A Coke and a Smile

More than a decade ago, I worked in the Dean’s office of a high school for boys. The school did not have a nurse, so for minor medical pains, I filled the role. At the time, my now-husband was in medical school, and he used to laugh at my medical solutions on the fly.

They almost always involved a can of Coke.

A high school student would arrive looking weepy or holding his stomach or complaining of a headache. I would let him stay to chat. He almost always accepted my offer to get him a Coke.

That’s when I knew the kid was okay.

So when the coke and chat were done, I sent him back to class smiling, usually bragging to his friends that he had had a soda in the Dean’s office.

Coca-Cola – Band-Aid for the high school set.

As a mom, I have learned a new “medical solution” that seems to work just as well. Whenever one of my boys complains of stomachaches, headaches or general anxiety that won’t allow him to fall asleep at night, I offer to get a wet washcloth to place over his eyes or on his forehead.

Seconds after the washcloth touches his skin… sleep. It doesn’t matter which kid. It doesn’t matter why he is struggling to sleep. It works every time.

I am beginning to understand that the aches and pains of growing up most often just require a brief moment of acknowledgement.

Traffic Jam with the Kids

On Sunday, the boys and I were driving home from Aspen to Denver. After a winter of weekend ski lessons, we are used to the hour traffic jam caused by accidents or winter weather. We even sat one Friday on the mountain highway, closed for hours due to a police chase and shooting.

So leave it to the authorities to conduct unexpected tunnel blasting in July. Another “hour plus” delay. Importantly in our car, another “hour plus” before the kids would see the dog.

I expected a disaster of bad moods, whining and bathroom breaks. Instead, my ten year old rolled down the window and shouted at our fellow travelers.

“I hate this! Drive, people!”

When that elicited minor laughter from his brothers, “Santa, where are you! Save us!”

More laughter.

“Where is the Easter Bunny when you need him? EATER BUNNY!!!!”

What would the Easter Bunny do?

Followed by chanting, “WE HATE THIS! HEY! WE HATE THIS! HEY!”

Grateful for laughing kids in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I had to join them. “NOT AS MUCH AS ME! NOT AS MIUCH AS ME!”

And so it went, interspersed with shouts for the Easter Bunny, until we detoured past the tunnel and picked up speed.

The Messenger

Every group of kids should have a steady rock in their midst. The honest one parents trust. The sturdy one who rarely gets hurt whether in the football game at recess, playing outside after dinner, or wrestling in the basement. The responsible, reliable, cautious one who believes deeply in rules and follows them.

Our eleven year old is that kid.

He is also the messenger, sent to me when a brother gets hurt because he is not the one crying, crumpled in a ball in the end zone.

But he is a detail guy, precise, who likes to tell a story from beginning to end, especially if it demonstrates his innocence.

“Um, so, we were riding our bikes, and…”

I see only from the expression on his face that his story is leading to a dramatic end.

“…um, so, you know that corner with the mailbox….”

I hear “bike” and know someone is sitting on a curb somewhere in the neighborhood bleeding, crying or worse.

But the messenger delves deeper into his tale, “well… we weren’t even going that fast, but then…”

So now, when the messenger arrives looking panicked, I start the story for him, “Is he hurt? How bad? Bring me to him.”

Rebel Dog without a Cause

Last Sunday was a perfect summer day. Sunny, no humidity, still cool. On our walk, the dog and I passed moms coming out for the Sunday paper, families piling into minivans on their way to church, early bikers hoping to finish their ride before the heat set in, other rambunctious pets eager to say hello.

We passed the Anglican Church, white with pale blue trim, where the singing had just ceased. We turned the corner at the Quaker Meeting House, also silent, but full if the number of parked cars were any indication. The dog sniffed at the grass, tugged at her leash to keep moving.

When we reached the Russian Orthodox Church a few blocks past the Quakers and Anglicans, I could hear the murmur of parishioners through open windows. My dog once again stalled to sniff the grass, and I watched the white of the cottonwood trees float to the ground around us.

Then a blatant act of rebellion from a dog always tempting fate, seeking adventure, poised for battle. She pooped at the bottom center of the church steps – a wet one that I could not fully lift from the grass with the purple plastic bag I carried for that purpose.

Did they hear me scold her mid-prayer? “For god sakes, Star!”

A few snickers, heads still bowed? A single set of eyes raised to the window?

“Really?!”

A gentle smile from an elderly priest? Until their discovery at the bottom of the stairs…

…a Ukrainian nationalist at work on an otherwise peaceful Sunday.

Swim Team

I signed my guys up for swim team last year for a few reasons. I wanted them to get some exercise over the summer, to look like they knew what they were doing in the water (as only swim team kids do) and, most important, to make friends and be known by the larger pool community.

Their strokes are looking better. Their stamina has improved. The coaches and lifeguards know them and greet them by name. The younger two boys talk to anyone who shares their lane or swims with them on a relay. They look up to the good swimmers, referring to them with the highest regard, “he’s State,” which really means he is fast enough to swim in the A league championship at the end of the summer.

What I had forgotten from my own childhood was the difference between being “on” the team and “one of them.” This week, in their second year, I witnessed the transition for my oldest and most reserved son, and realized how special that particular series of events is in the life of a child.

First, he made a friend during practice. Together, they helped the coaches unhook the lane ropes. The head coach realized his breaststroke is legal and, making a big deal about it, convinced him to swim it in the next meet.

Simple things, yet out of the blue, he asked for a private lesson to work on his starts and turns. He lingered at the end of the lane ropes after practice all week waiting to take ownership of his new job.

At the meet, he earned a second place in his first breaststroke race. His new friend got the blue ribbon. My son, never the first to reach out, found the winner and gave him a high-five. “We got one-two! Good swim!”

Last year, when he was “on” the team, had I given him the opportunity to skip a meet, he would have seized it in a second. Now that he has felt the magic of becoming “one of them,” he does not want to let that feeling go.

“Guys, we’re flying home at midnight the night before your last meet,” I said, expecting groans and “do we have to swims?”

“Oh, we’re going!”

“But then we’ll have to be late for…”

“Mom, we have to be there. The team needs us.”

My boys may not be “State”, but they got their trophy when they became “one of the team.”

Snooze Fest

When I was a kid, I always used to say that I wanted to be a Dad. Not a likely prospect, however, for a girl. Now I remember where and why that wish was born.

For Fathers’ Day, I had our boys write cards to their Dad, and to tell him why they love him. But I should not have read the cards, because now I am mad at our eleven year old. Pretty unhappy with the six year old too.

“I wish you were home more often,” wrote the eldest. “Half the time you’re not here, it’s a snooze fest.”

A snooze fest?

This blasphemy after a week in which we – mom at the helm = went back and forth to the pool daily, took golf lessons (so we can play as a family), played a multi-game Ping-Pong tournament, entertained numerous friends and made homemade pizza.

Snooze fest?

Then he has the gall to say, “Dad, you want to play Ping-Pong?” And does a fist-pump when Dad says yes!

I played Ping-Pong!

Even worse? It turns out that this is not just preteen anti-mom activity! Our six year old wrote that when Dad is at work, “I just wait around for you to come play with me.”

Oh please!

I am thrilled that my husband is a great Dad, whose kids love to be around him. As soon as he comes home from work, he is all theirs, and they know it. I am happy that he is involved, throws the football until his arm falls off, helps them with math, brainwashes them about politics, listens to their stories, laughs at the same jokes, belts out the same loud music, expects the best of them and helps them rise to the occasion. He is an awesome Dad who continuously earns his Fathers’ Day.

I’m just wondering what a mom has to do to be as much fun as Dad.

 

 

 

Majek Speling

In the first days of summer, as my son transitioned from kindergarten to first grade, he lost his first tooth. In fact, he yanked it out of his mouth after we claimed it still needed a few more days of wiggle time. No fuss.

“Only a little blood, mom.”

And in the time-honored tradition of our family, he wanted to keep his tooth.

So his first summer homework was to write the tooth fairy a letter, which captured this brief moment in time when losing teeth and learning to read and write are things to celebrate.

Der toothsfary

Plese don’t take

Mi tooths.

Thak you