Nurse Star

Our fourth grader started throwing up at 4:30 this morning, and spent the next three hours lying on the bathroom floor. Sleep. Puke. Sleep. Puke. Sleep. Puke.

After one such bout, our dog Star, with her aching hips, forced her creaky self off the hall rug and scratched to be let outside.

“My tummy hurts so bad,” moaned the little guy, as I lay a blanket over him.

Star re-appeared at the door moments later with a dirty bone dug out of hiding. Passed right by me when I let her in. Dropped the bone outside the bathroom a foot from my son’s feverish forehead. “Here, try this,” she seemed to say, “It always makes me feel better.”

Then returned to her nap nearby… just in case he needed her.


The Sit-In at our House

This Spring has been marked by protests and rallies across the country – youth against gun violence, teachers for education funding, and more. The spirit of such activism finally made it to our house last night – although not with the seriousness of issues in the outside world.

My husband has instituted a $20 charge for any boy who uses our main floor bathroom. The spray of pee, which they should have under control by now, is a potential embarrassment any time we have guests.

“Darn it! I want to use that bathroom!”

“I’m not the one who sprays! It’s him,” each has yelled, pointing at whichever brother stands nearby.

“Oh, for the love of God,” our oldest son yelled at one point last week before shutting the bathroom door, “take the $20!”

“What if I have to blow my nose in that bathroom,” asked our son, mid-allergy attack, “and I don’t spray my snot?”

My husband shook his head, and off the poor kid ran down to the basement bathroom.

It was his older brother who came up with the idea. “Then we’re having a sit-in, so you can’t use it either.”

He lay down in front of the door to the bathroom. His little brother brought a book.


What To Bring When You Run Away

A gray plastic sword, dented, from an old Halloween knight costume. Blue blankie. His shiny black treasure box, probably with a few dollars in it. The mozzarella and tomato sandwich I made him for lunch.

This morning, I learned what my ten-year-old would pack if he were running away.

“I’m leaving forever!” he screamed, brushing past me, sword in hand.

“Or…” he pointed dramatically to the basement stairs, “until he is gone. Gone. Gone. Gone. I never want to see him again!”

The boys had apparently had a fight.

“I’m out of here!” he yelled even louder, stuffing blue blankie into his backpack before glaring back up at me, “How far do you think a ten-year-old can get? Huh? Huh? How far?”

I sighed, “Not very far.”

So, he ran into the garage, grabbed his electric scooter, and took a lap around the block, yelling over his shoulder. “I’m leaving forever!”

I heard the garage door closing about a minute later. The runaway returned.

“Time for school, honey.”


Out came the sword, blue blankie, and the treasure box. He stomped them back up to his room. Then, backpack zipped, he climbed into the car as if nothing had happened.

It was his silent teenage brother who still fumed.

Cherishing 15

The other night, just as my husband and I were settling peacefully into bed, our son ran into the room, climbed over me…


…and burrowed under the blankets between us.

“So…” he grinned with our blue quilt pulled up to his chin, “what should we talk about?”

He’s about six feet, 170 pounds. A size 13 shoe. Not many kids with their learner’s permit still snuggle. But every once in a while, we get this kind of funny, sweet moment.

So, we talk, savoring the moment. And we laugh, wondering to ourselves how it’s possible our little guy is already 15.

Not Funny Now, But in Thirty Years…

“The man gonna lock you up!”

My husband was letting our ten-year-old drive the golf cart on a three-mile tropical island, when a passerby called out. Father and son quickly switched places. But…

Two days later, with our teenagers fuming and traumatized, my advice to the fourteen-year-old was… in ten years, you can tease him. Definitely in thirty. Maybe even next year. But not today.

While I was in the shower, my husband sent the boys in the golf cart to pick up milk. They returned with the milk, sans golf cart.

“He is such an idiot!”

“If you weren’t such a jerk…”

I looked questioningly at the ten-year-old, who smiled, “I have noooo idea.”

The fourteen-year-old, spreading blame, stared down his father, “You need to go to the police station if you want the keys back!”

Apparently, with his little brothers yelling at him, the anxious fifteen-year-old had allegedly run through a stop sign, barely missing Sergeant Taylor of the Harbour Island police with the golf cart.

Sergeant Taylor made them walk home.

“The tree was blocking the stop sign!”

“He’s an idiot!”

“He was yelling at me!”

But it was my husband who had to retrieve the keys. He showed up at the station, his friend as wingman, proverbial hat in hands. “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry isn’t good enough.” Sergeant Taylor accused him of child neglect.

The grown-ups in the police station felt sixteen, reamed again for similar transgressions more than thirty years old in the banks of memory.

“Man gonna lock you up!”

But how to make peace between the brothers back at the house?

Maybe today, this isn’t fun. But no one got hurt. We all learned something. See the stop sign. Don’t make the sergeant mad. Yelling at your brother for a wrong turn leads to other wrong turns. Teaching independence must fall within the law of the land.

And guys, by next year… definitely in ten years… or thirty…

You’ll still be fighting over whose fault it was, but we’ll always remember today as the standout story of 2018.


Like Grandfather, Like Grandson

My eighth grader, typically an A student, received a C- on his notecards for a research paper on World War Two. He reads a lot and loves history, so his knowledge about the subject before the unit was already fairly impressive. The teacher said he hadn’t followed the instructions regarding the sources to be used. He relied too heavily on a single source, which might lead to bias.

True. A good lesson for my son…. maybe.

I read the 75+ notecards, which were full and demonstrated knowledge of the topic, but he did rely heavily on one source – a rather long book that most of his classmates wouldn’t have bothered to muddle through. He had more than double the number of notecards required (or matched by most of his classmates). Had he completely erased this book from the project, he would have still had enough other sources, notecards, and information.


But after days of stewing on his behalf, I remembered a story my father told me. It involved another history lesson and a teacher whose name he remembers even now.

My Dad, according to the tale, was taking a high school essay exam for a class that covered the American Revolution to Teddy Roosevelt. The final essay was to list any books (and the authors) he had read that addressed that timeframe. Excited to share, he went straight to that essay, and was so absorbed in making his list that he barely had time to complete the rest of the test.

He listed 57 books and their authors.

Like my son and his C-, if you’re a rule-follower, his grandfather should have bombed the test. But his teacher, the one whose name stays with him now that he is a grandfather, was so tickled to have a student that passionate about reading and history, that he upped his grade to a B.

When I first heard that story, as a girl who was very good at following directions, I remember thinking, “what kind of ding-dong does that?”

My father. My son.

And even though the “ding-dong question” still hangs in the air, I love that they are both so passionate about books and history.

Another lesson: history, at least in families, repeats itself.

Goodbye, Sticker Chart

In mid-fall, our fourth grader was having trouble controlling his emotions and his desire to be chatty at school. So, we started a sticker chart to get him through.

As he walked down the carpool line, I always knew by his body language whether he had earned the sticker or not. And he was very honest about it. “Nope!” he would announce without me having to ask, and then launch into the story of that day’s misadventure.

After 20 stickers, he could purchase an under-$20 prize. The first 20 were tough, but he got there. Then we raised it to 30 stickers. That round went too fast, and I kept forgetting that he hadn’t received his second reward.

Yesterday, two months since we’ve even looked at the sticker chart, he reminded me that he was owed.

The he put his hand gently on my arm, “But this is the last. I don’t need stickers anymore.”