Tag Archives: ProGrad

ProGrad Gambling

The kid surrounded by his besties: Michael, Ricky, and Jared, with Marcus kneeling.

The kid surrounded by his besties: Michael, Ricky, and Jared, with Marcus kneeling.

Just like his older brother did three years ago, once my younger son was done with graduation, he attended his high school’s final event: ProGrad. Project Graduation still is a supervised, all-night lock-in at their school featuring fun, food, games, prizes, and a hypnotist.

Big money! Big money!

Big money! Big money!

And just like his brother, the kid first checked out the Spin ’n Win with its guaranteed payout.

Sidebar: He opted for a clock, which normally would be helpful in his college dorm. However, it’s the analog version with hands and numbers. I think he only can tell time digitally!

After that, he quickly gravitated towards the casino part of the activities and had a blast there, once again just like his brother. But there was one big difference.

Pondering his next move

Pondering his next move

He became addicted to playing blackjack. After several of his buddies expressed concern to me about how quickly he was blowing the 15,000 chips that all the graduates were given, I decided I’d better check it out.

Playing two hands at a time

Playing two hands at a time

Sure enough, his pile of chips was rapidly dwindling. I watched as he finally lost them all.

But he still walked away with a smile, and I figured that was the end of his gambling escapades. Of course, I was wrong. After a friend gave him a couple chips, and he begged another for more, he parlayed those into 10,000 chips, which were good for two raffle tickets (not that he won anything, again much like his bro).

Wonder how his luck would be in Las Vegas. I’m afraid to find out!

“The Office” Rules

Jared, the kid, and Ricky show their Office alter egos.

Jared, the kid, and Ricky show their “Office” alter egos at last Saturday’s Senior Serve.

Three years ago when it was our older son’s turn to participate in his high school’s Project Graduation dinner and silent auction (aka Senior Serve), he had utterly no interest.

The sign is held up by paper clips!

The sign is held up by paper clips!

Fortunately, his little bro bought into the concept and had two of his besties, Jared and Ricky, on board. The seniors think up themes for their tables and then do their best (with a lot of their parents’ help, of course) to carry them out with decorations and costumes. At first, the boys wanted to do Beowulf.

Why? Why not!

Jared’s mom, Mary, borrowed her work’s office supplies.

Even the tablecloth is paper.

Fortunately, they came to their senses after realizing how hard that would be to pull off. Thus came Plan B: “The Office,” which is one our favorite TV shows (well, the early seasons when it was funny).

The table’s centerpiece was reams of copy paper and a dead laptop.

The table’s centerpiece was reams of copy paper and a dead laptop.

My younger son quickly decided to be Michael Scott, the character he likes best. Ricky was tabbed as Dwight Schrute, because sometimes he wears glasses. That left Jared to be Jim Halpert, who he definitely favors with his lankiness and laid-back style.

A novel idea for a tip jar!

Cool beans: A novel idea for a tip jar!

The boys practiced a couple skits to perform so they could earn tips (which go into the ProGrad coffers). We set up a mini desk (a card table) for them to use complete with official-looking phones and our three office chairs. On game day (aka last Saturday night), they were ready to go and highly amusing.

Sidebar: For me, the best part of the process was bonding with the other moms, Julie (Ricky) and Mary (Jared). We had a blast brainstorming ideas with and without our sons and then helping them make these special memories.

Our cake had a lovely presentation.

Our cake had a lovely presentation, thanks to Mary.

The kid made a credible Michael Scott (despite his lighter hair color), complete with a faux suit (a new-looking blazer we bought at Goodwill for a mere $15), World’s Best Boss mug, and a wristband that read “Support the Rabid.” He, his buds, and the parents had a great time at the event, which featured a lot of other wonderful themes, including the Bachelor, Duck Dynasty, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and even a carnival.

I’m sure it was tough for the judges to pick the three top tables, which won a bunch of the coveted Bulldog Bucks that the kids use to buy prizes at the June 8th ProGrad.

Katherine, Kristen, and Brittany are coming up roses!

Katherine, Kristen, and Brittany are coming up roses!

In the end, though, the table next to us, Garden Party, won as best theme. It smelled as good as it looked!

Too bad there wasn’t a prize for the table that had the most fun with the cutest guys. Ours would’ve won that hands down!

Very Pro ProGrad

The #1 son’s college roommate-to-be, Ben, plays the slots.

All year my #1 son’s high school graduating class and its parents have been planning and organizing for one huge event: Project Graduation. It’s a supervised, all-night lock-in at their high school featuring fun, food, games, prizes, and a hypnotist.

My pal Betsy watches the Spin ’n Win wheel turn with an anxious winner-to-be.

Once we finished up with high school graduation Friday night, we had very little time before we were called to duty and fun at the high school—duty for me as a volunteer, of course, but really fun for both the #1 son and myself.

Sidebar: My #1 son, who isn’t very sociable, totally surprised me last fall when he said he would attend ProGrad. My reaction? Time to volunteer to help him earn the Bulldog bucks that are spent at the event.

Kelsey (pedaling) and Lexi enjoy a tricycle ride.

I had told my friend Elaine that I would help work security, as long as I could take photos, too. That meant I got to stroll the halls, walking softly and carrying my big Nikon D700 and Nikon 50mm lens. Fortunately, the kids were so well-behaved that I didn’t need to work up a sweat showing off my (non)muscular biceps.

My neighbor Cheryl showed her Vegas side as a blackjack dealer.

About 280 kids (a little more than 50 percent) showed up and had plenty to keep them busy. There was a Spin ’n Win wheel with guaranteed prizes (#1 snagged a $10 Target gift card), a prize walk, raffles and drawings, and three hotly contested silent auctions. Laptops, TVs, dorm room necessities, an iPad, and so much more all were up for grabs to those were lucky and/or had earned mega Bulldog bucks during the school year.

Future roomie Ben, my “third son” Chase, and my #1 son contemplate their blackjack strategy.

Unfortunately for my #1 son, he was deficient in both luck and bucks; thus he only scored the Target gift card. But each participant’s duffle bag was brimming with loot worth much more than the $30 or $40 they paid for their ticket. And #1 really had a lot of fun, especially at the casino, and was glad he attended.

Who needs games when you’ve got a camera to look at?

For me, the adrenaline was flowing from ProGrad’s start at 10 p.m. to maybe 1 a.m. when I was ready to bag it and climb into bed. That didn’t seem to be a problem for most of the teenagers, though, who love to stay up late. Especially when there are prizes to be won!

I know how these kids, who are in a hypnotic trance, feel!

Just about when most of the parents were starting to nod off, a hypnotism show started. Although I almost fell asleep along with the kids the talented hypnotist was putting into a trance, I forced myself to stay awake and was glad I did. It was so entertaining to watch the hypnotist’s power of suggestion make these teens push out of their comfort zones. Oh, the stories their friends in the audience had to tell them once the trance was lifted!

#1 sits with Alayna, Josh, Chase, and Jackie in the auditorium.

It was so much fun for me to watch #1 interacting with friends, as the stress of the end of school and graduation disappeared. He might never step foot in his high school again, but he probably never will forget his final time there having fun at ProGrad.

And neither will I!

Our Bloomin’ Front Yard

A purply and red rose cohabitate in our front bed.

Looks like the warmer weather finally is here to stay! Which figures, since the high school track season ends this week for my #2 son.

Our roses are developing at different rates. I'm partial to the partly opened ones.

With the temperatures so nice last Saturday, the Mister and I checked out our front yard landscaping.

Rosebuds like these are the promise that we'll see more beauty soon.

Our roses look spectacular! They’ve been blooming all month and are a beautiful addition to our yard. However, January’s freeze executed our lovely, short-lived ixoras (Ixoras, we hardly knew ye!), so they exited their beds via the Mister’s shovel.

The Mister gets to planting.

In their place, we planted a colorful spring mix of flowers sold by ProGrad. And, yes, unfortunately, “we” did equal both the Mister and myself, much as I tried to get out of it (as usual). Why?


There were worms all over. Ugh! Too bad the Mister and our #2 son weren’t going fishing. Plus, I don’t like getting my hands dirty. Not when I have my camera to handle. My role is supposed to be photographer; the Mister is our gardener. But he wasn’t falling for that old excuse this time.

Pinkish flowers

In our typical procrastination fashion, we were, ahem, about 10 days late planting the spring mix.

Love these magenta flowers!

Fortunately, most of the blooms survived and have added even more color to our front yard.

Slurp slurp!

A healthy dose of water helps the flowers grow. Hopefully, the spring mix will thrive before our hot summer forces them to give up their reason for living. Until then, we plan to enjoy our bloomingly beautiful front yard!

Pulling On Our Social Pants—the ProGrad Dinner

Cheshire Cat Chase

Let me go on record as saying I am definitely pro ProGrad. A supervised, all-night, alcohol-free party graduation evening where the kids have fun and get prizes is a great way to celebrate a milestone.

But leading up to the event are a number of fundraisers that some of the parents and seniors are involved in, all in the name of raising money and earning Bulldog bucks to be spent at the party.  The #1 son and I have attended meetings and have done a bit of volunteering so that he can have these coveted bucks. But we haven’t been overly involved, because that’s just how we roll. He’s not very social, and I’m very lazy.

Love the barrel of monkeys above the “Toy Story” table

Then it came time for the biggest fundraiser of them all: The dinner and auction, which was last Saturday night at the high school’s cafeteria. Of course, #1 wanted nothing to do with something quite that social. His BFF and our “third” son, Chase, though, participated with three of their senior friends.

Each table utilized a theme that was carried through by the kids and included everything on the table, from flatware to dishes to cups. Chase’s table’s theme was Alice in Wonderland. I think he wanted to be the Cheshire Cat, because he didn’t have to smile behind his drawn-on grin.

The Mad Scientists' Einstein cake (a Facebook friend opined that it looks like “Lost‘s” Ben Linus!)

The tables also had desserts, which were auctioned off.

A planet and rocket ship carried out our table’s space theme.

Even though #1 wasn’t there, the Mister and I pulled on our social pants and attended the gala. We sat with our friends Joyce and Don at their son Daniel’s space-themed table.

The Milk Bone was used for a game, not for dessert.

The six seniors who worked their theme’s three tables did a great job serving us food and entertaining us with their moonwalking (don’t think of Michael Jackson’s variety, though; it was more like Neil Armstrong).

Daniel cuts the spaceship cake.

The Mister and I had fun chatting and eating. We won the auction for our table’s cake (thanks to no competition), which continued to carry out the space theme.

Buck shows his school spirit!

All of the tables were really well-done. Buck was the headliner at a hunting table where everyone was dressed in camouflage . . . we almost couldn’t see them!

Jacob and Karan sport their Mardi Gras ties.

Even the boys got into the spirit of things. They willingly dressed up or in costumes and served food and bussed tables without any fuss.

What Chase was really thinking!

Well, almost all the boys!

Will Photograph for Blog Material

Nicole poses with our high school’s mascot

When friends think you can take decent photos and see that you wield a big camera, they naturally jump to some conclusions. That aren’t necessarily correct.

Mine always think I can take good non-action shots, which means that they ask me to snap family or kid photos. Fortunately, there are far more-talented photographers in our community who do a much-better job with this subject matter, so I usually say sorry, no thanks. I’ll jump at the chance to take sports photos, of course—that’s familiar turf for me.

Erica feels at ease on the top of the truck.

But then my good friend Sherri asked if I would take publicity photos for our high school’s ProGrad effort. She assured me that it just would be a few shots at a local restaurant, Raising Cane’s, that’s helping our fundraising attempts. Not only did this seem quick and easy peasy, but it would be more payback for her son Eric helping the #1 son get an A on his physics project last semester.

Raising Cane’s owners Amy and Cody join Erica and Princess on the truck.

Plus I needed material for today’s blog post! ProGrad is starting to become a great source of photos for me.

The finished photo taken outside

I opted for my Nikon D700 and Nikon 35-70mm lens. First we shot outside (glad the weather cooperated!). Eric drove his BIG Ford F-250 truck onto the sidewalk in front of the door. Then I had to get both the truck and the restaurant’s sign together in the photo. Glad I had the 35mm wide-angle part of  my lens!

Inside Raising Cane’s

Next we went inside the restaurant to shoot in front of a big painted sign on the wall. Naturally, I didn’t have my external flash, because I thought we were only taking photos outside. So I upped the ISO a bit to throw more light from the D700’s built-in flash. The photo looks okay, but it would’ve been better lit with the external flash. I need to learn to always bring it just in case.

Eric and Sherri

All in all, it was a fun photo shoot filled with good-looking seniors. And it was nice to help out a friend.

You may be wondering, where’s our favorite #1 son? He’s a senior at that high school. Why isn’t he pictured?

What Brooke and Eric probably were thinking as I snapped away.

Because, of course, he doesn’t like to smile. See that thought bubble over the heads of Brooke and Eric? #1 would’ve brought that with him to the photo shoot! Better to leave him at home and be content to annoy teenagers who I don’t have to live with.

Practicing for a Light-Filled Photo Shoot

A cute inflatable

When I volunteered to help with a hayride last Saturday, I, of course, had an ulterior motive. The event was run by the ProGrad committee at my sons’ high school in an attempt to raise money for its lock-in the night of high school graduation.

Sidebar: Project Graduation is a supervised, all-night, alcohol-free party for grads where they get fabulous prizes and have a great time. Even the hardly social #1 son plans to attend. Surprised me, that’s for sure. Which meant I had to volunteer.

Snoopy serenades our neighborhood.

The hayride (aka trucks pulling trailers filled with hay bundles) travels through a nearby community, Pecan Grove, that’s renown for its December lightfest. Most of the houses participate in making the many streets look festive and bright. I knew I’d want to go on one of the trucks after my volunteer duties and snap photos of the beautiful houses. I also knew that I’d better practice in my own neighborhood first, so I’d know what to anticipate once the hayride was rolling.

Lit-up snowpeople

My equipment choice was easy: I opted for two low-light champs, the Nikon D700 paired with the Nikon f/1.4 50mm lens. A fast lens like the 50mm lets in a lot of light, enabling me to keep my shutter speed high enough to, hopefully, not blur what I’m shooting.

Why not use flash, you ask? Because it wouldn’t look like you were photographing at night! Everything would be much too bright.

As I walked around my neighborhood, I experimented with exposure compensation in order to deal with the cluster of lights, like with the above snowmen. Without accounting for this extra light by going to an exposure comp of –.7, the snowmen would be blown out and almost unrecognizable. Too much light, just like too little light, can be a bad thing photographically.

Sidebar: Neither my neighbor Sylvia nor the Mister read the above three paragraphs. Their eyes started glazing over once they read “My equipment choice.” I fully understand . . . that’s how I feel when people talk about spreadsheets or computer code. Or cooking without following a recipe.

Two bears and a seal

Walking around the neighborhood taking a multitude of photos (each time I would try different settings to see what worked best) was a great experience. Although I’m sure some of my neighbors were scratching their heads at my odd behavior.

Blue snowflakes

I even found myself wishing that some of the snowflakes I was photographing were real. No, not lots and lots and lots of them. Just enough to make it seem like winter here in south Texas.

How many white trees are there?

Every now and then I found a reflection photo op. Those always are my favorite.

Love these peppermint lights!

My neighbor Tish put out some of the most-intriguing and fun lights to photograph along her sidewalk. They look like big peppermint candies!

Red peppermints

And they change colors! Too cool!!

Santa travels in style!

I really was getting into the swing of photographing well-lit things by the time I finished experimenting. The settings that seemed to work best were ISO 1600-2500, f/2-3.5, and an exposure comp of –.3 or –.7. I was ready to take on the Pecan Grove challenge.

How did I do? Tune in again tomorrow to find out!