Here are the big events that happened in our household over the past twelve months (details to follow). To paraphrase Nigel Tufnel, this one goes to eleven:
- We bought a house
- Sofia returned from a year of service in Panama
- I got my CTE teaching certificate
- Alex went to Boy Scout SeaBase in the Virgin Islands AND summer camp in Georgia. Bella went to girl scout camp.
- I taught three completely new classes
- Sofia started college
- Bella started middle school
- Alex started high school
- Alex's marching band won the state championship
- Cristina started her Jin Shin Jyutsu practice
- We adopted a dog
1. We bought a house. We found the house around new year's twelve months ago. Only six streets down from where we had been renting, the size was an upgrade, the price was great (it was a foreclosure), but our finances would not be in order until March. We feared it would not last that long. Our excellent Realtor Nancy Turbyfill helped us make an offer and worked with the seller and our lending agent to make the dates work. I'll spare you the boring details. The short of it is that Nancy and Sue are experts and nailed it. We closed in mid-March. Our rental lease was through July, so we had a few months of crossover where we could work on the new house while living at the rental.
My parents came down from North Carolina and helped out over Spring Break. Family helped out in many ways, from Cristina's brother Ramon digging a French drain, to mother-in-law Jarue plastering walls, to my dad helping tear out the old kitchen, to my mom making meals and tending to Bella, to sister-in-law Elena scraping up old linoleum and tearing out old carpet, to father-in-law Ramon installing new ceiling fans, to step-mother-in-law Mariela painting walls. We were also blessed with tons of generous help from our handywoman friend Stacy, whose elbow grease and expertise helped us get so much more done than we could have alone.
Cristina and I designed a new kitchen with IKEA's kitchen planner software, and installed the new kitchen ourselves. Our neighbor and friend (and excellent carpenter) Rich was a great help with the kitchen. He also made us curtain rod holders for every window in the house.
Those four months of March through June are a blur now. One big sweat-soaked, aching, expensive blur! But also exciting and gratifying.
Our landlord was able to find a new renter early, so we got out of our lease in mid-June. So grateful to be a homeowner again.
2. Sofia returned from a year of service in Panama. It wasn't too hard to have Sofia so far away for nine months, thanks to Skype and Facebook. But I'll admit, once we got to April, I was counting the days till her return. I love the maturity she gained from her year in Panama, as well as the Spanish, the friendships, and spiritual growth. It made the prospect of college feel so much easier, on so many levels.
3. I got my CTE teaching certificate. How to sum this up without taking too long. Perhaps like a play. The cast of characters:
Me - English and yearbook teacher at GHS
Tony - computer and video production teacher; I worked with Tony when I taught TV Production at GHS, and he kept me abreast of the program's evolution while I lived in Phoenix for six years
Carolyn - computer teacher, nearing retirement, shares building with Tony
David - principal of GHS
Egghead - Rick Scott, Governor of Florida
Act I begins in the parking lot behind Lucky's supermarket, during a bomb scare evacuation. Fall 2014.
Tony: You know, the only good thing Egghead has done is change the CTE (vocational) program to pay schools when kids earn industry certification. My kids earned $17,000 last year for my program.
Me: Whoa! I could train my students in Adobe InDesign, use it to make the yearbook, and earn money for my program by students passing the InDesign exam.
Tony: Yeah! But you'd have to get CTE certified.
Me: Hmm. Yeah. Not sure how to do that.
Tony: Carolyn has talked about retiring soon. Maybe you could take over her classes! Do it! Do it!
Act II: March 2015.
Word on the street confirms that Carolyn is indeed retiring at the end of the 14-15 school year. Wayne sends an email to Principal David, expressing interest in the position.
David: You'd have to have a CTE certificate, and to be honest with you, there are a few others who have expressed interest.
Act III: May 2015, the last week of the school year. Work on the new house has been all-consuming and the conundrum of how to get a completely new certificate has slipped to the bottom of the priority list. One afternoon, David calls out while Wayne passes by David's office.
David: You still interested in teaching Carolyn's classes?
Me: Yes sir!
David: Get certified. Soon. And I'll give you those classes.
Wayne scurries off to a computer, contacts the district certification specialist, and schedules the certification exam for June 18. He downloads the study guide off the internet, where it gets ignored for the next two weeks while moving from rental to new house commences.
Act IV: We have to be completely out of the rental house by June 20.Wayne pays someone to help Cristina clean the rental all day on June 17 while he studies at the library. Wayne passes the test on June 18. Pays Tallahassee fee for CTE (business education, to be exact) certificate.
(End of Scene)
4. Alex went to Boy Scout SeaBase in the Virgin Islands AND summer camp in Georgia. Bella went to girl scout camp. After two summers of not going to any summer camps (because of our cross-country road trip in 2013 and our European trip in 2014) Alex made up for it by not only going to summer camp at Camp Woodruff in Georgia, but also sailing on a yacht with the Scouts in the Virgin Islands. He sailed, he snorkled, he got chased by a barricuda. Memories of a lifetime! Through lots of hard work, he advanced several ranks over the course of 2015.
Bella earned a scholarship to summer camp from selling cookies. Though she is still working on getting over separation anxiety, she toughed it out and spent a week at Kamp Kateri. And had a good time.
5. I taught three completely new classes. As if moving houses wasn't enough, I also moved classrooms. Only fellow teachers will understand the daunting task of moving classrooms, especially after teaching for 19 years. In August, in addition to two classes of Yearbook (60 yearbook kids! I'd never had more than 25 before) I had two Digital Design classes (teaching Adobe software) and CCC (computing for college and career). Before Labor Day, I was asked to pick up a 6th period of English. So not only was I teaching lots of new things, but I no longer had a planning period. The extra money is useful, though, with all the debts from the new house.
6. Sofia started college. She got accepted to New College of Florida in Sarasota before she graduated high school, and they were willing to defer her registration for a year while she served in Panama. Cristina and I drove her down, helped her get moved in, met her roomates, and she was off to the races. After successfully finishing her first semester at New, she loves it!
7. Bella started middle school. Middle school. That's huge. In fact, all three kids started new schools this year. Bella got into the gifted/technology magnet program at Howard Bishop (where Cristina went for 8th grade). Thanks to playing the flute for two years at Expressions, she got into concert band (instead of beginning band). She got some flute training at Bishop's band camp from Ms. Sickon, who is the assistant band director at GHS. They formed a nice connection. We hope that Mary Ann will not retire before Bella gets to GHS.
8. Alex started high school. For the second time, I drove to the first day of work with one of my children. I consider it a nice perk to be at the same school as my kids, not because I want to spy on their high school lives, but because I like spending time with them in the car, and at lunch. Even if it's just a quick hello while they're grabbing their lunch from the fridge. Not only is Alex familiar with GHS from four years of his sister attending, but he's been around this campus since he was born. In fact, now that I'm back in the bulding with Tony, who has the classroom I taught TV Production in, there's even more of a history. One day I reminded Alex that once, when he was little, he was running on top of the tables in (now) Tony's room, fell off, and hit his head on the floor. We spent about 6 hours in the ER for that. Yep, lots of history.
Of course, also like Sofia, Alex started the school year with a group of friends already in place, having attended both band camps during the summer. Which leads us to the next big thing:
9. Alex's marching band won the state championship. The season went well, to say the least. The show looked like a winner from the beginning, and each competition revealed the strength of their show. Still, given the competition at State, we weren't expecting to win first place. It was an amazing night. Even if Alex doesn't win State again the rest of his high school career, he will always have that feeling, that memory, as Sofia does.
10. Cristina started her Jin Shin Jyutsu practice. I consider myself a very supportive husband. But sometimes we need a different kind of support to finally urge us to do something new and daring. Cristina found a friend and mentor, Adrienne, who gave her not only the encouragement she needed, but the business expertise and support to make her practice a reality. Our new house has a bonus room that we intended on making into a practice room for Cristina's business, but when the school year got into full swing, the unpacking/decluttering/rehab on that room got delayed. A great deal on a practice space at a local massage office came open, and she took it. I helped her make business cards and gift certificates, some friends have given her some business to get going, and because she's smart, she picks up substitute teaching jobs to make sure she can pay the rent on the practice space. She just started in November, but I'm so happy she's gotten it going. Big step.
11. We adopted a dog. It's been almost three years since Vivi died. We definitely weren't ready for a new dog for a while. Well, Bella was ready, but the rest of us weren't. We needed to get out of the rental. That finally happened. We needed to get settled in the new place. That has more or less happened. Cristina needed to get her practice started. Done. So here we are. After hearing about Paws on Parole, a program where shelter dogs are trained by prison inmates before being adopted, we knew we wanted to go that route for our next dog. Bella and I attended the Paws on Parole academies starting in summer, but it wasn't till December that Cristina and Alex were willing to get on board. Maz, an Anatolian Shepherd mix, is almost done with her training and we bring her home on January 8, after she graduated from the academy. We're all looking forward to this new addition to the family!
This has been a long post, but it's packed with so much that in some ways it feels very brief and rushed. And it is woefully devoid of photos. I have not been a good blogger. But this year has been so big, too big for a facebook status. I knew I had to blog. In about 45 minutes, it will be 2016. I look forward to seeing what big things will make up our lives during the next 12 months.