Full Speed clunked his way through the school library doors. The past couple days tested him. A cold slowed his usual enthusiasm for life and by the looks of him, I knew his day drained what little energy he had left. He sat in silence while I finished up my volunteer tasks. Once T.Puzzle arrived, we made our way to the car.
I asked Full Speed point-blank, “What did you have for lunch?”
He said, “Nothing.”
Nothing! Alarm bells rang loud and clear in my head. He passed on breakfast and instead of forcing the issue, I made him promise to eat something at lunch.
Once lunchtime arrived, his appetite would reappear. I counted on that and said as much to him.
To hear him say he ate nothing all day seemed unacceptable.
“You. Are eating dinner. No negotiation. Understand me?” I said.
He nodded in defeat.
Later, at the dinner table as T.Puzzle described his luncheon with the principal (as an honor, not a punishment, thank goodness!), something in the way Full Speed’s eyes twinkled, made me question if he skipped lunch.
“Full Speed, did you really not eat lunch?” I said.
“Alright, I guess I’ll just look it up on your lunch account and find out for myself.”
“Yes! I had lunch! Okay?” he said.
“Why would you lie about that?” I said.
“Because then I would have to admit you were right. My appetite did come back and I was hungry. I already had two days of feeling sick. I couldn’t admit that my mom was right and I was wrong on top of that!”
Like a lunch after hours of not eating, victory never tasted so sweet.
I’m about to share with you a highly effective yet secret way you can stalk look-out for your seventh grader. It’s so top-secret that if your name is Full Speed, you must immediately stop reading this and step away from this blog post. I’m totally serious. You do not have a high enough security level clearance, and more importantly, you would be on to me. Walk away, Full Speed. Walk away.
Part one of my secret plan is that you have to get a dog well in advance of your middle-schooler having to take the bus to school. I’m talking maybe a decade or so in advance. Trust me, this will help you seem credible when the chips are down. After you have secured your status as a dog owner, you have to start walking them religiously to the point you become well-known in your neighborhood as the ‘dog lady’ which, let’s hope, references your dog ownership and NOT your appearance. Anyway, you have to walk the same route day after day. You must casually interact with all the middle schoolers who hang out at the bus stop at the end of your subdivision. This part is actually pretty awesome because you get to bring some levity to their day and your dog will love the attention. If you want to be extra sneaky, get TWO dogs. I’m telling you, middle schoolers will love you for it. The more fluffy appreciation they receive to start their day, the more you fit in under the radar.
Once you have this routine solidly on lock-down, then it seems completely normalfor you to check-in on your own kid when the time arrives for him to join in the morning band of middle-schoolers. Again, it’s awesome to have your dogs bring so much happiness especially now that your own kid is included in the bunch. See? Stealth stalking supervision complete!
And, I will neither confirm or deny at this point because my plan is working so beautifully, but it’s possible my fluffy companions are robotic stunt dogs.
Mad Dog and I were seated 15 yards back from the end zone. Our panoramic view of the field added to the excitement. T.Puzzle was at QB calling the shots and Full Speed was zipping up and down the field at a breakneck pace.
Sounds amazing, right?
It kind of was and it kind of wasn’t. There are many perks to having the boys on the same flag football team such as shared practices and games. There are also many pitfalls. Let’s just say there are days when egos collide and managing the talent is way above my pay grade.
Even though their flag season was a mixed bag of victories and defeats, I am grateful that I get to watch these boys from the sidelines. Besides, I’m feeling generous because I am a World Series Champion! Yes, it was a long road and a lot of hard work, but I hung in there. Don’t worry, I haven’t let success go to my head.
In the spirit of full disclosure, success actually has gone to my head a little bit. As it happens Mad Dog and I are predominantly featured in a recent World Series recap. It premiered on FS1 and is available for DVD purchase. Well, we are flashed on the screen for a millisecond or two, but it still counts. Here’s proof the Cubs couldn’t have won without me.
Now that I’ve sufficiently addressed my newfound celebrity status, here’s a breakdown of the rest of my team:
Let’s start with T.Puzzle. This is the child that continues to confound me. He is overly opinionated and strong-willed yet gets glowing reviews from teachers and coaches. Often, after another flip comment has escaped his adorable face I’ll say something like, “wow, raising you is the challenge of a lifetime.” His instant response is, “because I’m so awesome, right?” Something like that. He’s something alright.
T.Puzzle continues to loathe school, adore video games and aggravate his brother. He’s entering the double digits age-wise. I have a feeling I may need to start another blog dedicated to coping with T.Puzzle’s impending milestone decade. The truth is, he is completely true to himself and even though he challenges me a lot, I know he is always going to land on his feet.
Full Speed is transforming before our eyes and becoming a kind and thoughtful young man. Thankfully, he still has a great sense of fun and is loving his Extended Studies this year with its focus on improv. He loves school, reading, reading and oh, did I mention reading? He is a walking encyclopedia of sports facts and stats. This was really helpful for me, especially as I got farther into my World Series winning season. Chicago thanks you, Full Speed!
Then, there’s Mad Dog. He continues to excel at work. There I reasons I love this and reasons I don’t love this. I love this because I can tell that he is feeling challenged and inspired by all his new and varied responsibilities. He’s also an incredible leader. I am very proud of him and like that he remains humble and grounded. I don’t love this because he is often working long hours and has to travel. I’m not a huge fan of sharing Mad Dog with the world, but I get it. He’s awesome and the world needs him. So, I let him go with love.
As for me, it really all boils down to this. I realized that I am my truest, most genuine self when I am in the company of these three incredible men and they all accept me exactly as I am. My goal for the coming year is to be the self that is loved by them when I am out in the world. It is easy in concept but hard in execution. I’m not sure if the world is ready for an empath like me. All I know is that if I have these guys in my corner, then what the world thinks of me is less important. In fact, for any of you reading this, I encourage you to be your truest self in all circumstances. The only approval you actually need is your own.
Wishing you a Blesssed Holiday Season, a Bright and Merry New Year and above all else Love.
When Full Speed started kindergarten within the first two weeks his teacher pulled me aside. She was sincerely concerned about his fine motor skills and wondered if his vision was impacting his abilities to print (it wasn’t, his handwriting was just that bad). Naturally I responded in the only way I knew how. I teared up, went home and called everyone I knew to whine and complain about this horrible injustice. Yeah, my denial phase about Full Speed’s printing was pretty short-lived. Once I got over myself, I set my overachiever self on a mission to make him the best 5-year-old printer in America. Let’s just say, I had mixed results and it tested my relationship with him in not the best of ways. Ultimately, what I realized is would I rather have a super awesome kid like Full Speed, or a regular kid that is a super awesome printer? Hands down, I would choose Full Speed every single time.
Full Speed is now an energetic third grader. His handwriting is still questionable at best, but he lives with such joy and enthusiasm, I don’t really mind. For instance, he had his first brush with standardized state testing and handled it like a rock star. He was calm, cool and confident. Thank goodness he didn’t inherit my anxiety genes (but I can print like nobody’s business!). To help prepare the class for the Big Test, his teacher requested parents send in encouraging handwritten notes. I assigned day two of the test to Mad Dog. He wrote a great little note about how Full Speed was growing into a fine young man and that he was an excellent big brother. While Full Speed’s teacher appreciated Mad Dog’s note, she had an interesting take on it. She told Full Speed she now understood where he inherited his handwriting skills. According to what she read from the note, Full Speed was not an excellent big brother, but rather a big bother.
Interestingly enough, if you ask T.Puzzle he confirms this.
One of the challenges of being a stay-at-home or work-at-home parent is finding the motivation to be presentable to the outside world. It’s even harder for me because the two people who see me the most, Full Speed and T.Puzzle, could care less what I look like. It doesn’t matter if I spend two minutes or two hours on my appearance, they think I look exactly the same. I actually appreciate this about them because it helps me remember in our appearance-focused culture, that what we look like really isn’t why our loved ones care about us.
On most days, I make at least a small amount of effort to put myself together. Granted, 90% of the time I’m in work-out gear but at least it is color coordinated, almost obsessively so, and I actually work-out.
This morning I did something I seldom do. I decided that I would drive the boys to school in my pjs. They thought this was absolutely hilarious. Frankly, I was surprised they even noticed. I figured we would get there early, as usual, and no one would be the wiser.
Wouldn’t you know it? The school PRINCIPAL was on duty helping kids get out of their cars. She rarely is on drop-off duty and to make matters worse, she was as early as could be. So much for going unnoticed. Never in my life did my Tinkerbell pajama pants taunt me so loudly. At least my hair was combed,… well, kind of combed.
I did the only thing I could do. I told the boys to use their manners, give her direct eye contact and wish her a good morning. My strategy was to disarm her with their adorable manners. Adorable manners are very powerful. She greeted us warmly and sent the boys on their way.
The moral of the story is, if you are going to wear pajamas to school drop-off, make sure at least your hair is combed, at least moderately so, and pray your school’s faculty are fans of your Disney character-themed pants.