The End of the School Year is here!

M-ito graduated from 2nd grade today. When the headmaster told the lower school that the 2009-10 school year was officially over and added, “you can yell as loud as you want to, now – ” the room exploded with K-4th graders going crazy – including M-ito. I watched him from a few rows back with Mom-ita. He yelled as loud as he could with his friends. It was a whole body yell. An exhalation of all the work he put into his education this year. So many evenings of push and pull over homework assignments. My son has his first real understanding of what summer vacation is about.

In Kindergarten he was too young to understand the rhythms of school and summer. Last year he was starting to understand the process but with the changing over from one school to another it was all still new to him. But this year… well, he yelled and screamed with the rest of his friends, his sneakers ready to run on grass, his ears listening to waves washing up on a beach, electrical impulses in his brain ready to encounter summer camp of three different types, and his psyche ready – almost longing for long endless days in the heat.

I can still feel those feelings in my bones, like it was just yesterday. The dry wind outside my window whispering… Summer.


We are finishing dinner. I’ve just found out that M-ito and all his classmates are given a yearbook at school and that it is a ritual to get signatures from your friends and classmates during this whole week. M-ito is excited about it and it makes me smile. He says he wants to get the headmaster’s signature.

“I know exactly what I’m going to write in my friend’s books,” he says.

“What?” Mom-ita asks.

“To my good friends, for G-ito and J-ito,” he begins, “and to my best friends, for Mik-ito and K-ito.” He smiles as he looks at us. A settled smile it is. He has made friends this year and has both good and best friends.

Last year at this time all was in chaos. We were changing schools and we left on unhappy terms with many parents and with much disappointment in faculty. I just reread my entry from one year ago, June 7th, 2009, Classroom Blues.

It is a year later and my son has found a home base for the next six years, and so have we.

Hoarding Pencils Redux

With only three weeks of school left, my son is still hoarding pencils. At school he has found the following types:

  • #2 yellow pencil
  • “2nd grade is #1” pencil
  • Sparkly blue pencil
  • “5th grade is awesome” pencil

His favorite is the sparkly blue pencil because, well, it’s sparkly. At present he has exactly 30 pencils in his desk. His teacher knows about his problem. M-ito has been heard to say recently, “I will hand in all but 5 this week.” Or… that may have been Mom-ita.

Two Hand Touch

M-ito and his friend K-ito wanted to learn how to play football. M-ito knew nothing about the game and K-ito had a smattering of phrases and terms but no real knowledge of the game. I played eleven years of ball through high school. I figured, how hard could it be? We were at K-ito’s home with a bar-b-q in the backyard heating up, Mom-ita with K-ito’s mom and friends socializingj. M-ito, K-ito and me were in the large front yard (large enough for a game of nerf football) and the boys told me their desire.

“How do you play? The rules,” K-ito asked.

“Yeah,” M-ito added lowering his head. “I don’t know how to play. It’s confusing.”

I took the nerf in hand and tried to explain. “That big tree over there in line with that bush over there, that’s where you want to run the ball into. That’s your end zone where you score a touchdown.”

“Then do you kick the ball?” K-ito asked.

“For extra points, but we won’t do that here. We’ll keep it simple. You run the ball in there you get a point and we’ll play to five.”

“Don’t you get points if you hit the tree with a kick? You know the things that stand up in the air…”

“The goal posts?”

“Yeah. The goal posts.”

“We’ll forget about them for the moment. Just run the ball into the end zone.”

“Then,” Kenny added, “you have to throw the ball onto the ground like this.” He spiked the ball and raised his hands up into the air.

“Okay. We’ll use that. And you’ll have 4 downs -”

“Downs?” M-ito asked.

“Tries, to get the ball into the end zone for a touchdown or a score. Four tires and then I get the ball and try to get into the other end zone, between the pitchback and the bush over there.”

They both nodded but didn’t seem to understand.

“We’ll play touch with two hands,” K-ito said, then demonstrated the technique.

“Right. No tackle. Just two-hand-touch.”

“What’s that mean?” M-ito asked.

“When you’re touched with two hands you’re down and have to stop and try again. You can pass the ball forward but you have to catch it or it’s an incomplete pass.”

“Why?” M-ito asked.

“I don’t know. It’s just the rules.”

“Can we play it’s okay to miss and still score?”

“You mean drop the ball?”

M-ito nodded.


I tried to explain a lateral pass but that didn’t go anywhere so we just kicked off and started.

Sometimes it’s best to just play. It was them against me. Every time we scored we spiked the ball. They allowed me to pass to myself. I taught them the faint and the juke – fake left run right, fake right run left. We got bit up by mosquitos and collected a few grass burns on our knees. Another dad helped me out later and each of the two games the Dad-ditos lost exactly 5 points to 4.

Declaration of the Playing of Sports

M-ito wants to play lacrosse. He learned about it in gym class – which is really neat if you think about it. I remember in gym class doing 8-count burpees (squat thrusts I think they were officially called) and then not much else. And that was in high school. I don’t ever remember being taught skills in gym – though we must have been, right? How else did I learn how to throw a ball and play football and basketball? My brother didn’t teach me everything, did he? Well, in M-ito’s school this year they did skills practice in baseball (t-ball), basketball, soccer, and lacrosse. By 5th grade every child must choose a sport and play on the school team. There are two teams, a traveling/serious team and a for fun team. though it sounds very much like an A-side B-side kind of thing. We’ll have to see how it works as we get closer to 5th grade. Thankfully he’s only finishing up 2nd grade now.

But back to the gym class. They brought out lacrosse sticks and the kids were taught how to throw the ball, scoop and rake the ball into the net of the stick (what is that part of the stick called?) and somehow M-ito liked it. He came home and declared he was going to play lacrosse in 5th grade. “You know you get to whack each other with a stick?” he told us.

“That’s why you want to play?” I asked.

“It’s fun.”

“The whacking?”

He didn’t answer.

I have two reactions to this. The first is, wow, that’s great. He’s got some interest in a team sport and wants to learn more about it. I played lots of team sports and overall they were a good thing for me to do. The second reaction is, did it have to be lacrosse? It’s one of the few sports I really don’t know anything about. I didn’t play it – never actually picked up a stick and threw a ball or had even a catch with one. I know nil about it. How am I going to get involved coaching and all that kind of thing if I know nothing about it? Okay I had a third thought. Did M-ito pick this sport because he knew I knew nothing about it? Naaaa, that’s too much about me and not enough about my son.

We learned that a friend of his from school was going to a week-long summer sport camp in lacrosse and baseball (one week of each) and Mom-ita quickly looked into it for M-ito. M-ito said he wants to do both. The camp has a lot of college students and coaches working with the kids – a 3-1 ratio is advertised. They’ll be arranged by age and skill level. It’ll be four days each week 9am-1:30pm each day. A number of phone calls and emails later and Mom-ita had two other friends and M-ito signed up for a week of each. Mom-ita is a wonder at these things.

Since then I’ve watched some lacrosse on TV (we all did last night – a college game), talked to two friends who played in college and picked up a stick and played a little with a ball. So I’ve learned a few things about the game even if I’m still just an inch away from knowing nothing about the sport. My concerns are:

  • It’s a contact sport and M-ito hasn’t, up until now, really been a very physical sport player – though that may be changing. He said he didn’t like soccer a month ago because in recess they played too rough. This was after months of saying he liked the game. I had to explain to him that in a real soccer game there were rules and a referee and that kind of play wasn’t really allowed. He has told me he’d never play rugby after watching a game when he was 3 and hearing about all the injuries I received over the 16 years I played. “That’s too rough,” he’s said many times. Mom-ita was thrilled to hear him say that.
  • As a follow-up to point one above – they wear shoulder pads and helmet’s and gloves on their hands and there is something called stick-checking that speaks to M-ito’s earlier comment about “whacking each other with their sticks.). Oh yeah and he has to get a mouthpiece.
  • I have no idea about the coaching – whether it’ll be good, bad, or indifferent. And coaching is so important to both a good sport and a good social experience. Will they promote good sportsmanship? Will it be age appropriate?
  • There’s a lot of running in the game – always good for kids to run around. And he’ll be outside playing the whole time and in the summer kids should be outside playing on grass and running around. This is not a concern but I had to add it here to balance out the rest.

I’m glad he’s going to try these two sports, both lacrosse and baseball – he should try different sports. And baseball is a whole ‘nother story. I still remember the first time I tried to have a catch with him. We bought mitts and a ball (a hard ball – what was I thinking?) and the first time I threw the ball to M-ito it hit him in the chest and that was all we did for another year with baseball. It didn’t occur to me how much skill and hand-eye coordination goes into having a catch with a ball and mitt. I should have thought that one through. But recently, in gym again (yeah gym!) they’ve been playing t-ball and he’s become interested again. We’ve had a number of catches down at the playground with soft rubber balls and as of yesterday a denser one – working our way back up towards a hard ball. So… he’ll have the chance to learn the skills of both games and play with some friends without committing to a long season of play – which he would have to do if he played on a team. So… again, this seems like a good thing too.

And… I think Mom-ita will have to work that week so I should be able to take him to the first few days and watch the whole thing. I’ll bring my lawn chair, a good book, or maybe my computer and some work (no, no… don’t think that way!). Or maybe I’ll bring my stick (we’re going to get one for each of us today I think so we can have a catch) and my mitt, just in case they need an extra hand. You never know. When you’re a Dad-dito it’s good to be prepared.

Hot Dogs in my Hair

We’re in the car together, all three of us, heading towards Austino’s for his pick-up before heading in to school.

” Mom-ita,” M-ito says, ” you know in art we’re drawing portraits of each other. I’m drawing a portrait of N-ito and he’s drawing one of me. Some people are still on the sketching part. Mom-ita, I gave him a suggestion. N-ito is kind of drawing my hair like this -” in the back seat I could see him place his hand on his bangs and move it downward to the ends of his hair, “and it looks like I have hotdogs in my hair. You know. So I told him to please not draw me with hot dogs in my hair.”

A few minutes later we have Austino in the back seat and we’re all off to school. We play some improv games like make up a commercial for a crazy product like a sweat scraper, a squirrel whacker, or an orange scooper. Many of the products explode. All can be ordered 24 hours a day because there’s always an operator standing by, and many of the products are from Ronco.

Still, nothing compares to hot dogs in your hair.

Small Gems

1. My son is in his PJ’s. He’s bent over almost double, pulling his pants down off of his butt and back up onto his waist like a rapid fire mooning project. Mom-ita and I ask him what he’s doing.

“I’m just getting the static out of them,” M-ito says.

2. M-ito is standing at the table doing his homework. He’s playing with the newest toy that’s sweeping his school, silly bands (different colored and shaped rubber bands).

“You’re addicted to them,” Mom-ita says.

“Nooooo,” M-ito says. “The only thing I’m addicted to is shiny objects.”