A Picture-less Year

Every year as the holidays approach, we put together our photo calendar to commemorate the events of the passing year. A great gift for grandparents. A cheerful reminder of happy times and vacations hanging over the desk at work. It is time once again. But I woke up this morning with the realization that we have almost no photos from 2020. 

It was a momentous year for us in many ways. We moved. New house. New job. New schools. An 18-year-old voting for the first time. A 16-year-old getting his license. A 13-year-old entering his teens.

But it was also a ski season cut short. Limited time at the farm. No family beach trips. No annual camping trip. No hunting or fishing. No cross-country races or basketball games.

The only picture that stays in my head is the daily safepickup.com photo showing that our son passed his Covid pandemic health check, so they let him into school – no fever, no cough, no sore throat, no vomiting, no travel, no contact….

Although they change the screen colors every day, it doesn’t make for a very interesting calendar.

Then it came to me. It is 2020… the end of a decade, twenty years into a century with plenty to reminisce about and to celebrate. And fortunately for the calendar, hundreds and hundreds of wonderful photos.

When Technology Gets Locked in a Drawer

This weekend, we locked our youngest son’s iPhone, cracked iPad, and even his school Chromebook in a drawer. This is what happened.

Breakfast at Starbucks with Dad, followed by the bank.

Counted and wrapped coins collected.

Discovered three coins from a country that no longer exists.

Second trip to the bank, dollars earned.

Multiple ping-pong matches with a win against Mom.

Hung new Chiefs sign over bed.

Sawed apart a big box with Dad.

Mowed the lawn. 

Drew humorous Most Wanted Posters on the stages of mitosis.

Read the Sunday comics.

Played for two hours as Master of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign with Dad.

Rode his bike.

Walked with Mom and the dog.

Celebrated another Chiefs victory, this time versus the Jets.

Zoomed with grandparents, aunts, and cousin.

Finished reading I am Number Four.

Got hugs.

Didn’t ask for his technology. Not even on Monday after 6am weightlifting with Dad.

Almost forgot to charge the Chromebook in time for school.

Week 6 of Shelter in Place

Our daily walks around the neighborhood are still lovely, and the boys remain in good spirits. We are apparently settling a big dispute today with a “chocolate milk” blind taste test. King Soopers half gallon (perfect) versus full gallon (they water it down). Fairlife (an after-taste). Horizon Organic (too chocolatey). TrueMoo (the dark horse).

And sheltering in place with mom is getting a little…. well…

This morning, I received a joke from a friend that said “Congratulations, you’ve survived April… Welcome to Level 5 of Jumanji.”

Haven’t seen the movie. So I asked the kids to explain.

“Mom,” said our 17-year-old, “if your brain were a city, the humor section would be the city’s DMV.”

You know it’s bad when all three boys laugh.

Then, very slowly, with the sleepiest look on his face, and flattest tone to his voice, he asked, “Name?”

Walking with My 17-year-old During COVID-19

It was only in the first week of school closure that he realized how hard his Dad was working at the hospital. So, he started setting his alarm for 5am, just beating Dad to the kitchen to make him coffee. Three weeks later, our early morning teenager is still brewing – a treat for me too.

He joins me almost every day on long walks with the dog. I have learned everything a mom needs to know about the more than 100-year history of the Green Bay Packers. How woven the team’s history is with that of the country. Pearl Harbor, Gerald Ford. And… “Remember that game in 2017? We were driving back from the mountains, listening on the radio, and we got home just in time to see…”

I remember the drive, but not the play.

“How do you not remember that?!”

Every day, a minute or so into the walk, he says, “Look at Star’s ears!” Her right ear flops, while the perky left remains alert. “Isn’t she the cutest?!”

And yesterday, there was construction on the road we usually start off on. We were half-way down the block in another direction, when he stopped. “Wait, why are we going this way?” He doesn’t like change, he said. Star had tugged uncertainly too, so we corrected our path.

He grows impatient when I let the dog sniff too long at a fencepost until I remind him that he has nowhere he needs to be. “True,” he shrugs. “So anyway, the players heard about Pearl Harbor in the middle of the game, and they had to keep playing knowing it was happening. That must have been….”

By evening, you would think a 17-year-old might tire of his parents. But he is the first to wander out to the firepit and listen to his Dad talk about the latest in the world of COVID-19. Inform him that Mom doesn’t remember that amazing play in 2017. 

And when the whole family heads upstairs to watch “Big Bang Theory” together, all of his 6-foot, 200-pound self climbs onto our bed to watch.

Now in week three of school closure, remote learning. My return to nagging. “Did you send the email to…?” “Did you do your…?” That desire to hit him over the head with the coffee pot when he rolls his eyes late afternoon, Chemistry still to do, that Statistics project looming.

Great Gatsby Plot Breakdown

As a teenager, I kept the Journals of F. Scott Fitzgerald by my bed. If I couldn’t sleep, I reread and memorized his phrases. So, when my high school sophomore – a passionate reader – flipped out when reading his summer AP Seminar assignment, I was shocked. I mean, what’s not to like about The Great Gatsby?

“Another lame party at the mansion, Jay? No wonder Daisy doesn’t come! They’re boring!”

What?!

“Oooh, you’re Daisy’s cousin? How about you invite her over, and I’ll just happen to stop by, and say remember when we were 17…” 

Don’t all teenage readers worship Fitzgerald?

“No one really cares that Tom is cheating on her except Nick, and he’s a loser.”

It’s a commentary on the 1920s.

“A decade of losers then.”

Great American novel torn to pieces at the kitchen counter for two straight days. I may have to reread Gatsby to like it again.

Kidnapping Plot on the Grand Canyon

I learned a lot about my eleven-year-old son this summer. The youngest member of a 25-person rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, led by four guides.

I had worried he was too small for whitewater. Silly mom.

The first to ride at the front of the boat. To take the big waves. Yelling at the river to bring it on.

On the trails with the nimble teenagers. What cliff? What slippery edge?

Launcher of river battles. The first to fire the water gun at the other boat.

Pulling his weight in the fire-line to unload and set up camp.

The other boat was filled with adults. Surprised when he stormed it to steal their weapons as we pushed off from the narrow beach. A little guy with a war cry.

The record-breaker swimming the rapids. “One more time?” as everyone else followed the guides’ call back to the boats.

The first to jump off waterfalls. To drive the raft.

A calming guide to “put your foot there” for the adults trying the jump he’d already done ten times.

An adventurer. Fun. A leader. A warrior. At home in the raging waters.

The other boat plotted to kidnap him. They envied his spirit. Wanted him for themselves. Named him MVB, most valuable boater.

I am so grateful for his week in the sun. 

If You Were a Monarch

“If you were a monarch, what would your portrait pose be?” 

Sometimes it takes my brain a minute to confirm that yes, that’s the out-of-the-blue question I just heard.

So our sixteen year old positioned into his own pose. Feet crossed. Arm resting on the back of a stool. Chin raised. Very royal.

He looked at me expectantly. Grabbed his phone and pulled up Louis XVI in a lavish cloak. Tweaked his own pose. “This is my favorite.”

“Ummmm…..”

“Elizabeth and Victoria have good ones….” he suggested.

His Dad didn’t miss a beat. “Sword raised. On a horse.” 

On Pi Day

At dinner tonight, our high school freshman quizzed us on Pi. 

3.14159….

That’s as far as I got, and I was pleased. He can go much longer.

So, we challenged him, because he likes to brag that he has the prologue to Romeo and Juliet memorized as well.

Can you do them both at the same time?

He gave us a funny look, as he considered, then…. slowly…

3.14159… 2 houses both alike in dignity….6535897932… in fair Verona where we lay our scene….38462… from ancient grudge break to new mutiny…60433832…where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

He grinned, bowed his head, and finished with, “Two things everyone should memorize. At least twenty digits of Pi and some Shakespeare.”

At Last

They were calling it “snowmageddon” days before it hit. And days after we spent hours trying to avoid “avalanche activity”. So, the snow day was called early. As students headed to after-school practices and rehearsals the day before its arrival, a roar of joy rang through the halls.

I was there. It was loud. But I missed seeing my own kids get the news they spent all winter waiting for.

Yesterday, they had already proclaimed the snow day a great one. Survived skiing the jump they built midway down a short hill that ends in a creek. Played a two-hour game of Risk. Drank hot chocolate.

Then just before dinner, our ninth grader started screaming, jumping around the kitchen, arms flapping. An email from his math teacher regarding “a second snow day” was followed immediately by a text from the District. Power outages. Slick parking lots. State of emergency.

This time, I witnessed their response.

Two teenage boys playing air guitar. Belting out Queen’s “We Are the Champions.”