Finn has succeeded in making decent grades, particularly in his Advanced Algebra class. At the start of the school year we drew up a contract with him, setting forth our expectations for his grades. The agreement stipulated that if his total GPA was above a certain number, he would be entitled to a cell phone.
This was his first year of junior high, and he had to learn to juggle numerous activities. In addition to the core curriculum he had the advanced class and two electives, Band and Spanish. He also ran cross-country every afternoon and of course kept up his once a week drum lessons. I was looking through scrapbooks recently and realized he’s on his third set of drums and fifth year of lessons– he’s well on his way to being able to replace Charlie Watts when he gives out.
Here he is with his first set of drums:
Here he is about a year or so ago doing a gut-busting drum solo:
I was positive Finn would remain phoneless. Algebra proved to be a challenge, and it revealed weaknesses in his study habits. We enlisted the help of the MasterMinds tutoring service in a last ditch effort to shore up his grades, and I’ll admit that I was snobby about the idea of tutoring, having never been tutored myself. When we got to the headquarters, however, we discovered that everyone who is anyone algebraically was being tutored, and the waiting room was a prime social hour. Plus, Finn’s tutor was much better than I was at explaining the commutative property.
So he’s entitled to a phone, and this afternoon we’re heading to Verizon to get it.
While we’ve been adamantly opposed to any technology for the kids that would take their focus away from reading and playing snipers in the front yard, I’ll admit that it will make things much easier on me once Finn is able to reach me when a practice is over, or when he has caught a ride home.
Tomorrow, for example, is not only Halloween, but also Homecoming, and Finn plans to walk from school to the village with a friend to watch the parade, then join other friends for Halloween activities, and then head to the football game. I’ll need him to check in with me and let me know where he is and who he’s with. He’s experiencing a new level of freedom, and so am I.
I’m taking the opportunity to upgrade my phone as well. I have the free phone that comes with a Verizon account. I need a phone with a QWERTY keyboard. I mainly use my phone to talk, but now I’ll be doing a small bit of texting and I’d love to be able to check all my emails and moderate blog comments from the phone as well. It would also thrill me to be able to tweet from my phone.
I’m completely flummoxed when I stand before the array of phones at the Verizon store and I figured I’d turn to y’all instead. Do I need a Blackberry, even though I’ve made fun of Bill’s addiction to his for years? Would something else like the Dare or Voyager or ENV2 be better? I’m committed to Verizon so don’t go suggesting that I get an iPhone, lovely as that sounds.
A while ago I wrote about Porter’s infatuation with our current president. I don’t, and have never, shared his love, but I didn’t feel that it was my place to prevent Porter from exploring different types of friendships.
In this month’s Lipstick magazine I have an article that updates the story a bit. You can read it here at Porter’s Pen Pal. (I’m having a bit of trouble with the link; I hope it works for you.)
I wrote that article several months ago, and in the interim there’s been a marvelous development. Porter’s best friend moved to Mississippi (that’s not marvelous; that was tragic) and began writing him letters. And just like that, Porter switched his attention from W and began writing Mac, asking about his new school and telling him the latest adventures with Feathers. I’ll admit it’s a relief not to receive those glossy pictures of George and Laura every week.
In other household news, for years I’ve told the boys they’re responsible for putting their needs on the grocery list. Need a poster board for an upcoming project? Don’t tell me– write it on the list. Every so often we discuss “wants” vs “needs” and they’ve pretty much quit writing Cocoa Puffs on the list. My mom didn’t buy chocolate cereal for me, so the law of irrational parenting says I cannot give it to them.
The list in its current state contains a strange request:
which Porter hastened to assure me is a need. It’s October, after all, and time to get used to the sight of blood. As long as it doesn’t end up on my furniture, I’m okay with it.
Two years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Crime & Punishment
(This one still breaks my heart, and some people were critical of our parenting in this instance, but looking back, I think we made the right decision).
Porter heard that the local scout chapter was looking for new members. Whoever leaked the information knows how to capture a boy’s interest– Porter came home chattering about making a car for the Pinebox Derby, earning badges for shooting, and camping at the Talladega Super Speedway. Bill took both Drew and Porter to the informational meeting and they were instant scouting converts. I drove them to the Boy Scout store to purchase their outfits, which consisted of khaki shorts, olive pants, a jaunty plaid kerchief and assorted patches denoting their den and pack and so forth that must be ironed or sewn on. Porter is extremely pissed that ten days have gone by and I haven’t managed to attach the patches to the shirt yet. He has plans to earn every badge possible in record time.
Last Saturday was the first official Webelo scout outing. (Webelo is the rank below Boy Scout, I believe. Bill told the boys that it stands for “We Be Loyal Scouts” which is flat out wrong; it’s “We’ll Be Loyal Scouts” which of course is grammatically correct. Keep in mind, though, that Bill believed until law school that the Preamble of the Constitution began “We da peoples,” and you can forgive his mistake.)
We were to meet at 2pm sharp at the state park for the Top Gun competition. Because Bill would be coaching soccer and then heading to work, I was the designated Webelo parent for my crew. Porter was beside himself with excitement. The boys have been shooting all sorts of guns when they visit Bill’s parents in Auburn, and last weekend Porter proved to be adept at shooting skeet. He wondered aloud whether he’d get a patch if helped other scouts who were having trouble handling a gun.
Saturday was sizzling, and after the soccer game the boys were already red and sweating as they piled into the van. They changed into their scout uniforms as we drove down the expressway. Once we entered the park, Drew grew queasy and we had to stop twice so he could throw up before we reached the Top Gun site.
The competition was already running an hour-and-a-half late by the time we showed up. While we waited, a Scoutmaster wearing full regalia gave us confusing instructions about what we were to do when we took our places at the range. Each boy had three large targets with circles on them. The targets were fastened on a line vertically with clothespins and the boys were to shoot at the bottom one in the prone position, at the middle one in the sitting position, and the top one in the standing position. Each Webelo also had a sheet of paper with one big target on it. The Scoutmaster told us that each boy should first take five shots at this sheet to establish the pattern of the gun, which I interpreted to mean whether it was shooting a little high or to the right.
At 3:45 our guys proceeded to the range and I saw why I hadn’t heard any shooting. In front of us were the tiniest BB guns known to man. If you thought it was a good idea to buy your four-year-old a BB gun, this would definitely be the size you’d want. They looked like they were manufactured before the Vietnam era, and may have had a small role in that war as well. I’m no gun expert, but I know a worn out gun when I see it.
No matter. The men running the range were all about gun safety, and rightly so, although it was hard to reconcile their stern admonitions with the sad weapons that lay in front of us. After we’d all been thoroughly briefed on safety goggles (TO BE WORN AT ALL TIMES), cocking the gun and chambering the BB for your Webelo (OF COURSE I CAN DO THAT YOU MORON EVEN THOUGH I HAVE TITTIES AND NO PENIS), and the fact that we had twenty minutes and no longer to shoot at the paper and three targets (BECAUSE WE’VE SCREWED UP ALL DAY AND YOU GUYS ARE PAYING FOR OUR TARDINESS) it was time to commence.
There was one snafu, which I pointed out to the Scoutmaster. I had two Webelos to manage, while everyone else had one. The Scoutmaster was completely bumfuzzled by the fact that one mother might show up with two children, and had I been forewarned of the situation, I certainly would have dragged Bill along with me. However, there were a number of Scouts wandering the grounds with no discernible duties, and I was sure the Master would motion one over to run the drill with one of my boys. Instead, he told me I could do both twins at the same time, although we wouldn’t be given any extra time to finish our shooting. In essence, Drew and Porter would be given ten minutes each while the other scouts got twenty. Nothing I’d seen so far led me to believe the Scoutmaster had an ounce of flexibility or humanity so I took the deal.
Now is the part where I must explain that Drew and Porter and I are fabulous at working out compromises and systems. We’re way past the point where multiples are horrifically hard work all the damn time (see ages 0 to 4) and into the finer points of sharing and rotating and working things out. So having less time than the other kids didn’t freak us out immediately; we just needed a couple of seconds to create a plan to deal with it.
I turned to the twins and told them we’d be shooting twice as fast as the other kids, but that was no big deal since they’d been shooting a lot lately and would certainly be able to hit the three targets and paper in ten minutes. I told them we’d rotate positions and showed them where the non-shooter was to stand.
“QUIT TALKING, MOM!” the Scoutmaster yelled at me.
“My boys need to know the plan if they’re going to be speed-shooting,” I told him. I might as well have been talking to the clouds.
“Scouts ready, and FIRE!” And the exercise began.
I started with Drew. He stood and fired at the paper, then got into the prone position and fired at his lowest target. I had two jobs: to cock the gun and chamber the bullet and to count his shots to ensure that he took no more than ten shots at each target. I was going to have him do all his targets, then switch to Porter, but the Scoutmaster was behind me and shouted, “ROTATE THE BOYS NOW!” so I had Drew retreat to the watching spot and motioned Porter to come up to the gun.
“My safety goggles are blurry,” Porter whispered.
“We’ll trade them with Drew’s,” I said. “Turn away from the range.”
I quickly yanked Drew’s goggles off and switched them with Porter’s. “NOT A GOOD IDEA, MOM!” the Scoutmaster shouted.
“Better idea than a boy shooting when he cannot see,” I muttered. “Ignore him and shoot, honey,” I told Porter.
“LESS TALKING AND MORE SHOOTING MOM,” the Scoutmaster said.
I turned around. “Listen, Sir. These boys have to rotate safely if they are going to rotate between each target, and if they are going to do so, we have to have a plan, and that requires me to communicate with them. By talking.”
I turned back around.
“Ok Porter, you do the white sheet first. That’s just to see the pattern of the gun, so take a couple of shots and then we’ll get to the targets.”
He did, and we concluded that the gun was shooting low and to the right.
Porter finished his prone position target, and then I had him go ahead and do his sitting position target since the Scoutmaster had momentarily disappeared and I could save time by avoiding a twin rotation.
Then Drew did his sitting and standing targets and Porter finished his standing target. There were two other boys still shooting when we finished.
“My God,” the dad next to me said. “I don’t know how you handled counting all that for two boys, much less with the Scoutmaster yelling at you.”
I was feeling pretty triumphant myself. It was short lived.
As we stood in line to have our targets scored, I realized that the Scouts at the scoring table were carefully scrutinizing the white sheet of paper, the one we’d been told was to be used to establish the pattern of the gun. I jostled closer, and saw that the Scouts were adding the numbers on the target, and telling the kids who’d made a thirty-five or higher to take the paper to the red tent and get a badge.
I sidled back in line and glanced at Drew’s white paper. He’d hit it five times and had a forty-one. He’d get a badge. I looked at Porter’s. I remembered telling him to take only a couple of practice shots and sure enough, he had two shots in the ring right outside the bullseye for a total of eighteen.
I didn’t tell the boys what was about to happen. I let it all play out in front of the scorekeepers, who watched as Porter’s lip trembled and he wept.
“I didn’t know that was for a patch,” he mumbled. “I only shot at it two times.”
He was right. I’d encouraged him to take only two shots at it, because NO ONE had told us that white sheet of paper had anything to do with a patch. I hugged him tight while we walked with Drew to the red tent to get his patch.
It was a tough day for mothering. When we got home I congratulated Drew on earning his badge, and then told him that Porter was extremely upset that he hadn’t gotten his.
“He didn’t know that the white paper was for the badge, Mom. I didn’t know either. I just took five shots and hit it, and he didn’t shoot it five times because that man was yelling at us.”
“Well, it would really make Porter feel better if you say that when we go inside and tell Daddy what happened.”
We had a five minute pity-party in honor of Porter and the injustice of it all, and then we gorged on food Bill had picked up from the Greek Festival.
It will be a cold day in hell before I handle another Webelo outing.
One Year Ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Sexy Singers, But Can They Spell?
I’m all about encouraging the boys’ love of science. Sadly, they’re not satisfied with the science they learn at school, because television has taught them that real scientists use test tubes and Bunsen burners, both of which are tops on Porter’s Christmas list. A Bunsen burner = fire and last time the boys played with fire, (that I’m aware of) a parakeet died. Here’s hoping he adds more to the list in the coming months.
Porter has spent the last year concocting potions in his bathroom out of non-approved materials such as Pert, dirt, mouthwash, shampoo, rocks, toilet paper, and other household objects stolen from my kitchen.
This may look like a damn fine mess to you, as it did to me. Scissors, aluminum foil, the plastic case from an iPod, murky water– where’s the science in this?
“It’s a model of the Bermuda triangle, and the blue water is the ocean around it,” Porter said. “Can we go to the Bermuda triangle? But lots of people don’t come back, so we should take guns and parachutes and food and cell phones.”
“We’ll see,” I said. “But we’re not going anywhere until you clean up this bathroom.”
His scientific method was cutting into my grocery budget. He especially enjoys producing bubbles and relies on bathroom items intended for hygienic purposes to generate them. Once I came home just hours after a trip to the Dollar Store and found that he’d confiscated an entire cabinet full of shampoo, which he was about to pour into the bathtub to create a tidal wave.
I put an immediate stop to that. Porter needs as many cleaning products on his body as he can apply in one shower.
In a rare instance of exceptional parenting, I bought Porter a book full of science experiments and the supplies needed to perform them, in hopes that I could cut down on our toiletry consumption and steer his investigations in a more scholarly direction. Sandwich Bag Science contains 25 experiments that require vinegar, baking soda, straws, dried lima beans, Borax, and not a single drop of acne wash, conditioner, mouthwash or toothpaste.
Drew became equally obsessed with the book, and Porter and Drew ran through the first ten exercises in no time. I restricted their activities to the driveway. All was well until yesterday. Finn was home sick, I cleaned up a bit, and made a horrifying discovery in Drew’s bathroom cabinet.
I swirled the mixture around a bit but was unable to identify any ingredients, except the minty smell of mouthwash.
Porter disavowed all knowledge of the stuff, and proclaimed that he had moved on to sprouting lima beans. Drew squirmed under interrogation and finally confessed that he might have put some powder from Porter’s rock tumbling kit, toothpaste, blue Powerade and a squirt of Neutrogena face cleanser into the plastic cup.
“Mom said you can’t put anything you put on your body into your science experiments,” Porter said with the authority of a ten-year-old who knew that practice was so last week.
“Shut up,” Drew said, with the attitude of a kid with a couple of bullies in his class.
I was going to impose discipline, but I decided that being scientists was so much better than the alternative.
One year ago in My Tiny Kingdom: They Didn’t Analyze The Men So I Will