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.


Best Friends

With Christmas Break at its half-way point, our guys were starting to pick on, and at, each other. Sarcasm laced dinner conversation. It was annoying. So, we challenged them to be nice for 24 hours. Every time we caught them being mean to one another, or sarcastic about the other, they paid me a dollar to help pay for a dinner out.

I was named, “the arbiter of niceness.”

In less than fifteen minutes, our ninth grader accumulated $7 in debt to the bucket. The eighth grader was lawyering up, as he tends to do, debating his $3. The fourth grader was grinning at $2.

And “best two dollars I ever spent,” said my husband as the dishes were cleared.

The funny thing is that our eighth grader is trying to decide whether to go to the high school he thinks he likes best, or the one his big brother goes to. It is a tough choice for him, because academics matter to him… a lot.

But they are each other’s best friends. We cannot imagine them apart. We cannot imagine one going through high school without the other. They will lift each other up, quietly in the background of any picture. The presence of one will inspire the other to engage.

When they were in elementary school, they walked the carpool line at the end of the day, each at their own speed. I remember feeling sad that the one didn’t race to catch up with the other even if both dragged along the sidewalk alone. And I remember that as soon as they were both in middle school, that changed. They were suddenly always side by side, sometimes with friends weaving in and out between them, sometimes not. I loved watching them talk as they approached the car, wondering what had them so animated until they spilled in, long legs and too-heavy backpacks, both talking at once.

They are not the same. They operate at completely different speeds, the one always begging the other to play football or basketball, and the other begging for peace. They perceive the world through their own lenses – different sports teams, politics, favorite classes, favorite foods, humor. And often watching them, we think that if we blended their opposites into one person, they would be absolutely unbeatable as they move through this world.

Together, despite the $10 of mean fees earned quickly at the dinner table, they are amazing. I hope it Is not long before they understand and celebrate how very rare – how important – their friendship is. Maybe in time to choose a high school.

Charlie’s Diner

At breakfast, our ten year old ordered eggs. He rarely eats them at home, but in restaurants, he’ll have two or three orders. Scrambled. With white toast.

This morning, when the waitress asked how he wanted his eggs, he smiled, “Medium rare, please.”

A silly thing big brothers don’t let you forget.


My Teenagers’ Friends

My best friend is very likely still my best friend because she was nice to my younger sisters. When she invited me to the mall or movies, she assumed they would tag along. Never in our entire friendship did she ask ”do they have to come?” or act annoyed that they dragged out their sleeping bags for our sleepovers. She just embraced being the fourth sister – as responsible for my sisters as I was.

I guess that’s why I judge the friends of my two teenage boys by how they respond to a little brother in their midst.

He’s ten. He’s loud. He wants to play. He thinks he’s one of the big dogs… but really, he’s still the little guy. He might cheat. He might even cry.

So, I love teenagers who are good to him, and his two older brothers seem to hold onto the friends who are.

Last night, a long-legged teenage boy ascended the stairs from our basement brandishing a nerf gun. My ten-year-old was at his heels. The teenager – a friend of our eighth grader – wore a too-small army helmet and a knight’s silver armor from old Halloween costumes. The little guy wore an orange ski helmet, goggles and a grin from ear to ear… because they were playing his game, on his terms.

And it struck me instantly, as it has before, that this lanky teenager is a great kid. I’m glad he’s my son’s friend.

It was hours later, trying to fall asleep, that something else entered my mind. Does it ever cross his mind to say, “Do we have to?” Because I realized it never crossed mine, as we were trying to be cool teenagers, that my best friend might not want little sisters tagging along. And…

She was ten. She was loud. She just wanted to play…


Flu Shot Fiasco

In the imagination of my ten-year-old, flu shots hurt. He claims that his arm still aches from last year’s shot. “I have been in pain for years and years,” he cried today in a plea to skip his appointment.

Moms typically find no humor in public meltdowns. However, the ability to re-watch the scene through the eyes of his teenage big brother – twinkling with both awe and amusement throughout the scene – can turn drama into comedy.

The not-so-little-anymore ten-year-old began the appointment hiding under the chair in which I sat waiting for the nurse. Crying. Shaking. “I’m going to throw up!”

The baby wailing in the next room could not compete.

When the nurse entered, he stepped up his game. Screamed. Leapt out of my arms. Flew open the door, and raced down the hall.

By the time the nurse and I ran after him – big brother didn’t move, by the way – the waiting room showed no evidence of a mad ten-year-old in flight. She searched amid the quiet children and parents waiting their turn. People, like I used to be, who assume a modicum of sanity from their offspring.

I checked the bathrooms. Down another hall.

Where could he be hiding?

I found him outside in his socks.

“You don’t know what it’s like to be me!”

I talked him back into the doctor’s office. Threats of returning tomorrow with Dad. Waved at the nurse. Read to him while she recruited a colleague to help us pin him down.

He screamed to stick his left leg. “I need my right leg for sports. It’s my strong one.” Then….


By the time his doctor entered, he was finished with his fluorescent green ice-pop and riding an adrenaline rush that entertained her with stories of farting, bad school lunches, baseball and his struggles with spelling.

“Next year,” she said, “you get two shots.”

And his big brother grinned.


Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

On Thursday, our eighth grader didn’t talk for two hours after school because he had screwed up on a Math quiz.  But the next day was Friday. Nothing can bring him down at 3:00 on Friday, and the afternoon car ride tends to be full of his chatter.

You know Seinfeld’s show “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”? He should drive with my kids. Rename his show “Comedians in Cars Eating Kit-Kats.”

Yesterday, the grumpy one was ready when his older brother punted him an easy one. “Can you believe Apple is worth over $800 billion?”

“So what? I’m going to make more than a trillion,” was the quick response.

“How?” challenged the punter.

“Well….” having shed his school-week gloom, he grinned, “I already own the Illuminati. The problem is, no one will ever be rich enough to buy it from me. So I’m a bit cash-strapped.”

“You could go public,” I joined in. “Then everyone could buy stock.”

Gasps all around.

“You can’t go public with the Illuminati! The public doesn’t even know we’re real!”

Then he went through which Presidents and celebrities are members, and which are “persons of interest,” usually for bad reasons. Trump and Kanye West both persons of interest.

“Was Steve Jobs a member?”

“Person of interest. He was kind of weird about stuff.”

“That guy who founded the Mormons? John Smith?”

“A little crazy.”

“Ronald Reagan?” As good as Apple in the mind of the eldest.

“That was my predecessor’s time. I wouldn’t know.”

They kept laughing.

“And then that stupid Youtuber, PewDiePie. Definitely a person of interest. Tells everyone our corporate headquarters are in Israel. I always thought that was too obvious anyway. My predecessor’s choice. But still! Then I had to move us, and that cost me a couple hundred million.”

“Where did you move?”

“I can’t tell you that!”

“Come on!”

“Somewhere no one is ever going to bomb. Or even think of.”


“Exactly. That would be like kicking your dog. But don’t tell anyone. It’s top secret.”

“Well,” bringing it around, “I still think you can’t beat Apple.”


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?!”