Just a Few Hard Days at the End of School

Tornado S turned 11, nearly two weeks ago. The night before his birthday he asked ever-so-sweetly if I would make brownies for his class. I did. I have a habit of undercooking brownies slightly as I love gooey brownies; so I made sure I cooked them well for the class.

Because of the Walk Out, teachers are suppose to stay at school until 4:30. As I’m an honest person, I was planning on sticking around until 4:30, even though it was my kid’s birthday. Even though it was a Friday.

With the school day over, I was checking email and grades when I decided to turn my phone’s volume up. I noticed I missed 6 calls from my mother.

That’s not good.

She texted me: Check your email. Tornado S is crying and won’t tell us why. Something happened at school.

I clicked into my personal-professional email to find an email from Tornado S’s teacher. “I’m so sorry…. There was an incident…. Three boys told Tornado S that he put bloody mucus in the brownies…. Principal is taking care of it ….. Tornado S cried all afternoon…. Got Tornado E to come in and take care of him …. Come to the school…. I’ll be here until after 5.”

With in moments I was calling the school.

Secretary: School. How can I help you?

Me: I need to talk to Mr. S right now please.

Secretary: Whom may I say is calling?

Me: Full name. Tornado S’s Mom.

Secretary: One moment.

Principal: Hello?

Seriously I’ve never been connected so quickly. So this is bad. I pulled on my authority voice.

Me: Mr. S. This is Full Name. Tornado S’s Mother. I heard there was an incident. I was hoping you can explain it to me.

So apparently a boy, who was getting over being sick, mentioned his mouth was bleeding after eating the brownie. The three other boys heard it and teased Tornado S about it. The 5th grade girls overheard it and told the teacher on duty. Tornado S was very hurt by the incident. There will be a consequence, and it will happen on Monday. But rest assured, there will be a consequence, and Tornado S did not do anything.

And let me say, I wasn’t assuredly rested as there had been an incident earlier this year with Tornado E and another boy. I stared at the email. I shut down my computer and grabbed my stuff and ran out of the school. I made it to the boys’ school in record time.

Hell has no fury.

I walked in to the office like I was wearing my combat boots instead of Mary Janes. I told the secretary that I was there to talk with Tornado S’s teacher; she waved me on. The principal saw me and made I contact with me. I smiled like murder was on my mind and gave him a nod. He ducked into his office. I marched on to Tornado S’s classroom.

And she wasn’t there.

I sweetly asked the secretary where she could be; the secretary suggested I check outside.

Where I found two of Tornado E’s classmates and a mother of a different classmate. Apparently Tornado S’s teacher was working on the talent show. The girls offered to let me go before them, but I declined and waited until they were done.

When Tornado S’s teacher saw me, she immediately apologized. She told me everything that happened, which was a slightly different story than I got from the principal. Shocker. And that the principal was going to let it go, but the teacher was adamant that these boys have consequences. These boys had been causing trouble all year, but their parents defend them. These boys decided to take down Tornado S, who is sweet and kind-hearted. The teacher loves Tornado S. The girls in the class love Tornado S.

When Tornado S refused to tell the teacher what happen, the teacher called for Tornado E to come and talk with Tornado S. Apparently there were tears on all sides. Tornado S was allowed to accompany Tornado E to art class.

The teacher was so angry. She told me I could keep Tornado S home for the last week of school. But I told her Tornado S had to stand his ground. So she told me the art teacher could take Tornado S if he wanted. I said that the bullies needed to know that Tornado S wasn’t pushed around by them. She nodded. She planned on dealing with them in her own way, but she was insisting that the principal suspend them. If she couldn’t make the principal do that, then she would let me know, so that I could throw a fuss. Fine.

We talked a little longer about my boys, about middle school, about high school, about the walk out. Tornado S told her all about the walk out and the protest. “He’s so proud of you.”

When I got home, I let the issue go. Until the next day. After we read Harry Potter, I asked Tornado S about what happened. He lied. He couldn’t remember. I told him I needed the truth. He lied. He said it was no big deal. I told him I needed the truth. This dance went on for 30 minutes until he finally told me what happened. His story was like the teachers. Except no one knew how it ended. Tornado S got up from the lunch table and walked away, leaving the boys to make fun of him to his back.

I hugged Tornado S and told him that was brave.

I sent an email to the principal with Tornado S’s side of the story. I reminded the principal that kids take advantage of the end of the year to cause trouble because they think they would get away with it. I asked him as a mother and a teacher to discipline the boys and give them consequences. They were suspended.

And then the teacher emailed me. She would separate the boys when they got back and monitor them every moment. Another little boy went home and, crying, told the story to his mom. That Monday the boy brought Tornado S a birthday present. The girls formed a tight little gang around Tornado S, making sure the bullies wouldn’t mess with him. I fear if these boys do not go to another school, they will never have a date.

When I got home, I learned the teacher also got Tornado S a present.

I’ve been expecting Tornado S to be bullied for sometime now because he has a bunch of weird quirks. He’s been lucky to have classmates that understand him. These bullies are new to the school, and the leader will not be back next year. I am so glad Tornado S has so many friends.

Next school year, I’m throwing a huge pool party at the beginning of the year to celebrate these awesome kids.

Also I’m going to use this as a wedge to drive Tornado S away from the Dark Side.

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Tournament

I had my share of competing. Volleyball, basketball, softball, and swimming. In swimming, it was just you in the water. You competed against yourself because if you looked back at your competition, it would slow you down. When the set up your heat, your age and your stroke was all that mattered. So as a freshman, you competed against fully grown seniors. It could be several heats going for three precious spots. You had to push hard because you didn’t know if you could.

The boys’ karate organization breaks down its competitors by age, rank, and size. The compete only in their heat, so each heat has a first, second, third, and so on. At first, I thought it was odd (you know because of ultra-competitive sports), but I’ve learned to see the value in it. Granted, it’s not always fair.

Tornado A got into karate as soon as he was old enough, and he has ranked every semester he has been in the sport, which puts him at a high rank for his age. He does not have many competitors his age and rank. His heats are usually smaller, allowing an easier time to grab a top spot. He still pushes himself though. Those 150 black belts aren’t going to earn themselves.

Tornado E has had the opposite issue. He joined karate at the usual age, and even with jumping rank, he still has lots of competition. Usually his heat is filled with all 8 competitors. He’s small for his age, so he’s competing with girls and boys much bigger than him. A year or so ago, he won nothing until the last event. We had a talk about having to work harder because he’s smaller. This tournament he did rather well.

But in this tournament, Tornado S did not do well. He is small for his age. Then for some reason, only a handful of kids his age were in his rank. So few kids his age were in the ranks around his, that they combined them. So Tornado S competed, not only against kids bigger than him but, against kids that out ranked him by one, two, even three stripes. As you might have guessed, it did not go well for Tornado S. He hung in there until the end, but he never got a coveted place. To add salt to wounds, he even out preformed Tornado E and his heat in points.

So tomorrow I’ll give the lecture of working twice as hard as others because you never know when you’re going to go up against someone bigger and better ranked.

Que a scene of Fae at fourteen (skinny as a bean pole, not yet hitting her growth spurts), on a swimmer’s block, in her team swimsuit, goggles, and a blue silicon swim cap with a braid tucked in, looking over at a big, built senior in her swimsuit, goggles, and silicon swim cap. It’s a sunny day. The senior is doing all sorts of stretches on her block. Fae rolls her shoulders, looks at the camera, and says, “This is not going to end well.” Then she smiles, “But at least, I get to swim.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suit

Me: Ok. Try it on.

Damn.

Too small.

Fine.

Let’s go.

Because my boys want to wear suits to church. Because they want to wear suits to formal events. Because my boys like suits.

So Friday, two days before Easter, I took Tornado S shopping for a new suit. He was thrilled. I was less so.

I’m not a big fan of shopping. I’m not really good at it. And if you ask any one with boys or have boys yourself, you know that buying clothes other than playwear is a bit difficult. Most stores have a handful of nice button-up shirts and maybe a couple of tie and shirt combinations. Or maybe just 4 dress shirts. Four. Which means, many, many stores if your boys either don’t look good in those or you or they don’t like them. I personally despise sweater and shirt combinations.

Luckily I have a store. Tornado S and I left right after breakfast, which isn’t really impressive because I made breakfast cookies. Like 5 dozen of them.

We walked into the store and walk straight to the back to the boys’ clothes area. Tornado S nearly skipping at the enjoyment of having a Mama Day.

Me: We’re looking for size 12.

Tornado S: Ok!

He made a bee line to the clearance rack and started sifting through them. Huh. Expensive as it was, I knew what I was getting in to. So I started going through the regular price size 12 suits.

After a few moments, I had found a navy, a pin-striped, and a grey. I knew Tornado E would throw a fit if someone else got a pin-striped suit.

Tornado S: Mama. I found a suit. (I looked over.) But it’s blue.

He held it up. It was blue. Not crayon blue but like a bright navy blue.

Me: Ok.

Tornado S: I. I don’t really like blue, Mama.

He looked pathetic. And adorable. I nearly laughed.

Me: Thank you for looking in clearance, but I’m not going to buy you a suit you don’t like. What do you think of this grey one?

He beamed and ran over.

Tornado S: I like it, Mama!

Me: Let’s try on the jacket. Oh good. Perfect. Let’s go buy it.

 

At Easter Mass, I stood between Tornado S in his grey suit and Tornado E in his pin-striped suit. I looked down at Tornado E’s arm. Ah. Damn.

Me: (Whispering) You’re going to need a new suit.

My Dad: (Whispering) I noticed that last week.

Really? You didn’t think to mention that when I said I had to take Tornado S to get a suit.

So guess what we’re doing next weekend.

Just a Gown

Tornado S needed an MRI, so on the first day of spring break, we went to the clinic to get it done. He was suspicious because last time we were at the clinic, he was forced to give blood. The kid hates getting his finger nails cut. It’s like torture. Imagine trying to get a needle into this kid.

Tornado S has been diagnosed with a developmental delay disorder. Mild, general, physical. But his hand writing is getting worse, so the doctor wanted to make sure Tornado S was not regressing.

The nurse was quick to set Tornado S at ease. She was efficient and cheery. But upon handing me the medical gown, she frowned, looking at Tornado S.

Nurse: See if it will fit him.

It barely made it past his butt.

Nurse: Let me see if I can find a bigger one. (In a moment, she returned and handed me a new gown.) This might be a little big, but it’s the best we got.

Tornado S stripped, and I helped him into the gown. It hit the floor. I giggled to see my boy in a gown.

Tornado S: How do you walk in this thing?

Me: (Thinking back to all the princess dresses I wore as a girl, never missing an opportunity to dress like royalty) You can lift it up like this. Or you can kick-step. Kick-step. Like this. Kick-step. Kick-step.

Tornado S kick-stepped.

Then I remembered this was Tornado S. Uncoordinated Tornado S.

Me: Nevermind. Just pick it up like this.

Tornado S mimicked my gesture and picked up the gown and walked a few steps.

Tornado S: This is annoying. How does anyone do anything in one of these?

Me: Oh, sweetheart, millions of women have been doing everything in dresses like that for thousands of years.

He looked up at me and wrinkled his nose. Yeah, many of them would probably agree with you, kid.

 

P.S. Everything is fine. He’s just lazy on his handwriting, and yes, I do have pictures of Tornado S in his floor-length gown, smiling up at the camera.

Existential Crisis

Tornado S did not want to go to religious class. But I made him. He whined. He cried. He begged. Video games were not going to be in his future.

When we arrived, Tornado A jumped out of the car. I told him to go ahead and go without us; we’ll catch up. I opened up Tornado S’s car door.

Me: Come on, Tornado S. Time to go.

Tornado S: (crying) But why are we here?

Me: Because I am raising you Catholic, so you have to come to classes.

Tornado S: But why?

Me: Because this will give you a place to start. A place to start questioning and searching and trying to understand the world.

Tornado S: But why here?

Me: Because this church has a lot to offer, and it agrees with a lot of what I believe.

Tornado S: (still crying) But why are we here?

Me: (sigh) Because you have to go to class.

Tornado S: No. Why are we here?

Me: What?

Tornado S: Why are we here? Why do we exist? Why do we live?

Wait. What?

Me: You want to know why we are here on earth, living this life?

Tornado S: (sobbing) YES!

Me: Well. I think we’re here to learn. To experience. To love.

Tornado S: But why is life so horrible?

Kid, you ain’t seen nothing yet. But then this is the kid who cried watching a Save the Children Fund commercial.

Me: I don’t know, baby. A lot of people have tried to find out why. Listen. Let’s go home. You can rest. You don’t have to go to class. When you’re ready, we’ll talk more about this. Let me just let your teacher know.

So I walked into the building to find that Tornado S’s teacher wasn’t there. In his place was the director of children’s ministry.

Director: Hey. You don’t look like Tornado S. But I see a resemblance. (Yeah, we’ve been in the program for a few years now.)

Me: It’s the nose and the cheeks. Yeah, Tornado S is having an existential crisis in the car. So I think I need to take him home.

Director: A what?

Me: He wants to know why we’re here. Not here for class, but here as in our lives.

Director: OH! Wow. Ok. Yeah. Tell him I wonder that myself. It’s fine. He’s a good kid. He told us all about the homily the other day.

I stopped making eye contact as I watched Tornado S walk past the windows to the door. He came into the room.

Tornado S: Hi, Mama! I figured it out!

Me: Um, ok.

Tornado S: We’re here to have fun!

Um.

Tornado S: I’ll stay for class.

Director: Tornado S. I won’t make you do any work today. Just listen. Ok, bud?

Tornado S: Ok. Can I go get a snack first?

Director: Sure, go ahead.

Me: Um. Ok. Well, then. See you in 50 minutes.

What the hell?

A Book Signing

We had a Festival of Books this weekend, and Tornado E missed it as he was off on an all-weekend school trip. Unfortunately for Tornado E, several authors he likes were in town. Fortunately for me, one of those authors was one of my favorites. So I decided that I HAD to see her and get her to sign a book.

Because I’ve never been to a book signing, I worried that I would only get one book signed, so I slyly asked Tornado S to come with me under the guise of a Mommy Day. Tornado S said yes.

But first we went to the lecture. An hour talk. Which included two other authors in a panel discussion about world creating. It was great. It was funny. I learned a lot. Tornado S was bored out of his mind.

But boredom is good for the mind.

After the lecture, while I waited in line, he ran around in circles to get the energy out. Then he came and stood with me, holding Tornado E’s book. We got to the front of the line.

HB: Hi! (She reached out for a book)

Tornado S: Hi!  (handing her the book) I don’t read your books yet. But my big brother does. But he can’t be here because he’s away for the weekend for school. So can you sign it for my brother?

HB: You stood in line for your big brother? (Tornado S nodded) That was very kind of you. Do you want me to make this out to your brother? What’s his name?

I spelled it for her.

Me: (Whispering to Tornado S) Did you want to ask her your question?

Tornado S: OH! Are you going to make a movie out of your books?

HB: I hope so. Fingers crossed. It’s not up to me.

Tornado S took back the book.

I handed her my book.

Me: I’m a huge fan. Thank you for writing such great books.

HB: Thank you. What’s your name?

I spelled it.

Tornado S: She has two books! Can you sign both of them?

HB: Sure! That’s what I’m here for!

Me: Oh, thanks. (I quickly pulled out the second book and handed it to her) I’ve loved your books since the first one.

HB: (Laughs) Thanks for sticking with me.

Me: I’m making it a family thing. (I patted Tornado S on the head and grabbed my book.) Thank you.

And that’s how my quiet, shy introvert had more guts than me.

The Tornadoes Try to Plan an Impromptu Vacation

On the first day of Rodeo break two weeks ago, I texted my best friend at 10 am.

My phone rang with her ringtone.

Wally: Why aren’t you at school?

Me: Rodeo Break!

Wally: Your town is so weird.

We talked for 45 minutes as she commuted to school. Tornado A insisted on talking to her, but then she had to go. As we were saying goodbye, Tornado S entered the room.

Tornado S: Are we going to see Wally?

Me: Um, no.

Tornado E entered the room.

Tornado E: We’re going to see Wally?!

Me: No. She lives in California.

Tornado A: Is Wally coming to see us?!

Me: No, she’s going to class. Can you here this?

Wally: (laughing) Yeah, but I got to get to class. Tell the boys I love them. I love you.

Me: I love you too. Good luck. Study hard. Bye.

Wally: Thanks. Good luck. Bye.

Click.

Tornado E: When can we see Wally?

Me: Probably this summer.

Tornado S: Why can’t we see her today?

Me: Because she lives 8 hours away, and she has work and school.

Tornado A: So she can come here!

Me: Not possible.

So I have realized we can vacation nowhere but Southern California, so we can visit Wally. Today I told the younger tornadoes about my thought.

Tornado A: Wally is mommish.

Tornado S: Because she’s family!

Tornado A: She’s not family! She’s not related to us!

Tornado S: She’s kin!

Me: I call her my sister.

Tornado A: She doesn’t share our blood.

Me: She shares our heart, and that is more than enough.

Tornado S: YEA!

Tornado: Ok. That’s good enough.