Goodbye, Sticker Chart

In mid-fall, our fourth grader was having trouble controlling his emotions and his desire to be chatty at school. So, we started a sticker chart to get him through.

As he walked down the carpool line, I always knew by his body language whether he had earned the sticker or not. And he was very honest about it. “Nope!” he would announce without me having to ask, and then launch into the story of that day’s misadventure.

After 20 stickers, he could purchase an under-$20 prize. The first 20 were tough, but he got there. Then we raised it to 30 stickers. That round went too fast, and I kept forgetting that he hadn’t received his second reward.

Yesterday, two months since we’ve even looked at the sticker chart, he reminded me that he was owed.

The he put his hand gently on my arm, “But this is the last. I don’t need stickers anymore.”

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The Collector

People collect stamps. Stickers. Thimbles. Seashells. Antiques. Rocks in the shape of a heart. Little porcelain animals. Art. Legos.

Our fifteen-year-old son collects boxes. Specifically, the boxes that package Apple products.

“They’re really nice boxes,” he explained when I noticed his collection – all white with the Apple insignia – in his room.

This is not, apparently, a passing fancy. He’s been collecting them for a few years. I only noticed because they are now stacked on his desk. MacBook Pro, iPad Air, iPhone, iPhone SE, iPhone 6s. Even the little box an iPhone Lightning Dock came in.

“One day, these are going to be really valuable.”

But they’re boxes?!

“Yes… Apple boxes!”

The Last Therapy Session

He’s been seeing her because of an uncontrollable rage that began in kindergarten when he hit a friend with a toy truck in the sandbox. The little girl needed stitches. In first grade, his teacher would bring him down to the basement to kick a beanbag chair. By third grade, therapy had helped him transfer his anger from his fists and his feet to his words… and I received a number of reports of him screaming in a wild rage at his teachers for not understanding him, siding with his classmates, not listening.

He morphed from the class Buddha one day to a whirlwind of anger and self-doubt the next.

But he’s a fourth grader now. Importantly, he has a couple of best friends who he seems to have figured out will stick by him when things get rough. The rage is thawing.

So, I wasn’t surprised when his therapist said at the end of yesterday’s session that he doesn’t need to see her anymore. “Let’s move to an as-needed basis.”

The funny thing was that she didn’t “re-neg” when he told her about Christmas Eve – and an unique experience he’s been sharing boldly for almost a month now.

“I saw Santa!”

She didn’t understand at first. “At the mall? Downtown?”

“The real one. I woke up in the middle of the night and forgot it was Christmas, and I thought I heard something downstairs. So, I went down,” his eyes sparkled and his smile lit up like a Christmas tree., “and there he was!”

She grinned back, trying not to look at me. “Wowwwww! Did you say anything?”

“Nope, I didn’t want to get in trouble. So, I tiptoed back upstairs.”

“He didn’t see you?”

“I am very good at sneaking around.” So proud.

“I have never heard of anyone actually getting to see him. You are the luckiest kid in the world,” then with a vigorous nod from him, she transitioned, “So, did you get anything good?”

He listed his presents. A small drone. A t-shirt from his favorite Youtube channel. A game called Timeline. But when she asked which one was his favorite…

“Seeing Santa! That’s the best gift anyone could ask for!”

Your Best Fan

There are times when I’ve watched my boys and felt as if I were going to explode with pride.  Today, when my eighth grader gave his This I Believe speech about the power of reading, I was so proud I wanted to tell everyone in the room that I think he’s absolutely amazing. (I held back… until now.)

It was beautifully written, laced with humor and a window into he is. He was also extraordinarily poised standing up before classmates, teachers and parents. Looked up at his audience. Paused at just right the moments for laughter.

But what struck me almost more than that was his huge smile of encouragement, whispered congratulations, and the high fives he gave each classmate as they passed him on their way to and from the podium. Not just his crew of his friends. Everyone.

I’ve seen it before – I may have written about it before, because it seems to come so naturally to him – when he came in last in a swim race, but was the first to reach over the lane ropes to shake his opponents’ hands. Last week, when his friend made his first basket in a game, he was as happy as the hoopster. And in past years, in the math competition, when each competitor moved on to the next round, he greeted them with encouragement, as if they had just impressed him like no other.

So, as I walked away from a great speech about the power of reading, I thought about the power of his very big, genuine smile, greeting his more nervous classmates, his teammates, even his competition with… “you were awesome!” and “isn’t this fun?!”

The Call from Ski Patrol

We are fortunate that the calls we’ve received from ski patrol over the years were not due to major injuries. A vomiting child. A fainting spell in line for the gondola. And now….

Last weekend, the call came just as we were about to order a late lunch. Apparently, our ten-year-old was being brought down the mountain in a toboggan after a ski school injury to his ankle.

Or somewhere on his foot?

Maybe his leg?

His ride from China Bowl to ski patrol led him to the opposite side of the mountain from our lunch spot. So, I raced to get him. A gondola ride down with a group of hilarious women who claimed to “apres ski all day” and complained of a daughter-in-law who doesn’t ski because “all she does is sit around eating hamburgers.” Then a jaunt from that base to the next, where ski patrol was holding him.

The ski patrol dudes were lovely and patient. He wouldn’t let them take his boot off. “I would bring him back to the condo, put his feet up, and if he is still in pain tomorrow, take him for an x-ray. You know kids though. They’re fast healers.”

He didn’t exactly wink at me, but I knew.

A bus ride back to the base where we parked with the little guy performing a dramatic limp that actually put more weight on the injured ankle than the healthy one.

“Was the ride down scary or fun?” I asked, distracting him as I slid off his red ski boots.

“Well,” he winced between words, “it would have been really fun if I wasn’t in pain.”

Sneakers on. A slow walk to get mom some food. As we passed the skating rink, he brightened up…

“Can I go skating?”

Ankle? Foot? Leg? Where’d that crazy limp go?

Such a fast healer.

The Kiss of Alyss

Her lips on his were incredibly, indescribably soft.

I am almost done reading Book One of The Ranger’s Apprentice to my ten-year-old. As the youngest of three boys, he sometimes needs a little extra love. So, although he could read it himself, we’ve been snuggling and reading together about Will’s training, adventure, and climatic battle with the terrifying Kalkara.

Our teenager, who read the series several years ago, sneaks in nightly, lying across my feet at the end of the bed – or blocking the lamplight for a back-scratch – to listen too. I should have known when he corrected my pronunciation of her name that the gray-eyed girl was more important than her sudden spotlight on page 236 let on.

Alyss.

We weren’t expecting a kiss.

Her lips on his were incredibly, indescribably soft.

Silence as I closed the book, leaving the final chapter for tomorrow. Then…

Seriously?!” the ten-year-old’s eyes sparkled, “That’s it? It’s indescribable?!”

“After all the amazing descriptions of the torch flames as they raced through the woods, and the Kalkara’s claws, and the sound of its screams,” he ranted, “the kiss is indescribable?!”

“You might as well skip the kiss if that’s all you’re going to say about it! Indescribable? Ridiculous?!”

Apparently, we need to hear more from Miss Alyss in Book Two.

 

 

 

 

Nelson Efamehule Agholor

When my 8th grader made his announcement, he did not utter the words we expected to hear. Instead, he said “Nelson Agholor. That’s my answer,” and walked out of the room with a grin on his face.

He waited until the evening before his enrollment letter was due at one of the high schools he was considering to finalize his decision. Go to the school that seems a little shinier, a little bigger? Or follow his brother?

“I’ll tell you at dinner.” So, I made his favorite steak and mashed potatoes to celebrate Decision Night.

Then… “I want to be eating ice cream when I tell you.”

We waited. Maybe he was nervous. Our 9th grader was holding his breath, hoping…

“Four score and seven years ago,” the 8th grader began.

“Remember, that was a short speech,” his Dad said.

He stopped. “Nelson Agholor.”

What? Who? 

We had to look him up. Nelson Agholor, born in Nigeria, is a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles. Not the most famous NFLer, in 2017, he became a league leader in third down receptions and made some of the best, most important catches of the Eagles’ season.

The Eagles.

Only our 8th grader would turn his announcement into a sports challenge.

He chose to be with his brother…. but admitted to a second-string NBA point guard picked out for the other school, just in case he changed his mind in the moment.