Milestones Memories

Over the years, I have been there for all of my kids and the milestones they are meant to hit. There are so many important landmarks in life that it just feels right to be a part of each one.

As June quickly reaches an end, so does the school year. All three of our teenagers have hit important landmark events that I have been proud of. And as a parent, it’s always a good feeling to see how proud your kids are of each goal they have achieved.

Watching my memories on Facebook return each June with highlights of these moments hits the heartstrings a bit more than usual for me each day this week it seems. Especially for our oldest.

Reminiscing about each achievement our oldest hit over the years really stings me in my emotions. From a Preschool Graduation to a Grade 7 farewell Graduation to finishing Grade 12 during Covid lockdown… on each of these moments I was there for them and cheered with pride.

Until Tuesday this week. Our oldest had a convocation to receive a diploma for two years of post secondary at BCIT. I’m really proud of them, but for reasons- I did not attend this ceremony. It’s the first big moment I was not allowed to be at. Respectfully it was out of love that I did not attend. They requested that I would not be present at it. As an adult, I must respect their wishes- but it stings and they knew it would.

I will still continue to share my love for each of my children and their achievements. Even when I cannot be there in person. As a piece of my heart longs for the simplicity of a preschool graduation once more, I know that life gets complicated and can be messy.

Yet those milestone memories bring me joy, even if it hurts.

Darwin Did It!

Last night’s Graduation Ceremony was five hours long. Because it was a Fine Arts Graduation- it was run a bit differently than most. First the students were broken up by majors and called alphabetically by these. Dance, Drama, Music, Photography, Visual Arts, and finally- Writing (Darwin’s major). Between each category, the Grade 11’s for each of the majors put on a short performance as a thank you.

Darwin was one of the last to be called up to receive their diploma. Once all the pomp and circumstance was over- the kids got to mingle with friends, family and teachers in the lobby. I was taken aback by the amount of congratulations that were offered up to the parents as well. But looking back over the years- it’s kind of understandable. Like many parents- we’ve been through a lot as well!

Even though the ceremony is behind us, there is still more to come over the next week. A Grad Dinner and Dance, an After-Grad party and the final day of school. Then a summer of freedom (sort of…) to enjoy the last bit of youthful follies.

Again, my wife and I are extremely proud of our Straight A student. As a middle child, we know that they put more pressure on themselves even when we told them to take it easy. But the results are something that Darwin is proud of! And we couldn’t be happier.

Writing Show

Our middle child is graduating this year- which is already a big deal. Tonight, Darwin is preforming at the Photo and Writing Show at the Langley Fine Arts School. Darwin switched majors from music to writing last year. This was the first chance I have gotten to hear the musings out loud.

Darwin has a passion for the arts and is very methodical when it comes to creativity. Much like myself, Darwin loves to share stories and is pretty good at it. I am looking forward to seeing and hearing the two pieces which will be read aloud tonight.

As an art school- they often showcase very skilled work. From fantastic musical performances to stage shows, visual art and everything else that comes with the arts. All of these students have a great potential that has been unleashed over the years. I am glad that our kids have had the opportunity to join in and explore their creative sides.

Major Change In Arts

Our children have all been attending, or have attended, the Langley Fine Arts School. Each of them began in the music program. The choices at the younger ages (until grade ten) for picking an “art major” was limited to four choices. Drama, music, dance, visual art.

Over the years, the children were able to expand their horizons and interests. Our oldest went on into film. Our middle moved to writing after a stint at stop motion. And our youngest is wanting to change from music to photography. My wife and I have fully supported each child as they progressed into the newer fields. The best part is that the school also encourages the talented students to join the various after school music groups even if not in the major.

Our son has been working on photo manipulation and was really proud to share with me the following project.

The class was instructed to take an image and “paint” over it. They used computers to edit the image. Our son really enjoyed this assignment and as I said, was really proud of his results. And so are we.

I think it’s absolutely fantastic that he can explore various creative options; and that he likes to do it. Any time we can encourage our children to explore their passions, we will. So far, our kids have proven to us that changing their art majors has been beneficial to their growth. I hope for them to keep up with their hard work.

Final Few Months

As our middle child approaches the end of being in the public school system, I remember fondly everything that has gone on. My wife and I did our best to be there for every single performance that was put on. No matter the cost or inconvenience it may have on us. Each and every production showcased the growth and skills the kids had learned over the years.

Old photo of Darwin singing.

Last night was an orchestra performance celebrating the class of 2022. My wife was able to attend- unfortunately I was unable- and enjoy the show. Twelve or so years of learning, practicing, and recitals lead to a successful performance by all involved.

Having our kids attend a Fine Arts school really pushed their creativity and knowledge of the arts. As they enter adulthood, I know it be be a strong foundation for their lives moving forward. With only a few months left, I am excited to see this part of our child’s journey come to an end and the next one begin.

As always, I am a proud parent.

Office Supply Boredom

Work is a bit slow these days. It reminds me of a time a few years ago when I was working nights and it was equally slow. My boss and I decided to make some toys from office supplies.

Office Wars

The pencil crossbow was my favorite. I ended up making two of these and my boss and I did target practice at empty boxes. These things were quite powerful and a ton of fun.

Found on Reddit

We also made various animals from the large binder clips. The Scorpion one was the coolest by far. In fact my wife calls the clips “Scorpion Clips” now because of this.

Pretty sure these activities stem from a childhood of school boredom. At least the art has gotten better than just a few pencil holes stabbed in an eraser. Or using the protractor set to create a catapult.

Do you create using office or school supplies when bored? Let me know in the comments.

2

Woo-hoo!

With about 48 hours remaining until we are in our new home, I am hitting on the number 2 in my countdown.

In elementary school our classrooms were separated into Divisions. When I was in Grade 7- there were two classes. I was in Division 2. Our teacher had a sign that read “Second to none.” It was one of the things that always made me feel good about myself. That phrase of not being second best, but exuding confidence when you need it. Mr. Fallman was one of my favorite teachers ever.

As I have mentioned before, sometimes at work we use odd phrases. When counting out loud and giving directions over the radio, we are required to say it twice in order to confirm the instructions. I have a tendency to sound like Arnold Schwarzenegger when it come to the number two. Coupla. Tumor.

These past few days of last minute packing have been a Blur.

Woo-hoo!

“Song 2” by Blur was part of my soundtrack to the summer of 1997. Add in “Wannabe” by Spice Girls and “Mo’ money mo’ problems” by B.I.G. & Puff Daddy and you have the eclectic understanding of the start of my 20’s. A throwback to the loud music coming out of a couple of subwoofers in the back of my car. Loud music as I drove to and from my home. It’s something I still do to this day when driving alone.

All of the time, but I’m never sure why I need you.

With only two days to go, I’m working on the soundtrack to say goodbye to our home and hello to our next place. My playlist is growing with a hope to bring forth memories and energize our lives a bit more.

Practicum: One Year Done

Our oldest finished her practicum and received her feed back today. That means a year of post secondary school is now behind her. She is finally relaxed.

Ice Cream Cake

Tonight we picked up an ice cream cake to celebrate her first year behind her. Random deserves a treat after such a stressful few weeks getting her project completed.

Unfortunately there are no options for her to get in the workforce this summer. Covid has made it difficult for her to get some hands on experience. Hopefully after her second year she will get experience in her chosen field. In the meantime, she is excited to work for her boss at 1 Fish 2 Fish this summer.

What’s really neat is that for her practicum film project- she interviewed a coworker about working there. After getting feedback from her teacher, Random is going to edit the project and present it to her boss. I think that’s wonderful. Our daughter can combine her passion for film and fish into one.

I hope she continues to enjoy the career she is choosing to pursue. There will be plenty of opportunities coming up and she could be a very busy person.

Maki School Pick Up

Once in a while I’ll bring our dog to get the kids from school. I used to bring Lex, but he is elderly and frail that I worry about him traveling. Even if it is for a short distance.

Maki did a pretty good job hanging out in the very back on the way to the school. She popped her head up a few times, but mostly laid down. She did bark as we approached the school which shocked me. She tends to bark at other dogs.

Darwin was pleasantly surprised to see Maki in the car and quickly took her out to wander the field. Maki loved the new scents and grass, giving a good tug for Darwin to keep up.

The drive home was a little more chaotic. The kids put their stuff in the back on half the trunk space and folded one of the chairs down. Theory sat in the back and tried to keep her still, but I was getting dog breath in my face as I drove.

Maki only barked once randomly as we neared our home. It was a good little surprise for the two youngest seeing their dog greet them. I’m hoping to do it more often as the weather gets nicer.

Pretty sure Maki likes car rides.

Creatively Growing Up

Last night my daughter Interviewed me for a school project. She took painstaking measures to create the perfect lighting and backdrop. I took her direction as best I could without asking too many questions. I also did not offer any advice or “butt in” in any way.

It was tough to be a parent and just let her do it on her own. Like the first time your child walks to school alone or rides a two wheel bike without you holding the seat. You want to hold their hand, but the pride you feel when they have accomplished something on their own is far more gratifying.

I’m not going to lie, it was challenging for me to let her be creative and run the show. It was her project and her vision. In the end, she got the footage she desired and is off to the editing portion within the next week or so. Maybe she will let me see the final product. I promised her I wouldn’t critic it. No idea if she believes me. But I believe in her.

Forgotten Songs of My Teenage Years

This morning I spent a considerable amount of time putting together an eclectic playlist on Spotify. Find it Here. Creating this playlist sent me down a rabbit hole of nostalgia.

Many of the songs remind me of old friendships and fun times. Driving around town, sitting in my bedroom, even hanging out in class, buying albums through Columbia House, and overplayed songs on repeat. Using one headphone as you shared with a friend of the opposite sex and not hearing the stereo sound. But willing to sacrifice that for a chance to sit closer.

I still have many of my cds. But they are stored away in a steamer trunk as I don’t have a way to play them except in my car. And even then- using Bluetooth to play different playlists is the new normal. So much more convenient than the large booklets of cds we once carried around.

Enjoy the musical trip down my memory lane. A couple songs are NSFW but fun nonetheless.

Edit: An old friend asked to make this “Collaborative”. Anyone who knew me from my teenage years and can think of a song that reminds them of me- add away!

School Pictures

We almost missed that today was School Photos for two of our kids. My wife happened to read the email newsletter yesterday, so we did get a bit of advanced warning. You’d think that our 14 and 16 year old would have known.

My wife always has the final say in what outfit our kids wear for these things. Every time it’s something conservative and what you would call “Their Sunday Best”. The kids would go to school looking prim and proper. Only for us to see the pictures a couple of months later.

Yup, those smiles always look strained and forced. It’s still just kids being kids, so I cannot get angry. On the contrary- we never do reshoots, nor do we buy the $200 packages.

With cellphones and social media, I’m still trying to figure out why the hubbub about “Professional Photographers” still remains. Maybe it’s time to abandon them and let kids learn and have more candid shots taken instead. Like them opening a textbook or writing a test. I’d much rather see the kids in a more natural state than dolled up for a single photo.

A Day Devoted To My Teens

I spent the morning going for a drive with my oldest to her new school. It was a chance for her to practice driving on the freeway without much traffic. It also gave her an opportunity to figure out a course/the time and the distance for her commute. We had some good bonding time together.

Then we hit up IKEA to pick up a new desk for my son. He built his IKEA desk with my help. We laid out his room in a more functional manner. He wanted to change up his room to be more “teenage boy” instead of Star Wars themed. I told home we can paint the furniture black, but I had worked hard on the walls and refuse to paint over them. So he is stuck with just removing a few decals and living in a grey bedroom.

That meant giving the bunk beds to his 16 year old sister so she could put her stuffies on display. My wife discovered some bins in our son’s closet that had old costumes and toys from the much younger years. Our middle decided to wear one of them. She is becoming one with the toys…

It was a long day of growing up and pursuing the inevitable changes. But also a good chance to reflect and have some fun.

I Don’t Want To Miss It

The world for our children has been on pause for half a year. Any other year, they would’ve returned to school by today. They may only be sort of starting by the end of the week, but it clearly won’t be the same as it has in the past.

1st Day of School 2017

Today our oldest attended a virtual orientation. Tomorrow our middle goes to school for an information session about the new protocols and on Friday our youngest does the same. Every year, my wife likes to take a photo of the kids in our front yard getting psyched about the first day back.

Today, we didn’t do that for our oldest. She is in post-secondary school and is more adult than child. But I still want my wife to take photos of the other two. It’s a tradition I want to keep alive even in these uncertain times.

2011 Walking to school.

Did you still take first day of school pictures this year?

Grad 2020

Our oldest graduates from high school this year. Last week was supposed to be her graduation ceremony and tonight was meant to be her Grad Dinner and Dance. But alas, 2020 had other plans.

So tonight, we tried to make her Graduation something special. Everyone got dressed up and we headed out.

A short drive away, the outdoor mall had set up a backdrop that we took full advantage of. Our daughter willingly got up on the stage and had some photos taken with each of the members of the family in front of a Grad 2020 sign.

Afterwards we picked up some sushi from our favorite restaurant and brought it home. Our daughter ate a Sushi Boat to herself- A goal she tried to do a few years ago on her birthday. She succeed tonight! After dinner, she received some gifts from us and ice cream cake.

Then we streamed her graduation ceremony that was filmed a month ago. It was filmed with social distancing in place and edited together. Before we watched it on our big screen, we talked about all the years of school she has been through.

She made some memories over the years, as well as some great friends. I’m sad she didn’t have the same graduation ceremonies as those who came before her. As unfortunate as that may be, Grad 2020 will still be memorable in its own unique way.

This may have been said numerous times by numerous people, but it bears repeating:

To all those high schoolers who have had to endure similar nights like ours- you successes over the years should not be diminished by the fact that the world is struggling through a pandemic. Your resilience to overcome diversity, pandemics, or any number of worldwide challenges is proof that you are the future. A future that will bring us all closer together.

Congratulations Class of 2020!

Pre-Grad Photos

Today our oldest daughter sort of did her graduation ceremony. I say sort of because it happened without fanfare, just some video cameras and a few classmates.

The school had the art majors come in to be filmed as they crossed the stage. The larger groups of students were lined down the halls standing at markers. From there, only four went into the auditorium at a time. Then one would walk across the stage and pause in various spots as they were filmed and such. No audience. And only a handful of teachers. The rest of the world (family and friends) will see an edited version of the ceremonies June 17th- the original date of the Grad.

For the rest of the week, our daughter gets to hold onto her grad gown. My wife and I are planning on making the most of it and take a metric ton of photos. We already began tonight. We got lucky that our daughter has had the biggest smile all evening. Many of the photos were far more fun than I expected.

Today was a bittersweet day that’s for sure. It was already going to be bittersweet knowing that she has put in a lifetime of schooling that culminated to this final moment. We also drove up to her elementary school where she first entered the school system, just to get that photo.

Her smile was obviously genuine. And I did capture numerous other candid photos. But I cannot share them, she would be more embarrassed than she will be seeing this post. Even though I am totally a proud parent!

Wanna see pictures of my kid??

Calendar of Events

Our kids are doing the “at home school” stuff these days. These days they’re doing well keeping up with the assignments as well as joining their online classes.

Our kids are great at putting up their unique school schedule up on our calendar. The planning started off slow as the teachers and students tried to navigate this new world they are learning in. But now there is plenty of action going on. As well as emails and online learning at their own leisure.

This new process is working for our kids. Mostly. There’s a few snags, like making sure they are putting in 100% effort in the homework. Or lack of socializing with peers to discuss ideas. But this is uncharted territory for learning. It could become the new normal. And as a human race, we adapt and overcome.

Even though the days are passing by, and the kids have been stuck inside, our calendar is getting filled.

Back to…. School?

Okay. Self isolation is still happening in British Columbia. Easter Weekend has ended and the teachers at our school will be working on remote learning with the students. In our home, we have the “scheduled online class meetings” written on our calendar for each of our kids.

There are many different programs and apps that the teachers are planning to use in order to assist the kids get some form of education. It’s a crazy learning curve for everyone involved. Not just the teachers and students, but the parents who need to try and be a big part of this new adventure.

I for one don’t want to have a generation of stupid roaming the earth once the self isolation and quarantines are lifted. I want the students to still get an education. My wife and I are going to do our best to alleviate the strain on the teachers and our kids by being active in their learning. I’m not saying we haven’t been a part of their education, far from it. I’m saying that we are still having to evolve and learn with our kids.

Hopefully when all is said and done the kids will have learned something. Or perhaps they will have taught us something in the process. But for now, School’s Back In Session.

The Empty Halls Share A Voice

Tonight there is another meeting in regards to our oldest daughter’s future Dry Grad event. I arrived early at the school (I’m always early for everything) and wandered the halls. At 6:30pm on a Wednesday the halls aren’t as empty as you might expect.

The Langley Fine Arts School has numerous before and after school activities and classes. Our son in grade eight was at one of these classes called “The Mix” which has students from grades eight through twelve in it. They create in a variety of journalism styles. Our son is really excited to be a part of it.

Being a Fine Arts School, the walls are filled with inspirational quotes and imagery. The school also showcases the talents of the many students who have been through these halls. Stories and insight into the hearts and minds of these youngsters- encouraged by a school that sees their potential.

My wife and I have five more years of walking these halls. In the end we will have been going through these hallways for almost a decade. My years in high school were very different. I avoided the halls. Those halls held secrets- no sharing. I’m glad that our children are experiencing a better form of education than I had.

Exam Stress? Not if You Don’t Know About Them

What the heck. Taking exams is mentally exhausting. I’ve done two days of classroom studying so far. During those two days- we also wrote exams. Every test was sprung on us as well. I was mentally tired by the end of the day.

I suppose I should be ready for the next three days and expect to do three exams (or more like we did on day two). The stress of the exams is somewhat minimal so far since we don’t have time to prepare and freak out.

Not passing these tests is not an option. On the bright side it’s all open book. A lot of the information has been ingrained into my mind over the past dozen years. So I know the answers, but I need to put it in writing in a fashion similar to what our rule book states. That’s on the last day I believe. So far it is multiple choice and I’m feeling pretty confident with my skills.

You got this Joe!

The sauna and pool at the end of the day washes away the stress.

School Is Back In Session or How to Survive Re-Learning at Age 43

Every three years, I have to get re-certified as a conductor/switchman. The previous times I did it in my home town area of Vancouver. This time around my company sent me to Winnipeg. This is where the new centralized training center is located.

The CN Campus is huge and modern feeling. We have been treated to unlimited coffee and a cafeteria style lunch. The classroom portion itself is, basically, dry. When learning rules that are important for the safety and service of our industries- it’s difficult to make it entertaining.

At least after those eight hour days we get to go and leave it all behind us for the evening. My coworker and I headed back to the hotel where I enjoyed the pool and sauna while he hit the gym. The 21st floor of our hotel has the pool and views of the city. A few minutes in the hot tub and I was relaxed again.

On to day 2 of the classroom portion. Hopefully my swimsuit will be dry for another evening dip and relaxation afterwards.

First Day Of School- Sort Of

Yesterday was the first day of school. Only it was just one hour of school. Not really a “day” to speak of really. But the kids enjoyed seeing their friends and smelling the hallways once more.

My wife even took the obligatory “Seeing the kids off on the first day of school photo“. This year was of the car as it drove off. That’s because our oldest has her driver’s license and the other two are both in high school now. This meant we didn’t have to spend the “day” waiting for them. It’s bittersweet in a way. But for this year, my wife and I won’t have to spend 40 minutes in the morning and 40 minutes in the afternoon driving.

Huge sigh of relief.

Today is a real day of school. Now starts the hard work and education.

First Sunrise of Grade 12

Our oldest daughter is beginning her final year of high school today. As tradition with The Langley Fine Arts School, the Grade 12’s all got together nearby the school and watched the First Sunrise of Their Grade 12 Year.

My daughter came home about an hour afterwards with a big grin on her face and a pep in her step. She was happy to see all of her classmates and friends again. She told me that people shared stories of their travels and summer experiences. It sounded like everyone was hyper-energized this morning. I think they are all looking forward to the upcoming year.

And as with tradition, on the last “official” day of Grade 12- the students will get together and watch the Last Sunset of Their Grade 12 Year.

I wish them all the best for this final high school year! And may they enjoy the experiences that come with their friendships formed throughout these past few years.

Farewell Grade Seven

Last night was a celebration of the end of our son’s Grade Seven year. There was a couple slideshows. The first slideshow was a “Before and Now” where there was a picture of the kids from being babies/toddlers to present day. The kids had good laughs as they called out the names of the baby pictures.

Following the slideshow was an introduction of each child and a small blurb about favorite memories and future plans. The kids walked across the stage to shake hands with their teachers and vice principal, pausing for a photo op before returning to the audience. The only picture I was able to get of our son- he had his eyes closed. Of course.

After all the kids were introduced, the parents who chaperoned the camp where brought on stage. We were each given a handmade thank you card from the cabin group we were in charge of. This was followed up with a slideshow of the adventures from camp was shared. Pictures and videos were set to music expressing the adventures with a bit of sorrow as the realization that these kids aren’t going to be kids much longer.

After the “ceremony” we mingled amongst the parents enjoying snacks and sharing memories. There was some tears and laughs as the kids and parents hung out. It was a great evening that I was glad to attend and be a part of.

Supporting the Students

Today my son shared with me some of the school work he has been working on this year. It was a part of a “Student Lead Conference” that was going on today. I’m always thrilled to see what they’ve been learning. It’s even better because of our son’s enthusiasm.

He was keen to show me everything. From how clean his locker was to his poem and picture of a Blue Butterfly. We spoke of science, math and French as well. I also took the opportunity to speak with his teachers as well and heard nothing but encouragement. In fact, the one teacher was really excited to tell me which group of kids I was going to have in the cabin in June. (It’s a secret that I am not allowed to tell my son.)

I have always been a huge proponent of the education system of all students. In the front of the school is this mural that I helped to create and be a part of a few years ago. There was a set of meetings that brought the teachers, parents, and the community together to help develop our district.

Years later, I see how innovative and successful the students are becoming. And how they are willing to grow and learn in different ways. Knowing that our kids aren’t afraid to share what they are learning makes me happy. It’s a relationship that I want to encourage and have flourish over time.

Supporting our youth today will make for a better world tomorrow.