Category Archives: Max

More About Guns: Daniel Boone

My second-grader has to write a book report, about a biography.

First of all, the kid just got into reading about two months ago, and now he loves to read, so I am not that happy that it has been made into a chore. How was it made into a chore? He was to take notes on sticky notes of all important events while he read, then transfer these to a notes chart. He now has to make a timeline of the person’s life and prepare a presentation for his class for next Monday.

Well. First he brought home a book about some soccer star, but the reading level was way above him, so I gently suggested something else, even a different book about the same guy. Then Max suggested George Washington.

I swear I was supportive of this. But at the library, I found a book about Daniel Boone at his reading level. I know George Washington is a fantastic historical figure, but Daniel Boone is pretty damn interesting, too. Max liked the idea.

And loved the book. He came out of his room the first day: “Mom! Did you know that when Daniel Boone was only 13 he could build a cabin with his bare hands and trap animals? And he helped the needy by giving extra furs to poor people?”

That’s my boy. But then we forgot about the sticky note thing (I thought he knew, so I didn’t mention it), so when he was several chapters in he had to go back and do all the sticky notes, which annoyed him, since he can’t exactly just skim the pages just yet, so I helped with that, and then he was on his way for the rest of the book, doing his own sticky notes and then making the notes chart.

All kinds of cool things happened to Daniel Boone: when he was a kid he went missing, and when a search party found him two days later he was calmly cooking his (hunted) dinner over a fire he’d built; he sold enough furs to buy his family a lot of land; his daughter was kidnapped by Indians (the book is obviously a little old, and I explained to Max the difference between Indians and Native Americans and why Native Americans here used to be called Indians), and Daniel saved her; and then in a war he got shot in the ankle; and one time he rode a horse so fast and too far and it died. Max was so into this book and this guy (and me too, frankly).

The teacher sent home some examples of creative timelines: a keyboard for George Gershwin, for example, and a cherry tree for (yawn) George Washington. So what is a key fact about Daniel Boone, the frontiersman? He learned to hunt at an early age and was such a sharpshooter that as a youth, people joked he could shoot a tick off a bear’s nose from 300 feet, so his rifle got nicknamed “Tick Licker.”

So if you’re going to make a creative timeline about Daniel Boone, do you draw a trap? A pelt? A log cabin? Or a rifle? (Probably a Kentucky long rifle, because yes, I looked into it, since I have been asked to draw the thing.)

Yeah. So my child will be bringing a big paper rifle into school on Monday, with 17 fascinating events from Daniel Boone’s life marked on it. And I fully support this.

What do you think? Good idea, because my son is really engaged with this book? Bad idea, because we are really jumpy about guns and schools right now? Tell me in the comments!

God, Santa, and the Tooth Fairy

Tonight, on the verge of 7, Max seemed restless. The boys stayed up too late making one last goody bag, walking with me and C to pick up pizza, taking a bath while I made sponge bombs (google it!), and talking about what prep we have left for Max’ birthday party tomorrow (slightly bigger than his usual insistence on inviting only 3 friends, but not much bigger).

And suddenly came this: “Mom, I want my teeth back from the Tooth Fairy. I don’t like that some stranger has my teeth. I want them back.”

What? We haven’t even had any kind of stranger-danger talk. What is this? Where was it coming from?

“Um,” I stalled. “Well, then you’d probably have to give back all the gold dollar coins she’s left you.”

“Fine,” he said. “I don’t care. I want my teeth back.”

People, the boys had had a lovely day at school, great afternoon with the sitter, wonderful evening with me (C left for his Frisbee game). His last dental visit, weeks ago, had gone well, if you want to try to find a root (hah!) to this. I was mystified.

Also, well. His first two or three teeth had fallen out in our old apartment. They are tucked away in a baby album of his, in a box in the basement….which my husband recently rearranged, rather in a severe haste or something, so that I have absolutely no idea where anything is anymore (and therefore cannot even put away the Easter baskets, because where oh where is the holiday box?). It could take me weeks to excavate the proper box and secure the first teeth.

“So, also, the Tooth Fairy might not have access to them all,” I added. “She might have some teeth stored away in a vault.”

Yes, a vault.

He didn’t care. He went into his room to empty his piggy bank. “Mom, is this gold dollar?” he asked, holding an Icelandic coin next to a Sacagawea.

“No, that’s a kronur,” I said. “What if she wants to keep the teeth? What if she has them all stored away? What if she needs them?”

“I don’t care. They’re my teeth. I want them back.” He would not be swayed. “I want all eight teeth back.”

Dear reader, I think it was only seven teeth, honestly. And I know he received $2 for the first and maybe second, then it was $1 after that, but once I — I mean, the Tooth Fairy — left him a very nice crisp $1 bill instead a fold coin, and he was raging and hurt and furious about that —

— but he was holding 8 gold dollar coins, so I told him gently but firmly (it was way past bedtime, he still had to brush, and sometimes I am very sweet and patient like this) to put them in a ziplock snack bag, write the Tooth Fairy a note, and go brush his teeth.

He did.

Dear Tooth Fairy, I rily want my teeth bac. Plese dlivr them as soon as posabl! Max

Can you argue with that?

I reminded him again that she might not have immediate access to all or even any of his teeth. We talked about how whether she ordered them by first or last name, he is in the middle of the alphabet and therefore his teeth are stored deep in her building or library or cave or wherever she keeps her billions of teeth.

He wants them back. When I said his dresser is too messy, so the Tooth Fairy would worry that they’d get lost, he pointed out that he has a tooth box and could keep them there. Plus, I know, he is very organized with his stuff and does take good care of it. He’s a piler, for sure, but like his piler-not-filer of a mother, he knows exactly where everything is.

Meanwhile, helpful Facebook friends had suggestions. “Borrow the missing teeth!” “Tell him the Tooth Fairy uses them to build her own house!” “Have the Tooth Fairy write him a nice note explaining why she needs to keep them.”

When I was a kid, I doubted Santa but didn’t question the Tooth Fairy thing. Today, I know of kids who refuse to put their teeth under their pillows.

You know what? He doesn’t believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny. He does seem to believe in the Tooth Fairy, but he still wants his teeth back. It suddenly struck me: If we believed in God, would he let her keep his teeth? Would he believe in Santa?

We tried the Santa myth. We pretend every year. This year I got called into an emergency meeting at school because he told kids at his lunch table that Santa is actually “really just your parents. Santa’s not real.” (Yes, and so? I thought, when the teacher told this to me.)

When it comes to God and Jesus and Yahweh and all organized religion, we’ve always told him that people believe different things and there are many ways to think about how we got here and why we are here, and there are many myths to explain it all, and people like to believe different things.

So maybe he views Santa and the Easter Bunny as just another myth. Maybe our agnosticism reverberates beyond God to all the other myths and made-up cultural constructs.

I rummaged in my sock drawer as he was drifting off to sleep and found 6 teeth. So there are only two in the basement.

Maybe he should get his baby teeth back to hold onto on his own. I trust him with them more than I trust the Tooth Fairy, to be honest.

Staycation, All I Ever Wanted: Boston February Vacation Ideas

 

By now you may have heard that we in Boston are drowning in snow. There are a million places online to find out about our woes—from blogs to The New York Times to Buzzfeed—so I won’t add more. But we’ve had plenty of together-time so far, with all the million snow days. It all seemed like prep for February vacation, when we’d all be snowed in together yet again, looking out our windows at snowbanks, but at least we’d be getting the mail and cars would be allowed to drive on the roads (not sure why they’d want to; I’m finding the games of chicken, and the pulling-over-into-snowbanks, and all the terrifying blind corners in my neighborhood just a little too much).

Unlike our friends who’ve fled to Florida, California, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere, we had no plans to go away. So the kids and I brainstormed a list of things to do.

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In case you can’t read it with the addition of tonight’s added “Jump Plans” schematic (by the boys), it says:

1. Playdate with Anna. She’s somewhere warm and snow-free for the week, so that’s out.

2. Great Brook Farm. This is a cross-country ski place near here, with groomed trails over fields and through woods, and ski rentals in case your four-year-old doesn’t yet have his own XC ski gear (ahem).

3. Pinocchio. A play being put on at a local family theater. We have tickets for tomorrow.

4. Robbie. (Friend of my older son’s.)

5. Sledding. I don’t know why we don’t go sledding more except the sledding hill is almost a mile away, a touch too far for the younger one to walk to and from, and too close to justify driving.

6. Hotel pool. Doesn’t that sound nice? Going to one of the nice, warm, lovely hotel pools in town and paying a fee and swimming? On Sunday, during the fourth huge snowstorm in a row, I actually priced an overnight at one hotel that has an “atrium-style” pool. Sadly, with the trains not running and an unofficial travel ban in place, it was hard to get there except on skis, and it was just too far for Max to ski there on his own and too tricky to have to tow Ben in the sled the whole way there if sidewalks weren’t clear.

7. (not numbered) Skate at the rink (or “Scate at the ringk“).

So we started off with the weekend, all normal including the blizzard (yeah, at this point that is normal, lots of digging and snowblowing, lots of snowy children stomping into each other’s houses, etc.). Then Monday, another Monday of our homebound family. It was bitterly cold, with a wind chill advisory in place. I agreed to meet a running friend and head out to Lexington, where the bike path is beautifully plowed (they finally plowed the bike path in my town, finally, after the fourth storm). It was 3 degrees (F), with a windchill of -12 or so. Whatever. We ran six miles, then I dropped off and got a cup of coffee while she ran another four. (I’m not lazy; I’m sticking to a gentle training plan.)

I got home, ate, showered, and realized that we all needed to go do something. It wasn’t optimal to just go play outside, but we couldn’t think of any great indoor options. Once I mentioned cross-country skiing, Max was really excited and wouldn’t consider a more frostbite-avoidant trip to Legoland instead (really).

Off we went to our favorite local cross-country ski center. We weren’t worried about the cold, because we have warm stuff to wear (not trying to sound cocky, but seriously, there are places much colder than this where people are outside safely. Don’t fear the cold; dress for it). Also, it had warmed up to the teens, and the windchill was no longer so worrisome.

Ben finally took to cross-country skis and had a great time (until he got tired and then cold and then was done, in the way that four-year-olds who are hungry and fatigued are just done).

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Good thing I put sunscreen on, right?

 

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This kid! He’s awesome. They both are.

 

We were all a little cranky by the end, but at least we were outside, in the great wide world, with a sunset like the one below as we skied back to the barn. (null)

 

Today, we went to the ice rink, where my new little winter sports person had his best day ever on skates (and was happy about it!). “Mom! You go the red line, and I’ll skate to you, OK? Don’t help me!” and “Mom! Did you see? I did a twirl-around fall-down.” “Mom. You go to the blue line and don’t move. Wait for me.” Meanwhile Max was happily skating around the rink. Wait, when and how did he learn to skate?

Then some errands and a trip to the library to go up and down all the stairs and then check out a million books (and one video and one book on CD).

Tomorrow: Something active in the morning, followed by Pinocchio. 

Maybe we’ll get to a pool on Thursday and then skating again on Friday. Or maybe we’ll get to a museum. That might be a good idea, for a change of pace.

So that’s how we’re spending our February vacation. Yes, I wouldn’t mind being somewhere where we don’t need snow pants, staying in a hotel, but that’s not what’s up with us this break. We’re here, having a pretty good time, and eating plenty of unseasonal fruit (because come on, with all this snow, I feel pretty OK about winter strawberries).

 

 

 

What Your Mom Did in High School

We went out to dinner last night. We don’t usually, as a family. But we’d had a long fun day of potluck and kickball with friends. Max and Ben were the only kids at the party. As far as I could tell, everyone was generally childless (and unmarried).

No matter. Kind running friends addressed and engaged my children. And then, later, while C and I were in the kitchen with Ben, Max wandered into the now-empty living room (because all parties happen in the kitchen) and when I glanced in to check on him, he was chatting with a previously-seemingly-introverted guy about sports.

Yes. My six-year-old had just struck up a conversation with a grown-up and didn’t need us at all. I kept checking on them, but Max was holding his own and seemed quite confident and comfortable, and the guy was getting used to having a child talk to him and was responding. I mean, they were actually having a dialogue. This is the child who used to need me nearby at all times. I guess he’s gotten quite socially confident (and I am so proud of him).

Then we all headed to a nearby park for the kickball game. Max tossed a Frisbee with C and some other adults until the game got going (and have I mentioned C sometimes take the boys to a nearby pickup Frisbee game, so Max has some skills now?).

After the first inning, Max decided he wanted to pitch for our team, and no one minded. I did mention we were with a bunch of childless adults who probably aren’t used to being around kids, right? He pitched just fine, and he played just fine, and while some people were a little lenient with him, others had no problem tagging him out, and he did not mind at all. He loved every minute of it. (Ben, on the other hand, hadn’t worn proper socks and wanted to play on the playground and not be in the game at all. He kicked once and gave up. Maybe next year!)

max_kickball

So then we went home to warm up and read books until dinnertime, and we decided to go to the Kirkland Tap and Trotter for dinner. I love that place, even though I’ve only been there once. They know food. Yes, I met the chef/owner’s wife in a new-moms class years ago, and she’s wonderful, but I have no vested interest in this place except they know food, source it well, prepare it well, and are brave and confident and curious with it (the chef, Tony Maws, has another restaurant, too, Craigie on Main).

When you enter, there’s a hint of excellent beer in the air, and the scent of smoky pork (this could be due to the entire pig(s) they’d roasted or smoked the previous evening for their New Year’s Eve party, with Facebook photos of the before-oven pig).

It’s a comfortable place, with a big flat screen playing the Rose Bowl game, but the children sensed it was a Restaurant with a capital “R” and put their napkins in their laps as soon as I mentioned it. I didn’t order the grilled salmon head, which I’m dying to try, because I wasn’t in the mood. We tried the grilled oysters, though. I got a burger, which isn’t important except that Kirkland Tap is the only place in the entire world I trust to serve me a medium-rare (more rare than medium) burger.

So the kids are eating and watching the game and the marching bands come out. I tell them about how when I was a kid, I had to be in the high school marching band like my brothers, their uncles. And though their uncles played instruments, I didn’t like the clarinet—the instrument my parents had chosen for me—and I certainly didn’t like the clarinet teacher, so I quit clarinet lessons. But I still had to be in marching band, so I opted to be a majorette—a baton twirler. And, I told them, because I’d chosen it myself, I enjoyed it and was pretty good at it. I could spin the baton, toss it into the air while spinning below it, then catch it mid-spin and continue my routine.

They looked impressed. Then I pointed to the screen. “Look, guys, see the band marching in formation? They have play their instruments while marching backwards at an angle! And oh, here come the majorettes!”

They stared at the Florida University twirlers. Then Max asked, awed, “Did you wear your underwear and a sparkly bra when you were a majorette? Why aren’t they wearing clothes like the rest of the band?” I looked again at the screen. Crikey!

“No, honey,” I tried to explain. “I wore, uh, shorts and a long-sleeved top. But that’s a great question, why they don’t get to wear as much clothing.”

C jumped in to help. “They’re dancers, and they’re performing with their bodies. So they aren’t as covered up.”

The boys didn’t look convinced. But oh, hey, look, can we get the check, please? Thanks!

Why We Don’t Go to Musicals

(From the Department of “Guess Which of My Children Prefers Quiet”)

 

Child: [mentions dressing like Annie]

Mother: Do you mean Annie in your class or some other Annie?

Child: What other Annie is there?

Mother: There’s a musical called “Annie” about a girl named Annie. She’s an orphan, and then she’s adopted by a very rich man.

Child: What does she do then?

Mother: She sings a lot.

Child: Does the man get annoyed?

Mother: Why would he get annoyed?

Child: Because she sings a lot! Wouldn’t that be annoying?

I Carried the Olympic Torch Today

No, really. I’d like to say that’s why I haven’t posted anything here in three weeks (you know, because I’ve been running across Siberia), but that’s not why.

But I did carry the Olympic torch today!

Here’s how it started. I was in a cafe, working, when this came through my feed:

Screen shot 2013-12-12 at 9.47.36 PM

 

 

“Animals,” of course, refers to members of the Trail Animals Running Club, a local trail running group I’m part of. Everything they do is a blast, with great spirit and a sense of fun…and usually pretty hardcore, except when it’s not. So naturally my ears perked right up.

Like any responsible working person and mother, I turned to Facebook: “So….Would YOU go pull your kindergartner out of school early to help run the Olympic torch across the city?”

A resounding “yes!!” all around. Next step: Emailing the kindergarten teacher to see if he felt this was a legitimate reason to pull Max out of school early. He seemed to agree.

Tremendously exciting stuff, right? Carrying the Olympic torch through Boston on its way to Russia for the 2014 Winter Games?

Weirdly, I couldn’t find the torch schedule online, nor any mention of its coming through Boston. Well, I thought, they probably try to keep it low-key so they’re not overrun with mad crowds.

I checked Facebook again.

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OK. This sounded like the real deal.

I realized Ben might feel left out if Max and I had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity without him, so I called his preschool to discuss picking him up early. The timing worked out. But when I got there, they’d been explaining to Ben about the Olympics, and he seemed to think I was picking him up so that I could ski and dive in competition. I chattered on about how this torch was going around the world, all the way to Russia, and how it had been to the bottom of the sea and up in space (no, really, it did go the International Space Station!).

With both boys and the stroller and a pile of snacks in the car, we headed to Fenway Park. For the first time in weeks, I was not late for something. I was, in fact, 45 minutes early. So what!

I made sure the kids were bundled up in snow pants, winter coats, boots, mittens, etc., since it was about 24 degrees out. Then we spotted the Red Sox mascot, this green creature named Wally, standing in front of a big group of people. I assumed it was a Fenway Park tour. Then Wally started jogging down the street carrying a plastic-looking thing.

“Look, kids,” I said. “He’s holding a fake torch. We’re waiting for the real one to come by, and we’ll run with that one.”

Wally overheard me and pointed to his torch.

“What?” I said. “That’s the real torch?” He nodded vigorously. “Ok, kids,” I said, wheeling the stroller around to chase him, “Here we go!”

Wally and the crowd headed into Fenway Park. I spotted four runners waiting outside. I nodded to them, hesitated, and then followed the crowd in.

The other runners followed me. We walked right past the security guy like we were part of the main group. Then we were on the infield, near third base. Wally and the crowd posed for photos; it was clearly a hand-picked crowd.

Yes, it was very cold.

Yes, it was very cold.

Wally, the torch, and the hand-picked crowd were behind me, getting their pictures taken.

We wandered out again and I found/met Sam, the TARC guy, and realized I’d met him on a long trail run a year or so ago. He’s a fast local ultra-runner who, when he himself isn’t racing, does things like pace friends for 58 miles of their 100-mile races. No, really.

Then we met a guy who seemed to be in charge, and I found out the real story of our mysterious Olympic torch-carrying. Gary, who’d put out the original summons to runners, works for Avaya, the company handling all of the telecommunications/network for the 2014 Olympic Games. The official Olympic torch is actually several; it’s not a single torch that is carried from Greece to the games site. Several different ones are used. So…the Olympic Committee, or Russia, or whoever handles the used torches, sent one of the used-in-the-official-Olympic-torch-relay torches to Avaya as a thank-you.

Avaya, for their part, sends the torch around the country, where it is photographed in various locales and at different events. Today in Boston, the torch* was to be photographed at Fenway Park, then at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Logistics of driving it there were not working out (parking, traffic, etc.), so the company had the brilliant idea of asking one of its employees, a diehard runner (Gary), to run it there. Wanting to make it a fun event, Gary put out the word to local runners he knows, who put out the word…

So there were maybe 10 of us there to run with him.

Except instead of running at 3:30 p.m. as planned, we waited…and waited…and waited…

Milling Runners

Milling Runners

Turns out that due to some miscommunication, the torch had accidentally been driven over to Boylston Street after all. Oops! So after a few phone calls, it was supposedly on its way back to Fenway.

This took an hour.

Finally, torch in hand, we headed out to run the mile from Fenway Park to the finish line. Except now it was getting dark.

No matter. We started running. We all took turns carrying the torch. It wasn’t lit, because after our run it would be dropped into its shipping box, brought to FedEx, and delivered to Detroit, its next destination. Someone (I will not name any names) joked about how Detroit would probably sell it to pay its debts. Anyway…So FedEx doesn’t like to ship flammable items, or items that have recently been filled with a flammable liquid.

That thing is heavier than it looks. Everyone had a chance to carry it, including both Max and Ben. As we ran down Boylston, Gary started announcing to the people we passed, “Olympic torch! Olympic torch from Sochi!” As we were a small band of mismatched runners with no papparazzi, no one seemed impressed. At one point, in fact, I worried people might think we had stolen the Olympic torch…or else were just insane.

We got to the Boston Marathon finish line. When there was a break in traffic, we took some pictures on the finish line, in the middle of the street. The official photographer never made it, as far as I know. We eventually left, as it was the kids’ dinnertime, and they were getting cold, and it was just time to go.

Me with the actual Olympic torch, at the finish line of the Boston Marathon

Me with the actual Olympic torch, at the finish line of the Boston Marathon

Though Ben was mad that we left the scene; he wanted us to run with it to Russia, even though I tried to explain this torch had already BEEN to Russia.

And that, in short, is how I came to carry the Olympic torch through Boston.**

 

*This is the actual path of the actual relay: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Winter_Olympics_torch_relay.

** I’ll spare you the part about how one child was crying from cold feet when we reached the car, and how the other was really hungry, and the first one was too cold to be hungry, and it was then dinnertime and we were firmly stuck in rush-hour traffic in Boston, and I decided to “beat the highway traffic” by driving crosstown through Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville (not any faster, but we got to see some lovely Christmas lights!), and I realized we had nothing for dinner at home….but really, you have heard enough by now. We carried the Olympic torch.

 

 

How to Sleep

“Lie on your side, facing me,” Andy said. He’s my physical therapist. I’ve been having some back problems (nothing too exciting, nothing too damaged). “We didn’t talk about this last time, but what position do you sleep in?”

“On my stomach,” I said.

He started to explain how this was problematic even for people who don’t have back problems, because turning to the head to the side for so long can really torque the thoracic vertebrae.

“Um, well, it’s not all night,” I said. I pictured a typical night: I start out alone in bed, on my stomach. C comes to bed an hour later; there’s some shifting around. A few hours after that, Max or Ben climbs in with us, and I sleep on my side, curled around the child. Another hour or two, another child climbs in, and I end up on my back between them.

This is hard to explain to someone, especially if that person gets to enjoy going to bed alone or with one other person and waking up in similar conditions.

“Here,” said Andy. “If you’re on your side, you want your pillow height to be like this” — he tucked a thicker pillow under my head — “and you can also roll up a towel lightly for under your neck, like this” — and he gently put a rolled-up thin towel under my neck. Then he studied me.

“And to support your lumbar spine, you can put another folded towel here. Lift up,” he commanded, and he slipped a folded towel under my waist. “And of course this is important, too,” as he slid a pillow between my knees.

I lay there for a minute, envisioning sleeping in such a supported fashion. It was nice.

“You can also hug a pillow in your arms to further support you and keep you from rolling forward,” he said.

“Oh, if I am on my side, I’m usually leaning on the small child in front of me. So I tend not to roll forward,” I said.

Andy nodded.

“And sometimes there’s another child right behind me, so I don’t roll back.”

Andy’s expression indicated he probably didn’t experience this kind of thing. “Let’s talk about sleeping on your back,” he suggested. “So if you roll onto your back, you’d remove this” — he pulled the pillow from between my knees, the other from my arms, and the folded towel from under my waist — “and you’d want a thinner pillow, more like this one” — he replaced the pillow under my head — “and you might want a different or smaller rolled towel under your neck. You can even put it inside the pillowcase, taped to your pillow, so it’s always in the same place.”

I lay there in the new position, thinking about the other night, when I woke up at 3 a.m. to find Max hogging my pillow. I’d lifted my head to pat what I was using as a pillow and realized it was Ben’s butt. Ben didn’t seem to mind, and I couldn’t move Max off of my pillow, so I’d put my head right back down on Ben’s butt and went back to sleep.

“So give this a try,” Andy continued. “Either on your side or on your back, with these supports.”

I will. I will indeed. As soon as the kids leave for college.

So Do You Speak English, or Don’t You? My Curious Kid Might Lack Manners.

C took the kids to the grocery store today, because I was working. Max heard people speaking something other than English.

“What are they speaking?” he asked C.

“French,” said C. “Why don’t you go near and listen?”

Max stood right in front of the couple and stared up at them, frowning in concentration. They looked at him and then at C, who gestured that Max was trying to listen to their language.

Max finally said something to the man.

“I don’t speak English,” the man replied.

“Yes, you do!” said Max. “You just spoke English!”

The man shrugged, not comprehending.

Max was a little confused, too.

I confused the locals (and myself!) when I memorized the phrase, “I don’t speak Icelandic!” before our trip to Iceland this summer. It’s really not the most useful phrase in the book, when you think about it.

Shared School Supplies: Why Don’t They Warn Us?

My older son started kindergarten today. He’s been nervous, excited, and ever-so-ready.

I found the school supplies list for kindergartners on the school’s website (they don’t send it home in advance) and went to Staples to pick up the crayons, glue, a glue stick, and markers. I also bought him pencils, a pencil sharpener, a pencil case, and scissors. I had a new box of tissues (also on the list) at home, and I planned to buy the disinfecting wipes within the first week of school.

He happily organized all his new stuff into his new backpack. I wrote his name on everything, including the crayon and marker boxes.

At drop-off this morning, I noticed another mom handing the teacher a gift bag labeled “school supplies.” What? Maybe she was giving some extras to the classroom.

No.

When Max got home from school, I asked about his day. He had a good day and a great time and seems to be getting the hang of it (on his first day!), but when I asked if he’d given the box of tissues to his teacher, his face fell.

“She took all my stuff,” he said.

What?

“My new markers and my crayons and stuff. She took them and put them into a box for the whole class. I didn’t like that. She only left me my pencil case.”

I didn’t like this, either. At all. I’d be happy to buy some school supplies for kids whose families can’t do so for them, but don’t have me send my child to his very first day of school, with his own special school supplies, only to take them away from him!

I kept calm and looked through his backpack to see what was left. Pencil case, pencils, scissors, pencil sharpener.

“And my glue stick! She took my glue stick!” he wailed.

“Shhhh,” I said. I’d bought a four-pack. I gave him another one, putting it into his pencil case. He zipped it shut. “She won’t find this one,” he said, sniffling.

What the fuck. I have read several posts and articles about this: good arguments about allergies, or about toxins in some of the regular classroom supplies, or about how having their own supplies teaches kids to take care of their stuff. I fully agree with these arguments. I also would love to buy supplies for another family who can’t afford them.

But to not let us know in advance that this is how it works? Really? What about even a small quick note on the school-supply list: These items are for communal class supplies, not for your individual child. If he or she wants his own special supplies, he or she can keep those at home. This list is for combined classroom items.

Would that be so hard? Then I could have warned him. The child already has to deal with protecting his stuff from a younger brother. To worry that his teacher will take his stuff, too? Nice way to start the school year.

Just a tiny bit of communication would have let me warn him that the shiny new things were for his classroom, not for him. Just a few simple words.

Instead, now he’s worried the school is going to take his stuff.

Thanks. Thanks a lot.

The Most Beautiful Day: One-on-One Time, or Parenting with Intention

Yesterday, Max and I dropped Ben off at his new preschool (LOVES IT) and then continued on for our own adventure day, our last before he begins his school years. I was really looking forward to the one-on-one time with him; I very rarely get it.

We walked to the subway and rode it into Boston. We sat outside enjoying coffee (for me) and muffins on the Common. We threw coins into a fountain; we spent forever at a playground, me inventing an obstacle course on the structure and Max following the directions (“Climb up that! Down the chain ladder! Up that blue thing! Across the bridge rail!”) with delight.

frog lounge

lounging with a frog

By pure and joyous luck, the Swan Boats were still in operation for the season and about to open for the day. Then the subway back to our town, a quick lunch outside, and we caught the shuttle up the hill and picked up Ben right on time.

The joy of one-on-one time with just one child, with Max, is indescribable. Our day was easy and fun, no frustrations. I was able to be totally focused on him, not overwhelmed with trying to manage both kids, not trying to tune out by turning to my phone (email, Facebook) as escapism. I was wholly present, and it was amazing.

No annoyed voice. No yelling. No cajoling or threats or countdowns. No commands. No frustration. Just two happy people having a great adventure together, smiles and laughter all day.

I look forward to some of the same with Ben soon, as he won’t be in preschool every day. I love one-on-one time with him, too, and it too is so rare. Because I’ve been with both of them, not just one of them, for months and months and months (when I’m with them, that is; I’ve been working and have had a fair amount of childcare to that end over the summer), I’d forgotten how lovely and easy it is to just be with one child. We interact in a totally different way.

I know I was also being so present partly because we had a very full day planned (including swimming lessons in the afternoon, then heading straight back into Boston, at their dinnertime, so I could do bootcamp to kick off Planet Shoes #Fit4Fall campaign). (The boys did amazingly well for that, considering they ate dinner on the subway and stayed up way past their bedtimes.) I was trying to keep things easy for them all day in the face of such a big schedule at the end of a barely-structured summer.

greenway

Yes, they ended their LONG day seeing things like this on the beautiful new Greenway, with a huge bunch of balloons given to us by the kind Planet Shoes people!

But having one-on-one time with Max was such a beautiful gift, especially as he starts kindergarten tomorrow (and, I feel, will be off and gone, to be next glimpsed at his college graduation as time continues to whiz by).

Max got a balloon hat, a muffin and lunch out, and subway rides, and a Swan Boat ride, and some mid-afternoon PBS Kids (a.k.a. “television”), and swimming lessons, and a huge bunch of balloons. Ben got a fun day at his new preschool, the same mid-afternoon PBS Kids (Wild Kratts, if you must know), an evening adventure, and the same huge bunch of balloons.

But who was the luckiest of all yesterday?

I was. By far.