GW to KG – Wassup?!

It seems only fitting after sharing some of Jane’s recent writing, that I should share some of Daryl’s. Eighth grade history with a bit of a flair! Here is his vision of how a conversation might have taken place between George Washington and King George during the Revolutionary War. If they had had cell phones. And if they talked smack like the average middle schooler.


Some translations for those of you not hip enough to digest this with full understanding:

KG: King George
finna: fixing to
W: win
LMAO: laugh my ass off (you knew this one surely… right?)
boi: said expressively to indicate the other did or said something stupid
brb: be right back
tryna: trying to
rn: right now
aiight: all right?!
foo: fool
WTH: what the hell (guessing you knew this one too…)

I’ll close with a couple of observations.

George Washington probably should have charged his phone before he tried to cross the Delaware. No way 53% is going to get him through the day – especially that cold outside.

And it’s no wonder England lost. What with the King texting his plans to the enemy and all.


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

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.


We’ve added a very useful and effective tool to our parenting arsenal. It’s a guaranteed method for removing a teenager from your vicinity when you grow weary of her company. This could be because you were trying to have a private conversation before she arrived and she is now just taking up space. Or it could be that it’s past her bedtime. Or she’s in the way. Or maybe she is just being obnoxious.

Now, there’s a catch that I want to share with you before describing the tool. It’s not for the prudish among us. If you still want your teenager to believe babies arrived in little slings held by storks, then this approach is not for you. But if you know that your child already knows the basics and you don’t mind acknowledging that, this will work.

It involves reminding your child – preferably in the most embarrassing (yet not inappropriate) way possible – that her parents are sexual beings. This will send her running to the hills within seconds. This can be done in a number of different ways and can be quite entertaining for the parents. Let me describe a couple of scenarios.

Last night, she was working on her homework at the dining room table. She has a desk in her room for this purpose but she mistook it as a clothes rack some number of months ago and we haven’t seen the top of it since. It was late; the boys were already in bed. We were sitting at the table with her and had been visiting about various topics. We were waiting for her to go to bed so we could watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix.

It soon became apparent that we could not talk or she would be distracted from her homework. We could not adjourn to the living room and watch our show because she would be able to see it and thus be distracted from her homework. We suggested she finish the homework in her room. She made no motion to comply with the suggestion.

“What could we do to get her to leave?” I asked.

He looked up and smiled. “We could make out.”

She immediately buried her face in her notebook and tried to cover her head, face, and ears with her hands and arms. “No! I’m leaving! I’m leaving! Just don’t! Please! Don’t!”

I moved over to my husband and wrapped my arms around his head. We began making little Mmm-Mmm-Mmm noises as if we were making out. I started passionately “kissing” the top of his head. She literally ran from the room. Mission accomplished.

We first discovered this trick a couple of months ago. It was early morning. My husband was dressed for the day but reclined on the bed, waiting for the kids to be ready to go. I was by the closet getting dressed. Jane had come into the room and crawled into bed and was now refusing to get up and get ready for school. Eventually, I wanted to sit down on the bed to put on my shoes but her body was in the way.

“You know what we do in that bed besides sleep, don’t you?”

She threw the covers off of her and literally leaped out of bed. “Oh! That’s gross! That’s gross! Don’t say that! I’ve got to get out of here!” And with that, she raced across the hall to her room and closed the door.

Feeling daring, I called out, “You think we haven’t done it in there?”

She hurtled out of her room toward the bathroom as my husband called out, “Well, no. Not in there, honey! That’s her room. Everywhere else in the house though.”

“Stop it! Just stop talking! GROSS!!!

I smiled at my husband as I sat down to tie my shoes. “That was easy,” I said.


And so a strategy was born.

Context Clues

Daryl and I were checking off the spices in our kitchen that we found on his “Products of the Rainforest” checklist for school the other morning. Hal had followed us into the kitchen and was making a menace of himself. I needed to be at work early so was trying to conduct the search as efficiently as possible. Several times, I told Hal, who was a considerable distraction, to go cuddle with his Daddy. But he stayed.

I had set the box of “Christmas” spices on the dining room table in front of Daryl and I was searching the lazy susans in the cabinet. “Where’s the ginger?” I asked. “I know we have some ginger. Where is it?”

Hal called out from the table, “Here it is!”

I kept my sigh internal. I also refrained from trying to send him from the room yet again. Somehow I also resisted pointing out to him that he doesn’t know how to read. Instead, I adopted a patient mother face and walked toward him to see which spice he was holding. I had just enough good grace stored up to sweetly tell him that it wasn’t ginger, but thanks for trying to help.

Instead, I saw that he was, indeed, triumphantly holding the ground ginger above his head. I did not hide my surprise well but turned it into joyful praise.

“Way to go, Hal! That is the ginger! High five!” I raised my hand and he slapped it with his. “How did you know it was the ginger? Was it the little gingerbread man and gingerbread woman on the front?”

He nodded that it was and just beamed with pride.

I thought about this throughout the day that followed. I was reminded of how my older kids have been taught in school to look for context clues when they read. It’s actually something they have to teach kids.

Yet the average preschooler does it all day long. He knows the building is McDonald’s because of the golden arches. He can recognize a Wal-Mart in another town. He can even make out what is a restaurant vs. a gas station vs. a store. He can figure all these things out without reading… all the way down to finding the ginger in a box full of spices.

It made me wonder if we get a bit lazy once we learn to read. If, by reading, we come to expect the words to clearly tell us what we need to know. If a dry cleaners didn’t have the words “Dry Cleaning” above the windows, who would recognize the place for what it is first? Me or my child? Ok, bad example. We never go to the dry cleaners.

My point remains though. I’m so busy looking for the words that tell me what a thing is that I fail to look at the other indicators. I will see them eventually, maybe, but I look for the words first. I think this is why adults who never learned to read can do such an excellent job of hiding their deficiency from the rest of us. They never lost that ability to interpret the context clues quickly and accurately.

Keeping it Together… With a Little Help From Friends

You ever have those moments when you feel like all the other parents and their kids have it together more than your family does?

Yeah, I feel like that a lot. Daryl is particularly helpful in fostering that feeling in me. Last week, I was surfing Facebook while I waited for the carhop to bring out our food at Sonic. I’m sure all the got-it-together moms were serving their kids baked chicken with fresh broccoli and a side of fruit. The family probably even said a blessing and then talked about their day as they sat around the dinner table.

But anyway, I digress. I was surfing Facebook and I saw a post from Daryl’s TAG teacher that the tryouts for the third grade play were the next day. I hadn’t heard anything about a play, so I asked Daryl about it. He glanced up from his Nintendo DS to confirm he knew about it. Then he looked up again with a panicked look on his face.

Apparently, the teachers had sent home lines that they were supposed to memorize but Daryl had lost his and forgotten to ask for another one. This started a marathon of phone calls and text messages as I scrambled to find someone with a copy of the lines.

First call went to his teacher, who didn’t have them at home with her. She checked with the other teacher while I called Daryl’s best friend’s mom. I think I might have gotten that poor boy in a bit of trouble because his parents also knew nothing about the play. Apparently Ian wasn’t interested in trying out so had failed to mention it.

Then I called another mother, who informed me that her daughter had left her copy (presumably after memorizing the lines well enough) at Applebee’s. She suggested yet another mom and gave me her number. Eventually two different moms took photos and emailed them to me. Then it was just a matter of retyping them so I could print and helping my son speed memorize right before bedtime.

That was last week. This week, about 8:00 on a busy evening, he suddenly remembered that he had a “products of the rain forest” checklist due the next day. He had somehow made it home without a copy of the checklist. I texted the two moms I knew in the class and managed to get a copy from each of them after Daryl went to bed.

I then roused him early in the morning so we could rummage through our spices and pantry and bathroom cabinets to find all the items that had components originating in the rain forest. The first thing he said when he saw the checklist was “but this is Aaron’s paper!”

Well, yes, son. When you wait until bedtime the night before, it’s highly likely that all the other kids have already filled theirs out. So if you are fortunate enough to get a copy, you’ll have to deal with his name already on it. Here’s a big fat red grease pencil. If you make your check marks with it, you’ll cover up his.

It was bad enough that I had to go begging for the checklist. What was even worse was to see the variety of fruits and vegetables that she had in her kitchen, compared to what I had. It was almost enough to make me find the whiteout so I could remove the evidence of my inadequacy.

I keep telling myself that we are all struggling to keep it together. That other families are just as messed up as ours. I’m still waiting for that text message asking for the homework assignment though. Just one would make me feel good.

Laughter Really is the Best Medicine

It had been a long and intense evening of discussion. Mother, father, daughter all holed up in her room, while the boys waited in another part of the house and wondered if they were going to get to eat dinner.

We discussed her school schedule and our disagreements about it. We discussed priorities, desires, boys, grades, cell phones, behavior, attitude. She got angry, calmed down, cried, tried to distract herself by cleaning her room. Every once in awhile, the dog or the preschooler or the dog and the preschooler made an appearance. Daryl tried to remind us there were other people in the house. The discussion lasted nearly two hours and left us all drained. Drained, but not really at odds with each other. From the parental perspective, the talk had gone well. We had accomplished our objectives.

Per the new cell phone directives, she handed me her phone as she resumed her homework. I looked down at her wall paper and asked who it was.

“Channing Tatum,” she replied, smiling up at me like she dared me to say something. She had recently had a mild argument with her aunt over whether he qualified as “hot”.

After a brief pause for effect, I smiled back and nodded. “You’ve got pretty good taste.”

“I know,” she said. And then under her breath but with a smile, “Unlike you.”

“What did you say?”

“Well… my dad’s really not all that, ya know.”

“What are you talking about?! He is the hottest man on the planet!”

Laughing, she put her hands up in protest. “Okay, you can stop now.”

“No, really. Your dad is hot!”

“That’s enough!”

“You should have seen him in high school…”

“Really! You don’t need to do this!”

“…He was so tall with broad shoulders…” I gazed longingly at him in the other room as she interrupted.

“Enough! Please! I don’t need to hear this!”

I adopted my best imitation of her swooning teenager voice. “I’m telling you. He was a man among boys!”

“Okaaayyy!!” The embarrassed laughter and friendly banter seemed to break through the slightly reserved interaction we had had a few minutes prior. As she laughed and kicked around, the smiley face eraser fell off her pencil and onto the floor. Rose dove in after it.

“Rose! No! Don’t eat my smiley face! Mom! She just ate my eraser!”

Rose certainly appeared to have something in her mouth so I reached down to fish it out while Jane nearly fell over from laughing. That’s when I noticed the eraser tucked behind a chair leg. We laughed some more. It felt good.

I had been down in the dumps all day, dreading the conversation. It is more difficult to parent a preteen/teenager than I ever could have imagined. The previous night, her dad and I had discussed what we needed to talk to Jane about. I was distressed and anxious. I didn’t want to be a parent of a twelve year old anymore. I didn’t want to do the hard work. I didn’t want to take the abuse. I didn’t want to have the arguments that are inevitable when what the parents think is best conflicts with what the child wants.

Then we talked. And it was hard. But not as bad as I had feared. And then we laughed and teased and I was in love with my daughter again. There will be more rough times ahead; but as long as we can find something to laugh about afterwards, maybe it will all be ok.