The Awful Game of Bowling

I have probably mentioned before my dislike for bowling. I was forced to go bowling several times a week all summer long for most of my childhood. My mother is a bowler. And bowling was torturous. No bumpers. No granny rolls. We had to mind our hold, our steps, our releases. In short, I know how to bowl.

And my boys enjoying bowling. I blame my mother. She has grand schemes of bowling every week or every other week. She insisted that I sign the boys up for free bowling, which I did.

So a few days ago, we went bowling. While the boys have gone bowling with their dad several times, it became painfully obvious that no one has taught them to bowl. Then because they are my stubborn boys, they insisted they knew what they were doing and that they didn’t need any help. Sure, kid, whatever you say.

So this is the first time I have ever witnessed a ball being thrown in a way that it looks like an air hockey puck bouncing and rebouncing off the sides of bumpers. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a ball be thrown and it hit the bumpers to collapse the bumper and then slowly return to the bowler. I have never seen until that day a pin fly out 2 yards to get stuck in a bumper. I’ve never seen a pin land in a way that it shut down the lane. This was the first time I watched a ball spin half-way down a lane and then spin back to the player. I was highly perplexed.

It’s also the first time I got 3 strikes in a row.

Now my mom wants to go again.

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A Battle of Wills and Water

I grew up in a competitive family. My parents played sports. My brothers and I played sports. We played board games and video games. We compete. Games are meant to be won. In fact, I have never finished a game of Monopoly because things would get heated when someone embezzle from the bank.

Lately my mother has been trying to compete with me. First it was over Duolingo. Now it is over steps. I refuse to be sucked into this. I shudder as I remember listening to my mother, her sister, and their mother compete over how many pounds they lost over the week. (Shudder.)

Today my parents, my boys, and I were swimming. I was forcing the boys to go over strokes when Tornado E decided to rebel in the middle of the deep in.

My mom: (To Tornado E) I bet you can’t tread water longer than me.

Tornado E did not know what she meant, and I have obviously failed as a mother. So I quickly taught him.

My mom: I bet I can tread water longer than your mom.

My eyebrow shot up. I have been swimming longer than I could walk. I spent my summer days in water, having the skin cancer to prove it. I have 12 swim seasons under my belt.

Me: Oh, I don’t think so. I can tread water longer than both you and Tornado E.

Tornado E: No, you won’t.

So we treaded water. I wish we had thought to time it. But it was too late before I thought about it. We treaded until Tornado E grew bored and complained about the contest.

Me: Fine. Quite. But I bet you I can outlast you.

Tornado E: How much?

Me: Five bucks; you can’t afford twenty.

Tornado E: You’re on.

We treaded more water and more. I regaled Tornado E with stories of treading water for five minutes and ten minutes. I told him in high school we would have to tread water without our hands.

Tornado E grew bored again.

Tornado E: What if I stopped and dunked you?

My mom laughed.

Me: Do not make me lose to your grandmother.

Tornado E: What if I did?

Me: How many workbook pages do you want to do over vacation?

With that, Tornado E turned and tried to attack my mom. She held him at bay with a foot out.

My Mom: Tornado A come play with Mama!

Tornado A, who had been torturing his Papi, turned to us with a devilish grin.

Me: Do NOT make me lose to your grandma!\

Tornado S looked over from his play with Papi. Both boys started swimming towards us.

Ah crap.

They swam straight for my mom, who held them off for a while. Barely. Seeing that they could not get close, Tornado A switched tactics. He climbed out of the pool and jumped in as close as he could to his grandma. The other two boys followed.

Tornado S: Ok. Guys. We should come from all different sides.

Me: Aww, they’re working together. (Stage whisper) Do it quieter?

My mom: Why are they all after me and not you?

Me: Because you’re the fun grandma.

I looked at my boys, trying to help me.

Me: You know. I don’t need your help to beat her.

Then the boys all jumped in. Tornado S distracted my mom; while, Tornado E dunked her. Tornado A swam into my arms and kissed me.

So I won.

And I have my own little minions willing to fight for me.

My Little Morning Larks

I have mentioned before that I am a night owl and my boys are morning larks. This is not an optimal arrangement. Especially in the summer. When the sun gets up early, so they must get up early.

No matter how late they go to bed, they are up early. But now they are sleep deprived. Exhausted, cranky, emotional, energetic tornadoes. It’s not an optimal situation.

Near the end of the school, Tornado A was getting up at 5:30 and getting me up at 5:30. Because the rule is you can’t get up until 6, he would come to me and snuggle like a moving heater that takes up the bed. It was not an optimal arrangement.

So my parents bought a black out shade. The blinds are closed; the shade is down. The room is dark. And they still get up between 6 and 6:30. But after a week of 5:30 wake up calls, I’ll take it.

Please, Not Another Penis Rule

I’m afraid to say it, but we need a new Penis Rule.

Honestly, how many of these rules do we need? Thank goodness that I haven’t engraved them on a tablet somewhere. I would’ve run out of room. Did anyone know boys were this complicated?

So it turns out Tornado E is in that special time in his life where he’s growing hair where there wasn’t hair before. No word on those special feelings yet; he seems particularly obtuse.

While obviously his age and the tiny pimples gracing his face would be a clue that Tornado E is in puberty, I know about the new hair development because of two annoying brothers, who separately, within minutes, barged in on Tornado E taking a shower. With him yelling out at his brother, the brother came running, excitedly over to me to yell, “Tornado E has hair on his penis!”

……..

“Well, everyone will grow pubic hair during their puberty. One day you will grow hair there.”

Insert comment about their dad that I really don’t want to revisit.

“That’s what happens when you’re an adult.”

Then repeat the scene all over again with the next brother.

Little brothers are annoying. I should know. I had two of them. So new rule: No more barging on siblings or parents while they are taking a shower.

There I said it. Finally.

And they respect that rule.

Unless they have to pee.

Or they want to play video games.

Or their brother has hit him.

Or he did not hit him.

Or yes, he did.

Or Papi is being mean.

Christ, when can I take a shower without being interrupted?

Only when the boys are asleep…..

Tornado A: The Self-Reported Genius

Me: How was your last day as a 2nd grader?

Tornado A: It was ok.

Me: Are you ready for 3rd grade?

Tornado A: 4th grade.

Me: What?

Tornado A: I think I need to go to 4th grade. Or 5th grade.

Right.

As I was cleaning out backpacks a few days later, I found that Tornado A’s teacher had the 2nd graders reflect and assess. Much like I do with my Freshmen.

Question 1: What was the most challenging subject this year? Why do you think it was challenging? What can you do to prepare for next year?

Tornado A’s answer: Nothing. It was too easy.

Right.

Then I got Tornado A’s report card. He failed to make straight A’s as he predicted. He got a B in spelling and B in language arts. Not bad.

And then there was this comment: Tornado A needs to slow down; he rushes his work and makes sloppy mistakes.

Right.

Just a Few Hard Days at the End of School

Tornado S turned 11, nearly two weeks ago. The night before his birthday he asked ever-so-sweetly if I would make brownies for his class. I did. I have a habit of undercooking brownies slightly as I love gooey brownies; so I made sure I cooked them well for the class.

Because of the Walk Out, teachers are suppose to stay at school until 4:30. As I’m an honest person, I was planning on sticking around until 4:30, even though it was my kid’s birthday. Even though it was a Friday.

With the school day over, I was checking email and grades when I decided to turn my phone’s volume up. I noticed I missed 6 calls from my mother.

That’s not good.

She texted me: Check your email. Tornado S is crying and won’t tell us why. Something happened at school.

I clicked into my personal-professional email to find an email from Tornado S’s teacher. “I’m so sorry…. There was an incident…. Three boys told Tornado S that he put bloody mucus in the brownies…. Principal is taking care of it ….. Tornado S cried all afternoon…. Got Tornado E to come in and take care of him …. Come to the school…. I’ll be here until after 5.”

With in moments I was calling the school.

Secretary: School. How can I help you?

Me: I need to talk to Mr. S right now please.

Secretary: Whom may I say is calling?

Me: Full name. Tornado S’s Mom.

Secretary: One moment.

Principal: Hello?

Seriously I’ve never been connected so quickly. So this is bad. I pulled on my authority voice.

Me: Mr. S. This is Full Name. Tornado S’s Mother. I heard there was an incident. I was hoping you can explain it to me.

So apparently a boy, who was getting over being sick, mentioned his mouth was bleeding after eating the brownie. The three other boys heard it and teased Tornado S about it. The 5th grade girls overheard it and told the teacher on duty. Tornado S was very hurt by the incident. There will be a consequence, and it will happen on Monday. But rest assured, there will be a consequence, and Tornado S did not do anything.

And let me say, I wasn’t assuredly rested as there had been an incident earlier this year with Tornado E and another boy. I stared at the email. I shut down my computer and grabbed my stuff and ran out of the school. I made it to the boys’ school in record time.

Hell has no fury.

I walked in to the office like I was wearing my combat boots instead of Mary Janes. I told the secretary that I was there to talk with Tornado S’s teacher; she waved me on. The principal saw me and made I contact with me. I smiled like murder was on my mind and gave him a nod. He ducked into his office. I marched on to Tornado S’s classroom.

And she wasn’t there.

I sweetly asked the secretary where she could be; the secretary suggested I check outside.

Where I found two of Tornado E’s classmates and a mother of a different classmate. Apparently Tornado S’s teacher was working on the talent show. The girls offered to let me go before them, but I declined and waited until they were done.

When Tornado S’s teacher saw me, she immediately apologized. She told me everything that happened, which was a slightly different story than I got from the principal. Shocker. And that the principal was going to let it go, but the teacher was adamant that these boys have consequences. These boys had been causing trouble all year, but their parents defend them. These boys decided to take down Tornado S, who is sweet and kind-hearted. The teacher loves Tornado S. The girls in the class love Tornado S.

When Tornado S refused to tell the teacher what happen, the teacher called for Tornado E to come and talk with Tornado S. Apparently there were tears on all sides. Tornado S was allowed to accompany Tornado E to art class.

The teacher was so angry. She told me I could keep Tornado S home for the last week of school. But I told her Tornado S had to stand his ground. So she told me the art teacher could take Tornado S if he wanted. I said that the bullies needed to know that Tornado S wasn’t pushed around by them. She nodded. She planned on dealing with them in her own way, but she was insisting that the principal suspend them. If she couldn’t make the principal do that, then she would let me know, so that I could throw a fuss. Fine.

We talked a little longer about my boys, about middle school, about high school, about the walk out. Tornado S told her all about the walk out and the protest. “He’s so proud of you.”

When I got home, I let the issue go. Until the next day. After we read Harry Potter, I asked Tornado S about what happened. He lied. He couldn’t remember. I told him I needed the truth. He lied. He said it was no big deal. I told him I needed the truth. This dance went on for 30 minutes until he finally told me what happened. His story was like the teachers. Except no one knew how it ended. Tornado S got up from the lunch table and walked away, leaving the boys to make fun of him to his back.

I hugged Tornado S and told him that was brave.

I sent an email to the principal with Tornado S’s side of the story. I reminded the principal that kids take advantage of the end of the year to cause trouble because they think they would get away with it. I asked him as a mother and a teacher to discipline the boys and give them consequences. They were suspended.

And then the teacher emailed me. She would separate the boys when they got back and monitor them every moment. Another little boy went home and, crying, told the story to his mom. That Monday the boy brought Tornado S a birthday present. The girls formed a tight little gang around Tornado S, making sure the bullies wouldn’t mess with him. I fear if these boys do not go to another school, they will never have a date.

When I got home, I learned the teacher also got Tornado S a present.

I’ve been expecting Tornado S to be bullied for sometime now because he has a bunch of weird quirks. He’s been lucky to have classmates that understand him. These bullies are new to the school, and the leader will not be back next year. I am so glad Tornado S has so many friends.

Next school year, I’m throwing a huge pool party at the beginning of the year to celebrate these awesome kids.

Also I’m going to use this as a wedge to drive Tornado S away from the Dark Side.

So This is Summer

We made it through another school year. The last semester found me on the side of the street with a protest sign and the nights emailing, calling, and sending postcards to all my favorite Arizona legislators. When that unholy mess was only marginally solved, I raced to get my students to learn something and gain enough points that the lack of essay writing in the third quarter wouldn’t send them to hell. Most of them made a spectacular pull out of the nose dive; while, others have the next 4 weeks planned out for them. It wasn’t all that bad; I had some amazing students who did amazing things. One day they will all do amazing things.

As for the Tornadoes. The oldest two decided to test my patience by falling into Cs and Ds. They lost their video games until they were back up to Bs and As with the threat that they would see no video games over the summer if I saw anything lower than a B on their report card. Apparently Tornado A would like to skip a grade because 2nd grade was too easy. Everyone made Honor Roll and Principal’s List and earned a Presidential Award. There’s a joke about the last one, probably several, but it’s like shooting large fish in a small barrel.

We began summer with the boys coming with me to school to finish a few chores as I turned in my grades. The Tornadoes left no doubt in anyone’s mind as to why I can deal with freshman. Three rambunctious tornadoes running through the halls with plastic swords as they lead or follow their mother from room to room to collect signatures. Yup. 30 freshmen are nothing compared to the three Tornadoes.

After I finished my work, we had our traditional First Day of Summer Lunch. Ice cream. Two chocolate shakes, one hot fudge sundae, and one Brownie Blast Sundae. Tornado A insisted on macaroni and cheese to go with his hot fudge sundae. The kid has a hollow leg.

Then I took the boys to see Solo. We made it with plenty of time to get popcorn and get to our seats. The teen at the counter gave us extra butter. The boys rarely played with the electrical chairs. Thank God. It was a fun movie, and we all enjoyed it. The boys especially loved some of the scenes near the end.

As luck would have it, I got them for that first night and into most of the next day. Enough time for a late night swim and cake for breakfast. (Blame the breakfast on my parents.) The boys are making some real progress with The Simpsons. They’re already on season 15; I’m so proud.

When they left, I was enlisted to organize the boys’ room. My mother’s grand plans dwarfed my own. So what else could I do this weekend but organize and clean. It’s not like I could use the time to catch up on sleep and healthy eating. Nope. It’s time to organize, so I can center and refocus. Never a dull moment.

But at least I have more time to write.