Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Farewell Tour

Each year on the night of graduation, the parent's group for the graduation class puts on an all-night, free graduation celebration at Webster University. For the four years the students are in high school, fundraisers are held to cover the cost of the party, contributions to teacher wish lists and scholarships for needy students. Our parent group raised over $120,000 in four years, and we provided $19,000 in scholarships this spring to students in the Class of 2009.

Last summer the graduation party committee selected the theme "Farewell Tour '09", which enabled everyone on the committee to play off of the music and/or band theme. I have to say that the moms of our class never cease to amaze me. The decorations were unbelievable! Spotlights and signs greeted the students upon arrival, 45's complete with each senior's yearbook photo in the center decorated the walls, 33 rpms dangled from the ceilings, and a full rock band set provided a backdrop for photos with friends. To keep the students entertained for six and a half hours, entertainment included swimming, a casino, bingo, air brushed tattoos and nail painting, a live band, ping pong tables, Guitar Hero, a photo booth, a giant inflatable play structure and segways. And, of course, non-stop food and drink all night. Every student went home with at least one prize, and each had a ticket to place in the hat in front of their favorite big prize - a t.v., Ipod Touch, portable dvd player, a Wii, Guitar Hero, a hot air balloon ride, etc.

At 3:45 a.m. they called all the students into the gymasium to award prizes and show the dvd that Pam and I had worked on in addition to all the photo boards. I have to confess that I simply got all the photos to a staff member at the high school, Pam's daughter provided the music to him, and he actually put it all together and had 300 copies made so each attendee could have one. Since I had a houseful of out of town guests, I did not work at the party that night. But I understand that the students really loved the dvd. Even if it is not something they are interested in right now when their major thought is getting out of high school and on to new things, I think in the future they will enjoy looking back at this time in their lives. So, as my final swan song as a 19 year parent volunteer, I think I went out on a high note. Farewell...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

Friday night was the graduation ceremony for our second and youngest child. Out of town guests began to arrive on Thursday, with more driving in on Friday. Friday morning and part of the afternoon was spent at Webster University putting up the eight photo boards we had worked so hard on. We had to decorate the "cubbies" which would house the boards for the evening, and of course re-attach the wayward photos which refused to be held in place by the glue dots. We definitely disrupted the productivity of the decorating crew as, one by one, they stopped what they were doing to take a look at the photos. We had photos of the students when they were young as well as ones where they were involved in high school activities. More on the all night party in a future posting...

Friday was a little more hot and humid than the rest of the week had been, but by the time the ceremony began at 6:30, there was a little breeze and it was fairly pleasant out. My sister-in-law and Andy went with me when I dropped Katie off at 5:15 for the student preparation, and we went on to the football field to save 8 seats. Locating excellent seating behind Katie's best friend's mom, we spread out towels out to save the seats for the later arrivals. A little after 6:00 a lady came up the bleacher steps and asked if the seats behind us were taken. A woman off to the left was, in fact, saving the seats for her elderly parents. The new arrival was having none of that. She loudly declared that she just didn't think that was right, that everyone wants to see their relation graduate, and she proceeded to climb over the couple at the end of the bleacher and take the seats anyway. As the man on the end remarked. you can't expect to show up at five minutes after 6:00 and expect to get good seats. It was a good thing this rude woman didn't covet the seats covered with my beach towel, because you probably would have seen me on the 10:00 news. No one was taking away the seats I had been sitting in the hot sun to hold for my elderly in-laws. As it turned out, Jim's folks elected to take advantage of the folding chairs set up for the handicapped down on the track. It was not the best location for viewing, but at least the seats had a back and they didn't have to climb the bleachers. So we gave our extra two seats to the lady behind us who had lost hers to the seat snatcher.

The ceremony itself moved along fairly quickly considering that there were over 330 graduates. The gal selected by her classmates to give the speech did an excellent job summing up their experience at Webster Groves High School. She cracked a few jokes and offered a touching memorial to their classmate who died unexpectedly this spring. As Katie was near the end of the alphabet, I was a little dismayed by the handful of parents who got up and left before all the graduate's names had been read. We sat patiently through their child's name being read, but apparently they didn't feel the need to extend the same courtesy to the kids at the end. And yet we wonder why some kids are so rude. Look at the example some adult set for them.

Saturday afternoon we had our family celebration of Katie's graduation. The weather held for us and we were able to enjoy the gardens in the backyard. It hardly seems possible that Andy's graduation was six years ago, and now we are sending our "baby" off to college. One definition of commencement is "a beginning; a start". For Katie, she will be starting a whole new life as a college freshman in Chicago, learning to share an apartment style dorm with three total strangers, managing her time between classes and studying, and experiencing the freedom of having her parents five hours away from her. Having been through this one time before, I understand that it is a lot like sending your child off to kindergarten for the first time. You know that this is something that has to be done for your child to learn and grow, but you also realize that the child you drop off at the door will be forever changed by the experiences of the teachers and other children she comes into contact with.

For Jim and me, this is a beginning to a different phase in our marriage. With no children and the affiliated activities around on a daily basis, we will have an opportunity to focus exclusively on us and the things we want to do and see. So while a part of my heart grieves for the baby I used to hold in my arms and the little girl who used to hold my hand, my mind understand that I have done my job to raise Katie to the best of my ability. The next step is up to her.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Little Bunny Fofo

Last week I got my last 30 annuals planted - wave petunias. Knowing we had graduation events coming up, I purchased the large plants to the tune of $3 each. They filled out the back planting beds nicely. I was excited when they began to bloom by Katie's party last Saturday. Monday as I walked around the yard, I noticed that eight of the plants had been eaten by the ever expanding bunny population in our yard. By Tuesday morning another dozen had fallen prey to the salad bar bandits. Frantically I dashed around spraying each plant with a hot pepper mixture I had gotten at the local garden shop last year. Imagine my surprise when I went out this morning to find that the remaining plants had been decimated. What, did I spray them with Bunny Foo Foo or something?

Incensed, I went back to my garden shop this morning to inquire as to whether or not they now sell guns. A bit perplexed, the clerk shoot her head in the negative. "Well, I guess I need a bottle of 'Liquid Fence' then", I retorted. she gets the gun question. I think she had to call the police station back and cancel the request for assistance in handling a deranged gardener.

My not so waving petunias are now bathing in 'Liquid Fence", which smells a lot like manure. The dog, of course, loves the aroma, so let alone protecting the petunias from the rabbits, I have to guard them from the dog. If I go out tomorrow morning and find further damage to the plants, I'll be scooping up little bunny fofos and bopping them on the head. Where is Elmer Fudd when you need him?

Sunday, May 17, 2009


This was Katie's last week of high school. Ever. Her final exam was on Thursday, so she officially checked out and received her graduation gown. While she is done, I am still mired ankle deep with the photos for the memorabilia boards for the seniors all night graduation party. I had a "Picture Party" on Monday night, which means I bribed four other moms with wine and margaritas to come and help my co-chair and me post 500 pictures and newspaper clippings on 8 large sheets of foam core board. As the boards are really expensive to purchase ($222 for them, which I had to buy because last year's clean up crew threw them away!), I found removable glue dots to affix the photos to the boards. The kids are allowed to remove any photos they want around 3 in the morning, so the trick is to make them easy enough to remove without damaging the boards or photos. The year before last the mom carefully stapled across the corners of the photos. The photos came off easy for the kids, but then she sat and removed each staple afterwards. That sounded like waaay too much work to me.

So, drinks in one hand, glue dots in the other we proceeded to relive the lives of the students one photograph at a time. Childhood memories, sporting events, clubs and activities right up through the recent prom filled the boards. A couple of hours and our task was compete. Or so it seemed. The next morning I came down to find my dining room floor papered with pictures. Thinking that perhaps some dots were applied incorrectly (maybe due to the libations?), I added additional glue dots and then ran a soft cloth over all the photos to more firmly adhere the dots. Each morning this week, I peered into the dining room to the same, littered scene. By now I feel as though I am in "Groundhog Day". I always have hated that movie.

Because we were having Katie's graduation party for her friends on Saturday, I gathered up all the fallen faces and gingerly dragged all the boards into the laundry room for the day. I will have to deal with them later today. I'm at the point where if I don't see another picture again it will be too soon.

However, the party yesterday turned out great. The reason that we held it so early, since graduation is technically taking place this upcoming Friday, is because of A-men, the acapella singing group at the high school. A couple of months ago my friend invited Jim and me to the Class of 2010 auction. Up for auction was a private concert by A-men. We thought that would be a fun addition to Katie's party or, just in case SHE didn't think it would be a fun addition, we could have them sing at the garden party SWT will have in the fall to celebrate the completion of their new building. Anyway, Katie loved the thought of having them at her party, and since several members of the group are seniors as well, this weekend worked to get them all before their own family commitments kick in.

Thankfully the weather cooperated and we were able to set things up in the garden. A-men is such a fun group both to watch as well as listen to, and they did not disappoint. They changed words in the song, such as "don't do it baby.." which became "don't do it Katie" and just generally had a really good time. The only mishap was when our dog tried to jump off a chair, got his leg stuck in a slat and proceed to yelp, quite off-tune. It is all recorded for posterity on my camcorder. The concert was followed by food and games. One thing I have always loved about the group of kids that Katie hangs around with is the fact that they are very content to sit around and talk, or play board games. Quite a few of them were having a blast playing Apples to Apples, which is a pretty funny game which allows for many participants. This was followed by Rock Band on the Wii. If it would not have totally ticked off my daughter, I could have recorded some great blackmail material. (Let me just say, I will never look at "Sweet Home, Alabama" in the same light again.)

So one party is down, the graduation and family party are next weekend. And in between are the blasted boards. I can't wait until it's over. A-men!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Walk for Those Who No Longer Can

Today was the eighth annual Jim Schoemehl 5k run/walk for ALS in Webster Groves. A run of this length is a fairly common occurrence, but what makes this one so special is that it is put together entirely by the senior marketing students at the high school. The students set up a website for information and registration, gathered sponsors, came up with the route, and took care of all the advertising and marketing, including design and printing of the t-shirts. Arriving at the school at 6:00 a.m. this morning, they readied the registration tables, marked the route and set up water stations at each mile marker. What an unbelievable way for the kids to take classroom learning and put it to a practical and beneficial use.

Half of the money raised goes to a local organization which provides assistance to those fighting ALS, and the other half goes to a local resident who has been diagnosed with ALS. This year's recipient is Barry Kurre, a Kirkwood Vietnam Veteran. Once the students met Barry, this run went way beyond being an assignment for a grade. As they saw the debilitating toll ALS has taken on Barry's life, they began to see the race as a challenge to make more money than any other year so that they could help make the lives of ALS patients a little easier.

Barry was brought to the high school parking lot by ambulance. At first I thought a runner had been injured, as I didn't know he was coming or even what his condition was at this point. The runners and walkers and student volunteers all gathered around for the presentation of the check to his family. If you needed a visual to understand what this disease does to a person, it was abundantly clear today. I didn't hear a final total on monies raised, but I watched as they presented Barry and his family with a check for over $18,000. And I thanked God for a school that has found a creative and fun way to think outside the box and take learning to the streets.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Un-Fortune Cookie

This morning while waiting for my tea to brew, I opened up a fortune cookie from our favorite local Chinese restaurant. I don't really like fortune cookies all that much, but it is always fun to see what words of wisdom will spew forth from the tiny sliver of white paper. This particular cookie was unfortunate. Literally. There was nothing written on either side of the paper. No soothing words that I "deserve special treatment", or the momentary quick thrill that "a windfall is coming my way". Or even the one that surely was written by a sarcastic mother of a teen advising that "the fun side of a relationship begins to unfold". So how much misfortune will befall the person who receives an un-fortune cookie? This is what I would type on my sliver of paper: "Woman who receives blank paper in fortune cookie will have much on her mind!"

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Oh, My Aching Back!

How many muscles do we have? I feel each and every one of mine. I went to the nursery Sunday and purchased my annuals. Good thing I went by myself because even the front seat of my car was holding plants by the time it was all said and done. And I have a Buick Rendezvous! In my defense, I did purchase two large bags of a specialty potting mix for my container plants, so those took up quite a bit of space. One thing you don't think about as you get caught up in the color and flavor of the nursery, with all of the outstanding container arrangements inviting you to try your hand at creating a unique garden spot in your own yard, is the fact that for each of those bright, fresh faced annuals a hole must be dug. By you.

After five hours in the yard Sunday afternoon, which did include a mowing of the grass as well, I could barely stand upright. Too bad my clever little kneeling pad doesn't do a thing for my back. I was feeling pretty good about my success until I looked at the tables on our deck and patio. There were still 4 or 5 flats of annuals straining to be released from their plastic constraints. And that did not include the tomato, cucumber and dill plants that require special treatment since I am attempting to grow them in containers this year. Or the 5 evergreens, 5 cotoneaster shrubs and 4 hostas my husband had picked up last weekend. I got a couple more hours in yesterday, muscles screaming in pain as I stooped and bent, and will try to finish the job today.

All of this is in preparation of the graduation parties. We will be having one for Katie's friends in two weeks and a second Memorial Day weekend for our family. Good Lord willing, both of these celebrations will take place in the back yard. Now, where is the phone number for the Pink Sisters?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Raindrops are STILL Falling on My Head

Normally I am a pretty upbeat, happy person. But I have to say, the weather this week is really starting to get to me. Every day has looked like the last - gray, then rainy, then gray again, etc. The dog and I have not been able to take our long walks, instead dashing out for short ones during the weather breaks. Not enough sun, not enough exercise...

I can't even get a decent photograph of our profusely blooming buckeye tree. It won the 2008 tree of distinction award in Webster Groves last year, and we received a nice frame with the award on one side and a place for a photo on the other. Last year was crappy when it bloomed as well, so the city did not take a photo of it for the frame. I was hoping to be able to rectify that this season. Maybe the cooler temperatures will keep it in bloom longer.

I had planned to get the rest of my annuals in this week. I could have planted in the rain, since I already looked like an idiot earlier in the week as I mowed in the rain. But I have this aversion to getting totally caked in mud. Now I hear that it may get into the 40's tonight, so I guess it is best that I waited. But the first graduation party is in two weeks, so the pressure will be on to get the yard in shape. The parties will be held outside, if it ever decides to stop raining here. If it doesn't, we'll be putting those sun umbrellas to a whole new use!