An Empty Library

My son is looking at high schools. He has visited two of five schools so far, and it strikes me with each visit that what excites him most makes me wary.

After the first: “I could go to Chipotle every single day for lunch!”

And…“everyone carries their phones around everywhere, even into class!”

After the second: “I only saw one device that wasn’t an Apple product!”

And… “no one uses their lockers because there are no textbooks. They’re totally digital!”

And then when I walked into the old library, there wasn’t a single book. The tour guide said, ”When we realized that only three books were checked out one entire year, we turned the library into a resource center.”

Schools with no books. Makes me sad.

Heard on a Plane

On a recent flight from Denver to DC, the pilot’s voice came over the loudspeaker, while we were still at the gate an hour after our original departure time.

“So the reason you see us all standing around doing nothing is that they are just now loading your bags on the plane. And my guess is that you all need some clothes wherever you are going. So we have to wait.”

Did he just say that?

“And I am just as sorry as you are that I am yet again apologizing for the airline.”

For real. He said that.

The Spelling Test

At breakfast on Friday, I was quizzing my third grader for a spelling test, frustrated that too many on the list are completely irrelevant to his eight year old life. “Abstract.” “Contrast.”

We were both distracted. Who cares how to spell “abstract” when you aren’t going to use it in a sentence for at least four more years?

So his older brother, who often brings up random topics, decided it was the ideal moment to explain the Cold War to everyone in the kitchen. “War,” he explained, “is profitable. No one seems to understand that.”

Relevance?

“And the Cold War wasn’t a real war with soldiers shooting each other. It was an escalation of fear by building bigger and bigger weapons. That’s what your book is really about.”

Ahhh, relevance.

In front of the third grader was the book he’d read the night before: The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Suess.

“Triple-sling jigger.” “Tough-tufted prickly.” “Zooks.” And real words for the sticklers, “Slingshot” and “Vigor.”

Words with new relevance. Too bad they’re not on his spelling test. They might stick better.

 

Your Number One Job

Since our boys were very little, I have made sure they hear me say, “Your number one job in life is to be good to your brothers.”

In the closing weeks of summer vacation, I had to remind them often. They had spent too much time together, suddenly missed their friends, and with the older boys entering adolescence, I began to worry that my mantra was lost on them. “What’s your most important job on this planet?!”

But they just rolled their eyes.

Then, yesterday, after a few weeks back in the groove of school, the 12 and 13 year olds both showed me that they have been listening.

First, I heard from their Lego League teacher, who was in the process of creating two distinct teams for competition, that the older one had pulled her aside. He let her know quietly that all that matters to him is that he and his brother are on the same team. Even though his two best friends in the entire world are also in Lego League, he wants to share it with his brother.

Later in the day, I picked them up from soccer practice, after which they were delighted with themselves and each other. The younger one, and better athlete, had earned the “play of the day.” The older one had scored the winning goal – his first ever goal. Neither of them cared that their feats had been achieved in practice, not a game.

The younger one waited until we were alone to tell me that his brother “was so happy when he scored that goal. You should have seen him. And the whole team was happy. It was awesome.”

I whispered what I had heard from the Lego League teacher. “That’s because if I’m on his team, he knows we’ll win,” but his grin spread from ear to ear.

Phew, A No-Drama Night

During the first week and a half of school, it seemed that my boys were running a relay of tantrums and meltdowns. As soon as one recovered from whatever angst he was experiencing, he passed the baton, and the next one took off.

“I have no friends in my classes!” He does.

“I don’t know why I am doing soccer! I hate soccer!” He has a blast.

“I am not doing Lego League!” This is his third year. He loves it, and more of his friends are doing it than ever before.

“I heard someone behind me in line say I was useless!” Unwilling to put a name to the voice.

“I only touched the ball once for all of recess! And it was a punt. It wasn’t even a good punt!” Can they please ban playground football?

Each of these and other statements spiraled down into two hours of tears, moping, glares, stomping feet or refusals to talk. And the fights that such moods triggered between them… Seriously?! Then yesterday, thank goodness, the world shifted back onto its usually peaceful, happy axis.

“I got a 100 on my math quiz!”

“I’m so bummed we don’t have soccer practice tomorrow. It’s the best part of the day!”

“I hope everyone’s going to be at Lego League.”

“Can I bring my red football for recess?”

“We finished our homework. If we go together, can we go Pokemon-ing until dinner?”

Transition back to school complete.

Third Grade Interpretation of the Strumbellas

“I got guns in my head and they won’t go. Spirits in my head and they won’t go.”

Tonight, while his older brothers were doing the dishes to music, our third grader was thinking hard about lyrics playing by the Strumbellas. He doesn’t know it, but the album is entitled “Hope.”

“This song is about Abraham Lincoln,” he said.

“Really?”

“He wanted to end slavery, but really wanted for everyone to just get along. You know? The guns in his head wouldn’t go. And the spirits of all those soldiers.”

“I’ll be a dreamer ‘til the day I die.”

“And Lincoln,” my husband added, “was a dreamer.”

“Yeah, and the guns wouldn’t go. Get it?”

Not when I was in third grade!

Lucky Underpants

My third grader was struggling to get ready for school this morning, nervous after a meltdown with friends yesterday. With two minutes before departure, I entered his room to find him still wearing pajamas and wrapped in his blue baby blanket. When I entered, he covered his head with a pillow.

“You’re not dressed? We have two minutes!” before I realized we needed a more tender approach if we were going to get out the door.

I grabbed his clothes and tossed him his underwear. “Orange star underwear!” I announced playfully as he caught them.

His mood brightened immediately. “But these aren’t my lucky underpants.”

I didn’t know he had lucky underpants.

“Do you need them today?”

“Can’t. Wore them yesterday. They’re the camouflage ones. I’ve had them since I was four.”

“So you need new underwear.”

“Nope. My lucky underpants are perfect.”