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.

The Birth of a Tyrant

More years ago than I remember . . . .

I entered the class room with the All American Boy.  It was a small class room because it was a small class, and that what’s nice about going to a small private school.  It was held in one of the original buildings dated before the 1900s, and the floors creaked.  It was an upper division creative writing class, which is to say, it was everyone’s favorite.  Well except one.

The AAB was finishing his story as we sat down, and I bantered back.  We had a creative writing professor who once told the class that he liked listening to AAB and I talk because we were naturals at dialogue like watching Seinfeld.  The business major walked in, a minute late.  This wasn’t his favorite class; he told us on the first day of class he took it to learn to write better.  Unfortunately the cream of the creative writing crop all took the same class.  Accidentally together.  I just had the luck to join them.

Business Major: (smiling) Hi, Fae!

Me: (smiling) Hi, Business Major!  How’s it going?

Business Major: (sitting at the far end of the circle) Good.  What’s up?

Me: The sky.

The Business Major chuckled and then dug into his bag, taking his attention from me.

AAB: (lowering his voice) Stop it.  He’s not your type.

Me: (matching his voice) I don’t know what you mean.  Besides any guy who thinks I’m a writing genius is my type.  (I smiled.)

AAB: (rolled his eyes) I don’t remember you being so shallow.  But he’s not your type.  He’s a business major.

Me: Your point being?

AAB: You hate capitalism.  You don’t believe in business men.  As though they’re Santa.

Me: I don’t hate capitalism.  I think it needs some repairs.

AAB: You bite your thumb whenever you pass the Adam Smith bust. 

Me: He was a jackass.  Look at the quote they put on his bust!

AAB: Exactly.  And *he* chose that business school to get a degree from.  He is not your type.

Me: Pssht.  I-

The Writer: It’s been 10 minutes.  Marty’s a PhD.  We have to wait another five.

I looked at the clock.  Bummer.  I returned to banter with AAB.

Four minutes later, Drug Dealer Boy (The college best friend swore that the guy was one, and during one conversation with him, I found out he was.) hurried into the room.

DDB: Marty is outside talking to the Dean.  He says start without him.

We all looked at each other.  I looked around the room at Cat and Lyria, both writers with a cutting sense of humor in their writing.  The Writer sat with a stack of papers in front of him, and I always loved his work, even if it was post-modern.  Drug Dealer Boy took his seat next to The Torture Artist (so named because AAB and I made fun of him for having to write everything on an old typewriter “because it’s more real.”  Pssht.) who had a stack of papers next to him.  The Business Major smiled at me when I caught his eye.  I smiled back.  Then silence settled in the classroom.  Awkward silence.

Well, hell.  I love this class.  If no one was going to speak, then I will.

Me: Any one do any cultural events?

Marty required us to attend one cultural event a week because he believed writers had to be among the people to be good writers.  He envied the countries who used to send their artists and writers off to other countries to do their craft and be among the people.  Many of the professors felt the same.  Most grad students had to give their orals at one of the bars around the town because if you can’t have a beer and discuss your writer than you didn’t learn enough.  Marty’s sense of cultural event was wide, including a good bar, a sporting event, a movie as well as poetry readings, art galleries and such.

We waited for someone to take the reins and begin the class.  A class full of natural leaders and writers, who loved the class, and we all just sat there, staring, waiting.  Oh. F it.

Me: I went to Disneyland this last weekend.

Cat: Don’t you always?

Me: (I stuck out my tongue) Yes, but it’s still a cultural event.  But if you want more, I saw The New Movie this weekend.

The Writer: Me too.  Opening night?

He used to be a film major, and I hung out with film majors.

Me: Of course.  The Block.  10 o’clock showing.

The Writer: The Block.  9:35.  I liked the dialogue.  Intelligent, quick.

Me: Me too.

DDB: I went to a poetry reading at Beyond Braroque.

Business Major: That place was cool.  I went with Fae and AAB a few weeks ago.  Who read?

A few more comments, and then the silence began again.  We waited again for someone to start the class.  F it.

Me: Ok.  Who’s got stories?

The Writer: (He smiled at me.)  I do.

He passed around his story and began to read as we listened and took notes.

Half way through, Marty entered the room.

Marty: Oh, good!  You started!

Me: Yes, Martin.  We did.  If you would please take a seat, The Writer is in the middle of reading his story.

Marty gave me a smile that conveyed his thoughts, which were, “Stop being a smart ass, Miss _________.”  I returned it with a sweet, innocent smile.

Ryan finished reading.  We all turned to our professor who stared back at us.  A beat.  Another beat.

Marty: Go ahead.  I always wanted to see how a class would ruin without a professor. 

Me: So you want us to do your job, while; you still get paid.

Marty: Yes.  I think it would an interesting experiment.  Go on.

A beat.  Everyone looked at me.  I sighed.  I launched into my critique of The Writer’s work.  He nodded, listening to me.  The others in the class followed my lead.  When we were done discussing the piece and Marty had his say, I called for the next story.

***

At the next class, I walked in with AAB, telling him a story.  We were laughing and bantering back and forth when we noticed the room had gone silent.  It was time for class to begin.  Marty sat there at his usual seat at the foot of the circle in front of the white board and near the door, waiting.  We all waited for someone to speak.  It only took a an awkward beat.

Me: Ok.  Who has a cultural event?

I looked around waiting for someone else to lead the conversation.  Another awkward beat.  Fine.

Me: Ok. Who has a story?

AAB: I do.

He handed them out and then read his story.  A natural beat followed his story, and I began the discussion critiquing his work.  Then another story and more discussion followed.

The next class began, and I didn’t wait for the awkward beat to descend on us.  I launched the class into the cultural event discussion and then I moved us on to reading stories.  This time I had a story, and I’ll be damned if I was going to waste the time.

Class ended.

Marty: Fae, you’re doing a good job.

The Writer: She’s a regular tyrant.

Me: Any time you want to step in.

The Writer: Uh, no.  You’re doing fine. 

AAB: But you’re still a tyrant.

Me: Fine.  I’m a tyrant. 

Cat: And a damn good one.

AAB: She has lots of experience.

Me: That’s me.  Fae _____: Tyrant.  Actually.  I like that.  (Using my hands like I was spreading out the words.)  Fae ________: Tyrant.  You know, I’m going to make business cards.

AAB: House of Insanity business cards?

Me: We already have a phone line and a business stamp!  And I just sto- found a lab coat.

AAB: Come on, Tyrant.  Let’s catch the cafeteria before it closes.

He gave me a gently shove towards the door.

The Writer: I’ll walk with you guys.  As long as it’s ok with the Tyrant.

We walked out the door.

Me: You may walk with us.  I should get a crown!

AAB: Tyrants don’t have crowns. 

Me: Says who?

AAB: They have military uniforms.

Me: I have fairy wings!

The Writer: Fairy wings?

AAB: You haven’t seen her running around the quad with fairy wings on?

The Writer: I thought it was a joke.

Me: Hi Myron!

The boys: Hi Professor!

Myron: Good evening, Fae, boys.  Stay out of trouble.

Me: Maybe I should get a theme song.

AAB: See what you started?

The Writer: We’ll wait her out.  If we all start calling her Tyrant for the semester, she’ll get tired of it.

AAB: Wanna bet?

 

The Hamburger Stand

We watched the cars roll to a stop, the proceed, rolling to barely the speed limit before hitting the light that always seemed red.  What would a driver expect driving passed a college campus?  We sat on at a metal picnic table, chomping on juicy hamburgers, crispy french-fries, and chocolate milkshakes that completed my being in a way no other person could.  She paid because I was broke and I edited her last three papers.  I got our milkshakes free because the boys insisted I looked like a singer from the Sixties.  Maybe I did, slightly with long blonde hair with a tiny braid on each side of my face, framing it.  But the hippie look was destroyed by the tiny fairy baby-doll shirt and the tight low slung jeans and the black Docs.  But my “date” was the real looker, perfectly in fashion with the perfect body with the perfectly fashionable hair.  She wore them so natural that I couldn’t classify her as a sheep.  As I laughed at her story, I thought, “And I tried to scare you off in those first few weeks, so that I could have a room with a California King to myself.”

We talked about friends that were in completely separate circles.  She admitted being envious over my school work again.  “All you have to do is read and write.”  “And BS.  I have to BS too.”  She narrowed her eyes; I smiled.  I admitted I was impressed over her school work and her work ethic.  She was getting a 4.0, even with hitting parties three nights out of the week.  I teased her about “losing” her laptop one night while she was drunk.  It was under her desk the whole time.  She told me again how I was the best roommie and “thanks for taking care of me when I’m like that.”  Other than food and the place we lived at, the only thing in common we could talk about was psychology classes, though we never had one together and I was up the chain further than she would go.  But the sun was shining and it was good to feel the breeze and be friends.

***

We watched the storm roll in over the desert.  It was unexpected for this time of year, especially since there was 30 degree temperature drop from the day before.  We sat in a crowded corner restaurant with chairs similar to the ones in the cafeteria from our old college, chomping on “smashed” hamburgers and herb-seasoned french fries.  She sipped on water, and I drank diet soda.  She had paid for lunch since I had driven a piece to visit her.  Neither one of us as thin as we once were.  Thank God she finally put on weight.  The last several years of pictures were her as a cute tiny thing and I hugely pregnant or hugely just-pregnant.  I was getting tired of making her look good.  She was no longer platinum bottle-blonde but her natural brunette looked good on her.  My hair was in an actual cut from an actual beautician.  Her clothes were still in fashion, and my t-shirt was longer.  As I listened to her, I marveled over how we could be friends still.

We talked about our lives.  She told me about her job and her husband and her family.  I explained the long process to divorce but also told her how things have remarkably improved.  She told antidotes of her nieces and her BFF’s kids, who are the same age as my own.  I regaled her with funny horror stories of my own.  She confided that she wasn’t sure she wanted a kid but most days she does but they’re hard work.  Yes, they’re hard work, but you can do it; you won’t lose yourself. 

“You will never regret having them.”

She smiled.  “But I’ll regret not.”

 

Leavings

Sometimes when I look behind me at my past, all I see are footprints of those you walked out of my life.  Some of those people I pushed out, kicked out, do-let-the-door-hit-your-@ass-on-the-way-out kind of out.  And others I held dearly and watched them break my heart as they left.  Some of those people I should have kicked out, but I loved them too much at one point.

Another friend is leaving.  The Twins’ Mom.  And it hurts.  I adore her.  Simply adore her.  She’s blunt and in your face.  She’ll drop everything to help out a stranger.  She’s frazzled and completely lost in this parent thing.  She’s absolutely wonderful.

She was one of the first friends I made at Tornado E’s preschool.  I wasn’t gunning for her, but we clicked.  She wanted a wall between us because she was hoping to move back East, back to family.  She didn’t want to leave friends behind, again.  But we pulled her in, and she was one of us.  And when my life went to hell in a hand basket, she met me for coffee and waited for me to tell the truth drop by drop over a matter of weeks until she had the whole story.  During that time, she rubbed my shoulder and told me that Mercury in retrograde is a b*tch; you’re learning all your life lessons at once; you just have to ride it out.  When she magically appeared at the kindergarten open house, she shrugged and told me that the school was the best fit for the kids, not the other one.  She stood by me through trying months, and she was the first to recognize when I started smiling in the morning.    While she didn’t always get my sense of humor, we always had fun.

So when I get a text like this:

I need you.  I need your support. I need you to make me laugh.  Come over.

I had to respond:

I can’t Tornado A is napping.

She responded:

Crap.  When can you come over?

Me:

After school?  Tomorrow?  Not the next day.  How about the day after that?

She:

Soon.  You always make me laugh.  And I need that as I pack.

Me:

You need to laugh?  Oh.  Tornado E wanted me to take a picture of him naked for a friend.

She:

It’s a whole new world out there.

Me:

I told him there was *never* *ever* EVER a good reason to take a picture of yourself naked.  *EVER*

She:

LOL  You’re such a good parent.  I would never have thought to say that.

Me:

Experience is a b*tch.

She:

No!

Me:

Yeah, well, we were all young and stupid once.

She:

LOL You have to tell me!

Me:

You’ll have to get me drunk for that.  Very drunk.  Good luck with that.

She:

It would make me feel better!

She:

You know, you did organize a Mom’s Night Out next week.

Me:

Drunk.  Very, very drunk.

She:

You always make me laugh.

I’m going to miss her like crazy.  But in this world, with this technology, you’re only as far away as you want to be.  Texting, emailing, facebooking, web cam for the kids.  I am blessed with friends around the country, friends that make up my varsity team.  She’ll just be amongst a good crowd.

But I’m never telling her that story.

Good-natured fun?

After school let’s out, Tornado E and his friends run around playing in the cement courtyard until us mothers decide it’s time to go.  The kids are bursting with energy, playing tag, searching for treasure, throwing toys.  The moms enjoy talking to other people who completely understand.  (You mean your son/daughter is still in pull-ups at night?  Thank God, I thought I was the only one.  Did you hear about this great sale?  The zoo is having a great free exhibit this weekend.  My son won’t eat meatballs either.  When are you going to our hairdresser; she’s great and cheap.  No, seriously, I can watch the kids for you . . . any time.)

Lately I’ve noticed a new game among the boys.  Wrestling.  It’s good natured.  But I keep my eyes open because they’re wrestling on concrete and that no matter how good natured it starts out, some one accidentally hurts someone else.  The surprising thing is I’m the only mom who notices when a wrestling match breaks out.  Maybe it’s because I know my son’s a little more aggressive than the other boys or the fact that he just loves to be physical when playing.  Or maybe I just know boys.

Since it’s been going on, I’ve noticed Tornado E likes the boys to chase him and get him.  Nothing new.  Except now when they get him, they all start wrestling.  Two against one.  Three against one.  It’s enough to make me really pay attention.  Especially since Tornado E is a head smaller than the other boys.  Oh, they’re laughing and smiling, but I can’t hear what’s being said during these wrestling matches.  I can feel the tension in the game building.

Last week, the wrestling was three against one. Tornado E was backed into the corner.  I’m talking to another mom, watching the wrestling, waiting for some sign that it would all turn bad.  Then Tornado E threw a great hook and got the biggest boy in the head.  The boy immediately started running towards the rest of the moms, to his mom, whom I was talking to.  At ear shot, he started to whine and snivel.

Tornado E hit me!!!

Thank God, I was with a pro.

And what did you do to Tornado E?

I broke in and mentioned the wrestling match, and perhaps Tornado E had become too aggressive.

She nodded and told her son no more wrestling.  The other boys had stopped, waiting for the verdict.  They moved on to a new game.

But it was yesterday’s game that made me really sick and nervous.  Three against one.  Only one of the boys would grab Tornado E’s hood and swing him around.  Tornado E would fall onto his hands and knees from the force.  Then the other boys would wrestle him to the ground.  I watched and waited.  I wanted to jump in and break it up.  I wanted one of the other moms to notice and call off her son.  But no mothers noticed.  Tornado E didn’t cry out; he didn’t look angry; he went back into the scuffle, fighting for all his worth.

Then the boy, who kept swinging Tornado E around, swung Tornado E into a bush.  Tornado E fell into the bush onto his bottom.  He looked up at the boy and yelled, “Stop it!  You’re being mean!” Tornado E stood up and faced the boy, who was a head taller than Tornado E like the other boys.  I started easing my way towards the boys, waiting for some one to move.  Instead the mom called her son to go home, and he ran off.

I asked Tornado E when we were leaving if he enjoyed wrestling with the boys.  He told me yes, but he wanted to know why the other boy was being so mean.  I said maybe we need to make some rules to keep people from getting hurt.  I told him that if he didn’t ever want to wrestle to tell the boys no and if that didn’t work to go play with someone else or come talk to me.

Even as I write this, I feel a little sick in my stomach.  I can only see this game ending in a bad way.  Obviously I don’t want to be the one to end the game in case it’s my son initiating the fight or that it lowers Tornado E in the social circle.  I just can’t believe I’m the only mom who has noticed this game, and I wish someone else would have the same issue.  Maybe I’m overreacting because I know my brothers used to love to wrestle with their friends.  But I’ve never seen the odds so unfair.  I keep wondering if there is come under current I’m not picking up on.  Yet Tornado E handles himself well.  Ugh.  Is this just boys being boys?  Or is this something else?

Expressing Excitement

So I’ve been trying to set up playdates for Tornado E, so that he doesn’t maul children and get into their faces when they just want him to take a step back and give them a little breathing room.  Last week I succeeded in securing a meeting at a park with a mother of the twins Tornado E likes so much.  When I told Tornado E he had to get ready to go to the park and meet his friends, he let out a high pitch squeal, which probably took off a year of my hearing, and ran off to get ready.

My question is: When did my four-year-old little boy turn into a teenage girl?

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Thank you notes

This last weekend we attended our very first, non-family member birthday party.  It was for Tornado E’s bestest friend, KJ.  Since we had issues last week, I decided to stay, rather than drop and go, but all the moms stayed.  It was nice to keep an eye on the kids and talk.

Before Christmas, KJ’s mom confided in me that all KJ wanted was a dinosaur.  When I received the invitation, I asked the mom if KJ got her dinosaur.  No.  So after several stores (Last year there were walking, roaring dinosaurs EVERYWHERE), I secured a dinosaur.

Tornado E was on his best behavior and talked all the way to the party about what he would say to KJ and what they would do.  Apparently, to quiet a group of kids, all you need to do is feed them cake and ice cream, and the whole group goes silent.  It was a little awe-inspiring, sort of like the Grand Canyon.

The next day I received an email from the mom, telling me how KJ LOVED her toy, wouldn’t put it down, had to sleep with it, had to take it to church.  Yeah, I rock.  On Monday, Tornado E received his thank you note.  (Which reminds me, put Christmas thank you notes into the mail.)  As we drove to my parents’ house, Tornado E opened the card and began to read.

Tornado E: Thank you, Tornado E, for the great gift.  I loved it very very very very very much.  We should play with it.  Thank you.  Your best pal, KJ.

Me: Good reading, Tornado E.

Tornado E: Thank you.  I told you I could read.  Now I get to go to college tomorrow.

Um.  Not so fast.  You have to actually read the words on the page accurately.

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My Best Friend

I have the best friend ever

Because she’ll pick me up and drop me off the airport whenever.

Because she’ll totally bug me to buy plane tickets until I do.

Because she’ll let me crash at her place and then feel bad because it’s a mess (as though she hasn’t been messy from the moment I met her).

Because she feels bad her car is a mess when I arrive (as though she ever had a clean car all the time I’ve known her).

Because she’ll feel bad that she invited her friend I don’t know and expect me to be upset (which I wasn’t).

Because she’s always ready for a sushi dinner.

Because she’s crazy into Twilight and New Moon like me.

Because she understands my obsession with books.

Because she took it as her fault that I had digestive issues on my full day of vacation.

Because she felt horrible sending me on errands for her as she worked.

Because she insisted I nap, giving me her office key and the key to a private bathroom.

Because she was willing to watch New Moon twice.

Because she was totally cool going with a mutual friend and another girl she never met before.

Because she made me tea.

Because she felt horrible she missed my birthday months ago.

Because she took me out to breakfast.

Because she took me shopping at the bookstore.

Because she encouraged and insisted I get a planner so I can achieve my dream of being more organized.

Because when we arrived late at the airport and I nearly missed my plane, she wanted take full responsibility for it.

Because she’s totally cool with me crying, whining, ranting, complaining when I need to.

Because she knows me and will call me out on my sh*t.

Because she’s the coolest girl in the world.

Conversations at the Library

We were at the library, and Tornado E was desperate for friends.

Tornado E: May I please join you?

Grandmother: Yes, you may. Girl, tell the boy he can join us.

Girl: You may join us.

Tornado E: (pulls out chair and sits down) Thank you.

Grandmother: Tell him your name.

Girl: I’m Girl.

Grandmother: Ask him what his name is.

Girl: What’s your name?

Tornado E: Tornado E!  And I’m silly!

Grandmother: Oh, I’m sure you’re not silly.

Tornado E: Yes, I am!  I’m very silly!

Later he joined a nanny and her charge.

Tornado E: My father doesn’t like my mommy calling us “dudes.”  But I don’t mind.  My father is just silly.

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Goodbyes are hard

As I have mentioned before and will again, two of my cousins had boys the same year that Evan was born, and one of them had another son the same year as Sean. Broc is the oldest by four months; then comes Jacob by four days, and Evan is the youngest. Sean was born four months before Broc’s little brother Brogan. So the family is surrounded by boys, and let’s not forget the eldest by ten years, Bethany. (Can you guess who she’s the oldest sister of?*)
Saturday Broc and Brogan where over at my grandma’s house, which was a quite a treat for my boys, and they did what all boys do. Run around like crazy men, finding every toy and almost toy to play with. To add frosting on the cake, Broc owned a Batman cape and a Spiderman cape. (I know. I know. Spiderman didn’t have a cape. I guess I was the only one in the family to read comic books.) Evan and Broc chased each other in and out and around the house.
When it was time for Broc and Brogan to leave, the boys were beside themselves. “Evan, Evan, Evan, I’ve got to tell you something!” “Wait!” “Broc, Broc, I’ve got to tell you something!” “No, wait! I’ve got to tell Evan something!” “Broc, wait! I’ve got to tell you something!” After ten minutes of stalling, my cousin hauled his son into the minivan.
Broc: (from his car seat as he’s buckled in) Evan! Evan! I’ve got to tell you something.
Evan: (running to Broc) What?!
Broc: Let’s have a sleep over! Come to my house! Want to have a sleep over?!

Evan: SURE!
My cousin pulled Evan out of the minivan and handed him to me. My cousin was desperate to get a handle on the situation.
My cousin: Not today, some other time.
Evan wiggled out of my arms as my cousin climbed in the driver seat and closed the door.
Evan: (looking for a way to see Broc through tinted windows) Broc! Broc! BROC! I got to tell you something! BROC!
My dad picked Evan up and held him so that he could lean into the driver’s window and talk to Broc.
Evan: Broc! We can have a sleep over at my house tomorrow!
Broc: OK!!
Me: Why not? What’s one more boy?
My cousin: A lot. We’ll see you later.
The man pulled out of the driveway fast. Then honked his horn to a tune and drove away.
Evan: Mommy, why’d he do that?
Me: Because your uncle is funny. (or desperate to remain in control, which we know he won’t.)

 

 

*If you guessed Broc and Brogan’s older sister, you’re right! She’s the daughter from my cousins first marriage, which we won’t go into here with out charts.

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