Long Division

Dear third grader,

Long division is hard. Besides potty-training and reading, it might be the toughest challenge you have ever faced. It is especially awful when you imagine that Mom is doing it wrong.

Divide. Multiply. Carry down a zero. Subtract. Divide. Multiply. Carry down a zero. Subtract. Repeat until you hit a number smaller than your original divisor.

Because if you imagine that Mom is making stuff up, you’re going to invent a new way of doing division that gets you to the incorrect answer. And it is likely going to take you longer to get there. And then after all that effort and brain power and creativity that you just dedicated to dividing one number by another, you are going to freak out. Cry. Scream. Stomp your feet. Run out of the room.

“You think I’m stupid!” will be followed by “Then you think my teacher is stupid!”

And you will still have to come back later to finish your homework.

So while I will definitely slide off the “I know this” platform after a few more years of math, I promise I will admit it when the time comes. For now, though, stick with me. You will get this, because you are all about effort and brain power and creativity… and we make a great team.

Divide. Multiple. Carry down the zero. Subtract.

I love you, sweet man,

Mom

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The Gettysburg Address

An unexpected scene unfolded in my bathroom while our seven year old was taking his bath. His brothers, in their pajamas, reenacted the Gettysburg Address.

“Four score and seven years ago…” began one in a deep voice for the importance of the occasion, “our forefathers…”

…while the oldest pretended to translate in sign language.

Unplanned.

“…that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth.”

With an elaborate flourish of concluding sign language, they bowed to their audience in the tub – a boy, a rubber shark and a crab.

“Now let’s do the assassination. This time, you’re Abe. I’ll be the dumb security guard who let Booth in.”

When Boys Cook the Turkey

A few days before Thanksgiving, there was a proclamation made at our house that the guys would be in charge of the turkey. So my husband and our twelve year old prepared it for brining.

“Get the liver and stuff out,” father said to son.

“Where are they?”

“Just reach into the hole at the end.”

“Wait, that’s his butt! I am not reaching into the turkey’s butt!”

We all looked up from whatever newspaper article, book or teacup we’d been focused on. Grandpop’s eyebrow arced in amusement.

“No really? It’s in his butt?!”

“Yep,” said my grinning husband.

“That’s disgusting!” But like any respectable twelve year old, he reached inside.

“Ewwww! I can’t believe I’m doing this!” giggling as he pulled out the neck. “What’s this?”

“His neck.”

“Oh my God, is this his heart?” he asked, triumphantly holding up a purplish blob.

“Yep.”

“Ewwwww!” as he pulled out the kidneys, then liver.

“I can’t believe I just pulled them out of his butt!”

As my husband washed out the now hollow turkey, our son played with its innards – squishing them, poking at them, sliding them along the countertop. “What does its heart look like inside?”

“Cut it open and see.”

The readers and tea drinkers paused. More eyebrows raised.

“No,” said his grossed out grandmother.

Our ten year old showed up suddenly at his brother’s side, and he did it anyway. He dissected the heart. Then the kidneys, which were much harder to cut. “Not that interesting.”

Solid purple.

Then the slimy liver. Not much for a boy to celebrate there either. “But I can’t believe you made stick my hand in the turkey’s butt!”

Then the turkey was brining, and the guys left the kitchen, content with their work – red-purple turkey juices still oozing across the counter for respectable ladies to clean up.

And I wondered why, after 47 years of turkeys, it had never dawned on me to look inside their hearts.

The Ice Pack of Doom

My sister used to “un-make” your bed if she was mad at you.

My nine year old topped that tonight with the “Ice Pack of Doom.” Apparently, one fills a sandwich bag with ice and hides it between the sheets, as close to the feet as possible, in an unsuspecting brother’s bed.

These are the moments when I realize how truly lacking in creativity I was as a kid.  The “Ice Pack of Doom” would never have crossed have mind.

I’m Clearly Headed to the Nursing Home

My five year old brought home a wonderful sculpture he made out of multi-colored foam blocks. On one end of the board on which his sculpture sits is a small tower, mostly red but with one block each of yellow and blue. On the other side of the board is a tower three times the first one’s size. The second is mostly blue.

He likes red.

His teacher always writes the story behind the artwork in their own words:

“This is a big tower for the grownups. Outside is the kids’ area, so the kids don’t have to be bored with the grownups. They can have fun!”

Evolving Thoughts on Creativity in the Classroom

With my boys in a school with a reputation for being traditional in its approach, I have struggled with my desire for more creativity in the classroom. I worry about whether they are encouraged or empowered to be innovative. I stress…

…until this evening at dinner when I realized that my kids are far more creative than I ever was.

My fourth grader is about to start a month of curriculum focus on Africa. Each student will be assigned a country and report on it. I love this project and, at dinner tonight, told the boys about my sixth grade studies of Africa and South America. Even then, I loved sixth grade because of these projects, our ability to get creative with them, and our chance to shine. We were instructed to choose a personality or character, and as that character, write letters home about our travels across each continent.

“Who did you pretend to be?” asked my third grader.

“I was a newspaper reporter,” I answered, excited to tell them more.

“What?” they all shouted at once, “that is so lame!”

“But that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up,” I answered back.

“Mom, you could have been a Level 5 Archer!”

“Yeah!”

Level 5 Archers are in a video game called Clash of Clans.

“You could have traveled across Africa and used your archery skills to kill a man-eating lion!”

“Yeah!”

“And you wanted to be a newspaper reporter? Really?”

And then the rest of their conversation continued without acknowledging my existence at the table.

“Or she could have been a Skylander and used her magic powers to get water in the desert.”

I thought, “that would have been good.”

“Or she could have flown across the continent.”

“Mom, you really wanted to be a newspaper reporter?”

“Yeah Mom, you should have done better than that!”

“You didn’t get a good grade, did you?”

I did.

“Or you could have been a NFL quarterback!” realized the third grader who loves football.

“Skylander!” shouted the five year old.

“But a Level 5 Archer is the best.”

“How about a Level 6 Archer?” asked my husband just to stir the pot.

“No such thing.”

Apparently, they are doing okay in the creativity spectrum. Maybe I am wrong about their school. Maybe we are all wrong about video games. Maybe fifth grade is when you lose your natural creative edge over the rest of us. Or maybe my kids are just instinctively cooler than me. Either way, I wish I could go back to sixth grade and do it all over again. My head is spinning with ideas… and none of them include a newspaper reporter.

Oh to fly across Africa with magic powers and archery skills!