Nope, Never Ok, Not Ever.

“Nazis. I hate these guys.”

This year Nazis keep coming up, and it annoys the crap out of me.

Earlier in the fall in two separate class, on two separate days, two different boys gave the Nazi salute. It may help to tell you that I work in a high school that is over 90% Hispanic. And yes, both boys were Hispanic. But no matter the race, my reaction would have been the same.

You! Outside NOW!

Me: (in my mother voice) What did you do? Do you think that was respectful? Do you think that was appropriate? For my classroom? For public? Do you even know what that sign means?

Boy: (finally saying something instead of shaking his head, in a whisper voice looking at his feet) It’s just the Nazi salute Miss.

Me: (in my mother voice) “Just the Nazi salute?” Do you know what the Nazis stood for? The one pure race. Which they believed would be white. They believed all others inferior and preferred them dead. They would want you dead. And by doing that sign, you are saying you agree. With. Them.

Boy: (snaps up head to finally look me in the eye) But it was just an old German thing.

Me: No. They are Nazis still very much alive and active and everywhere. (At this point, the boy’s eyes go round.) And you are saying you’re a race traitor.

Boy: I’m… I’m sorry, Miss.

Me: And I (The Voice) Don’t ever want to see THAT sign in my class A. GAIN. (Normal teacher voice) Am I clear?

Boy: Yes, Miss. I’m sorry, Miss. I won’t do it again.

And after the second time, it hasn’t happened since.

While I hesitate to mention my work on my Mommy Blog, it brings me to what has been happening in Tornado E’s grade. With 6th graders. In a school across town with a 70% white majority. With a middle class background.

Tornado E has been coming home with some interesting stories.

Mama, the boys are talking about the Nazis. They think they’re cool. I don’t think they’re cool. I don’t like this, Mama.

So and so thinks Hitler was funny. I told him Hitler was evil, not funny. I don’t think he believed me.

Mama, so and so drew a swastika, and all the boys laughed. No, Mama, he erased it before the teacher saw.

Mama, so and so put a finger under his noise and said he was Hitler. The boys laughed. I keep telling them it’s not funny.

Mama, one of the boys said “Heil, Hitler” to one of the boys. No, Mama, the teacher didn’t hear. I don’t like this, Mama.

So the boys and I have had talks about race and privileged. We’ve talked about what to do when we are in a group of people who are saying bad things. We’ve talked about how to confront our friends.  And I decided this had to stop.

Only I dropped the ball, being a busy mom and teacher. Until I was at a 6th grade field trip, eating alone, recharging my batteries, sitting in a corner, watching the dynamics, listening.

Mumble, mumble, Nazi, mumble, weapons. Laughter. Mumble, Nazis, mumble, mumble. Laughter. Nazis, mumble, mumble. Mumble, mumble, Nazi weapons.

With the first Nazi that reached my ear, I locked on to the group of boys who were sitting far enough away from me that I couldn’t hear every word and further still from every adult, especially the teachers. So I watched them, listening. I watched them laugh and have a good time. The inflection was not what you want boys to be using when speaking of Nazis. I had enough.

So I went to the teachers and told them all about what I heard through the year so far and that Tornado E was being put into a rough spot, having to moniter his peers. I told them how I had handled it and learned that many of the kids had no idea how serious this conversation was and suggested that it be dealt as a class issue. The teachers agreed and thanked me.

Two weeks went by.

Mama, one of the boys dared another boy to do the Nazi salute. So he did. And then a bunch of them did it behind a teacher’s back.

Oh for Christ sake.

I immediately sat down and wrote the teacher about the incident.

I got a reply from the teacher a few hours later apologizing for not talking to the social studies teacher, promising it will be addressed with all the classes.

I haven’t heard of an incident since. But I swear if I do, I will march into that principal’s office first thing and demand that this nonsense end.

Man, I hate Nazis.

My Weird Morning Larks

Because I get to take the boys to sunrise mass for Easter every year, regardless of whose holiday it is, I convinced the Ex to let me take the boys Saturday night. By coincidence, Saturday was also Tornado A’s birthday, so I asked to take the boys to dinner because the non-custodial parent of the day gets the boys for a couple of hours on a birthday.

I put the boys to bed early because 5am is awfully early. I didn’t mention that this was in direct result of getting up for sunrise mass. I assumed that the boys had heard the plans throughout the week and put two and two together.

Me: Goodnight, sweethearts!

Tornado E: So, Mama, if we’re going to bed early, can we get up early?

Me: Um, yeah.

Tornado E: So, we could get up at 5:30?

House rules are no one up before 6. There’s good reasons for that rule. I’m sad to have it, and I hate enforcing it because that means I’m up before 6.

Me: Sure. You know what. You can get up at 5 if you want.

The room erupted in cheers.

Who are these kids? How did I birth morning people?

My bet is they’re changelings.

Carbs and Calories

All day Tornado E had been saying “carbs and calories” to anything that was bad. Often with a shake of the head.

We sat at dinner at Panda Express eating Americanized- fast food Chinese. The boys eating their favorite offerings but mentioning they wished I would cook more at home. As we were in California for a wedding, it really wasn’t an option that night.

Tornado E: Mommy, why are grown ups afraid of carbs and calories?

For years, my boys have been exposed to their father’s dieting habits and my mother’s comments (to me, to my dad, about herself). Long ago I resolved that I would never “diet” in front of them. I would model healthy eating habits. I would not do fade diets, yo-yo diets, weird dieting concoctions, or deprive myself. I promised to be careful what I said about my body and my weight, to monitor what I said about their bodies and other people’s bodies. I would not fat shame or thin shame within my boys’ hearing. They heard enough negative body comments from others.

I don’t want my boys growing up with body or food issues. I don’t want them to stay away from food for their body images. I don’t want them to look in the mirror and have demons criticize their bodies. I want them to be happy and healthy.

Me: Well, baby, many adults don’t run around and have fun like children, so they have to worry about what they eat instead. Many adults are not happy about their bodies. Sometimes they have to worry because of their health. Sometimes they just don’t like their bodies. And that’s sad.

Tornado E: Yes, that’s sad.

Pause.

Tornado E: But not you, Mommy. You like your body. You’re not afraid of carbs and calories.

I smiled and bit into a piece of orange chicken. The demons that lurk behind my mirrors were safely locked away from my boys. Maybe one day I won’t meet them in dressing room mirrors or when I take a closer look at my outfits.

Fake it until you make it.

Vacation Recap

The weekend of the wedding began our fall break. I did a mini-vacation with the boys.

  1. Highways make the drive so much smaller. But you get to see interesting things.
  2. The Salton Sea is creepy, isolated, stinky, and creepy. I’ve got to do more research on it. Tornado E said it was something out of his nightmares.
  3. My body reminded me that I’m no longer 21 and can’t eat fast food several days in a row. Next time I’ll save more money for real restaurants.
  4. Tornado S left his toys, books, and DVD choices in Tucson. We discovered this 45 mins out of town. I decided to buy all the boys a toy and Tornado S a DVD at Walmart in California.
  5. It’s so awesome to see, hang out, and catch up with old friends. It was so sad not to have more time to hang out longer.
  6. Everyone reads every day. Those are the rules.
  7. Tornado A was thrilled to share a bed with me.
  8. I think I can do this single parent thing on vacation. I just need more money. Like a lot more. I’m not greedy, just really, really poor.
  9. When we got home, we still had several days together. So we did the zoo, worked on Cub Scout stuff, and worked on school work.
  10. Tornado S likes being dragged across the finish line of school work. He fails to realize how much he’s missing. Like movies and crafts. And ice cream.
  11. Tornado E built a fire and grilled hot dogs and bratwurst for dinner one night. For Cub Scouts. With Papi’s supervision.
  12. Tornado A has a new baby. A baby narwhale. Because it was the closet thing he could find to a unicorn at Walmart. It joins the baby unicorn, the tiny baby unicorn, the mountain lion cub, and the leopard cub. So cute.
  13. We have decided on Halloween costumes.
  14. I filled everyone’s tummy with fruits and vegetables to make up for the 5 days of fast food.
  15. After 9 days with the boys, it was hard to let their dad take them.

Empty

The house feels empty. No screaming; no yelling. No whining; no fighting. No video games; no cartoons. No toys- scratch that. There are toys scattered through the house. I let them swim to the last possible second, instead of making them pick up toys.

But without my boys running amok, the house feels empty.

In theory, I could go out and see a movie right now. I can go out with friends, grab dinner or drinks and dessert. (You know, if I wasn’t poor and unemployed.) In theory, I could sleep in tomorrow. I can read in bed. I can have ice cream for lunch.

But I would give it all up for more time with my boys.

The hardest part is when I don’t get to talk to them. Every night they are at their dad’s house, I call them at 7pm to ask them about their day and to tell them I love them and to wish them goodnight. Even if I’m out with friends. Even if I’m out of town. 5 minutes to know my boys are fine and to let them know I love them.

More often than not, the ex doesn’t answer his phone. Some times he lets them call me back. Most of the time, he doesn’t. When I had more money, I bought them a cheap little flip phone with monthly prepaid minutes, but they often did not answer.

After two years, it still sucks so very much not to talk to the boys. After two years, the ex still doesn’t think it’s important, even though we agreed upon the phone calls in mediation and it’s in our divorce agreement. At least, I got to be with them after school for a few hours.

It’s harder after having the boys for a long stretch. I had them for nine full days because the ex had a business trip. I’m grateful to have them so long. It reminds me of the first three years of the separation when the boys were always with me.

Tomorrow I’ll bug my friends with texts and calls, asking to go out. I’ll wash the sheets and pick up the toys. I’ll scout the bathroom and go through the piles of weekly school paperwork. I’ll get the last few things for our trip next week. I’ll figure out a bridesmaid hairstyle I can do. I’ll take the Cub Scout volunteer classes and tests. I’ll brush up on 7th grade math and prep some cool activities. I’ll write poetry and edit the novel.

Tonight I feel like eating chocolate and staring at the TV.

Or eat chocolate as I do laundry and clean my room.

Because I just realized I have a lot to do.

Sleepless Nights

My boys, mainly Tornado E, have a hard time sleeping through the night. One, two, or three boy(s) end up in my bed sometime in the night. Before in the last house, it was just annoying. Now it’s difficult because I sleep in a double. Three kids and an adult don’t fit. When this happens, I slip out of bed and crawl into a twin bed in the boys’ room. If I’m lucky, I sleep through the night and wake to my alarm in the next room. I’m rarely that lucky. Usually a boy or two slides into bed with me. The third child is told to sleep in one of the other beds.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a good night-parent. I get grumpy when woken up in the middle of the night.  With a good reason, I become less grumpy. Trying to crawl into my bed is not a good reason to wake me up.

Last night Tornado E was already in my bed, when Tornado A started crying out to me because of a nightmare. When I cuddled with him to make sure he was fine, he asked me to stay. I slid into bed for just a minute when Tornado E entered the room.

Aha! A scheme! I would let Tornado E fall to sleep in his bed; then I would creep back into my own bed to sleep alone. What could go wrong?

An hour of whining, arguing, pleading, Tornado E begged me to return to my bed. Somewhere in the middle of this barrage of craziness at 2:30am, he threatened not to go back to sleep.

Right. That’s it. This was the hill I was dying on tonight. I will not negotiate with terrorists.

He fell asleep. Finally.

Only to wake up 30 minutes later to resume his whining, arguing, pleading, begging-0h-my-god-stop-it! He went on for an hour as I dozed off and on.

Finally Tornado S asked me if he could play video games.

Me: What time is it?

Tornado S: 5.4.5

5-4-5? Right. 5:45.

Me: No. Not until 6:00.

A moment passed.

Tornado S: Can I play video games now?

Me: No. What time is it?

Tornado S: 6.

Me: Yes.

Tornado S and E jumped out of bed.

Me: Except Tornado E. He has to stay in bed until 6:30 because he was up all night.

I left the room before he could start whining.

I really could use a nap.

Changes

So I got a job. As a teacher. But with a mandatory 8-5 schedule. Which is nice I am forced to work 40 hours. Which is horrible that I can’t be with my kids during the afternoon.

And then there’s the commute. Which in the grand scheme of things isn’t really that bad. It’s under an hour. Supposedly just over 30 minutes. But that’s another 30 minutes not being with the kids.

And then the next three weeks my parents, The Friendly Giant, and my grandma (AKA my first line of defense in childcare) will be gone. Yea. I nearly forgotten what it was like to not have a support network. No. I didn’t. It sucked. This sucks. I luckily still have a support network of awesome friends to help. Fingers crossed on the ex’s help.

So in four weeks, we’ll see how everything is going. Perhaps I’ll love this, and the boys will adjust fine, and everything will start getting better. Or not. Or I might be in a middle of a move to somewhere I have reservations about, but yea that place between a rock and a hard place.

So I’m going to dig in some time to write here and follow other bloggers. Because I need this space. And I like the bloggers I met so far. It would be nice to meet more.

So wish me luck. I’ll see you around.