His Teenage Name Day

Sitting in the stands at yesterday’s late afternoon soccer game, I held my breath when my son got the ball in front of the goal.

The goalie caught his attempt, but it was a nice shot. Everyone cheered, and above the din, I heard his teammate – their best player nursing an injury – yell, “Nice try, Kelly!”

It took me out of the moment. Until then, none of my boys had been called anything but their first names. The names we chose for them.

But he is 13 – that age when teammates or classmates choose a different name for you. A last name. A shortened version of your own. A weird mashing of words that somehow, they think, describes you. A teenage badge of honor.

I was the only one who noticed. The only one who marked the moment as important.

Then today, another friend, “See ya tomorrow, Kelly!”

Advertisements

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.”

Bigfoot, Click Bait, and the Eclipse

We went on a pilgrimage from Denver to Alliance, Nebraska to watch the eclipse from the Totality Zone. I was dubious that waking up at 3am and a nearly ten-hour round trip drive through dry, brown, flat land would be worth it.

But you can’t turn down an adventure with three boys, their grandparents, and a husband willing to do all the driving. Something spectacular is bound to happen.

Like plenty of pilgrims before us, our seven did not quite make it to the “holy land”, distracted by a dirt road along train tracks that were surrounded by fields of sunflowers. Soon other weary travelers joined us. A friendly group of families and retirees and young couples from as far away as Texas – all with picnics, beach chairs, cameras and eclipse glasses.

We walked and read and chatted in the sunshine. New neighbors described having turned back from the crowded streets, lack of parking, and overflowing restaurants of Alliance, which had at least doubled its population for the event.

A field of sunflowers in the center of the Totality Zone had won our hearts.

“It started!” came the shout by a group of retirees sipping white wine.

And our kids, entertaining themselves through the slow progression, made up ideas for Youtube videos that they call “click bait” – titles, often proclaiming something ridiculously untrue, created merely to earn millions of viewers.

Who knew?

Alien abduction reported in Alliance. Seven people missing post-eclipse.

“Let’s shave your head and eyebrows and cover your face in green paint,” said the thirteen-year-old to his younger brother. “Aliens don’t have eyebrows. And we’ll figure out how to make your eyes bulge. I’ll make a video of the eclipse, and then we’ll layer you in pretending to eat the sun.”

Bigfoot Seen at Eclipse.

In another plan, as the temperature dropped and a strange-but-beautiful dimming of lights changed the colors of the fields around us, he suggested that his older brother “walk like Bigfoot up on the train tracks, and I’ll video the eclipse in the background.”

Then… totality. Cheers erupted down the line of pilgrims. Sudden darkness with a pink band at the horizon any way you turned. The moon and sun as one.

Amazing.

Boys’ Night

Last night, the fourth grade boys celebrated next week’s start of school with an all-boys’ outdoor movie night. The night was put on as part of an effort to establish some traditions for them that bring them together as a group.

Kickball. Catching up. The third Raiders of the Lost Ark. Pizza. Cupcakes. Brownies. Candy. Popcorn.

With the sun refusing to set, and after some very loud happy play, they sat around the picnic tables talking. One excited crew poured juice on each other’s heads. One head injury ended up in the ER. They are boys, after all.

But as darkness fell, and cool air promising a 10:00 rainstorm blew across the yard, they snuggled up together under their blankets. Two boys huddled in low beach chairs here. Another two in chairs there. Seven or eight in a big pile in the grass like puppies.

Thunder rumbled as the movie ended. The first raindrops fell just as they untangled from the cozy pack and went home.

Their first night out past bedtime.

Mom’s Overreactions

“Once again,” our fourteen year old announced as he climbed into the car after school, “you totally overreacted.”

Apparently, the math quiz I made him study for that morning was only two problems. “You always panic about nothing.”

We are in a funny cycle into which lots of middle school boys and their moms fall. I let up on nagging, his grades go down. I nag, he “remembers” to do his homework, his grades stabilize, and he thinks the “crazy overreacting” – and more importantly, the fact that he actually studied – is completely unrelated to the newly acquired A.

So, every time he does well on a test, he celebrates with a big smile and… “See! Everything was fine, Mom!”

Like I’m a crazy, stressed-out wacko instead of his way-cool, full-of-wisdom mom, who just can’t understand why he doesn’t get the game.

If you do the homework, you get the A. You win.

In the Dursleys’ Wine Cellar

Our youngest is not a “bed” guy. For years, he slept on the floor in his brothers’ rooms, dragging sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals and his book down the hall every night.

With the older two entering teen-dom, however, their patience eventually dried up. So, he set up camp on the floor in his own room right next to his bed. It took us a few months of cajoling to realize he is afraid of falling out of bed. So, we bought a queen-size mattress and put it on the floor (no bedsprings) with new super soft, red fleece sheets.

It worked. For months, he climbed into bed every night, then spent ten minutes methodically setting up shop. Large stuffed bear and pillows along the non-wall side. Seven foxes snuggled against Big Bear in order of whose night of the week it was to sleep closest to him. “Blue Blanky” as first blanket, because it’s his favorite, then the others on top.

But something snapped.

He realized that if he pulls the mattress away from the wall, he can set up a bed back there… on the floor.

The ten-minute bedtime process got moved.

Then two nights ago, when he was feeling sorry for himself, it moved again…

…to the closet.

“I want to hide from the world!”

Big Bear, Blue Blanky, pillow, foxes, flashlight, book all in the smallest possible place to sleep. Shirts hanging just above him.

“Like Harry Potter’s bed at the Dursleys’,” I said, thinking that would discourage him. But by Night #2, it was his happy place.

Harry had to sleep in the wine cellar. Remember? It was under the stairs.”

As if that made all the difference.

And in all my years of reading Harry Potter books, I never pictured the Durselys drinking wine.

Third Grade Homework

Last night, my nine year old was struggling with long division again. I knew he was tired, so I stayed close in case he got frustrated. Plus, there was the spelling test to study for, and although he was getting “bruise” consistently, he kept messing up “cruise”. And we weren’t getting anywhere with “reduce”.

The expected “UGH!” came.

He was able to translate the word problem into an equation, but couldn’t remember the process he needed to go through to find the answer.

He slid the paper over to me, and I could tell he was on the verge of exploding with rage. But as I started to talk him through the steps, he took a long, deep breath, then placed his hand on my arm ever so gently.

“Mom, I don’t want to hurt your feelings,” his voice was quiet and his big brown eyes filled with pity. “I know you’re trying to help, but you’re making it harder, and it’s driving me crazy.”

So, I slid the paper back and watched with a big smile on my face while he finished his math.