I will not surrender

My boys don’t want to go camping. Are you kidding me? They don’t like bugs. They’re afraid of snakes. Leave it to Tornado E to figure out which snakes are native to the area and how poisonous they are. For Christ’s sakes, they’re in Cub Scouts. I had been camping for years by Tornado E’s age. Really? No camping?

Fine. So I came up with a plan. Picnics. Hikes. In the mountains. I will start slow. I will convince them.

Only it took a couple months to put my plan into action. Monday. Hell or high water, I was going to take the kids picnicking and hiking on the nearest mountain.

Life is ironic.

As par for the course, we headed out later than I planned. I wasn’t really thinking the night before, so my prep was off. I didn’t research the hiking trails. Hell, I spent summers running wild on that mountain. I didn’t pack the night before. Pssht, piece of cake; I’ve done this before. I’ll wing it.

Never wing it.

I forgot a few things, so after a stop at the Cub Scout council for books and wonderment, we returned home, which was on the way. Everyone had to pee first, and then off we went.

Hold up. I forgot caffeine. Just a quick stop at a drug store to grab some soda.

Off we went.

Just as we hit the mountain base, I saw a sign, flashing, “NO CAMPFIRES! NO CHAR-COAL! NO CAMPFIRES!”

Oh for the love of God, if I had known, I would’ve picked up fried chicken or sandwiches instead of bring hot dogs and marshmallows. And char-coal and lighter fluid. Maybe it isn’t meant for grills. Maybe the sign is old. I mean, it’s rained a couple of days in a row up there.

Then we passed the fire danger sign. “EXTREMELY HIGH!” Oh sonofabitch! So much for earning cooking-outdoor patches. Also will the boys eat cold hot dogs? They barely swallow hot hot dogs.

A few more turns up the mountain went by before I remembered FEES. Oh crap. Did I have enough for fees? I turned into an observation site and scrounged through the emergency coinage and the ash tray and my wallet. 5 bucks was secured.

It was about this time that Tornado S started complaining about heights and fear. He wanted to turn back. Another few curves and Tornado A was joined him in his whining.

Since the fees were self-pay, I debated paying. What were the odds I would be caught if we were there only for a couple of hours? Then I remembered I was poor and a ticket would ruin my month as in electricity or ticket. So I paid the five backs, jamming the envelop filled with change into the slot.

Tornado S asked what took me so long.

A mile later, it was lightly raining.

A mile later, it was raining.

A mile later, it was pouring with visibility cut dramatically.

Have I mentioned this was my first time driving up the mountain? Usually I go with my parents, and my dad drives because he more or less grew up on that mountain. The other times I was with the Ex who grew up on a mountain and complained that I couldn’t mountain drive for anything. Dude, I grew up in a valley. So, yeah, I had something to prove.

The boys were a little freaked out and excited. I uncovered the sun roof, so they could watch the rain. Tornado E was worried about the day’s activities. I assured him that if it was raining in one part of the mountain, it didn’t mean it was raining in another part.

Only it was. It rained all the way to the top. It rained as we drove through the town. It rained when we got to the picnic and hiking spot. By rain, it poured. I could barely see a car length in front of me.

Tornado E: Mommy, why are we here?

I parked the car. Soaked hikers scrambled into cars. We made it.

Me: I was determined to get us here.

I opened the car door and stepped out into the downpour. I made it. And Christ, that was cold.

I jumped back into the car.

Tornado S: Now what? I’m hungry.

Tornado A: I’m hungry too!

Tornado E: Mommy, what are we going to do?

The sky flashed. Thunder rolled. The boys screamed.

Seriously, people, thunder too? I’m sure I was promised certain things when I had boys. Like I would never have to kill a bug again. Not so much. And I, girl who used to sit on top of her Bronco to watch storm come in and overhead, had boys afraid of thunder.

Me: Give me a second.

I couldn’t afford to take them to the restaurants. But I could take them to the general store. Perhaps I could buy sandwiches or cheese or something.

I started the car and turned back on the tiny mountain road. Then it started hailing. It stopped short of blanketing the ground.

We made it to the general store. The boys asked for an umbrella. I found one, and I climbed out. The sky flashed with thunder on its heals. Ok, no one is holding a lightning rod on my watch. I ushered the boys out of the car and across the parking lot in freezing rain.

The store was filled with touristy souvenirs and touristy-priced necessities. It was crowded with breakable objects. My boys were tired and hungry, spring-loaded with energy. Not a good combination. They whined and begged, and I was patient, listening to their demands and deflecting as quickly as I could. I couldn’t bring myself to buy $2.50 Lunchables, so I committed to the plan of cold hot dogs. I bought the boys rock candy and homemade fudge. I ushered them out to the porch to debate my options.

I had to feed the boys soon. I couldn’t waste this day. I couldn’t let this trip go bust. The storm was letting up. I looked over at my SUV with its way way back. I had an idea.

After the boys had a little fudge, I loaded everyone back into the car. I drove out of town and down the mountain just a mile to a picnic spot that I had planned on stopping at on our way out. It had amazing bunch of rocks to climb and scramble over. I parked the car overlooking the hills and trees.

Me: All right, boys. We’re going to eat lunch in the car. Who wants to go in the back? Who wants to sit in their seats?

They all wanted to sit in their seats, so I unbuckled Tornado A. I got out of the car and opened the back hatch. I moved things around. I moved supplies into the front seat. I started making lunch with the hatch protecting me from the sprinkling.

Me: Who wants what on their hot dogs?

Tornado E: Mustard.

Tornado S: I don’t want any.

Me: That’s all we have, so you’ll have to go hungry.

Tornado S: Fine. Ketchup and mustard.

Tornado E: Me too. But, Mommy, how are we going to cook them?

Me: They’re cooked. Just cold. Nana used to make your uncles and me cold hot dog sandwiches all the time. In fact, the Friendly Giant loves hot dog sandwiches.

Tornado A: Me too. Ketchup on mine!

Me: (as I began fixing hot dogs) You know, it would be easier to share the box of cheese crackers if you were all back here.

They all scrambled over. I opened the box of crackers, and they dove in as I fixed hot dogs. I passed out lemonade. I handed out hot dogs as I made them. We ate happily listening to the rain and the thunder.

Me: When everyone is done, we still have more fudge. We have marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers.

Tornado E: Cold s’mores!

I passed out the fudge and marshmallows.

Tornado E: We should ask Grandma to make rocky road fudge.

Me: We should! Ok, everyone, we need to hit the bathrooms before we leave.

So I marched them in the sprinkling rain to the outhouses. The boys were horrified by the smell and the concept of peeing in a whole.

Then I decided a little walk to the rocks wouldn’t hurt. We were already there. We picked up pretty rocks. We scrambled up the boulders to get a good view. I took pictures. They splashed in puddles. We walked back to the car.

Tornado E: Can we come again? When it’s not raining?

Me: Yes.

Tornado S: Can we bring fried chicken next time?

Me: Yes.

Tornado A: I want to cook hot dogs!

Me: We can do that too.

Tornado E: Next time we come during monsoon season, I’m bringing a jacket and pants.

Me: Well, I thought the storm would hit in the afternoon as they usually do. I figured we would beat it home.

Tornado E: (noticing the rain was nearly stopped) Too bad we didn’t come earlier.

I loaded everyone back in the car, and we headed down the mountain.

Things Proven:

  1. The boys can like being in the mountain.
  2. They like picnics and are willing to try hiking.
  3. I can drive up and down a mountain without killing anyone.
  4. With a little determination, I can turn a potentially bad situation around.

Luckily, I’m a pretty determined girl.


A Frozen Reference

Olaf: Knock. (pause) Just knock. (pause) Why isn’t she knocking? Do you think she knows how to knock?

We watch a lot of Frozen. It’s Tornado A’s favorite movie. Tornado A wants to be Elsa, which is adorable. I think it’s the white-blonde hair and the blue eyes. Plus her power is ice magic. Who wouldn’t want that? In the pool, I taught Tornado A to play Elsa by splashing water in the way Elsa sprays ice. And of course, I play Anna to Tornado A’s Elsa.

During Tornado S and Tornado A’s swim lesson, Tornado E and I watched Tornado S’s swim class jump off the low dive. One little girl was having trouble jumping off.

Tornado E: Jump. (pause) Just jump. (pause) Why isn’t she jumping?

Me: Do you think she knows how to jump?

Tornado E looked up at me with a large grin. I smiled back.

Dude, it’s so awesome to have someone get all your references. The benefit of parenting teaching kids to hate what you hate. I mean like. I don’t think we’ve watched that Simpson‘s episode yet.

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.

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.

I Get By With a Little Help from my Friends

In my tweet for my last post, I wrote “I get by with a little help from my friends.”  And I do.  Seriously.  I don’t know what I would do without my amazing friends.

I lean on several to get the stuff out of my head.  I talk for hours about my fears and troubles and craziness.  And they listen and give comfort and give advice.  They’re so amazing.  Sometimes I feel like I’m vomiting words, trying to make sense of my life and how I feel and what I will do, and then I apologize for monopolizing the conversations and (lately) always being a downer.  Because they are awesome, they tell me it’s ok and this is how they support me.

If that isn’t enough to have them lend their strength and wisdom, they try their best to take care of me.

My Favorite Freshman drove two hours to be with me on the night I learned of the ruling.  Every time she visits, she thrusts clothes and random stuff for the boys and me into my arms.  She insists on feeding me and donating to the inevitable garage sale coming my way.  She’s promised to drive two hours to sit for me if I ever need it.  Seriously, how lucky am I?  For Mother’s Day, she bought me a family pass to the zoo because “you need to be able to be the fun parent too.”

Another friend insisted on taking me out to the movies the other week because I needed to get out and have fun.  I tried to give her money for the ticket, and she waved it away with “it was my idea.”

I could not function without Wally and Cat.  I know if I needed them, any time of day, they would move heaven and earth to help me.

An old college friend messaged me out of the blue, asking to talk.  We hadn’t talked on the phone for years.  (Stupid Facebook for making us believe we know what was going on in other people’s lives.)  We talked for several hours, and whenever I tried to turn the conversation to her, she would insist that she called to hear about my life.  Then to top off her awesomeness, she sent me a cookbook for cooking for one or two servings.  I thanked her, and she told me she did it to honor my new life and it would give me a reason to stay in contact to tell her how the recipes taste.  And to think, when we met as freshmen in college, she thought I was a bitch and we would never get along.  (She was only half right.)

Then there’s the Unicorn.  Who Tornado A blacklisted on my phone, so we fell out of touch for a few weeks.  She’s so awesome.  I’m so happy for her, and her texts make me so happy.  Then she sent me a whole bunch of stickers and candy and salsa spice mixes.  Yea surprises!  Now if only I could get to the post office to mail all the stuff I’ve been hording for her.

I’m lucky to have more awesome friends.  I know there are several that if I just called, they would talk with me for hours as though time never passed, and if I needed anything, they would totally be there for me.  I told Wally I was blessed.  Then I laughed because I hate using the word “blessed.”

For a while, I felt really guilty for being so lucky.  Then one day it dawned on me that if roles were reversed, I would be doing the same thing.  Before I was poor, I was treating my friends out for dinners and movies and buying them little “smile” gifts.  Before I became really poor, I was sending stickers, cards, and presents when I could.  I look forward to the days I can do that again.  In the meantime, I’m always happy to listen and console.  I’m always happy to babysit and feed people.

Even though a lot of parts of my life suck right now, I’ve got this amazing group of people supporting me.  If I keep my eyes on the prize, nothing is going to stop me.

A little vacation

I took the boys on a little vacation last week.  Just 5 days up to Phoenix.  Two nights with one friend in a two-bedroom apartment.  Two nights with another friend and her husband and son in a two-bedroom apartment.  I was worried about imposing and being the poor relation but . . .


My first friend is my Favorite Freshman from my senior year in high school.


She bought the boys toys and several outfits, including bright yellow shirts for them to wear to the children’s museum.

She insisted on taking us out for pizza and video games and paying for the children’s museum (“because that’s what sisters do.”)

She stocked her kitchen with tons of kid-friendly food.

She played with us at the children’s museum and at splash pads and watched movies with us.

Aidan: can we stay here?

Me: For how long?

Aidan: For lots of days!


And then

We spent the next few days with my close friend and her son.

Before her husband left for a friend’s house, he downloaded Plants vs Zombies for my boys to play.

She got us into the zoo for free.

She insisted on taking us out for pizza and video games and splitting meals we had out.

She has the cutest boy, and my boys love him.

And splash pads!

Aidan: When can we go to Cat’s house?

Me: Soon.

Aidan: YEA!!!!


Seriously, one of the best vacations ever.

And I’m seriously one of the luckiest people to have such awesome friends.

A Mother’s Son

While staying at a friend’s place this weekend, I fell asleep with Tornado A and Tornado S, who was suppose to be reading us a story.  My friend tried to keep Tornado E occupied, instead of letting him wake us up.  So she asked him questions.  He told her about the book he was reading and his favorite animals and all about dragons.  A lot about dragons.  For an hour, he talked all about dragons like they were a real, scientific species.

She shook her head and whispered, “You are your mother’s son.”

When I woke up and joined them, she told me the whole story.

My friend: He is your son.

I smiled.

Tornado E: Of course, I am.  Why wouldn’t I be?

I love that kid.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 275 other followers