On Pi Day

At dinner tonight, our high school freshman quizzed us on Pi. 

3.14159….

That’s as far as I got, and I was pleased. He can go much longer.

So, we challenged him, because he likes to brag that he has the prologue to Romeo and Juliet memorized as well.

Can you do them both at the same time?

He gave us a funny look, as he considered, then…. slowly…

3.14159… 2 houses both alike in dignity….6535897932… in fair Verona where we lay our scene….38462… from ancient grudge break to new mutiny…60433832…where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

He grinned, bowed his head, and finished with, “Two things everyone should memorize. At least twenty digits of Pi and some Shakespeare.”

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At Last

They were calling it “snowmageddon” days before it hit. And days after we spent hours trying to avoid “avalanche activity”. So, the snow day was called early. As students headed to after-school practices and rehearsals the day before its arrival, a roar of joy rang through the halls.

I was there. It was loud. But I missed seeing my own kids get the news they spent all winter waiting for.

Yesterday, they had already proclaimed the snow day a great one. Survived skiing the jump they built midway down a short hill that ends in a creek. Played a two-hour game of Risk. Drank hot chocolate.

Then just before dinner, our ninth grader started screaming, jumping around the kitchen, arms flapping. An email from his math teacher regarding “a second snow day” was followed immediately by a text from the District. Power outages. Slick parking lots. State of emergency.

This time, I witnessed their response.

Two teenage boys playing air guitar. Belting out Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” 

Sacrifice to the Snow God

When they were younger and praying for a snow day did not seem enough of a guarantee, our boys invented their own ritual. Now 16, 15, and 11, and every local news outlet predicted blizzard conditions for the next morning’s commute, it triggered a buzz of excitement.  Snow Day.They suddenly weren’t tired. Snow Day.A sparkle in their eyes as they planned their sledding adventure, their snowman, their snowball fight down in the park. Snow Day.

And finally, because the ritual requires that you do it right before heading to bed the night before the storm, they each got a handful of ice cubes and marched together into the bathroom. There, they huddled around the toilet, dropped the ice in, and flushed. Snow Day.

The theory is that the ice will travel below the streets and magically encourage an above-ground freezing that cannot melt or get plowed in time for morning rush hour. School will haveto be cancelled even by the most resistant headmaster or school district. 

This time, they were sure, it would work. Snow Day.

His First AP Test

He’s a freshman taking AP Human Geography. It’s his lowest grade entering exams. But when I dropped him off this morning to take his first AP Test, I gave him a high-five, “You’ve got this!”

Keeping our fingers crossed…

5 Days To Go: He begins re-reading his text book. A few hours, face serious, with the book open.

“Can I take a break?”

“Nope.”

“I’m soooo tired.”

“Focus.”

“You’re soooo mean!”

4 Days To Go: Same thing. Book open. Occasionally shouting out interesting facts. Then, Dad starts quizzing him.

Not good. Blank stares. Lots of “we didn’t learn that” and “wait… I know this… don’t say anything…” then “why can’t I remember?!”

Time to intervene.

3 Days To Go: I find an AP Human Geography Quizlet online. More than 900 terms. Multiple ways to test himself. “This is your life for the next three days. Go!”

“Can I take a break?”

“Nope.”

“A snack?”

“Focus.”

“You’re soooo mean!”

2 Days To Go: Amazon Prime delivers AP Human Geography flashcards. Quizlet by day. Flashcards with Mom by night.

“Can I go to bed?”

“10 more.”

“You’re soooo mean!”

1 Day To Go: Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. And then… “We did that one last night!” and “Ohhhhhh, nailed it!”

And then, finally headed to bed… “I’m really looking forward to the test tomorrow. I think I enjoy reaching mental capacity.”

Looking Back in the Weeks Before 8th Grade Graduation

I volunteered to interview our school’s 8th graders for a Middle School Graduation video, and jotted down some of the things they shared. I asked a lot of different questions, but what I expected them to remember and talk about wasn’t always important to them. Only a few could come up with a story from Lower School, while I can tell you numerous memories from my own early years. First grade. Third grade, certainly. And Fourth.

Only a handful could remember anything that happened in the news, yet here too, I could talk for hours about how I perceived or even participated in historic events of the 1970s and 80s. And oddly to me, quite a number of “best field trip” moments took place on the bus rides there. The only bus ride memory I have took place in fifth grade, when one of the boys told me I was “gullible,” which I was, but I thought it meant “huggable”, and it made my day.

Funny story:

“We were seeing how many of those little orange slices you can stuff in your mouth. We were backstage, and I was on the floor laughing so hard that I started to spit them out just when an admission tour group came through. I’m guessing none of thosekids are coming here.”

Wisdom you might share with your second grade buddy:

“Don’t stress out. It gets harder every year, but when it does, you’re ready for it. And it’s not that hard, because the teachers help you.”

“Spend as much time with your friends as you can.”

“Be yourself. Don’t worry about what other people are going to say, because most of them are nice.”

Best part of the Washington DC trip:

“It was on the bus ride, and he was sleeping, and his brother and I were throwing cashews at him. And then he woke up, and yawned, and I threw one perfectly into his mouth. He was soooo surprised.”

“Well, one story, I can’t tell you.”

Best day at school:

“My very first day here in sixth grade. I came here and I realized I could be myself. I didn’t have to be crazy or anything for people to like me.”

“They were going to tear the old Lower School building down, and so on the last day of first grade, they let us write on the walls. I remember we were drawing on the bathroom walls. Everywhere. But then we started drawing on the carpets, and apparently, they were planning to re-use the carpeting. So, our teacher got really mad. That was the best day.”

Middle School Dances:

“The dances are pretty ‘cringy’, because there are like two slow dances, and there’s like three couples who dance together, and everybody starts freaking out because they’re dancing.”

“Everybody only has six dance moves, and they just do them over and over.”

“Most importantly, you get candy.”

Something that happened in the world during your time at the school:

“The Broncos winning the Super Bowl.” “The Patriots winning the Super Bowl.” “The Broncos winning the Super Bowl.” “The Patriots…”

“I will always remember the day in December 2012, when the world was supposed to end, and we were all standing out on the field looking up at the sky waiting. And then it didn’t.”

The “No Technology” Consequence

Our ninth grader came home with a few unusually bad grades. He’s losing focus, missing assignments. So, we banned technology until the end of the school year. Seven weeks. No video games. No YouTube videos. No watching South Park episodes for the millionth time.

To him, this means passing through the Gates of Hell.

So, he spent Sunday pouting and doing the homework that he had claimed earlier in the weekend was already done. Look at that! He actually studies for Spanish tests in Hell.

Although not the one who came up with punishment, I, of course, was the one getting the silent treatment. Until he handed me a letter Sunday evening. A full page. Almost as long as his English paper on A Farewell to Arms.

“Dear Mom and Dad…” it began before launching into his “re-commitment to getting straight As” and his strategy to achieve such a feat. He glared at me while I read how he is going to focus on studying so much that he will not be able to talk or eat until school gets out.

“That’s a bit extreme,” I said, annoyed at the theatrics.

He stuck his chin out and shook his head like a four-year-old stubbornly trying to win a not-speaking contest.

“Then show the letter to Dad.”

He shook his head again, as I knew he would.

“If this is your plan, Dad needs to know.”

So, he stomped upstairs, and I could hear them talking softly, before my son returned to me in the kitchen. With the greatest of seriousness, he said, “Dad and I figured out a better plan. I’m going to focus on schoolwork from 3-5:00 every day.”

“Perfect,” I smiled.

“Except for a five-minute break at 3:55.”

No technology… but speaking. And eating. And re-committed.

Our Picky Eater

In December, my son’s teacher informed me that he wasn’t eating lunch. She was wondering if there might perhaps be a connection between hunger and a lack of afternoon impulse control. “Could you please try packing his lunch?”

A few weeks later, with behavior back on track, another teacher mentioned his “picky” eating.

This “picky” eater ate three lamb chops two nights ago, shrimp tacos the night before. At restaurants over Spring Break, he tossed aside the Children’s Menus for beef tenderloin and broccoli, lobster quesadillas, and huge fish sandwiches.

When I pack his lunch, he eats pasta with pesto, bacon sandwiches, leftover sesame chicken, bags of celery and carrots, and his latest go-to request, mozzarella and tomato sandwiches with fresh basil and a splash of balsamic vinaigrette.

“It’s delicious!” he grins. “Can I have that tomorrow too?”

For the record, we’re being played.