Monday, September 16, 2013

To my 1st on His 9th


To my John-John:

Happy 9th birthday! Now stop making me feel old. I can remember almost every day of my pregnancy with you, and certainly the two weeks before your birth (which, incidentally, was two weeks AFTER your due date): I saw "Garden State" in the theater with your paternal grandmother, and we both cried. I did yoga every day. I didn't own a computer or laptop but somehow taught an online "Rhetorical Grammar" class through Johns Hopkins' Center for Talented Youth. I even remember having a phone conversation with your maternal grandmother in which I encouraged her to bring board games to fill in the gaps of the long days after your birth. (And she did, though she knew it was futile.)

But perhaps most importantly – since we were living in Minnesota at the time – I took walks by the Mississippi River and thought about these lyrics:

and the Mississippi's mighty

but it starts in Minnesota

at a place where you could walk across

with five steps down

and i guess that's how you started

like a pinprick to my heart

but at this point you rush right through me

and i start to drown …

(Surely you don't need me to explain that this is Indigo Girls’ brilliance, right?)

Lordy, John, do you rush me! I am slammed daily with the whole of mighty you. And though I work to make the experience simply curious, surprising, or interesting, I confess that more often than not, I act as if it’s shocking, embarrassing, or – worse – boring. Sometimes, I do start to drown, I’ll admit.

Sometimes 3rd grade is rough.

(Oh man. Look at that last paragraph – a high-tide of first person. Let me try again.)

Goodness, John, are you blossoming these days! You are bursting with eight-year-old boyness, yet somehow brimming with maturity. There are entire days now where I don’t feel the need to actively attend to you, so independent are your personality and abilities. Occasionally, I do begin to understand you, I’ll admit.

Drinking his green smoothie -- an every-other-day treat.

Recently, I wrote this essay about you for your 3rd grade teacher, who naively remarkably asked all parents to write an “All about My Child in 1,000 Words or Less” essay. Bless her heart. Does she know who she is dealing with? I am not even the problem. If you can imagine such a thing, there are parents of your classmates who are even more neurotic eager than me.

John Becker, 3rd grader

JEB, 3rd Grader
John Emmett Becker arrived in September of 2004 nearly two weeks after his due date. This tardiness – unfortunately – was no indication of his proclivity for being late about other important life events, such as waking up in the morning. John hops out of bed with the sun each day (even weekenddays) when we want to disown him are happy to help him to discover what the day holds. If he does not know what we have on the family agenda, he will say, without fail: “What are the plans for today?” He is hoping that the answer will involve Wii or Kindle Fire time, a play date with one of his many friends, a visit from his beloved grandparents or cousins, an outdoor adventure with his father (kayaking, camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, going to batting cages/shooting ranges, etc.), or a “Mom & John Day” (playing mini golf, eating sushi, riding go-karts, shopping for something he wants, having bookstore time, watching movies, etc.). He also tolerates takes piano lessons and enjoys team sports, specifically, baseball in spring, soccer or flag football in autumn, and basketball in winter. He has one brother, Sam (3½), who, for John, is a source of both amusement and devastation, depending on the day. Sam, on the other hand, worships his big brother John, and generally their father and I agree that our oldest is a good role model for our youngest. The four of us live in a small house near Ellington Agricultural Center, where we begrudgingly patiently share one bathroom. All of these family members, life experiences, and interests have shaped John into a loving, fiercely-competitive-with-a-side-of-perfectionism, energetic–yet-focused, curious, dramatic (e.g., in first grade he wrote a story entitled “Diary of a Dramadic [sic] Kid”), happy, and responsible almost nine-year-old.

With his newest Wimpy Kid book
John is a very social child; he is not shy and makes friends easily. He is quite athletic, which is fun yet frustrating for him at times. In our initial progress meeting with his second grade teacher, she noted that his academic progress was acceptable but that his competitiveness was a bit overwhelming on the playground. He often gets angry if he is not winning. He is aware of this, however, and is working hard and getting better at noticing and trying to overcome it. This is the social skill that his parents would most like to immediately eradicate forever for him to improve upon. John’s strongest academic subject is math. He is quick to pick up on mathematical concepts, eager/interested in the topic, and willing to practice without too much goading. He is a proficient reader but still prefers that we read to him. He reads on his own with encouragement, often fixating on enjoying the same book series repeatedly (Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants are favorites). He also enjoys audio books and frequently builds things while listening. Building in general is another strong ability John possesses, and he often astonishes us his with his complicated Lego vehicles, marble tracks, Hot Wheels racetracks, and other structures. He is less interested in language-arts-related topics such as reading, spelling, handwriting, and words in general, though this pains his English-teacher mother he has a wonderful vocabulary.

 John is motivated by rewards and a sense that he and those around him are being treated fairly. We have found that negative consequences typically anger John or cause him to act out further, though of course we occasionally LOSE IT and yell uselessly in his general direction are sometimes obligated to use them). He shows much more progress when given an explicit goal to work toward while being rewarded in small doses along the way. For example, his piano teacher has a marble jar system. When he corrects himself or focuses well during his lesson, she puts a marble in the jar. If he fidgets a lot, has a bad attitude, or becomes negative because he is not performing perfectly, the teacher takes away a marble. When he gets 10 marbles, he gets to choose a prize. This system, which we like because it encourages him to eliminate negative behaviors and increase positive ones, works very well and also gives him a sense of accomplishment. If his parents were more organized, they might consider implementing a similar arrangement at home.

 When he grows up, John hopes to join the Air Force like his paternal grandfather. He wants to fly jets and blow things up free persecuted people while having mid-air, upside-down adventures. This makes us feel bittersweet pride and terror, yet perfectly represents his personality, his desire to understand physics and sociology, and his spirit of adventure. We can only hope that he uses his time in 3rdgrade to enhance his many positive traits, build maturity, grow academically, and, of course, have fun. May the force be with him, his classmates, and, most of all, his parentsteacher.

(Author’s Note: This is only 800ish words. You’re welcome. J If anything is unclear, his motherparents will be happy to elaborate.)

Author’s subsequent note: Said teacher never even acknowledged receipt of the email with this attachment.

And so Love, after three pages, I’m not sure what else there is to say about you on your 9th birthday. Except maybe to remind you that recently you said you had changed your mind about the Air Force thing on account of the fact that you “can have way more adventures creating things as an engineer than risking your life in a fighter jet.” This is very sound argumentation, dear. I would fully support only the decision that keeps you the safest either decision happily.

However, I do have something to say to you, Love:  Please at least try to think about your, um, way with your girlfriend special friend that's a girl. Today we took your 2-year crush (let's call her "L") to play mini-golf and ride go-carts as part of your birthday celebration. As we got out of the car at the Fun Center, you said to her (a person who had just given you a gift certificate to an independent bookstore!), “If anyone asks, we are related.

She's so cute and sweet and smart that I can't even stand it.  RELATED?  Lord help us all.

Then later, when we were back at home and y'all were looking for a soccer ball, don’t think I didn’t notice that you asked her to “hide”while you went into the neighbor’s yard to inquire about the lost ball.   I found her crouched beside the Subaru, (so dutifully!), because she seems to LIKE you despite all of this and your incessantly dirty cheeks.) John– our neighbors (who have two daughters) are happy that you even have a friend that is a girl.

Sweet John, I know that I occasionally digress, but what I most want to say to you on your 9th trip around the sun is that I am constantly amazed by your wit, intellect, and compassion. God is totally getting me back  teaching me challenging lessons via you … lessons that cannot be learned any other way … not even by, say, attending an ivy-league school, or keeping an essay about one's child less than 1,000 words, or stepping down into one of the longest/largest rivers in the world.

You are loved and liked, Love.  Always.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 08, 2013


 John's flag football team had their first game on Saturday.  Even though they lost by two touchdowns, I'm happy to report that John, while playing receiver, got his first touchdown of his 2-season career.  Afterwards, we celebrated by eating at a Cuban restaurant where we all ordered exotic dishes except John, who chose a ham sandwich.  Guess whose food was the best? 

He's not just a football hero but a culinary connoisseur. 
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Summer is Gone

 The summer ended for me with a Mom & Sam impromptu trip to the beach, which Macy & Grandaddy attended wholeheartedly and partially funded.  Normally I don't allow them to do lavish things like this for me, but I thought it was high time to indulge them.  Plus, it was Glendaddy's birthday, so we had a reason to celebrate.

It rained, but Sam was a trooper.
 I had lovely moments like this, which I'd been avoiding all summer mostly because I believe that time will go by faster if one actually enjoys oneself.  It's a sad state, I know.  Go ahead and feel sorry for me.
 Sam is and has always been a good traveller.  He even allowed me to stop in Montgomery to tour the Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum/Home, where we were the only visitors except for two students from a local community college who informed me they were only there for the extra credit and left immediately after the movie.

In other news ...

John has been moving forward into 3rd grade with some up and downhill jags.  There was an incident with a required book recently, but overall I think he's handling everything well.  There seems to be more pressure/work although his only homework is an online math program.  I have assigned him extra spelling work through a fabulous website that I use with my students, and he actually likes it.  Ahem.

He is doing flag football again this fall, and between that, his piano lessons, Sam's soccer (I'm the team mom again -- yay me), and Brian's coaching, I don't expect to do much blogging before the holidays set in. 
 Here is John's "I'm From" poem.  I distinctly remember writing one of these, but I have no idea whether it was in 3rd grade or college.  In case you can't read it, here it is (I've taken the liberty of correcting some punctuation, capitalization, and spelling mistakes):

"Where I'm From"
by John Becker

I'm from the roads of Wisconsin, football, racing.
I'm from helicopters to planes.
I'm from video games to my snake.
I'm from Bob Segar to my brother's funny faces.
I'm from Quinn to Mac to Cohen.
I'm from me and that's not about to change.

I probably should've saved that for his birthday letter, but I've already typed it, so there.  Funny side note: The first draft had line 4 starting with, "I'm from bub sugar," and it was only through a long an drawn-out Q&A session that I finally figured out he was referring to BOB SEGER.

Don't worry Bri, it's metaphorical.  You are CLEARLY his father.

Posted by Picasa