Car Conversations

Middle school is an odd time.  I say odd because there isn’t really another adjective I can use to explain how weird my discussions with my middle school son, String Bean, have become.

And the car has become the place for these odd talks.

Long gone are the car discussions about the merits of Wendy’s nuggets over McDonald’s McNuggets.  Or the chats about the zillion unique Pokemon characters (Legendary ones versus morphed ones, etc.) and how important each one is to the game.  No.  These car conversations are now replaced by talks about social skills and, gulp, dating.

I should preface – String Bean is in 6th grade.  I still recall playing Barbies in 6th grade.  I don’t remember having a boyfriend or calling a boy’s house or being at all interested in the opposite sex.

Times they are a changin’.

This past car conversation proved very interesting.  String Bean and I had just left the community theater and I was running one of the middle school girls, who is in the musical with us, home.  She is in 8th grade.  String Bean is smitten with her and, basically, wouldn’t lend a word to the conversation.

So I led it and told her that String Bean and I were going to go home and try to catch an episode of The Family Guy. This is something he wasn’t allowed to watch until he hit middle school status, so we watch it together (mostly in case of any questions that may come up!)

She laughed and said that it was a funny show.

String Bean sat there and said nothing, but his body language said it all.  I had done the worst thing a parent can do: embarrassed him.

We chatted more, and finally arrived at her home.  I waited until she went inside before pulling out of the driveway.

The silent middle child sitting in the car became quite chatty.  He asked me how I talked to people so easily.  I told him practice.  I also told him the biggest secret of all: ask THEM about themselves.  It works like magic.

He took all of it in and seemed completely content by the time we reached our home.

About 10 minutes later, he got a text on his iPod from the 8th grade girl.  It said: “Turned on the TV and The Family Guy was on.  Thought of you two.”

Needless to say, String Bean didn’t stop grinning all night.

Growing too fast.

Growing too fast.

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Middle Schoolers Seeking Dating Advice From Crazy Parents: A True Story

My oldest son is now in middle school.

We have entered the big leagues, my friends.

The thought of String Bean walking through the doors of middle school sent me into a panic. All I could think about were my uncomfortable days of junior high.  I never wanted to relive those moments of hell again.

Fortunately, all my worrying was for nothing. String Bean has had a good run thus far.

Lately, he has been asking me some unique questions.  Questions that he has decided I am the best resource to ask.  Questions about dating.

Yes, dating.  Apparently something resembling this happens in sixth grade.

Sadly, I don’t want to share my middle school dating experiences which only consisted of one slow dance, a note that had the words, “Will you go out with me? Circle one: yes, no or maybe,” and being dumped by the said note-writer because I wasn’t allowed to go with he and his older brother to an amusement park.

Obviously, I was not the best person to ask.  I didn’t become a good person to ask until later in high school and in college.  Oh yes.  Good times.

So sorry – I digress. Back to String Bean.

“Mom.  Can I talk to you?” he said as he is working on his math homework.

“Sure thing, dude,” I said as I stared blankly at his math homework.  It looks more advanced than my college Algebra class.

“How do you know if a girl likes you?” he said, not making eye contact with me.

“Do you talk to the girl at school?”

“Yes. We sit near each other in Social Studies.”

“Have you talked to her about anything in particular like movies or Legos or anything?”

“Mom. Seriously? You think I am that dorky that I would talk to a giiiiiiiirrrrrrrlllll about Legos?”

“No, not at all. Probably not a good idea to talk about Legos.  I was just thinking about Legos for a second. My bad,” I said while looking at the Lego Shakepeare figure he gave me last week.

“How do I know if she likes me?” he said, starting to lose patience with me.

“Has she given you any hints that she likes you, such as giggles or whispers to her friends or smiles really big when you are around?” Yes, I am grasping here.  Failing like I failed many a math test.

“Yeah, kind of.  So, how do I ask her on a date?”

Wait a second.  A date? Wwwwwwwhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaatttttt???

“Umm. You could ask her if she likes Thor, and if she has seen any of the movies,” I said.  I am not sure where my response came from except for the fact I really like Thor.  Really like him.  And I want to see Thor, so I would take anyone to see it with me!

“OK.  Maybe I will talk to her about movies then,” he says and goes back to his homework.

Successful dodging of topic!  Hooray!

Later in the evening, as we are doing the bedtime ritual, I go to tuck String Bean in.

“Mom.  So how do I ask a girl on a date again?”

“Starting talking to her and then see where it goes,” I said, and, knowing full well The Captain was nearby, I added, “Maybe you should ask your dad because he is a guy also.”  Ha.

“Dad, how do I ask a girl out on a date?” he said.

The Captain appeared in the doorway looking completely baffled at the question, but without missing a beat, he replied, “You are too young to go on dates.  Now go to bed.”

String Bean looks at me and whispers, “See, Mom, this is why I asked you. Dad must not have had any dates in middle school.  He probably talked to girls about Legos.  Poor guy.”

They grow up too fast...

They grow up too fast…

“You Old Hag” and other not-so-nice sayings

I knew that I had a wild child when he told my dear grandmother, Charlotte, that she was “nice stupid.”

My youngest, Squishy, has a way with words.

Here is Squishy at age 3. He is on the right with the not-a-smile expression. An expression of wild.

Here is Squishy at age 3. He is on the right with the not-a-smile expression. An expression of wild.

When he was just a little dude at the tender age of three, he vocalized his feelings.  He didn’t hold back; he just said whatever was on his mind.

My dear grandmother, who was in her early 80s at the time, was talking to him asking him what he wanted to eat (she always wanted to feed all of us – all of the time).  He kept telling her that he wanted ice cream, but she had trouble decifering the toddler-speak.

Finally, when she asked him for the third time, he stood up, put his hand on his hips, and blurted out, “Mam-ma, you’re stupid.”

Enter epic parenting fail.

She, however, didn’t miss a beat, and, this time, she perfectly understood what he just said to her. No decoding needed.

“Luke, Mam-ma is not stupid.  Mam-ma is nice,” she calmly retorted.

He turned as if he was about to leave the room, and then turned back, dropping his arms to his side and tilting his head ever so slightly.  The wheels were turning in that three-year-old brain of his.

And I was petrified by what he would say next.

“You’re right, Mam-ma.  You are not stupid… You are nice stupid,” and he did an about face and left the room.

This is when I knew I was in trouble.

At school, Squishy was (and is) the perfect angel.  It is just at home where his filter is lacking.

A few summers ago, when Squishy was six, he called my mother-in-law an old hag…in front of her bridge club.  (Yes, I am a proud parent – cough, cough).  Apparently he was “just kidding” and “only wanted some snacks.”  When she asked where he learned that phrase, he said “my mom.” I don’t recall ever in my life uttering the words “you old hag,” but in his mind, it was a free pass out of trouble.

How can anyone be mad at this face? Or not laugh at this crazy expression?

How can anyone be mad at this face? Or not laugh at this crazy expression?

More recently, he has been caught saying “shut your pie hole.”  Now I do know where this reference came from.  It is from the movie “The Sandlot” and The Captain was very excited the dudes liked the film.  Very excited, indeed, especially when Squishy not-so-subtly said this to my mother-in-law.

I found out about this gem of a phrase when I walked in on my mother-in-law discussing my “poor parenting choices” with a friend of hers.  She went on to tell the friend, “and she just laughs at what he says instead of disciplines him.”  Later I found that, once again, he blamed me for teaching him the phrase.  Hmmm.  Is there a trend going on?

When I addressed the behavior, he justified it by saying, “She wouldn’t stop talking, Mom.”

Touche, Squishy, touche.

Autumn and the Zombie Archives

In Ohio, the autumn weather can be tricky.  Usually there are some pretty days of glorious color followed by overcast and drizzly days.  This past weekend, we were lucky enough to have one of those gorgeous fall days when I want to spin on a hilltop singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music!”  Wait, that is another fantasy.  I digress.  Of course, there are only a few pretty days left on the calendar, and this was one of them.

With a beautiful weekend day comes the classic question: “Mom, can we go outside and play?”

Of course, my answer is, “Yes, please, do, go, bye!”

On Saturday, the sun was shining, and I received the question I knew was first thing on their minds when they woke up that morning.

“Mom,” said Squishy, “It is nice outside! Can we go outside and play?”

“Of course you can,” I said, looking up from the waffles I was making. (Actually, Eggo made them. I put them in the toaster. For me, this is domestic bliss.)

“Well, when can we go? We have some business in the woods to take care of,” he said sounding like he was about to audition for The Sopranos.

“What ‘business’ do you have in the woods?” I asked.

“Oh, Mom, all you need to know is that it is for your protection. OK?”

“What, in fact, are you protecting me from?” I questioned him as I sprinkled cinnamon on the waffles (see, I am a domestic diva!)

Zombies are the thing.

Zombies are the thing.

“We are saving the neighborhood from the upcoming zombie attack,” he said with sheer seriousness.

I turned to him in horror thinking maybe he had seen an episode of The Walking Dead or something?!

“What would make you believe there is an upcoming zombie attack,” I asked, praying he didn’t access my Netflix account on the iPad (darn you, zombie shows that pull me in, darn you!)

“Mom, it is just a matter of time when someone makes a vaccine that will take out the human race and turn everyone into a zombie.  Seriously, you should know this. You are a teacher.  Gosh,” he stated as he rolled his eyes, disgusted with me.

Now I am wondering if he was scoping out my Kindle and came across my latest read, The Passage.  Or maybe I Am Legend.  Was there some zombie thing on TBS or something?  Darn you, TBS, darn you!

“I highly doubt that will happen, Squishy, but if it does…”

“If it does, Mom, you will probably make us have the shot at the doctors, and you really won’t be prepared when we turn into zombies. So, we must prepare now,” he said interrupting me.

What the heck is he watching on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel?

“OK,” I said, knowing full well he was getting antsy to get outside and save the world.

Taking zombie precautions one street at a time.

Taking zombie precautions one street at a time.

After a while, I went outside to check on the progress of thwarting the impending zombie apocalypse.  I found Nerf guns, sticks and a mountain of leaves ready to protect the innocent.  I also found the neighborhood posse in the middle of the street strategic planning their next move.

“What are you all working on?” I said to the group of defenders.

“Mom, I already told you. We are making sure the neighborhood is safe,” Squishy answered.  The rest of the posse nodded enthusiastically.

“Well, in that case,” I said, “carry on.”

And they did.

So, a message to all zombies: Beware, zombies, beware of our street.  We have protection in the form of elementary students.  Scary, right?

For Halloween we had a zombie and a werewolf.

For Halloween we had a zombie and a werewolf.

The Birds, the Bees and Puppies

You never know when you may have to explain the birds and the bees to your children.

I did not think this would come into play at their tender ages of 11 and eight, but thanks to my mother-in-law, I had the horror opportunity to tell them a little bit about how babies are made.

One Tuesday night as I was in the middle of teaching a tap class, I received a frantic voice mail from my mother-in-law, Salt.

It went a little like this:  “Allison, hey. We have a problem here. The dogs are stuck together and I don’t know what to do! They have been stuck for over 20 minutes and I can’t get a hold of anyone.  You must call me back as soon as you get this because I just don’t know what to do!”

Reluctantly I returned the call.

“Hi there.  I only have a minute because I am in between classes,” I said.

“Chewie and Maisy got stuck together!  It has been over 30 minutes!  I didn’t know what to do!” she wailed.

“Are they still stuck together?” I asked in a calm voice so I could try and assess the situation.

“No. Finally they got themselves unstuck.  I called the vet because I couldn’t get anyone on the phone,” she exclaimed, her voice revealing how stressful it had been for her. “And the boys wanted to watch it the entire time!  I had to close the curtains!”

After hanging up with her and finishing teaching my dance classes, I ran my dudes to the store.

It would be an understatement to say there were a few questions that were asked.

“Mom, why were the dogs stuck together?”

“Mom, grandma said that Chewie’s penis had to shrink before they could be unstuck.  Why?”

“Mom, what does amorous mean?”

“Mom, why did grandma tell the vet the dogs were ‘getting it on’?  What does ‘getting it on’ mean and where were they getting it on to?”

“Mom, did you know that Chewie looked like he was doing the Harlem Shake on Maisy’s back?”

“Mom, Grandma kept trying to close the curtains so we couldn’t see the dogs. Why was she doing that?”

and the biggest question of all:

“Mom, is that how people make babies?”

OMG.

By this time, I am standing in front of the cashier at Kohl’s.  She is staring at me like I have lost my marbles (which, at that second, I wished was true).  Both boys were staring at me, too, waiting for answers.

Surely this should have been the exact moment I could’ve said, “Ask your father.”  But, alas, I am not that lucky.

I started lightly.  “Amorous means really, really lovey.”  Yes, I took the easiest question first.  Can you blame me?

Next answer: “Chewie probably doesn’t know the Harlem Shake,” but then I asked the stupidest question, “How exactly did this start?

Both dudes jumped at the chance to answer, speaking over each other.  The cashier looked at me like I had horns.

“Well, you see Mom, Chewie came inside and started following Maisy around. I mean, literally, (he uses this word a lot – he is 8) Chewie would not leave her alone,” Squishy chimed in.

“Yeah, and then he started to jump on her and stuff,” said 11-year-old String Bean with a wide-eyed grin, “And he wouldn’t stop, don’t be mad if I say this next part, Mom, OK?  Grandma said it wasn’t a bad word.”

“Ummm, OK, I guess?!” Fear bubbled up inside of me.

“Chewie started humping her.  That is what Grandma called it,” he said, looking at me to gauge my reaction.

Squishy interjects, “Yeah, Mom, it was crazy! It looked like this,” as he begins a vivid demonstration even Elvis would not have attempted on national TV.

“OK. You can stop showing me now,” I said as I pushed them out of Kohl’s.

“And Grandma said Maisy was a hussy.  What exactly is a hussy, Mom?  I’ve never heard of that word before.”

And so it goes.

As I tucked the dudes into bed that night, they were still buzzing about the events of the evening. They were hoping puppies would arrive soon (I did have to break down and explain how puppies are made), and they were bouncing off of the walls about the entire situation.

Squishy did have an ace up his sleeve.  “Mom, look at this!” he said, shoving his iPod in my face, “Here they are stuck together!”

Photographic proof of the event taken by an eight-year-old.  Amorous, indeed.

Stuck together.

Stuck together.

Hey, Santa!

Yes, you, Santa, the man in red with the belly bursting out of your suit, the laughter that is practically trademarked and the rosy cheeks from too much exertion after eating junk food.  You.  I have a bone to pick with you.

You, Santa, yeah you.

You, Santa, yeah you.

Look, jolly dude, I am getting tired of not being on your payroll.  You owe me big time.  I am so busy doing things for you, and I am getting sick of not getting any of the accolades.

You need to cough up some dough for this job I am doing for you, Santa.

Let me start with the search for the perfect gifts that I can’t even put my name on.  Yeah, I spent three hours hunting down an obscure Lego set, yet you get the smiles and the thanks.  Really?  Is this fair, Santa baby?  I don’t think so.  And now, both of my dudes want iPods.  These are not cheap, Kris Kringle, and, yet, your name will go on them.  That stinks, bearded man, it really does.  Will you set them up for the dudes?  No?  Oh, so add this to the list of another one of my grievances.

And then there is the Advent calendar.  Each night (or early in the morning when I wake up startled by the fact that I forgot the night before), I run and put little gifts in the Advent calendar.  Gifts that are “supposedly” from one of your minions.  Yeah, the elf that sneaks into our house, i.e. me, is getting ticked, Santa.  So are the dogs.  Why, you ask?  Because they get blamed when there is nothing left in the calendar.  Poor dogs, Santa.  Poor, poor dogs.  They sit, hearing the blame, and tuck their tales between their legs.  Is that fair, Kringle?  Shouldn’t you be sending a reliable elf each night that doesn’t have to swear through piles of essays to grade?  Yes, Santa, you should.  And you owe my sweet, innocent dogs.  Big time.

Creepy Elf. Sneaking into the manger. The horror.

Creepy Elf. Sneaking into the manger. The horror.

And then the creepy Elf on the Shelf.  Do you know where he was one of the mornings?  Why he was sitting next to Mary and Joseph in our manger scene.  He actually moved Mary and the baby Jesus in order to fit in there.  Creepy?  Heck yes, Santa.  He also has these spooky, hollow eyes – I almost feel like he is following me (and even undressing me) with them.  It is a strange feeling, Santa, and one you both should be aware of.  The last thing that looked at me like that, the chocolate Easter bunny, met an untimely demise.  IMG_2889 The dogs are mad at him, too, because they were also blamed for his failure to relocate one evening. I am sure they would like to have him as a chew toy, Kringle, so you need to tell the Elf, who the dudes named Henry, to keep himself out of the dog’s reach.  And stay away from my martini glasses.  Seriously, Papa Noel, those are not for children.

It is diet time, Santa. Yeah, you heard me.

It is diet time, Santa. Yeah, you heard me.

Oh, and Santa?  I just want you to know that I am leaving you carrots and celery this year.  They are for you so don’t try and pass them off to the reindeer.  Maybe it is time you join Cookie Monster in demonstrating a healthy lifestyle.  You need to be careful, Santa dear.  Plus, I have discontinued the candy tradition in the Advent calendar.  Why, you ask?  Have you ever witnessed an eight-year-old who has candy for breakfast?  No?  It is not pretty, St. Nick, but you wouldn’t know anything about that because you haven’t been there to talk a small child down from swinging on the chandelier.

Checking my list.  Twice.

Checking my list. Twice.

Your present this year is a lump of coal.  You are on my naughty list, Santa dude, yes indeed.  You may make it to my good list if, and only if, you can turn that coal into a diamond for me next year.

I need to go, Santa, I am bidding on eBay for a present that is completely sold out at Toys-R-Us.  You owe me.  Big time.  Ho, ho, ho.

To Give is Human, To Bribe is Divine

String Bean is enjoying fifth grade.  Thank goodness.

The Captain and I were more than ready for the continued horror of the fourth grade to be over.

At the beginning of the String Bean’s fourth grade school year, he was happy, enjoyed going, and was excited to share what he learned.

After a month in, we learned that the rules for fourth grade were quite different from third grade.  One of the biggest rules we learned right from the get go was it’s every man for himself.  I wrote about our struggles here.

If the district really knew what I thought about fourth grade, they might not be too happy.

Being high school teachers, The Captain and I have some strong mild philosophies on education. We believe that our duty as teachers is to teach and empower students, not to tear them down.  For some reason, the fourth grade philosophy is different.  It adds an excited dose of humiliation and public embarrassment into the mix.  Fourth grade for my son this past year beheld a different theory.  It specialized in Darwin’s survival of the fittest.  Not a good thing.

By the last nine weeks, it got to the point where my husband, The Captain, started bribing String Bean.

Let me rewind for a moment.  The Captain does not believe in giving monetary rewards for grades.  He does not believe in giving gifts for grades.  He does not believe in any tangible rewards for grades.  Until now.

In the car this past spring, the dudes were talking about the upcoming state mandated tests.

“My class gets to have a movie day Friday after our tests are over,” Squishy said, happily.

“Well, we get a cool pizza party when our tests are over,” added String Bean.

The Captain is seething. “We let kids graduate when they pass our tests.”

Squishy interjects, “Your butt is going to graduate.”

“Dad’s butt already graduated,” I said.  (Side note: I have boys.  Butt jokes and fart jokes are imperative ways to get everyone’s attention.  It works.  Ask any mom of boys.)

“I don’t think these parties are necessary,” stated The Captain, or, Captain Obvious because it was obvious how he felt about the matter.

“It is a nice motivator for the kids, don’t you think?” I said.  I am the awesome peacemaker/cheerleader/glass half full/uber positive one in the family.

“I don’t think they should be rewarded.  I hate bribes,”  said The Captain.

“Dad, if I do well on the tests, will you get me an XBox 360?” String Bean asks.

I looked over at The Captain.  His ears turned red, a vein pulsated on his neck and he is in a low growl.  The car teetered on silence that seems to stretch on for miles.  No one breathes.  The air is frozen. All are awaiting the response that is surely going to include the word “no” in it.

“Maybe. Well, yes,” he finally said.

What the heck?!

“Yes, I will get you an Xbox 360 if you do well on the tests,” he stated.

I almost steered off of the road.

“Do you realize how expensive those things are?” I quietly asked him.

“No. Fifty bucks or something?” he asked.

“Uh, try two fifty, dude,” I said.  “Plus, we have a Wii already. We really don’t need one.”

Meanwhile, the back seat of the car is all abuzz with the amazing news.  I heard snippets about how awesome Dad was, and the games they were going to get, and how much they needed to get it with two controllers, and that they needed Kinect so even Mom can play games like Just Dance.

The Captain looked pained.

“A deals a deal, dude,” I said to him as we pulled into our destination.

The tests were taken. May ended.  Summer began with the anxiety of when THE RESULTS would come.

It took a while.

Finally, in late July, it arrived.  Believe me when I say that there were many heartbreaking trips to the mailbox – back and forth, back and forth – from May until then.  What happens when kids have time to kill in the summer?  Stalk the mail lady, of course!

On the day of THE LETTER’s miraculous arrival, String Bean grabbed it and raced up the driveway to have me open it on the spot.  To this day I am still unsure of how he knew it was THE LETTER.  All the envelope said was the district name (which is also where The Captain teaches – that letter could’ve been anything.) But it was certainly the one the dudes had been waiting for.

I opened it in a truly dramatic fashion, slowly and meticulously peeling it out of the envelope.  It was “the one.”

The results were there in black and white. String Bean did fine on the tests.  The Captain had to get an XBox 360.

A happy dude!

To give is human, to bribe (only this one time, I promise) was divine.

So excuse me while I go and play Just Dance.  After all, the dudes insisted on it.  So sweet of them!

Tales of the No Good, Very Bad Fourth Grade

String Bean is reaching the end of fourth grade. I must admit that it has been a no good, very bad school year for him.

He liked school in the third grade. He liked school in the second grade. He liked school in the first grade. He liked kindergarten and preschool.

He hates fourth grade.

The homework menace.

Each day after school is a struggle. He has more homework than I assign high school Language Arts students. Some days, we sit for over two hours while he works on his homework. This is not only torture for String Bean, but torture for The Captain and me.

I have to be honest when I say that the homework routine gets really draining. Who knew that 4th grade would be so hard? There are some days when I have come to be the peace maker during homework time. If String Bean gets frustrated, The Captain gets frustrated. The cycle is endless. It usually ends with tears (from the 4th grader) and me calming both parties down. I should have been in politics.

As a teacher, I want both String Bean and Squishy to love school. I want them to enjoy learning and become passionate about subjects that interest them.

But I do not have patience with a grade that is killing my child’s love of school.

The Salt Map of Ohio. I am not even going on record to say how long it took us to make this.

In fourth grade, String Bean had to make a salt map of the state of Ohio. I do not know what the point of this was besides seeing whose parents make the coolest project.

In fourth grade, String Bean had to create a brown bag book report. Now, I am all for book reports, but apparently the brown bag I sent along was not the correct brown bag. Minus 10 points for String Bean because I wasn’t correctly informed.

In fourth grade, String Bean has been sent home with four behavior slips. This is my quiet, Lego building child. Turns out, the behavior slips are not for what one would think are traditional “behavior” issues. One was for neglecting to put his name on his paper. One was for leaving his folder (which was empty) at home. One was for not have eight lines in a poem (he had seven). And the last one, the one that The Captain almost rocketed through the roof about, was when a girl tossed a swing that hit him on the back at recess, he told the teacher about it and the girl said it was his fault and he got into trouble. What a democracy!

As I look toward the light at the end of the tunnel, I hope I can salvage String Bean’s zest for learning. I hope I can remind him of what he liked about school before this year. I hope I can re-engage his curiosity in the world around him. I hope.

But, for now, I will hold my breath, hold my frustration and keep smiling to help him make it to the end of the fourth grade road.

Wish me luck.

I am ready for this sweet smile.

Field Day is the new Hunger Games

As an elementary kid, I was never too excited about field day.  According to my dad, I was a bit of a girly girl (still am!).

I’d rather be hanging with the daisies.

If there was an event in daisy chain necklace making, I would have won the gold.  If there was an event in skipping while singing, I would have been given a trophy.  If there was an event in twirling in circles until falling down dizzy, I would have received a first place ribbon.  Sadly, none of these options were available when I was in school.

We did have sack potato races, balloon tosses, one-legged races and egg/spoon races.  Those were fun.

At Squishy and String Bean’s school, their field day was much different.  Gone were the sack potatoes.  Vanished were the balloon tosses.  Abandoned were the eggs and spoons.  All were replaced by Olympic style battles fit for Odysseus and a slew of Titans. Or Katniss, her faithful Peeta and all of the psycho warriors from District 1.

Kid’s organized sports have nothing on Field Day.

As for preparing for the exclusive Field Day, there has been extensive training in gym class.  For the last month (I am not kidding) there have been time trials, practice races, and even qualifying heats.  With all of the suspense surrounding the day, both dudes were anxious and a little concerned about their events.  Who can blame them?  Training for the summer Olympics sounds vaguely similar to the festivities known as Field Day.

“Mom, you have to pack us water bottles for field day tomorrow.  It is going to be hot and we may get dehydrated,” he stated as if he was a pediatrician.

“OK.  Gotcha.  Anything else you need to get through these mighty games?” I asked, without a hint of sarcasm.

“We need to bring our best to the field,” he said.  I wondered if I let him watch Percy Jackson too often.

Field Day is serious business.

Next year’s Field Day dress code.

Prior to the start of the extreme games fun, as all of the students are gathered outside gripping their water bottles, an announcement came on the PA informing the students of the intricate procedures.  Maybe all of the important items were scattered around the cornucopia or something.

The static voice resembled something like, “Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor.” Oops – not really.  More like, “Off to the races we go!”

And, with that, String Bean and Squishy were both sacrificed for the games.

The lone ribbon.

After school, there were long faces.  There was only one ribbon given to my dudes.  It was the magical Participation ribbon that only first and second graders receive.  Wise fourth grade String Bean, tired from the exhausting day and discouraged from being ribbonless, dismissed himself to the basement to play on the iPad.  His parting words as he melted down the steps were of the final PA announcement that said, “Congratulations to the winners, and better luck next year to everyone else.”

Squishy lagged behind and, in his first grade humor, regaled tales of his success in the tug-of-war.

“Did you get a ribbon for tug-of-war?” I asked him.

“Nope.  But we were the champs!” he exclaimed, “And I was the reason we won because I was in the back of the line and used my massive muscles to pull the other side down.”

Triumph.

“Why didn’t you get a ribbon?” I inquired.

“Hmmm,” he pondered, “We really didn’t need a ribbon.  Our teacher told us we were awesome and gave us a hug.  That was better than a stupid ribbon,” he said with a big smile on his face.

“I agree, Squishy, I agree.”

Until next year when the games resume again.

True triumph.  Almost better than a daisy chain necklace.  May the odds ever be in your favor.

Why Act My Age?

Later this year I turn (gulp) 40.  And with this big birthday around the corner, I began thinking that maybe I should start acting my age.

Because here is the thing:  I don’t act my age.  I just don’t.  Mostly because I don’t know how an almost 40-year-old is supposed to act.  Is there a textbook on this or something I can download on my Kindle to explain how to act my age?  No?  Really, no?  Hmmm.  I didn’t think so.

Which brings me to my question, do I really need to act my age?

These are some things I am pondering.  So should an almost 40-year-old:

  • Skip or dance down the hallway if no one is around?
  • Enjoy a trip to Toys-R-Us as much as my dudes do?
  • Sing loudly and poorly and not be embarrassed even in the grocery store?
  • Say words like “cool,” “sweet” and “cute” frequently?
  • Sport a pony tail frequently?
  • Be mesmerized by glittery things (oooh, pretty!)?
  • Chew gum and blow bubbles?
  • Making up crazy car dances when certain songs come on like Train’s Drive By or Madonna’s Borderline?
  • Use hand gestures that resemble those of a 13-year-old drama queen?
  • Cry when people are mean to animals in movies?
  • Laugh really loud and not care who hears me (Valleygirl96 aka Brainvomit40 knows my laugh travels miles)?
  • Go to the midnight showings of all of the Twilight movies and the final two Harry Potter films (and consider dressing up for the latter)?
  • Giggle when the word fart or poop is mentioned?
  • Jump up and down when I am happy or excited about something?
  • Sneak Halloween candy from my dudes?
  • Take super silly pictures of random things on my iPhone (wanna see my picture of the rock that cracked my windshield)?
  • Screen calls from assorted people (sorry, Mom!)?
  • Take almost daily naps after school (thanks to The Captain this can happen!)?
  • Continue my text conversation with my brother that contains newly created words like poopalicious, poopapalooza and poopsicle?
  • Randomly speak in different accents (my Southern and New Jersey ones are best!)?
  • Give silly nicknames to everyone (Sorry again, Crazy Pat, I mean Mom!)?

I guess my final question is what is age appropriate? And who would be the role models of success to tell me and demonstrate the proper age I need to adjust to?  Because if I don’t have any idea, then I am just going to keep doing what I’m doing.  Like speaking in a Yoda voice and saying, “May the Fourth Be With You.”  Because, after all, Star Wars rocks, it is May 4th and I am a kid at heart.