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Remember that Big Lots contest I wrote about back in June? The one that Fairfax entered in the hopes of winning big (or even little) money for a new piece of adaptive playground equipment that all our students could use together, regardless of physical ability? Well, it was the longest and most tedious contest ever, lasting an excruciating five weeks. I got so damn good at typing captchas from every device in our home that I even dreamed about them.

The contest did have an awful lot of potential prizes, ranging from the grand prize of $20,000 to thirty smaller $2,000 prizes. We were cautiously optimistic about at least winning something, although we knew we had several factors working against us. For one thing, we were competing against middle and high schools where every student likely owns their own device and could have voted independently of their parents. We also were competing against some schools that remained in session for the first week or two (or even three) of the contest, making it much easier for staff to remind students and families to continue voting, while ours were in full vacation mode.  And lastly, we do exist in a community that tends to be rather polarized around school issues. Many of our residents opt for private and parochial school and, even for those public school families, we can sometimes feel divided among the seven elementary schools in our district. This is not some old-fashioned town where if you post a reminder on the town square marque to vote for your local school, every single resident is going to rush home to their device and happily begin typing.

But we were indeed optimistic, if for no other reason than that we have the best damn PTA ever. And our optimism was well warranted because we won. As in, WE WON THE WHOLE DANG THING. We had the absolute top number of votes of any of the 186 schools across the country that entered and we won a whooping $20,000! I was moved to tears when I got the call from our PTA president two weeks ago. This brings us about halfway toward our goal and will hopefully allow us to capitalize on some momentum and raise the rest of the money to install the piece by spring. Big Lots will make their public announcement this Monday and will hold a celebratory ceremony where they hand over one of those enormous checks to which everyone is invited, especially Fairfax students and their families. The event, complete with food, music, giveaways and lots of media attention, will be held on Wednesday, August 14 at 9:30 am at the Big Lots at 24295 Chagrin Blvd in Beachwood.

Thank you so much to everyone and anyone who voted. Even if you only remembered to log on and vote after being harassed on Facebook or even if those captchas drove you crazy, it was all worth it in the end. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I should start by saying we have now raised $43,291, including the checks I mailed today (which won’t likely show up on individual shavee pages for a few weeks).  Which means that we are a mere $1,709 away from my original and very ambitious $45,000 goal. Which also means that if every one of the 75 shavees raised just $23 more, we would reach that goal. Twenty-three dollars!  Let’s do this, people.

More pictures and more stories: We had a lot of school teams this year, which is exactly what I want this event to become and what I hope drives our numbers up even higher in the future. Fernway School in Shaker, home to two preschool buddies of Braedan and Austin, fielded a team of ten kids and one dad and is poised to grow by leaps and bounds next year.

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There were also five kindergarten students from Gesu who shaved, many of them for the second time.

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And then there was the Heights High team (of course, one of my favorites), the Buzz Buddies. This one was spearheaded by a girl, a 17-year-old senior who shaved her head clean bald. I have to admit, these are the ones that get me the most, because it’s something I would never have been brave enough to do as a 17-year-old girl. I was gusty (still am), but not that gutsy (still aren’t). So I watched in awe as Katy raised significant sums of money and rounded up five of her (male) friends to join her and then hopped into that chair without a second thought.

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And of course, there was a Team Roxboro, another personal favorite. This one was captained by our sweet friend Charlie who, as a first grader, has raised more than $2000 in his two years shaving, and was joined this year by his uncle.

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And there was the hard-to-beat Team Fairfax, with fourteen students and one mom (who cut and donated). I think it’s safe to say that it’s cooler to be bald in that building this week than not. And I can pretty much guarantee that their academic performance has improved now that they can see the board. Just look at this shaggy-haired bunch of ragamuffins:

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I have still more to post tomorrow, but in the meantime, check out this photo gallery.

I had my own hero moment on Sunday afternoon, an all-this-work-over-the-past-few-months-planning-organizing-scheduling-emailing-promoting-reminding-pleading-prodding-begging-nagging has been worth it kind of moment, when we got into the car to go home and Braedan said, “Thanks, mom. You do great things.”

Well, I made it to June. Not quite sure how, but I did.

Funny, when I wrote that May Madness post on April 30, I had no idea the degree of madness that would ensue. But, here we are, on a cold and rainy June 1. Aaaaaahhhhhhh.

The Young Authors Conference at Fairfax went very well. It was an extraordinary amount of work that required an army of volunteers, to whom I am eternally grateful. But we typed, printed and “published” more than 350 books, 285 of which were printed, tediously, double-sided, on my home computer. The kids produced stories that were funny, clever, creative, original, sometimes sad, a little bit crazy and, on occasion, deeply profound.  As one of my typing volunteers commented, “This makes me wish I knew these kids better. There is a lot going on in their minds!”  Indeed, there is.

Yesterday we had a culminating assembly with a local author, to which the students proudly brought their completed books.

A few brave kids got up to read excerpts including this familiar-looking guy, whose teacher challenged him to use non-human characters so his are mitts, bats and one very unhappy baseball:

This 4th grade girl wrote a beautifully moving, fictionalized tribute to her teacher who passed away very unexpectedly in the winter:

And this 1st grader’s pirate story had a battle “that lasted eight hours, which is a reasonable amount of time for a battle:”

I had the chance to get to know a lot of children, the youngest of whom began calling me “Young Author,” as in, “Look, there’s Young Author” on my daily trips through the building. And many of the kids were genuinely excited about the project and seemed eager to write more stories (although one of my favorite — and most honest — About the Author paragraphs said, “This is so-and-so’s first book and he doesn’t plan to write any more”!).

Ultimately I’m glad I did it and very very glad it’s over. There were several times, after late nights of typing up page after page of unpunctuated dialogue, when I said to Mark, “I don’t see how on earth I can possibly get this done. But I am going to get it done.”  And I did. With a ton of help, of course. Thank you to all, especially Amy and Cynthia of Lake Erie Ink, who partnered with me in this madness and surely, more than once, wondered what they’d gotten themselves into.

Now, I will host the Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast at school on Tuesday and help out with the 2nd grade picnic that afternoon and then, . . . then it’s summertime!

What a star Braedan was today! We were up bright and early (not an easy thing in this household, trust me) and drove over to the new house after dropping Austin off at my mom’s so I’d be able to stay for the orientation. We parked there and took some pictures and then Mark and I walked proudly off to school with Braedan in between us. We could hear the marching band practicing at Shaker High in the distance which added some pep to our steps.

First day

First day

 

Mark and mini-Mark

Mark and mini-Mark

The parents and kids were gathered outside the kindergarten playground, so Mark waited until he met Mrs. Murphy and then left for work and then the bell rang and in we went, just like that, entering the big new world of school. I stayed in the class for an hour filling out paperwork, signing up for the PTA, paying for his gym shirt. Braedan was completely unfazed by the newness of everything, by how different he looked from his classmates (which he did, by both race and gender, although only one third of the class was there today). He just breezed right into things, sitting up there in the circle explaining the airplane picture he drew, and then eagerly raising his hand to tell a longwinded story after the teacher mentioned their “own special playground.”

“At my preschool,” he began, “Even when we were in the 5s class, we all shared one playground so the little kids could come on the same one as the big kids. And I come here to this playground, to both of them. Sometimes I come with my friend who lives right here on the same street as school but he doesn’t go here. I bring my bike to his house or sometimes I ride one of his bikes, because he has two, a little one and a big one, and we come here and I can do the monkey bars and I can do them all the way frontwards and sometimes I do them sideways and swing really fast and then the other day, I even did them backwards all the way and . . . ” all without stopping for a breath! 

The teacher sat smiling and nodding and trying to gently cut him off so she could call another little hand waving eagerly in the air.  And I watched him, so at ease, so comfortable and confident in who he is and the value of all he has to say (and my, does he have a lot to say) and that was the only moment I cried. Just a little tear and then I knew he would soon glance over at me to make some cute little face that meant, “Wow, Mom, did you hear that that girl’s name is Jasmine, just like Jasmine my babysitter? Wow!” (all communicated with a lift of his eyebrows and some vigorous head nodding), so I dried my tear and then the teacher let them come and give us kisses goodbye and I was off.

And he’ll be great, I just know it. My star.

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