Willing Teacher’s Assistant

Tornado A: Mama, can I go to school with you?

Several years ago, when I worked at a charter school, Fridays were only an optional day for students, who could only come during the morning. Friday afternoons were for faculty meetings. And one Friday, I didn’t have anyone to watch Tornado A.

I got permission from my principal. And I brought Tornado A to my school. I brought movies, books, coloring books, toys, snacks, the works.

As luck would have it, I didn’t have any students who needed my help, so I was able to hide in the computer room, grading; while, Tornado A watched movies. He charmed the students. He charmed the teachers. He loved that day. And has been looking for a way to return.

I work at a normal public high school, and Tornado A is a second grader with classes every day. Yet he still asks.

Tornado A: Mama, may I go to school with you?

Me: I’m sorry, baby. You have to go to school. And you would be so bored in my classroom.

Tornado A: I wouldn’t be bored.

Me: I teach the exact same thing 5 times.

Tornado A: I could help!

Me: I’m sure you could. You could teach them how to read a clock.

Tornado A: They don’t know how to do that yet!

Me: Sadly, no. Many of them missed that class.

Tornado A: Mama, may I go to school with you? I can teach them to read a clock.

What have I done?

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Silly Rules for Spelling Sentences

At their school, the second graders have to put their 20 spelling words in sentences, due at the end of the week. Tornado E and Tornado S’s teachers did not care how many spelling words were jammed into a sentence. Tornado S could get up to five words. It was impressive. Tornado A has no such luck. He can only put up to two spelling words in a sentence.

So he did.

He got full credit for his ten sentences and a little note from the teacher. “Don’t start with I so often, please.” All but one or two sentences started with I.

Part of me thinks this is a stupid rule. He’s in second grade. But I realize this will make him a better writer.

Tornado A has acquiesced to the demand. But since my genes naturally run deep, he has started all his sentences this week, so far, with “We.” If he does this for every sentence, I’m going to give the kid five bucks.

So It Begins…. Again

It’s been a hectic two weeks. And I know it’s just the start.

First, school is in full swing. I’ve been to four open houses. One for each boy and my own.

At my own, I repeated myself five times with the same speech, same jokes with the same silence. I really need a sound machine with the sound of chirping crickets. I talk about the course, my expectations, my joy of teaching their kids. I assure every parent that yes, your kid is doing fine. (Really, it was this last week that they were given the ball to drop; sometime this weekend I’ll learn how many decided to turn in their first homework assignment.)

The first open house was Tornado A’s where I learned he’s so bright and sweet, so smart, so with it. I’d wish you luck, but you already have him. Good luck, any ways. You’re going to need it. Behind that sweet smile lies the mind of a mad genius.  I also was stopped by several teachers to ask how my year was going, to exchange notes and ideas, to whisper good luck and congratulations. You have no idea how much high school freshmen are like elementary kids.

Then it was Tornado S’s open house. Usually we discuss his many weird, complex issues. But my parents have already talked to the teachers, and two out of three teachers had already had Tornado E. So I introduce myself. And Tornado S is so sweet and kind, so brilliant; we just need to help him get it out, and by the way, how’s the school year? I exchange notes and ideas with the other teachers, explaining the math common core for a few families while the math teacher talked with another family about homework. You have no idea how much high school freshman are like 5th graders.

Finally Tornado E’s open house arrived. I carpooled with a friend, and I was spoiling for some answers because Tornado E had been bumped to the regular math class because of a pre-assessment. Then he was getting a solid C in his new math class after I had lobbied for a retest or re placement. But since my boy is becoming more cautious in new situations, I don’t start out with, “Hi. I’m Tornado E’s mom; I’m so sorry.” I introduce myself, and immediately I get, “Ah, yes, Tornado E. Smart kid. Really smart. Just quiet.” Yeah, give him time. Then it was time to talk to the math teacher about her methods, expectations, her weighting practices. After all that in front of the parents, I talked to her privately about Tornado E, who is impressing her greatly, who she thinks is capable of algebra with a little help, who she hopes isn’t discouraged. Well, he is. He loves math, and he’s proud of his math scores. Oh, but he took a test the day after he got into my class and got a C without instruction; that was impressive. That C has him off computer and video games. Oh, well, then. We hammered out a plan.

And this is just the beginning. Cub Scouts goes into full swing next week. So does religious classes. Tornado S wants to join Kung Fu with his brothers. Tornado A would like to add a third martial art. Uh, no.

And I should have 140 essays to grade this weekend.

Signs. Signs. Everywhere Signs.

We have come into some wood. Random pieces cut in random ways. Over the summer, Tornado A made a sign for the big family room. “Don’t come in” was written on one side. “Come in if you want” was written on the other side. He is meticulous in using it on the door.

Sunday he decided to make a sign for me. One side. “Saye out.” For when I need people to stay out of my room.

Thank you, baby.

Then he made one for his bedroom.

How cute.

Then one for the bathroom.

Thank you, sweetheart.

One for the office.

Papi will love that one.

One for my parents’ room.

Nana: Thank you.

One for the main hallway.

Um, ok. Awesome.

One for the dining room.

This one is great, but, baby….

One for the living room.

One small sign doesn’t really work for a room without a – no, it’s cute.

And then we had to stop him. Sweetly. Kindly. We asked him to hold off on signs for a little while. How many could he want to make? We love them, but we’re tripping over them.

Then he wailed and wailed and wailed.

I promised he can make more next weekend.

Worry Doll

Lately I’ve been having nightmares every night about my failure as a parent. Stupid things. But obviously my sub-conscious wants me to work something out.

This morning I told my dad my latest nightmare. He shook his head with a grin because it wasn’t much of a nightmare.

Tornado A: Mama, are you worried?

Me: Yes, baby.

Tornado A: About what?

Me: About you boys and being a good mother.

Tornado A gave me a solemn nod and ran off.

Later as I finished getting dressed, Tornado A sat on my bed.

Tornado A: Mama, make sure you sleep on this pillow.

He pulled it back to show me the tiny worry doll from his set that I got him months ago from the Grand Canyon.

I gave him a hug and kiss.

Me: Thank you, baby.

Pig Vegan Part 2

On vacation, we had lunch with Wally, her wife, and a college friend. 4 women, 3 boys. I have amazing friends.

The topic veered to diets. Not the I’m-so-fat-I-can-only-eat-this talk. No. It’s I-own-chickens-and-I-can’t-eat-chicken-anymore. And it’s so-hard-for-us-to-find-a- restaurant-to-agree-on-anymore. And Tornado S piped up that he was pig vegan, which confused two of the women. So Wally and I went about explaining. When Tornado A, a huge fan of Tornado S, declared that he too was now pig vegan.

NOOOOOOOO!

Wally: What’s so wrong with that?

Me: Ham!

To which, Wally responded with an eye roll.

And before I could respond.

Tornado S: Then I’m going to become a vegetarian.

Me: What? You can’t! You love hamburgers. Aaaaah!

Wally: What’s so wrong with that?

Processing…. processing…. processing… Damnit, no, real logic was coming to my aid.

Me: (grumpy) It’s harder on me.

To which, Wally responded with an eye roll.

The next day, I took the boys to our favorite seafood restaurant. They are only in California and one in Phoenix. I go whenever I get a chance. And all three boys order fish and chips. Then they change the chips to mash potatoes and one macaroni and cheese. The restaurant has amazing mash potatoes and macaroni and cheese, but I’ve never seen any of my kids forgo fries. And then there was the other question.

Me: Tornado S, I thought you were becoming a vegetarian. You can’t eat fish.

Tornado S: I changed my mind.

Well, he did have a hamburger the night before….

Then my clam chowder came, and it was amazing. So amazing. The boys wanted to try it, so I gave them each a spoonful. Then another. I refused third helpings.

Tornado S: Mama! Does this soup have bacon in it?

Me: Yes.

Tornado S: No! But I’m pig vegan! Did I eat any bacon?

Me: No. I made sure you didn’t have any on your spoon.

Tornado looked at me, then the bowl, and then at Tornado S.

Tornado A: I’m sorry, Tornado S. But I can’t be pig vegan. Bacon is too good.

It’s just a book

Of all the things I want for gifts, the one I ask for, the one that means the most to me, is for someone to take my boys shopping for me. Show them we buy gifts for the people we love. Show them that we remember special days for the people we love. Show them how to think and empathize with people we love. Buying gifts is a skill. Remembering important days of your love one is love.

My mother likes to give practical gifts. My dad likes to give gifts that will make the person happy. He has been taking the lead gift giving with the boys the last couple of times. For Mother’s Day, the boys and my dad got me a cool Wonder Woman picture.

So my parents took the boys shopping form birthday. Tornado E found a Star Wars gift but abandoned that for a Star Wars movie. Tornado S decided to give me the Star Wars gift. Tornado A walked into the book aisle and brought my dad a book.

Tornado A: (Smiling from ear to ear) We should get Mama this book! (Holds up the book)

Papi: (looks at the book with Donald Trump on the cover) I don’t think your mama will like that book. She isn’t a big fan of Trump.

Tornado A smiled bigger and nodded.

Papi: No prank gifts.

Tornado A sighed and marched back to the aisle. He came running back with a Star Wars book.

Prank gift giving in second grade. That kid is mine.