem.

The kids are starting to learn their new routines for their online classes. It is going to be interesting for my kids as they are both so self motivated, they will probably have the week’s worth of assignments done by the first day of the week, depending on how the teacher posts assignments. It is going to be an interesting process for them. I joked with BG that with the online stuff she could get the rest of her high school finished before MC graduates and they could graduate together (not that that is an option, just a statement about how quickly she gets her stuff done).

We also got more information from BG’s dance studio. They have opted to do what they could to shift their classes to online. I’ve got to say, with what I’ve seen so far, I’m absolutely blown away with what they’ve managed to put together. I’ve always liked her studio and how they do things, but this goes so far above and beyond. They could have just as easily said we are just shutting down, but to keep these kids going and to ensure that all the staff at the studio still gets paid, they are doing everything they can to make sure that the “show must go on” while keeping everyone safe at the same time. I’m a little in awe at their dedication and determination.

As part of that, I’ll be working on getting BG a safe space to dance. It is something that I promised her a while ago since trying to dance on our concrete floor in the basement is too slick. She has come close to falling a couple of times in the past. Now, I get to build a makeshift dance floor. I have all the stuff, I just need to get it done, so that is on my project list for today. I’m hoping like crazy that it works like I think it will.

I should have some daffodils to photograph soon. The buds are on and getting bigger, but they aren’t quite open yet. My hyacinths managed to hold on through two freezes over the weekend. We absolutely need some color and beauty right now.

 

Last Of The Snow?

It is still way too early to tell. As of right now, we don’t have any more in the forecast. It is one of the reasons why I hauled MC out yesterday afternoon to try and get a few more photos for his senior pictures because he was adamant he wanted some done in the snow (because that is SO him, the gamer guy that rarely leaves his lair to venture into nature).

We’d had a beautiful, if cold, perfectly clear sky, sunny day. All day. I’d been watching the light trying to figure out the best time to try and get my shots. Just as we walked out the door, clouds came rushing in from the west and killed the light. Of course it did!

I still managed to get a few good ones, but I need to do some editing on them as they aren’t quite good enough. MC said he wants to do some with a range of backgrounds like sunset or even in the spring when the flowers are in bloom. I actually think it is a brilliant idea as I’ll have been taking pictures of him all throughout his senior year. Talk about putting together a true senior portrait package!

They won’t look all perfect and professional, because doing portraits is so not my thing. But… I have several that are really good already. I’m going to have a hell of a time trying to decide which one(s) I’m going to want to print to hang on the wall. I may have to come up with something really creative and do something like a large collage with all of them. I don’t know yet, but something.

On a side note, I’ll be editing my private post with the most current update on that situation for those that chimed in.

Snow & Ice

I am hopefully wrapping up my work on a graphics project sometime today and will have the amazing finished project to share soon. I’m really excited about what I’ve been working on and that I got the chance to do it.

I had honestly thought that things wouldn’t really start getting crazy around here until at least next month, but things have popped up and seem to be just cramming themselves into my schedule. I’m going to be a giddy mess in a few weeks if things work out because I’ll get to take BG to see Swan Lake performed. I have never seen it and thought it would be a perfect time since their pointe performance this year is to one of the songs from Swan Lake. I’m just waiting on confirmation from her dance friend’s mom that they are going with us.

I also have MC’s scholarship awards ceremony coming up in a few weeks. I’ve shuffled things and made arrangements so I actually get to go. There was a conflict with dance, but our dance friend will be taking BG to class for me that night so I can see MC being rewarded for all of his hard work and determination.

I may complain left and right about feeling like crap with this stupid cough, but… when I stop and look at all that is going on and what my kids are doing, the amazing guy I pulled on all the lucky stars to get, I’m one seriously happy girl and I’m surrounded by some incredible people that keep the joy flowing all around.