My Funny Valentine

Valentine’s Day is something of a deal in my family. Not a big deal. But a deal. 3 boys need to learn to be romantic somehow. So they get candy and Star Wars toy or some sort of craft. We discuss remembering our loved ones and showing them that we love them on any day of the year. But you never know if they’re actually getting it.

Tornado S: Mama, I need money for school.

Me: For what?

Tornado S: To buy a flower.

Tornado E: For who?

Tornado S: I want to bring it home.

Tornado E: You can’t. They’re for sending to kids at the school.

Tornado S: But I want one!

So Sunday I took Tornado S to the florist and showed him around.

Me: What flower do you want?

Tornado S: Carnations! Because they last longer.

Thanks, mom.

I looked around and didn’t see any large single ones, so I flagged down an employee.

Employee: What color?

I looked down at Tornado S.

Me: What color?

Tornado S: (with an excited little jump) Red!

Employee: (To Tornado S) How many?

Tornado S looked at me.

Me: How many?

Tornado S: (with another excited jump) Three!

The employee left and brought us 3 red carnations, telling us to go to the front to get them wrapped.

Cashier: Would you like these wrapped with baby’s breath?

Me: Do you?

Tornado S: What’s baby’s breath?

Cashier: Hold on. (She went and brought out a clump of baby’s breath and handed it to Tornado S.) This is baby’s breath.

Tornado S: (Handing it back to the cashier) Ok. Yes, please.

Cashier: And you can get a card to fill out.

Tornado S followed where she pointed. He picked a card and showed it to me. Then he carefully wrote out a message as I paid.

Then he handed me the card: “Happy Valentine’s Day, Mama!”

When I got home today, Tornado A greeted me at the door.

Tornado A: You’re home, Mama! Do you want your present now?

Me: Sure?

Tornado A: OK! (runs out of the room) Brothers! Brothers! Mama’s home! We need to give her our present! Hurry! (Tornado A runs by with Tornado S following) Tornado E! Come on! (Tornado E follows)

The boys ran into my parent’s room, demanding the present. Then they ran out to find me. Tornado A swung a plastic bad. He reached in it.

Tornado A: Here, Mama. It’s from all of us.

He handed me a heart-shaped candy box.

Tornado S: And it’s metal, so we can use it again.

Me: Thank you, boys. I guess I should go get your presents out of the room.


A Scene Stealer

It was my first Pack meeting, and it was Tornado S’s last.

I was volunteered/conned into the leadership position of Cubmaster/Chairman. I prefer Cubmaster to Chairman and Den Leader to Cubmaster. But someone has to lead, and I have the most leadership. I will be damned if I let this Pack go down. Besides what else do I have to do when I’m not mothering, teaching, den leading, or writing? Nothing.

So it was my first Pack meeting as Leadership.

I called the boys in, so we could start promptly. (My first order of business. Start all meetings and events on time. Damnit.) Then I realized that no one had been assigned to the flag ceremony. Ah-

I turned to the Webelos 2 leader and asked if his den would like to run it as it was their last pack meeting. Two boys instantly volunteered for flags. Tornado S volunteered to lead.

Heaven, help me.

If I had none, we would’ve practiced. Tornado S is not a fluent reader with his stops and breaks and stutters. I had no paper, just my phone. He was my introvert. And he’s, well, he’s my Tornado S.

The leader: I have no problem with that.

I pulled out my phone, found a ceremony online, and handed the phone to Tornado S.

He bounded up the stairs to the middle of the stage.

I blessed myself.

Tornado S took center stage. He help up The Ears and waited, a peace sign stuck up as far as he could reach. I mirrored it with a finger to my lips. The boys, in drips and drabs, mirrored it. Some of the seasoned adults mirrored it.

We waited.

He waited for the rustling to die down.

We waited.

He waited.

The leader: Tornado S, I think we’re good.

Then Tornado S started to read.

Two sentences in, I realized he was reading the positions that everyone should be. I stared at him for another sentence, wondering if I should shout at him. When he started the next sentence, I ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time.

Me: (putting my hand on the phone) Just read the leader parts.

Tornado S: (smiled and kept reading.)

Me: (Through a forced smile) Tornado S.

Tornado S: Color guard, attention.

Me: (Through my forced smile) Louder.

Tornado S: Color guard, march!

And it went well until we got to the pledge. Where Tornado S decided to say the whole thing in one breathe. The Scout Oath wasn’t any better as he ended the speed recite in a mutter, and I was grateful for the Boy Scouts in attendance to loudly recite the Oath. I stopped Tornado S before he could mangle the Law.

Me: Thank you, Tornado S. My son, everyone.

With that, he gave a huge smile and magnanimous wave.

My DNA runs strong in that kid, especially when the rest of the night he took every opportunity to steal the show.

A Religious Debate

It was a full out rebellion when I came home. To be fair, they were ready to revolt, patiently waiting for me to come home. Like a trap to be sprung on an unsuspecting victim.

To be fair. I was running late. And they had just spent 5 days at their dad’s, which usually means late nights and early mornings.

Tornado S: I don’t want to go to religious class.

He spoke as I set down my things.

Me: Give me a good reason.

Tornado S: You only make me go because Tornado A has to go.

Me: That’s not a reason. If you must talk to me, say it louder because I need to use the bathroom.

Tornado S: I don’t want to go!

Me: (from behind a closed door.) Still not a reason!

Tornado S: Fine! Why do you want me to go?

Me: (Finished with my business, hands washed, and walking back into the common area on my way to my pretzel) That’s not a reason.

Tornado S: Well, I want one.

Me: Fine. You need to be educated in the religion you are being raised in.

Tornado S: (silently fuming)

Tornado A: I don’t want to go to religious class.

Me: Follow me while I get something out of my room. What’s your reason?

Tornado A: I know everything.

Says the 2nd grader who has only been in religious class for this year.

Me: …..

Tornado A: Ask me something.

Me: Prove it.

Tornado A: I know what those winter candles are called.

Me: What are they called?

Tornado A: One is called Love. I can’t remember the others.

Me: So you don’t know everything. Keep following me; I have to get something in the kitchen.

Tornado A: Ask me anything about Jesus. (pause) Or Moses!

This would be too easy.

I turned. I stopped. I leaned down so I’m face to face. He meets my eye.

Me: Tell me about Isaiah.

Tornado A: (opens his mouth. shuts his mouth. thinks.) I can tell you about a saint! (My eyebrows went up.) I can tell you about Saint Pius. (Now he has my attention)

Me: Oh?

Tornado A: He knew Saint Patrick.


Me: You’re going to religious class. It’s time to get going. Everyone in the car!













We were at a zoo/museum, standing outside an atrium. On the atrium outside wall was a cool metal art piece, illustrating the evolutionary leaps of fish ancestor to bird. It had about 10 figures.

Tornado A: Mama, what’s that?

Me: That’s the evolution of the bird, starting with its fish ancestor.

Tornado A: Oh.

Tornado S: So that’s how the bird evolved into the dragon.

Me: Not yet.

Meetings and Dreams

I made it. The last parent-teacher conference. Friday. After having a night of a dozen for my students. Then Tornado E’s. Then Tornado A’s. Finally Friday Tornado S’s.

And I had a plan.

Like the other two, I rushed out of school and drove as fast as I legally could to get to the boys’ school. I would make it with mere minutes to spare, meeting my mom and Tornado S. Tornado S and I would have our meeting. My parents would drop off the other two boys on their way to the football game. The boys and I would have delicious BBQ before going back to the school for the Book Fair/Dance/Chili Cook Off. Then books, soda, friends.


Except Tornado S and I waited. And waited. And waited. And waited.

I texted my mom to let her know the issue.

30 minutes later. The parent-teacher conference before us ended. Awesome. And I asked the secretary if Tornado E and Tornado A could wait in the lobby if they were dropped off before we were done.

And it goes like I expected. Tornado S is a sweet kid. He’s bright and oh-so-smart. She tells me how she can see it in his face when he’s following her, when he’s thinking, when comprehension dawns on him. We discuss his testing results. She already has plans for him.

Me: Has he told you what he wants to do when he grows up? The science stuff?

The Teacher (The official science teacher of 5th grade): Why! No! Tornado S, what do you want to do when you grow up?

Tornado S: I want to study Tesla’s work. I think I can finish his work and make electricity from his (looks at me for the word but I just smile) things. I’m going to make electricity out of the air and give it away. Like Tesla.

The Teacher looked at me, surprised. I smiled and shrugged.

The Teacher: You’ll have to tell me when you do that.

Me: Are you kidding? The world will know.

Tornado S beamed.

Accommodations and Tornado S

Yesterday I met with the neuro-psychologist about Tornado S’s evaluation. Three years of fighting, finally, I had results. Drum-roll. Please.

Tornado S has a reading disability. We sat there for three heartbeats.

What? But he reads find. I mean, ok. He could do better. But his comprehension. Sure, he skips words. But. What?

So apparently, Tornado S is crazy bright and has been fooling everyone all these years on how well he reads.

Well, ok, then.

But he needs more testing. By a neurologist. Something is up with his fine motor skills.

Let the battle for referrals begin.

Tornado S has a crossword puzzle to do that corresponded to the map of the United States. He had to correctly spell the state name in tiny squares of a crossword puzzle. Too tiny for Tornado S to write legibly. I stared at it. I pondered it. I studied it.

My Mom: Fae! Are you going to help your son or not?

Me: (still looking at the crossword puzzle and then the map) Yeah. I just need to figure out how to accommodate Tornado S. (pause) (pause) I got it. I need a map. Or a book with the states’ names.

I got out an atlas and got Tornado S to the table. I opened the atlas to the United States. I gave him the worksheet of a map of the United States with numbers labeling the states.

Me: Here’s what we’re going to do. You’re going to find the state we need to write on the crossword puzzle, and then you’re going to spell at me while I write it.

Tornado S: Why can’t you just write it?

Me: Because you’re suppose to be writing it. You’re suppose to be practicing writing the states’ names. Since you’re not writing them, you’re spelling them out loud. Go.

Tornado S: Mama, what is “accommodate?”

Me: It’s. It’s. It’s accommodations…?

Tornado S stared at me. I looked around the room. Then I jumped off my chair and grabbed his hand, pulling him into the kitchen. I grabbed the bag of chips off the fridge.

Me: See how easy that was for me? (I put the bag of chips on the top of the fridge) Now you get it.

He tried and failed. And then jumped and grunted, acting like a cartoon.

Me: So accommodations is giving you a tool to do the work I can. If I handed you the bag, that is not an accommodation. I did the work for you. But if I (I ran into the other room and grabbed the stool. I opened it up in front of him) give you a tool to help you do the work, then I’m giving you an accommodation. Now get the bag.

He scampered up the stool and grabbed the bag. He gave me a big smile and held his arms out for victory.

Me: So an accommodation is helping you do the work you should do.

Tornado S: YEA!

Me: Let’s go get that homework done.

On the Front Porch

There’s nothing funny about this story. There’s no joke, no punchline, no laughter. There’s nothing horrible or sad. It’s just a moment I want to capture forever, preserve in amber, crystallize in time.

I had asked the ex to have Tornado S bring his homework to karate, so that I could check it. Luckily he did, and I did. I found a few mistakes.

So a little after karate, a little after his bedtime, we sat, Tornado S and I, on the steps in front of his dad’s house, using the light of the porch to correct math problems. The night was warm just like any September night in Tucson. Because we were far from the city lights, I could point out a dozen or so constellations. But instead, I pointed out how Tornado S should have multiply instead of divide. I showed him short cuts and asked him to write his best as I held the clipboard steady as he wrote the answer. Instead of fighting or whining or arguing, Tornado S said, “Yes, Mama” and then corrected the problems.

That moment of sitting next to my 10 year old Tornado S is what I wish to keep forever.