Every week Mad Dog and I get a phone message from the boys’ school principals. Inevitably, valuable information will be disseminated and Mad Dog will then share what is said. Full Speed will hear him but not actually listen. He will be there, physically present, nodding and agreeing, but mentally be somewhere else entirely.
He does not like to follow up on anything Mad Dog tells him to do.
Even if the principal left us a message that leftover pots of gold from St. Patrick’s Day were available for pick up at the school office, Full Speed would hear this and then never, ever, ever follow-up. All his school friends could be throwing gold coins around like confetti and he would still never, ever, ever stop by to get his.
Mad Dog, ever the problem solver, is hopeful to add Full Speed to the principal’s call list. This way at least there is a chance, albeit slight, that Full Speed will do what is asked of him.
Trust me, the leprechauns aren’t worried.
Nora also does not like to listen to Mad Dog.
However, this blatant disregard for his authority
is rewarded with treats, verbal affirmations, and let’s not forget,…
We were at T.Puzzle’s thirteen year wellness check. He was sailing through, crushing milestones and checking all the boxes landing him in healthy ranges for almost everything (screen time average was the only number in question).
The nurse turned to me and said, “Any concerns?”
“No. Unless you have a magic formula for getting a thirteen year old boy to articulate his thoughts,” I said.
The nurse could empathize. She experienced a similar phenomenon with her now seventeen year old son. Every question she asked him was met with an, “I don’t know.”
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.”
How is it possible that once boys reach the age of thirteen they don’t know anything? Where does all their knowledge go? How do they make it through the day not knowing anything?
As we waited in the exam room for the doctor to appear, I decided to investigate this communication/knowledge block.
“So, T.Puzzle. Do you talk to your friends at school?” I said.
“What do you talk about?” I said.
Wow. I could sense I was really getting somewhere. I continued my sure-be-successful line of questioning:
“What else do you talk about?”
“Sometimes, we talk about things.”
Oh, the stuff and sometimes the things. It all makes sense to me now.
“Why are you able to talk to them but not me?”
“Because they don’t ask me questions,” he said.
I didn’t know how to respond to that. Oh no! It’s happening.
2019 will forever be known as the year Mad Dog and I became the parents of teenagers!
How did we go from this:
Somehow our boys became young men in less than a year’s time! No one tells you that when you become a parent. That in an instant your children vanish and are replaced by grown-up versions of themselves. Naively, I thought it would be more gradual. How do I feel about this? If I am to take a cue from T.Puzzle and his extreme articulation abilities which are common to thirteen year old boys around the world I’d say this:
“I don’t care.” (my personal favorite)
In general, despite some family growing pains due to the realm of the teenager, both boys are successfully finding their way in the world. Academic success is part of that, and even this isn’t always smooth (A Humble Hero’s Journey), but it’s the intangibles that make them so awesome. Like Mad Dog, our boys get better with age.
2019 was the year of dreams realized. First and foremost, Mad Dog and I ventured to Africa (My Heart Belongs to Africa). The magic of the African bushveld and all our adventures there have pushed me to keep writing. I never know where it might lead, but I am learning to love the process and am grateful for any chance I am afforded to be published.
Full Speed continues his basketball coaching journey by managing his high school’s freshman teams. He takes great pride in this role making sure to dress the part on game days. The freshman coach has expressed his appreciation for Full Speed’s strategical support and his positive leadership contributions. Something tells me this is only the beginning in what could be a life-long commitment to coaching for Full Speed. He truly is in his element out on that court and we could not be more proud of him.
If coaching is Full Speed’s element, giving is mine. Thankfully, I married someone who supports this life vision. Mad Dog and I were able to start our DeVaul Family Great Day Foundation this year. Each month we are able to give to the causes we care about. I am excited to see how it grows and where it goes.
And while some dreams were realized, 2019 was not without challenges. Mad Dog and I continue to navigate the strain of ‘third-party’ influences on our marriage. This has shown up in the fluffiest of forms:
The only way I make peace with Nora ‘stealing’ my man’s attention, is that she allows me to dress her up like a Disney Princess:
As I do my best to navigate ‘sharing’ Mad Dog, I am reminded that I, too, apparently have some boundary issues when it comes to Max. When he came into our house over six years ago at the age of ten, I never thought he would live to see so many holiday seasons with us. He is a reminder of all that is good in the world. He may be cranky on occasion but he is a living, breathing form of what unconditional love looks like.
Even though we are blessed with the most incredible boys and perfect dogs, we are happy to announce a new addition to our family!
Please welcome Roho the baby elephant! (yeah, I kind of freaked out my sister, too. All she heard was ‘baby’ and thought I had lost my mind)
We are fostering Roho for the next several years in the hopes he will learn the needed skills to successfully return to the wild after losing his mom to poachers. I will be getting my first pictures and official updates of his progress as Christmas arrives. He, by far, is my most well-behaved child.
Welcome to the family, Roho!
While we are so grateful to all the wonder 2019 supplied us, we are even more excited for what the future will bring. Yes, some of it may be unexpected and yes, it may not always look the way we imagined, but we have to be willing to let go of the life we wanted to live the life we are given. In my experience, the life we are given always far exceeds anything we believe we could want.
Happy Holidays to All.
Thank you for reading and may 2020 bring all your dreams alive!
Words more dreaded than this for a teenage boy simply do not exist.
This is where the story of our beleaguered hero begins.
He had a humble upbringing. Raised by a beautiful, age-defying, always-dancing mother and an extremely handsome (you’re welcome, Mad Dog) and benevolent father, our hero rose unassumingly through life’s ranks and, as any good story would have it, found himself face-to-face with doom (aka high school).
Our Humble Hero was not afraid for he new his birthright.
Great men are born to great men.
He had done the math (sort of, just don’t check his eighth grade Algebra 1 transcript) and realized he had everything he needed to succeed. He had wit, he had charm and he had incredible good looks (you’re welcome, Full Speed).
He had everything he needed except for one thing …
Most academic heroes, grammar gods and algebraic warriors know that without such skills, failure looms large. Their parents also know this. These parents state the obvious and hope their progeny take heed. Things like attending tutorials with teachers, studying in study hall (gasp!) and taking your time on tests all fall under the wisdom arc of great, parental knowledge.
Did our Humble Hero listen to these time-tested tenets of success?
Here is his story told in his own words:
Call to Adventure: The call to adventure occurs after parent night. Mad Dog learned that the Humble Hero’s L. A. teacher had tutorials. He came home and said “The Great Teacher has tutorials Tuesdays and Thursdays in the morning.
You should go”.
Refusal of the Call: Our hero ignored the call thinking that he was too cool for more school. He assured Mad Dog that everything was under control.
Acceptance of the Call: One day, the hero got his grammar/vocab quiz back. He had missed 9 grammar questions for a score of 82. It was at this moment he knew he had messed up.
Crossing the Threshold: The hero arrived at The Great Teacher’s door and he entered the special world of her classroom.
The journey had begun.
Meeting the Mentor: All heroes need a guide that shows them the ways of life. The Great Teacher showed the hero how to become one with the grammar gods.
Trials and Tests: In class, the hero had to deal with worksheets about grammar. The days went by and eventually the hero finally figured out what a preposition does.
The Supreme Ordeal: All of the hero’s hard work had prepared him for this moment. A 50 question quiz with half of those being grammar. Mere mortals could not withstand the pressure of this quiz. But, our hero isn’t mortal. Brandishing his magic weapon, (a worn down mechanical pencil), he was able to complete the quiz with only minimal suffering.
The Reward: Much to his surprise, the hero had accomplished his goal. He had gotten an A on the grammar quiz.
Return with the Elixir: The hero was overjoyed. He couldn’t wait to tell his parents what he had accomplished.
Mad Dog’s response “I was right, wasn’t I?”
The hero could only muster, “Maybe”.
From this moment forward, strange occurrences became the Humble Hero’s new normal. As he began to attend other tutorials along with continuing to be mentored by the Great Teacher, all his test scores and grades improved.
How could it be? Do you mean to tell me the Humble Hero had the power to succeed THE WHOLE TIME. Move over sister, your ruby slippers got nothing on this guy.
In our house, along with running (get it?) jokes about Full Speed’s dynamic track prospects, T.Puzzle is known to regularly shoot barbs at Full Speed. While these jabs are humorous and a natural part of any sibling relationship, sometimes, it’s too much. This is where Mad Dog or myself step in and talk to him about being respectful and all the other parent-y things one says in this situation. So, when Mad Dog and Full Speed returned from another track meet, I put the kibosh on T.Puzzle’s comments. We were about to watch a video of Full Speed’s 4×800 and I didn’t want any disrespectful comments flying about. Full Speed is trying and that’s all we should focus on.
That is, until I couldn’t.
As I watched Full Speed lope around the bend of that first curve of track, I wasn’t sure if Mad Dog had accidentally set his phone to slow-motion speed. My brain couldn’t comprehend what it was seeing and in combination with Full Speed’s pithy commentary, I lost my mind.
I could not stop laughing for the life of me. I tried, I really tried, but the more footage I watched, the more tickled I became.
Eventually, he was the only one in the frame shot and if we kidded ourselves a bit, it looked as if he was a lone runner cruising to first place. This made us all laugh even more.
Mad Dog explained if I thought this seemed rather slow, imagine his surprise when at a previous meet he watched Full Speed crawl to an even slower pace in the 4 x 400. How was it possible he had to run an entire lap less, but was almost doubly slow? Turns out he was misinformed and thought he was really running the 4 x 800.
He was conserving energy for a nonexistent second lap!
P.S. – Full Speed shaved 20 seconds off his time at last night’s track meet. While realistic in his capabilities, he is determined and improving.