Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Big, New Thing This School Year

Last summer, when Josiah informed us that he was very, very interested in being part of a speech and debate club this school year, my first response wasn't one of high excitement and great encouragement.  It was more like, "WHAT?  Are you kidding me?  I'm going to have a baby in September, and of all the years for us to add a new activity into the schedule, this is not exactly a good one!  Do we really have to do this now??"  Later I found out that some parents have to kind of drag their kids to be a part of it.  For us, it was the opposite: Josiah had to drag Jeff and I to it!  ;-)

It wasn't that we weren't impressed by the organization--oh, we were!  Very much!  But the thought of diving into something new was intimidating to me.  I didn't have a clue how NCFCA works, so we basically told Josiah, "OK, you can do it; but the responsibility for this is on you.  We're not going to do the work for you, so you're going to have to take the initiative to figure this out and to do what's required of you."

As it turned out, Josiah rose to the challenge splendidly and enjoyed himself thoroughly.  And sure enough, he took responsibility and did the work himself with very little to no prompting from me.  Between his self-sufficiency with his preparation for speeches and Jeff's willingness to drive him to club meetings every week, I didn't have much to do in this area for most of the school year--except listen to Josiah practice at home and give him helpful feedback and encouragement.  But all along, I knew that when February rolled around, there was a tournament that Josiah would participate in, and because of how the organization is set up as a parent-run entity, I would need to be involved with that.

To tell you the truth, I dreaded it.  I felt so far out of my league that I wasn't sure I could muster the strength to do what I needed to do to be a part of it, with five kids in tow besides Josiah.  But wouldn't you know, the tournament came and was SO MUCH BETTER than I thought it would be.  All that senseless worrying for nothing, imagine that!!  :)

NCFCA is run like a well-oiled machine, and it was an absolute joy to see it all come together.  Plus, I got to spend those days getting to know the other moms better which was a treat for me.  :)
Our local club hosted this particular tournament, and we held it at a downtown church in a beautiful old building.
I became very familiar with this particular hallway because it was right outside the room that I spent most of my time in.
I'm going to try to rush through this a little so I can get it posted tonight (this post has been so late in coming as it is!), so I'm not going to caption everything but only interject comments here and there.

Julie and Linda are two of the nicest people you could ever meet.  They both played a major role in making this tournament happen, and I appreciated so much their help and encouragement!

During the various rounds, when I wasn't needed to help with the food for the competitors and their families, I sometimes walked through the halls and peeked into the rooms where the speeches and debates were happening.

I wish I could have actually gone in and listened to some of the rounds; but with  Benjamin constantly with me, I knew a quiet classroom where teenagers were giving speeches wasn't the ideal place for him and his version of giving speeches.  ;-)

From one of the windows, I admired this view of our courthouse.

This lady Patti was in charge of the food for competitors and their families (and did a phenomenal job), and her husband Frank helped a lot, too.  I helped a little.  I wanted to help a lot!  But it seemed as if I was often interrupted, just when I thought I could help, by a baby who wanted to nurse or by my other children who needed help with something.  In future years, I hope to be a lot more helpful!  :)
This large room was my second home for the three days of the tournament.  This was the place where the students and families would gather in between rounds or when they weren't giving a speech in that particular round.
It was fun to walk around and, not only see so many young people dressed up, but also observe how they were interacting with each other in their free time.

Of course, I was always happy to catch a glimpse of Josiah during the tournament.  He was often off doing his own thing, but I loved the chances we had to connect periodically.  :)

This lady was from out of our area and had brought her younger children.  I loved her idea of using tape to mark off a small area of the floor in this hallway for each of them to be in as they worked on various activities.  I'd like to copy that idea someday if I find myself in a similar situation.  :)

One thing that was not at all unusual to see was a person standing, facing the wall, and practicing a speech.  In other contexts, such behavior would have seemed quite strange, but not at a speech and debate tournament.  ;-)

This board, pictured below, was the place where the schedule and room assignments would be posted before each round, so when the info was posted, there was a rush for people to see the lists and find out where they needed to go.

This was what I helped with: the delicious food!  :)

Because Josiah and I (and Benjamin, too) needed to leave the house by about 7:00 each morning, I had arranged for our neighbor to come over and be with the other kids until about mid-morning when Jeff would slip away from work to come home and get them and bring them to me at the tournament.  Getting three of us out the door that early in the morning was a challenge enough; I didn't want to attempt it with seven of us!  :)  Then the four middle kids would be with me until Jeff came to pick them up after work.  There was a lot of time for having fun with the other kids (David and Tobin spent a lot of their time watching rounds and being timers for the speeches), and one day we took this set of magnets, a favorite of Shav's, to build with and shared them with the others.
The people at the tournament were so nice and helpful.  They could see that I had my hands full, and various ones stepped in to help from time to time...including this lady who held Benjamin until he fell asleep one day.
Benjamin liked to chew on my name tag.  :)
This girl, besides being beautiful, was so sweet.  She offered to help me with Benjamin and was delighted when I took her up on her offer.  Her mom even came to me and thanked me for letting her daughter have some time with him!  :)

This unique light fixture provided some entertainment for Benjamin one day when we were standing in the hall beneath it for an extended period of time.  I was happy for anything to fascinate him and keep him quiet at that point!  :)

Josiah felt good about his performances but didn't qualify to go on to the next level of competition--not unusual for a first-year participant, especially an eighth-grader.  He wasn't overly disappointed however, but instead started making plans for next year.  :)  And no matter what his official result was, I could not have been more proud of him.  The growth in his confidence and ability in the realm of public speaking is phenomenal.

Yes, I think we'll do it next year.  No, I'm not as reluctant about it as I was this past year.  ;-)  As a matter of fact, I'm sorta kinda even looking forward to the 2017 tournament.  Imagine that!  :)

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