Bennett, age 9 1/2

I’m very careful about what I write these days. (also, you might be thinking, “Nicole, you never write anything these days.” Fair enough.)  I have to be; the boys are getting older, and I would never write about something that would be embarrassing to them. So I’m wording this carefully, but as this blog is our scrapbook and this has become a huge part of Bennett’s life, I decided to record this.

this picture cracks me up...it was him, posing like a senior picture (he's seen them on the walls of his grandparents' houses)!

this picture cracks me up…it was his idea, posing like a senior picture (he’s seen them on the walls of his grandparents’ houses)!

By the end of last school year, I know I mentioned on the blog that Bennett had started getting in just a little bit of trouble at school.  Totally, totally minor…really, it was just him making some bad choices in the presence of certain friends. And it was right at the end of the year, so we discussed it some early in the summer.  Like how he might need to make some new friends, or really be aware of the choices he makes when around others, or else he may find himself in trouble.

Over the summer he also developed a bit of a negative attitude toward school.  This is a first for any of my kids, really, and it was unexpected. However, it boiled down to this: he just wants to be a baseball player.

So really, in his mind, he doesn’t need to be that educated. Like, he even came up with this gem this summer, completely on his own: “I want to go to a college that has a great baseball team and is just like, ok at academics. So it’s not too hard, and I can mostly focus on playing ball.”

Ohmygosh. Stop it. You’re nine.

IMG_2681

love that grin.

We talked a few different times over the summer about school. How important it is. How to choose (and behave around) friends. Of course, I tried to figure out what was causing this issue, and nothing bad happened to the best of my knowledge. What I do know is that Bennett is bright, a good student, much more confident in his math skills than reading (though he reads above grade level, he isn’t very sure of himself), and a middle child.

Yep, I think him being a middle is playing into this, too. He’s only 2 years behind Luke, so most teachers know him or have taught him by the time B gets them. And Luke is the kind of kid who volunteers for a lot of stuff, and he’s easygoing, and everyone in the school knew him, etc. Luke’s far from perfect, but you get the point…Bennett is second, and he’s a totally different kind of kid.

Then there’s Jack Henry, whose reading level is crazy-high for his age (which slays me, because as a toddler, I thought he was going to have some delays), and couple that with Bennett’s lack of confidence in his reading and comprehension skills, and you’ve got B feeling that middle-child pinch.

I made the following points, as lightheartedly as possible, but in a way that I hope got my point across:

1. If you want to be a pro baseball player, you first need to be a high school baseball player, then a college baseball player (I know that kids get drafted without playing college ball, and so does B, but he knows it’s rare), and then the draft/minors/MLB.

2. If you have to, view 4th grade as a step towards achieving your first big goal: high school baseball player. (This makes me roll my eyes, but I was grasping at straws to engage this child.)

3. My main point: no coach, at any point in this timeline, wants a dumb athlete. They want you to be able to critically think through plays. Plus, there’s the whole staying-eligible-to-play-based-on-your-grades thing.

Before school started, I got a chance to meet B’s teacher, who is new to our elementary school (ie hasn’t taught Luke) but isn’t a new teacher (and she has twin 7th grade boys!). I mentioned to her that Bennett’s attitude toward school had soured just a bit, and that he really wanted to be an athlete. Her immediate comment was, “Well, he will need to be able to read his contract, right?” I think this is going to be a good match. :)

School started 3 days ago, and Bennett has come home every day smiling and saying that things have been going well. So we’re off to a good start.

Only 175 days+/- to go.

First Day, 2014 Edition

It’s here. Already. The first day of school.

First grade and fourth for Jack Henry and Bennett at our beloved elementary school; sixth grade, and whole new world for Luke, at the middle school.

All have reported that they had good days, even sullen Bennett, who will be getting his own post soon. Jack Henry said he had an “AWESOME!!!” day, which is saying something because he absolutely adored his kindergarten teacher, and I was a little worried he’d be missing her today.

No homework, which is good, because JH has a baseball game this evening!

And, um, I had a great day. I’ll be driving Luke to school (about 7 minutes from our house), and his drop-off time is about 40 minutes after the other boys leave with Matt in the morning, so my day is shorter than last year. However, I made the most of it with some volunteering at the elementary, a complete workout with no interruptions, driving around with the windows open and the music up a little too loud, celebrating the fact that a) I chose the songs I wanted to hear and b) I didn’t have to edit salty language that little ears would hear and repeat. Grocery shopped, baked some cookies for first day after-school snack, and it was time to get the younger boys. These days are going to FLY by.

The One Where I’ve Got to Give Them Props

We got home last night from a week-long vacation in Colorado (lots more to come on that!). It came on the heels of a long weekend in Wisconsin, as we had about 36 hours at home to regroup and get on the plane to Colorado.

Therefore, this morning has consisted of unpacking, laundry, and getting ready to grocery shop. The boys caught up on American Ninja Warrior until I was ready for their help.

Then it was time for a few errands. While at Sam’s Club, in line to buy the boys (ahem, cough, lunch) pretzels and cheese, Bennett came up to me and said this:

“Mom, you know the wall by the couch in the basement? There are some cracks in it. From us playing American Ninja Warrior and jumping off the wall.”

Me: “when did this happen?”

B: “Um, a while ago. Before vacation.”

I walked over to the table where the boys were sitting and asked why no one told me when it happened.

Luke: “Well, it wasn’t really a good time. You were busy getting us ready to go.”

Me: “And now, at Sam’s Club, seemed like a good time?”

L&B in unison: “Yes.”

So. I’m anxious to get home and see exactly what happened…

—–

Update: so the damage is actually really minimal. Thankfully. Which means that the parenting I’ve been doing the last 2 hours is based on honesty and not being deceitful, etc. I did not really have the energy for this today, but obviously, it had to be addressed fully now.

Dear Parenting: you are a delight.

Jack Henry’s New Dream

Toward the end of his baseball season, Jack Henry played catcher in a few games.

20140720-133631-48991130.jpg

It was adorable.

After the first time, he said he didn’t really like it. But after a few more tries, he was sold on being a catcher.

I went to garage sales one time early this summer, and found a practically-new kids’ catcher’s mitt for five bucks. I bought it simply because we have 3 baseball players in the house, and I thought when someone was doing pitching practice, whoever was catching could use the mitt.

Honestly, I’ve never much wanted any of the boys to be a catcher. It’s the position with so much potential for impact and concussion (which is why I don’t want them playing football, either!), and it’s bad on your knees. However, if any of our kids are built to be catchers, let’s face it, it’s Jack Henry.

—–

Well. After the season ended, and Jack Henry made his announcement that he was going to be a catcher, that mitt became his. It’s been on his hand for hours and hours during the last 3 weeks, including the times his brothers have taken out into the side yard to teach him some basic catching skills. Luke and Bennett were surprisingly patient and gave some really good instruction…it was a summer parenting high for me to watch :).

The glove had obviously not been oiled or broken in very well by its previous owner, so the other day I found this note on the counter for Matt.

20140720-134237-49357783.jpg

20140720-143042-52242613.jpg

I just don’t want to forget the sweet little-boy writing, the passion behind this big ambition, and the time he’s already spending trying to get better. Maybe he won’t end up loving being a catcher, but for now, it’s his dream. And I’m loving being able to watch it.

Serious Question

I’ve come to the realization that are 2 kinds of people in this world: those who love the Robert Munsch book Love You Forever and those who hate it.

Friends, I must know which side you’re on. But you can be anonymous about it and just answer here:

Thanks for answering this super-important question. ;)

In case you’re wondering what made me think of this, it was this episode of Friends:

Life Skills 101

“So, Mom, did you know that there was like a TOTAL CASCADING WATERFALL OF MILK off the counter this morning? Right here. My sock got some on it, but I still wore it all day.”

This was a conversation I had with Bennett this evening while he was working on making dinner for himself and his brothers. It came up because as he was making grilled pj&j, he dropped glob of jelly on his sock, and I told him to just take it off since it was almost time to shower anyway.

20140629-213543-77743700.jpg

And actually, I did not know about the milk waterfall. I was upstairs getting ready for the day, and B and Luke were eating breakfast together (Matt and Jack Henry were already on their way to baseball).

They’d done a pretty good job of cleaning it up, but you know, didn’t do it in a way that would truly pass Mom-inspection. So, I pulled out my newest trick: telling him I was going to teach him a Life Skill, instead of correcting what wasn’t done right.

—–

“Life Skill” has become a frequently-used phrase around here this summer. A couple of months ago, I realized that there are SO MANY THINGS – all the things – that a kid needs to know and know how to do. It’s not like you can just put them in a book and have them read it. It’s things that pop up in day-to-day life that make you think, “hey, a kid needs to know this.” Maybe I should make a list.

Like being able to take a few bucks into a Quik Trip and buy a bag of ice (don’t worry, I sent 2 of them in together). Or how to do a load of laundry start to finish, or use the dishwasher. Or how to go up to a concession stand with your water bottle and politely ask for a refill, and say thank you when they give it back to you. Or how to order in a restaurant, giving the waitress your attention.

Or, figuring out how to put the dishes away that you can’t reach.

20140629-213542-77742831.jpg

—–

So this evening, instead of correcting the cleanup that was done in the morning, I said, “Hey, buddy, I’ve got a Life Skill to teach you. Remember that little ant problem we’ve had in the kitchen? Well, ants like leftover food that’s on the floor. And if you don’t wipe up a spill like milk with a wet paper towel, they’ll find it.”

Easy peasy. Doesn’t sound judgmental. Problem solved.

WHY IN THE WORLD DID I NOT THINK OF THIS APPROACH BEFORE NOW?

—–

My favorite Life Skill teaching happened this morning though. Bennett, Luke and I were in the van on the way to Jack Henry’s last baseball game of the summer season. I had a bracelet I couldn’t put on myself, so I reached my arm behind me and told B what to do, then said, “You know, this a good skill for you to have when you’re older. Your girlfriend or wife might sometime need help with this.”

Bennett’s immediate response: “Well, the bracelet is on, but this is one skill I’m not going to need. Because I’m going to be single, and be a baseball player, and live with my dog.”

This has literally been his mantra all summer long. About not getting married, having his buddy Connor as a roommate since they’ll both be professional baseball players, and having a dog. (I’m all: “Life Skill: someone needs to take care of your dog while you’re on the road all the time with the MLB, cowboy. Maybe a wife would be a good idea. Also? I want grandchildren.”)

—–

So, help me out. What are some other things my boys need to know how to do on their own?

Telling Time.

Sunday night, after the last of the boys’ baseball games was officially rained out, we hopped in the van to go get frozen custard.

Jack Henry grabbed this book on his way out the door:

20140624-091618-33378821.jpg

It’s a handmade quiet book that my mom’s beloved sister, my Aunt Dee, made for me when I was really little. It has all sorts of fun little activities, and my boys have all enjoyed it, too, as preschoolers. I thought they’d outgrown it for the most part until the other night, when Jack Henry pointed out the clock page.

JH asked if we’d teach him to tell time, so on the 15-minute drive, we taught him the hour and minute hand, and how to count by 5’s around the clock. Then he wanted me to give him times to put on the clock with its moveable hands, so I did.

20140624-213037-77437675.jpg

20140624-213036-77436737.jpg

Matt decided to complicate it a bit and taught him quarter after and to and half past the hour…I thought that was too hard for him, but he got it!

It just made me so happy to know that this book is still being used and teaching another generation!

Thank you, Aunt Dee!

20140624-213625-77785732.jpg