My Funny Valentine

Valentine’s Day is something of a deal in my family. Not a big deal. But a deal. 3 boys need to learn to be romantic somehow. So they get candy and Star Wars toy or some sort of craft. We discuss remembering our loved ones and showing them that we love them on any day of the year. But you never know if they’re actually getting it.

Tornado S: Mama, I need money for school.

Me: For what?

Tornado S: To buy a flower.

Tornado E: For who?

Tornado S: I want to bring it home.

Tornado E: You can’t. They’re for sending to kids at the school.

Tornado S: But I want one!

So Sunday I took Tornado S to the florist and showed him around.

Me: What flower do you want?

Tornado S: Carnations! Because they last longer.

Thanks, mom.

I looked around and didn’t see any large single ones, so I flagged down an employee.

Employee: What color?

I looked down at Tornado S.

Me: What color?

Tornado S: (with an excited little jump) Red!

Employee: (To Tornado S) How many?

Tornado S looked at me.

Me: How many?

Tornado S: (with another excited jump) Three!

The employee left and brought us 3 red carnations, telling us to go to the front to get them wrapped.

Cashier: Would you like these wrapped with baby’s breath?

Me: Do you?

Tornado S: What’s baby’s breath?

Cashier: Hold on. (She went and brought out a clump of baby’s breath and handed it to Tornado S.) This is baby’s breath.

Tornado S: (Handing it back to the cashier) Ok. Yes, please.

Cashier: And you can get a card to fill out.

Tornado S followed where she pointed. He picked a card and showed it to me. Then he carefully wrote out a message as I paid.

Then he handed me the card: “Happy Valentine’s Day, Mama!”

When I got home today, Tornado A greeted me at the door.

Tornado A: You’re home, Mama! Do you want your present now?

Me: Sure?

Tornado A: OK! (runs out of the room) Brothers! Brothers! Mama’s home! We need to give her our present! Hurry! (Tornado A runs by with Tornado S following) Tornado E! Come on! (Tornado E follows)

The boys ran into my parent’s room, demanding the present. Then they ran out to find me. Tornado A swung a plastic bad. He reached in it.

Tornado A: Here, Mama. It’s from all of us.

He handed me a heart-shaped candy box.

Tornado S: And it’s metal, so we can use it again.

Me: Thank you, boys. I guess I should go get your presents out of the room.

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Whispered Advice

I was exhausted. Not enough sleep. Reading out loud. But I had so many things to do. But just a little nap. Just 15 minutes.

I crashed on my bed, pulled up a throw, falling into the abyss, while listening to boys playing, my mother’s TV, and my dad walking around doing chore.

Somewhere in those moments, I must have slept. Even though I could hear everything in the house. That light doze that mothers know how to do. Aware and unaware. Awake and asleep. Alert and not.

Then I heard.

A whisper: Get up. You don’t want to miss this.

What?

A whisper: Get up. You’ll regret missing this.

What?

A whisper: Get up. Or you will miss this.

And two boys came bouncing into my room, onto my bed, onto me.

MAMA!

And what is a mama to do with sensible advice ringing in her head?

She immediately opens her eyes and tickles her eldest and youngest because she doesn’t want to miss this.

Evolution

We were at a zoo/museum, standing outside an atrium. On the atrium outside wall was a cool metal art piece, illustrating the evolutionary leaps of fish ancestor to bird. It had about 10 figures.

Tornado A: Mama, what’s that?

Me: That’s the evolution of the bird, starting with its fish ancestor.

Tornado A: Oh.

Tornado S: So that’s how the bird evolved into the dragon.

Me: Not yet.

Empty Threats

We are caught up in the Marvel Universe. We just need to see Thor: Ragnarok. Or really, the boys need to see Ragnarok. I saw it weeks ago. And my plan was to take the boys to see it this week in the second hand theaters.

It’s not there yet.

So I promised. Not this weekend because they’re with their dad. But next week I’ll take them to see Ragnarok.

Tornado E: Or I could ask Daddy.

Me: No. No. Your dad has already proven he can’t handle taking you to Marvel movies.

Tornado E: It was late. We hadn’t had dinner yet.

Me: You do not skip end credit scenes. You plan for that. You don’t come into movies late. You just don’t.

I mean. Honestly. I’m trying to raise kids who respect the story, respect the movie. Their dad should know better.

Tornado E: I’m going to ask Daddy to take us any ways.

Me: I won’t take you to see Black Panther.

I know. Harsh. But desperate times, people.

Tornado E: But Mama…..

I raised an eyebrow.

He pouted.

Then they got to talk to their dad on the phone several hours later.

Tornado E: Daddy! I’ve got an idea for the weekend.

Me: (hissing) Tornado E.

Tornado E: (laughing.) Nevermind, Daddy. (Sticks out his tongue at me and carries on his conversation with his dad)

I looked over at my dad and pointed at Tornado E and then gestured “What the hell?” My father has no sympathy. He laughed.

Me: Why does he have to be so mean?

My dad: He’s Got Our Genes.

My family is pranksters, jokesters, and storytellers. And we’re mean as hell just for the laughs. Stupid genes.

 

Tag

The boys were lounging on my bed as we watched YouTube videos. Some Honest Trailers.

Me: What do you want to do now?

Tornado E: Nothing. We don’t have any time. Daddy will be here soon.

Me: Sure, we do. Tag.

I slapped his leg lightly. His brothers scrambled out of the bed and ran out of the room. I walked out. I walked down the hall.

Tornado A: Mama! Run!

Me: Naw. I can walk. Your brother is too slow to catch me.

That was it. Tornado E ran out of the room at me.

So started a ten-minute game of tag so funny that I nearly peed myself from laughing so hard.

Tornado E is not nearly so fast that I can’t play a game of Gotcha Last.

On the Front Porch

There’s nothing funny about this story. There’s no joke, no punchline, no laughter. There’s nothing horrible or sad. It’s just a moment I want to capture forever, preserve in amber, crystallize in time.

I had asked the ex to have Tornado S bring his homework to karate, so that I could check it. Luckily he did, and I did. I found a few mistakes.

So a little after karate, a little after his bedtime, we sat, Tornado S and I, on the steps in front of his dad’s house, using the light of the porch to correct math problems. The night was warm just like any September night in Tucson. Because we were far from the city lights, I could point out a dozen or so constellations. But instead, I pointed out how Tornado S should have multiply instead of divide. I showed him short cuts and asked him to write his best as I held the clipboard steady as he wrote the answer. Instead of fighting or whining or arguing, Tornado S said, “Yes, Mama” and then corrected the problems.

That moment of sitting next to my 10 year old Tornado S is what I wish to keep forever.

So It Begins…. Again

It’s been a hectic two weeks. And I know it’s just the start.

First, school is in full swing. I’ve been to four open houses. One for each boy and my own.

At my own, I repeated myself five times with the same speech, same jokes with the same silence. I really need a sound machine with the sound of chirping crickets. I talk about the course, my expectations, my joy of teaching their kids. I assure every parent that yes, your kid is doing fine. (Really, it was this last week that they were given the ball to drop; sometime this weekend I’ll learn how many decided to turn in their first homework assignment.)

The first open house was Tornado A’s where I learned he’s so bright and sweet, so smart, so with it. I’d wish you luck, but you already have him. Good luck, any ways. You’re going to need it. Behind that sweet smile lies the mind of a mad genius.  I also was stopped by several teachers to ask how my year was going, to exchange notes and ideas, to whisper good luck and congratulations. You have no idea how much high school freshmen are like elementary kids.

Then it was Tornado S’s open house. Usually we discuss his many weird, complex issues. But my parents have already talked to the teachers, and two out of three teachers had already had Tornado E. So I introduce myself. And Tornado S is so sweet and kind, so brilliant; we just need to help him get it out, and by the way, how’s the school year? I exchange notes and ideas with the other teachers, explaining the math common core for a few families while the math teacher talked with another family about homework. You have no idea how much high school freshman are like 5th graders.

Finally Tornado E’s open house arrived. I carpooled with a friend, and I was spoiling for some answers because Tornado E had been bumped to the regular math class because of a pre-assessment. Then he was getting a solid C in his new math class after I had lobbied for a retest or re placement. But since my boy is becoming more cautious in new situations, I don’t start out with, “Hi. I’m Tornado E’s mom; I’m so sorry.” I introduce myself, and immediately I get, “Ah, yes, Tornado E. Smart kid. Really smart. Just quiet.” Yeah, give him time. Then it was time to talk to the math teacher about her methods, expectations, her weighting practices. After all that in front of the parents, I talked to her privately about Tornado E, who is impressing her greatly, who she thinks is capable of algebra with a little help, who she hopes isn’t discouraged. Well, he is. He loves math, and he’s proud of his math scores. Oh, but he took a test the day after he got into my class and got a C without instruction; that was impressive. That C has him off computer and video games. Oh, well, then. We hammered out a plan.

And this is just the beginning. Cub Scouts goes into full swing next week. So does religious classes. Tornado S wants to join Kung Fu with his brothers. Tornado A would like to add a third martial art. Uh, no.

And I should have 140 essays to grade this weekend.