The Beginning of the End of Summer

Here in Tucson, the school year is about to begin. We go back at the beginning of August. Extremely early. But we have a week of fall break and a week of spring break, and we get out in May. But still. I’m not ready!

The boys are. They can’t stop messing with each other.

I am having nightmares about being unprepared for the start of school. You know how I can fix that? Preparing for school. I’m reading articles, sure, but I need to check my email, fix a few lesson plans, write a few lesson plans, select my first reading material. But I’m avoiding it. I should do it tonight, but I won’t. I have this book and 13 Reasons to watch.

Today I registered the boys at school. I’m realizing what a reputation I’m building. I’m the mom of three energetic boys, who is a teacher. People are impressed as I settle the boys down so I can talk to a teacher. They’re impressed as I scoop Tornado A off a stack of chairs before he can crack his head open. They’re impressed that the boys answer them with thoughtful answers.

The boys got to socialize with friends they hadn’t seen all summer. I commiserated with teachers over the end of summer, sharing ideas for lesson plans. I talked to a few Cub Scout parents about plans for the next year. Tornado A practiced his locker combination until he had it memorized. (I’m hoping for no tears this next year over first day locker jitters.) The music teacher asked Tornado A again if he would join any band. The fifth grade teachers assessed Tornado S, who beamed to be in the next school level. Tornado A was a tornado.

It’s good to have a community. Also I can’t believe the summer is ending for us already!


We don’t go to Mass as much as we used to. With the 50% custody and the illnesses and homework and trips. Life. When we show up after a break, people greet us as though they were worried that we wouldn’t show up again. Who would miss three rowdy boys and their beleaguered mother?

Today, thanks to Tornado A’s inability to leave the car in a timely manner, we arrived right before the procession. Like right before. I scanned the church and was defeated.

Nearly two years ago I learned the boys did not know the parts of the mass, did not understand the mass, did not know the prayers, the chants, the responses. Why was I killing myself to take them to religious classes every week? What were they learning? I bought a couple of children’s Mass books. I sat us in the middle of empty rows. Like I was explaining baseball or football, I whispered the parts of the Mass, explaining what they meant. I had the boys follow along with their books. I pulled up the daily readings on my phone and handed them to follow. Six months ago, I learned that the older boys were sorely behind in their prayers. We know spend the time after communion reciting prayers as I whisper the prayer line by line so they could repeat them. About a month ago, I started bringing rosaries, letting the boys hold them and ask questions.

Today there were no safe places. So we sat in a pew in front of an older woman. I stood straight, squared my shoulders, and refused to show any shame as I whispered things to the boys. I did as we normally do, even though giving peace became a full-contact sport of wrestling and crushing under the guise of hugging.

The boys were on rather good behavior. I didn’t have to threaten the loss of doughnuts. Doughnuts are the consequence for behaving well at church. Consequence, not bribe. If the boys can tell me what the homily was about, I buy them a candy bar. Tornado A takes notes. Tornado E is getting better on grasping the main idea, not just a few interesting details. Tornado S always gives me the first few details.

Today Tornado A was too busy drawing to take notes.

At the end of the services, the woman behind me said, “My youngest is 28. I had boys too. I miss those days. But a friend once said to me that God gives mothers of children special grace for taking their children to church. I hope you received your grace.” And she left.

And I wondered. Had she noticed that once the congregation sat after communion’s prayer, after I recited prayers with the boys and asked them to sit, that I remained kneeling, grasping for a few moments to pray honestly, earnestly, passionately? Did she noticed the tears in my eyes when I opened them as she returned to her seat? Did I reach up and wipe away a tear or two?

I smiled at the boys. Yes, we can leave. Yes, we can go do the labyrinth. Yes, we can go get doughnuts. Yes, we can go to the Children’s Museum.

Being the smallest

It must be tough being the youngest, watching your big brothers have a chance to go on rides that they don’t want to go on. It must be tough to be the smallest and know you can’t even be in line with your brothers until they freak out and beg to get out of line. It must be tough being the little guy, hanging out with your beloved Papi, doing other rides, eating secret snacks, visiting stores, instead of waiting in line with everyone else.

Tornado A was finally big enough to ride all the rides in Disneyland, except one. The Indiana Jones ride. Once he learned that, it was the only ride he wanted to go on, insisting he could grow one inch in a month. By Disneyland day, he had not grown that inch, but Wally, the beloved godmother, was determined.

While I stood with the older two, who begged not to be forced to go on the ride, Wally took Tornado A to the line operator and tried reasoning and sweet talking. But alas, Tornado A was a hair too short.

And oh, the wails of inconsolable grief! Barely drowning out the sighs of relief.

Me: I’m sorry, baby. Next year. Or I can take you off roading. It’s the same thing. It’ll be ok. Hey, Tornado A. Do you want to pick out the next ride? We’ll go on any ride you want.

Tornado A slowly lifted his tear-stained face from his hands. He sniffled.

Tornado A: The Haunted Mansion.

The begging continued from the older brothers. Just for a moment, I saw a mischievous glint in Tornado A’s eyes.

(And yes, the older boys were forced on the ride, but it loses its scariness when your mother recites every word during the whole ride.)

Not What I Had in Mind

(Can you believe I was sick again?! {I left out all the cuss words} I have never been this sick in a year as I have in the last month. My god. I’m ready to scream. Luckily lots and lots of sleep and gargling with salt water fixed me up in 48 hours. But are you kidding me?! I’m wasting precious summer time! I had huge {HUGE} plans this summer too. Work on the blog. Read blogs. Work on the novel. Loose a few pounds {Ok, more than a few pounds; I have high hopes}. Go on adventures with the boys. Swim every day. School prep. Cub Scout prep. But I keep getting sick every other week! Gods above, I will hurt someone over this. {Probably me, trying to do more than I should.} As you can imagine, I feel very much behind and cheated. I need to rail against something. *Shakes fist angrily at a cloud*)

I also interrupt my scheduled vacation posts for today’s weird adventure.

As the Tucson heat builds and builds with our monsoons not in sight, it’s still over 100 at 6:30pm. Horrible, I know. Fahrenheit for my none American readers. Honestly, it’s a small price to pay not to shovel snow, but usually we have thunderstorms coming through by now.

But back to the blog…. As it is still pretty hot, I’ve been allowing the boys to jump in the pool before bedtime in hopes that they’ll be cooled off and ready for slumber sooner than later. I know, high hopes. Usually they’re still in their swim trunks from the afternoon swim.

Today I fell into a book and didn’t usher them into the pool. My brother, The Friendly Giant, came over and played video games with the boys instead. We went out to celebrate Tornado E’s birthday.

Around 7 pm, Tornado A asked to go swimming. I agreed.  He stripped to shorts and underwear and jumped into the pool. Huh. You know, your swim trunks are right over here?

Ten minutes later I called the other boys outside away from the tempting TV. Tornado E stripped to his underwear. Then he refused to get in because Tornado A was splashing him.

Tornado S had stripped nude. As I walked the backyard to gather steps, he walked next to me telling me about Legos and games and such. Finally I stopped walking.

Me: Tornado S, get something on and get in the pool.

He went over to the patio and put on goggles. Then he ran through the yard and jumped into the pool.

Not what I had in mind.

Plans and What Kids Do to Them

The first night of vacation, I had a brilliant plan. Go to Mrs. Knott’s for dinner because they give your ridiculous amounts of food, food that has to be brought home, food perfect for a lunch at the picnic tables outside of Disneyland.

Mrs. Knott’s is the restaurant that built Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park. The line to get into to the restaurant was so long that Mr. Knott built attractions to occupy people as they waited to get some of that delicious friend chicken. The restaurant today still uses Mrs. Knott’s recipes. An adult dinner, though slightly pricey, gets you a salad, chicken noodle soup, a vegetable, mash potatoes, 4 pieces of fried chicken, and a dessert.

My brilliant plan was to have Tornado E order an adult meal, eat what he could, and then take the rest for lunch at Disneyland. But Tornado E didn’t want to order an adult meal because a few months ago he had been with his dad, ordered the meal, and was berated for not finishing it. (Honestly most adults can’t finish the meal.) I assured Tornado E that he only had to eat what he could. Then he wanted to order chicken-and-dumplings. What? No! That’s what I’m getting, and I want the fried chicken. We’ll share. Then he wanted chicken strips. Stop messing with my plan, child!

Plan B. Everyone orders what they want, and I’ll order chicken from the to-go place.

We arrived at the restaurant a couple of hours from getting into California from our 8 hour drive. Tornado E conceded to my plan with the promise that he only had to eat what he felt like and could have some of my chicken-and-dumplings. Tornado A ordered macaroni and cheese; while, Tornado S ordered chicken legs. I ordered the chicken-and-dumplings. The waitress, bless her heart, told me I could order it without the meal, but I could not pass up an opportunity to have chicken noodle soup.

The kids meals came with a large slice of Jell-O. Tornado S got mash potatoes with his chicken. Along with the meal, we got a huge plate of biscuits. The boys ordered boysenberry punch because Walter Knott bred and produced boysenberries.

Our first courses came, and the two younger boys tried my soup. Then I had to fight them off. Down, boys. It’s a cream based chicken noodle soup, and it’s heavenly. Tornado S contented himself by begging Tornado E for his salad. Eventually Tornado E relented just in time for the rest of the meal to arrive.

Tornado E was too full to eat anything, until Tornado A didn’t want his macaroni and cheese, which was a homemade recipe with cheddar cheese sprinkled on top and broiled. Tornado E ate Tornado A’s macaroni and cheese; while, Tornado A ate Tornado E’s mashed potatoes. Tornado S ate one chicken leg, Tornado E’s salad, and his corn. I relished half my chicken-and-dumplings until I was regrettably too full. While I mourned all that delicious food going to waste, the boys chimed up to try it. In the end, there was only a quarter left. We ended up with 5 pieces of chicken, one for all of us and my best friend, for lunch.

For dessert, the boys had boysenberry sherbet, and I had boysenberry pie. We spent dessert talking about the importance of tipping. I had Tornado E figure out the tip.

We spent the rest of the evening exploring the shops and running back to the restroom where Tornado A would do his business. Because he’s been having potty issues, I rewarded him with candy of his choosing before realizing it was nearly bedtime and we had an early day that next morning.

We raced back to the hotel room where I got everyone in bed, settled, and read them a bed time story. They all went out like lights which was surprising because they all had slept a little on the ride over, but then they had been with their dad for 5 days without a bedtime and allowed to get up before 6am.

As I paced around the room to get my steps in, the time ticked on. Until Tornado A started vomiting. EVERYWHERE. I grabbed a towel to catch some of it. By the fourth hurl, I had enough sense to tell him to go to the bathroom. He tagged the pillows, the sheets, the blankets, the towels. In the bathroom, his messy hands held onto the shower curtain as he hurled. It took another couple towels to clean the mess. I wiped him down with a hand towel. I took all the dirty blankets, except the bottom sheet, off the bed and tried to clean them. I laid down another towel on the bed and put Tornado A back to bed.

I cleaned as best I could.

Tornado A has a touch of motion sickness. With all that food, well, it didn’t sit right.

I got into bed with him later, worrying that he was sick or that he wasn’t done.

He was. He was fine. The next morning he was fine.

Before Disneyland, I warned the front desk and left a large tip on the bed.



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.

Not Writing on Vacation

(I apologize. I had writer’s block. I still may, but I’m sitting down to write any ways. Good luck, reader.)

One of the reasons I haven’t written in a while is because we went on vacation.

First I was in a blur of prep. When living in my own house and preparing for travel, I had a staging area that I would drop the things we would need on a trip. I may start two weeks out just dropping a thing or two as I remembered it. Usually it would start a few days before. Oh, we need this. And this. After I put this load in, I’ll get this thing out while I’m thinking about it.

I cannot do that in my parents’ house. Oh, my mother will say I can. But I really can’t. The remarks and sighs and looks, you know. So prep drop happens on paper and then 24 hours before the trip, making me look sloppy, but I am pretty organized, so there is that.

Second, I did download the WordPress App. I figured when we had down time, I would write. After the boys went to bed, I would write. But you know what I learned this trip?

We don’t have to hang out at the hotel. For any reason. No one needs naps. We can leave early for things. And my morning birds can’t rise with the sun if the black out curtains are closed. They still get their 10 hours of sleep. But as soon as 10 hours is up, up they jump. So when they went to bed late, they slept in.

We never had down time in the hotel. If we didn’t have a scheduled activity, we went to the beach or to a park. If a boy was tired, he would sit with me and build sandcastles. Since I’m willing to drive all around an area we’re staying with, they rested in the car.

As for night times, usually I am a stickler for bedtimes. My boys don’t sleep in. Dawn comes, and they’re up with the sun. But when I told them we can stay as late as they could handle it at Disneyland, we stayed until nearly 10, getting back to the hotel a little after 10. Then the most amazing thing happened, they woke 10 hours later. (Well, from 10, they fell asleep in the car, woke at the hotel, and went straight to sleep in their beds.) Each night (except the unexpected last night, different story) they went to bed late (and I felt guilty), but they woke after 10 hours refreshed (and I felt less guilty).

I highly recommend not hanging out in the hotel room. No arguing over the TV. No jumping on beds. No wrestling. No fighting. No craziness. It was glorious. I mean, they still fought, argued, and were crazy, just not in a tiny cramped space.

I enjoyed this so much that when my mom suggested we go on vacation together next year, I’m a little hesitant. They like to return to the hotel an hour or so before dinner to relax and go swimming. And I don’t want to go back to that.

(Look at that. When in writing doubt, start from the beginning…..)