Cognitively Speaking…

Noah turns eight on Wednesday.

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His overachieving (and awesome) summer camp (Camp Straight Street) sent him a birthday card last week. Which is great and kind and made him feel special and….when mixed in with the 4-5 Christmas cards we receive every day, also made him feel rather inferior and needy of more, CONSTANT birthday cards.

Every day he’s been running to the mailbox, absolutely perplexed at the quantity of Christmas wishes and the complete lack of birthday wishes. Indignantly he will announce, “WHERE are all my BIRTHDAY cards??”

One night he was being especially moody, so we had this little conversation about it.

We tried to explain that it’s a whole WEEK until his birthday and usually you only get cards right around the day of your birthday…and also you only get one or two birthday cards total and you shouldn’t compare your birthday mail volume to Christmas (which is dang hard to do when your birthday happens to be on the 19th of December.)

But alas. He’s only seven. Such concepts of self-coaching and setting realistic expectations are completely and absolutely lost on him.

Building radios, however, is within his grasp.

He got several Snap Circuits kits last Christmas (best, most fun toy for the spatially-minded child ever, if you need some last minute Christmas shopping ideas.) Last year, I usually had to help him with them, which I rather enjoyed. Then they got lost in the horror that is his room for a few months. But, due to a forced cleaning of his room, he has rediscovered many fun toys, and Snap Circuits are one of them. Except that this year, he’s an excellent reader and putter-togetherer, and he doesn’t need me anymore. So he’ll thunder down the stairs to announce his latest invention, all rather proud and much more excited than he was when I used to be his lab assistant. (Which, by the way, he no longer has a bedroom – he now has a LAB.) (Which I kinda love.) (Except for the pain doled out to the bottom of my feet when I try to walk through the lab in the dark to give him his good night hug.)

His favorite invention, the aforementioned radio, happened yesterday. He admittedly didn’t think a radio would function as an actual radio until he built the thing, turned it on, and started hearing Christmas music and commercials about incontinence.

He was immediately enthralled – especially when he realized how to channel surf. All afternoon he’d run to me and say things like “Mom!! Someone’s grandkid is having to have brain surgery!!”

“Whose?”

“I don’t know! They’re talking about it on the RADIO!!”

His radio is quite portable, so I didn’t notice when he’d taken it in the car last night, and he proceeded to surf those channels all the way to dinner, while keeping us all informed as to what was going on in the world.

“Camila Cabello hasn’t had a vacation in six years!! But she’s taking some time off now that ‘Havana’ has done so well.”

“They’re talking about jail cells now! I think they’re in one!!”

And then, when he realized the sheer amount of potential knowledge he held in his hands, he cackled gleefully and announced,

“I AM GOING TO KNOW EVERYTHING BY THE END OF THE WEEKEND!!!!”

I side-eyed Chris and smiled. “So this is our life now.”

As I was reading in bed last night, Noah came in with his radio, on which he’d dialed to some smooth jazz Christmas music. He turned out my light. (Because jazz requires mood lighting.) He cuddled up in bed with me, with a sigh of accomplishment for his invention of transmittable music. And then reminded me that he hadn’t gotten any more birthday cards.

Inventors have fragile egos, yo. I’m sure Alexander Graham Bell had these same exact struggles.

What’s That Sound, The Lucky Episode 13

Seven is an age of deep thoughts, misheard phrases, paranoia, and brute honesty.

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Ali: “How long until dinner?”

Me: “Not too long. Maybe twenty minutes.”

Ali: “Oh good. I just wanted to know if I had time to go upstairs and dilly dally for a bit.”

Noah: “DELETE ALI?? What does that even mean??”

I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know that no sisters got deleted in the process of dilly dallying.


Noah had a bright red splotchy rash on his ear, neck, and in his hair line. Ali noticed it first and sent him to me. I thought they were being ridiculous until I looked at it and it did look quite red and irritated.

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Noah has a history of reacting rather…violently…to bug bites, so I was both concerned and not concerned. But this rash was way more spread out…

Then I looked at a spot in his ear and said “weird. This spot almost looks like a splash of something…”

…At which point Noah said, “Oh yeah! Last night I made Andi laugh so hard that she spit red Gatorade all over me.”

Rash mystery: solved.

(Unsurprisingly, I later found the same red rash on his shirt and pants.)


I was getting ready one morning when Noah walked into my dressing room.

“Hey mommy you look WEIRD.”

I thought my makeup was off or something but I looked in the mirror and didn’t notice anything. I kept getting ready and ignored him because boys.

Then he said, “OOOOOOH!!! So that’s how you make a bun!!!”

Apparently the bun process wasn’t what he had in mind.


Noah: “What’s the Super Bowl?”

Me: “Have Daddy explain. But Justin Timberlake will be singing at halftime!”

Noah: “Oh good!! I want to see what he looks like. I imagine him looking like a guy in Pokémon that has a Charizard. Except it’s a Mega Charizard X. Oh I know – his name is Alain. Look them both up on Google and let’s see.”

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Yup. Nailed it.


Noah has memory verses each week that he learns. One is “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

Except that he learned it as…

“My little children, let us not love murder or tongue…”

That’ll preach too.


Noah, after watching a male ice skater fall in the Olympics, commentated the guy’s reaction…

“He is SO MAD. I bet he’s going to have to start kicking things like I do sometimes.”


“There’s a stink bug in the house. Don’t smoosh it, or it will stink. Or even chop it up with a sword, into tiny pieces.”


Along with risk of stink from bugs, Noah is not much of a risk taker in any areas of life…

One morning when it was below freezing, Noah came up to me.

“I’m going to go outside and throw this away.”

“What is it?”

“Part of Ali’s broken jump rope.”

“And WHY are you going to go outside to throw it away? Can’t you throw it away in the kitchen?”

“Because it could really hurt someone.”

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Orange Plastic: it’s a killer all right.


My mom licked her fingers and put some birthday candles out by pinching them quickly.

Noah gasped in horror and shock.

“How do you TOUCH FIRE without DYING?!”


We went on a hike one day. As we set off, Noah informed us…

“I brought seven band aids.”

Me: “Why? Because you brought your pocketknife?”

Noah: “Yes.”

Ali: “So you think you’re going to cut yourself seven times?”

Noah: “Or just in case it’s huge.”


But Noah isn’t as concerned for other people…

Ali: “Isn’t it illegal to ride in the back of a truck like that guy?”

Me: “I’m not sure…”

Noah: “He’ll be all right. Because he has a tattoo.”

…Better than band-aids, I hear.


…But not always the best defense – depending on what they say.

Noah: “If I had a tattoo on my butt that said ‘Kick Me’, I wouldn’t tell anyone about it.”


Noah wanted to buy an app on the iPad. He brought me $5 and begged me to buy it.

Me: “You’re wanting to spend all your money. On this.”

Noah: “It’s okay! I can always get more money by losing a tooth.”

…He’s going to be selling his plasma before we know it.


Ali: “Have you herd of Swiss Family Robinson?”

Me: “Yes, it’s a classic.”

Ali: “It was written in 1812! There was a war that year. The War of 1812.”

Noah: “Woah. That was even way before Pokémon was invented.”


Noah, quietly pondering while he chewed gum: “Why can’t you swallow gum again?”

Me: “Because it could stick to your stomach.”

Noah: “But if you were pregnant, that wouldn’t be a problem. Because when they got the baby, they would get the gum.”

Me: “Off the baby!? Like it’d be stuck to the baby’s ear?”

Noah: “No. Out of your stomach.”

Me: “Oh. So they’d cut the tummy open, take out the baby, then say ‘Here’s your baby! Oh and here’s a piece of gum we found in there.’”

Noah: “Yes. That.”

Pokemon Is The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me.

My exhaustion of hearing about the HP of every Pokemon ever created can be a heavy burden. And I grow weary of hearing the difference between GX and EX and Ultra and Mega and X. I languish from my child asking me for eBay searches and Amazon browsing for more and more and more Pokemon cards.

But oh.

The power one wields when a child of questionable temperament falls hopelessly and completely in obsession with something is indeed a very, very effective power.

It is worth every banal conversation. Every. Last. One. Of. Them.

Noah is not a people pleaser like his sister before him. So I must find new and creative ways to constantly encourage him in the way he should go. Some things work, some things don’t. But nothing – NOTHING – nothing in the creation of everything has worked as blazingly efficiently as Pokemon Cards.

The first use that made my eyes light up with the power I now held had to do with dirty plates.

Noah has never, not once, picked up his dirty lunch plate or snack napkin or gummy wrapper and put them away without being told to do so.

No matter how many times I tried to tell him he needed to do it without me telling him, or offering him tickets to help him remember, or threatening consequences if he didn’t remember – it literally did not matter. He would not, could not remember to pick up his trash.

But then one day I told him if you don’t pick up your trash, I will take away two Pokemon cards. And the next day he didn’t pick up his trash. And I don’t think he had even conceived of how cruel I could possibly be until that moment. When I told him to go get his Pokemon book and I thumbed through, looking specifically for the cards he talked about the most.

I took two of his most precious cards. His Jumbo Snorlax GX and his Mega Charizard.

He cried. And cried. And cried some more. There is no possible way that he will cry so many tears of grief when I die. He used all his tears on Snorey and Charz.

Since that day, at least a month ago, he has not left a single plate or piece of trash out after consuming food. Not one. He went from a .000 batting average to a 1.000. And, for the record, the consequences weren’t even permanent. I sprung Snorlax and Charizard from the slammer after a couple of days for good behavior, with the dire warning that next time, they would find a permanent home swimming with the fishies in the septic tank.

(Before we continue, I need to say something to Chris. No, dear, if you’re reading this, I would never *actually* flush Pokemon cards down the toilet. I know how you coddle our septic tank as if it were a colicky newborn baby. But I must add an appropriate amount of drama to my threats to be the loving, effective mother that you desire me to be.)

My second brilliantly evil use of Pokemon cards was to get my daily dose of exercise. I’d bought two junk boxes of random Pokemon cards off of Amazon a while back to use as prizes. I had so far used them as rewards in mental math contests between my children (turns out Noah is really good up in his head with math and can nearly compete with his four-year-older sister – when appropriately motivated), so I invented the most genius exercise game ever created for kids. WAY better than Nintendo Wii.

Pokemon Run.

For every quarter mile you run without stopping* or complaining, you earn one Pokemon card.

* Up to five second walk breaks were permissable for road crossings and side stitches and such.

For every continuous mile you run, you get two bonus Pokemon cards, bringing the potential total Pokemon cards up to six earnable per mile.

I explained the rules to the kids. Noah shivered with excitement. Ali, who also enjoys Pokemon cards but doesn’t need as much motivation as her brother, was also excited to get something for something she’d do anyway. And probably secretly relished the opportunity to earn more than her brother, but she’s a people pleaser. She’d never say so.

The run was every bit as magical as I’d hoped.

Noah is usually complaining just for his own personal entertainment at the .2 mile mark. But this run, there was no complaining. None at all. The kid even got a wretched side stitch and DID NOT WHINE. He was leaning over while running, cramming his hand into his side, BECAUSE HE NEEDED THAT LAST POKEMON CARD.

Ali earned 19 cards. Noah earned 12. And they were both thrilled and freaking thankful that I had taken them on such an amazing run. And begged to have another one soon.

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There is nothing like finding the currency that motivates a child. It’s as if I truly finally am in charge of my situation. I use Pokemon cards like they grow on trees now, and it’s worth every penny of all the money I send to Amazon.

So, mothers. So, fathers. I urge you. Find your currency.

Find it soon.

And treasure it with all your might.