Mustard

Tornado E: (From outside, moving closer) MOOOOOOOMMMMYYYYYY!

I had been grading for an afternoon and a day. But I was finished. I wasn’t in a normal head space. But I was finished. It was not how I wanted to spend the weekend. But I was finished. So what fresh hell was this?

Tornado E got to the sliding glass door and ripped it open.

Tornado E: Mommy! Tornado S squirted mustard at me!

Me: What?!

Tornado E: Tornado S squirted mustard at me!

Me: Where?

Tornado E: On the trampoline!

Me: He squirted what?

Tornado E: Mustard! He squirted mustard! At Me!

Me: Where did he- nevermind,

I got up and followed Tornado E outside. No one was on the trampoline. No one was in the backyard. Right.

Me: BOYS! NOW!

I stormed across the yard to the trampoline.

Tornado A: (From behind the shed, in what he must think was a whisper) You’re going to get in trouble.

On the trampoline was a small mustard stain. From a mustard packet.

Me: Tornado S! Where did you get- nevermind.

Tornado S smuggled about half a dozen mustard packets out of a restaurant about two months ago to put in his backpack in case he didn’t have lunch one day. I caught him and placed emergency snacks in an outside pocket of his backpack. I thought I had confiscated all the packets. Apparently not.

Me: Tornado S. Now.

Tornado S and Tornado A walked out from behind the shed. I looked over my shoulder to see Tornado E dragging the hose across the yard to spray off the trampoline.

Me: Tornado S, explain what happened.

Tornado S: I thought it would be funny to squirt Tornado E with mustard. (I gave him a look.) It wasn’t. I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.

Me: Where did you get the mustard packet?

Tornado S: In the living room.

Me: In the-

In the living room. With the good furniture. With the antique furniture. With the new carpet. With my kid’s library! Wait. My mom would kill me. You know because of her nice things. The living room was for reading only. Though we couldn’t keep the kids out of there. The forbidden and all.

Me: (sigh) Kid. No more taking mustard packets. No more taking mustard into the living room. No more squirting mustard at people.

Tornado S: Ok, Mama.

I climbed onto the trampoline and grabbed the mustard packet. Once I got back on solid ground, I took the hose from Tornado E and sprayed down the trampoline. Then I looked over at my boys. And sprayed them too. Tornado S and Tornado A still had their swimsuits on. Tornado E was dressed. But clothes dry.

I sprayed them until Tornado E jumped into the pool. His brothers followed. And I watched my kids enjoy the last Sunday of the school year.

Battle Cries

Tucson has been flirting with 90 degree weather. (Fahrenheit, for those visiting from outside the States.) But as we are in spring in the high desert, at night, we drop 30 degrees. Which means the pool we have is about 60 some degrees.

But it looks so inviting in the 90 degree heat.

Sunday the boys begged and begged and begged to go swimming. I finally relented, thinking, “What the hell?” I mean, if they’re too cold, they’ll jump out.

So the boys strip to their underwear because looking for their swim trunks from last year was just to difficult.

Tornado A took a running start and jumped into the deep end, screaming, “This Is SPARTA!”

As the nerd I am (nerd for ancient history, nerd for comic books, nerd for comic book action movies), I was quite proud. It fit. A scrawny nearly naked boy jumping into freezing water to test his mettle.

Wait a minute. Where did he learn that?

Mama

I went from Mommy to Mama. As Tornado E gets closer to 12, I’m waiting for the day I’ll no longer be Mama but Mom. Or worse yet, Mother. Whether it’s the simpering formality of mother or the way I say it like a cuss word at my own mother, but I do not like Mother. I will truly miss Mama.

So the other night at dinner, I was relating a story of what happened in class.

Me: And then I said Tornado E said “Mama.” Before I could get any further in the story, one of the boys said “Mama?” Another kid asked if I was Mama. Another girl asked if my kids called me Mama. And another girl thought it was cute. And then-

Tornado E: Why? Why were they confused? They have mamas.

Me: They do, but they don’t see me as a mama but as Miss. They probably call all their moms Mom. When you get older, you’ll probably call me Mom. (I swear I didn’t sigh or put any guilt in that.)

Tornado E: No, Mama. I’ll always call you Mama because you’re Mama.

Me: Thanks, kid.

Quoting and Alluding

I once spent the drive from Orange, CA to Las Vegas, NV quoting The Simpsons with my college best friend. It’s about a four hour drive. I’m sure the other friend was wishing she had the guts to jump out of the car.

So to quote Homer Simpson. “Kids are great. You get to teach them to hate what you hate.” Or in my case, I get to teach them to love what I love. Sometimes you both (or all four, in my case) fall in love with the same thing at the same time.

We all love the Disney cartoon Star vs the Forces of Evil. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you do. It’s amazing. I wish I had something like it when I was a kid. A magical princess who fights monsters with her best friend, a karate “safe kid.” And the magical princess is a perfect mix of traditional boy things (like fighting monsters and weapons) and traditional girl things (wearing girly dresses and her spells are the cutest, angriest things). So naturally, I have taught my boys to quote the show or allude to it.

When I leave for work:

Tornado E: (quoting Marco) Don’t go.

Me: (quoting Star) I’m totally going.

 

When he wants a snack:

Tornado A: (in sing-song Marco voice) I want Mama’s Amazing Nachos.

 

When doing his homework:

Tornado S: (quoting Star) So this is what it’s like to be bored to death.

 

When playing with his narwhal:

Tornado A: (quoting Star) Narwhal blast! (Then throws the narwhal at me)

 

When reminding the boys of Stranger Danger:

Me: (quoting Marco) Never go with a predator to a second location.

 

When one of the boys gets angry at one of his brothers:

Me: (quoting Brian and walking the angry boy in a circle) Walk it out and talk it out. Walk it out and talk it out. Walk it out and talk it out.

 

Or other random quotes:

“It’s not criminal to be an individual.”

“Totally. Totally. Totally.”

“I want you face.”

“I want my stuff.”

“What are you doing here?” “Wouldn’t you want to know?” “Yes, that’s why I asked.”

 

We’re going to have so much fun as they get older.

 

Collections

On our way to the second-run movie theater last weekend, Tornado E tried to spark conversation.

Tornado E: If you could collect whatever you want, what would it be?

Tornado S: Money.

Say what you will about Tornado S, that kid is smart.

I’m Prepared

In college, I was walking to class when I noticed a friend on a bench, looking worriedly at the sandal in her hand, so I walked over to see what the problem was.

Me: What’s going on?

Friend: Hi, Fae. My sandal broke, and I can’t go back to the dorm until I have my next two classes. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Hey, you don’t happen to have a safety pin, do you?

Me: (Smile as I take off my backpack) I can do one better. How about a leather needle and some thread?

I took the needle out of the sewing kit.

Friend: You have a leather needle on you?

I handed her the needle and thread and shrugged.

Me: Always be prepared.

 

You should see my car. In the back, I have a tool kit which include two needle-nose pliers, two towels, two small blankets, a comforter, water, juice, two different kinds of granola bars, clothes (including underwear) for all the boys, emergency car kit, a couple of balls, a church bag (full of books, notebooks, and crayons), some hats, and a spare jacket. In the console, I keep two first aid kits, suckers, napkins, a pocket knife, a combination tool-thing, a notebook, pens, pencils, a brush, toothpicks, Q-tips, tampons, pads, tissues, trivia cards, hair ties, chapsticks, bobby pins, hand sanitizer, a book (for me in case of emergencies), glue, and tweezers. The last two are for removing cactus needles from small boys. There’s also various toys and books.

I’m always prepared.

 

You should see my purse. I have a notebook, a pencil bag (filled with pens, pencils, permanent markers, and highlighters), a flashlight, a compass, a pocket knife, a small tape measure, a cell phone charger, chopstick trainer, a hair tie, earrings, a tampon, a condom, a pad, bobby pins, safety pins, paper clips, two fruit leathers, hand sanitzer, chap stick, a tube of sunscreen, ipod, earbuds, a bunch of gift cards, my school keys, my regular keys, change (enough quarters for the boys to get a treat in a coin vending machine and enough pennies for plenty of wishes), my wallet, my sun glasses, and my cell phone.

I’m always prepared.

 

I bought the boys all small backpacks to wear while hiking and camping. Tornado A, being the youngest and not having as many hikes, got his last. Unlike his older brothers, he *loved* it. He packed his backpack up as soon as he had the opportunity.

While we were getting ready for the zoo, Tornado A was skipping around the house with his backpack on, rattling. The sound of many unnecessary toys. But, hey, can you guess that I was any different? Nope.

He skipped into the big family room and skipped back into the kitchen with his arms full of two juice boxes and a water bottle. He dropped them all on the breakfast bar.

Tornado A: Mommy! Can you please get me TWO granola bars? And TWO fruit leathers?

Me: (giving him a quizzical look) Ok, baby.

I retrieved the items from the shelves and put them by the water. Tornado A was trying to jam his juice boxes in with the toys.

Me: May I show you something?

Tornado A nodded. I unzipped a smaller pocket in the front of the backpack and put the juice boxes into the pocket. Tornado A put in the granola bars and fruit leathers. I zipped it up.

Me: Now watch.

I placed the water bottle in the side pocket and held out the backpack to Tornado A.

Me: Tada. Now let me help you in it.

I helped Tornado A in his backpack. He turned and grinned up at me.

Tornado A: I’m prepared! I have TWO snacks and TWO juice boxes! I have toys and water! I’m prepared for anything. I’m prepared.

He skipped out of the room, chanting “I’m prepared.”

Yup, that’s my kid. No doubt about it.

Carbs and Calories

All day Tornado E had been saying “carbs and calories” to anything that was bad. Often with a shake of the head.

We sat at dinner at Panda Express eating Americanized- fast food Chinese. The boys eating their favorite offerings but mentioning they wished I would cook more at home. As we were in California for a wedding, it really wasn’t an option that night.

Tornado E: Mommy, why are grown ups afraid of carbs and calories?

For years, my boys have been exposed to their father’s dieting habits and my mother’s comments (to me, to my dad, about herself). Long ago I resolved that I would never “diet” in front of them. I would model healthy eating habits. I would not do fade diets, yo-yo diets, weird dieting concoctions, or deprive myself. I promised to be careful what I said about my body and my weight, to monitor what I said about their bodies and other people’s bodies. I would not fat shame or thin shame within my boys’ hearing. They heard enough negative body comments from others.

I don’t want my boys growing up with body or food issues. I don’t want them to stay away from food for their body images. I don’t want them to look in the mirror and have demons criticize their bodies. I want them to be happy and healthy.

Me: Well, baby, many adults don’t run around and have fun like children, so they have to worry about what they eat instead. Many adults are not happy about their bodies. Sometimes they have to worry because of their health. Sometimes they just don’t like their bodies. And that’s sad.

Tornado E: Yes, that’s sad.

Pause.

Tornado E: But not you, Mommy. You like your body. You’re not afraid of carbs and calories.

I smiled and bit into a piece of orange chicken. The demons that lurk behind my mirrors were safely locked away from my boys. Maybe one day I won’t meet them in dressing room mirrors or when I take a closer look at my outfits.

Fake it until you make it.