Friday, August 6, 2010

Jane: Boys of Summer: Eli

Architecture, antiques, and cats have been at the heart of Eli's summer.

During the week that Robbie was at Jazz Camp, Eli went to an "Architecture and Archeology" class at Brucemore, the National Historic Site that's about a block from our house. He learned a lot and did some fun things, like getting a "nooks and crannies" tour of the mansion, learning about the homes in our neighborhood, and conducting a "dig" on the grounds. Just about every day, he will share some bit of knowledge about our neighborhood that he learned there.

We found some books about "Cedar Rapids, Then and Now" that have photos of our town in earlier years. He's enjoying looking at those.

He's good at art, so has been making some drawings of houses, and just started a floor plan of his "ideal house" which is a Victorian-style house.

Although we don't have a Victorian house, he now is the owner of a Victorian camera. When we visited my aunt and uncle in Philadelphia, they showed him a beautiful old camera that my Uncle Dave got from his dad, an antique dealer. They ended up giving it to Eli, who was thrilled. He's doing some research on it--we visited the History Center with it, and they sent photos of it to their appraiser.

Lately, he's been studying earlier history--Chinese history, in fact. He found a website that's helping him determine when some Chinese coins he owns were made. He has to learn a bit about the symbols to do that, and he's been reading a book about Chinese history. With some lawn-mowing money, he just ordered a half-kilo of old Chinese coins from e-bay . . .

Cats have been an ongoing theme for Eli, too. He's always been really good with animals, and made friends with several cats, most notably Romeo, an odd little cat that lives on our block. Romeo comes by frequently--looking for Eli, I think--and Eli hangs out with him on the patio.

One nice thing about the summer was that I got to spend some time with each boy by himself. While Robbie was at Jazz Camp, Eli and I biked around town, went to thrift stores, and worked in the yard. While Eli was with Bruce in Chicago, Robbie and I biked around town, went to the Wednesday lunch-lecture at Coe, and had supper at Genghis Grill. They make good companions.

Summer is tricky for the mom of teens. I knew all along that I did not want to be a cruise director and plan my kids' days, or entertain them all summer. But I knew, too, that when I'm not on their cases all day, they slink back to the computer/video game screens.

I guess I just decided not to worry too much about screen overdose. Maybe it's OK for them just to chill for most of the summer. I'm thinking that in a few years, they will need to have summer jobs, and in a few more years, jobs all year long. So what's wrong with a few summers of wasted time. It's been a delight to find that lots of their time hasn't been wasted, but used in creative and unique ways.

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