Parental Angst

I took the day off from work today so I could register Brandon for middle school – hard to believe he’s going to be in sixth grade! It seems like it was just yesterday I was fishing his granola bar out of the VCR and rocks out his mouth and now he’s a full-fledged middle schooler.  

As soon as we walked into the school, I was overcome with a feeling of awkwardness and wondering if my outfit was dorky and if my hair was way too frizzy. And I thought, yep, this is middle school alright. But returning to middle school as a parent is different – people aren’t looking at your clothes, they’re looking at your checkbook. We went station to station in the cafeteria – pick up schedule, drop off medical and vaccination records, update address/phone information, pay for yearbook, pay for school phone book, pay for 6th grade camp, pay for school pictures, pay for rollerskating lessons. (Yes, rollerskating lessons: $7.00.) Spirit gear, anyone? Just make your check payable to  . . .

We also found out that Brandon has required reading over the summer, which he conveniently ‘forgot’ to tell us about. Luckily, it’s not too much and I think he can do it over the next week. He is my complete opposite in this area – when I got the summer reading list, I started on it right away. It was the highlight of my summer. Okay, I was a geek and liked schoolwork, but at least I was a well-read geek. He is excited about school and has been continually re-arranging his school supplies in his backpack. I hope he enjoys school a little more this year since he’ll have a little more freedom and responsibility. I remember how big I felt when we got to change classes.

So 20 minutes and nearly $200 later, we have Brandon’s schedule and locker combination in hand. We found his classrooms and his locker. He tried his locker combination about 15 times until he felt comfortable with it and the fact that he doesn’t actually fit into his locker – just in case anybody got any crazy ideas. Ahh . . . middle school memories . . .

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New Cousins

Me: (Looking at Leslie’s blog) See your new cousin Erin?

Brandon: I already have a cousin Erin. (On the other side of the family.)

Me: Well, now you have another cousin Erin.

Brandon: But I’m still the oldest grandkid, right?

Me: Yes, we can’t go back and have one older than you.

Brandon: Unless you get one on e-bay.

Barriers

Brandon came home today with an assignment: write a 200 word essay about a time he encountered a barrier. The following conversation ensued:

Me: A barrier? Like a time you were discriminated against?

Brandon: Yeah, we’re reading a book on Jackie Robinson.

Me: Uh-huh. Doesn’t your teacher realize you’re a middle-class, suburban-dwelling, mini-van riding white male? What barriers could you possibly have encountered?

Brandon: Huh?

Me: Alright. We can think about this. Think back about about a time you faced a barrier.

Brandon: I faced a barrier at the zoo. It kept the polar bear from getting out.

Me: This is going to be harder than I thought.

*(Actually, Brandon was just being a comedian about the zoo.)

Feeling Old

Brandon just asked me what the “Safety Dance” is.  So I pulled it up on Napster. Ahhh . . . the 80s. I remember the lyrics and the medieval-themed video on MTV. What the heck is a “safety dance?”

This Is Where He Gets His Weird Sense of Humor

Chris: Brandon, what type of science project do you want to do?

Brandon: I’m not sure – I don’t like studying energy.

Me: I didn’t like that, either. We used to raise tadpoles until they turned into frogs, then mom made us let them go. How about studying life cycles?

Chris: He’d have a hard time finding tadpoles around here.

Me: There’s a mole in the front yard. We could give him a shovel and have him end its life cycle.

Chris: (Ignoring my last comment.) What about earth science or biology?

Me: Your Dad’s a psychotherapist – how about doing developmental tests on your little brother?

Brandon: (excited) Yeah! Does it include test tubes and explosions?

Me: Hey – it’s Matthew – you never know what’s going to happen.

It’s a Zoo Around Here

A few years ago, Brandon got a computer game for Christmas – Zoo Tycoon. You build a zoo, create a habitat for the animals, manage and pay staff and keep the guests happy – hopefully without running out of money. You have to purchase the fencing, restaurants, exhibit buildings, foliage, animals, sidewalk – everything – and design the zoo yourself. We played it a lot when we first got it, then interest waned and we forgot about the game.

I rediscovered it last week, and now have a rockin’ zoo on the moon. I also found some cheat codes on-line. I know that’s a rotten thing to do, and not a good example to Brandon (hey – he suggested it!), but here’s some of the cool things I can do with the cheat codes:

I can make all the men in the zoo get sick and throw up simultaneously.

I can change all the guest’s clothing to the same color.

I can make all the guests run for their lives when birds fly overhead.

I can make the tour guides work for free.

I can get unicorns and triceratops for exhibits by renaming exhibits certain names. (For example, renaming an exhibit ‘Xanadu’ gets you a unicorn.)

Why would I want to do these things to my little zoo? Because I can. Anyway, this has really been fun to play. Brandon has his own zoo (also on the moon) and is learning what makes the animals happy and how much money he can spend on exhibits and staff and what happens when you run out of money. (You get a one time gift from benefactors; after that, you have to start selling stuff off and/or raising prices.) It’s been a lot of fun for us.

Speaking of zoos (well, speaking of craziness), I’ve been trying to post this photo of Matthew – in the midst of his mania about packing and going to Florida for Thanksgiving – but couldn’t get it to post for some reason. Here’s Matthew the night before our trip – he had gotten into a closet and found a hat. And a hankerchief:

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Just a little manic, don’t you think?