Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Awards and Cupcakes and Vibrating Light Sabers

Thanks, Mami De Paz! I have been given the Sisterhood Award by my friend, Janet. OK - so she gave out a whole bunch of 'em. But I'll take mine happily! Here is what she had to say about me:

"my parenting/homeschooling mentor, carol, deserves the first award. thank you for being you & loving your children so transparently. i look up to you & hope to have you as a resource in homeschooling."

I'm not sure that I am all that much of a resource in homeschooling - and I often love my children rather murkily :) but I will take whatever crumbs of compliments I can gather. So thank you!

Janet is an inspiration to me and I look up to her, as well. She is always on an active search of self/spirituality/meaning of life and she likes to explore these issues through both the day to day and moment to moment activities of her life, but also through much conversation and discussion. She is always asking questions that make you go..."hmmmm....". They are often humdingers :). If you're interested in natural family living and minimalist philosophy...she is your girl. She is also currently enrolled in seminary classes if that melts your butter.

When I think about who to give this award to I am amazed at the mix of people I know, love, and respect. I don't mind revealing that I am Awnalwinsdtssta (Agnostic With New Age Leanings When I'm Not Sliding Down The Slippery Slope Toward Atheism). I simply don't believe in a god the way that most people with religious convictions do. Yet, when I look at my friends, I realize that many of my friends are religious - all have something to teach me - and none of them have attempted to assume it is religion. People who make this assumption do not stay in the friend category for long.

Although I'll never buy into religion again (never really bought it to begin with - just tried to join a club I had no business joining) - I can see that the Universe does indeed seem to know what she is doing. People come across my path with messages - almost always exactly when they're needed. Occasionally they are spiritual in nature, often they are simply practical. So it seems that there is some order to things. It seems that there is purpose. And to that much I will admit.

Anyway, I'm supposed to give this Sisterhood Award to other bloggers. And so I will. And they are all women who have brought me messages, who have something to teach me, and who have earned my friendship.

In no particular order, here we go:

Grilled Cheese Chick over at Shaggy Boys is a true inspiration to me. She is everything I want to be and fail to be. Whatever lip service I pay to causes and ideals, she lives out fully. She has some great boys....she's also a seminary student....and is a great eclectic homeschooler who has seen it through to the end with one boy off at UT (and two still at home). I am blessed to say we are friends.

Nine (+) Texans is a pal of mine who warrants your attention because she has 8 KIDS! So yeah, it is fun to check in on her now and then and monitor her sanity level - which fluctuates daily. She is also my BCF (Best Conservative Friend). She has a Sarah Palin sticker and EVERYTHING. Crazy, I know. But we are die-hard friends.

Michismusings is a dear friend who always knows just the right words to express the vulnerabilities and simultaneous joys I experience in motherhood. She has also provided my daughters with beautiful best friends...how great is that?

Pamela over at the Dayton Time deserves an award because she just popped out a baby. And she is funny. She has guest bloggers this month at her popular site while she recuperates and is waited on hand and foot and stuff. Anyway, Pamela just makes me laugh. I like laughing. So I like Pamela.

Visit my friend, Amy, on The Journey. She is a fellow writer who has much to teach me, I'm sure. I am just beginning my venture into fiction. She's also a mommy and homeschooler.

I was supposed to give the award out to ten people but am getting bored with the whole thing. So five it is. Ladies, if you receive an award you're supposed to pass it along (duh) and link back to me :).

Now for some fun! Yesterday was Jasper's birthday.

Here is a picture diary of the event, which began rather early with the proclamation "I AM FIVE!" Nobody, but nobody, can miss the opening of the birthday presents - so all sibs were called to the family bed to bear witness to the ripping of paper...Did I mention it was early?

Later on some local members of the Witness Protection Program stopped by.

Upon receiving his official birthday cupcake, Jasper agreed to not touch it until I could locate and provide the obligatory birthday candle. But SOMEBODY (and I'm not saying who) apparently didn't hear this agreement because when I returned with the candle this was all that was left of the cupcake. No worries. It held the candle just fine.

No more birthdays for almost two weeks!
Sardine Mama

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Return to Normalcy...Possibly...Maybe...Soon

Hey! Long time no see.
We have been a whirlwind of human frenzy/activity over here.
First for some shameless bragging. Ellie had her concert debut (at the ripe old age of 16) as a soloist with the San Antonio Symphony! She is now officially a concert pianist :). William Wolfram, a world-renowned concert pianist, attended her rehearsal at the Majestic. She talked to him like a pro - didn't even ask for his autograph. He was in town to do a concert. Ellie's performance went very well - she had a curtain call and received a standing ovation. This followed a week of publicity that had included a really big interview with the San Antonio Express News. Here is her publicity photo.
Ellie worked with resident conductor, Ken-David Masur, the week before the performance. Very nice and talented guy. He met with her at the Majestic to go over the score. Ellie had never played with an orchestra, before.

And here is a pic of her with Maestro Masur on the left, and her teacher, Kenneth Thompson, on the right. Both Kens are really tall. In the lower right hand corner is a blurry spot I call the lurking Majestic ghost. The little room they are in is the room where performers wait to go on stage - a very nervous energy kind of room. To me, this is exactly where a ghost would hang out. For the record - Ellie says it is a bit of glare. Poo on that. I knows a ghost when I see one.

On Sunday was the big event. In the audience were many relatives. After the performance, they descended. Here is Ellie being hugged by aunts and cousins, etc.

And here is just a bit of our family in attendance.

And here is Ellie with her best friends - otherwise known as The Best Fan Club Ever.

All in all - awesome experience and Ellie is still reeling. No rest for the weary, though. The very next day Ellie hosted a letter-writing party to write letters to Congressmen about the increasing violence and ongoing genocide in Darfur, Sudan. Quite a somber operation and the teens took it very seriously.

However, they were not without their moments of light-heartedness.

If you look in the background, you will see that while all of this was going on, the boys' Odyssey of the Mind team was rehearsing for their State Tournament. Our house is often a hysterical flurry of activity and the past week was certainly no exception.

Shall we brag some more? I think we shall! The boys had their state Odyssey tournament this weekend. So we once again dragged the giant radish, sheep and cow patties to Houston. Great time was had by all - the boys' team came in 6th (good showing).

Ten minutes before the boys' team went on stage Joel says, "Oh no! I forgot my bling!" You see, there is a part in their skit where Joel, who is dressed as a farmer with a ZZ Top beard, ends up with a load of cash due to a really long and involved plot that is somewhat difficult to follow. Which he uses to buy himself some bling. So at one point, while his brother distracts the judges by singing a song he wrote himself called "Boring Elevator Music", Joel turns his back to the judges to throw on some bling. Only the bling was on our coffee table. So he and his team mates threw themselves into true Odyssey form and sat down in the hallway outside of the auditorium and used materials on hand to make bling. They used foil and made some very impressive stuff - which turned out to work quite nicely. Here they are working in a state of calm panic on their new bling, with the clock ticking away and the monitor waiting to take them to their pre-staging area....
We returned home late last night and are pretty exhausted. We're planning our big Par-Tay for the team. Oh! And Joel has his very first ever tae-kwon-do tournament next week. Is he nervous? Can't tell. He is his usual self - a big grin beneath the feather-duster that he refers to as his hair. Ellie is also not slowing down. She heads to Louisiana next weekend for a piano competition. And me? Just the usual. Eating on bon bons, painting the old toenails, gabbing on the phone, heatin' up frozen microwave dinners....

Life will once again return to a more normal pace....but not until after tomorrow. Tomorrow is Jasper's birthday - woo hoo! Five years old! When the others (the others...sounds ominous, no? Like on Lost. The Others. Oh. I have become distracted.) As I was saying....When the others (Ellie, Joel, Jules) turned five I was always sad...always that sense of loss with every birthday (and I'm still that way with the older two, to a certain extent). But with the little onesies? I'm like, "Yay! Just a few more years and we're talking DRIVING, baby!" Soon, very soon, he'll be making his own grilled cheese sandwiches! Freedom. I smell freedom. And it smells good. Like a grilled cheese sandwich that I did not have to drop a zillion other things in order to make. There is light at the end of this "Hey! Let's have like a zillion kids!" tunnel. I can see it.
So for the big birthday tomorrow we have 2 friends coming over to party in the giant Spiderman Hut with light sabers because there is just nothing in the entire world that is better than Spiderman or light sabers. Nothing. And speaking of light sabers....don't tell Jasper (seriously... shhhhh...) but he is getting the big daddy light saber of them all. The one that (brace yourselves) lights up and vibrates. I said VIBRATES. With The Force. Because it is super cool. We are talking a long and lit-up, vibrating and humming blue light saber. The stuff that dreams are made of. And if any of you have dirty minds at this point? Shame. This is a 5-year-old's dreams we're talking about. So I'll say it again. Shame on you. Here is a pic of Jasper with his regular old boring light saber. Isn't this exciting? That we all know what he's getting tomorrow?

What else is going on around here? Hmmm....who have I left out? Oh yes! Camille! I have left out Camille. I guess she has not had a terribly exciting week. Just regular old stuff. Making fashion designs, dancing, singing into her little microphone, begging for a bunny, climbing and falling out of trees, getting pecked by chickens, torturing her brothers....

I often think that it is the regular old normal times that are the sweetest. The big things, like symphony debuts and Odyssey tournaments, add notches to your belt, for sure. But it is the regular days that hold it all together. I'll take a life full of regular days, thank you very much. Not that I've had many regular days, lately. Looking forward to some, though. Any day now. I can feel it coming.
I have a bit of sad news. I have lost a follower. I don't think anyone died. Just quit following me. Probably because I have been a pathetically spotty and erratic poster. So someone needs to take the lost follower's place. I am down to 12. Right now I have a sad face. Not really. But if I thought about it long enough I could probably pull off a sad face. And you don't want me to have to do that, do you? So follow.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Memories...In The Corners Of My Drawers

So I did some spring cleaning. Not much. Just a little. In the den, otherwise known as the smelly room. The kids and I pulled the huge, gigantic sectional sofa away from the wall and it was disgusting. Truly. "This is why I don't like you guys to eat in here...." I said over and over and over and over and over......

We vacuumed, we mopped, we dusted, and we febreezed. Today I was going to get in there and start de-cluttering. I don't have a lot of clutter. Clutter makes me crazy. But I have a little. In our den there is an antique buffet with two small drawers and a big cabinet-thing. The cabinet-thing is full of videos - the drawers are mostly full of junk. So I started going through it and blah - I hate stuff. More specifically, I hate stuff that makes me feel like I should save it when I really don't want to. Stuff like old pictures, and baptism bonnets, and baptism candles, and sonogram pics, and pictures, pictures, pictures....

I am not a scrapbooking mom. I tried to be, once. It didn't last. I got maybe 2 or 3 pages done. I do not like to look through old pictures of the kids. Why? I watch my friends and they seem to love doing this. But it always makes me feel a little melancholy. I think there is a two-fold reason for this.

1) I don't like thinking about the past too much. Not that it was all that awful or anything. It is just that it is over. I look at toddler pictures and before you know it, I am slightly missing the toddler. If I don't look at the pics - I don't miss the toddler because I'm enjoying the teenager. But the pics make me sad, for some reason.

2) I am uncomfortable with a lot of physical baggage. Like boxes of pictures and old dance recital costumes. It is just stuff that sits in a box so that someday it can continue sitting in a box in a closet of one of my kids.

I think I am often guilted into keeping things. What kind of a mom wouldn't want to keep this stuff? Other moms keep this stuff. But truly, I don't want the stuff. I have the kids and that's enough. Stuff that sits in boxes and rests in drawers and on shelves - just sitting there to be looked at occasionally, well, it is like I can somehow feel it in my consciousness - like it is always back there lurking..stuff, stuff, stuff.

And what value does it hold? Well, sentimental value. That is what people say. But time and time again, people lose everything they have (items of worth and items of sentimental value) and then continue on just fine. If this happened to me, I think I would feel cleansed, somehow. I mean, I'm not trivializing disasters or their effects on people - I don't want to go through it and I can only imagine how traumatizing it would be to truly lose everything - I am just thinking abstractly here...just imagining....what it would feel like to be stripped of "your life" and the things that define you only to discover that you still somehow exist; that you still somehow have an identity and an ego and are still "you". I think it must be easier to be ourselves without our things. Not on the surface, maybe, but in reality. As in, what is real and necessary and what is not. When we took our 3-week-vacation in the travel trailer (almost a year ago, now) I was so aware of how little we needed.

When I look at toddler pictures of the kids I smile, of course. But there is sadness there, too. And it is sadness that doesn't exist without the photo to invite it in. I do not normally sit around and pine over toddlerhoods past...I normally reside quite happily in the present. Yet looking at photos will do it to me every time - melancholy nostalgia and the occasional regret or two peeking out from the background of an otherwise sunny photo. Taking a trip down memory lane takes me out of the now.

I don't mind sitting around with friends and family saying, "Remember when?..." I am a great story teller and enjoy it a ton. But the memories stirred up by words don't sit in boxes begging you to organize them or store them or put them in books or anything like that. All these photos...how much time would it take to do something with them? More time than I want or have to spare.

Anyway, so I need to get back to purging the den. Videos that no longer work but that entertained Ellie and Joel for hours when they were tots - in the trash. Sonogram pictures? Yes, even those. I can't even tell which baby is which and now I have the real live kid sitting in front of me! Other pictures? In the box, I'm afraid. But I'm not keeping them all. I love digital - pics sitting in a file on my computer don't bother me as much as the pics in the box do.

Well, speaking of those pictures on file. Let me leave you with one. This is Jasper. Refusing to go to bed without his favorite jammies. The ones with the footsies and the spaghetti sauce. The ones in the washer. Or maybe it is just Jasper with nothing to watch on TV. I don't know.

I'm also going to leave you with a recipe. Because I haven't done that in awhile and I hate depriving the world of my exquisite culinary expertise.

Black Bean Quesadillas and Variations Thereof

(we do a lot of beans here because half the younguns' are vegetarians)

Take tortillas of your liking (we usually get whole wheat but this week as we passed the tortillarilla at our grocery store - they were putting out steaming hot fresh white, processed flour tortillas and my kids started drooling like Pavlov's dogs and so...yeah...we had the good stuff this week)...what was I saying? Oh yeah, take your tortillas and put one on a flat griddle with some heated olive oil. Then sprinkle some cheese (again, whatever you like, we used cheddar this week) and some bean relish on top. Put another tortilla on top and flip when cheese is melted. Garnish with guacamole and/or sour cream.

Bean Relish can be made in a multitude of ways, but here is the skeleton list of ingredients. You must have black beans, corn, chopped tomatoes, chopped onion (red is good), and chopped cilantro. Sprinkle a little chili powder and lime juice in there and stir it up. You can also add a pinch of cinnamon or cocoa powder.

For variations, try my family's favorite sweet bean relish. To the skeleton list above, simply add some chopped mango or pineapple, and jicama. If you don't want to add the fruit to your relish, you can use it as a garnish, instead. We do it both ways and both ways taste great. We also sprinkle chunks of blue cheese in the relish when we have it. Crumbled goat cheese or feta is delicious, as well.

So here is a picture of a delicious quesadilla. We garnished with guacamole and our own home-grown sunflower sprouts!

Sardine Mama

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Just in Time for Easter: The Empty Tomb (No, Not THAT Tomb)

We are in the middle of a huge drought. Today was our big chance of rain. And it really was a big chance, too. Like 80% or something. It is raining to the north of us. It is raining to the south of us. Heck, it is probably raining to the east and west of us, too. But here? Nada folks. Well, it rained for like 5 minutes (an act of nature that brought all of my children outdoors with umbrellas screaming, "Rain! Rain! Rain!")

Sad. Our green fields turned brown, then they dried up completely. They are sand. And my yard is sand. I refuse to water it. It is expensive and a waste of resources. So I'm open to any suggestions as to what I could do for a front yard in place of grass?

The wind is just howling here. We are always windy - visitors get out of their cars and are surprised by the wind. I don't know what causes it. We're kind of on a hill - not like up at the top of a big hill - more like on top of a very gradual slope. Our dream is to install wind generators out here someday. We'd love to have a household run completely on solar and wind. But that is expensive $$$$ and we are not wealthy people.

We are also running out of hay. And hay has gone from $30 a bail to $75. So we're looking at selling off some cattle. Like a lot of cattle.

So right now, looking outside is somewhat depressing for me. I am really visually affected - I like pretty things around me. I know - silly for a homeschooling mom of 5 to expect prettiness in her midst. Anyway, like I was saying, looking outside is gloomy. And just when I thought it couldn't get any gloomier - it did. Well, gloomy isn't the word, probably. Maybe horrific....macabre....some other word I can't think of right now.....

We have an oak tree in the front yard and at its roots are buried several pets of the rodent and cat variety. It is where Witey Watsun, the unbelievably long-lived paraplegic gerbil is buried like a viking - complete with viking ceremony. It is where Buddy lies peacefully - our adorable cat we had for 16 years. There are fish, a rat named Wilbur, Pinky the cat, and several hamsters laid to rest in our little pet cemetery. I'm sure there are more I can't remember - generally I just check to see that I am still alive and kicking and take it from there (on most days).

So last week Camille went in to give a carrot to the boys' guinea pigs. "Dalmatian is dead!" she screamed. I have a large and sincere and concrete fear of dead things. They gross me out. Jeff was out of town, of course. Hopeful, I shouted, "Are you sure? Is he sleeping?"

"If he is sleeping he doesn't seem to mind that Cotton Ball (his life partner, as they say) is eating his foot!!"

Oh God. I was eating lunch at the time.

"Where are your brothers?" I asked while trying to keep down the banana I'd just eaten. I was starting to panic. Looking for an exit. But believe me, if there was an exit I would have taken it a long time ago.

"They're outside," she said.

I was going to go outside and do my impressive "bellow for the boys" but Camille beat me to it because the idea of telling them that one of their beloved guinea pigs was dead and being consumed by his life partner was too good to pass up.

The boys do not have a fear of dead things. In fact, they seem to be attracted to dead things. Dead snakes, dead frogs, dead grasshoppers...whatever. They actually have a mummified animal collection on their shelf. Gross.

Anyway, where was I? Was I going somewhere with this? I talked about no rain, expensive hay, selling cows, dead pets.....oh yeah! Dead pets has led me to (can you imagine some creepy music in your head please) the empty grave. As I pulled into our driveway from our sandy, windblown lane, past our crispy/crunchy brown fields.... I saw it. A hole. More specifically, a grave. Even more specifically, it was Dalmatian the guinea pig's grave. Or had been. Before he vacated it. (I told you it was creepy.)

"Aack!" I screamed. Actually, I doubt I said aack. "The guinea pig grave is empty! Even the box is gone!"

To which Ellie replied, "Gross."

To which Camille replied, "Ranger dug him up."

"You mean you KNEW about this?" I asked.

"Yes," she said. "His box is in the backyard but I looked in it and he isn't in there. I think Ranger ate him."

"Why didn't you tell me about this?" I screamed.

"We told Dad," she answered.

"What did he do?" I asked.

"I don't know," she said.

I looked in the backyard and there, indeed, sat the Girl Scout cookie case otherwise known as Dalmatian's coffin.

I got out my phone. I called my husband.
"So, did you know that one of our live pets dug up a dead pet and nobody did anything about it?"

"Oh yeah," he said. "I thought you knew about that. Jules did a sorry job digging the hole."

"Why didn't you do anything about it?" I asked.

"Well, I need to go out there and get the box...." he said. Lamely.

Uugh! Ellie and I are the only ones who are even slightly disturbed by this. What is wrong with my kids? What? Is? Wrong? With? My? Kids?

You can check out my other, equally positive and enthusiastic post about sagging body parts you didn't even know you had, by clicking on Social Skills .

Sardine Mama

Friday, March 6, 2009

Don't Hate Me Because.....

BECAUSE I'M IN A FREAKIN' 3-STORY LAKE HOUSE ON THE LAKE!! Okay, well, where else would it be? What can I say, I've had some wine. I'm with my best friend from childhood and high school and well, forever....and she has a rich friend who has a lake house and that is the end of the story.
YAY! (There are no little sardines here, either). I am going to sleep in a big bed all by myself. In fact, I might even sleep in a different bed tomorrow. Because I can. Because there are that many beds.
I am going to drink wine now. Maybe a margarita.
Oh, Cindy is saying, "I love my room. Not that I'm going to go to bed early. Because I'm not."
I love my room, too! Not that I'm going to go to bed early. Because I'm not.
I would quote Ann (best friend) but she is busy trying to take my picture and she has had wine and is not having so much luck. Testing...testing....with the picture thing. She's using her phone. Anyway, did I mention there is some wine involved? Possibly margaritas? Did I say that already?
I've gotta go. We're going to go dance on the deck. Which faces the lake. Because this is a lake house. A big lake house.
Don't hate me. Well, go ahead and hate me.
Sardine Mama

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 MySanAntonio.com. 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