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.

The Birds and the Bees Part 3

So Tornado S eventually came out of his blanket caccoon yet still refused to name the boys who told him. I warned the teacher, who asked if I could investigate without pushing. Life went on as usual.

Then one day we were returning home from running a few errands, and as I jammed to music, I listened to the conversation in the back seat.

Tornado S: Tornado A, where do you think babies come from?

Me: Tornado S.

Tornado A: (Pause) Well, they come from mommies’ wombs…. And God makes us…. So God makes the baby and gives it to Jesus, who kisses the baby and puts it into the mommy’s womb.

You could here the pride in his voice as he figured out the solution to Tornado S’s question.

Tornado S: Not even close.

Me: Tornado S!

Tornado A: Tell me!

Tornado S: I can’t. You’re too young. It’s a secret.

Me: Tornado S.

Tornado A: Tell me! I’m not too young!

Thankfully, we had just pulled into the driver.

Me: It’s not Tornado’s responsibility to tell you. That’s my job. Tornado S, out of the car and into my room. Now.

So I marched Tornado S back to my room and started the part of the lecture series in “So Help Me God, Child.”

Me: You do realize that Tornado E was explained sexual reproduction at your age. Did he ever tell you? (No.) That’s right because he was mature enough to know that this is a conversation between a child and a mother, not brother to brother. It is my job to talk to Tornado A about this, not yours. I will tell him when he’s ready, not when you want to show off your knowledge. Do you understand? (Nod.) You will not talk to your brother about this. (Pause) You will not tell your friends about this (Pause) until you’re in high school. And you will only talk about the facts as you have learned them from me. And if you do tell your little brother, the consequences will be severe. Video games disappearing severe.

Sure, that’ll work.

At least, Tornado A still doesn’t know where babies come from.

I’m Prepared

In college, I was walking to class when I noticed a friend on a bench, looking worriedly at the sandal in her hand, so I walked over to see what the problem was.

Me: What’s going on?

Friend: Hi, Fae. My sandal broke, and I can’t go back to the dorm until I have my next two classes. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Hey, you don’t happen to have a safety pin, do you?

Me: (Smile as I take off my backpack) I can do one better. How about a leather needle and some thread?

I took the needle out of the sewing kit.

Friend: You have a leather needle on you?

I handed her the needle and thread and shrugged.

Me: Always be prepared.

 

You should see my car. In the back, I have a tool kit which include two needle-nose pliers, two towels, two small blankets, a comforter, water, juice, two different kinds of granola bars, clothes (including underwear) for all the boys, emergency car kit, a couple of balls, a church bag (full of books, notebooks, and crayons), some hats, and a spare jacket. In the console, I keep two first aid kits, suckers, napkins, a pocket knife, a combination tool-thing, a notebook, pens, pencils, a brush, toothpicks, Q-tips, tampons, pads, tissues, trivia cards, hair ties, chapsticks, bobby pins, hand sanitizer, a book (for me in case of emergencies), glue, and tweezers. The last two are for removing cactus needles from small boys. There’s also various toys and books.

I’m always prepared.

 

You should see my purse. I have a notebook, a pencil bag (filled with pens, pencils, permanent markers, and highlighters), a flashlight, a compass, a pocket knife, a small tape measure, a cell phone charger, chopstick trainer, a hair tie, earrings, a tampon, a condom, a pad, bobby pins, safety pins, paper clips, two fruit leathers, hand sanitzer, chap stick, a tube of sunscreen, ipod, earbuds, a bunch of gift cards, my school keys, my regular keys, change (enough quarters for the boys to get a treat in a coin vending machine and enough pennies for plenty of wishes), my wallet, my sun glasses, and my cell phone.

I’m always prepared.

 

I bought the boys all small backpacks to wear while hiking and camping. Tornado A, being the youngest and not having as many hikes, got his last. Unlike his older brothers, he *loved* it. He packed his backpack up as soon as he had the opportunity.

While we were getting ready for the zoo, Tornado A was skipping around the house with his backpack on, rattling. The sound of many unnecessary toys. But, hey, can you guess that I was any different? Nope.

He skipped into the big family room and skipped back into the kitchen with his arms full of two juice boxes and a water bottle. He dropped them all on the breakfast bar.

Tornado A: Mommy! Can you please get me TWO granola bars? And TWO fruit leathers?

Me: (giving him a quizzical look) Ok, baby.

I retrieved the items from the shelves and put them by the water. Tornado A was trying to jam his juice boxes in with the toys.

Me: May I show you something?

Tornado A nodded. I unzipped a smaller pocket in the front of the backpack and put the juice boxes into the pocket. Tornado A put in the granola bars and fruit leathers. I zipped it up.

Me: Now watch.

I placed the water bottle in the side pocket and held out the backpack to Tornado A.

Me: Tada. Now let me help you in it.

I helped Tornado A in his backpack. He turned and grinned up at me.

Tornado A: I’m prepared! I have TWO snacks and TWO juice boxes! I have toys and water! I’m prepared for anything. I’m prepared.

He skipped out of the room, chanting “I’m prepared.”

Yup, that’s my kid. No doubt about it.

The Tooth Fairy Cometh

About a year ago, Tornado A lost a front tooth. With the excitement and seriousness of any five-year-old, he placed it in his homemade tooth pillow and placed it under his bed right before he went to bed at 8pm.

And I promptly forgot about it.

Until I was getting dressed the next morningĀ  in the dark in my bedroom while Tornado E slept in my bed.

Well, at least, I remembered the tooth before Tornado A did, and I would do my classic move of “Did you look underneath the bed?” and then toss the dollar on top of the bed. Then the boy would look on the bed in disappointment and wonder how the money got there. Weird.

As soon as I was dressed, I extracted my wallet from my purse. I opened it up and pulled out the first bill. I have a system, small bills in front, moving to larger bills in back. Not nearly as cool as Matt Murdock’s system, but we can’t all be as cool as Matt Murdock, and this system works well.

Like a ninja, I crept into the boys’ bedroom, removed the tooth from its pillow, and placed the bill in the pocket. I stalked out of the room, back into my room. I tossed the tooth into the trash with a slight clang.

Yes, I used to keep their teeth. All their baby teeth that were not lost on the way to the tooth pillow. Until I looked into the special box that was holding the teeth. Then I realized I looked like a serial killer with trophies. Out they all went.

As I was doing my hair, the boys woke up and started getting dressed. Tornado A, determined to beat his brother’s to breakfast, was the first dressed and into the kitchen, where my dad asked if the tooth fairy came.

I curled my hair with a smug smile as Tornado A ran by back to the bedroom. I was on the next section when he ran by again. That’s right, folks; I have this parenting thing down. Then I heard:

The tooth fairy gave me TWENTY DOLLARS!!!

Crap.

I put down the curling iron and ran out into the kitchen, where Tornado A was dancing around the room, waving a twenty dollar bill. What stupid person puts her biggest bill in the front of her wallet? My dad and I made eye contact. I ducked out of the room, laughing. I couldn’t catch my breath as I ran back to my room, pulled out my wallet, and saw the dollar bill still sitting in the wallet.

I overheard my dad.

Papi: Tornado A, that’s a lot of money. Do you think it was a mistake?

Tornado A: No, the tooth fairy never makes a mistake.

Papi: Do you think the tooth fairy wanted you to share it with your brothers?

Tornado A: No!

Papi: Do you think the tooth fairy wanted you to share it with Mommy?

Tornado A: No!

Papi: That’s a lot of money for a kindergartner, do you think you should donate some of it?

Tornado A: No!

I walked back into the room. My dad looked at me. I shrugged. I was a long term sub; I got paid half of pennies; I could use that $20. But I couldn’t take it from my boy. It was my mistake.

Me: I’m sure Tornado A already has plans for it.

Tornado A: Can we go to the store this weekend?

This is my dad’s favorite story to tell. I wonder if it reminds him of another blonde kindergartner with deep-set blue eyes who found $5 dollars in a church parking while walking to church one Sunday morning.

My dad: Fae, do you think someone dropped that on accident?

Me: No, Daddy. It’s from God.

My dad: It could be someone’s tithe. They could be giving it to God.

Me: And God gave it to me because I tithe every Sunday at your church and at Mommy’s church.

My dad: But Fae, it might be important to someone. That’s a lot of money. I have to ask around.

Me: But, Daddy, God gave it to me.

I dutifully handed it to my dad, who asked around. When he returned it to me because he couldn’t find any one to claim it, I insisted that it was a gift from God.