Home Sweet Box

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“I want to sleep in my box tonight.”

“You are not sleeping in your box tonight.”

“But why not?!”

“It’s a school night! You can’t sleep in your box on a school night!”

“Being a school night makes no difference. I can sleep in my box.”

“But it won’t be comfortable. You won’t get a good night’s sleep.”

“Yes, I will. My box is wonderful. It’s so comfortable. It’s my new home!”

The box had arrived at our house the day before with my husband’s replacement recliner in it. It had sat in the back of the truck with the tailgate down, pulled right up to the front door of the house. The recliner had been removed from it and the box had remained in the truck bed. Hal had gone to work decorating it with Crayola marker rugs, pictures, refrigerator, bed, and many other more difficult to discern items.

He had been concerned about the fate of the box when he saw Sunday morning that the truck was gone. After I assured him the box was on the porch, he had leaped with excitement and crawled in to play until time for church. It was now the afternoon and I was preparing to leave the house.

“If you are going to sleep in the box,” I said, “it needs to come in the house.”

“NOOOOooooooo!! I want to sleep in it out here!”

“What?! No! You can’t sleep in it out here!” I said, slightly shocked. A glance at the twinkle in my husband’s eye made it clear I’d get no help from him.

“Why not?!”

“Because you wouldn’t be sleeping behind a locked door.”

“I want to sleep out here,” he insisted.

“Maybe I could sleep out here with him,” my husband suggested.

“Yes!!!”

With a sigh, I muttered, “whatever” before climbing in the car to head out.

Hal then passed the afternoon, at least in part, attempting to watch the first episode of the first season of Stranger Things. He was motivated to give it a shot because of the Stranger Things themed game he had downloaded onto his tablet. From what I hear, he didn’t get very far before he deemed it too scary. Something we had already told him.

That night, as we walked from the dark church through the dark parking lot to head home, he told his dad, “I hope the Demogorgon doesn’t come tonight.”

“Well, if he does, I guess he’ll get you first.”

“What?! Why?!”

“Because you are sleeping outside. Remember?”

“Oh. Yeah. I changed my mind about that.”

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The Karaoke Tribe

Hal had received some books from his grandmother for his ninth birthday. I hadn’t looked at them closely but they looked like biographies of less famous American historical figures geared toward younger children. I noticed him reading one of them one morning as he waited for me to be ready to take him to school.

“What book were you reading?” I asked as we headed down the driveway.

“The Journal of Jesse Smoke.”

“Smoke? S-M-O-K-E?”

“Yes.”

“How is it?”

“Good. It’s written like it’s his diary except he doesn’t share his feelings.”

“OK. I don’t know Jesse Smoke. Who was he? It’s a true story, isn’t it?”

“I think so but I don’t know he was. I haven’t read much of it yet.”

“Well, when you get further into it, please tell me about him. I’d like to learn.”

And with that, he absorbed himself in the book (which had to be tricky since he had just finished wrapping himself up as a pretzel inside his hoodie to protect against that oh-gosh-so-awfully-cold-Texas-October morning weather).

After a few minutes of silence from the backseat, he announced, “Mommy, I don’t think this is a true story. A bunch of people just turned themselves into bears to go down a hole. And – if you are a real human, you can’t just turn yourself into a bear.”

I was fairly certain this was an historical book, so I took a guess and said, “Well, there were Indian tribes who basically believed they could turn themselves into animals. Maybe he’s telling one of his people’s stories as if he believes it to be true.”

There was a slight pause.

“He’s a Karaoke boy.”

“A what?”

“A Karaoke boy.”

“Spell it.”

“C-H…. E…. R-O…. K-E-E.”

I was very careful not to laugh. “Cherokee, honey. The word is Cherokee. They are an Indian tribe, Native Americans.”

One of the most fun parts of being a parent has been listening to my young readers try to pronounce the words that they’ve only seen in print. To combine Hal’s mispronunciations with Daryl’s most famous from years ago, it sounds like Jesse Smoke comes from a family of Karaoke Madge-i-cans. (Magicians).

Selective Idiocy

The serial nature of the teenage mind never ceases to amaze me.

Sunday morning, as we prepped for church, I found my son sitting on his bed wearing shorts but no shirt or shoes and watching videos on his phone.

“Why don’t you put a shirt on?” I asked.

“It’s in the dryer.”

“Okay, well we need to leave in 15 minutes or daddy will be late to choir.”

“Okay.”

Fast forward 15 minutes.

“Come on! We need to go!” I called out.

“My shirt is still in the dryer. It has another minute on it.”

“It’ll be fine. It’s close enough. Go ahead and put it on. Let’s go.”

“But I still need to put my shoes on and brush my teeth.”

“And why didn’t you do that while you were waiting on your shirt?”

*Shrug*   (Seriously, no words. Just a shrug.)

It’s like his brain went: Must get dressed. Underwear on. Shorts on. Shirt wrinkled. Put in dryer. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait….

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Like it absolutely couldn’t proceed to any other step until the shirt was on. Even though they aren’t sequential steps. There’s absolutely no tooth-brushing dependency on wearing a shirt.

Encore performance – later that afternoon. He came into the house claiming to be done mowing and weed-eating. I dragged him back outside to point out all the places that I knew had not been touched. (He’s yet to get all the grass cut in a given outing. Or in two or three redo’s for that matter.)

Among other things, I pointed out the basketball goal.

“I weed-eated that,” he said.

“Where?” I asked, staring at the taller-than-the-other-grass-around it blades surrounding all four sides of the goal’s base.

“There,” he said, vaguely pointing in a circular motion around the base.

Exasperated, I retrieved the weed-eater and in my shorts and sandals, demonstrated a proper, albeit slightly unsafe, weed-eating job. “That’s how it is supposed to look,” I said.

He just stood there with the mad-at-the-world-you-are-so-incredibly-mean-and-unfair teenager look he has perfected in recent months.

Since the weed-eater ran out of gas as I finished, I told him to get it filled up while I moved the cars off the grass so he could mow. After an attempt to open the tricky gas cap failed, he moved to sit on a bench and wait it out.

“Go get your dad to help you fill it back up with gas,” I said.

As I finished moving the first vehicle, I saw him sitting on the bench.

“Where’s your dad?”

“I’m going to mow first.”

“Seriously, Daryl! Don’t just sit there. You can still get him to help you fill up the weed-eater while you wait for me to move the cars. Otherwise, it will all take longer because you’ll have to go get him after you mow instead of doing it now while you are waiting anyway.”

He went back in the house in a huff.

I think I’ll call this condition Selective Idiocy. When a capable person knows they must complete an undesirable task yet deliberately engages in steps to draw it out as long as possible, as if they are too dense to put together the most efficient way to complete the task. Add that to the general teenage conditions of moodiness and disconnect from the world around him, and you have the perfect recipe for Parental Frustration Overload.

Teenage Boy

Teenage boy.

Really, that’s all I need to write and so many of you nod your heads and think, yeah, I know. But maybe it’s more fun to give you the details of my latest encounter with teenage boy in the wild.

Daryl had a track meet.

It happened to be in a town not too far away so my husband took on Hal’s soccer practice so I could go watch Daryl run. He was to run in the 800 and then the anchor leg for the 4×400. I was particularly excited to see him run the relay.

So off I headed about 30 minutes down the road from home, found a parking spot (which was fairly fortunate), paid my entrance fee, and sat down by myself in a crowd full of strangers to wait.

Not too long after I got there, they called for the 7th grade boys 800. About 6:15, I watched the very large group of mostly gangly, awkward looking boys line up at the start line. The first thing I noticed was that Daryl was not wearing the new, specialized, spikes-included, long-distance running shoes we had bought him. Why wasn’t he wearing the shoes? Why had we bought the shoes if he wasn’t going to wear them?

And then the race began. He fell behind pretty quickly. This doesn’t look good, I thought to myself. By the time he came around on the second pass, only four boys were behind him. To his credit, he still kicked it into gear and ran his heart out to the finish line. But he certainly didn’t look like a kid who had finished 4th the first time he had run this race.

He didn’t come up into the stands to see me – even though I had texted my exact location to him. I asked if he was OK. How did he feel about the race? “Had a cramp” was his response. Ok, when is the 4×400? “Soon, I think.”

I know now that there are just a small handful of variations of track meet schedules. And the 4×400 is not that soon after the 800.

I watched the 100m dashes. I watched the 110 hurdles. I watched the 200 races and the 300 hurdles. I watched all of these for 7th and 8th grade girls and 7th and 8th grade boys. All the while, hoping to hear first call for the 4×400. It didn’t come. My butt was numb. My phone was nearly dead. No one to talk to and not enough juice to lose myself in a game.

So I watched a small slice of the 400s from my car as I charged my phone. And I knew that the 4×400 couldn’t be anywhere near the 400.

Back in the stadium, they made the first call for the 7th grade girls’ 1600. I cried.

I mean, not literally, on the outside, tears streaming down my face, but on the inside, yes. I was going to have to sit through four 1600’s first? And then essentially two more with the girls’ 4×400’s?

“I think the 4×400 is last,” my son texted me.

“Yes, I figured that out,” I said. “Why don’t you go ahead and come get your note so you can ride home with me?”

“But it’s the last race.”

“Yes, but it’s still faster for you to ride home with me than ride the bus. Come here.”

That’s when he stopped talking to me. Convenient.

About 9:15, he showed up in the stands. Limping.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I hurt my ankle. Nate is taking my spot in the relay so we can go ahead and go home.”

Three hours. I had sat there for three hours!

“When did you hurt your ankle?”

“During the 800.”

Three hours. I had sat there for three hours.

“Why did you wait so long to decide you couldn’t run?”

“I kept hoping it’d start feeling better.”

Did I mention how butt-numbing bleachers are?

“Did you ice it?” I asked.

“No.”

“Did you tell your coaches?”

“I didn’t know where they were.”

Three hours. I sat and waited for three hours while the boy merely hoped his ankle would feel better and did absolutely nothing to enhance his chances that it would. And said nothing to me as we texted back and forth. Three hours.

That’s when I noticed he was wearing the new track shoes. The ones he hadn’t worn when actually racing – he was wearing them now.

“Why didn’t you wear those during the 800?” I asked, pointing. He shrugged.

“It was a longer distance.”

“They are long distance shoes.”

Shrug.

As we began the drive home, he told me, “Coach had me do the high jump!”

“What?” I asked. “Why didn’t you tell me? When did you know?”

“It was earlier in the meet. I figured you couldn’t be here anyway. Coach said he saw me play basketball and knew I could jump.”

“But the motion is completely different,” I countered. “Had you ever practiced the high jump?”

“No.”

“Which coach said he’d seen you play basketball?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know. He told you in person, didn’t he? Which coach was it?”

“I don’t know. They look the same.”

I’m surprised I didn’t run off the road at this point. I had previously met one of the coaches and knew he was black.

“Daryl! You do realize that that’s the most stereotypical racist thing you could say? ‘They all look alike’? I mean seriously.”

“I didn’t say they all look alike. I said these two guys do. They are about the same height and sometimes they wear glasses and they are both bald.”

“I can’t believe you. You see these guys every day and you don’t know who is who.”

Shrug.

(To be fair to him, he joined athletics part way through the year so he missed introductions. I’m guessing he can distinguish these two guys from each other but doesn’t have a good handle on which one is Coach X and which is Coach Y. At least, that’s what I’m hoping.)

Conversation continued on for a few more minutes before his face became lost in the glow of his phone and I stared at the dark road ahead of me and pondered what I could have done with those three hours. What he could have done with those three hours.

Like maybe finish the major science project due the next day that he had thoughtfully tried to complete the day before but couldn’t because he had forgotten to bring home the rubric? The project that he had been given days or weeks before? The project that he would now have to stay up even later to complete?

I also thought about how sorely disappointed I was to not see him take the baton and run. How that three hours and the additional 30+ minutes that I likely would have waited would have been all ok if it meant I’d see him run.

But I didn’t. I waited ignorantly for an ankle I didn’t know was injured, didn’t know wasn’t being treated, didn’t know wasn’t known by the coaches. Because. Teenage boy.

When You Talk and They Only Hear the Teacher from Peanuts

Children are impressive creatures. And not always in a good way. I’m surprised by how much they continue to surprise me.

My husband and I were preparing to leave the house. I searched out the boys and found them huddled on Daryl’s bed, Daryl playing a game on his phone and Hal on his Kindle Fire.

“Boys, listen to me,” I said to get their attention. They glanced up quickly and then looked back at their screens.

“Daryl, I want you to put this basket of laundry in the washing machine. Are you listening?”

A brief nod.

“And then I want you to move it to the dryer when you can. There are clothes in the dryer. I want you to dump them on my bed. Do NOT leave them in a hamper – they are delicates, okay?”

He looked up and nodded.

“I also want you to fold your laundry that is in the green hamper at the end of the couch. Okay?”

He nodded.

“Both of you. I mean it. If that laundry isn’t folded when we get back, you are both losing your electronics for the rest of the day. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” said one, looking up.

“Yes,” said the other.

“Don’t put it off. Don’t think you can just do it later because you’ll get busy and distracted. Go ahead and do it soon. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

When we returned a couple of hours later, the first thing I saw was two boys sprawled on the couch watching TV. The second thing I saw was the Kindle Fire in Hal’s hands. The third thing I saw was the green hamper still full of clothes at the end of the couch.

“Give me your electronics. Right now – hand them over. And turn off the TV. Now!”

“How much is left in the episode,” my husband asked as he passed through.

I ignored him and picked up the green hamper and shook it in the general direction of the boys.

“I told you. I told you I’d take away your electronics if you didn’t get this laundry folded.”

“Oh,” said my now clued-in husband who walked on.

“Did you put the other laundry in the washing machine like I told you to?” I asked as I headed toward their room to find out.

“There wasn’t any laundry in our hamper!” protested Daryl.

“That’s because it was all in the white hamper in your room,” I said as Daryl continued with, “and we did fold the laundry. I didn’t know about that hamper!”

The pieces all fell into place as I heard his words and saw the empty hamper in the center of their room.

“Did you fold the laundry in that hamper?!” I asked incredulously.

“Yes.”

“But that was the DIRTY laundry! Seriously, guys?! Did you put all the dirty laundry away in your drawers?”

“We didn’t know! You didn’t say!”

“I most certainly did! And you didn’t notice any of those clothes were dirty? So where are the clothes that belonged to…”

My husband called from our room as intuition led me to head that way, “So what are all of these clothes?”

“They’re dirty!” I exclaimed.

“You told me to put your clothes on your bed,” tried a defeated Daryl.

“The clean clothes from the dryer!”

“You didn’t say…”

“Yes I did.” And I proceeded to recount my original instructions as Daryl looked on in confusion and Hal looked like he was going to cry.

“I didn’t hear all that,” Daryl said.

“Yeah, I picked up on that. How could you not notice that any of this was dirty? The clothes on our bed stink to high heaven!”

“That’s because they are workout clothes,” laughed my husband.

My initial anger abated and I started to see the humor and need for grace in the situation. Daryl and Hal were both ill, Hal very much so. They had nevertheless attempted to follow what they thought my instructions were and had put away some laundry.

“Listen guys,” I said, taking a more conciliatory tone and hugging Hal. “I won’t stick to the punishment if you will get all your dirty clothes out of the drawers and put them back in this hamper and fold the clothes in the green hamper.”

“You tried to do what I said,” I added, laughing.

Then I turned to the closet, where a pair of dress pants were hung very neatly. They were hung so neatly that you would have thought I had done it. Hal never hung his pants so well. But this time he had. He had very nicely hung up the pair of pants he had vomited on the night before.

“Hal, you even hung up your vomit pants, buddy?”

“Well, I thought you had washed them,” he said as I looked at all the obvious spots along the front.

No, dear, I don’t think you thought at all. You or your brother – the entire time we were gone. Bless your little hearts. I think I’ll blame it on the fever.

THAT Old?!

We were visiting with some friends when my husband used a phrase I had never heard of.

“Where do you come up with these things?” I asked.

My friend looked up from the game board and said, “That phrase has been around forever.”

“Ok,” I replied, “but I’ve never heard him use it. Sheesh! I’ve been with him for over half my life. You’d think I’d have heard all the phrases he knows by now.”

“You are that old?!” Daryl asked.

“What?”

“You are old enough to have been married to Daddy for half your life?”

“Well, I said ‘been with him’ but we’ve actually been married for over half our lives too.”

“But what about your childhood?!”

“My childhood was a lot shorter than adulthood has been at this point.”

“Besides,” my husband said, “We were 18 when we got married. We were kids.”

Daryl had another hysterically funny-yet-insulting-to-his-mother line after that, but by the time we got home, I had forgotten it. Guess I am getting old.

Riiighttt…

I saw something on Facebook the other day that really excited me. It was a trailer for the upcoming Pixar movie Finding Dory. It hadn’t entered my mind that they might do a movie focused on her, but as soon as I saw it, I thought, Perfect! Of course! She was the best character in that movie!

I never say “Let’s keep at it” or “Keep on truckin'” or “Keep on keepin’ on.” Nope. If I need to comment on the need to just keep after something, I start singing:

Just keep swimming,

Just keep swimming,

Swimming, swimming,

Just keep swimming…

Every. Single. Time. Dory has, in her own special way, stayed with me more than any other movie character. Needless to say, I was excited. Everyone had already left for school though. I had no one to share the moment with. So I decided to send my daughter a text.

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I expected something along the lines of “Omg! That’s so awesome! I can’t wait!” I imagined her telling the rest of the family and the car literally rocking from people’s excitement.

Instead I got this:

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Well, at least I got the “omg” part right. I responded:

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But she was already in the process of typing something else, which came in just ahead of mine. Which means the conversation ended up looking something like this:

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Which, of course, looked kind of bad. I decided to respond to her second comment with sarcasm. But she got another comment in first again and I ended up looking considerably more sarcastic than I planned…dory4

I decided it was time to explain.

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But no way my daughter was going to let me off easy.

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All in all, I think teenagers spend way too much time communicating via text instead of in person or on a phone. That said, I’ve really enjoyed my literary sparring with my daughter over the last year or so.