Define “Stress” on the Day of the AP Chemistry Exam

Our junior took the AP Chem Test today. At the far end of our dining room table. Online over the same 50 minutes as the rest of the world, due to COVID. I imagined millions of teenagers biting their nails. Chewing erasers. Twitching. Sweating. Desperately taking deep, calming breaths.

He spent the hours prior to the test “just chilling.” Loved the class. Never complained about the difficulty or workload. Never worried that he didn’t have an A. Logged on 30 minutes before launch. Followed me around the house for the countdown.

It’s Recycling Day too. The dog barked as the trucks drove up and down the streets of our neighborhood. The rest of us stayed quiet.

I asked if he was nervous.

“Only a little.” he paused, considering.

“But it’s not like a Packers’ game day kind of nervous.”

That’s much worse.

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.

Middle School Spirit Week

It was a four-day week, a week to inspire school spirit at the boys’ school.

Tuesday, wear your favorite sports team jersey.

My eighth grader said, “Julio Jones.”

Wednesday, pajamas.

His other Falcons’ jersey. “Julio Jones.”

Thursday, wear something that represents your favorite fictional character – movie or book.

“Nope, Julio Jones.”

And finally Friday, blue or gold. School colors. School spirit.

What am I going to wear?!”

Julio doesn’t do blue.

 

 

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.

Football Dreaming

Our eighth grader does not yet weigh 80 pounds, despite much effort to gain weight over the last year. Yet he sees himself as a football quarterback. He has the leadership skills for it, but…

When a high school principal asked him a few weeks ago what activities he would like do at her school, he said, “Basketball, guitar, debate, maybe robotics, and if I gain 100 pounds this summer, I want to play football.”

She thought he was joking, and was totally charmed.

The dream continues to percolate. “Mom,” he said the other day, “how much exactly would I have to weigh for you to let me play football?”

“A hundred and fifty.”

“Seriously?! But I’d be playing quarterback. I wouldn’t get hurt!”

“Okay, a hundred.” Might as well make it sort of attainable.

Meanwhile, his older brother is at the 150-pound mark. Strong. Loves to get in the way. Would make a decent offensive lineman. But he plans to sacrifice his body to football in another way.

When he got his learner’s permit, he registered as an organ donor. “I’m donating my collarbone to Aaron Rodgers.”

…because even the best quarterbacks with bones bigger than toothpicks get tackled. And there are many ways to be a part of a sport you love. Sometimes, when you’re a 13-year-old boy, it’s just tough to see that.

His Arm in a Sling

Yesterday, the name of my sons’ school flashed as the phone rang. Ugh. Images of vomit on his school supplies or his hands around someone’s throat at recess flashed in my head.

“Hellooooo?” Please say it’s vomit.

My fourth grader had apparently crashed into the fence during a football game and was claiming he broke his collarbone. (A potential copycat injury, as our friend broke his last weekend.)

“Jennifer, he’s sitting in the office with me right now, and we have ice on it.” Her voice was sing-songy as if to say “read between the lines, Mama.”

“Soooo, is this a come-get-him kind of broken collarbone or the kind that ice is making better?”

“Ohhh, I think the ice is doing a goooood job.”

I laughed. Ice is magical.

“But the teacher on recess duty is coming to confirm that he’s okay. How about I call you back after she checks out his shoulder?”

“I’m here if you need me.”

Then she whispered, “He’s very cute.”

Ten minutes later, the phone rang. “Now Jennifer, he thinks he can stay for Chess Club, but he doesn’t want you to be alarmed when you pick him up, because his arm is in a sling.”

What a player.

Two hours later, I picked him up from Chess Club. “Oh goodness! That must have really hurt!”

Dropped his friends at their house. And as I got back in the car to take him home, he pulled the sling off, big grin on his face as he waved his arm around.

“Phew,” he said. “I think it’s better.”

 

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?!”