Boys in the House

I grew up in a house of girls, where our games tended to stay within a single room.

But on Thursday afternoon, five boys were racing across my yard and from the basement to the bedrooms for two hours in an “epic” Nerf gun battle. When the house grew silent, I knew they were on a stealth mission, sneaking up on an unsuspecting opponent who thought their hiding place of the moment remained safe. Then minutes later the eruption of noise, Nerf pellets hitting boy. Screams of half-fear, half-delight.

It was only when I saw my third grader on his new electric scooter, speeding toward our intersection, Nerf gun pointed over his shoulder and eyes on his older brother chasing him, that I felt I needed to intervene.

Mom rules. No scooters in battle. No battles in the intersection. No scooter until you actually look both ways.

Then I left for Parent-Teacher conferences, my fourteen year old in charge, worried I would be late because I insisted on watching my son put the scooter away.

I sat down. Took a breath. Started the conference with “I just left five boys alone at home in a Nerf gun war. Bad parenting?”

The teacher laughed, “That’s probably exactly what they need.”

Friday with no school, the battles continued. Again on Saturday afternoon with additional weapons. Rosy cheeks, sweaty foreheads, teamwork, strategy and lots of “you got me! you got me!” But definitely no scooters.

On His 14th Birthday

There are moments that might only be significant to a parent. Small achievements that are marked by us as special. That no one else notices or celebrates. Yet they make our hearts sing.

Most would call my oldest son an introvert. He spoke late to the concern of his pediatrician. But when he decided to talk, he spoke with what some remarked to be perfect annunciation. It turns out, he was just listening, biding his time to speak only when he had heard enough from the rest of us.

I was reminded of that on his fourteenth birthday. He had volunteered to do the reading at our school’s Blessing of the Animals, in honor of Francis of Assisi.

It was a gorgeous fall day. Crisp. Sunny. Just the tips of the aspens turned yellow. The lower school choir sang. The entire school body and many of their parents sat in clusters on the soccer field. Dogs sat or wagged or gloried in attention. Two ducks. A hedgehog. Hamsters. A turtle. At least one kitten.

Then my son – 12 years after we worried why he wasn’t talking – stood at the podium and read the psalm he had been assigned. He looked tall and serious and handsome. His voice rang out across the field above the hum of excited children and their pets, and quieted them. Clear. Confident. Each word spoken for its meaning. A voice that you want to listen to, that you instinctively expect to say something wonderful and wise. Beautiful.

Mom v Boy Mini Golf

I won the first game. Putted for under par, but the second game was going badly. My third grader got a hole in one on the first green, then I was a disaster on the second. By the third he was ahead by five.

“Mom, you just need to relax. That’s what I do. Then you’ll stop playing so badly.”

By the fifth hole, he was feeling really good.

“Mini golf. Miniature golf. Putt-putt. Why isn’t it a professional sport? It’s not fair to people who are really good at it. I would totally be a professional putt-putter!”

Remember, he lost the first game against his mom.

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.”


“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.