Is summer over yet?

I’M ALMOST READY FOR the predictability of the school-year schedule. I don’t want to wish away my summer with all of its relaxed attitude and flip-flops and casual dress and late dinners and extra parking at the Metro lot. But my kids, whether they realize it or not, are showing signs of needing the structure that school imposes.

And I'm right there with 'em.

Take bedtimes, for instance. I’m referring here more to my children of the ‘90s than the Peezer, but what is it with these kids and the staying up really, really late? These weeks, they find no compelling reason to turn in at the usual stroke of nineish, and frankly, I have no good response to their arguments.

Last night, as I headed to bed, my final words to the Boss were: “I want you off the Xbox at midnight. That’s 90 minutes from now.” (I know; I’m nothing if not a stern enforcer of rules.) He shouted "Okay!" from his perch in the downstairs office, never missing a beat on his video game.

I awoke at 2:00 a.m. to hear his voice, filtering up through the air vent that connects our bedroom to the room below. “THERE’S ONE! GET HIM!” He was on Xbox Live, talking into a headset, collaborating with a friend on some game that involves the stalking and shooting of virtual beings.

I yelled downstairs: BOSS! IT’S TWO O’CLOCK! GO TO BED NOW!!

(Look, I understand the lure of video games. I had the first Atari ever made, and I played the heck out of it. No one rocked Pong and Combat like I did. But I don’t remember losing track of the time in the wee hours quite like that.)

I heard him say: “Uh oh, Michael? I gotta go, my Mom’s yelling at me.”

Then, this morning? I discovered both Seth and the Boss, crashed out on the sofa in the family room. Together. Wait, that’s not accurate. Seth was actually on the floor, face down, under the coffee table. Snoring. Hey, at least they turned off the TV!

Yes, for all their urging in June that they be allowed to have separate bedrooms, they end up many nights together, on the couch. I'm so glad we spent most of our kidless week making that happen for them.

You're welcome, boys!

But look – it’s August. There are less than four weeks of summer break left! You’d think they’d be getting bored with this routine of nothingness, day after day.

Ferris wheel I remember loving the beginning of August – it meant the Firemen’s Carnival, which brought a week of Big, Huge Fun to our otherwise quiet town. The rickety rides! The bingo tent with corn to mark the cards and its wall of fantastic prizes! The nickel pitch to win quality glassware, the ping pong balls that would win you an ill-fated goldfish, the cake wheel! The food tent, with its barbeque sandwiches, pizza, and oh, the French fries! The meeting up with friends, comparing tans, and making plans!

And then – poof! – it was gone, as if the high school athletic field had swallowed it whole.  Saturday night, the grounds were alive with the glow of neon, the hum of diesel engines, the smell of fried potatoes. But by Sunday afternoon, you could hear the crickets chirping. Four more interminable weeks of summer stood between me and the beginning of school, and THAT is when I became impatient. Sure, the swimming pool was still open, but even it was losing its appeal. I was starting to miss the daily interaction with friends and, yes, the rhythm of the school year. I began reading the local weekly, anxiously awaiting the issue that would list our homeroom assignments.

So. I suggested to the boys that it might be a good time for them to start on their summer homework packets. (What, already??) Yes, our schools issue them, and in middle- and high school, they count for a grade. Each kid needs to find and read a book or two and write about it. Easy, right?

I loved reading when I was a kid. I tore through books. I still do. But my boys are, I’m afraid, a product of their times. They don’t love reading. Yes, we read to them when they were little, before they could even sit up, and they loved it then. But now? They’d rather do anything else. Anything.

If and when they ever awake today, a note awaits them on the kitchen island. It says:

SETH: Please unload the dishwasher.

BOSS: Please do your laundry. Also? No Xbox or computer for you.  Midnight does NOT mean 2am. [Note to readers: I hid the controllers and disconnected the power cords. SO THERE.]

BOTH OF YOU: Choose a book TODAY and start reading it. Read your summer packet for guidelines on choosing an age-appropriate book.

Which I had to say, because both boys threaten to select something by Dr. Seuss. And I’m his biggest fan, but that’s not the point of the summer homework, kids. At least during the school year, they have deadlines and structure and grades to maintain and those help to keep them motivated and on-task, and when that structure's there, my job is actually a little bit easier.

I’m so ready for that.

Irreverent (imaginary) Tweets

HERE ARE SOME THINGS I MIGHT HAVE TWEETED this morning while sitting in the choir loft at my church, through not one but two morning services. This happens from time to time, on Big Church Sundays, that the choir is asked to sing during both services. Most of the time, this isn't a big deal and I manage just fine. But today, well, my head just wasn't in the game. Especially the second time around. This might be the Dirty Little Secret of choir members: We may look all pious and reverent, sitting up there in our matching robes, but don't assume we are all always completely engaged in what goes on around us.

Lucky for you, I didn't have my Blackberry, so I scrawled these notes on my bulletin.  As I sat quietly and tried to listen to everything. TWICE. (I know. This could mean I'm going straight to hell.)

Can someone pass me a Sudoku, maybe, or a crossword?

Can't believe I'm thinking this: I would rather be doing laundry.

SING IT, people! With enthusiasm!

Wait; that doesn't make any sense. Can you repeat that?

Hey, folks in the back! There are plenty of good seats left up here in the front! Good views of attractive singers!

If I close my eyes, maybe they'll just think I'm praying, or meditating. Won't they?

Hey, Man in the front row, WAKE UP! No fair you can sleep and I can't.

STORE LIST: Milk, bread, eggs, pepperoni, dog food, apples, fish sticks, Diet Coke, something for dinner…

What would YOU have Tweeted this morning, in church or otherwise?

# # # #

I don't often check my site analytics because I'm not all that hung up on my numbers. However, the search terms are fascinating! So, If you are the person who landed here by searching "tetanus from can of soup", "shit soup", "breast torture interrogation" or "fun finger food hat", I apologize, for I'm sure you didn't find here what you were expecting. Please refine your search terms and try again.

# # # #

One year ago today: I shared a cool postcard from Brigantine, NJ from the late 1960s. Commenters left some hilarious caption suggestions!

Be afraid when kids get quiet… even if they’re in 7th grade.

… actually, probably, ESPECIALLY if they’re in 7th grade. Because, as bad as it is when it’s loud? It’s even scarier when it’s quiet.

Today is the second day in a row the kids don’t have school. Yesterday, it was the teachers’ professional day that follows the end of each marking period. And today, of course, it’s Election Day. As much as the kids love not going to school, I think they may be getting bored. “Bubta” (remember, this is Oldest Son’s new nickname) invited two friends over to hang out today.  Shortly after lunchtime, they burst through the door, all snickers and snorts, and thumped down the basement stairs.  I heard frantic rooting around in the toolbox. I heard banging and conspiring. Then, I heard the electronic beeps of my treadmill, followed by the whirrrr of the belt. It seems someone thought it would be a Neat Idea to put a skateboard on the treadmill and fire ‘er up to high speed. You know – just to see what happens.

It also seems that someone (Bubta) forgot that I flipped out last night about the Very Same Thing.  Slow learners? Or simply selective memory?

After all that commotion, I next heard my giant exercise ball boing-boinging down the stairs, to much giggling and more snorting. I resisted the urge to prohibit this, too – after all, some kids were responsible for breaking another one of my stability balls several months ago.

Then… it got really quiet. For a moment, I was happy, as I was trying to do WORK upstairs. But then I thought – wait a minute! – as with toddlers, this can only mean trouble.

Fortunately, they left the house soon after I had concluded that they were probably falling prey to internet stalkers.  Phew! All quiet in the house again.

Several minutes later, I wandered out to the kitchen to make tea. Looking outside, I noticed that one of our jack o’lanterns had been placed in the middle of the bottom of our driveway. Next, one of the kids came a-hellin’ down the driveway on a bike, smashed into the pumpkin, crushing it to smithereens, and just barely skidded to a stop before reaching the road.  Because Murphy’s Law is always in effect, a car was coming down the hill at this exact moment. They driver slowed way down to avoid hitting the careening boy, glared at all three of them, and I’m sure he shook his head at the lack of parental supervision.

I’m back at my computer now, at a desk in my bedroom, and I can see the boys out on the road (don’t panic, we live on a dead end, which, you’ll recall, is English for cul-de-sac), whipping orange construction cones around.  These cones were left there to mark some big hole by the road, dug by workers on some utility project that’s been going on for a hundred years weeks now. Hmmmm.

Uh oh. Now they are back in the house. I hear them preparing snacks in the kitchen. The microwave is beeping. Cupboard doors are slamming. Sneakers are squeaking.

It can’t be good.

Now all is quiet again, except for the TV. They’ve settled in to eat their snacks. And you know what? I actually feel happy that these three kids have been hanging out together for several consecutive hours without getting arrested into an argument, drawing blood or getting injured.  And despite all the noise, I’d rather have them hanging here where I can at least hear and occasionally see them.

Having never been a 7th grade boy, I don’t “get” the stuff they do, but I understand the need to hang out with friends and, frankly, to want the adults to be very much in the background.

The mother of one of Bubta’s classmates posted this week on her Facebook page that she was trying to “figure out how much freedom to give a seventh grader.” I’m struggling with that, too. Got suggestions? Please comment.