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?!”


A Mother’s Springtime Prayer

It’s the era of three-sport seasons, tournaments that take up entire weekends, late night games on school nights.

So, we check the weather.

It’s Spring with its unpredictable weather. Snow flurries on cherry blossoms. Cold breezes that chill the air over open fields as soon as the sun sets.

So, we check the weather. Again.

It’s racing across town to pick up one child at soccer. Did you finish your homework?! Another at lacrosse. You volunteered enchiladas for your Spanish fiesta?!

It’s Chick-fil-A in the car before the next event. Then, one last time, we check the weather…

…and pray for rain…

… or a flash of lightening guaranteed to keep us home.


For the Love of the Game

Our two middle school sons play flag football on the same rec league team, and as I watched their first game under the Tuesday night lights, I realized that later, it would sound like they had played on completely different fields. One would strut to the car as if they had won (they did not), and the other would approach, head bowed, teeth clenched.

For the first, it has never mattered if his team wins or loses (unless he’e watching the Packers on tv). If he makes one good catch, it’s a victory. Last night he made two, including a one-handed, over-the-head grab. You should have seen his grin. He’s an “I’m just happy to be here” kind of player. A big guy, coaches play him at center, which means he is involved in every play. But he’s almost as happy standing on the sidelines talking about the game with his coach.

His younger brother has the body of a sports statistician but the mind and competitive will of a quarterback. When he is not leading the charge, he feels ignored. When he is, the opposing team looks larger than life. But he runs smart plays that give his team an edge, and he knows it.

The Blue Jays’ chosen quarterback threw him one pass, which he caught for a two-point conversion. As he held onto the ball in the end zone, I felt that “phew” moment moms feel when we think we know our athletes will be pleased that they played their play well.

I should know him better than that.

As the game wore on, and he was left out of one play after another, I could see the frustration build in those piercing blue eyes all the way from the sidelines. It’s not “I’m just happy to be here” or even “put me in, coach.” It’s “give me the ball,” “let me lead the team.” Even if they had made it to the rec league Super Bowl last night, he would have seen the game as a defeat.

Two boys who love football. Same team. Different game.