The Fourth Child

No, I’m not pregnant. Though the boys are lobbying hard for a fourth child. A girl, please, Mommy. A baby sister, please, Mommy.

Um, it doesn’t work that way.

Take the other night.

Tornado E: When are you going to have another baby?

Maybe, never. You kind of need a willing male partner for that. Or a sperm bank. But that’s a little complicated to go into with a 5yr old, a 8yr old, and a 10yr old.

Tornado E: I would like a baby sister.

Tornado S and Tornado A: Yeah.

Me: You have two little sisters.

One half and one step but sisters nonetheless.

Tornado S: But we want you to have a girl.

He gave me that adorable smile.

Me: Maybe one day. I’m very happy to have my three boys.

Tornado S: Did you know you were going to have three boys?

Me: It doesn’t work like that. But each one of you was wanted and planned.

Tornado S: So did you know you would have three kids?

I rubbed his nearly shaved head.

Me: Not at first. I did want four kids though.

Tornado A: That means a little girl!

Um, not yet. Your grandparents would kill me if I had a baby now, living at their house.

Tornado E: So when will you have another baby?

Me: I don’t know. I always seemed to get pregnant when everything is perfect in my life.

Tornado E: What if I’m 15?

God, I hope it doesn’t take until Tornado E‘s 15 to be settled and married and have a perfect little life to ruin with a baby.

Me: Then I guess you would be babysitting.

I rubbed his nearly shaved head.

Tornado S: I won’t be!

If Tornado E is 15 and two years older, then Tornado S would be 13. Legal babysitting age is 12.

Me: You would be too.

Pause.

Tornado S: Hmmm. I would be good at babysitting. I helped calmed down Tornado A today.

Me: You’re a good big brother.

I kissed his head.

I fear that once they figure out the mechanics of the whole thing, they’ll put me on Match.com or start a GoFundMe page to raise money for sperm. Lord help me.

Just a Few Skills Needed

The school wants to hold Tornado S back in first grade. Because he’s at all types of at-risk in reading. Because they are all freaked out by this stupid reading test at the end of 3rd grade. Because he’s so immature. Because he’s in the middle of the pack. Because he’s just so non-enthused by school. Because, well, it would do wonders for him.

Except.

He got all A’s and B’s. He was on honor roll all 4 quarters. He is immature, but the kid is still going through a divorce, which included (Surprise!) a new baby sister, another caregiver, a new house, and a custody arrangement changed 3 times in less than a school year. Christ; that’s a lot for a kid to deal with. Besides holding him back won’t mature him; he will be as mature as the kids a year younger than him. He will never be the top of the pack; he’s content to be in the middle. If I held him back, he would just be in the middle of the pack next year. The kid has just a little motivation; he’s content to just be. So really the problem is reading.

And the reading! He had to be with a special tutor. But in the last quarter he started progressing leaps and bounds. Funny how that was when I demanded everyone to make him read 20 minutes a day, not 10. And my mom started working with him because I was working and she started doing his homework with him. She learned he covered up the next word he was about to read. She learned he read better and faster when he sat up and read loud. She learned he started reading a page and noticed the picture several words in and became distracted. Oh, and why didn’t the reading teacher notice these things?

So I’ve been arguing with the teacher and the principal. Next stop is the superintendent. I want to know what their big plan is for an honor student they want to hold back. How will they challenge him? He won’t challenge himself. He’s proven that he, not only knows the curriculum, but exceeds expectations on mastering it. So what’s their plan?

To win this fight, I put Tornado S in private tutoring for reading. I giggled when they told me their tutoring service was geared to get kids to comprehend their reading at top levels. Tornado S’s reading comprehension is amazing, even his teacher admitted that. The private tutoring also focuses on handwriting, which Tornado S needs serious help on because of his poor fine motor skills. I will do whatever it takes to my kids across the finish line. Even if I have to push them across myself.

On his first day, his tutor came out of the workroom to discuss his progress and how well he did. We agreed I didn’t have to grade his homework so tough on the handwriting because of his (for lack of a better word) disability. She laughed at his stubbornness, trying to get out of doing the last worksheet. She then told me he would be right along as soon as he as he picked out his stickers for the day. I assured her it might be a while, and she moved on to speak to another parent in the church-quiet waiting room.

Then Tornado S stormed out of the workroom, banging the door open and into the wall.

The tutor jumped up and ran to him. She showed him how to gently open the door and had him repeat the instruction.

She smiled at me. “Just another skill we offer.”

“HEY! MOMMY! Guess what! I got stickers!”

He slammed the door to the workroom shut.

The tutor’s face took on a look quite close to horror.

I smiled and shrugged. “I’m raising him in a loud family. We were meant to be Vikings. Come on, little dude. Let’s go home.”

I opened the door and ushered him out. Then I gently closed the door behind us.

His Reputation Precedes Him

A couple of weeks ago, we were in the Friendly Giant’s neighborhood. And I thought why not visit my baby brother? I hadn’t been to his place since he moved in. So I texted him, and he was home and awake. The boys and I swung by and offered doughnuts for coming at the early hour of 10am.

As you can imagine, the boys had a great time. It’s their favorite uncle. And he owns an electric fireplace that changes color!

While the Friendly Giant was wrestling with all three tornadoes, his roommate came home. The wrestling game was put on hold (or “paused” as Tornado S likes to say), so my brother could introduce us.

The roommate: So which one likes Darth Vader and Hitler?

We all looked at Tornado S. He smiled.

To be fair, he only wanted to play a Nazi to play Indiana Jones. He’s not allowed to like real bad guys.

Brainstorming

I like celebrating holidays and traditions.  Life needs to be celebrated.  And food.  Food is good.  Years ago I started celebrating Chinese New Years with my boys.  (You can even find crafts on the blog.)  I have a knack for American Chinese food, so it gives me an excuse to go all out with crab rangoons and egg rolls and bean sprouts with green beans and cashew chicken or broccoli beef.  Yummy.  Only we have a slight problem.

Driving home from school.

Me: Boys.  We have a problem.

Silence.

Tornado E: What, Mommy?

Me: Friday is the movie night at the school.  Do you guys want to go?

Tornado E and S: YES!

Me: Cool.  We’ll do that.  Friday is also Chinese New Year.

Tornado E: So let’s celebrate!

Me: Good idea.  But we’re doing the movie night.  So what are we going to do?

Silence as the boys ponder.  I could almost hear the wheels in their head turning.  I figured we would celebrate Saturday, even decorate the house and do a few crafts.

Tornado S: I know!  Let’s take Chinese food to the movie night!

Movie night is Rio with the school serving Mexican food (I know, not Brazilian, but you know, whatever) for purchase.  I figured I’d pick up McDonald’s or Taco Bell.  But Chinese food . . . .

Tornado E: That’s a great idea!  Let’s do that!

Yes, that’s doable.  We can do that.

Me: Great idea, Tornado S.  We’ll pick up Chinese food and take it to movie night.

With that, we were working as a team.  If this goes well, maybe I’ll let them write the menu every week.  What could go wrong?

The Dragon Castle

Tornado S got a castle and dragon Lego set for Christmas.  It’s pretty cool with good knights, an evil knight, an evil wizard, a princess, and a red dragon.  The castle was slightly too complicated for Tornado S, so we worked on it together.  I took pictures of it as soon as it was done, so I can admire my hard work for years to come.

Then one thing or another happened, and Tornado S declared he didn’t want the set any more.  Something like sour grapes or what not.  Are you kidding me?  Do you know how long it took us to build that?  Do you not understand how awesome it is?  Do you not get how much your uncles and I would’ve given for that when we were kids?

Tornado S: I’m going to destroy it.

Me: No!  I’ll take it.

Tornado S: Fine.  It’s yours.

Me: YEA!  Ok, so the princess was kidnapped by the evil wizard because he wants to blackmail her father.  But what the wizard doesn’t know is the princess has a dragon who is coming to rescue her along with her brothers.  And-

Tornado S: NO!  It’s an evil dragon!

Me: It’s my set.  It’s my story.  So the dragon attacks the castle, and the evil wizard is fighting him with magic.  Meanwhile, the princes engage battle with the evil knight after battling through a field of zombies.  The princess is fit to be tied because she’s trapped without her weapons.

Tornado S: That’s not how it goes!

Tornado E: And then the dragon breaks through the wall!

Me: And the princess calls for him to breathe fire on the lock to melt it!

Tornado E: The princess is free!  She jumps on her dragon!

Tornado S: NO!  The bad guy wins!

Me: They fly away to help her brothers defeat the evil knight and his army!

Tornado E: But the wizard hits the dragon with a spell!

Me: But the princess finds magic herbs to cure the dragon!

Tornado S: That’s not how the story goes!

Me: It’s my toy.

Tornado S: No!  It’s mine!  I want to play with it!

Me: (Shrugging) Fine.

Tornado E: But Mommy!  We were playing!

Me: You can play with your brother.  (pause) Or we have several Imaginatrix castles to play with!

Also I want female warriors in our Legos and Imaginatrix toys.

The kids aren’t all right.

I’ve been avoiding my blog for the last few days.  If I’m honest, I’ll say avoiding, and if I’m not, I’ll say I was just too busy.  There’s this post I have to write.  It’s been nagging at me, and I don’t want to write it.  But I have to or I can’t move on to anything else because it will seep into every other blog post coming.  Or I’ll avoid writing, and I can’t have that.  So I’m writing it.

The ex left 3 years and 2 months ago.  Since then, Tornado E has had accidents.  Nearly every day.  I didn’t mention it because I couldn’t stop it.  After confirming with the doctor it wasn’t physical, I took Tornado E to a counselor.  Last summer, the accidents stopped for a few weeks, but then soccer started and so did the accidents.  They still continue, but at least they aren’t every day.  It’s still not normal.  I know the kid is having issues.  How could he not?  His father just took some custody a few months ago, and the kid is adjusting to a new custody schedule, a new house, a new adult, and a new little sister.  It was all just dropped on him.  Unfortunately due to the financial issues, I’m unable to send him to counseling.  Not since before he was tossed into this new living situation.

And it gets worse.  Tornado S is stuttering.  He did it when he was younger, but it stopped in kindergarten.  It’s back.  It’s also getting worse.  I’m doing what I did when he had it before.  When he talks to me, I stop what I’m doing and get down to eye-level and listen.  His teacher and his school therapist are doing what they can.

Then there’s Tornado A.  That first night back from his dad’s house, he was angry with me.  He didn’t want me to hug him or hold him.  He didn’t want to hug his nana.  But the next day, all he wanted to do was snuggle.  Since then he has demanded to see his nana every day.  He has to snuggle with me.  He calls himself the baby.  He’s picked up screaming to be cute.  And he’s also regressed with potty training.

All three boys seemed to be more aggressive with each other and more whiny with me.  While that could be a phase, finding them all in my bed every morning is new and different.  If one of the boys failed to make it into my bed at night, he demands to snuggle with me before he gets dressed.

I know divorce is tough on kids.  I was expecting issues and regression.  I call them every night they are with their dad.  I bought them a phone so they could call their dad or any adult they want without asking.  I let them use my phone to call their dad when they ask.  I’ve never said anything negative about their dad or his girlfriend in front of the kids.  I had conversations with everyone to make sure they never did the same.  I listen and engage in conversations with them when they talk about their dad, his girlfriend, their little sister, and the times they have at the other house.  I make time for each of them.  I make sure our routine is normal and that we get work done and still have fun.  I stick to the rules.  I surround them with loving adults and good examples of men and women.  I just feel frustrated that I can’t do more to help them.  I don’t have the money to take them to counseling, and the ex believes the boys are just fine.  (Everyone say hi to the paralegal.)

Here’s the thing.  I know what divorce can do to kids.  I’ve done my research.  I did research when I was taking psych classes.  I did my research throughout the separation.  I did my research as I take education classes.  Children of divorce are more likely to suffer depression and commit suicide.  They are more likely to participate in risky behavior and not finish high school.  They are more likely not to go to college and more likely to have issues with commitment.  (Though recent research on commitment issues show a much smaller effect than earlier research saw.)  I know these kids need extra help.  I just wish I knew what else to do for them.

Sponge

As you might know, I don’t like gaps in my knowledge.  I love having a smart phone because I can look up answers.  I also dislike misinformation, especially in education.  I plan to reward students when they catch me in a mistake.  One common mistake is when people mix up envy and jealousy.  Common enough.  But absolutely annoying when people who know better do it.

“I’m so jealous that you got to go to Hawaii.”

No.

“I’m so envious that you got to go to Hawaii.”

Jealousy= You think you’re about to be replaced.  You’re jealous of the babysitter; you think she will replace you in your children’s eyes.

Envy= You want that.  You’re envious that your friend got a new car; God, how you wish you could get a new car.

Naturally, I explained the difference to the boys one day driving home from school.

A couple of weeks later Tornado E was doing a language arts paper talking about moods and color.  Tickled pink.  Feeling blue.  Green with envy.  When you’re jealous, you’re green with envy.  Or some nonsense like that.

No.  No.  No.  For Christ’s sake, this is an educational worksheet.  And good Lord, it’s green with envy, so you have to be envious to be green.  It’s in the phrase!

I crossed out “jealous” and wrote “envy.”

Me: Tornado E, do you remember the difference between envy and jealousy?

Tornado S: I do, Mommy!

Hmm, do I let the younger brother answer for the older?  Am I setting a bad dynamic?  Am I encouraging sibling rivalry?  Does this kid even know?

Me: What is it, Tornado S?

Tornado S: Envy is when you want something someone else has.  Jealousy is when you think someone is going to replace you.

He beamed.

Holy crap!  How many weeks ago did I explain it?  And he remembered?

Sponge.

Me: Good job, kiddo.  Way to use that brain!