Wednesday, March 4, 2009

We Are The Champions, My Friends (sing it like Queen or it sounds like John McCain)

I am having what is for me, a very laid back week. I wish I could enjoy it more. Not my nature, though. I thought I would enjoy it. I was looking terribly forward to enjoying it, but now that it is here I'm just hanging out going, "Hmmm....NOW what do I do?" I think that if I had another week to relax it would be better. It takes me a full week to adjust to not having so much to do and get rid of the jitters and the constant feeling that I should be doing something. But just about the time that happens, I'll be back to full-blown frenzy (otherwise known as my daily grind).

So what gives with the lazy week? I'll tell you what gives. NO FREAKIN' ODYSSEY OF THE MIND that's what!! That's right. On Monday 19 children did NOT come to my house and turn it upside down. Tomorrow (Thursday)? Again - no 19 children coming over to plug hot glue guns into every conceivable available outlet. If I were a better person I would not act so happy about it. Because I love these kids. I truly do. And I can't wait to tell you how they did (that will come next when I'm done whining), but I'm truly not gonna miss them this week. If it weren't for the fact that 3 of them live here, I would be "outta sight, outta mind". Of course, this laid back week of mine still includes things like piano lessons, dance lessons, co-op, etc....but Odyssey was truly the straw that threatened to break the camel's back.

What in the world am I talking about, you ask? Well, you are busted. Because I explained all of this on my Social Skills blog over at So, I'm not going to go into all of that. But let me just say that the Renatra Fusca award is the biggest award given by Odyssey of the Mind. It is rarely awarded at our Regional Tournament (I've never seen it happen, nor have I spoken with anyone who has seen it happen). The Renatra Fusca (which is actually the Latin term for a certain kind of bug, I understand) is awarded only when the judges feel they have seen an example of extreme creativity, beyond what they would expect to see. So yeah. Major league coolness.
Now I'm going to tell you what makes this all so sweet. This is the perfect underdog story. Really. I'm already thinking about who should play me in the movie. Wow. I'm really thinking about it. Now I'm thinking about it to the point that it is all I can think about. Who would they get to play me in the movie? Probably someone I would not approve of. Probably someone middle-aged and p-l-a-i-n. Not because I am plain, mind you (and we'll just gloss over the middle-aged part, here). They would need someone plain because this is an underdog movie. But it would need to be a sexy plain person. Is that an oxymoron? Oh!! I know! They would get Patricia Arquette. I love her. She is very sexy and pretty but not hollywood pretty. She is short, busty, not freakishly thin. Her teeth are imperfect. Bingo. Patricia Arquette it is. Plus she is psychic which is cool. Oh, never mind. She just plays one on tv. Well, nobody's perfect.

Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yeah. The win was totally awesomely amazingly sweet. Odyssey of the Mind is a creative problem solving competition. Mostly schools compete. At our tournament it is all public schools (maybe a private school or two thrown in) and a Boys and Girls Club. And us. The homeschoolers.
My team has been working on their problem for about five months. They are allowed no outside assistance. None. Whatsoever. They have to understand their problem and present their solution in the way of a skit. They design and build their own props, sets, and costumes. They write their own script. It is a hard process to watch, believe me.
My team is made up of Joel and Jules and five friends. Camille's team also met here (she was on a primary team that isn't ranked but does receive scores and they were adorable and did very well and were adorable and terribly cute and adorable). Back to my team. This team has had its challenges. They almost quit at one point. But they kept going and in the end I was like, "Wow. They have a really good solution."
So we show up at the tournament in Taylor, Texas. It had been 90 degrees the day before so we had brought no jackets. A Texas cold front blew through, dropping temperatures with gusts that were blowing so hard I could barely walk a straight line. I'm totally serious. What a day to carry large props that are held together with hot glue through a parking lot! Jules' beard immediately took off across the parking lot and he took off after it. The beard is made out of typing paper with fluff glued onto it. We had brought a) paper b) glue c) fluff. So I'm screaming,"Let it go!" but he is not that kind of kid. It was one of those deals where the beard would land and temptingly sit there until Jules caught up with it and then it would take off again. We stopped traffic. All the cars were terrified to move because there was this crazy, spastic, kid chasing something white and fluffy in and out of all of the cars with his mom (me) screaming at him. Finally, the thing came to rest in front of a stopped car and Jules took a full-body dive from five feet away and landed on it with a loud "Uuggh". He grinned. He stood. He stuck on his beard like nothing had happened and headed into the school cafeteria, oblivious to the fact that he had just paralyzed the entire world for about 2 1/2 minutes.
One of the kids' props was covered with over 4,000 cotton balls, a good many of which are probably still airborne.

About my team's props. They are mostly boxes with stuff like cotton balls and hay glued on them. Their required 2-person costume is a radish that doesn't look like a radish for various reasons I'll not go into here. And they had paint cans. Now, without giving too much away (because we've still got one more tournament to get through and there could be spies visiting my blog) let me just say that they use all of these props (which include some very realistic looking cow patties - not the hamburger patties - the MANURE patties) to transform one scene (a barn) into another scene (a paint shop).

So, back to our dramatic entrance. We literally blow through the doors surrounded by a tornado of cotton balls and straw to see a school cafeteria full of props that look like they could be on a Broadway stage. There was a haunted house that looked like a Disney scene. There was a 2-person unicorn walking around. There was one character who looked like two people doing a cartwheel together (I know, that one is hard to explain). The props and sets were huge. My little gang carried their boxes and cotton balls over to the nearest outlet (hot glue guns) and started repairing the damage the wind had done to their props. At this point, they were laughing and goofing off and cracking up at their props because DUH they have eyes and had seen the competition. And the competition had seen them, too. And it was smirking. Or at least I thought it was. That part could have been in my imagination. But in the movie? There will be major smirking on the part of the competition.

Joel's costume consisted of jeans, a black shirt with a green peace sign, and a straw hat and beard. Oh, and a red satin cape because he wanted to wear a cape. Because capes are cool. Jules wore jeans that were way too short (like he always does) only he hiked them up so that the waistband was like under his chin because he thought that was funny (it was). He had made suspenders out of belts. Beneath the radish costume worn by Alyssa and Evelyn - a pair of black hi-tops and a pair of crocs. Basically your normal street clothes.
So the kids do their skit for the judges and they did some improv (I never knew what was going to come out of my boys' mouths) and Joel laughed through the entire thing because he is his own biggest fan. His character was judged on humor and if you were going by Joel's reaction to himself, he was hilarious. Apparently the judges thought so, too, because he scored 13.33 out of 15 on humor. They did a good job. They didn't think they'd win and they didn't really care. But in the back of my mind there was a little tiny voice going, "I think they did REALLY good and they might place high enough to go on to the next tournament..."
After presenting their long-term solution they went into Spontaneous, which is where they're given a problem to solve on the spot. They're judged on their solution and their teamwork. They came out saying they had done okay.
Well, my friends (sorry - McCain left a permanent imprint on my speech) at the Awards Ceremony the announcer said they had a Renatra Fusca to give out. This is rare at Regionals so everyone became really quiet. We heard, "A sheep made out of over 4,000 cotton balls....." and that is pretty much all I heard because fellow OM mom (and my BCF) was screaming so loud. Little Jules said, "Oh no! Someone stole our idea!" He actually thought it was more likely that someone else at the competition had a sheep made out of 4,000 cotton balls than it was for his team to have won the Renatra Fusca. Anyway, they all went up onto the stage to collect their award. Joel said there were 4 people screaming. That would be me, Wendy, Karen and a friend from the Boys and Girls Club. Might I add here that we 3 mothers clapped and cheered throughout the awards ceremony, for everyone, yet when our kids won it was eerily quiet? It seems the schools go crazy clapping for themselves but they don't clap for anyone else. Annoying.
Anyway, a Renatra Fusca team automatically progresses to the next level (in this case, a State Tournament), regardless of how they placed. The top 3 teams go on to the State Tournament. Even though the kids had won the Renatra, we still weren't sure they had placed in the top 3. We heard the 3rd place winners, the 2nd place winners, and then a little part of me went, "What if....." and then YES! San Antonio HERO (that's us!) came in as the 1st place winners! Our little team claimed first place in all three categories, which are Long-Term Solution, Spontaneous Solution, and Style. So no fluke, folks. They won.
It was so sweet. Sweet because these are awesome kids. Sweet because a lot of them have a few challenges. Sweet because several of them operate inside the shadows of older over-achieving siblings (who have gone to the World Tournament twice). Sweet because, even though there is no outside assistance allowed, some of the other teams definitely get it. Sweet because they truly didn't think they had a chance of even placing and then they were honored with the biggest award given by Odyssey of the Mind. The award that makes everyone go, "Wow."
See? Won't that make a great movie? Patricia Arquette should practice getting into character. Because it is going to take some real skill to play the Sardine Mama, coach of the famous Renatra Fusca-winning team......
Sardine Mama


  1. Okay, so thanks for the Renatra Fusca explanation.

    Going back to reading now.

  2. finished reading.
    and yes, that? is. sweet.

    and my word is teeffort.

    team effort.

  3. this is so exciting! kudos to your team, Ms. Carol!!! i'm so happy for them.
    and it's awesome that they placed first in all 3 categories! wow
    congrats!!!! :D

    word: geadowni
    .... get down? eee? ha

    ok and this is just wrong.... pormo

  4. Thanks Pamela and Juliana! Pamela - are you gonna have that baby or what? When are you due?
    My word is clierses. Which sounds like the plural form of something you'd hear in health class or sex ed. An STD maybe? Or (gulp) gentalia? Hmmmm....I DO NOT believe these are random. There is a method to the madness of verification words.....

  5. Skye here, from BlogHerAds. Please email me as soon as you get a chance, thanks!

    skye at blogher dot com

  6. That is awesome!!! Congratulations to everyone! I love that story.

  7. Now wasn't that worth 19 kids with hot-glue guns?

  8. aaahhh! I'm still mentally flipping out! They won...everything! It's unbelievable! And I never thought of us as "over-shadowing, over-achieving older siblings" but I guess it is true...

    You're right, it would make an awesome movie! With cameos of the actual team as "competition", smirking at their movie-version selves. You know, like how Stan Lee is in all the Marvel movies.

    As for the title of the post... that song came to mind as soon as they came home on Saturday and told us! It was stuck in my head all weekend. :-D

  9. How fantastic, Congratulations!!!! Excited for all of you. Hello to all of you.

  10. I have just found your blog and loving your writing style. I was glued to my screen reading this story. Thanks for a great blog, I'm sure I'll be back regularly!

  11. Thanks for posting your story. I enjoyed reading it! As a father of a kid who has been in Odyssey of the Mind competitions for the last 11 consecutive years (that's right - 11 years) and our team has been to the world finals 3 times previously, they had never won a Ranatra Fusca until this year. It is a huge honor. Our team has placed in the top 20 in the world for each of the last three years, once placing 3rd. We are going again this year, having placed 1st in both regional and in the state finals, but for our kids, being awarded a Ranatra Fusca at the state finals this year was the highest honor they have ever received. Congratulations to your team and to you!!!!! No one who hasn't witnessed it can appreciate the formation of a creative coherent solution from the weeks of chaos at the beginning. Seeing them work as a team and pull it all together is an awesome thing.