Sean is 15. Physically he is above any 15 year old I have ever met. He's 6'2", 235 lbs., and wears a size 16 shoe. To say that he is huge for a 15 year old is an understatement. However, he is what many call a "gentle giant". There isn't a mean bone in his body, and this is one of the reasons he doesn't play sports. When push comes to shove he won't shove back, and this type of mentality doesn't lend itself to sports very well. Of course he isn't interested in sports anyway, so it doesn't matter to him. He is all academic. As a sophomore at his high school he is honor roll and already in A.P. classes. He took Algebra online the summer after his 8th grade year so that he would start high school with Geometry. He easily finished that up in his freshman year, and is now in Algebra II Honors and co-teaching Algebra I at his high school! It is an opportunity usually afforded only to junior and seniors, but due to his academic record and leadership role in the school they allowed him to co-teach as a sophomore. He loves it. The rest of his classes are either A.P. or Honors, and although this means a lot of homework and studying for him, he is more than up for the challenge. He has spent significant time with me at USF, and he knows the commitment that he has ahead of him in just a couple of years. In addition to his academic work Sean is very involved in volunteer work. Not only does he volunteer with me at Shriners Hospital for Children and the Hope Lodge (for cancer patients) on a regular basis, but he spent two weeks of the last summer in Peru at the Hogar San Francisco de Asis. His love for the children and the work there is something that makes me so proud, and I am even more proud that he has committed to spending his entire summer vacation (2.5 months) at the Hogar next summer and every summer until he graduates. My bet is that it continues on after he graduates from high school, too.
Brendan is the most easy-going child. A typical middle child (speaking as one myself). He is the polar opposite of his brother in nearly every way. At 13 years old he is average height and weight for his age, but extremely athletic. I was surprised this past summer when he told me that he wanted to "take a break" from baseball after playing for nine straight years. He has expressed an interest in more of the "extreme sports" over the past year, and he wanted to start racing BMX. So that he did, and he has excelled with it just as he did with baseball. As a novice he has already taken six first place finishes, and he needs only two more to advance to intermediate. This in just over two months. He won a first place in his first ever Nationals two weeks ago, and many of the long-timers commented that they had never seen a first-timer take first place at a Nationals. He is a very active young man, and he cannot stand to be sedentary for more than about an hour. It makes a plane ride or a long car ride interesting with him. Brendan is also doing very well in school, but he has to work extremely hard to get it. He enjoys math and science, but dislikes reading and writing (like his mother). He's in 8th grade, and is excited to move on to high school next year. He is still very much a "momma's boy", and isn't embarrassed to hold my hand in public. He loves to snuggle with me, and it's not uncommon for him to come curl up next to me in my bed either before he goes to bed or when he wakes up. I know that he's bound to grow out of it at some point, but I hope it is not soon.
And my girl. Erin is a bundle of sweet and feisty all rolled into one. She has the most tender heart, but as the youngest sibling with two older brothers she is quite the tomboy and can "hold her own". She is very tall for her age (in the 95th percentile), and just under average for weight. She has been weary of sports since her first attempt with baseball about two years ago. She got up for her first at-bat, hit a double, the parents all yelled and cheered, and she walked off of the field. She doesn't like that kind of attention. She loves one on one attention and praise, but when a large group of people are cheering for her she does not enjoy it. It was not until Brendan starting racing BMX that she was comfortable participating in a physical activity. She started racing BMX just over a month ago, and the girl is a natural. There are very few girls in the sport, and as a result she mostly races boys. She is beating them more and more frequently-including some of the boys who have been racing much longer than her. She is comfortable with the people at our track, including the racers and their families. Erin still loves to play the piano, and loves to sit down on the bench and show her friends how to play a few tunes. In school she is much like her oldest brother. As a reader at the age of 4 there really are no limits to what she will read now. Her lexile ranking, at 714, puts her at a 4-5th grade reading level. She is in 2nd grade. At her beginning of the year assessment with her teacher we were advised that her reading word count per minute is more than double that of a 2nd grader. The median is 70 wpm and she is reading at 141 wpm (advanced 4th grade-6th grade level). Her writing amazes me, and she writes nearly every evening "for fun". Whether it is a story or poem she is always writing something. Her math skills are equally advanced for her age. She finished her multiplication tables in 1st grade (3rd grade skill), and has already mastered all of the math skills for her current grade. She is sent to another class for math where she works alongside the 3-5th graders during that time.
To say that I am a proud mother is an understatement. My children are the world to me, and I am equally proud of each of them for their accomplishments, whether it be academic or otherwise.
I am still enjoying the university as much as I did when I first went back. It is taking longer than I originally anticipated because I decided to pursue a minor in Public Health in addition to my other minor in ASL and my major in Biomedical Science and Pre-med. Much of my focus from now until I graduate will be on my Public Health courses. Beginning in the spring I will be submitting applications to medical schools, and by next fall we will know where we will be going for that. I hope to be offered the opportunity to stay at USF for medical school, but if not then we will go wherever I do get accepted. I will be joining Sean in Peru after my summer courses are completed-five weeks after he arrives, and I cannot wait to get back to the Hogar. I miss the children terribly, and there is not a day that goes by that I don't think about them. I am friends with a couple of the older patients on Facebook, and that has been helpful to me (they keep me updated on what's going on there). My cousin, Liz, and her daughter, Sidney (13) will be traveling with me to Peru next summer. I'm anxious for them to have their first experience at the Hogar. Before we leave Peru Sean and I will be traveling to the Ocucaje Desert where we will meet Roberto Cabrera and journey out into the massive desert with him. In addition, I have applied for a trip to Ghana in May to help with youth education and Public Health issues, and it would be a dream come true for me if I am chosen as one of the 10-15 that will be taking the trip. Right now, however, I am eagerly anticipating my trip to Vieques, Puerto Rico with my best friend, Pam, in just over a month. It will be a fabulous way to end the semester and begin my month long winter break.