last gasp of summerTime is so slippery. As we get older we feel the slip of time differently, having children pulls these time-space continuums to extremes. Nothing slower than a night with an infant who won’ t sleep and nothing seems faster than a school-age child flying through grade levels. As we prep for the beginning of the school year again this year I cannot help mentioning that it is clearly a delight to see our little humans head back into the classroom. But a little part of me whimpers inside, too. Tomorrow school really is supposed to start.

When O got up this morning and joined us at the breakfast table his first muttering was, “Why is it so dark?” I know some have been back in school for weeks but in the Seattle area many of us are just getting back to it.

There’s heartache and anxiety that comes with day one of school because the day is so emblematic for a year of what is to come. First day is packed of a blend of hopes and dreams, worries and insecurities, and pure unbridled excitement. For the last few years I’ve been asking the boys 20 standard questions just before they start. Here’s what they said this year:

20 Questions At School Start:

  • What is your favorite color? In 2012 it was yellow, in 2013 it was orange. Now O our 6 year-old said: “turquoise” and F our 8 year-old strongly replied, “pink.”
  • Favorite number? It was 5 when he was five years-old. A couple years ago our 4 year-old chimed in with this, “9,000… no wait, 199.” This year they stayed in character with O saying, “777” and F, our eight year-old said, “8.” Of course.
  • Favorite food?: In 2012 Strawberries and then 2013 it was bananas and to keep us honest our O had said, “Cotton candy.” This year, inspired by a trip to see family in Central America, O said, “rice and beans” and F repeated his favorite, “strawberries.”
  • Favorite toy?: In 2012 he said, “This is going to be a tiny bit hard……airplanes” which transitioned to just, “airplanes”  in 2013 (no hesitancy). But this year we’ve moved on (as the little plastic pieces constantly beneath my feet can attest). O said, “legos,” When I pushed to see any specifics he said, “Nope.” F said, “Ummmmm legos because they are different shapes and cool shapes and interesting when you build something new.” Boom!
  • What are you most happy about this summer? I ask this question incorrectly every year and I did it again tonight. When I wrote this the first time I meant this philosophically but they get stuck in details and I need to swap out the order. In the past they have said, “I got to spend more time with Mommy and Daddy” (be still my heart). Nothing quite so romantic since. A couple years back our then 4 year-old produced this doozy: “Going to the radiology summer party with the bouncy house.” This year it was about the same. Although I detest the bouncy things I gave in ONE single night this summer. And so O responded to the question with this, “Going to Kai and Carolyn’s house and being on the trampoline.” Sweet F said something more esoteric (I am unsure he was just playing to the audience) when he said,  “Being around nice people and seeing things… interesting, new things. Like The Sydney Opera House with you.”
  • Favorite memory from the summer? In 2012, “Going through the Costco carwash.” You can’t make this stuff up. This year nothing just so comic, rather O said, “Getting my stuffy koala bear toy from my brother” and F said, “Going to the koala sanctuary in Brisbane, Australia. I got to touch animals that don’t live in Seattle or even in the zoo in Seattle.” Australia was a big deal (he joined me on a work trip the past couple weeks), more on that to come.
  • Favorite place we went this summer?: In 2012 it was, “Wisconsin. Best part of being there was jumping off the dock into the lake.” For 2013 it was the same: “Greenlake, Wisconsin” which is where we visit the boys’ grandparents every summer. As many of you know the boys lost their grandmother during the school year so Wisconsin now is a mixed bag of emotions. Responses this year were, “Costa Rica – because it’s really tropical” and the not unexpected, “Australia….” from Finn. Me too, kid, meeeeeeee tooooooo.
  • What are you really good at? Previously we heard,Biking. I learned to ride a bike on June 10th.” This year O said, “Baseball – I’m good at fielding. And soccer, Mama, I’m good at soccer.” He said this without waiting a single moment which I loved. What adult does that? F said “Building things – like legos.” Legos, as you can see, RULE our world.
  • What is hard for you?: In 2012 I heard, “Going down slides—when I have to put my feet up.” In 2013 I had to squeeze this out of our eldest. In fact we had to pass this question when it first was asked and come back to it which brings up all sorts of thoughts (and opportunities for parenting). However, when I finally got something out of him after we returned to it, it was this, “Climbing the new rock climbing wall at school when it’s wet.”  The lesson here I suppose is that discussing our weaknesses is something none of us are very good at. Meanwhile, it may just be an age thing since when I asked O just raised up his hands and shrugs his shoulders? And then said, “Pretty much nothing.” F said,  “Hammering nails in wood. Then he also dropped this bomb, “It’s hard to be happy all the time and not get bored. I get bored often…sometimes.” And that’s when a rock fell on my chest. We’ll work on exploring this.
  • What is your favorite thing to do at home? 2012 it was “Play with toys.” —–> 2013 he said, “Read books.” But his brother said the identical to what his brother said last year, “Play with toys.” This year:

O: Play with legos.

F: Build legos.

  • Who is your best friend?: “This is tiny, eansy bit hard. [pause] Jasper.” No pause this year, “Zoe.” Zoe’s mom and I are already planning the nuptials.

O: Nikhil. I’ll just call him Nikki for a nickname.

F: Evan.

  • What do you want to do when you grow up? “I might change my mind. But I think an air traffic controller.” I guess it’s a good thing nothing is set in stone. Again tapping into some anxieties he said, “That’s a really hard question. I don’t even know right now. I don’t have a guess.” He then teared up a bit so I didn’t push. His brother clearly defines growing up as being age 18 (uh-oh!) as he said, “Go to Kenyon College.” Go Lords! This year:

O: I will be an artist. I will do art a lot – painting, pastels, and maybe markers.

F: I will be an engineer for Boeing.

  • What do you think your brother will do? “Don’t even know. [pause] No guesses.” (I feel just the same way) was the 2012 response. This year he had a clear direction for his 4 year-old brother. He said, “He’ll be a doctor.” And the 4 year-old suggested that his older brother would be, “an air-traffic controller.”

O: Finny will be pilot.

F: I think O will be an artist.

  • Where do you want to live when you grow up? “In a house” was the concrete sequential answer 2 years ago. This year he said, “The Netherlands” for the second time.  Another reminder that travel with children opens up the world


F: The Netherlands because not every city is new – it’s not like Seattle where there is a lot of tall buildings with a tall downtown. It’s historic there.

  • If you could have a super power what would it be? In 2012: “I’d be able to squirt noodles out of my hands. I could make pasta and wouldn’t have to cook it.” And then a couple years ago, “Ummmm, I’d fly with only jumping. So you’d run and jump off a high place and I’d go up, up, up instead of down.”

O: Camouflage power – Yes, so I could blend in.

F: I would be able to make things out of thin air….

  • Where do you want to travel? In 2012 it was “Africa,” in 2013, “England” Our then 4 year-old said, “Arizona.” This year:

O: Europe – (no reason, even when asked).

F: The Philipines or Fiji – because it’s the place where the weather is tropical and I like the placement of where it is on the globe. (YOWSERS!)

  • What is your favorite airplane? Those of you who know us know our boys are somewhat obsessed in their airplane town with airplanes…In 2012 F had said, “If I had to choose between all my planes, I would choose Frontier.”  Then it was, “The Blue Angels.”  This year we’ve gone commercial:

O: The airbus Airbus A340

F: The Boeing 787 Dreamliner

  • What is your favorite book? “Piggies” and this year—-> “Two Little Trains” which is a beautiful, lyrical book by Margaret Wise Brown from the late 1940s.

O: Captain Underpants

F: I quote, “Well of the books I’ve read it would be Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. My favorite books that I haven’t yet read are Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows.”

  • What is your favorite song? “All You Need Is Love” to the downshift in 2013, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” In my opinion that response represented a bit of fatigue with the questions. Our then 4 year-old responded (without knowing his brother’s response), “Twinkle, Twinkle Traffic Light” and then sang the entire song… 

O: Summer Highland Falls by Billy Joel. BE STILL MY HEART! This music brainwashing in the car is working! Uptown Funk was definitely in the running…

F: Everything is Awesome (Lego Movie)

  • How would you describe your brother? In 2012 he said, “He has blond hair. He’s a boy. He’s fun.” (I had to pull that last one out of him). This year he said about the same thing, “Blond hair, blue eyes, He’s cute. He’s a good listener and he’s friendly.”  Our then 4 year-old said this of his elder brother, “He works in a house. He’s a boy. He likes toys.”

O: A little harsh this year. Described his brother as, “In the middle. Not so good and not so bad. More of an airplane guy…..I don’t know, he likes cheese.” When I asked again what he is like he reiterated, “He is in the middle.”

F: “Sometimes annoying.” With prompting I got “Sometimes helpful and playful.”

Turns out I might have regular kids. What do you say, will you do 20 questions this month and keep it up as an annual thing for 20 years?