It’s just a book

Of all the things I want for gifts, the one I ask for, the one that means the most to me, is for someone to take my boys shopping for me. Show them we buy gifts for the people we love. Show them that we remember special days for the people we love. Show them how to think and empathize with people we love. Buying gifts is a skill. Remembering important days of your love one is love.

My mother likes to give practical gifts. My dad likes to give gifts that will make the person happy. He has been taking the lead gift giving with the boys the last couple of times. For Mother’s Day, the boys and my dad got me a cool Wonder Woman picture.

So my parents took the boys shopping form birthday. Tornado E found a Star Wars gift but abandoned that for a Star Wars movie. Tornado S decided to give me the Star Wars gift. Tornado A walked into the book aisle and brought my dad a book.

Tornado A: (Smiling from ear to ear) We should get Mama this book! (Holds up the book)

Papi: (looks at the book with Donald Trump on the cover) I don’t think your mama will like that book. She isn’t a big fan of Trump.

Tornado A smiled bigger and nodded.

Papi: No prank gifts.

Tornado A sighed and marched back to the aisle. He came running back with a Star Wars book.

Prank gift giving in second grade. That kid is mine.

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The Tooth Fairy Cometh

About a year ago, Tornado A lost a front tooth. With the excitement and seriousness of any five-year-old, he placed it in his homemade tooth pillow and placed it under his bed right before he went to bed at 8pm.

And I promptly forgot about it.

Until I was getting dressed the next morning  in the dark in my bedroom while Tornado E slept in my bed.

Well, at least, I remembered the tooth before Tornado A did, and I would do my classic move of “Did you look underneath the bed?” and then toss the dollar on top of the bed. Then the boy would look on the bed in disappointment and wonder how the money got there. Weird.

As soon as I was dressed, I extracted my wallet from my purse. I opened it up and pulled out the first bill. I have a system, small bills in front, moving to larger bills in back. Not nearly as cool as Matt Murdock’s system, but we can’t all be as cool as Matt Murdock, and this system works well.

Like a ninja, I crept into the boys’ bedroom, removed the tooth from its pillow, and placed the bill in the pocket. I stalked out of the room, back into my room. I tossed the tooth into the trash with a slight clang.

Yes, I used to keep their teeth. All their baby teeth that were not lost on the way to the tooth pillow. Until I looked into the special box that was holding the teeth. Then I realized I looked like a serial killer with trophies. Out they all went.

As I was doing my hair, the boys woke up and started getting dressed. Tornado A, determined to beat his brother’s to breakfast, was the first dressed and into the kitchen, where my dad asked if the tooth fairy came.

I curled my hair with a smug smile as Tornado A ran by back to the bedroom. I was on the next section when he ran by again. That’s right, folks; I have this parenting thing down. Then I heard:

The tooth fairy gave me TWENTY DOLLARS!!!

Crap.

I put down the curling iron and ran out into the kitchen, where Tornado A was dancing around the room, waving a twenty dollar bill. What stupid person puts her biggest bill in the front of her wallet? My dad and I made eye contact. I ducked out of the room, laughing. I couldn’t catch my breath as I ran back to my room, pulled out my wallet, and saw the dollar bill still sitting in the wallet.

I overheard my dad.

Papi: Tornado A, that’s a lot of money. Do you think it was a mistake?

Tornado A: No, the tooth fairy never makes a mistake.

Papi: Do you think the tooth fairy wanted you to share it with your brothers?

Tornado A: No!

Papi: Do you think the tooth fairy wanted you to share it with Mommy?

Tornado A: No!

Papi: That’s a lot of money for a kindergartner, do you think you should donate some of it?

Tornado A: No!

I walked back into the room. My dad looked at me. I shrugged. I was a long term sub; I got paid half of pennies; I could use that $20. But I couldn’t take it from my boy. It was my mistake.

Me: I’m sure Tornado A already has plans for it.

Tornado A: Can we go to the store this weekend?

This is my dad’s favorite story to tell. I wonder if it reminds him of another blonde kindergartner with deep-set blue eyes who found $5 dollars in a church parking while walking to church one Sunday morning.

My dad: Fae, do you think someone dropped that on accident?

Me: No, Daddy. It’s from God.

My dad: It could be someone’s tithe. They could be giving it to God.

Me: And God gave it to me because I tithe every Sunday at your church and at Mommy’s church.

My dad: But Fae, it might be important to someone. That’s a lot of money. I have to ask around.

Me: But, Daddy, God gave it to me.

I dutifully handed it to my dad, who asked around. When he returned it to me because he couldn’t find any one to claim it, I insisted that it was a gift from God.

Meanest Grandma in the Whole World

People, I’m the meanest mom in the whole world. Just ask my tornadoes.

It’s true.

Well, sometimes. Sometimes I’m the coolest mom in the whole world.

Sometimes my mom is the meanest grandma in the whole world. You know, because she makes my tornadoes do their homework in their nicest handwriting, makes them pick up every toy, and makes them ask to turn on the TV or the Wii every time. So mean. Seriously, I don’t know if I could compete. Some days I only make them pick up most of the toys. But I totally am harder on how they speak to each other and having a taste of each food on their plate. And I don’t let them play video games or watch TV any time they want or how long they want.  I am so mean.

Naturally after one of these you’re-the-meanest-grandma-in-the-world, I had to ask.

Me: Who’s meaner? Mommy or Grandma?

Tornado E: Grandma!

Tornado S: Grandma!

Tornado A: Nana!

I gave her my oh-that’s-right-you-heard-it-here-first-I-rock face. She just gave a they’re-angry-right-now-but-just-wait-I’m-the-grandma-you’re-the-mom. And she’s right. She can trump my mom card any day. I have to be mean. She can spoil them if she chooses.

But I will not be brought down in my victory by mere facts and accurate guesses.

I’m cooler than my mom. I’m a cooler mom than their grandma.

So I had to brag to my dad and tell him the whole story when he got home. As it happens, I told him in front of the boys.

Papi: Who would be Darth Vader? Grandma, your mommy, or me?

Tornado E: Grandma!

Tornado S: Grandma!

Tornado A: Nana!

My dad and I exchanged smug looks. My mom rolled her eyes.

Papi: Ok. Who would be Luke Skywalker? Your mommy or me?

Tornado E: Mommy!

Tornado S: Papi!

Tornado A: Mommy!

My dad and I exchanged looks.

Papi: Ok. Who would be Han Solo? Your mommy or me?

Tornado E: Papi!

Tornado S: Mommy!

Tornado A: Papi!

Me: (to my dad) I really don’t know what to make of that. But at least I’m not a Sith Lord.

Points of Interest

  • I wanted to pack up as much stuff as possible the night before, but my parents decided that all we needed to do was put in the car seats and load the big bags.
  • The mini van was more narrow than my SUV.
  • I was ready at 6am.  They were ten minutes late.  I could have slept in ten more minutes.  Ok. Now I’ll drop it.
  • “Wow.  You should go away more often.  I’ve never seen your house this clean.”  “You’ve never visited at breakfast before the tornadoes are loose.”
  • I can now cuss only in my mind while I struggle to strap boys into seats on a bench slightly too narrow.
  • Best line: “I think your son just got the clap.”  My brother took them to the bathroom at a stop.  “Tornado S laid his junk right on the urinal.”  There is only so much theory teaching I can do.  By the way, Friendly Giant, do you mind teaching them to shake too?
  • My boys are completely melodramatic.  “My back hurts so much.  I’m going to die.”  “I’m so cold.  I’m going to die.”  “I’m so bored.  I’m going to die.”  “It’s so fluffy.  I’m going to die.”  (Their reference.  Not mine.)
  • It’s totally weird to find yourself getting excited like a homecoming when you no longer live there.
  • Two story suite.  A room with two queens and a crib for the boys and me.  The hide-a-bed in the living room for The Friendly Giant.  A loft room with a CA King for the parents.
  • Being a loft means there is a half wall at the head of the bed, overlooking the living room.  Up popped a very blond head with sparkling eyes and a mischievous smile.  My heart stopped.
  • And my dad laughed.
  • Mrs. Knott’s Fried Chicken.
  • Thanks to The Violinist for getting us discount tickets at Disneyland.
  • We would have been the first ones there except for the free breakfast.  FREE breakfast.
  • First ride: Star Tours.  I got the before and after interview on the Flip.
  • Thanks to the BFF for teaching me to snag Fast Passes and to hold them and snag when you can.
  • Both boys were tall enough for Star Tours, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
  • I’m going to say this just once. *I* did not lose any boys on my watch, in my zone, no matter how many I had.
  • Tornado S decided he will never do again nor should the party do again  Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, The Haunted Mansion.
  • I found my new hobby.  Building light sabers.
  • My family lacks communication when we are tired and hungry.
  • Nothing is more fun than the Buzz Lightyear ride with the boys.
  • To the jerk who stole a light saber from our stroller while we were in a ride, you suck.  I hope karma kicks your ass.
  • So maybe leaving the park at dinner time *was* a good idea.  I still didn’t have to like it.
  • S’more bark and the discussion on how we can make it at home.
  • Disneyland TWO DAYS IN A ROW.
  • Tornado E was just tall enough to do Indiana Jones.  He freakin’ loved it!
  • He also bought a necklace.  I call it creepy.  He calls it Frank.
  • Tornado A loved The Tiki Room.  And blue grass.  Go figure.
  • When we’re not tired and hungry, my mom and I kick @ss as a team.
  • My dad and I left the park after lunch for “naps.” But Tornado A fell asleep as we walked to lunch.  He slept through lunch.  He was not interested in napping again.  Far from it.
  • On the other hand, the older boys slept for an hour and half, and I had to wake them up.
  • Last ride on Star Tours, Tornado E was the rebel spy.
  • More souvenirs.  Little things.  I should have bought the boys more Star Wars cars.
  • The ice cream parlor was closed!  WTH!
  • The fireworks were awesome as usual, but Tornado A prefered to snuggle up in my arms and ignore them.
  • Getting out of the park was a b*tch as usual.
  • The weekend was much too short.
  • I didn’t get to see the BFF.
  • Tornado E came down with a fever on the way home and blamed the Friendly Giant for turning on the AC and making him sick.
  • I slept so very much.  Jane Eyre can’t be that boring.
  • Now that I think about it.  I should have bought more.  They have a website, right?

Something about that room

The clanging of heavy metal jewelry and the whisper of wooden drawers being opened and closed are now my alarm clock.  Along with “Sssshhh, don’t wake, Mommy” and “Here, look at this one.”

One lesson I have learned while living with another adult is that I like things neat.

I shouldn’t be so shocked.  In my college days, I had a movable pile of jacket, jeans, books that moved from bed during the day and chair at night.  It was my only mess on a regular basis.  My text books and notebooks were piled in a milk create.  My art supplies tucked neatly into a tool box.  The piles of papers looked suspicious, but I knew what each one was.  In high school, I would destroy my room with art projects and getting ready.  But as soon as the project was done, everything went back.  Any mess was organized.

I looked forward to a bedroom where clothes weren’t strewn about, that shoes didn’t trip me in the middle of the night, that my socks didn’t disappear.

Now I have a bedroom where costume jewelry is strewn about by pirates, Star Wars characters attack my feet in the middle of the night, my favorite rings disappear, carried off for booty.  My dresser, no longer a holding pen for random men’s shirts, has become a battle field of jewelry boxes and figurines.  My poor crystal penguin has a lost an arm that no one can remember when and who done the heinous act. . .

Me: . . . And it’s all completely annoying.

I was sprawled on my parents’ bed next to my mom.  She had a book in her hand and that impatient look of get-out-of-here-so-I-can-read look.  I, doing as I had for the last 31 years, ignored the look and handed Tornado A the remote control as he sat between us.

The Friendly Giant: Mom!  What’s for dinner?

He crashed on the bed, across the foot, hanging over on both sides.

My mom sighed and opened her mouth.

Face: Ahhhhh!  They’re after me.

He jumped onto the bed, taking up what little remained of the bed.  Tornado E and Tornado S came barreling after their uncle and clambered up to pile on top of them.

My dad walked in.  He turned his head and looked out the bedroom door.

My dad: The Bride, they’re all in here!

My dad unloaded his pocket.  I expected him to unclip his holster and badge, but they haven’t hung on his belt for a couple of years.  Now he removed his company badge.  The Bride walked into the room and leaned on my mom’s dresser.

My dad: I have to change.

My brothers and I blinked back.  My boys were trying to jump into their beloved Papi’s arms.

The Bride: I’m sure your parents’ want their privacy.

My brothers and I blinked at her.

My dad: Get out or I start making out with your mother.

My brothers and I scrambled off the bed.

Me: Boys, let’s go.

We all exited the room with more speed than grace.

The Bride: I still can’t believe you guys go in there and hang out like that.

The Face shrugged.

The Friend Giant: We’ve been doing that since we were little.

The Bride: But you sprawl on their bed.

Me: We’re like a pride of lions.

Well, at least, I have a bigger bed.

The dish

Me: . . . worried about heating food in a microwave.  As though it will contaminate food.  I’m like, dude, it’s a tool.  It’ll be fine.  I told him to figure out a solution.

I stood, chomping on grapes in a house I have known all my life.  The copper gelatin molds glistened from the wall near the ceiling.  The wine bottles, gathering dusk, waiting for the next generation of toddlers to christen the floor with them, were tucked under the breakfast bar that I spent my whole childhood kicking as I ate.  The fridge door was full of magnets with some bringing memories of creating intricate stories on the fridge as I waited for the rain to let up or receive another order on helping in the kitchen.

My grandma handed Tornado E back to me.  He tried to whack me with the shiny set of measuring spoons that I suspected were older than me. “Babies love measuring spoons.”

Grandma: Hold on a sec, Fae.

She pulled a stool over and climbed on it took look in an upper shelf next to the double oven.  She dug into the back of the cupboard.  I bounced Tornado E on my hip and gave him the names of all the things in the kitchen he pointed to.  “Sink.”  “Plate.”  “Plant.”  “Window.”  “Mixer.”  “Island.”

My grandma is a little, dark thing.  I out grew her at 11.  It was a rite of passage to look over her head.  My family is funny that way.

Grandma: Ah.  Here it is.

She pulled out a pink ceramic something and stepped down off the stool, placing the dish on the rolling island.  Tornado E and I peered at it.

Grandma: I got this when I had your Aunt D.  (She pulled off the white ceramic plugs with cork underneath the ceramic.)  You pour warm water in here.  And you place the food in the dish.  It’ll warm the food and keep it warm.  I fed your mother, your aunts, and your uncle with it. I fed each one of you kids (She meant my cousins, my brothers, and I.)  from it when you were over.  You can have it.  But don’t tell anyone.  I don’t want anyone to think I’m playing favorites.

My mom snorted as she walked into the room, hearing the last few lines.  She took Tornado E out of my arms.  I picked up the bowl, studying it.  A sense of history and honor ran through me.

My Mom: You’re not playing favorites.  You’re passing on a family heirloom to your eldest granddaughter.

But we all knew I was the favorite granddaughter.  I was older than the other granddaughter by a good ten years, plenty of time to establish my role by staying the night, sitting with them in church, “helping” my grandma cook, “helping” my grandpa fix cars.  I was the first of the family to attend a university, cementing my place at the grown-up table, passing an aunt, an uncle, and two older cousins. I was the first to present a legitimate grandchild and the first to have my child baptized in the family baptismal gown, passed down through four generations.  So, yeah, I’m the favorite.  I have plastic barrettes somewhere that say so.  Well, technically they say “Grandpa’s Girl” because my grandma couldn’t read the small writing very well.  But it suited my grandpa just fine.

I held the dish.

Me: Thank you, Grandma.  I’ll take good care of it. I really appreciate this.  It’s the perfect solution.

***

I held the dish.  Memories played in my head, first bites, first tries, hundreds of meals mixed together, trying to put just a couple more drops of formula in the food to hide it. Another generation fed from a serving dish.

I placed it on a high shelf, pushing it to the back, where it will wait for another baby.

The trouble with grandparents or the trouble with *my* parents

As we were leaving my parents’ house the other day, I noticed the storm had blown a huge piece of paper around my tire.  I picked it up and started walking towards the community garbage can, across the street and down the alley, passed two houses.  The boys were playing in the front yard with my parents were keeping an eye on them as well as pulling weeds.  I dumped the trash and started walking back.  I noticed the boys were playing on the corner, on the curb that flowed into the street.  Not a place I wanted my children.

Then I watched as Tornado A saw me and started into the street, only to be sidetracked by the giant puddle in the middle of the street.

“NO!  NO!  THE BABY!  THE BABY!  GET HIM!” I screamed.

I ran.

I ran as fast as I could,  but I was slowed down by my flip-flops and the soft mud.  A cold and sickening thought occurred to me as I ran.  I could see through the chain link fence on my left, through the school yard to the end of the street, but I couldn’t see to my right because of concrete backyard walls to see the other end of the street.  And I knew if a car came from that direction, I would be too late.  I pushed harder.

I watched my father stand up, take in the situation, walk into the street, and pick up Tornado A, carrying him back to safety.  All with a slowness that made me growl.

I ran across the street, glancing to make sure I wasn’t going to be hit by a car.

I opened my mouth as I stormed onto the sidewalk.

My dad (still holding Tornado A): Look at your Mommy!  I bet she hasn’t run like that since high school.  (He chuckled.  He f-ing chuckled.)  She was so worried.  There weren’t any cars coming, Fae.  I had it under control.

Me: YOU had it under control?!!! If YOU had it under control, my child would not have been in the street!!!  (I grabbed Tornado A out of his arms.)  What is wrong with you?! Haven’t you learned anything after three children?!  You are not going to watch my children again!

Do you know how hard it is to yell at someone who is taller, bigger, and more imposing than you?  He might be retired, but my Dad still has the aura of Cop hanging on him. Do you know how hard it is to yell at someone who was the imposing authority in your life for your childhood, one that held the balance of justice and law in the house?

I must have sounded like I was five years old, in pig tails and a pink dress, scolding my daddy for letting my Teddy get wet.

Because my Dad chuckled again.

My Dad: You don’t mean that.

I did what any sane parent would do in this situation.

Me: MOOOOOOOOM!

I called in the higher authority.

My Mom: T, keep a better eye on the boys.  Fae, your father knew what he was doing.

Yeah, knew what he was doing.  Right.  Three kids and he still acts sometimes like the stories of my babyhood.  Come to think of it, sometimes so does she.

My parents acted like they didn’t know a damn thing when it came to raising a baby.  When my Mom was pregnant with me, they went skiing.  The doctor told them no, but since he originally said yes, they went any ways. Thank God, it rained.  She refurnished a dresser for me, using paint stripper and white paint, while she was pregnant.  She used chemical oven cleaner while she was pregnant with me.  My dad insisted on doing my first diaper change and then proceeded to get poop all over every item on the cart, the cart, and me.  My Mom stuck to a strict four-hour feeding cycle, which would have been fine if I didn’t sleep through the night, and she ignored doctor’s orders to wake me up to feed me in the middle of the night.  (Now we all hate to wake sleeping babies, but I was nearly failure to thrive.)  No one will admit who held the door and who held me when a hotel door slammed on my head, causing “the most interesting shades of purple and red,” and then no one took me to the hospital.  My Dad was on watch when I did my first roll . . . off of the couch and into the corner of the coffee table.  Sure, I could swim before I could walk, but I also received my first sun burn before my first birthday.  I swallowed a tack.

Yup, my parents were child-raising geniuses.  I’d forgive them if they were teenagers.  They weren’t.  They got better though.  The only crazy thing my mom did while pregnant with my little brother was lie about her pregnancy to ride the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland.

Maybe I should start looking for another sitter. . . .