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.

Brilliant!

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.

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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.

Tornado S and the Concerts

Every one of Tornado S’s concerts has this running commentary, either in my head or whispered to my mom: Is he? Is he lip syncing? He’s lip syncing. That kid is lip syncing. Tornado S. When I get my hands on you….. You have music class. Jesus. Does anyone else notice? Nope. He’s that good. Talent. But still. I swear, kid. He better not do that for the next song. Yes, yes, he is. That kid. He better not do it with the recorders. Are you kidding me? What does he do in music class? Sit in the back? Hide like a ninja? Wrong note, kid. At least, practice pretending to play your recorder.

Every after concert lecture goes like this: Tornado S. What were you thinking? Why didn’t you sing? Yes, I could tell. How about the recorder? Yes, I could tell. What do you do in music class? Honestly, kid, the world needs your voice. God gave it to you, and He wants to hear you sing, no matter what you think of your voice. Come here. Kid, what am I going to do with you?

Last Friday Tornado S had another concert. Because it had been spitting all evening, they moved the concert from outside to underneath the roof of the outside hallway, drastically reducing the seats. Of course, Tornado S didn’t know when he had to be there, so I assumed a quarter till. Um, no? Maybe. Doesn’t matter because the place was already packed with standing room only.

I was annoyed by all the grandparents for a moment until I remembered my own parents were on their way with the other two boys. My father regularly checks the calendars of the boys’ schools and Boy Scout Troop; while, I monitor the newsletters. Between the two of us, we manage to get everyone where they need to be. Note to self: check teachers’ blogs.

The principal offered the picnic tables behind the children out under the cloudy sky. A couple of parents and I shrugged and walked through the crowd of seats and passed the band and singers to the picnic tables. We pulled them out, wiped them off, and sat in the light sprinkles. My family joined us along with a teacher and a few other families.

It was a lovely concert.

Best of all, I have no idea if Tornado S sang or not.

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.

Just a Friendly Wave

When I have the boys in the morning, more often than not, Tornado S stands outside the house to wave at me.

We live on a corner of a T-intersection. Obviously the driveway is furthest from the stop sign. So I pull out and drive parallel to the yard, waving back, yelling, “I love you! Do your best! Have fun!”

Then I turn left, driving passed two neighborhood streets before making another left and driving out of view. The whole way, Tornado S and sometimes Tornado A are waving goodbye to me. So I wave all the way down the street, thinking of Ever After and how it’s tradition to wave at the edge of the drive.

The other day as I’m driving down the street waving back at Tornado S, a woman, walking a dog, came down the street. Seeing me waving, she became excited and waved enthusiastically. “Good morning!” she shouted.

I made her day. And I laughed. I called back, “Good morning.” Then I laughed and waved all the way to my turn.

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.