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.

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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!”

Playing with Mom is Past

During the days surrounding Christmas at the family farm this year, I noticed a change in my role as mom. Not once did any of my three boys ask me to play.

They played eight games of Dog-opoly – one that went to almost 11pm, laughing, trading properties and gunning for Free Parking. They did not need me to keep it going or fair.

They played with Nerf guns and raced across the grass, strategized in the tree house and moved stealthily through the barn in imagined battles. But not once did my second grader hand me a weapon. Just this summer, I frequently found myself dodging chickens, Nerf gun in hand, as we went after the enemy. But with all three on the same side of the battle, they did not seek out another soldier.

They had a blast together. Three energetic brothers in a tree house take the game to a much higher level of fun.

And while that has always been the goal – raising three boys who are good brothers and friends – I felt a tremendous loss. Now what?

I am not ready to let go of playing with my sons, but admittedly excellent at Dog-opoly, I never made a good Nerf-toting, chicken-dodging soldier.

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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A Most Critical Review

I wrote a story about our dog, Star and an incident at the North Pole for my second grader. I thought he might want to illustrate it, since he likes to draw.

My older boys read it first. “Mom, this is good!”

But the second grader had major edits.

The premise is that our wild, clumsy, undisciplined Star causes Dasher to break his leg in a pick-up soccer game only seven days before Christmas. Star and her boy owner then must journey to find a substitute flying reindeer in time to save Christmas.

“But it wasn’t really Star’s fault! It was Dasher’s!”

Hmmmm….

“Dasher was the one who ran too fast and slid on the ice!”

“Good point,” I said.

“It’s not fair that everyone is mad!”

“You’re a very good editor.”

“Star wasn’t even a little bit naughty, Mom.”

“I definitely have to rewrite that part.”

“Definitely.”

Is he a natural editor, or has he had too many such playground debates? “It’s not my fault! It’s not fair! I wasn’t even that naughty!”

Santa Dog

My first grader has been bringing a stuffed puppy with a Santa hat to school. He keeps it in his backpack for when he is feeling sad or frustrated. A quick hug with Santa Dog, and he is off and running again.

Our real dog, however, is lacking in Christmas spirit even if she flies across the yard like Blitzen.

First, our stellar dog ate the roof off of our son’s very cool Atlanta Falcons gingerbread house while we were out on Christmas Eve. Aren’t we smart that we didn’t leave the Christmas presents under the tree?

And on December 23rd, I overheard one holiday season substitute mailmen say to another, “I wouldn’t get out of the car if I were you. Not with that Rottweiller staring at us.”