High school, over and over and over

According to the high school powers-that-be, monogramming is the newest fad. This makes me inexplicably happy. I do love a good monogram.

According to the high school powers-that-be, monogramming is the newest fad. This makes me inexplicably happy. I do love a good monogram.

Two nights ago Sterling, Rebecca, and I were up to 1:30 in the morning completing a meter-high roller coaster made of wood, rubber tubing, nails, hot glue, and a whole lot of naive hope. We could not, for the life of us, get that darn ball to stay on the track for both a vertical AND a horizontal loop. Also, per the requirements of her physics class, Becca had to build a mechanism to move the ball from the end spot, back up to the top. Every fifteen minutes or so one of us, in absolute frustration, would shout out, "This is a ridiculous assignment for a group of teenagers!" But then we just soldiered on because the project counted for two major grades. At one point I was chanting (mostly to myself), "Joneses don't quit. Joneses don't quit!"

Sure enough, as the new day rolled in, we persuaded that darn 3/4" ball to roll the entire length of the coaster, dizzying swirls and all. All on it's own the ball mounted a large wheel and then vigorously launched itself into a cone . . . starting the loop again. Sweet bliss.

I'm not convinced Becca learned a ton about physics, but hopefully she got the message that family pulls together, that perseverance pays off, and that her momma is quite handy with a glue gun.

Three roller coasters down, one to go. Help me.




Time to make the doughnuts

I try to keep an ongoing list of potential blog posts. I have an experience, or learn something, or see something interesting, and I jot down a few words to remind myself later. Here's my current list:

1. Nothing. Because my life is boring, and I have no personal insight.

So . . . that makes blog writing a bit tough.

But I'm a never-say-die gal, so I tried digging a little deeper -- really thinking about what's going on in my life now (and in the life of my teens). And I can say, definitively, that with Becca (who is 16) we are working on making doughnuts. And, unfortunately, those doughnuts are figurative. Sorry, no recipe folks. But let me be clear -- I am PASSIONATE about real-life, sugar-laden doughnuts.

Do you guys remember this commercial (from the olden days)?


Dunkin Donuts is waxing poetic about just how often they make fresh doughnuts. But the reality is that this poor guy is making doughnuts morning and night, in rain and snow. He's clearly tired, exhausted even -- but he has to push through and make those doughnuts.

When I was in high school, my sister and I left for an early morning seminary class each school day at around 5:45 AM. It was incredibly tiring and steady, and for some reason, as we stumbled to the car in the darkness of the early morning, we sympathized with that mythical doughnut man. We'd mumble "Time to make the doughnuts." And we'd sigh and then move along.

It's the "moving along" part that I'm working on with Becca.  It's the showing up, the stepping up, the complete commitment to do one's job -- everyday -- even when it's not convenient, or it's boring, or tiring that makes a difference. Because really, much of life is inconvenient, or boring, or tiring.

Right now Becca has a tough schedule. She leaves at 5:30 each morning for track practice. On top of school she has make up work for the seminary she is missing (while she is running track). On Thursdays (track meet days) and Fridays, she  gets up at 5 to go to seminary, even though she may have been at at school from 6 AM until 9 PM the day before. It's a lot, and honestly, she mostly sails right through. But there are times when she is tired and grumpy, and she has to make those doughnuts anyway. Sorry hon. The doughnuts are waiting.

I've always liked this quote by Benjamin N. Woodson: "For my part, I have concluded that the quality which sets one man apart from another -- the factor which lifts one man to every achievement to which he reasonably aspires while the other is caught in the slough of mediocrity for all the years of his life -- is not talent, nor formal education, nor luck, nor intellectual brilliance, but is rather the successful man's greater capacity for self-discipline."

Oh, self-discipline! You are a bitter task-master. But the fruits of your labors can be beautiful and bounteous. Becca came in third in the two-mile at her last track meet. She's "almost" caught up in seminary. We registered for her junior year classes tonight. And so, we just keep making the doughnuts. One foot in front of another. And, really, how lucky are we that there are doughnuts to be made as far as the eye can see?

On work & disappointment

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Both Becca (10th grade) and Parker (7th grade) decided to run cross country at school this year. Becca had run last year and knew what to expect, but this is Parker's maiden voyage. In preparation, I signed the kids up for a summer 'running camp' supervised by our local high school cross country coach. The camp meets every weekday morning in the summer (okay, they get the week of July 4th off). Every other weekday? Be there. 6:30 - 8 AM. I'm going to tell you that the combination of summery late nights and early morning running can be brutal.

But if you want to be a distance runner you've got to put in the miles. Right? 

Becca, in her estimable experience, pretty much gets this, although there was a fair amount of negotiating in the early hours of our summer mornings. "How about if I run by myself this afternoon?" 


How about if I stay home today and go tomorrow? 

Still no. 

This is not to say I didn't allow them the occasional day off. I'm human. I understand enough can be enough, but balancing commitment with mercy is extremely difficult. Mostly I just went with my gut.

By the end of the summer I was pretty pleased with running camp. The kids were in excellent shape -- well prepared for their Fall sport.  

Then I get an e-mail from Jordan (in France). She was giggling over an e-mail Parker had sent her. I can't find the exact e-mail at the moment, but it went something like this: "Dear Jordan. I hate this running camp with all of my heart. This was a huge mistake. I will never ever ever ever do this again. This has been a bust." 

The e-mail was half funny and half tragic. I wanted him to feel positive about all of the hard work he'd put in, and apparently that wasn't his vibe. His vibe was venom and spite. Hmmmmmm.  Not good.

But here's the good part. At his first cross country meet last week, Parker did pretty darn well. He came in 27th out of about 150 7th grade boys. Even better? He felt totally great about his performance. He thought it was fun and was anxious to improve his time. Being the know-it-all that I am, I certainly took the opportunity to point out to him that that he had reaped the rewards of his summer of work. He agreed! Score! What a lesson -- hard work pays off. Cue the white hat . . . Ta da!!!!

PJ XC web.jpg

But here's the rub: Becca has seen this any number of times. She and her teammates are at every early morning practice. They work hard. They put in the miles. And there is ALWAYS someone on the team who barely works out, skips the early mornings, and who also breezes through the meets -- placing in the top three (out of hundreds).

That's where things get complicated and sticky.  How can we teach our kids that hard work and commitment are important values? What happens when hard work does NOT equal success? What do we tell them when their very best just isn't good enough?

My approach has been to try to have a positive conversation about their effort -- what they've learned from working towards a goal. This includes pointing out how practicing discipline and honoring their commitments will help them in their future.  Interestingly, my kids are usually so invested that they have eagerly jumped on the 'what-did-I-get-out-of-this' bandwagon. Working hard isn't just about the outcome after all, it's also about what they learn along the way.

Secondly, I try to allow them the space to feel frustrated. As much as I want their lives to be continually rosy, I also feel it's important for them to learn how to deal with disappointment and imperfect situations. There does seem to be some process here: feeling hurt or frustrated, figuring out what they learned or what they need to improve on, and making a plan to move forward (and sometimes that includes renewed dedication).

I think there is also something to be said for avoiding blaming others for poor performances, whether that includes criticizing a coach or other players. AND I  want my kids to learn to be happy for their teammates' successes. That's one of the things I love about cross country -- so often those kids who come in first will stand by the finish line and cheer the other runners through those painful last strides. That's what I'm talking about -- competition and kindness all rolled together.

What about you? How do you help your kids deal with disappointment? 

Articles on 'when your kid doesn't make the team': found here and here.