An Elevator in the Kitchen

There’s a story whirling around in my head that I can’t write because I need to finish another one first.

I was thinking about how there are certain kids, when they come to our house, who are drawn to our laundry shoot. Most houses don’t have one. So, they are enthralled by it. Happy to spend their time just throwing things from the second floor to the basement. Stuffed animals mostly. Or they invent games where one kid throws a ball down the shoot, and the others stand in our laundry room and try to catch it.

Maybe not enough for a story, but…

When I was growing up, my best friend had an elevator in her kitchen.

It was creaky. You pulled a metal gate across before it would go up. And when she pushed the button, I was always a little nervous it would stop mid-route. We’d stare through the gate and watch the drywall beyond it moving, holding our breath a little until it jerked to a stop. At least that’s how I remember it.

I think, if the picture in my head is right, they sometimes stored a few cases of Coke in there.

I have yet to be in another house with an elevator. And I think of the boys at my house, running up and down two flights of stairs, through the kitchen a hundred times during their invented laundry shoot games. How magical my friend’s creaky elevator would seem to them!

Which gave me an idea.

There’s a story whirling around in my head…


African Feasts, Spanish Fiestas, and Cheeseburgers

I typically make dinner for our family six days a week. So, you might think I relish the homework assignments where cooking is involved.

I do not.

Frankly, I’d rather write a paper, make a poster, spend hours on a diorama, or muddle through a calculus problem. And it seems that the African feasts and Spanish fiestas always happen during a week of tests, meetings, and any version of silly end-of-trimester chaos you can imagine.

I love project-based learning. I want more global awareness built into my kids’ curriculum. But I have boys who bite off more than I’d like to chew.

One year, my oldest decided to report on the history of cheeseburgers. Having never seen him more excited about school – and this was six years ago – we cooked up a cheeseburger buffet for 22 kids.

Big hit.


Tonight, my fourth grader and I are making a dish from Botswana that combines ground beef, milk-soaked bread, and strawberry jam. He found it on the Internet, but…

I don’t even know if it’s a real dish.

And after soaking the bread and chopping the onions, he cracked the egg, which exploded all over the kitchen counter and floor. “If that chicken were born, it would have ADHD!”

I know. He’s having fun.

Still, I cannot imagine a single 4th grader wanting to taste our dish.

Fortunately, my middle son, after his brother’s cheeseburger incident, decided that mom likes it when he volunteers chips and salsa. Every fiesta, always timed perfectly with the Christmas parties and end-of-year celebrations, he offers, “Mom, how about chips and salsa?”

And I can’t help but smile.

What I Love About 10

Today is Pajama Day at school, and while our middle school son wore sweats and a favorite Falcons t-shirt, no different than any other day, our 10-year-old strutted into school proudly sporting his flannel Snoopy Christmas pajamas.

Bright green. Snoopy. Charlie Brown. Woodstock.

Not a care in the world. No thought of “cool” or “not cool”.

Just lovin’ his PJs.

Struttin’ into 4th grade.


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.




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.”


The Last Therapy Session

He’s been seeing her because of an uncontrollable rage that began in kindergarten when he hit a friend with a toy truck in the sandbox. The little girl needed stitches. In first grade, his teacher would bring him down to the basement to kick a beanbag chair. By third grade, therapy had helped him transfer his anger from his fists and his feet to his words… and I received a number of reports of him screaming in a wild rage at his teachers for not understanding him, siding with his classmates, not listening.

He morphed from the class Buddha one day to a whirlwind of anger and self-doubt the next.

But he’s a fourth grader now. Importantly, he has a couple of best friends who he seems to have figured out will stick by him when things get rough. The rage is thawing.

So, I wasn’t surprised when his therapist said at the end of yesterday’s session that he doesn’t need to see her anymore. “Let’s move to an as-needed basis.”

The funny thing was that she didn’t “re-neg” when he told her about Christmas Eve – and an unique experience he’s been sharing boldly for almost a month now.

“I saw Santa!”

She didn’t understand at first. “At the mall? Downtown?”

“The real one. I woke up in the middle of the night and forgot it was Christmas, and I thought I heard something downstairs. So, I went down,” his eyes sparkled and his smile lit up like a Christmas tree., “and there he was!”

She grinned back, trying not to look at me. “Wowwwww! Did you say anything?”

“Nope, I didn’t want to get in trouble. So, I tiptoed back upstairs.”

“He didn’t see you?”

“I am very good at sneaking around.” So proud.

“I have never heard of anyone actually getting to see him. You are the luckiest kid in the world,” then with a vigorous nod from him, she transitioned, “So, did you get anything good?”

He listed his presents. A small drone. A t-shirt from his favorite Youtube channel. A game called Timeline. But when she asked which one was his favorite…

“Seeing Santa! That’s the best gift anyone could ask for!”


Your Best Fan

There are times when I’ve watched my boys and felt as if I were going to explode with pride.  Today, when my eighth grader gave his This I Believe speech about the power of reading, I was so proud I wanted to tell everyone in the room that I think he’s absolutely amazing. (I held back… until now.)

It was beautifully written, laced with humor and a window into he is. He was also extraordinarily poised standing up before classmates, teachers and parents. Looked up at his audience. Paused at just right the moments for laughter.

But what struck me almost more than that was his huge smile of encouragement, whispered congratulations, and the high fives he gave each classmate as they passed him on their way to and from the podium. Not just his crew of his friends. Everyone.

I’ve seen it before – I may have written about it before, because it seems to come so naturally to him – when he came in last in a swim race, but was the first to reach over the lane ropes to shake his opponents’ hands. Last week, when his friend made his first basket in a game, he was as happy as the hoopster. And in past years, in the math competition, when each competitor moved on to the next round, he greeted them with encouragement, as if they had just impressed him like no other.

So, as I walked away from a great speech about the power of reading, I thought about the power of his very big, genuine smile, greeting his more nervous classmates, his teammates, even his competition with… “you were awesome!” and “isn’t this fun?!”