Little Devil

Me: Tornado A, what do you want to be for Halloween?

Tornado A: Satan!

Me: Ok.

My mother: You’re letting him be Satan for Halloween?

Me: Sure, why not?

My mother: Because. It’s not right. How about you go as a devil, Tornado A?

Tornado A: Satan is The Devil.

My mother eyed me. I shrugged. I envisioned a red suit with red shirt and tie.

***

The Fem Spot: Maybe you could call him something other than Satan? Doesn’t Paradise Lost have other names for him? Like Lucifer?

I had just finished telling her the costume plans. I decided to ask Tornado A what he wanted to wear, just in case he preferred red sweats and a red turtleneck (none to be found). He asked for a black suit and red shirt and tie. AND HORNS, MAMA!

Me: Well, I am Catholic and an English teacher. I should be able to come up with something….. The Morning Star, The Light Bringer, The Deceiver, The Fallen One. He Who Must Not Be Named. Wait. Wrong book.

The Fem Spot: You’ll think of something.

***

So it was my youngest son went as the Lord of Hell with a black suit, red shirt, red tie, a pitchfork, and HORNS. And the best joke I heard was at a Halloween event at the zoo.

Comicon Guy: Why isn’t it The Man, himself? Hello, sir. Good evening. But I believe you’re early, and that is a breach of contract.

 

 

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The Bag

Oh no.

I whispered as my eyes fell upon the bag Tornado A was using for a backpack.

It was a cheap employee laptop bag, a desperation move, a life saver thrown out by my dad when I was told last Wednesday that Tornado A needed a new backpack. That the teacher had told my mom. My mom had told the ex several days before. That Wednesday I counted the stores I needed to go to while the boys were in kung fu and the grading I should do instead. The Rice Krispie Treats that needed to be made at the same time as tomorrow’s lunches. The horrible exhaustion I felt. I thought about tomorrow with the Cub Scout and Boy Scout meetings and the training I was suppose to go to instead and the popcorn money needed to be collected and the lunches to be made.

I don’t know when to get it… Not until the weekend…

I whispered in a near panic, thinking about the to-do list so long that it took up the entire page of a loose leaf sheet of paper, the one that started out as a column, then two, then like vines spread across the paper, choking the white with black ink. The to-do list that rarely shrank but kept growing without an end in sight. Everything needed to be done THIS VERY MINUTE. A to-do list that frightened me more than any other to-do list I ever had. I was failing.

So the next morning my dad produced this work bag, and Tornado A looked at it with disdain. So I fixed the straps to make it his length and ran out of the room. I grabbed my heavy, nearly-full messenger bag. I put it on.

See? We have the same type of bag! We both take it to school!

Tornado A laughed and put it on.

Or like Sheldon!

Just like Mama!

But that was last Thursday, and now it was Monday. I was running late, feeling sick to my stomach because of bad food or not enough vegetables or that To-Do List. I wasn’t dressed or showered though the clock read 7, and I needed to be gone in 15 minutes. I didn’t prep the night before because I was sick and exhausted, waiting only for my hair to dry enough to put it in curlers. And I had forgotten to get a backpack all weekend.

We did a movie night instead. Ant-Man because the boys have to watch the Marvel Universe unfold in order, and I did laundry and graded while the boys slept. And Comicon took most of Saturday. But then we watched Simpsons after we came home while I graded. Yesterday the karate tournament in Phoenix with the long drive and-

It didn’t matter. I forgot. I should’ve put the exhaustion aside and gone to the store. My dad mentioned getting one during work Friday. But it doesn’t matter. I’m the mom. It’s my responsibility. And I. I failed.

I forgot to get Tornado A a new backpack.

I said loudly to the house.

My dad walked by the foyer. “That’s ok, Fae. Tornado A doesn’t want one. He wants that one. Just like his Mama’s.”

Aspirations

We were discussing my cousin’s son’s martial arts pictures. He wore a gi that my boys’ sensei would be annoyed with. But Sensei has the right to his opinions and judgements. He’s the top kung fu martial artist in our fair city. And he’s a great teacher. So what if he perfers the gis to be traditional.

My mom: So he doesn’t do what your boys do?

Me: No. My boys do karate and kung fu. I don’t know what our little cousin does. It doesn’t look like either.

My mom: How many martial arts are there?

Me: A dozen? Two dozen? Let me google it. (Pause. Search. Shock) Wikipedia lists 150 different types. Wow!

Tornado A: Looks like I’ll be getting 150 black belts.

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?

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.