My Funny Valentine

The day before Valentine’s Day, my sister told me to tell the boys that she loves them, Happy Valentine’s Day, and “tell one girl she looks pretty tomorrow.”

So this morning, my seventh grader came downstairs at 6:40am still rubbing his eyes, and grinned, “Mom, you look pretty. There. I’m done.”

At about the same time, my eight year old niece suddenly realized she had no gift for my other sister, exclaiming, “Mommy, I didn’t get you anything! Go get your nails done today!”

To which the first sister said, “Like she’s some sort of sugar daddy.”

Of course, our eighth grade son was so excited about his Valentine gift to us that he opened it himself at the dinner table last night. It was a lavender heart he made in “polymer lab” for chemistry. He barely let us touch “our” gift because he is afraid we’ll break it.

“And then” said the seventh grader, “you’ll have a broken heart.”

The Little Things

I Am Thankful For…

The time I spend with my kids

Date nights

The fact that…

…Jackson dives in with his all, his killer smile

…Finn’s creative streak, a wild ride

…Max is soulful and funny and eager to share

Date nights

The fact that…

…my sisters are my friends

…I learned to parent from my parents

…I can still help with math

The time I spend with my kids

Hugs that linger

Afternoon sun through the trees

The first glimpse of the beach

Catching up around the fire

Date nights

And the time I spend with my kids.

The Turkeys Grew Up

This summer, when we visited Grandma and Grandpa at Goose Hill Farm, you could hold the baby turkeys in your hands. The boys took charge of feeding them and locking them up for the night to protect them from the hawks and other wild animals prowling for meat in the dark.

Now visiting for Thanksgiving, the turkeys have grown waist-high. They are cautious, but curious. The male leads the females up to the kitchen windows, and they peer in at us from so close you can see the short hair on their heads. There are shades of pinks and light blue in the male turkey’s face. He struts and fluffs his tail feathers, a hundred different browns.

Abandoning her flock hiding from the snow, the only white chicken comes adventuring with the turkeys. We are told she prefers them and follows them around like a little sister. “Hey, wait for me!” Shorter legs racing to keep up.

But with “Turkey Day” only two days away, we expected this crew to be gone. Isn’t that the turkey’s sad story in all the picture books? In fact, for third graders at our sons’ school, the Thanksgiving homework is to take a cut-out paper turkey and “disguise” it so that it does not become part of the feast. Using any mix of materials and creativity, the kids dress their turkeys as football players, clowns, pilgrims, lions, mermaids and more.

Our youngest disguised his as a tomato plant. Very unusual and sneaky.

But the three Goose Hill turkeys don’t need a disguise. They are members of the family this Thanksgiving: the crazy uncle with warts on his nose, the cousin wobbling around the table after too much wine, and the vegetarian sister who every year, loudly mourns the poor bird.

The Scariest Thing He Could Think Of

Last November 1, my now seventh grader decided that he wanted to be something scary for Halloween this year. So that day, he tried to think of all the things that scared him, and decided that the scariest thing he could think of was a failed math test.

So for Halloween 2016, he was a failed math test.

It is my favorite costume in our family’s history of Star Wars characters, Ninjas, clowns, ducks, lions and dragons. Cheap. Easy to make. Witty. And just putting his personality out there. So courageously nerdy that it’s cool.

failed-math-test

 

The Beauty of a Handshake

“Have you introduced yourself to the ladies?”

We were attending a Christmas Eve party at a favorite cousin’s house in New York. In addition to family, she had invited a few friends from her quilting guild. I had just begun talking with them, when my eight year old son darted into the room.

He skidded to a stop and immediately walked over to the couch where they were sitting, introduced himself and shook their hands. With a very serious face, he maintained excellent eye contact.

They were practically giddy.

Later at dinner, he discussed his concerns over Kelloggs’ plan to change over to vegetable dye for his favorite cereal, Froot Loops. He is certain, he told the ladies, that it will be bad for business.

But he had them at the handshake.

Every morning as my kids enter their school, the Head of School, a principal, a teacher or administrator is standing at the gate – in rain, sleet and snow – to shake their hands. Watching them before pulling out of the carpool line every morning, I have always wished it came more naturally to my guys. But the point of those morning exchanges is to get them there when it matters.

And a little boy with a good handshake is quickly forgiven when he transforms the couch into a trampoline during Christmas Eve dessert.

“He is adorable!”

The Real Christmas List

This time of year, I need to keep lists. The kids’ Christmas lists. The teacher gifts. The class party contributions. The grocery list. The address list for holiday cards.

But I was reminded again this morning that, no matter how well I manage my big, all-encompassing list of to dos, I have no control over the real list.

The real list is contained in the fleeting moments of clarity and brief instances of focus that occur at the very last minute in my sons’ brains.

Before 7:00 this morning, I had the band teacher’s gift ready, the second grade Secret Angel gift wrapped, snack for the band party, folded a load of laundry, emptied the dishwasher, quizzed one son for his spelling test, another for his vocabulary and checked a math problem that was baffling the third.

All under control for departure at 7:25 because I am so on top of my lists. But then….

My sixth grader’s face fell as he packed up his books. “Is it Friday?”

“Yes,” I said, assuming he had forgotten to complete an assignment. “You still have a few minutes to finish whatever it is.”

“It’s not that,” he looked scared. “I’m supposed to bring homeroom snack.”

The real list is all about what happens on the fly, literally. I donned my SuperMom cape, flew out the door, got him 15 chocolate donuts with Christmas sprinkles and was back in time to get them to school on time.

There wasn’t even time to add donuts to the list. With the list that matters, there never is.

Gettysburg Left an Impression

On July 3, 1863, Robert E. Lee’s command, a Confederate General named George Pickett attacked the Union center at Gettysburg with thousands of men. The fire from that many guns was seen for miles. But in a surprising turn of events, the Union Army stood its ground with most of Pickett’s soldiers surrendered, killed or wounded. A turning point in a war that seemed never-ending.

During the spring of 2015, my sixth grader visited the scene of that carnage, walking the grassy field where all those young men fought, reading the inscriptions on stone markers and monuments, looking for our last name on the lists of the dead.

At the same time, he was obsessed with Calvin and Hobbes, a favorite comic strip from my own childhood.

And from that merging of pathways in his brain, connected only by the moment in time, he has concocted a plan.

When we go to Buffalo this Christmas, with the expectation of much snow, he is preparing to build a reenactment of Pickett’s Charge out of snowmen.

And as he fills us in on this snowman battleground based in American history – how on the hill from the Buffalo farmhouse to the pond, he will post snow-artillerymen as if it were Cemetery Ridge, 1863 – I cannot help but admire his creativity, smarts and ceaseless energy.

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