Living With A Creative Genius

My 11-year-old son Joey is very smart and super creative. His brain works in a very unique way, which is a part of the reason he does so well with Odyssey of the Mind. He has been doing science projects at home on his own since he was about 3. He has a crazy imagination and can keep himself busy 100 percent of the time. He use to collect garbage at his sister’s soccer games and then build machines from it. He often gathers random materials from around the house and builds things in the yard with his friends. He is a creative genius.

A normal day at our house

A normal day at our house

Although he loves to build and experiment, Joey will do the bare minimum when it comes to school projects. He will not do extra credit because it’s “extra” unless I make him. If a teacher says something is optional, he will only do what’s required. If he scores a good grade on his math test, he will not do any of the corrections to make it better unless I force him. He gets mad when I require he do the extra. So we just had his first science fair at school. I knew Joey would do well with the actual experiment and data. He worked on it for weeks and typed his report well in advance. Our home printer is down so he sent his report to me at work. I printed it out and gave it to him in the car one day last week. “Now you are responsible for this Joey.” Later that day I put the dog in the car and realize she’s walking all over it with her sharp nails. I hand it to Joey again, “you should probably put this in your backpack so it’s safe.” The next morning I notice it is sitting on the kitchen table with the reminisce of breakfast, including syrup, all around it. I put it in his backpack myself. Since I knew Joey had been working on this project quite a bit, I made the mistake of assuming it was finished.

We came home from family night dinner at my mom’s Monday night around 7:30 when Joey announced he had to finish his project that was due the next day. WHAT? It is not finished??? At this point, he realizes that he didn’t send me all the pages to print so here we are with no printer and a missing page the night before. Luckily we have very sweet neighbors who allowed him to print there. I remembered that Joey had told me he wanted to take pictures of his project for his display board but he never gave me anything to have printed. I asked him if I needed to make an emergency run to Walgreen’s and he said no because he never took the pictures. I repeatedly asked if he was giving the project 110 percent and he assured me he was. I kept thinking his display board looked awfully plain. There was even a muddy shoe print on it. I asked how he was going to cover it… He cut out strip of paper and glued it over it. Then parents starting posting pictures of their kids projects on Facebook and I knew Joey didn’t care about giving even 100 percent.  Look at his friend’s board below and look at Joey’s. I’m not sure he even used scissors to cut the information out that he glued on. I’m guessing he just tore it with his hand. He must have realized when he got to school that he forgot to put a title on it because I noticed at the fair Tuesday night that he had scribbled the title on the board in pencil in his absolute worse handwriting.

Joey's friend's project

Joey’s friend’s project

Joey's project

Joey’s project







Joey’s board was the most plain board at the entire fair. It was the only board that did not have a photo, color or something on the side panels. I know other parents and his teacher had to be thinking “WHAT THE HECK? This is an incredibly creative kid who is on the chess team and goes to state every year with Odyssey and this is his project.” On our walk home I asked if he thought he did the best he could. He told me he did. I asked again. He then admitted that although his data was fantastic (and it was) that he could have put more in to the presentation. We talked about how when someone is viewing projects they are more likely to stop at something visually appealing than something plain and he agreed. I understand I could have pushed him harder to make it better but I feel like we are at the point that I have to let him figure it out himself.

Hopefully he won’t be a minimalist on future projects and will put that creativity to work!

Kids Learning to be Disappointed

Wouldn’t it be nice if our children could go through life without ever knowing what disappointment is? I would love to protect both of my kids from all the disappointments in life – being hurt by friends, losing a loved-one, having their heart broken, getting a bad grade, having a horrible boss or losing a competition. Unfortunately, that’s not really how life works. Working through disappointment as a child, prepares you for how to deal with it as an adult because unfortunately, disappointment is inevitable.

My 5th grade son Joey has been competing in Odyssey of the Mind since kindergarten. I think he is the only kid in his school district who can say that. He loves it. He has been on the same team now for four years. He has qualified at the regional level for the state competition three years in a row now. Unfortunately, the first year, half of our team members were going to be out of town for spring break and were unable to compete. Last year, the team took third place at state. First and second place teams are invited to attend worlds. Since one of the top teams could not attend, Joey’s team was extended an invitation. However, it was in Iowa, about 14 hours away, and very costly, so we were not prepared.

The Team and Coaches

The Team and Coaches

Joey and his teammates went into this year with determination to final for and attend the worlds competition in Michigan. You can see how badly by reading this article and watching the video. The coaches and parents were very supportive. The kids worked really hard putting hours upon hours in to preparing. The team took second place at Regionals. They actually had the highest score on long-term but were a little short on spontaneous, putting them in second. They continued to work hard to prepare for state. They practiced spontaneous over and over and made minor changes to their long-term problem. The day before state one of their teammates came down with a fever. The team immediately came up with plan B and put it into action. They rocked their long-term performance even with the cast change.

Then it came time for spontaneous. The team goes in alone for this – no coaches, no parents. They are told whether it is a verbal or a hands-on and they have one minute to decide which five of the six members will participate. It’s a lot of pressure.  The teammates typically come out saying they did great. Not this time. Joey came out shaking his hand as if he was iffy and holding back tears. They aren’t allowed to tell anyone what the spontaneous was until after awards. I could tell he was ready to bust and was no longer confident he was going to worlds. UGH! The rest of the afternoon, other than when we had a fun team lunch, was spent worrying.

The supportive siblings having a snow ball fight during spontaneous.

The supportive siblings having a snow ball fight during spontaneous.

We arrived for awards. That energy that was present during awards at regionals just wasn’t there. I thought for sure our team would be third place again and we’d have to wait on an invite to worlds. They announced third place and it wasn’t us. I was briefly hopeful. They announced second and again it wasn’t us. Right then I knew… I knew that my son was going to be heartbroken. The first place team was announced… it wasn’t us. I looked at my son’s face and my heart literally ached. As awards finished we hurried out to the car knowing he was holding it back as much as he could. The tears were welling up. As I hugged him I told him how proud I was of him for taking sixth at the state level. It was his dad’s weekend so he hopped in the car with him. I could feel his sadness as they pulled away. This is one of the times in my life that I hated my every other weekend arrangement. I wanted to take him home with me, hug him, tell him it was okay, eat ice cream out of the tub and watch movies that would make us laugh. I didn’t get to do that. Instead, I received text messages from him for about two hours telling me how sad and disappointed and even a little angry he was. I told him I loved him and to get some rest.

chocolate therapyHe and his sister came home the next evening. I was waiting for him with open arms and a small tub of “chocolate therapy” ice cream. In no way am I trying to teach him to eat his feelings away but sometimes ice cream really can fix anything. Joey always tells me “Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy ice cream and that’s basically the same thing.” We sat on the couch as both kids dug in with a spoon and laughed about what was on cream

Joey is still disappointed but he’s coping. He’s already thinking about next year and what his team can do to prepare even more. I don’t know if he’ll be going to World’s in 2014 but I am sure he will one of these years. His determination and hard work will get him there. Until then…. He may have to deal with disappointment. How do you prepare your kids for disappointment?

Team and family lunch (37 people)

Team and family lunch (37 people)

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