"The light is nostalgic about mornings past and optimistic about mornings to come"
Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety
That about sums up how I'm feeling, too.
Sam turned 16 a couple of weeks ago. He celebrated with a movie night with a bunch of friends (Guardians of the Galaxy), requested homemade ice cream cookie sandwiches for his dessert and a family birthday dinner at Jamie (Oliver)'s Italian. The rest of us celebrated the fact that we so thoroughly lucked out in the son/brother department: curious, funny, deep, stubborn, good, bright, compassionate, socks-and-shoes-off-and-on-the-floor, hardworking Sam is a boon and blessing for our family.
Maddy proposed that we get a punching bag and gloves, thinking it would be a great way to work off the stress of her IB studying, tests, and deadlines. We've been holding FFC (family fight club) a couple of nights a week, trading off turns with the gloves and mitts. She's right--it's very cathartic. (I know, I just broke the first rule of fight club. Oops.)
There's a lot of homework going on around here as the kids are midway through their third term of the school year. Maddy's life is particularly filled with studying and deadlines as she zooms toward the IB testing in November. The International Baccalaureate program has a lot of positives but it is definitely rigorous and demanding! Because of how the Australian schools marking systems are set up, Maddy won't have a GPA when she applies to universities in the US; instead she will submit her IB scores, which are mostly comprised of the test scores she receives from comprehensive exams at the end of this year, covering two years' worth of content.
Like the AP system in the US, she can also use her IB results to receive university credit (depending on the score, of course). Here's a little bit more about the IB system if you're curious. Basically, it's like taking AP classes in every subject + writing a thesis from original research + completing three service/community projects + completing a theory of knowledge/philosophy project to demonstrate critical thinking.
This month Maddy's FB feed is filled with all of her high school friends' FB posts about leaving for college, their new dorms and roommates. This would have been Maddy's life right now, too, if we hadn't snatched her off to Australia two years ago where the class of '14 graduates in November rather than June. Instead she has another five months of school to go and will start university a year behind her US cohort. Secretly (or not so secretly) we're glad to have her around for this bonus Maddy time but I know it's not easy for her to see everyone else moving on with their exciting new lives and opportunities. But she's a good sport.
As with most things in life, though, there are tradeoffs. Maddy just found out yesterday that she was chosen for the UN Youth Australia delegation to the Middle East, one of 10 students selected from Australia. She went through rounds of essays and interviews and was delighted to be chosen. They'll head to Dubai, Amman, Petra, and Jerusalem in January where they'll participate in workshops and consultations with UN bodies, international NGOs, Australian and foreign government projects, and community organisations who are all working to build peace and understanding in the Middle East. At the end of the trip the delegation will volunteer at Hand in Hand, a Jewish-Arab integrated, bilingual school in Jerusalem that works to bring together members of the community from different walks of life and fosters peace on a grassroots level. As you can imagine, Maddy's thrilled. It's the light at the end of the IB tunnel for her. As you can also imagine, I am equal parts excited and nervous for her, my protective mothering activated by all the news of violence and unrest in the region. Shhh, mother bear. It'll be fine.