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.

Confidence

I interupt these posts on vacation to write one about today.

We were in line at the grocery store. The boys barely above whirlwind status, not quite tornadoes. But enough to monitor closely. They helped me put a few items on the belt and then questioned my resolve on gum. No. No. No. No. Still no.

An elderly lady stood behind us, and I was careful to keep the boys from jostling her. I worried the boys would annoy her.

Lady: You’re going to have your hands full if your boys turn out as beautiful as you.

Me: Um, uh, thank you.

The boys smiled at her and went back to messing with each other.

As we left the store, Tornado E asked me what the lady had said. I repeated it.

Tornado E: I’m not going to be as beautiful as you. I’m going to be more beautiful.

Kid, that confidence is going to serve you well.

I’m dying, Egypt, dying.

It’s like my favorite line from “Antony and Cleopatra” by William Shakespeare. I don’t know why. Probably because it’s so damn melodramatic. Christ, Antony, die with some dignity, man.

As for me, Friday I had to get a tooth pulled. Kids, this what you get for not going to dentist in years.  How many? That’s between my priest and me. But almost all of those years, I didn’t have dental insurance. Actually everyone was quite surprised how well my teeth held up, but because I didn’t have dental insurance, I was near-obsessive with my teeth cleaning. I got the tooth pulled none-too-soon as it turned out an abscess was forming at the root. No, I didn’t take a picture or bring it home because I would like my kids to get into hard sciences and they’re a little squeamish.

Saturday Tornado E had a swim check for Boy Scouts and a pool party. At the Scout Master’s insistence, I had a burger before rushing Tornado E to his party. Once I dropped him off, I met my family for lunch before rushing to make it to the bank before close. And then I felt a little sick. So I took a nap and woke to feeling more sick and running off to get Tornado E.

By dinner, I was sick. Was it the abscess draining into my stomach? Was it food poisoning? (I’ve had food poisoning a lot; each time makes you more susceptible to it, making me a target long before the rest of the folks.) Was it a bug? (Like my mom argues; why are we having this argument?) It doesn’t matter. The details aren’t pretty. But basically I couldn’t eat anything for well over 36 hours, and I slept nearly all day Sunday. When I wasn’t asleep, I was in a headache haze because now I was in the middle of caffeine withdrawals. Bastards.

The worst part was this was my weekend with my kids!

Oh, I understand the little envy of you parents with full custody or still happily married parents, but when you are forced to be without your kids for any amount of time on a regular basis, well, I want to spend the time I do have them with them. And seeing that during the school year I’m the hard-ass, forcing them to do everything at my house where they will get the help and push they need, I really, really love the summers where I can be the fun parent.

Don’t worry about the kids. They had a great day. They watched a Back to the Future marathon. My mom fried them homemade doughnuts for breakfast. My dad brought them home a pizza. My parents took them swimming. My dad grilled steak. My mom made funnel cakes. (Please keep in mind that I couldn’t eat any of this and my parents were aware of this fact. I am torn how to feel about this.)

Then last night Tornado E started vomiting. While I’m naturally not a very good night parent, after 13 hours of sleep (according to the FitBit), I was able to be up and helpful without any annoyance in my voice. So today Tornado E clung to his existence, not nearly as desperately as I had the day before. In fact, he was able to do his worksheets and antagonize his brothers; while, somewhere in the middle of the day, I shuddered in my caffeine withdrawals as I nursed my bland foods and clear liquids diet.

I miss my caffeine. Look how long of a post I can make over complaining about being sick.

I’m going to go nurse my headache and pray for mercy. Hopefully tomorrow I can happily resume my addiction without praying to the porcielain god. With any luck, I can get my boys back so I can take them to Wonder Woman. (Yeah, we haven’t even been able to go to the movies because this vicious micro-plague.)

Mustard

Tornado E: (From outside, moving closer) MOOOOOOOMMMMYYYYYY!

I had been grading for an afternoon and a day. But I was finished. I wasn’t in a normal head space. But I was finished. It was not how I wanted to spend the weekend. But I was finished. So what fresh hell was this?

Tornado E got to the sliding glass door and ripped it open.

Tornado E: Mommy! Tornado S squirted mustard at me!

Me: What?!

Tornado E: Tornado S squirted mustard at me!

Me: Where?

Tornado E: On the trampoline!

Me: He squirted what?

Tornado E: Mustard! He squirted mustard! At Me!

Me: Where did he- nevermind,

I got up and followed Tornado E outside. No one was on the trampoline. No one was in the backyard. Right.

Me: BOYS! NOW!

I stormed across the yard to the trampoline.

Tornado A: (From behind the shed, in what he must think was a whisper) You’re going to get in trouble.

On the trampoline was a small mustard stain. From a mustard packet.

Me: Tornado S! Where did you get- nevermind.

Tornado S smuggled about half a dozen mustard packets out of a restaurant about two months ago to put in his backpack in case he didn’t have lunch one day. I caught him and placed emergency snacks in an outside pocket of his backpack. I thought I had confiscated all the packets. Apparently not.

Me: Tornado S. Now.

Tornado S and Tornado A walked out from behind the shed. I looked over my shoulder to see Tornado E dragging the hose across the yard to spray off the trampoline.

Me: Tornado S, explain what happened.

Tornado S: I thought it would be funny to squirt Tornado E with mustard. (I gave him a look.) It wasn’t. I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.

Me: Where did you get the mustard packet?

Tornado S: In the living room.

Me: In the-

In the living room. With the good furniture. With the antique furniture. With the new carpet. With my kid’s library! Wait. My mom would kill me. You know because of her nice things. The living room was for reading only. Though we couldn’t keep the kids out of there. The forbidden and all.

Me: (sigh) Kid. No more taking mustard packets. No more taking mustard into the living room. No more squirting mustard at people.

Tornado S: Ok, Mama.

I climbed onto the trampoline and grabbed the mustard packet. Once I got back on solid ground, I took the hose from Tornado E and sprayed down the trampoline. Then I looked over at my boys. And sprayed them too. Tornado S and Tornado A still had their swimsuits on. Tornado E was dressed. But clothes dry.

I sprayed them until Tornado E jumped into the pool. His brothers followed. And I watched my kids enjoy the last Sunday of the school year.

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.

Nope, Never Ok, Not Ever.

“Nazis. I hate these guys.”

This year Nazis keep coming up, and it annoys the crap out of me.

Earlier in the fall in two separate class, on two separate days, two different boys gave the Nazi salute. It may help to tell you that I work in a high school that is over 90% Hispanic. And yes, both boys were Hispanic. But no matter the race, my reaction would have been the same.

You! Outside NOW!

Me: (in my mother voice) What did you do? Do you think that was respectful? Do you think that was appropriate? For my classroom? For public? Do you even know what that sign means?

Boy: (finally saying something instead of shaking his head, in a whisper voice looking at his feet) It’s just the Nazi salute Miss.

Me: (in my mother voice) “Just the Nazi salute?” Do you know what the Nazis stood for? The one pure race. Which they believed would be white. They believed all others inferior and preferred them dead. They would want you dead. And by doing that sign, you are saying you agree. With. Them.

Boy: (snaps up head to finally look me in the eye) But it was just an old German thing.

Me: No. They are Nazis still very much alive and active and everywhere. (At this point, the boy’s eyes go round.) And you are saying you’re a race traitor.

Boy: I’m… I’m sorry, Miss.

Me: And I (The Voice) Don’t ever want to see THAT sign in my class A. GAIN. (Normal teacher voice) Am I clear?

Boy: Yes, Miss. I’m sorry, Miss. I won’t do it again.

And after the second time, it hasn’t happened since.

While I hesitate to mention my work on my Mommy Blog, it brings me to what has been happening in Tornado E’s grade. With 6th graders. In a school across town with a 70% white majority. With a middle class background.

Tornado E has been coming home with some interesting stories.

Mama, the boys are talking about the Nazis. They think they’re cool. I don’t think they’re cool. I don’t like this, Mama.

So and so thinks Hitler was funny. I told him Hitler was evil, not funny. I don’t think he believed me.

Mama, so and so drew a swastika, and all the boys laughed. No, Mama, he erased it before the teacher saw.

Mama, so and so put a finger under his noise and said he was Hitler. The boys laughed. I keep telling them it’s not funny.

Mama, one of the boys said “Heil, Hitler” to one of the boys. No, Mama, the teacher didn’t hear. I don’t like this, Mama.

So the boys and I have had talks about race and privileged. We’ve talked about what to do when we are in a group of people who are saying bad things. We’ve talked about how to confront our friends.  And I decided this had to stop.

Only I dropped the ball, being a busy mom and teacher. Until I was at a 6th grade field trip, eating alone, recharging my batteries, sitting in a corner, watching the dynamics, listening.

Mumble, mumble, Nazi, mumble, weapons. Laughter. Mumble, Nazis, mumble, mumble. Laughter. Nazis, mumble, mumble. Mumble, mumble, Nazi weapons.

With the first Nazi that reached my ear, I locked on to the group of boys who were sitting far enough away from me that I couldn’t hear every word and further still from every adult, especially the teachers. So I watched them, listening. I watched them laugh and have a good time. The inflection was not what you want boys to be using when speaking of Nazis. I had enough.

So I went to the teachers and told them all about what I heard through the year so far and that Tornado E was being put into a rough spot, having to moniter his peers. I told them how I had handled it and learned that many of the kids had no idea how serious this conversation was and suggested that it be dealt as a class issue. The teachers agreed and thanked me.

Two weeks went by.

Mama, one of the boys dared another boy to do the Nazi salute. So he did. And then a bunch of them did it behind a teacher’s back.

Oh for Christ sake.

I immediately sat down and wrote the teacher about the incident.

I got a reply from the teacher a few hours later apologizing for not talking to the social studies teacher, promising it will be addressed with all the classes.

I haven’t heard of an incident since. But I swear if I do, I will march into that principal’s office first thing and demand that this nonsense end.

Man, I hate Nazis.

As an English teacher and mother…

Tornado S earned another D on a grammar assignment. I was beyond piss. I sat him down and made him redo it. In the midst of my lecture, Tornado E walked in and listened. When I was done, I looked over at Tornado E.

Tornado E: Mama, are you angry at Tornado S for getting a D or are you angry at him for getting a D in grammar?

My child is too smart for his own good.