His Teenage Name Day

Sitting in the stands at yesterday’s late afternoon soccer game, I held my breath when my son got the ball in front of the goal.

The goalie caught his attempt, but it was a nice shot. Everyone cheered, and above the din, I heard his teammate – their best player nursing an injury – yell, “Nice try, Kelly!”

It took me out of the moment. Until then, none of my boys had been called anything but their first names. The names we chose for them.

But he is 13 – that age when teammates or classmates choose a different name for you. A last name. A shortened version of your own. A weird mashing of words that somehow, they think, describes you. A teenage badge of honor.

I was the only one who noticed. The only one who marked the moment as important.

Then today, another friend, “See ya tomorrow, Kelly!”

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A Ferris Bueller Kind of Day

My husband likes to promise prizes to those who get good grades. Three trimesters of straight As, you get to do something really special.

Falling behind on prizes with our now 8th grader, who likes a challenge, the two traveled this weekend to the first regular season Falcons’ game at the new Mercedes Benz Stadium.

What’s a Denver boy doing being a Falcons fan, you ask. Who knows?

But it’s been forever, and he even produces a Falcons Youtube channel. Husband and son both came home thrilled by the experience.

Passes for on-the-field pre-game warm-ups. An invitation from a good friend to the owners’ box. The photos show our son standing, the field below, even though he describes the cushy leather chairs with the amazing view. “I was too nervous to sit.”

Photos of the stadium. Arthur Blank talking to Roger Goodell. My son with Takeo Spikes, two-time Pro Bowler. Close-up video of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, and the tight ends who they described as 6’10” and HUGE!

“It was a Ferris Bueller kind of day,” said my husband. “We’ll remember it forever.”

“You need to get straight As,” said the 8th grader to his older brother, a Packers fan who tried hard not to be disappointed that the Falcons won. “You have to go to Lambeau. If you have a hundredth of the good time I had, it will be amazing.”

Then he added, “…and if you go, I’ll use my next three trimesters of As to go with you. How cool would that be?!”

When a Little Boy Listens

His window was open on the way home from school. He blinked sleepily, heavy lids, and leaned his head against the side of the car, looking out.

“Do you know what sound I like in the world, Mom?”

“What?”

“When there’s a little wind and the leaves are rustling together, and you’re driving by with the window open.”

Awkward Party Moment

Last night at a Labor Day picnic, I was chatting with a friend of a friend. Someone I’ve met a few times but don’t really know.

My teenage son, almost as tall as I am, appeared at my shoulder, clearing his throat and politely interrupting our conversation.

“Mom, I am now an official member of the Illuminati.” Very serious.

“Really?” I flash a smile at the friend of a friend.

“I signed up on their website.”

“They have a website?”

Seems strange, because the Illuminati was a secret society formed in Bavaria in the 1700s. Often compared to the Freemasons, they appear in fiction as an underground, powerful, almost magical group pulling strings at the highest levels of world government and religion. They have been blamed for many of history’s conspiracies, wars, and other cataclysmic events.

A Youtuber recently re-introduced the Illuminati into pop culture with a hilarious video, thus bringing us to this awkward party moment.

“Now, if they ever need me, they can contact me.” He leaned in, “And I’m on it.”

With a quick nod, he left me standing with the friend of a friend. “More wine?”

Ten Years in the Minivan

What’s the matter with the car I’m driving?
“Can’t you tell that it’s out of style?”
Should I get a set of white wall tires?
“Are you gonna cruise a miracle mile?

Nowadays you can’t be too sentimental
….’

…but the minivan was my signature. I didn’t need the school sticker on my bumper or my carpool number on the dashboard, because everyone knew the red minivan in carpool line was me.

Yesterday we traded it in, and my husband’s car became mine. It’s a much better, safer, cooler car. But I still feel a little sentimental, a need to record and preserve the memories made during the last ten years. Almost exactly. We bought it a few weeks before our third son was born. “We need a bigger car.” And he turns ten next month.

Remember….

….those early days when I had to pin him down like we were wrestling to get him in his car seat? Him screaming? Writhing? Me wondering if I was going to get arrested for child abuse?

….or the time the car smelled so bad even after we had it detailed, and it ended up that some breakfast sausage links I carried with me for toddler snacks had slid between the seats weeks before?

….the time I drove home from a ski weekend in below zero, snowy weather, and our middle son puked all over the back seat? I pulled over at that abandoned-for-the-winter sleepaway camp and changed him out of his gross wet clothes, both of us crying, sure he was going to get pneumonia.

….or a few years later, when he puked all over his friend on the way up to the mountains?

What about the time our youngest decorated his “happy place” by using a sharpie to draw a pirate scene in the third row seat? And then got mad at me because I scrubbed it off?

….or when his brother’s friends laughed so hard at the story that he did it again?!

….or when one of the few girls to ever get in my car climbed in, and after a quick look stated, “Wow! Your car is dirtier than ours.”

Remember the minivan caravan to Mount Rushmore? The camping trips? The embarrassment of swiping another mom’s car mirror in carpool line? The fights over who had to sit in the seat with goo stuck to it?

The day our oldest first rode in the front seat? Or our dog refusing to give it up?

Her nose smudges and dirty paw scratches on the windows, because, barking in my ear, blocking my view of the road, she tried to get at every truck that passed us by?

What about waiting for dad to pick us up at the airport one night? The boys spotted it in the dark distance because, “Mom, it’s the only minivan in the world that goes 90 miles an hour.”

The racing red minivan. A little sticky in places. A lot of dirt. Stories that make us laugh now. It was “still rock in roll to me.”

How Do You Explain….

How do you explain to an introverted ninth grader that the best part of high school doesn’t happen in the classroom? That the school only really comes to life after the last bell rings.

Actors running lines for the fall play. The hammers of set-building. Click-click-click of cleats running through the hall to practice. Cheerleaders shouting. Choirs singing. Posters being illustrated for the next dance. Marching band trumpets blaring and that deep drumbeat echoing across the field in through the windows. Teams tinkering with robots, debating politics, inventing headlines for the school newspaper.

Just stay. Peek in the room. Pick something. Anything. Add to the noise.

Because after school, in those rooms or on that stage, they will be the first to know your name. To drag you to lunch tomorrow. To make this new school feel more like home.

Their Personal Travel Profiles

We are working with a travel agent to plan next summer’s trip to Italy, and she requested that everyone in the family fill out a questionnaire. It includes things like favorite travel memories, things you like to do, your style, most important hotel amenity, and more.

“Mom, what’s an ‘amenity’?”

“Mom, what’s an ‘indulgence’?”

“Ohhhh…. Chocolate!” They simultaneously scribbled away.

My fourteen-year-old got to: “Check One: Flip-Flops and Beer? Or Sport Coat and Wine?”

“I’m definitely a sport-coat-and-wine guy.” Check. Meanwhile, his heels hung over the back edge of blue, too-small-by-the-end-of-summer flip-flops. And he was wearing a Green Bay Packers t-shirt for the second or third time this week. “Yeah, totally see myself in a sport coat with a glass of wine like this…”

He posed. Very sophisticated.

“I’m not answering that one,” said his thirteen-year-old brother. “I’m a non-alcoholic kind of guy.”

Then he got to “Is there anything else we should know in planning your trip to Italy?”

“I don’t like Italian food.” He grinned, “That’ll really throw her for a loop!”