Monday, May 16, 2011

College Bound

No I'm not heading back to college for another degree. Although, I've had a few thoughts about that lately and am toying with an idea. Shhh don't tell Doug.

This is about my baby boy. He will graduate from high school soon and I wanted to share the adventures and frustrations of his college search. In his junior year, he went to a couple of college showcase nights to get a feel for many colleges across our state and the U.S. Let me tell you those recruiters are everything. My son who knew nothing of Michigan State, decided after one of these showcases that it was at the top of the list (right behind our local state university) of possible colleges to attend. Up to this point he had maintained a dedicated desire to attend our local college (where his dad and I work). We use to laugh about him living in the dorm that can be viewed from our family room window. We figured that his dad and I could post signs advertising the dinner menu in our front window for him. We'd get him home with those signs!

So in the summer between his junior and senior year we began making college visits. We thought we would be right in the game of college planning. We soon found out that we were running to catch up in the race for college selections and scholarships. The whole family headed out in July to go to East Lansing, Michigan. Doug, T-man, Mimi, and I attended high school preview orientation. It was my first ever college preview for high school students.
I was quickly sold on Michigan State. The head of academic advising was phenomenal at making you believe that this was the place to be. Everyone was friendly and helpful and things ran so smoothly. If you ever have the chance to visit the campus, I highly recommend it. It is simply gorgeous with mature trees, green grass, and a river running through the middle of campus. Sparty is not too bad either. On the academic side they offered a very nurturing college within a college program for natural science majors. When we returned home T-man immediately applied to MSU.
As the summer came to a close T-man and Doug made a few day trips to some of our other state colleges. T-man applied to several of these schools as well. After each trip, I'd ask how he liked the college. He'd say, "It's good." Do you think you'd like going to school there? "Yes." Do you have a favorite? "No."

In family discussions as Doug and I tried to get a sense of what our son was interested in studying and in turn evolving into a career, besides science. We began to steer him towards engineering. T-man has a strong math and science aptitude, is a great tinkerer, and is good at creative problem solving. With his interest in this new focus, we began looking at engineering colleges.

At this point (early October) I was done with college visits. My impatience and need for control was being held in tight reign while think enough already make a decision! Instead we headed off to the University of Illinois. I like the U of I about as much as I like the University of Florida. But I was good, so very good. I constantly reminded myself that this phase of our lives was not about me but about my baby. Off to the U of I we trekked. The nuturing feel good vibes of MSU were definitely not at the U of I and their arrogance was quite clear. Yet as we toured the engineering quad, I could see my son's eyes lighting up. It was hard not to be enamored with all the state of the art tools and research labs. Even I was getting excited. The concrete machine that stress tested concrete was amazing. He was definitely feeling pulled towards the U of I.

Not wanting to limit T-man's engineering options, Doug and T-man headed to Purdue. I didn't go on this trip, as someone has to teach those kindergartners. When T-man came home with a Purdue sweatshirt and stars in his eyes, I knew he was sold. But there was one last college to visit.

On my school holiday we headed to Southern Illinois Edwardsville to check out their engineering program. I had heard that it was a lovely campus nestled in a small town. All of that was true. SIUE pulled at my heartstrings as it reminded me of the Georgia campus where Doug and I worked for many years. Unfortunately they were a bit disorganized with their orientation and seemed unable to handle the large crowd. I was ready to leave without finishing the preview. As they did have admissions advisors available my son and I sought them out to find out what was holding up his acceptance to this school. The advisor was very helpful and looked up his file. The missing information was located in another file and they admitted him on the spot and began handing him scholarship information, explaining in detail how to apply for these school scholarships. That lifted our spirits. We spent the day getting the full tour. The engineering college was nice but lacked that wow factor of the "big" schools.

Now, Mimi loved the school and declared that she is going to go to SIUE and major in engineering. (In the summer it was USF and a major in Spanish.) Luckily we have time, lots of time. Although time seems to move quickly around here. It seems like yesterday that T-man was running around the Citadel quad with a cadet silhouetted in his shadow and I had a teary moment thinking of my four year old growing into that cadet and heading off to college.The time had arrived when T-man began receiving acceptance letters to most of the schools for which he applied. I thought we'd have a big college acceptance unveiling in December once all the college acceptance letters were received. The big schools have one big early admittance mail/e-mail day in December. Unfortunately T-man was crushed when he did not get admitted to Purdue. We were all quite shocked and it put a pallor over our anticipated reveal. It's so hard to see your child so disappointed. There was a good lesson in this rejection for T-man and his sister. Test scores are wonderful but consistently strong grades and service are big factors as well for these highly desired schools. I also reminded him that he had to have faith in the fact that there is a reason beyond what we can see for his future. He could take solace in numerous acceptance letters to a variety of colleges and universities (MSU included) as well as two scholarships offers to two of the colleges.

For me, not being able to keep this disappointment from my baby's life was painful. Unfortunately it also meant that a college selection would probably be a long time in coming. Finally Doug and I set a "signing date" of April 1st for T-Man. For most schools May 1st is the college and university acceptance deadline. He kept Doug and I guessing till the very end. We figured that it would be Illinois State or Southern Illinois Edwardsville. Up till the last moments, I still felt like giving a nudge for MSU.

Where's the school of choice? Southern Illinois Edwardsville and an academic scholarship!!

Now it's the last days of school, graduation, and celebrations. Oh yeah, and summer jobs for all of us (except Mimi) to help with college expenses.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Photos and a Birthday

For my 40th birthday my mom had my brother make a DVD of family photos of me through the years. It was a wonderful surprise and a wonderful addition to my sparse collection of older family photos.One of my favorite photos (1968). Sister #2 is on the left and I am on the right.

When my brother's 40th birthday loomed near, my mother asked me to make a DVD for him. In my movie making novice, I was quite excited to continue the gift of a photographic timeline. I had previously used a software not really designed for movies to make some simple slideshows. I really wanted to pull out all the stops for my brother so I began looking for a Mac movie software and ended up with iMovie and iDVD.

I began scanning pictures my mom sent, used pictures from the DVD my brother made, and perused my albums for photos of my brother. Doug helped me with the music selection and my artistic fervor took over. I burned DVDs, made a CD of photos, and designed a lovely cover for the jacket of the DVD and CD case. I am often quite late when it comes to completing projects by a deadline. It's one of those flaws that I continue to struggle with. So I was thrilled to have completed my project before my brother's April birthday, I called my mom to tell her I'd send the DVDs and CDs to her so she could unveil the movie on my brother's birthday.

Spiderman and my brother (my brother is on the right.)

As you can imagine, my mom was quite happy and was a bit caught up in my excitement as I gave a detailed play by play of the arrangement of photos, music rejects and selections and how I mastered the trickier parts of the software to get the look and feel that I was striving for. When I finally paused and took a breath my mom said, "You do know that your brother's 40th birthday is next year and not this year." Somehow my mom, siblings, and nieces found this to be quite humorous and often remind me of this when I promise to do something for them.

So for some reason my mom, once again handed me a stack of photos and asked if I would make a DVD for my baby sister's (sister #3) 40th birthday. She started early and gave me photos quite awhile ago to scan. I began a desktop folder and went through my brother's photos, my photos, and the folder that I started for sister number 2 who is a year younger than me, looking for digital pictures of sister number 3. My mom would occasionally ask when we called each other if I had begun scanning the photos and I'd say no not yet.

I'd open my file cabinet drawer and see the stack of my sister's photos and think, I've got to get this project going. This spring one of my son's friends sent me an e-mail saying that he was going on a mission trip with his church and was interested in working for people to earn money for this trip. I thought with this young man's help I could quite possible get my sister's DVD finished during her birthday month of May.

The young man came over the day after Easter. I explained the task and gave him a quick demonstration of my scanner. He began work in earnest while conversing with my son. He put in a full day that included going out to lunch with my husband and son, playing XBox with my son (who introduced this young man to the concept of Hatch kid "breaks", and finally completed the stack of photos I gave him. Unfortunately I had another stack still in the file cabinet and he mysteriously hasn't come back to scan more photos.

After my young worker left, I looked through the scanned photos. I laughed and I cried as I looked over all those old pictures. My baby sister is five years younger than me and she is the only one that I remember coming home from the hospital. Our neighbor from across the street stayed with us while my dad was at the hospital with my mom. I remember waiting by the window as our white station wagon pulled into the driveway with my dad, mom, and baby sister.
My sister was and is adorable. She was the only one of us to have curly hair. How I wished for curly hair. She also has a dimple in her cheek and of the four of us kids she is the nicest and sweetest one.
My sister's first day home. Me, my brother, my sister, and my mom.

I remember that we had a big white wicker bassinet in the family room and we would put my sister there. I guess she had a crib too but I don't remember one. I loved looking at her. I think she morphed over night from a newborn to a toddler that went everywhere we went. When you are the youngest you get dragged everywhere. For the first four years of life she shared a room with our brother and slept on the bottom bunk.
The only picture of my sister pouting.

In looking at pictures of her, I realized that I don't remember much of her teen years. Was I there when she was Confirmed? Who are her friends in those pictures? Was I at her high school graduation? For years I wondered about that picture on the USF campus. My sister and dad are the only ones in our family that did not graduate from USF so why is she in cap and gown in front of the Sun Dome. As we girl siblings tend to look alike at various stages in our lives, I thought that maybe it was sister number 2. No, I was sure that it was my youngest sister. Just recently I realized that it was her high school graduation picture. The Catholic high school that we all attended held the graduation ceremonies at USF. She is also the smart one who applied her smarts to her studies. She was the only one to get a full academic scholarship to college.

What I do remember is going to a few track meets, seeing her perform when she was the college mascot, and her college graduation. I remember the day my mom called me to tell me my sister had been hit by a car walking across the street from school.

I remember the day my brother called me at work because he and my sister were playing "chicken" on their bikes and neither one chickened out. My sister ended up the worse for wear as she landed on the ketchup bottle that they had ridden to the store to get. My sister was covered in "blood" and a neighbor scooped her up from the street and put her in their bathtub to clean her legs and assess the injuries. Most of the blood was ketchup and she ended up with cuts and bruises. My parents and other sister were gone for the day (in the days before cell phones) and since I was at work with phone access I got the call. I rushed home terrified and on the verge of hysteria to hear this chicken story. Between the heavy accented Spanish speaking neighbor, my brother's versions, and my sister's version I finally pieced the story together. I wish I had a picture of that day.

In spite of her crazy siblings, my sister has turned out quite well. She's still super kind and brilliant, has had two very different careers, has a dry witty since of humor (thanks to her siblings), has some wonderful pets, is very independent, and loves her nieces and nephews.
My sister and I at my brother's wedding.

My sister with our oldest niece.

Her great vehicle purchases have been perfect for outdoor photo opportunities. The nieces and nephews love her trucks.

So I called last week to tell my mom I finished scanning the photos of my sister and I thought I could get my sister's movie made by the end of the month. My mom said, "That's nice. You do realizes that your sister will be 41 next week." I'm thinking the movie can wait till summer and sister #2 can get her belated DVD as well.