Boys, Procrastination, and Pirate Centaurs

Daryl is not real big on doing school work. It doesn’t much matter whether it’s work in the classroom, homework, or a test. He just doesn’t like spending time on it. As a result, he tends to wait until the last possible minute and/or rush through the assignment.

Some examples.

In fifth grade this year, they were to create a T-shirt book report for a book they had read. They were to color a representative picture on the front, something on the back, write some text on the sleeves. I can’t recall the details now. When Jane did it three years earlier, she spent quite a bit of time on it. Her depiction of the main character’s face was so… close to being human-like yet off… that it freaked the dog out.

Daryl’s shirt was completed in the span of maybe an hour. Wait, I’ll give him some credit. He did break out the craft paints so maybe it took two. Although he couldn’t be bothered to put a board inside the shirt to make sure the paint didn’t bleed through. His grade was not great – in large part because the required text wasn’t on the sleeves, nor were other clearly specified details present.

He claims he wrote the text on index cards and taped them to the sleeves but they “must have fallen off.” So not only did a kid who should (via both Destination Imagination and TAG) be a good problem-solver fail to consider that tape might not be the best way to bind cardstock to cloth, but he failed to even notice that the cards weren’t there when he turned it in.

Way, way back in Kindergarten, he earned the distinction of the only one of our children to fail to test into TAG (Talented & Gifted) on the first attempt. Because he couldn’t be bothered to slow down and take the test at the pace encouraged by the teacher.

Both of those times, he at least got the logical consequence for his decisions. His latest moment of procrastination did not. We arrived home one evening and he announced he needed a shoebox to make a diorama of a scene from a fantasy book he had read.

I gave him a shoebox and asked when it was due.


“Tomorrow?! What do you need to make?”

“I don’t know yet.”

“Um, ok. What book are you doing?”

“I can’t remember.”

“You don’t remember? How are you going to build a diorama if you don’t remember the book?”

“I remember the book. I just don’t remember the title.”

“Ok, so what scene are you going to construct?”

“I don’t remember because I can’t remember which book.”

“But wait, you just said…”

Mom {exasperated}, I know the book. I just can’t remember which book. I’ve read a lot. I can’t remember which one I was going to do.”

“Well, ok, so where’s the book?”

“It’s in Daddy’s car.”

I handed him my phone to call his Dad and ask him the title of the book. He refused to take the phone. “I’ll just wait until he gets home.”

“No you won’t. He won’t be home for awhile now.” With that, I called my husband who agreed to bring the book home before heading to his next evening activity.

“Why don’t you gather some supplies while you wait?”

“How can I gather supplies if I don’t know what I’m building?”

“Certain supplies are likely to be used: construction paper, glue, markers, paint…”

He rolled his eyes.

I left to pick up Hal, sternly warning Daryl that he better get something planned while I was away.

When I returned, he was in the driveway spray painting a rough circle of blue on the base of the diorama. Clusters of cotton ball clouds hung from the top (pretty clever, actually – still don’t know where he found that fishing line). He informed me that the scene was when mythological Jason and his friends battled a Centaur who was attempting to poison a pond.

“How are you going to make a Centaur?” I asked. He didn’t know. He thought maybe clay, but with a broken thumb, seemed to think I should construct his lifeforms for him. His dad soon came home and discouraged the clay idea.

I took him to his room and started digging through the toy bins, holding up various action figure type beings as candidates for the humanoid half of the Centaur. He dismissed them all. Aladdin looked too much like… well, Aladdin. And Anakin Skywalker looked too much like Anakin, and was wearing a shirt – which Centaurs don’t do, and was too small anyway to attach to the body of the horse figure we had found.

I returned to the strongest candidate: a barrel-chested pirate whose torso was actually (for some reason) segmented separately from his legs, making him easy to sever. The pirate was a bad choice, by my son’s reckoning, because he was… a pirate. A Centaur wouldn’t wear a bandana on his head or wear straps on his chest or sport a huge  mustache or hold a massive carved sword.

I took the opportunity to point out that waiting until the last minute to do an assignment like this limited his options. He reluctantly accepted the pirate.

Seeing as how plastic horses and plastic pirates are not easy to cut and his dominant hand was useless anyway, his Dad and I performed the necessary surgeries. I found a green plastic party tablecloth for him to use for grass. And then I dragged out the Texan and Mexican “army people” that had stood in battle on his fourth grade Alamo project. He hadn’t yet found what to do for Jason and his buddies.

“What about these?” I asked.

“No! They don’t look like Romans at all!”

“Ok, so it’s due tomorrow. If you wanted your dudes to actually look Roman, you probably should have started this project earlier.”

With that, I found three guys who weren’t wearing cowboy hats. One of them was Davy Crockett, complete with his coon skin cap, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.

“But they are holding guns!” Actually, they were holding both guns and, fortuitously, swords. All three of them. I handed the men to my knife-weilding husband, who deftly cut the guns from the Texans’ hands.

Daryl grumbled, but he knew he had nothing better to go with. He glued the grass to the box and the men to the grass. He then worked on his index card to describe the scene. When I next saw him, he was using double-sided tape to attach the index card to the box. Except he was trying to use the tape like regular Scotch tape.

“Um, why are you using that tape?” I asked.

“Because there isn’t any regular tape.”

“But why are you using it like regular tape?” I asked. “The cool thing about double-sided tape – the entire point of double-sided tape, is to attach two objects without the tape showing. What you’ve done leaves a sticky surface to collect dirt!”

I then showed him what he should have been able to figure out on his own: placing the double-sided tape between the box and the index card. I sighed when I noticed the clouds were attached to the top of the box with more double-sided tape.

At any rate, when we were done, he had a reasonably decent looking diorama. That he got a perfect score on. Which made him laugh. And I knew that by helping him find supplies, I had unwittingly set his road to maturity back a bit. Not that he would have cared if he had gotten a bad grade. No, despite his high intelligence, low grades don’t bother him at all.

I know I had a picture of the completed diorama but now I can’t find it, so here’s the Pirate Centaur Extraordinaire.20150430_075346

When It Rains…

It’s been raining here a lot. I mean, a crazy lot. More than it has rained in a very, very long time. Area lakes are at or near their capacity for the first time in years. People who have not seen water under their docks for over three years are thinking about dragging the boat out and discovering whether it still runs.

The weather has been crazy. In the eighties one day and then overcast and chilly the next. Lots of storms. Thunder is becoming the norm. My rainboots now seem like the wisest purchase ever made. I’m getting used to sleeping to the roll of thunder.

Hal, who is terrified of thunderstorms, has had a lot of practice getting over that fear. Once upon a time, even the faintest boom in a town far away would set him to crying or send him running into our room. Now he has graduated to spending the night with his tiny fingers crammed into his ears to block the sound.

One recent night, around midnight I’m guessing, I was deep asleep. My husband was in bed but reading on his Kindle. Suddenly, a bomb went off. At least, that’s what it sounded like. A massive explosion followed by the long continuous rumble of a building collapsing. It had to have been the loudest, closest, longest-lasting clap of thunder I’ve ever experienced.

I jumped and my eyes shot open. I looked up at my husband and said, “Well, that ought to be enough for Hal.” I waited for the wail or the sound of a bedroom door opening. I just knew that fingers in the ears weren’t going to cut it this time. I waited, wide awake myself, but no child cried out and no door opened. I gradually returned to sleep.

The next morning, I learned two things. First, Hal had slept through the impossible-to-sleep-through thunder clap. Second, Jane had not. Not only had she not slept through it, it had pulled her out of bed.

“It scared me,” she said. “It scared me real bad. I’m telling you, I was out of bed with my comforter wrapped around me and my hand on my doorknob. I was this close to going to your room and crawling into bed with you. And then I told myself, ‘Jane, you are 14 years old. You shouldn’t have to go to your parents’ room because of a thunderstorm.’ And it was hard but I managed to put myself back in bed.”

I died laughing. “Oh, man, honey,” I said. “That would have cracked me up. I was expecting Hal to walk in. If I had heard your door open, I would have assumed it was him. That would have been such a surprise to hear my door slide open and see you instead!”

It was a sweet moment. To know that she still needed us, or more precisely, still wanted to need us. But that she was also beginning to make that healthy separation, beginning to recognize that she can handle life without us. In small doses. Starting with weathering the weather without parental reassurance.

You Can’t Have Nice Things When You Have Kids Example #26

I was making dinner. Jane was sitting at the dining room table reading The Hero and The Crown. Hal was hopping around, and Daryl was working on his science poster about sea otters. Life was good.

Working on a poster with a broken thumb on your dominant hand poses a challenge. (Quick side note: it somehow doesn’t prevent you from shooting baskets outside after rushing through your poster, however). Since the thumb hampers basic skills like writing and cutting, I asked Jane to cut out his pictures for him that he had printed off the internet. And I bit my tongue at the sloppy handwriting – even though I knew it had as much to do with rushing as with fractures.

I turned around in time to see him leaning over his poster with a picture centered on the poster and a stapler flared out. His hand was already pressing down when I yelled STOP!!


But I was too late. Yes, he had just stapled his poster to our dining room table.

“What did you think was going to happen?!”

“Well! I forgot the table was there!”

Really. He forgot the table that he was leaning on was there. If my husband had been home, he would have said, “This is why we can’t have nice things while we have kids.” Not that the table is nice anymore. It’s got various other kid-induced stains and scratches all over it. We haven’t replaced or resurfaced it because… well…  we knew it was only a matter of time before someone scratched, stained, or… stapled it.

Instagram Drama

I don’t understand Middleschoolers.

I mean, really I don’t. It’s not that they speak a foreign language. No, it’s more like they migrated from a different planet and stealthily replaced our children in the middle of the night while we slept.

I periodically stalk Jane’s Instagram account. I can’t make sense of most of what is said. They talk in bastardized English and too-small-to-discern emogis (pictures – think of the basic yellow-faced smileys on steroids plus tons of tiny cliparts of knives, fingers in peace signs, middle fingers up, hearts, stars, etc). Even when I successfully parse something (“Bish whet?” means “Bitch, what?!”), I don’t have the context (some viral Vines video) to fully appreciate it.

And there’s so much room for misinterpretation. It was explained to me last night that a series of smileys that appeared to have water gushing from both eyes meant “that’s so funny, you are making me cry” – but – this didn’t mean the person who put them there enjoyed the humor of the post. No, it meant they were laughing at a person. I’m not sure who gets to make the emogi interpretation rules nor how they all know they see them the same.

Last night, she was furious and angrily thrusting her iPod in my face so I could see the cause of her ire. She pulled up a DM (direct message – private messaging protocol on Instagram).

“See, look,” she said, “he posted this picture and then look at all these things people are saying. It’s so mean! He’s mocking her – they all are!”

I tried to scroll up to see the picture but the picture was actually just the bottom edge of a picture.

“I can’t see the picture,” I said.

“It’s right there! And see what they are all saying?!”

“But I can’t see the picture. I can just see the bottom edge.”

“That’s because that’s all that’s here! But he posted a screenshot of her profile and then look what they all said!”

“But he didn’t post a picture of her profile page. It’s just the bottom edge. I don’t see what’s wrong with it.”

She exhaled dramatically and took the iPod back, left that DM, scrolled down an impossibly long list of DMs, selected another one and said, “Here. Here’s the picture. See?! He’s mocking her!”

I didn’t see. I was, quite simply, confused. Were we talking about this DM or the other one? Jane wasn’t in the mood to wait for me to catch up though. She had just seen a new offensive comment from the lad and was trying to grab the iPod back. I resisted.

“Give it back! I need to comment!”

“No, no you don’t. Give me a minute.”

“Are you taking my iPod away?!”

“No. I’m just trying to figure this out and I don’t think you need to comment while you are this hot. What are you wanting to say?”

“I need to respond to what he said! It was… uggh! It was mean!”

“What did he say?”

“I don’t remember.” (Seriously, this happened).

Eventually, I put together that there is a relatively new girl at school that many people don’t like. Actually, neither she nor her sister are particularly popular. Jane has grown increasingly frustrated with people making fun of them and being mean. From what I’ve been able to gather, the two girls are not innocent. They apparently manage to hurl their own insults, although Jane seems to feel it’s defensive retaliation.

Anyway, one of her friends had found the girl’s Instagram profile and his request to follow her had been accepted. He then took a screen shot of the profile page, which included some pictures, and sent it in a DM to a large number of people saying, “I found {blank}’s profile.” Several people then started making fun of the girl. Someone took a screen shot of the bottom edge of his picture plus the first few comments and started a new DM with a smaller group of people. Jane called him out for sharing the picture and an argument ensued on whether he had been mocking the girl or whether only the people commenting had.

Eventually, one girl requested that they all stop arguing and I convinced Jane that she needed to lay off. I later suggested to her that continuing to insist he was mocking when he insisted he wasn’t was futile. “It would have been better to simply say, ‘Ok. It looked to me like you were mocking her’ and then let it go.”

Jane had just recently decided to improve herself. She cleaned her room, did laundry, worked out stuff with her teachers to raise her grades, hung out with people who didn’t make her doubt herself, and decided to be nice to people. She’s done this before and I suggested to her that when she decides to become a better person, she then tends to become very intolerant of and impatient with those who don’t make the leap with her.

She didn’t see it that way. For one – to my surprise – she still considered the people she had been vehemently arguing with to be her friends. When I suggested she show compassion and patience and not be so hard on those friends, she said she thought she was showing a lot of compassion – by standing up for people who were being talked about behind their backs.

Maybe she’s right. It all seems exhausting to me, though.


My thoughts are all over the place. I started a blog post earlier today about Jane’s social life. I kind of meandered around into philosophical ponderings on the nature of being an “outsider” in a small town. I worked my way back toward the story I wanted to tell: her weekend of parties with new friends. On my way there, I stumbled over another point and thought, oh, yeah – that’s where I wanted to go with this.

I didn’t see any easy way to transition to it and suddenly felt that the first 400 words were basically irrelevant. Or maybe another tale. So I started post #2, focusing on the new point as my starting point. But I soon found myself meandering again. It was becoming clear that I was not clear on what I wanted to write about.

I can’t help but feel that all the points could come together in a coherent piece. That they all overlap in such a way that they can fit smoothly with each other. Kind of like this Venn diagram:


(I’m not happy with this diagram, by the way. I should have used black lines for the outlines and it really bugs me that they aren’t overlapping by the same amount on each other, even if it is hard with five circles. If I want to get all philosophical with it, I could say that topics never overlap each other in equal amounts so my chart is perhaps more realistic than a well-formed one. Of course, I didn’t consider the percentage overlap for the various topics so my philosophical excuse for a bad diagram is simply that: an excuse.)

Anyway, my story, I think, lies somewhere in that black region where they all overlap. As you can probably see by my senseless rambling about the diagram itself, though, I don’t think I can get there. At least, not right now. My attempts have more closely resembled this diagram:



I think I want to tell the purple story but red feels like a good place to start but red leads me into green instead of blue and then I realize that green has nothing to do with purple but it sure flows nicely into pink and then I realize the story has gone off the rails and maybe I should have started with blue. But then…

Then… then I get up from my computer. I go to the church to make copies. I come home and take a nap. I think about blogging about the Oklahoma City bombing anniversary instead. I decide that while I was there volunteering and I knew people who were in the building, it’s somehow shallow for me to write about it when so many other people were affected more. I go out to eat. I welcome my husband home. I try to collect my thoughts about Jane. I decide to blog about Venn diagrams instead. And now here we are.

So, yeah, you haven’t heard from me in over a week. This is partly why. I’ve mostly been too busy and then when I’ve tried, the stories haven’t come. I’ll just let you wonder based on the Venn diagram labels what’s going on in Jane’s world.

Magic In The Air

Something magical happened last week.

Daryl was in a play. Now before you nod your head knowingly and pat my back in sympathy for having to sit through a fifth grade production of Shakespeare, let me tell you. These kids were good. I mean, they were really, really good.

The Talented and Gifted program has been putting on these productions with the fifth and sixth graders for a long time. The teachers have become experts at coaxing strong performances from inexperienced actors. They have impressive back drops. The costumes are elaborate. The kids memorize all their lines. In the original Shakespearean English.

The play was A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Daryl was playing the role of Oberon, the Fairy King. He was dashing and mysterious and stern. A presence on the stage. He projected loudly and clearly and spoke in a measured tone, rather than rushing his lines as so many new performers are prone to do. I couldn’t have been more proud.

But he was not the only kid on the stage. He didn’t even have the most important part. In fact, even if he had had no part at all, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this production. It was truly that good.

When Jane was in the TAG plays, very few boys participated. In fact, her fifth grade year, none of them did. Daryl’s group, on the other hand, had a full complement of boys. And they were stunning. I’ve known the boy who played Nick Bottom since he and Daryl were in Cub Scouts together several years ago. He’s a natural actor!

When Oberon and Puck charmed him into having an ass’s head and caused Titania, Queen of the Fairies, to fall in love with him, the young man hammed it up. He did such a good job of playing a pompous ass in love with himself, you almost forgot he’s barely eleven years old.

The best part – to me anyway – occurred when a scene went wrong. Puck had used the juice from the flower Oberon commanded him to use, but he had charmed the wrong person. The result was that Lysander, who had run off with Hermia, was now madly in love with Helena, who loved Demetrius. Demetrius had also been in love with (and engaged to) Hermia, but thanks to the fairies, now loved Helena too.

Helena was sure she was being mocked as Lysander and Demetrius stumbled over each other to declare their undying love to her. At one point, Lysander, enraged at Demetrius’s interference, decided to challenge him to a duel. As the two built up to that scene, something appeared to be wrong with the boy who played Lysander. He seemed increasingly agitated and upset, and not in a way that matched the script. He began to hesitate, and if we didn’t know better, we’d say he was about to cry.

And he was. He was about to cry because as the pivotal sword fight approached, the young man realized he had failed to don his sword before entering the stage. He croaked out his challenge and then thrust his hands to his face in despair. I was to learn later from Daryl that this particular actor had been very concerned about “getting it right” and here he was without his sword. It was too much for him.

That’s when the magic happened. The real stuff – not the stuff that drips out of fairy flowers. The teacher called out to use his arms. The boy playing Demetrius had his hand on his sword, ready to draw it. Then he glance at Lysander and let go of the wooden sword at his waist. He majestically drew an imaginary sword and waved it in Lysander’s direction. Lysander did the same and they had a grand air-sword fight before hurrying off the stage as the audience, picking up on what had just happened, roared their approval.

The regular, everyday magic of high-achieving and hard-working children continued through to the end, when the special stuff showed back up. As the cast members were introduced one at a time, they would walk to the center of the stage, bow or curtsy or twirl or wave, and then move to the side for the next child.

When Lysander’s name was called, he ran to the front of the stage, drew his sword, and thrust it triumphantly into the air. The raucous cheers are usually reserved for the pompous Nick Bottom and mischievous Puck, and they did get their due. But this night, little Lysander was cheered every bit as much.

His worst fear for the play had been realized and he overcame it. I didn’t even know the kid but my heart burst with pride. That pride continued when I tried to get a picture of my dear Oberon, only to have him brush me off as he went off to find Lysander and tell him what a great job he had done.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.

No, dear good Puck, you certainly have not offended and I, quite thankfully, did not slumber here. I enjoyed every moment. I enjoyed watching these dear children do grand things, both on the stage and off. I cherished watching my son and his friends take giant leaps toward maturity and confidence and grace. I was mesmerized. Thank you.

Contested Calories

When we started working out daily, with an eye toward going Rim to Rim at Grand Canyon National Park next year, I kept an exercise log that included minutes, miles, and calories burned. I used the calories reported by the treadmill and I was happy.

In January, we added an elliptical to our home gym, to replace the dying, finally dead bicycle. We also added Polar Beat heart monitors, which allowed us to track our heart rate, which in turn helped us see when we needed to push harder and when we needed to let up. But that’s when the trouble started.

You see, the heart rate monitors never showed as many calories burned as the equipment did. At some point, my husband opted to record the monitor’s calories instead of the equipment’s. I soon reluctantly followed suit.

Reluctantly because, at this point, we had also begun using the MyFitnessPal app on our phones to track calorie intake. My 1 pound per week weight loss goal only allowed me 1200 calories a day, which is tough. Impossible – to me anyway. But every calorie burned during exercise was an extra calorie I could consume.

Now, I know. I burn how many calories I burn – it doesn’t matter what either app says, but still. I felt restricted. But I adapted and life went on and I was happy.

Then we ran a 5K a couple of weeks ago. We used our heart rate monitors to track distance, speed, heart rate, calories. (Side note: Thanks to a Samsung Galaxy S4 Android update problem, my phone couldn’t ever sync to GPS so I didn’t get distance and speed – my first attempt to use my monitor for that purpose and I was sorely disappointed. But that’s a different story.)

When I finished the run, I saw that my average heart rate had been up over 160. I hadn’t realized I was pushing that hard. And, glory, glory! I’d burned well over 600 calories! In a half hour workout! Woo-hoo! I rock!

Then my husband deigned to question my calorie burn. He hadn’t burned that many so how could I? I scowled at him. But then I began poking around in the app. There was apparently a personal section that it hadn’t prompted me to fill in, so it was sitting at some default values.

Polar Beat thought I was a bit bigger than I am.

7’9″ tall and 333 pounds, to be exact.

“Think that might report more calories burned than I actually burned?” I asked my husband.

“I would think a 333 pound person getting their heart rate up to 165 for that period of time would most likely burn a lot more calories than you,” he responded.

So I corrected my app’s misunderstanding of my weight and height.

And the next time I exercised, I barely burned 150 calories. But I was tired and unmotivated, maybe it didn’t mean anything.

I’ve been watching it for a week or two now and I can tell you conclusively, someone my size just doesn’t burn very many calories. Which sucks. Because, well, someone my size would sure like to consume more calories than she gets to.

But I’m adjusting and working harder in my workouts and I’m still happy. Being 5’5″ and the healthy weight I’m at is surely better than being as tall as a tree and over 300 pounds, no matter what Polar Beat says.