With Team WestEnders trading shifts on the "Home" and "Away" roster these past few weeks, a big event snuck up on us. The youngest member of our family was about to gain admission to the fabled land of Teenagerhood, and we had to scramble to get preparations underway. Mind you, it wasn't like Riley made it particularly easy for us...AGAIN. You see, last year when we posed the very simple question of where he wanted to go out for his birthday dinner, he waffled...and delayed...and just generally failed to commit for so long that we never ended up doing it at all.
Determined not to repeat this egregious error, Derek and I accosted--um "gently addressed"--him when he was a captive audience, in the car on the way to Maryland last week. This time he had an answer at the ready, "Well...Noodles & Co. is my favorite..." I heaved an inward sigh as I replied, "I'll check out the menu, sweetie, but I highly doubt there'll be anything I can eat there."
Imagine my surprise and delight, however, when I dutifully checked online, and discovered a number of things that amazed me. First of all, they assure you that you can request that absolutely any dish they offer be made meatless. (Nice--check!) Next, they'll substitute gluten-free noodles in anything that contains pasta. (Cool--check!) Finally--and most exciting to me, personally--there's a page on their website that clearly lists the ingredients of every item they sell...right down to the dressings and sauces. (WOW--aaannnd check!) Therefore I was able to happily report that I would, in fact, be able to accommodate Riley's choice and enjoy a meal...which would undoubtedly be tasty...and also wouldn't cause me any kind of bodily harm. (Whoo hoo! Bonus...)
With that very important decision out of the way, we turned to the next pressing topic on our list: what did Riley want, gift-wise, for his special day? Here we ran into yet another roadblock, as he shook his head sheepishly and admitted that the only thing he could think of was a poster for his (heretofore completely bare) bedroom wall. I jokingly added that, since we'd already determined that it was time to replenish his supply of underwear, I could wrap that up for him...to which he enthusiastically responded, "Yeah! That's perfect--you get me underwear, and Derek can get me a poster!" (Um...I was KIDDING about that....but thanks...)
As it turned out, big brother did find Riley a picture of his favorite Orioles player (Manny Machado). Then, while we were actually at Camden Yards last week, he remembered that he would like a baseball to keep in his room, to use when he practices his pitching grips. (Easy, and DONE!) His South Carolina grandparents skirted the entire issue by not even attempting to wrestle suggestions out of him...but rather just sending cash instead. (Smart!) And I sneakily threw in a couple of books I ordered from Amazon for my voracious reader, which were totally unexpected. (Yay!) Moving on...
So how did my new 13-year old elect to commemorate the day of his birth? That's actually a funny story: the mother of one of his friends was just hired as a teacher at their Middle School. Apparently she was also tasked with organizing trustworthy...available...and willing...8th graders to lead tours during the Visitation Day activities. Riley's buddy asked him, as well as a couple of the other "usual suspects" from their posse to participate, and Riley agreed to help out. This immediately led to a number of amusing exchanges around Casa WestEnders--for example, Husband instantly exclaimed, "Excellent! You can tell the 6th graders where all the dead bodies are hidden!" Derek, not to be left out of the nonsense, added, "Yeah...and where the hot tub is!"
Ay yi yi. (Can you hazard a guess as to who was NOT EVER asked to provide information and guidance to younger scholars? In contrast: yes, I was one of those kids...on multiple occasions. And this surprises you...at all? I didn't think so...) But after evidently pondering his duties for a while, Riley--who always takes his responsibilities very seriously...once again proving to be "my child"--suddenly expressed concern about his fitness for the job. "I'm not sure I can do it--I don't know where everything is!" While thinking to myself, "Eh, neither do the newbies you'll be supervising" I assured him that his knowledge of the school would be plenty for them to get started, and they'd appreciate any tips he could share. Meanwhile his ever-helpful older sibling summed it up thusly: "So...he's waking up early...on his birthday....voluntarily...to go to school...and tell the truth to 6th graders?" Then he shook his head in bemusement and concluded, "Man, we are sooooo different!" (And might I add: Amen to that!)
Of course, the orientation went just fine, and afterwards he could move on to the recreational portion of his day, which involved several of those same kids coming over for the more traditional form of celebrating: entertainment, dinner, and dessert. A good time was had by all, and our most recent entry into the teenage set declared it a very satisfying birthday....thanks to a big heaping bowl of mac-n-cheese...presents OTHER than boxer shorts...and homemade cake shared with family and friends.
It would seem that my work here is finished...except...it just occurred to me that I'm now the parent of TWO teenage boys. Uh-oh...I'd better go hit the grocery store and Costco to load up the pantry/fridge/freezer...and tackle the multiplying piles of sweaty laundry...or maybe I'll get around to all of that after my well-earned NAP! (Yeah, that's it...)