6th Grade Graduation

Today was Ellee’s 6th Grade Graduation.  And it started out with our beautiful friend Jules who came over bright and early to do Ellee’s hair and get her ready for her day.

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Afterwards, we walked over to the Elementary School and gathered with all of these amazing families to celebrate our 6th Graders.

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We were so proud of our Ellee girl.

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And I couldn’t help but think it really was just yesterday that we were here for her Kindergarten graduation.  That one seemed simple and sweet.

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Whereas this one felt like her first big step away from childhood and into a whole new chapter of life.  In many ways, I know she’s ready, but I still just shake my head and wonder how she got there so quickly.

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We were all so happy to be there to cheer her on.

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And whereas we don’t have any immediate family that lives close enough to celebrate things like this, we did have a few awesome friends who are like family that were there for Ellee on her big day.

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When we went to pick her up, we grabbed a few pictures with friends.

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These two were girls that Ellee has known since preschool.

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So of course, I’ll insert their preschool pics below, because I’m just feeling that nostalgic.

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We also got a quick picture with Ellee’s amazing teachers.  I am so thankful over the years for those who have poured so beautifully into our daughter.

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They truly have helped shape her life and we are FOREVER thankful for all they have done to love and help and support our girl.

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Also, they humored me with an obligatory sibling shot.  I’m so thankful to know that she will have her older brother to look out for her next year at the Jr. Sr. High school.  They might have their moments, but overall, they are amazing together and I’m so thankful for the ways they are both learning and growing.

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And while I could take time to share all about how sad it is to think that our kids are both done with elementary school, I won’t dwell on that for too long.  They both had some pretty awesome years at Eastport and for that I have the utmost heart of gratitude.  And to finish this up, all I’ll say is that you really do need to cherish every second because they do go, oh, so fast.

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And then I’ll wrap this up with a huge CONGRATULATIONS to Ellee and the rest of the amazing 6th Graders who graduated today!  We know God has great things in store for you and we cannot wait to see the wonderful things you will all do.

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Senior Sessions

Awhile back, I got a call from Jordyn’s mom asking if I did Senior Sessions.  She’d had her Senior Pictures taken at the beginning of the school year, but neither of them were thrilled with the results.

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So I invited her to join me for an on-location shoot.  We ventured outdoors, into the beauty of Long Island and the glory of natural lighting.

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They brought props.  Because Pinterest and Instagram has a lot of ideas to make these kinds of session so much fun.

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We even tied in her school sport, in a fun and memorable way.  Senior Year is about closing an incredibly awesome chapter of life and using creative portraits to capture this time is something that helps make the memories last.

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I specifically asked for this shot with Mom.  Because goodness knows, moms are usually behind the scenes in helping to make great kids become responsible teens who then become amazing young adults.

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And at the end of our session, we got a lot of great shots for Jordyn to choose from.

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A huge thanks to Jordyn and her awesome mom for stepping outside of the box and booking a Senior Session.  We had a great time together and everyone was delighted with the results.  If you’re looking to add a special addition to your child’s Senior Year, contact me today to set up a Senior Session!

lauraherr8@gmail.com

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His Last Concert

We went to see his last choir concert tonight.  I say “last” because choir isn’t mandatory in 9th grade and while he’s been in choir since 4th grade, he’s decided to pursue other interests next year instead which is fine.  That being said, I do love a good choir concert so was very excited to go and see his this evening.  We stopped for a quick picture in front of our beautiful purple tree and then were on our way.

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The 7th graders sang first.  They sang a medley of songs that lasted about 18 minutes which was impressive in itself.  My favorite part was seeing our friend Lennon sing in person.  He’s quite the talented young man and actually, the son of our amazing dentist Dr. Sal Lotardo.  His entire family is quite musical and he was outstanding.  Also, if you ever need a great dentist, then Dr. Sal and his office Bella Smiles is for you.

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After the 7th graders finished, the 8th graders made their way onstage.  When I looked back at this picture and saw this face, I laughed.

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Because it’s always been the face he makes when he isn’t particularly thrilled to be doing something.  He’s made that same face ever since he was little, as evidenced in the photo below.  It’s funny that even though he’s 6 foot tall, in many ways, he’ll always be my baby.

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There’s a bit more of a smile.

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The concert was great.  The 8th graders sang two medley’s.  One was from the musical “Cats” and the other was “Hamilton: A Choral Medley.”

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This would be Jeremy, enjoying the concert, but secretly wondering what was up with all the songs about cats, haha.

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I loved the Hamilton portion of the concert.  These three did a fantastic job on their solos.

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And our dear friend Kiera was just amazing!  Fun fact, she was in my preschool class when I taught years ago, and has also been a part of our youth group.  She is such a talented and beautiful young lady and we absolutely love her.

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Shout out to Mr. Robson.  Goodness knows, it can’t be easy to get Jr. Highers to be passionate about music, but he did an outstanding job with them all.  We are very blessed to have such great teachers to work with our kids.

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And congratulations to all of the students who sang tonight!  It was an enjoyable concert and we are so proud of you all.

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Annual Review

Today is always one of the hardest days of the year for me.

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Because it’s the day that I walk over to Ellee’s school and sit in on a meeting with an entire panel of people who are there to evaluate our daughter.  I’ve been there before.  Ellee’s received an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for the past three years.  Some meetings I’ve cried.  Because it’s always hard to hear that your child is struggling.  And whereas I didn’t this meeting, it was still really hard.

Sometimes, in life, we’re evaluated with numbers and percentages.  Sometimes we’re judged based on our performance and sometimes we’re labeled based on the outcomes.  But I’ve learned over the years, that while these evaluations are helpful and in the case of our daughter, they’ve been the reason that she’s received an incredible team to help and support her, sometimes they are still hard to sit through.  It’s hard to look at the numbers and it’s hard to not compare based on where everyone else is.

But with all things in life, I’m reminded that I have a choice.  I could sit and pour over the number and percentages and I could cry, because like I mentioned before, they are hard to process.  Or I could choose to be thankful and have gratitude and I could choose to be reminded of what’s true in life.  So that is what I’m going to do, and in a list form, no less.

  • I’m thankful for that table of people that I sat with today, because every one of them represents a person who helps our daughter.
  • I’m thankful especially for her reading teacher, Linda Wygonik.  Ms. Wygonik has worked with Ellee for three years and she has taught her so many valuable reading and life skills.  She was full of encouragement for how well Ellee’s done this year and I know a great deal of her success has been because of her time with this wonderful teacher.
  • I’m thankful for the kind things that were said about Ellee.  Each one praised her for her hard work and effort.  They said she was a wonderful student to work with and that she always tried her best.  They talked about her kindness and her strengths and these words to my heart were just as important as those percentages on the page.
  • I’m thankful to be a part of a school district that has a very strong special education program.  I’m thankful that our daughter will continue to get the support that she needs next year.
  • And for what’s true… What’s true about our daughter is that yes, she has a learning disability.  Yes, she struggles in school academically.  But that is not who she is.  She is an amazing, wonderful, beautiful creation of God.  He loves her the most and He created her just the way that He wanted her to be.  Most importantly, He has a great plan and purpose for her life.

Today, is always one of the hardest days of the year for me, but that doesn’t mean that it’s bad.  When I stop and think of all of the good things that come out of this day, I’m able to shift my focus from the negative to the many, many positives.

Godspell 2018

Tonight, I got to get an early viewing of ESM’s Spring Musical, Godspell.  And it was absolutely delightful.  I have no idea, being a fan of great musical’s and well, Jesus, how I missed this one.  But seeing it for the first time tonight was an absolute joy.  And if I’m being honest, I think we all could use a little joy these days.  And hope too.  And both of those are certainly found on the stage of this amazing musical.

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There were so many talented students that performed in Godspell.  We are an incredibly blessed district when it comes to teens that are gifted in the arts.

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For those of you who are like me before tonight, and know nothing of Godspell, basically it’s a musical all about the parables of Jesus.

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Mix in fun and colorful clothing and joyful and catchy songs and you basically get two hours that will fill your heart and put a smile on your face.

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I’ll be honest.  The second act got a little more serious, but was so beautiful and incredibly well done.

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After seeing the show tonight and getting so much out of it, I wanted to do all that I could to encourage you to go and experience it for yourself.  Knowing the hard work and heart that these students have put into their production, you will not be disappointed with the turnout.

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There are three showings this weekend at Eastport South Manor Jr. Sr. High School: Friday and Saturday at 7:00pm and Sunday at 1:00pm.  Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for students and seniors.  Concessions are available and there is also a Chinese Auction, so remember to bring extra money to help continue to support the Arts.  I hope you enjoy the show as much as I did and a huge congratulations to the many adults and students who made this incredible production happen!

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Athletics and the Arts

First off, a disclaimer.  I try pretty hard to not use my blog to stir up trouble or controversy.  I don’t like dissension and mostly stay away from topics that create it.  So that is not what this post is about.  Instead, it’s more about my heart and how I feel about the issues that have been pretty prevalent this week in our school and community.  So bear with me…

On Wednesday, there will be a Community Budget Forum meeting at our Elementary school.  If you read my last post, our school district is in severe financial trouble and this meeting will address the many cuts that are being made to incredibly important programs including academics, arts and athletics.  Knowing this meeting is coming up and reading a lot of what has been on people’s hearts and minds got me thinking about our kids and how these future cuts will affect them.  And it inspired me to go back a bit and share specifically how athletics and the arts have impacted our family.

First off, our son has always been sporty.  We put him into soccer and basketball programs all throughout elementary school.  The year before Jr. High he joined up with the ESM Land Sharks where he cultivated a passion for running.  Granted, I may have bribed him a bit in the beginning, with McDonalds Ice Cream cones after practices, but as I mentioned before, it helped to push him into a general love for running.

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So, in Jr. High, he joined the Cross Country team and we absolutely loved it.  For the record, Cross Country is the perfect sport for those of you who aren’t into sitting around forever for your child’s sports.  Cross Country Meets basically go pretty quickly depending on how fast your child can run a mile or mile and a half.  Overall, as parents we were incredibly proud to see our son working hard at something he loved.

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His first year of Jr. High also offered him the opportunity to try something new.  Prior to 7th Grade, Christian really didn’t have much experience playing volleyball.

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But when he tried out for the team and made it, it was just the beginning of him developing a huge passion for this wonderful sport.  He had the best Coach (literally since his Coach led our varsity team to win states that year) and he learned so much.

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If you have a child in Jr. High or have had one, you know how tumultuous these years can be.  Having a child be a part of a team playing a sport that they love… it helps and for us, it helped a lot.

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Christian went on to join a club volleyball team for a few months and then spent last summer playing Beach Volleyball.  This past fall, he joined another club to play travel for the year and is currently at the end of his 8th grade season of volleyball for school.

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He has excelled in so many ways because of the opportunities he’s had to play volleyball. Again, as parents we have been thrilled.  Athletics have helped Christian grow and learn and stay focused and we could not be more thankful for the programs that he has been a part of.

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And as far as the arts go, Christian has been involved in choir since elementary school.

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He had the absolute best teacher who inspired each of his students to do their very best when it came to music.  Christian enjoyed quite a few years of choir and we always enjoyed attending his winter and spring concerts to hear him and his classmates sing.

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Then came our Ellee.  She expressed an interest in playing violin and ended up getting picked to play that very instrument in her school’s orchestra.  Our neighbor graciously gave her a violin and she was good to go.

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She worked hard all throughout the year.  If you know our daughter, she is a hard worker who also struggles in school.  At one point, we were afraid that we were going to have to pull her out of orchestra because she was missing too much class time for her weekly lessons.  It was then that her amazing teacher offered to have her come in early so that she could continue.  We could not have been more thankful to have such an amazing woman teaching our daughter.

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Ellee continued with Violin this past year and it’s been incredible to see her transformation.  She went from knowing nothing about music to being able to play with such strength and beauty.

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We have been so happy with her progress and again with the wonderful teacher that she has had who has shown such love and care in her instruction with our daughter.

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Whether it’s athletics or arts, these programs play such a key role in enhancing the lives of our children.  Clearly academics are important as well, but it is in these extra curricular activities that our children find their gifts and talents as well as their ability to grow and thrive.  We’ve seen our children be blessed by the opportunities they’ve been given access to and for this, as a parent, I will always have such gratitude for.

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So, you can imagine the heaviness in my heart, knowing the cuts that are being made to the athletics and arts programs in our district.  I’ve talked to parents whose children, like ours, have thrived because of their involvement and participation in these programs.  I wish I had the answers (or the millions of dollars it will take to save these programs) but I don’t.  However, I do have a strong passion to advocate for both and especially going into Wednesday’s meeting.  If there is any way we can save these programs, let’s join together to do just that.  While I fear the arguments and dissension that might come, I pray that more importantly, we can join together as a community and be proactive to fight for the changes that need to happen so that our children can continue to have access to both the athletic and arts programs that will help them to learn, grow and thrive in incredible and beautiful ways.

Supply Every Need

I’ve felt a heaviness in my heart these past few days, for our school district.  Earlier this year, it was announced that we were a couple of million dollars short for our upcoming 2018-2019 budget.  Which for the record, seemed quite absurd.  But over time, that deficit somehow grew to 4.7 million dollars.  And last night, at the school board meeting, when the proposed cuts were announced, it was an absolutely devastating blow.

Teachers.  Aids.  Programs.  Classes.  Sports.  Music.  Arts.  Activities.  Clubs.

Pretty much everything you can think of will be affected.

And as a parent with two children in the district, my heart was broken.  Broken for everyone affected.  Broken for those who will lose their jobs.  Broken for opportunities that will be lost.  And to be honest, there is a little anger as well.  Because there has to be someone at fault when your district is 4.7 million dollars in the hole.

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Sometimes, circumstances seem overwhelming.  Hope seems far.  And worry and sadness and frustration reign.

But in these times, I am reminded in my faith, that God is in control.  And not only that, He promises to supply every need (Philippians 4:19) according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  So that’s kind of amazing and kind of a big deal in itself.

And sure… I could continue to worry.  To be angry.  To be overwhelmed and frustrated.  Or, I could choose to see the good.  Choose to be thankful, that even with cuts, our kids will continue to be in an amazing school district.  Choose to be grateful that there are people who are working and advocating for what is best.  Choose to know that even though I am one person, I can still be a part of the change that I want to see.

Tonight… tomorrow… next week, month and year.   I’m going to pray that God will help me to have the right focus so that in every circumstance, I can make the best choice to see what is best and all that is good.

Her First Winter Concert

Tonight, we gathered up our family and a few friends for Ellee’s first Winter Concert.

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She had been talking about it for weeks now.  Because she was nervous, but excited.  And then we had to find the perfect combo of white top and black skirt.  And if you’re wondering about her shoes (which you can’t see as well here but I felt I should still explain), they were a promise fulfilled that was made at the beginning of the year.  In September, she talked with us about how violin was hard and she wasn’t sure she wanted to do it this year.  But we strongly encouraged her to stick with it and somehow the promise of new shoes for her winter concert helped encourage her as well.

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I wondered when she made this face because I couldn’t tell why she looked so alarmed and confused.  Later she told me it was because she didn’t see where the American flag was and wasn’t sure what to do during the pledge.  Thankfully right after this picture, she spotted it in the corner and all was well again.

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I’d be remiss not to tell you that Ms. Sico, Ellee’s orchestra teacher is absolutely golden.  She’s a huge reason for why Ellee has continued to learn and grow so much as a violinist.  We are very thankful for her and for her amazing passion for music.

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Back to the concert.  It was spectacular.  The pros were that when the kids started to play, I teared up with pride knowing how much work they all put in to making this night a great success.  The con was that Ellee’s face was mostly positioned behind that music stand so I could not get a clear picture of her.

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But it happens.  I was mostly just delighted as I watched her confidently push and pull her bow so gracefully across her violin strings.  The 5th Grade Orchestra played three wonderful songs and we are so incredibly proud of how well they all did.

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And when it was over, she confidently marched across the stage, in her fancy orchestra shoes (which for the record were much more tame than some of the options she had wanted).  She is a stylish girl who loves fancy shoes and I have to say they were worth every penny.

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We quietly headed out in between set changes.  Kudos to the stage crew for making everything perfect for the orchestras, bands and choirs that performed this evening.

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A huge congratulations to Ellee and all of the wonderful kids that performed in the Winter Concert tonight!

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We are so very proud of your hard word and it most certainly paid of tonight!

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It’s a huge blessing to be a part of a school district that values music and the arts.  Thank you to everyone who was involved and helped to make this evening a wonderful success!

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Last Cross Country Meet

Today was Christian’s last Cross Country meet.

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The season flew by.  But we truly loved every minute of it.  We loved cheering on not only our son, but also many of his amazing friends.

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We didn’t necessarily love when our son ran by like this, because we figured it meant a cramp, but we did love seeing him not give up and continue to push through.

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We loved watching Christian’s friend Jake, who is awesome and a part of our Youth Group as well.  He won every single meet and did an outstanding job this year.

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We loved seeing Christian finish strong.  He did a wonderful job this year and we were so very proud of his hard work.  For the record, Cross Country is awesome.  You play as a team, but you’re always working to beat your own individual time as well.  Cross Country has a great camaraderie and I loved seeing all of the kids cheer each other on.

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Moving on.  We loved seeing the various stages of the awesomeness of Hank’s hair post race.  Because well, it’s pretty impressive, right?

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And we loved seeing how much each runner grew throughout the year, both in stature but also in experience.

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Speaking of stature, it makes me smile to see how close Christian is getting in height compared to his Dad these days.  I’m guessing it won’t be long…

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All in all, today was a great day for a last Cross Country meet.  Sadly, it’s probably Christian’s last ever.  The first words out of his mouth after his meet were that he would miss Cross Country but that he couldn’t wait for volleyball.  We just signed him up with a Club Team for the first time and he will start that up in about a month.  That being said, since his heart is so into it these days, most likely his Cross Country days are over since starting next year, both that and Volleyball will run the same seasons.

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And I have to say, I’m a bit sad.  I loved watching our son run Cross Country and will definitely miss it for many reasons.  I suppose it’s like everything in life though.  It comes and goes for its season.  So you enjoy it while it’s here and while you might miss it when it’s gone, you still always have the choice of finding joy in what’s next.

Congrats to all of the amazing kids on the ESM Jr. High Cross Country team!  We are so proud of your hard work and all that you accomplished this year!