Being the smallest

It must be tough being the youngest, watching your big brothers have a chance to go on rides that they don’t want to go on. It must be tough to be the smallest and know you can’t even be in line with your brothers until they freak out and beg to get out of line. It must be tough being the little guy, hanging out with your beloved Papi, doing other rides, eating secret snacks, visiting stores, instead of waiting in line with everyone else.

Tornado A was finally big enough to ride all the rides in Disneyland, except one. The Indiana Jones ride. Once he learned that, it was the only ride he wanted to go on, insisting he could grow one inch in a month. By Disneyland day, he had not grown that inch, but Wally, the beloved godmother, was determined.

While I stood with the older two, who begged not to be forced to go on the ride, Wally took Tornado A to the line operator and tried reasoning and sweet talking. But alas, Tornado A was a hair too short.

And oh, the wails of inconsolable grief! Barely drowning out the sighs of relief.

Me: I’m sorry, baby. Next year. Or I can take you off roading. It’s the same thing. It’ll be ok. Hey, Tornado A. Do you want to pick out the next ride? We’ll go on any ride you want.

Tornado A slowly lifted his tear-stained face from his hands. He sniffled.

Tornado A: The Haunted Mansion.

The begging continued from the older brothers. Just for a moment, I saw a mischievous glint in Tornado A’s eyes.

(And yes, the older boys were forced on the ride, but it loses its scariness when your mother recites every word during the whole ride.)

A Case of Mistaken Identity

When we went to Disneyland, the first ride we had to go on was Star Tours. The line was ten minutes long, so I handed the boys their brand new fidget spinners, purchased for moments like these. I took the time to work on my Spanish on my language app. (Sure, it looks like I was annoying my kids as I played Candy Crush, but, honest, I was working on learning a second language that will help me as a person, a teacher, and a mom. I’m way on top of it.) And the line moved on. In less than ten minutes, we were on board.

For those who have never been on the ride, right before the ride starts, they snap a picture of a guest. Capacity of the ride is 40 people. During the ride, a picture, in shades of blue, is shown of the guest as the rebel spy. I have friends who have ridden the ride until their kids were the spy. It’s neat.

I was sitting next to Tornado E, who sat next to Tornado A, who sat next to Tornado S. The ride took off, and the rebel spy was revealed.

Those big eyes. That bald head. My family’s traditional cheeks and nose. Oh my god, my little Sith Lord is a rebel spy! Tornado E and I looked over at Tornado S and started laughing.

We laughed through the whole ride. Our Sith Lord was a rebel spy! There was good in him after all. He belonged to us; he belonged to the rebellion. And We. Are Never. Going to let him live it down.

We got off the ride and congratulated Tornado S, teasing him about his new role.

Tornado S: I’m not the spy!

Tornado E: We saw your picture, Tornado S!

Me: Everyone saw it, rebel spy. Would you like a shirt? I’ll buy you a shirt!

Tornado S: I’m not the spy!

Tornado E: Yes, you were!

Me: I’m totally buying a shirt. I always knew you would rejoin the light side.

Tornado S: I’m not the spy! I wore my hat the whole time!

Huh. He was wearing his hat. He was wearing his hat during the ride. So was Tornado E. Tornado E and I turned to the last child.

Tornado S: Tornado A was the rebel spy!

Tornado A: (with a huge smile) Fooled you!

I feel like that should have been a Spaceballs reference. Also my kids look goddamn similar.

Me: (huh. Do I look like a bad mom for not being able to tell my kids apart when they’re pictured in blue scale?) Do you want a shirt, Tornado A?

Tornado A: (shakes head) No. But can I have a light saber?!

Like the other three light sabers that you boys built last time we were at Disneyland. Like the other 5 (Is it 5 or 7) light sabers we already have. Your grandparents are going to yell at me if we bring home any more light sabers.

Me: I don’t want to carry souvenirs all day, so let’s keep looking around. If you want one at the end of the day, you can have one.

Which was interrupted as: Please, start building a light saber right now and act like I never said a word.

They did leave the light saber building area. And we did go back so the boys could build light sabers before we left.

I Have a Question

Tornado A had his well-visit today. Luckily, my mother took the other children, so it was just Tornado A and me. He was on his best behavior, excited to pretend to be an only child.

The doctor came in and talked to Tornado A, explaining what she will do and why she would do it. Then she asked Tornado A if he had any questions. He shook his head.

Doctor: Do you have any questions?

Me: Ye-

Tornado A: I have a question!

Doctor: Oh? What is your question?

Tornado A: Am I going to get a shot?!

Doctor: (smiled and shook her head) No. You don’t get any shots today. You won’t until you’re 11.

Tornado A: My brother is 11! Is he going to get a shot?!

Doctor: At his next visit, yes.

Tornado A: Good!

Then he gave a nod to signal he was done and satisfied with the conversation.

Right.

Rituals

Rituals are important. They say that rituals hold societies together. From Thanksgiving dinner to watching the Superbowl to church on Sundays to fireworks on the 4th of July. Ask any Catholic in the English-speaking world, and he or she will tell you we all say the same prayer before dinner. The same damn prayer.

Like all families, we have our own rituals. Like that same damn Catholic prayer. Or like kisses before I leave for work, kisses before bedtime, notes in lunch boxes. That sort of thing. Only the boys are making them complicated.

Tornado S has to be the first to great me with a hug and kiss or all is lost for the known world. All. Is. Lost.

Tornado S and Tornado A have to wave me goodbye in the morning. They get their kisses and then follow me outside, where I remind them to stay in the front yard, not the driveway. Then I pull out, with windows down, saying “Goodbye. I love you; do your best; I’ll see you later.” Then I make my left turn, and because we live in a corner house, the boys stand in the front yard until I make my next turn. They wave until they can’t see me any more. I wave until I can’t see them any more. Like the end credits to “The Beverly Hill-Billies.” It’s only annoying in the winter.

Bedtime has also become overly complicated. At least, the bedtime kiss has become overly complicated. I kiss each boy goodnight and tuck them into bed. Then we say our goodnight prayer about guardian angels because I hate that creepy Protestant bedtime prayer. Then I turn out the lights before turning on the nightlight. Then Tornado A has to kiss me goodnight.

He kisses me on the lips. Then the forehead. Then each cheek. Then my chin. (?) Then my nose. (I hate that; I wipe it off, but I’ve been doing that since I was little.) Then he has to rub noses. Then he has to give me butterfly kisses on each cheek. He does this, holding my head firmly so I can’t get away. I’m caught between thinking it’s cute and creepy. Halfway through the ritual, I get annoyed because it takes so long. I mean, dude, can’t you procrastinate by asking for water like a normal kid.

I worry about the next ritual.

A Moment with a Teacher

We sat where a tribe sat a thousand years before us, listening to a tour guide, instead of tribal leaders. Sitting in an amphitheater, sheltered from the wind, we could here the tour guide perfectly as she whispered. I was content to bask in the sunlight on sun-warmed stones. Tornado S’s teacher was equally content as she sat by me.

Me: (after the tour guide finished speaking and we began to move along.) Tornado E would love this.

The teacher: Why?

Me: The kid sun basks more than any kid I know. I call him the Lizard King. (She laughed. I nodded to Tornado S as he made his way along with the group.) We named Tornado S The Absent-minded professor. Professor for short.

The teacher: (laughed) Ohmygod. It fits him. Perfectly. What’s Tornado A’s name?

Me: Trouble.

The teacher: (laughed) His teacher says he’s very bright.

Me: That’s the problem. You shouldn’t laugh. You’ll get him in your classroom in a few years.

The teacher: The fifth grade teachers asked Tornado E who was smarter, him or his brother? You know what he said?

Me: Hmmm. I know what most kids would say.

The teacher: He said his brother.

Me: Huh.

The teacher: I know. I thought it was sweet.

Me: Me too.

You know. I think my boys are pretty awesome.

Battle Cries

Tucson has been flirting with 90 degree weather. (Fahrenheit, for those visiting from outside the States.) But as we are in spring in the high desert, at night, we drop 30 degrees. Which means the pool we have is about 60 some degrees.

But it looks so inviting in the 90 degree heat.

Sunday the boys begged and begged and begged to go swimming. I finally relented, thinking, “What the hell?” I mean, if they’re too cold, they’ll jump out.

So the boys strip to their underwear because looking for their swim trunks from last year was just to difficult.

Tornado A took a running start and jumped into the deep end, screaming, “This Is SPARTA!”

As the nerd I am (nerd for ancient history, nerd for comic books, nerd for comic book action movies), I was quite proud. It fit. A scrawny nearly naked boy jumping into freezing water to test his mettle.

Wait a minute. Where did he learn that?

An Explorer

While camping, we took the boys on a short kid-friendly hike. If you don’t know, Cub Scouts is very parent hands-on. So all parents were there, and some of the fathers decided to keep going and find other trails. Since we were desert camping (God, I hate desert camping so much), it was easy to track all the kids, those who were hiking with their adventurous dads and those who were climbing on their own.

I watched my ungraceful, uncoordinated middle child, scale a rock, one that I would’ve assumed he was too nervous to try.

Tornado E: (from behind me, yards away) Mama! Mama! Tornado A’s scaring me.

As the years go by, Tornado E has become extremely cautious and averse to risk of any kind. I blame it on the divorce. I’m sure that Tornado A was testing Tornado E’s limits, not his own.

Another mom: (from just behind me) Um, that’s your son, right?

I turned to see Tornado A balancing precariously on a rock outcrop. Damn.

Me: (Sigh) Yup. He belongs to me.

I walk over to where Tornado E was pleading for his brother to sit down. I put my hand on his shoulder, making him turn and look at me. I smiled.

Me: Thank you, Tornado E. But I’ll take over from here. It’s my job to protect and watch over you. Go explore.

Tornado E: (Looked over at his brother and then back at me) Ok. Mama.

He ran off.

Me: Ok, little man. Time to get down. You’re making everyone nervous.

He rocked and caught his balance. On my side, it would be a bit of a fall. On the other side, the side he rocked to, it would be a very bad fall.

Tornado A: No, Mama. I’m an explorer. I take risks.

Uh-huh. I pulled out my phone.

Me: Ok, Explorer. Why don’t I take your picture and then you get down?

Tornado A: Ok!

He moved out further on the ledge and rocked. I snapped a few quick shots. I slid my phone in my pocket. I walked down the hill next to the outcrop. I took his hand.

Me: Time to come down.

I planned just to walk him back.

Tornado A: Ok, Mama.

He jumped into my arms. I caught him.

Me: You know. Explorers take calculated risks. They measure the risk to survival and reward and do only the risks where they have minimal consequences like less chances of getting hurt.

Tornado A: I’m an explorer! I take risks!

Me: Well, from now on, Explorer, you’ll take calculated risks.

Tornado A: I take risks!

Right.

I’m going to have to watch over you more.