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.

 

Always Prepared

All three of my boys have small hiking backpacks. Because, of course, they do. We’re a Boy Scout/Cub Scout family.

Tornado A has been wearing his around the house lately. It jangles. It full or partially full. You can hear him coming. And I didn’t think anything of it because I was one of those kids that always had a bag of toys at the ready.

The other night Tornado A ran across the family room, jangling all the way.

Papi: Son, what do you have in there?

Tornado A: (stops at the door, turns, smiles) Nothing. (Then out of the house like a shot, jangling.)

Papi: (turns to me) What do you think he has in there?

Me: I don’t know, Dad. Apparently, nothing.

Papi: Nothing does not sound like that.

Me: Toys. Legos. Star wars toys. Who knows?

The next day Tornado A was wearing his backpack. He put a whistle in his mouth.

Me: Not in the house!

Tornado A shrugged and ran out of the house, jangling. He had a great time blowing the whistle outside. I won’t let him do that when we’re camping or hiking.

Today Tornado A asked if I would buy him the single serve packets to add to bottle water. It was a dollar for a pack. I was already buying several boxes for teacher appreciation week. So I did.

Later that day Tornado A came to me.

Tornado A: Mama, may I make a juice with the packets?

Me: I don’t know if we have enough bottle water, baby. I need to send bottles with you and your brothers for your teachers.

Tornado A: I have water in my backpack.

Me: What?

Tornado A: I have bottles of water in my backpack.

Me: How many?

Tornado A: Three.

Me: What else?

Tornado A: Snacks. And a survival book. And a zombie apocalypse survival book.

Huh. I happen to have my own bug-out bag. Only because I needed somewhere to stash my hiking gear. It too has survival books in it. It too has a zombie apocalypse survival book. Because why not.

Huh.

I smiled. I rubbed his hair.

Me: That’s pretty smart. Where’s your backpack?

Tornado A: In the car.

Me: Let’s go get it.

Man, that kid is so my kid.

A Lecture Series: In One Car Ride

A Parenting Discussion

Starts with

Why my Parents and Brother are Wrong about Minimum Wage: Don’t Listen to Them.

Then moves to

What Is Minimum Wage and How Does It Work: How Studies on the Economy Can Shape Law or Not.

Then turns into

Bias: What Is It, Why We Have It, and What We Do About It: With Examples. (Slide Show Not Included.)

Then changes to

The Last Impeachment Trial: Kids, Politics and Adults are Weird.

Which means an explanation on

What is Impeachment and Why Was President Clinton Impeached: Welcome to History your Mama Remembers

Which leads to

Blowjob: What is It and What the Words Suck and Blow Actually Mean.

Which ends with

Why Would Anyone Do THAT? It’s So Gross.

Yeah, kids, I thought the same thing at your age. I think I vomited a little in my mouth too.

In conclusion, parenting is weird. Discussions with your kids are weird. And I cannot stay on topic.

 

The Illness

The boys were all struck down by illness almost two weeks ago. It got bad. I didn’t get a full night’s sleep. So after a week, I was really drained.

Yawning as I put the boys to bed.

Me: I am one tired mama.

Tornado A: Who has three tired babies.

Yes. Yes, I did.

Thank goodness they are on the mends now.

Tournament

I had my share of competing. Volleyball, basketball, softball, and swimming. In swimming, it was just you in the water. You competed against yourself because if you looked back at your competition, it would slow you down. When the set up your heat, your age and your stroke was all that mattered. So as a freshman, you competed against fully grown seniors. It could be several heats going for three precious spots. You had to push hard because you didn’t know if you could.

The boys’ karate organization breaks down its competitors by age, rank, and size. The compete only in their heat, so each heat has a first, second, third, and so on. At first, I thought it was odd (you know because of ultra-competitive sports), but I’ve learned to see the value in it. Granted, it’s not always fair.

Tornado A got into karate as soon as he was old enough, and he has ranked every semester he has been in the sport, which puts him at a high rank for his age. He does not have many competitors his age and rank. His heats are usually smaller, allowing an easier time to grab a top spot. He still pushes himself though. Those 150 black belts aren’t going to earn themselves.

Tornado E has had the opposite issue. He joined karate at the usual age, and even with jumping rank, he still has lots of competition. Usually his heat is filled with all 8 competitors. He’s small for his age, so he’s competing with girls and boys much bigger than him. A year or so ago, he won nothing until the last event. We had a talk about having to work harder because he’s smaller. This tournament he did rather well.

But in this tournament, Tornado S did not do well. He is small for his age. Then for some reason, only a handful of kids his age were in his rank. So few kids his age were in the ranks around his, that they combined them. So Tornado S competed, not only against kids bigger than him but, against kids that out ranked him by one, two, even three stripes. As you might have guessed, it did not go well for Tornado S. He hung in there until the end, but he never got a coveted place. To add salt to wounds, he even out preformed Tornado E and his heat in points.

So tomorrow I’ll give the lecture of working twice as hard as others because you never know when you’re going to go up against someone bigger and better ranked.

Que a scene of Fae at fourteen (skinny as a bean pole, not yet hitting her growth spurts), on a swimmer’s block, in her team swimsuit, goggles, and a blue silicon swim cap with a braid tucked in, looking over at a big, built senior in her swimsuit, goggles, and silicon swim cap. It’s a sunny day. The senior is doing all sorts of stretches on her block. Fae rolls her shoulders, looks at the camera, and says, “This is not going to end well.” Then she smiles, “But at least, I get to swim.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suit

Me: Ok. Try it on.

Damn.

Too small.

Fine.

Let’s go.

Because my boys want to wear suits to church. Because they want to wear suits to formal events. Because my boys like suits.

So Friday, two days before Easter, I took Tornado S shopping for a new suit. He was thrilled. I was less so.

I’m not a big fan of shopping. I’m not really good at it. And if you ask any one with boys or have boys yourself, you know that buying clothes other than playwear is a bit difficult. Most stores have a handful of nice button-up shirts and maybe a couple of tie and shirt combinations. Or maybe just 4 dress shirts. Four. Which means, many, many stores if your boys either don’t look good in those or you or they don’t like them. I personally despise sweater and shirt combinations.

Luckily I have a store. Tornado S and I left right after breakfast, which isn’t really impressive because I made breakfast cookies. Like 5 dozen of them.

We walked into the store and walk straight to the back to the boys’ clothes area. Tornado S nearly skipping at the enjoyment of having a Mama Day.

Me: We’re looking for size 12.

Tornado S: Ok!

He made a bee line to the clearance rack and started sifting through them. Huh. Expensive as it was, I knew what I was getting in to. So I started going through the regular price size 12 suits.

After a few moments, I had found a navy, a pin-striped, and a grey. I knew Tornado E would throw a fit if someone else got a pin-striped suit.

Tornado S: Mama. I found a suit. (I looked over.) But it’s blue.

He held it up. It was blue. Not crayon blue but like a bright navy blue.

Me: Ok.

Tornado S: I. I don’t really like blue, Mama.

He looked pathetic. And adorable. I nearly laughed.

Me: Thank you for looking in clearance, but I’m not going to buy you a suit you don’t like. What do you think of this grey one?

He beamed and ran over.

Tornado S: I like it, Mama!

Me: Let’s try on the jacket. Oh good. Perfect. Let’s go buy it.

 

At Easter Mass, I stood between Tornado S in his grey suit and Tornado E in his pin-striped suit. I looked down at Tornado E’s arm. Ah. Damn.

Me: (Whispering) You’re going to need a new suit.

My Dad: (Whispering) I noticed that last week.

Really? You didn’t think to mention that when I said I had to take Tornado S to get a suit.

So guess what we’re doing next weekend.

Trampoline

Mama, come play on the trampoline with me.

So rarely do I actually play with the boys. I monitor their homework and help them with their studies. We work together to brainstorm, research, and write. We have tickle attacks and kiss attacks. We read together. I read to them. We watch movies. We go on adventures, both mundane and extraordinary. But rarely do we play together any more.

Mama, come play on the trampoline with me.

We bike ride or hike. In the summer, we swim. About once a week, we play tag where I run as little as I can, relying on stealth to do my job. But when was the last time I play toys with them? When was the last time I played video games with them?

Mama, come play on the trampoline with me.

I’m a little fatter than I want to be. I’m not as young as I want to be. I’m pulling random muscles doing stupid, ordinary things. And giving birth three times has made playing on the trampoline…. interesting.

Mama, come play on the trampoline with me.

It’s their father’s weekend. When will I get to talk to them again or see them again? At worst, Tuesday after work. We only have twenty minutes because he never picks them up on time.

Mama, come play on the trampoline with me.

Ok, Baby!

Not believing his luck, Tornado A grabbed my hand and dragged me outside. We removed our shoes, but once I was inside the mesh, he announced, “I’m getting brothers!” He grabbed one of my shoes to keep me from leaving and ran back to the back door to yell, “Brothers, Mama’s on the trampoline!”

Just like that, three boys were jumping on the trampoline with me. Have you ever played tag on a trampoline? God, I had to stop several times to catch my breath from laughing so hard.

I’m glad I played because I love my three wild tornadoes.

 

Just a Gown

Tornado S needed an MRI, so on the first day of spring break, we went to the clinic to get it done. He was suspicious because last time we were at the clinic, he was forced to give blood. The kid hates getting his finger nails cut. It’s like torture. Imagine trying to get a needle into this kid.

Tornado S has been diagnosed with a developmental delay disorder. Mild, general, physical. But his hand writing is getting worse, so the doctor wanted to make sure Tornado S was not regressing.

The nurse was quick to set Tornado S at ease. She was efficient and cheery. But upon handing me the medical gown, she frowned, looking at Tornado S.

Nurse: See if it will fit him.

It barely made it past his butt.

Nurse: Let me see if I can find a bigger one. (In a moment, she returned and handed me a new gown.) This might be a little big, but it’s the best we got.

Tornado S stripped, and I helped him into the gown. It hit the floor. I giggled to see my boy in a gown.

Tornado S: How do you walk in this thing?

Me: (Thinking back to all the princess dresses I wore as a girl, never missing an opportunity to dress like royalty) You can lift it up like this. Or you can kick-step. Kick-step. Like this. Kick-step. Kick-step.

Tornado S kick-stepped.

Then I remembered this was Tornado S. Uncoordinated Tornado S.

Me: Nevermind. Just pick it up like this.

Tornado S mimicked my gesture and picked up the gown and walked a few steps.

Tornado S: This is annoying. How does anyone do anything in one of these?

Me: Oh, sweetheart, millions of women have been doing everything in dresses like that for thousands of years.

He looked up at me and wrinkled his nose. Yeah, many of them would probably agree with you, kid.

 

P.S. Everything is fine. He’s just lazy on his handwriting, and yes, I do have pictures of Tornado S in his floor-length gown, smiling up at the camera.

Ancient Parenting Techniques

So it was dinner time and I went outside to call in Tornado A and Tornado S. Who were wrestling on the trampoline. Wearing only shorts. With newly shaved head.

Me: Spartans! Dinner!

You know it fits. Last summer the boys somehow learned about Leonidas yelling “This is Sparta!” and kicking someone in a pit. They practiced this move all last summer, using the pool as their pit. They also taught themselves some rudimentary stage fighting techniques.

This is my family. Apparently, I’m raising Spartan men.

Existential Crisis

Tornado S did not want to go to religious class. But I made him. He whined. He cried. He begged. Video games were not going to be in his future.

When we arrived, Tornado A jumped out of the car. I told him to go ahead and go without us; we’ll catch up. I opened up Tornado S’s car door.

Me: Come on, Tornado S. Time to go.

Tornado S: (crying) But why are we here?

Me: Because I am raising you Catholic, so you have to come to classes.

Tornado S: But why?

Me: Because this will give you a place to start. A place to start questioning and searching and trying to understand the world.

Tornado S: But why here?

Me: Because this church has a lot to offer, and it agrees with a lot of what I believe.

Tornado S: (still crying) But why are we here?

Me: (sigh) Because you have to go to class.

Tornado S: No. Why are we here?

Me: What?

Tornado S: Why are we here? Why do we exist? Why do we live?

Wait. What?

Me: You want to know why we are here on earth, living this life?

Tornado S: (sobbing) YES!

Me: Well. I think we’re here to learn. To experience. To love.

Tornado S: But why is life so horrible?

Kid, you ain’t seen nothing yet. But then this is the kid who cried watching a Save the Children Fund commercial.

Me: I don’t know, baby. A lot of people have tried to find out why. Listen. Let’s go home. You can rest. You don’t have to go to class. When you’re ready, we’ll talk more about this. Let me just let your teacher know.

So I walked into the building to find that Tornado S’s teacher wasn’t there. In his place was the director of children’s ministry.

Director: Hey. You don’t look like Tornado S. But I see a resemblance. (Yeah, we’ve been in the program for a few years now.)

Me: It’s the nose and the cheeks. Yeah, Tornado S is having an existential crisis in the car. So I think I need to take him home.

Director: A what?

Me: He wants to know why we’re here. Not here for class, but here as in our lives.

Director: OH! Wow. Ok. Yeah. Tell him I wonder that myself. It’s fine. He’s a good kid. He told us all about the homily the other day.

I stopped making eye contact as I watched Tornado S walk past the windows to the door. He came into the room.

Tornado S: Hi, Mama! I figured it out!

Me: Um, ok.

Tornado S: We’re here to have fun!

Um.

Tornado S: I’ll stay for class.

Director: Tornado S. I won’t make you do any work today. Just listen. Ok, bud?

Tornado S: Ok. Can I go get a snack first?

Director: Sure, go ahead.

Me: Um. Ok. Well, then. See you in 50 minutes.

What the hell?