Thanksgiving Week on the Farm

Outside the kitchen window at Goose Hill is a blur of whites and grays, ending on the far side of the pond in near-black due to the shade of the pine trees reflected in already dark water. The first morning, looking out at the snowy hill down to the pond, we drank apple cider from the apple trees that grow in the fields closest to the house. Tomorrow morning, we will use the farm’s applies to bake a Thanksgiving pie.

We trudged through the snowy woods to investigate the year-old maple project, lines of light blue tubing crossing down the hill connecting the maples that we helped mark and count while the decision to launch this new business was being considered. The beech trees have been felled since we were here last, opening the path to the sky, the trunks and logs on the forest floor setting the agenda for next summer’s trip here.

We toured the maple shack where it gets processed and bought a case of real maple syrup made from the farm’s own trees. Good Christmas gifts for our friends and teachers back home who will nevermore be content with Aunt Jemima.

Yesterday, we moved a pile of rocks dumped at the edge of the road to build a Cotswald-ish wall along the shed, where tractors and ATVs sleep. Then together, the seven of us gathered – and counted – more than 5,000 black walnuts scattered across the path between the house and the barn. Grandpa promised 5 cents for every 20 walnuts, and a quick online search informed us that 100 pounds of hulled walnuts get you $15, maybe enough to pay the gas to the hulling station. So, the kids made trips back and forth in the ATV to dump them in the ravine, where they will fatten happy squirrels.

The boys have gone sledding, played football in the snow, used trees and the big red barn’s roof as targets for their snowballs.

And yet, the week feels sleepy. Nourishing in some way even before we carve the Thanksgiving bird, knowing that the comical turkeys peering in the window while we feasted last year have gone wild in the woods.

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Parenting at Midnight

I have been waiting for my 8th grader to crash. Last night was the Middle School play, for which he was on Tech Crew, arriving home at 9:30 to do his Math homework. The night before, he attended a high school open house after showing up at school early for robotics, then working on Tech Crew after school, eventually coming home at 9:00 to take an online Science test. The night before that, a two-hour basketball practice. His first of the season.

On Friday night, he will get home from basketball practice at 8:30, then wake up early Saturday for an all-day robotics competition. He’s been putting in a lot of hours across the board.

But he has been full of energy through it all. With an “I’m good!” anytime I asked if he needed help or wanted to wait until morning to complete assignments.

Last night was the same. Chatty. Feeling great about the play. “I’m good!” The Math, he claimed, was easy.

Then just before midnight…

“Mom, I threw up.” All over both levels of his bunk bed.

Sigh. I pulled on socks and a sweatshirt to survive the chill after sleeping deeply in my warm bed. Took a look at the damage, then headed to the kitchen for Clorox wipes and paper towels, where…

…the floor surrounding the dishwasher was flooded with soapy bubbles.

And the first thought that entered my head (after “I’m going to kill whoever put the wrong soap in the dishwasher”) was that if anyone has the right to cry it’s him. Not me.

“I’m sorry, Mom,” he whispered at me. Not crying.

Deep breath before re-entering the vomit-y bedroom. “We’ve got to wake up Dad” to divide and conquer.

Together, we cleaned up the bubbles on the kitchen floor. Threw our son’s blankets in the shower, then to the laundry. Clorox wiped the bedroom floor. Then cleaned out the chunks collected at the shower drain. Took out the trash. Put together a comfy bed on the floor for our very tired boy, who fell instantly back to sleep.

Then back in our own room, “I can’t fall back to sleep.”

“Me neither. I’m not good at throw up.”

“Me neither.”

“And my stomach hurts.”

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…

From Beer to Socrates

We began dinner with a reference to our fourth grader’s birthday party. His friend made quite an impression by rapidly gulping down a bottle of water and burping.

“He’ll be good when he has to shot-gun a beer,” remarked my husband.

“What’s that?” all three boys wanted to know.

So, Dad described how to shot-gun a beer. The speed of the pour.

“That’s disgusting!” said two out of three. But the third claimed his friends shot-gunned Coca-Cola. Easy for one. The other spewed soda everywhere.

Then… Politics. Hollywood. Moral corruption. Innocent before proven guilty. The power of political parties.

We hit them all, but…

How in the world did the conversation end with our eighth grader commenting, “I sometimes get confused between Aristotle and Socrates”?

October Snow Dance

Rumors of an early snow day had three boys in my house in a virtual tizzy last night. And they concocted a few odd rituals to deliver the snow.

The eighth grader ran outside while we were finishing dinner and yelled into the dark, snowless ski, “Snow gods, make it snow!”

The fourth grader followed him out the door, but decided the snow gods would take more notice if he stripped down to his orange striped underwear. “We want a snow day!”

“No school!” called the ninth grader from the doorway.

I am not sure who came up with the final plea. For that, they dumped ice cubes into the toilet.

Then this morning, when only a dusting graced our lawn, they blamed the little guy. “You put too much ice in.”

Funny. I assumed it was the dance in his underwear.

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.”

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!”