Tuesday, July 31, 2012

2nd Grader

Tomorrow John begins 2nd grade.  We met his teacher tonight.  She is 24ish, but her skirt was an appropriate length, unlike kindergarten (which, admittedly, went well regardless).

In the past couple weeks, we have pieced together child care for both boys.  John has had to do playdates, including two all-day playdates with friends from his baseball team. Each time, he has come away with new stories about flatulence and video games.  Upon arrival home, he typically announces hunger (the almost-8-year old equivalent of a hug), wolfs down the usual John fare of pasta & fruit, and then is forced to shower (the almost-8-year old equivalent of waterboarding).  After he is clean, he is allowed a treat.  He usually chooses more fruit or a popsicle (essentially, frozen fruit), and it is during this "treat time" that he unleashes.

The scene is typically this:  John eating the popsicle, me trying to read an online newspaper article or blog post, Sam sleeping, and Brian finishing his 4th novel of the week. This is always when his communicative onslaught begins.

Brian used to tell me that 2nd grade was the WORST grade to sub for (this was when he was working on his master’s, and being a part-time stay-at-home dad and part-time student). I mostly ignored him because, well, I am wont to do that, but also, in my head, I thought it was irrelevant information. A room full of 2nd graders will never be an issue for me to face, ever, as God as my witness. I somehow missed the part about how I would someday have a 2nd grader.

Apparently the thing about 2nd graders is that they talk a lot. And by “a lot,” I mean like a cross between Joan Rivers, an auctioneer, and the Pit-of-Despair Albino from The Princess Bride.

This is taxing on the parents… especially the mother, to whom most of the chatter is directed. In fact, there is an entire chapter in my So You Have an 8 Year Old book entitled, “The 8 Year Old and His Mother.”

Here is a recent example:  

Him: “Mom, have you ever experienced a cat fart?”

Me: “Yes.”

Him: “Well today, Bryce and I were just sitting there and then his cat farted and we were like AWWWWWwwwwww NASSSSSSSTttyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ME: “Um-hmm. Finish your popsicle so you can brush your teeth and go to bed.”

Him: “I can't hurry because I don’t like to bite popsicles. You know why? Cuz I’m missing these teeth right here--mom, see these ones here?  Mom!? Mom.  Look.  Can you see these? If I bite with the spaces there, it hurts, so I have to bite with my molars, and then it gets all over my cheek, and that’s gross, so I just lick it like this. Watch. Mom? Are you watching? Mom! Look. Like this.”

Me: “Mmm-hmm. Cold hurts my teeth too.”

And as I was listening so so so carefully to every 8yo word and noticing every 8yo gesture, I came across one of the funniest blog posts ever, which was about how parenting starts with all these high hopes, and ends with you urinating into a cup in the back of your minivan. And being so incredibly timely and hilarious, I started laughing, and then I got going real good and those tears of hysterical insanity came, and neither almost-8-year olds (nor their fathers) have any understanding of things like this.

I then read this excerpt of the post to Brian, who had finally looked up from page 438 of 440 and wanted to know why I was crying, so I read this aloud:

When my taxed bladder threatens to give out and I'm in my minivan at Target, I'm faced with a dilemma. Schlep four boys into the ladies room (two of them are borderline too old for that, and the other two will inevitably lick the sink), or toss them Angry Birds on my iPhone while I crawl into the trunk and relieve myself in a Dunkin Donuts cup? I'm going with the cup every time. Ask my kids... they've become Angry Birds experts. (For the full text, click here.) 

I mean, really, that just says it all.

John finished his popsicle and we read Bunny Money, which, like everything else by Rosemary Wells is fabulous, and he told me about football practice. And just as he was drifting off, he roused himself again, saying, “Mom, why do people say your bragging when you’re not? Why do people say you’re bragging when you’re just stating a fact about your baseball team and how you won the championship last year? This kindergartner one time said that I was bragging when I said that. All I did was ask him if he liked sports and he said that he liked baseball so I told him that we won the championship and got those big trophies … why is that bragging when it’s true?”

Thank the good Lord, Brian walked in at that moment and gave a lovely speech about humility.

When Brian left, I said what any good sorority sister would: “Don’t you worry your head about that. They are just jealous, honey.”

That is not in the book about 8-year olds.

Him:  "What's 'jealous'?"

Me:  “Let’s talk about it tomorrow ... you’re so tired.”

A pause.

Him, finally: “Mom, you’re the only girl I like.”

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Great Grandpa B

Devil's Lake, Wisconsin, July 2012
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Monday, July 23, 2012

One can only presume that there are an inordinate number of late-summer weddings this year.

I thought y'all might like to be updated about how the football team is progressing.  Here's the most recent email from the coach and responses from 4 of the 8 parents:

Let's start practice this Thursday at 5:30. We will also practice Saturday at 9:30am.  The week of Aug 6, we will resume practice on Thursdays (5:30p) and Sundays (4pm). There will not be practice next week as both Coach F. and I are out of town.
NOTE: pls be sure your son wears shorts without pockets, has a mouthpiece, cleats and plenty of water. We will practice for no more than 1.5hrs.
Pls let me know if you have any questions.


C. will miss this week. We will be back in town the first week of August.


H. will be there this Thursday and is very excited.  Unfortunately we will be out of town for the Saturday practice but will be back and ready to go the week of Aug. 6th.  

P. won't be able to be there this week. But, will be there next week. Hoping the heat subsides. 


J. will be there for both practices this week and all thereafter barring illness.  He is missing his own birthday party, but so be it.


Oh yes, I did.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I meant to post this on July 15th

 Pappaw would've been 97 on that day.  Here he is with his namesake, John Emmett, age 9 monthsish.  Two of my favorite people ever.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In Which 2nd Grade Flag Football (pre-season) is Discussed at Length

For this fall, we gave John (our almost-eight-year old) the choice of playing soccer, baseball, or flag football.  Piano is non-negotiable, and I can only manage one other thing.

He chose football.

I should've known that this was going to be insane since the practices are at 5:15 p.m. on Thursdays on the other side of town.

After a brief period of research, I committed via email to a team for which one of John's friends played last year.  Within 10 minutes, I got an email response that said, "Please call me. --Coach."  I called him back and  endured what can only be described as "vetting."  I'm still not sure if he was vetting me as a parent or my kid, the actual player, but several times the phrase "touchy feely parents" was used (by him) in a derogatory sense.

I passed the test by simply saying, "I'm from Mississippi and so of course grew up under the impression that, for boys, nothing is more important than sports -- especially football."

My kid really wants to play flag football -- what's a mom to do except put on the ritz?

I thought we were totally in, but then tonight, I received the email copied below, which I feel compelled to  repost here because it is essentially a five-paragraph essay intended to dissuade the weak from fully committing to the team.  We are not weak.

I have added commentary.

Great talking with you earlier. (English teachers would call this a "hook".)
Just to be sure we are on the same page, I want to share some things about how we coach our team. (English teachers call this background information essential to preparing the reader for the content of the essay.)
Pls let me know you are ok with this. (The ever important thesis statement, which can be translated as this: You're either in or out based on your responses to each of these major points.)

Commitment level:  I understand that Kindergarten/1st grade flag football (John is going into 2nd grade, so clearly this is copied/pasted from last year's team vetting email) is not priority number one for your family.  However, we do expect your son to be at practices and games - on time.  Skipping a game to go to a birthday party is not okay.  (What if it's your great grandfather who is turning 100?) Missing a game to go to a wedding is understandable. (What if the bride is your mom's high school friend or long-lost cousin, whom you have never met and whom your mom really doesn't even talk to anymore but she has been asked to be a bridesmaid and is too cheap to hire a sitter, so she's dragging you to the wedding? What if everyone knows that the marriage isn't going to last?) If you have to miss a practice or game, please let me know in advance.  We also expect your son to pay attention and not be a distraction to other kids. (Good luck with that, sucker!) Football is difficult because every position requires a different set of skills and knowledge. (This is extremely different from other team sports such as baseball and soccer, where everyone is just going after the ball willy-nilly.)  We need to have time to prepare other kids to cover for your son if he is going to miss a game.  If time commitment is going to be a problem, let me know now. (No shotgun weddings allowed!) There is still time to move kids to different teams. (translation: When I was a child, my team never won because Billy Rae Jackson was absent SO much (he was forced to attend an inordinate number of weddings because his mama was a bridesmaid), so now I have an unhealthy focus on winning.)

Positions:  Although the league wants us to let every kid play every position as the season progresses, we will not do that(We do not care about the rules; winning is the most important thing.) It is just too difficult to teach every kid how to play every position. (Thank goodness we don't work for the public schools or we wouldn't have jobs.) We will stress that every position is important to the success of the team.  I will promise that every player will “start” at at least one position, and that every kid will get to catch or carry the ball at some point during the season.  We will have 9 kids on the roster, so several of them will start on both offense and defense.  I do not want to have conversations with parents about positions and playing time.  (If your kid is slow or has butterfingers, then I'm justified in leaving him on the bench.) If your son wants to play a different position, we’ll be happy to tell him what he needs to work on to prepare himself for that.(We have honed our skills at crushing dreams.)  At this age, I don’t believe in sitting kids on the bench,(though I do believe in vetting them and their parents in a two-stage process that includes phone AND email confirmations) so everyone will “own” at least one position (the coach's son "owns" quarterback; the assistant coach's kid "owns" running back; everyone else is a lineman.)  Some players may sit when we are on offense or defense, but nobody will sit for both.

Coaching Style:  We will stress that youth sports are supposed to be fun.  However, we also set our expectations high and expect the players to work hard and pay attention. While we are tough, I assure you that your son will have fun this season.  I don’t believe that you have to choose between “fun” and “competitive.”  We will do our best to achieve both.   (Losers never have as much fun as winners (kind of like brunettes).)  

I’m looking forward to getting started and meeting those of you that I don’t know yet.  If you have any questions, please let me know. 


Luckily, there are not any grotesque grammatical errors or spelling mistakes; however, there is the repugnant use of the abbreviation "pls" for "please."

I responded with what I consider to be minimal sarcasm.  Here it is:

Hi Coach!

Thanks for being so specific about your expectations.

We are fine with the time and attention commitment that you expect from us and John.  We have worked out a carpool for the weekday practices, which is what I was worried about.  I honestly do not think John will have a problem focusing, nor will he be a distraction for others.  We have never heard this complaint from any teacher, coach, babysitter, or anyone else who has supervised him.  Although I should make the disclaimer that of course we cannot give any sort of guarantee about the behavior of our child -- if I could figure out how to do that, then I imagine I'd be quite wealthy.

Regarding parent-coach conversations, I can guarantee that you will not be hearing from us.  My husband is famous for completely separating himself from all coaches & parents at all games and practices (to the point where people ask me why he is so anti-social), and he has a strict rule that he will not try to have discussions with John's coaches.  He is a coach himself, so he understands that having a good set of tight-lipped parents is a huge luxury.  Moreover, I was raised to be a Southern Lady, and so I will simply whisper vindictively about you to the other mothers, but never to your face.

And finally, we too believe fun is paramount, but honestly -- what is more fun than winning?

If you need us to provide recommendations from other coaches that have worked with John, I can certainly put you in touch with both his soccer and baseball coaches from the past year. 

I hope this makes you feel confident in John (and us)!  Please let me know what registration fees we owe and when the first practice will be held so that I can put it into all three of my calendars.

Thanks again, 

In which the bigs go on a boy-fantasty vacation to Colorado

 What could be better than RAFTING, SHOOTING, and LARGE DOGS?
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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Our Snuggle Bug

Ignore My Weird Chin Position
Note John's Large Feet (lower right)
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So Proud of his "Packback"

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Art Time with Nanny's Implements

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Fun at Nanny & Grampy's (week of July 4th)

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The 'Tosa Neighborhood Pool

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