First Month of Eighth Grade

9.25.2022

Well, I meant to post about the first day of eighth grade, and that didn't happen.  Then, I planned to post about our first week, and that didn't happen either.  So, here we are about four weeks in, and I finally found a few hours before bed (and before the beginning of week five) to write about our first day, first week, and first month of eighth grade.

To say we weren't ready for the first day of school is an understatement.  I did manage to take Lewie sneaker shopping on one very hot August afternoon. (We even treated ourselves to yummy chocolate crepes at the Choupette Creperie & Cafe in New Haven beforehand as seen in these pictures.)  



I managed to buy him a backpack, pencils, and a few notebooks prior to the first day, but we soon learned that his teachers wanted other items--post-it notes, a small stapler, folders, and a graphing calculator.  No problem.  He had everything by week two.

To be completely honest, Lewie wasn't super excited to begin school this year.  For one, most of his friends are one grade above him, so they started high school--he wouldn't see them in the middle school hallways like he did last year.  Secondly, he wasn't ready for the end of summer.  He still wanted one more sleepover (which we did fit in the weekend of Sept. 10th) and a few more relaxed days to hang out with friends and family by the pool.  It's fair to say that summer came to a screeching halt once August 29th hit--with announcements to remind us of standard routines, schedules, and calendars,  So far, Lewie has had picture day and several days of standardized testing.  Us parents had "Meet the Teachers" night--on Oct. 13th, we'll be meeting to discuss the annual 8th Grade Trip to Washington D.C.

Lewie appeased me by holding this sign one last time. 
I don't think it would be fair for me to ask him to do this again in high school.



On the Friday before Labor Day, we "allowed" Lewie to have his traditional day-off from school to go to our beloved, small, amusement park called Lake Quassy.  (We've been going to Quassy on the same day for the past ten years [with the exception of 2020], so we couldn't break our annual ritual now...)

Let me be clear; every year at Lake Quassy is fun, but this year seemed to be perfect.  Besides our normal rides, we were able to enjoy the Quassy Queen boat ride, the waterpark, and their quaint beach, which is not always in the cards for us.  We laughed, treated ourselves to yummy treats, rode on our favorite rides, and then laughed some more.  The only difference this year is that Lewie couldn't go on the Pirate Swing seven times in a row like he used to...  After one or two rides, he'd tell us he needed a break before going on again.  Is his "iron stomach" changing?








Fall is officially here, and now we're getting ready for all things October.  (October is one of my favorite months!!)  I still have to post about our summer vacation to Utah and our fun summer days in general.  I will find the time--I promised myself.  In the meantime, I hope everyone had a good start to the school year.  Here's to our last year of middle school and making it great!

Happy Fourteenth Birthday, Lewie!

8.12.2022

Our "Little Lewie" officially turned 14 yesterday, on Aug. 11th.  

Each year I make the same comments about how quickly time flies or how much Lewie has grown, but this year, in particular, at age 13, Lewie has, by far, done the most growing.  Here are two pictures from last summer to this summer for comparison.

          Summer 2021


            
          Summer 2022



The differences are not that subtle; Lewie grew four more inches, his voice has gotten deeper, and he officially wears men's clothing.  His facial features are changing, too--meaning he looks more like an adolescent than a "young boy."  

Emotions also come with the territory of growing, and Lewie will be the first one to say it was a tough year.  For one, this was his first official year in middle school since he was home every day last year during COVID.  It was also the first year that he admitted to sometimes feeling sad, confused, sleepy, or just out of sorts.  "Yes, Lewie. Join the club," I announced during one of our walks, "Welcome to the world of puberty and hormones!"  I wanted to tell him things will get better, that one day he will wake up not feeling tired, or that one day, he'll get back that same confidence he used to have before he started comparing himself to others...  Yes, if I had to rate adolescence, I would give it one star only.  On the contrary, childhood deserves a five-star rating in my book.

Nonetheless, while hormones have seized control of Lewie's mind and body, they can't break his spirit.  He is still the same wonderful "kid" we know and love with a kindhearted soul, an innovative drive, and a passion for all things tech.  There are many reasons for us to "celebrate" his 13th going into 14th year, and here are just a few of them:

1)  He made Student of the Month twice!
Lewie is a very sweet and polite kid; he's also very intuitive when it comes to others' feelings. Last year, Lewie earned "Student of the Month" twice, making him one of the only students in the entire school to earn this award twice in the same year.  He has good friends, and one of them, is the other student in his school (a year ahead of him) that also received "Student of the Month" twice.  

2)  He is talented and passionate when it comes to Tech and Innovation.
Since age 5, Lewie has demonstrated a passion for technology.  Trains were his first love, followed by Minecraft, which is still a favorite.  He started attending ID Tech camp (about one week per year) to learn how to code, but then his curiosity drove him to teach himself how to use all kinds of programs and software for coding, video editing, graphic design, etc.  I'm constantly amazed by all the new "projects" he embarks on just for the fun of experimenting and learning something new.  

In his STEM class this year, Lewie quickly moved to the head of the class and was given more advanced projects to work on by himself.  For example, he was allowed to tinker with a STEM learning tool called LEGO Education SPIKE Prime, which combines "LEGO building elements, easy-to-use hardware, and an intuitive drag-and-drop coding language."  Each week, he had a new project he completed--from creating a gizmo that acts like a clock counting hours, minutes, and seconds to another gadget that could be used to help color blind people (adaptive technology) identify colors.  The part that was so extraordinary is that Lewie would come up with these ideas and learn how to code them on his own--he didn't follow a single manual nor are there manuals for these particular "inventions."


The letter "B" tells the person that the color the camera on the computer is recognizing is Blue.









Lewie's teacher was so impressed with his skills that she told him she would like him to help her "team teach" his eighth grade class this year; she also invited us to come to the classroom to see his projects.  (As you can see, we gladly accepted the offer!)

This summer, Lewie was able to return to ID Tech Camp in person, so he chose a one-week course in 3D Modeling and Printing.  Every day, he learned how to use the open-source printing software called Blender to make his own figures (like a fidget spinner).  On one day, in particular, the staff had all the students model their own plastic boats, so they could compete in a boat race. FUN!






3.  He's an authentically happy and silly kid!!  (He's also starting to get a bit more adventurous!)
Every year I do a post about "Lewie-isms," and this year, I have a few more to add to the list.  Lewie certainly has a strong vocabulary these days.  (When he starts to talk about coding and software, it's almost as if he's speaking a second language.)  Still, he does mispronounce a word or two here or there, and sometimes, he just comes up with his own words...which usually makes us die laughing.  Here are our two favorites from this year:

reclounge chair (n.) - a recliner (combines the word recliner with lounge)

growth sprout (n.) - a growth spurt

When Lewie's hormones aren't getting in the way, he likes to joke around and tease us.  He's always coming up with clever things to do or say, and he loves shows/movies that are either funny, sci-fi, or use lots of special effects.  Examples of shows/movies that he loved this year are Napolean Dynamite, Multiverse of Madness (Marvel), Thor Love and Thunder (Marvel), Back to the Future, The Matrix, "Lost in Space,""Stranger Things," and lots of Jim Gaffigan specials. 

This year, he was also super excited to go on our trip to Utah, which is a pretty notable change from last year when he would have preferred to have a "staycation" instead of going to Washington and Oregon.  On our trip, he actually relished trying new things like playing the ukelele, sandboarding, and sleeping overnight in a tee-pee and an Airstream trailer.  (I will be posting about this trip soon.)  Having him enjoy this vacation and calling it "the best trip ever" warmed my heart--giving me the validation I needed to know that all of our trips to our National Parks have not been in vain.

When I first gave birth to Lewie, I asked my mom what HER favorite age was when she was watching me grow up.  She simply replied, "All of them."

I dismissed her remark.  "What a 'mom' thing to say," I mumbled.  Surely she was just saying that because that's what moms are supposed to say....right along with "I love you just the way you are."

Well, I think back on my mom's comment now, and I understand it.  Surely I loved the baby years, the toddler years, and the "little boy" years.  However, I'm growing to love the "tween" and now "teen" years, too.  Sure, Lewie needs me less, wants to be around friends more, and is starting to become more independent... but he's also growing into his own person, which means the parent role is evolving to a partial-friend role, too.  We laugh, share secrets, tease each other, teach each other, and love each other immensely.    What a wonderful journey...challenging...but AMAZING.


The Spring that Never Was...

7.16.2022

To be completely honest, Spring 2022 was a blur...  We managed to have a few lovely low-key days for Easter and Mother's Day, but beyond that, weekends were spent helping my sister-in-law find and secure an apartment, buy second-hand furniture, and set up utilities, etc.  

Then, when it appeared like she had everything necessary to move out, we all caught COVID.  My son Lewie tested positive after his school band concert. Within a week, Lewie, my mom, my sister-in-law, and I all tested positive for COVID and had to quarantine.  A week later, my husband, who thought he dodged the illness, tested positive, too.  Our symptoms were all quite different.  My mom, who was old enough to request Paxlovid (the drug from Pfizer that helps shorten the severity and duration of COVID) did the best, describing her symptoms as being not much different from the common cold.  My son did well, but on Day 5, he sprung a fever and ended up having a urinary tract infection.  Hubby had flu symptoms for a few days; my sister-in-law was congested for weeks, and I felt flu-like (including a loss of taste and smell) for about a week.  The one similarity among us was exhaustion and brain fog; to be honest, we all continue to feel fatigue quite regularly even though our illness was back in the end of May.

During Easter break, we took Lewie to Foxwoods Casino (in Connecticut) for his very first time.  We bought tickets to see our favorite comedian, Jim Gaffigan, and our tickets, which were front and center, did not disappoint.  We had dinner at a seafood restaurant and then laughed the night away at the show.  Lewie enjoyed his first stand-up comedian event, but he wasn't too impressed with Foxwoods--crowds are not his thing.



Walking around Foxwoods before the show.


The anticipation...

These were our seats!!

We stayed overnight and spent the next morning in Mystic and the afternoon at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum.  It was Hubby's and Lewie's first time at the museum, but I had been there once before with my mom--probably 20 years ago when I was in graduate school.  The museum has a great artifact collection; however, the best part is the wax figures that depict a story of tribal life.  The life-like figures help people understand how native Americans lived off the land in Connecticut and how they worked, celebrated, and protected themselves.  (Their life was not easy to say the least!!)  One part I found fascinating is that Native Americans owned dogs as pets just like us; however, the dogs, back then, looked more like wolves--no Labrador Retrievers or Chiwawas for them!

A quick visit to downtown Mystic.








I can't take my husband anywhere...




On Easter Sunday, we attended mass, and "the Easter Bunny" paid Lewie a visit with plastic eggs and an Easter Basket.  At thirteen, he still enjoyed searching for everything and allowed me to get some fun pictures.  (I think he realized that once he declares he is too old for the Easter Bunny, he'll be forfeiting most of his favorite chocolate candy in addition to Steam and Amazon gift cards!)  Since Aunty Michelle was still living with us, Lewie's Easter loot was hidden on my mom's side of the house.  It provided a welcome change with new hiding places.












Bruce gets a bunny treat, too!

On the Saturday before Mother's Day, I took my mom to see Riverdance at the Oakdale Theater.  Unbeknownst to me, this year, Riverdance was celebrating its 25th Anniversary production.  We had great front and center seats, and the show was BEAUTIFUL.  The stage showcased gorgeous digital views of nature and the Irish countryside in between the Irish step-dancing, which was so graceful and powerful to watch.  Some scenes would start with haunting instrumental or vocal sounds.  Others would include international musicians, who would play by themselves or right along with the orchestra or the dancers.  (I enjoyed the musicians that played the tin whistle, the fiddle, and the drums the most.) 

During the second act, we had a chance to explore other dances similar to Irish step-dancing--namely, Flamenco and tap dancing (New York).  The Flamenco and tap were weaved intricately in between the Irish step-dancing to help us understand the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) differences between the three types of dance.  As someone that studied tap dancing for twenty+ years, I appreciated this part because it helped me see the nuances.  It also rekindled my love of dance--my tap shoes sit in my closet right now with about 16 years worth of dust!

These were our awesome seats at the Oakdale Theater.

On Mother's Day, we had our traditional dinner at the historic Hopkins Inn.  It was too chilly to eat outside, but we had a lovely table in the parlor overlooking Lake Waramaug.  The food was delicious as usual, and I was grateful that the four of us could laugh and think about happier days ahead.  The truth is that these last few years had been tough on all of us--the loss of my mother-in-law and Aunty Kiki in 2020; my mom's fall in 2021, which broke her wrist and a vertebrae in her back; and my sister-in-law's move into our home all while undergoing Chemo treatments for breast cancer.  This is not to complain, of course, but it was good to lift some of the heaviness and begin again.  

Mother's Day - Lewie and my mom


Lewie's band concert...before Covid.

Truth be told, this blog post about spring 2022 almost didn't happen...  Who wants to read about the spring in mid-July?  Now I realize there was a reason for this post.  Spring is about "new beginnings," and this one definitely fits the bill.  It was a good pre-cursor to what's starting out as a great summer.  Stay tuned...I have so much to share about our week-long trip to Utah in June and some of the interesting STEM projects Little Lewie has been working on this year...

P.S.  Our dog Bruce made the news!  I sent a video of him slithering like a snake to our WFSB Channel 3 News, and they showed his video on their "Trending Now" morning news segment.  Here is the link: https://www.wfsb.com/video/2022/05/18/trending-now-bear-drags-trash-slithering-dog-backyard-rollercoaster/