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My youngest son is heading off on the first of his summer adventures abroad. He and a group of classmates and two teachers (about 20 total) are leaving this evening for Boston and heading to Costa Rica where they will do a service project. Since it’s not all work and no play, they will also be hiking at La Fortuna National Park (volcanos), zip lining, hanging in the hot springs and white water rafting. They are spending several days with an indigenous population where they will work on a school/playground renovation.

I wasn’t particularly concerned since the group that is sponsoring the trip is organized and sends thousands of kids all over the world on these types of expeditions. But still, as the days have grown closer and closer, a mom’s instinctive worry has began to creep in. I am fighting to keep it at bay and imagine what wonderful experiences they will have as they undertake this expedition.

Safe travels Mill River kids — have a great trip!

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Tonight was one of the big milestones on life’s path – our oldest son graduated high school. Last night was the Senior Awards Ceremony and I am proud to say that TJ was the recipient of two scholarships and a bunch of academic commendations. He and his fellow classmates have a lot of talent and it was apparent at the awards ceremony, where there was much to celebrate over the course of the evening. As eloquently stated by our principal last night, the awards ceremony celebrated the students’ differences, their different achievements — be they in academics, community service, athletics or music. The graduation ceremony tonight celebrated their similarities – each and every one of the students tonight received the same diploma marking the conclusion of their high school careers and marking the same milestone on their life journey. They are a wonderful group of young men and young women that I have had the pleasure of watching grow in the years that I have known them. They have grown into amazing people that will do wonderful things in the years to come. I am very proud of TJ and his friends. They are amazing and I wish all good things to them.

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I think that the older they get the boys realize more and more how important they are to each other and how important their friends are to them. Tom and I have often told the boys as they were growing up that one of the best things to come out of our school and college years were the dear, dear friends that have shared many laughs and many tears in the years that followed college with us. Together, we have celebrated marriages, births, graduations and the growth of our children. We have cried together over the loss of family members, and other devastating life events. Good or bad, they were there for it all. Today, two of our very dear friends drove up with one of their daughters, our goddaughter, to be here for TJ’s graduation. It was a wonderful gesture and I know that they know how much it meant to both of us and for that I will be eternally grateful.

As the boys grow into their own lives and their own friendships, I hope that they are fortunate to find such dear, loving friends — friends that I have always liked to refer to as my “2 a.m. friends”. These are those friends that I know without any doubt whatsoever that I can call upon in the middle of the night  to ask a favor or talk to or cry  with or whatever and they will do it or be there without any question or any hesitation. These are the friends who were there when I miscarried and later when I was put on bedrest with TJ who brought me yummy muffins and smoothies and who believed in my ability to nurse when I wasn’t so sure myself;  the friends who did all kinds of amazing things for which I am eternally grateful for me and my family when my dad passed away suddenly; the friends who watched my boys when Tom and I came down with the flu at the same time and couldn’t move a muscle; the friends that would leave breakfast foods on my doorstep when we got here in the middle of the night or had dinner waiting when we arrived from New Jersey; the friends that come and spend the holidays with us and make me feel like we haven’t missed a beat in years; the friends that would drive 6 hours in total to be there for your son’s graduation because they know how much it means to you. These are the friends that I hope that my boys have the good fortune to have in their own lives.

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We are so fortunate to have such wonderful friends and such great sons. They have made me so proud that I think my heart will just burst at the seams. Tonight was an amazing ceremony and we are so proud of TJ and his fellow classmates and friends.

“I hope your dreams take you to the corners of your smiles, to the highest of your hopes, to the windows of your opportunities, and to the most special places your heart has ever known.” – Anonymous

I love you TJ and am so very, very proud of you today and always. ~ Mom 

It is so hard to believe that TJ will be graduating in a few weeks, making prom even more tear jerking. I warned him that this would be the first of many tear filled events for his mother over the coming weeks.

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To make a special day even better, it was a historic event in the Heffernan house. It marks the first and last time that all three boys attended the same prom. Here is Tyler and his date

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And last, but not least, Tim with prom date.

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As we prepare to head up to Winooski to listen to Tim perform with his classmates in the All State Chorus, on this beautiful spring Friday afternoon, I thought I would share some of the photos from Bistro.

It has been a wonderful, musical year and I’m very, very proud of my vocalist. In the words of his brother — he has the voice of an angel.

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The entire group of performers taking a photo opportunity during rehearsal on Thursday afternoon.

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One very proud mama posing with her son……P1090140

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My (not so) little (anymore) men…….P1090156

Got to spend my Valentine’s Day (or at least a good portion of it) with Tim’s Chambers singers. The group of 18 splits into two octets and heads out into Rutland County to deliver singing Valentines to lucky recipients. The day is a fundraiser for the music program at the school. Parent drivers transport these kids to various homes, businesses, offices, the hospital and rehabilitation centers to deliver messages of love and good wishes to spouses, children, grandparents, friends, loved ones and even total strangers. It is a wonderful program and the kids, who dress in concert black with red accents, go about their appointed tasks with great professionalism and good cheer.

This year, they sang “We’re Happy Together” at least 25 times for each group and they did each one as if it were the first time, with great enthusiasm and beautiful smiles, making each recipient feel like they were the only one being sung to today. Their professionalism and musical talents are thanks in no small part to their choral instructor, who is amazing and makes the kids feel amazing themselves.

Here are some pictures from the day. If you missed it this year and you’re in Rutland County, I highly recommend you get your name on the list for next year! So very, very proud of Tim and his friends!

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Last night I got to do something that I’ve missed out on for the past three years. Every year when the Celebration of the Arts comes around, Tim and I are on a plane, or on our way to a plane or getting off a plane for Odyssey. He misses his “final exam” concert and I miss the delight of watching him sing. This year, due to the lack of Odyssey in our lives, Tim got to perform and I got to watch. It was a wonderful night of vocal music following a wonderful night of instrumental music. Both nights included an entire library full of visual arts from the various art classes and I got to see some of the really great pictures that Tyler took during his digital photography class on display.

Here are some of the pictures from last night. It was a very emotional evening for them, since it will be the last time this group of students performs together, particularly for Tim’s chambers group which will be losing the majority of its members to graduation.  Lots of singing, lots of wonderful music and lots of tears.

This is a picture of the entire group of vocal students who comprise the junior and senior chorus at the school. They performed a mass choral piece to open the concert which was fabulous.

Our choral instructor with the graduating seniors during the last performance of the evening – a song performed by the underclass vocal students as a send-off to their graduating members.

ImageWe had the pleasure of attending a wonderful concert at Grace Church Saturday night. Had it not been for Tim performing, we most likely would have missed out on some truly wonderful music. The Mill River Senior Chorus was invited to perform at a concert alongside Penn State University’s Essence of Joy choral group directed by Tony Leach. The kids, along with several other local choral groups got to spend the day working alongside the famous Penn State Chorus and its world re-known conductor.

We were treated to a two plus hour concert that quite literally rocked the church with the sounds of gospel and spiritual music. It was beautiful and a great opportunity for the kids. The final set of music was performed by all the groups together.

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Talk about proud. I cannot even tell you how much my heart swelled to watch my baby perform a high school solo in the Men’s Ensemble as part of the Winter Vocal Concert at his school. The video that I post here doesn’t even do the performance justice. The good news is that he will be performing it live at Mill River’s Bistro in March — hint, hint.

On Friday, Tim participated as part of his Chambers Music ensemble in the Mid Winter Madrigal Festival Concert in Burlington. He and his ensemble performed wonderfully. The church hosting the event that evening resonated with the sweet sounds of 250 high school chambers singers. Each group sang individual programs and then they all joined together for a 250-strong chorus to perform the final songs of the evening.

We spent the afternoon and evening up in Burlington in order to finish up some Christmas shopping and enjoy the concert. It was well worth the trip.

This Wednesday is the MRU winter vocal concert and Tim has a solo performance. We are very proud and looking forward to listening to him sing.

Here are some pictures from the Madrigal Festival.

 

 

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It has been a beautiful and very busy few days here. Let’s do a little recap….

Thursday was Tim’s premiere in Chambers. It was the first concert for the school. Tim is in Chambers, Men’s Ensemble and Senior Chorus so he was pretty busy on Thursday night. I love the fact that even though he’s a big shot singer, he’ll still find the time to pose for a mom’s picture.

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Here he is in Men’s Ensemble, singing “Pretty Woman” and below is Chambers….

It was a great concert as usual and not just because my son was singing in it.

This is the first Columbus Day weekend since we’ve had our house up here that we have had no company. Not a soul. It was a beautiful weekend here too, sunny and warm and well just plain gorgeous. I hope that Irene hasn’t scared everyone off, evidently it didn’t scare the idiot who came to a complete stop in the middle of doing 50 miles per hour on Route 103 in order to gape at the house where the river washed away most of its foundation when it changed course through the poor people’s yard. Seriously, a total and complete stop on the highway with three cars behind them.

Anyway…..sorry to rant. I had a great time with my mom friends where we did a whole bunch of picture taking in the fall foliage. It was a lot of fun and a great way to spend the afternoon.

Today I spent hours digging potatoes. Probably about more than 100 pounds of them. Pulling out a lot of the garden since we know this beautiful Indian summer weather is just a passing trend…..

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Everyone was up and out this morning for the first day of school. Finally. I think that the boys were done with summer vacation and actually looking forward to going back and seeing their friends. Hard to believe that I have three boys in high school this year. Freshman, Sophomore and Junior. Wow, time flies.

I do know my limits and while everyone was bright eyed and in good moods this morning, I didn’t push my luck and drag out the camera for that “back to school” picture. I figured that they would kill me….then who would make their lunch?

It’s not everyday that you open the newspaper and see a picture of your child smiling back at you. At least I don’t think it happens for many people. But it happened for us this morning. Tim and his Odyssey teammates were front page news in the Rutland Herald with an article lauding their achievement at World Finals this last weekend.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it does. Just when you think your heart can’t swell any bigger with pride, it does. Magical….just plain old magical.

Here’s the entire article from the Rutland Herald:


By Cristina Kumka
STAFF WRITER – Published: June 3, 2011

 

A group of local high school students recently got a one-up on their careers — with the help of 28 mousetraps.

The Mill River Union High School Odyssey of the Mind clinched second place in the world for conquering Odyssey’s “Extreme Mousemobile” vehicle engineering challenge.

The 33rd annual global competition forced students to work together as a team. The goal was to harness each student’s creative thinking skills in order to solve divergent, long- and short-term problems in fun and creative ways. The results were then presented before a panel of judges.

This year, the Mill River team figured out how to re-engineer the mousetrap’s metal loop, which is designed to catch a mouse, into a device that propelled a “Pi-Rat” ship through one challenge and over the next.

While many engineers have tried making mousetrap-powered cars, the team’s vehicle earned such a high ranking because of its creativity — using the energy of multiple mousetraps and the leverage and shape offered by bicycle wheels to move a ship long and short distances. In addition to movement, the ship also could drop an anchor and raise a flag, among other tasks, according to team leaders.

Through trial and error, the team of youngsters used bike wheels as big pulleys and made the most of a long string by figuring out to use the full amount of force provided by the mousetrap flap, according to Tim Vile, the team’s coach and engineer.

The spring power from the mousetraps powered the wheels and moved the vehicle, Vile said.

The finished ship was revised by the team four times prior to the world competition and it looked completely different than any other mousetrap-powered vehicle, Vile said.

Mill River’s winning Odyssey team is composed of ninth-grader Rowan Dubin-Masuck, ninth-grader Sarah Osmer, eighth-grader Ian Dansereau, eighth-grader Tim Heffernan, eighth-grader Anjelica Carroll, and eighth-grader Elizabeth Bushey.

The team was coached by Vile and parent Nan Dubin.

The accomplishment not only resulted in two awards for the team, but also drew recognition from the University of Vermont’s School of Engineering.

Educators there say the team is comprised of the exact group of students the college is looking for.

Jeff Frolik of UVM’s School of Engineering said America’s workforce needs students like them now.

“To solve a problem, you are going to need more than one point of view,” Frolik said.

Frolik said today’s mechanical engineering field is morphing into something more consumer-friendly and students in his school need to learn how to communicate and present the highly technical information they have mastered to the average audience.

Math is at the core of engineering, but today, communication also needs to be a critical factor, Frolik said.

Graduates of UVM’s School of Engineering have gone on to work in the industries of aerospace, manufacturing, composites and carbon fiber. Graduates also have had the opportunity to work in renewable energy or electrical engineering for state-sponsored projects like Smart Grid installation.

Dawn Densmore, a director of outreach and public relations for UVM, said the Odyssey competition caters to the best and brightest – exactly what the college wants in its engineering program.

“We are interested in hands-on application and students learning creatively,” she said. “We want those students at UVM. Businesses are clamoring for applicable knowledge – how do physics and math apply? … Not just book knowledge, but a tangible way to solve a problem.”

Companies seeking to hire graduates want to know that students understand why they are learning what they are learning, Densmore said.

“The thing that doesn’t work in a given project is what you remember the most. And it’s critical in our world to work in a team because nothing is done without one,” she said.

A team from Stowe Playhouse also earned second place for its “Full Circle” theatrical performance about how different parts of our brains store and recollect memories.

cristina.kumka@rutlandherald.com

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