It’s all about love

On the phone.

Me: So I’m running a few errands, going to some stores.  Do you want to come?

My Mom: No.  I think I’ll stay home.

See, I have reason to believe my Mom is depressed.  She hates being at home all day.  She likes going out. but not alone.  Sometimes it takes her days to work up the energy to go anywhere alone.  I do everything alone with the boys because if I didn’t, it wouldn’t get done.  So I always invite my Mom.

My Mom: If you want, you can leave the boys here.

Me: If you would like me to.

As many of us have learned, kids slow you down by half when running errands.  But we had spent all day at her house yesterday as I did laundry because I still don’t have a washing machine.

My Mom: Ask the boys.

Me: They will say yes.  They love you.

They will.  They do.

Me: Tornado S, do you want to go shopping with Mommy or stay with Grandma?

Tornado S: Stay with Grandma!  I stay with Grandma, and Tornado E stays with Grandma!

Me: Tornado E, do you want to stay with Grandma or go shopping with me?

Tornado E: Stay with Grandma!  AND I love her!

Tornado S: I love her more than you do, Tornado E!

Tornado E: (pause) Well, I love her more than Mommy does!

Me: (into the phone) Are you sure you want them?

The Magic Word

Tornado S, who wants was so polite, has become quite demanding.  “I want juice.”  “Help me do this.”  “I’m hungry; I want crackers.”  “Wipe my bottom.”  It’s all I can do not to say something to my would-be-king.  Something not appropriate for a mother to say to her son.   I refuse and wait for him to correct himself.  Some days, I wait a long time.

Tornado S: Mommy!  I want juice!

I ignored him.

Tornado S: Mommy!!  I want juice!!

I ignored him.

Tornado S: Mommy!!!  I want juice!!!

I turned.

Me: What is the magic word?

Pause.

Tornado S: Abracadabra.  I want juice.

Right.

Bad Influences

We had a deal, he and I.  We were not going to expose our kids to crap.  Sure, we were realistic.  One day they would have friends that would temp them with pop music, horrible teen movies, plotless television shows.  But they would know the good stuff.  And perhaps, just perhaps, they would able to say no to pop culture.

Because of this deal we have a limited amount of kid music, and every CD came highly recommended.  As a toddler, Tornado E couldn’t get enough Johnny Cash.  As a toddler Tornado S, danced and sang to The Beatles.  Because of this deal, I have never bought anything but the best children’s movies and have hidden all the junk that came into the house.  (Again, thanks so much for that Elmo movie.)  Because of this deal, I have screened shows for their viewing pleasure, watching hours of preschool programming, allowing me to actually quote lines on a daily occurrence.  I know the lines of several educational theme-songs; they keep me up all night.

So imagine my shock this Monday when I found out someone reneged on the deal.

Tornado E: Mommy!  Can we watch Power Rangers?!

Me: WHAT?!  NO!

Tornado E: But Daddy let us this weekend.

Tornado S: Let’s watch the worse television show in the world!

Me: What?

Tornado S: Let’s watch Super Mario Brothers!

Me: WHAT?!  NO!

Tornado S: But Daddy let us watch it this weekend!

Tornado E: Can we watch Marmaduke?!

Tornado S: Yea!

Me: WHAT?!  NO!

Tornado E: But Daddy let us this weekend?!

Tornado S: Yeah.

Me: Do you know who Justin Bieber is?

Tornado E: No.

Me: Or Lady Gaga?

Tornado E: No.

Me: Did Daddy play you Pink Floyd?

Tornado E: No.

Well, at least they haven’t been exposed to crap music.

Manipulation

I have a secret weapon when I want the boys to do something.  It’s fast, easy, and works.  Only it’s a little too easy, and it works too well.

All I have to say is “Let’s see who will do (blank) first!”

And then the boys jump into action to see who can do it first.  Tornado E has the unfair advantage of age, experience, and height.  But Tornado S is more determined and willful.  They even each other out.

While competition can bring out the best in someone, it can also bring out the worst in people.  Competition usually kills friendship.  Because of competition, some guys have to always win, always compete, and always be the jerk about it. Competition between siblings can breed fierce rivalries.  The type we’re trying to avoid.  The type that runs deep in different parts of the my family clan.

Like my mother’s siblings.  They hardly speak to each other unless they are forced to be in their parents’ house, but each is busy one upping the other for the glory of their parents’ love.  Like my dad’s siblings.  There’s actually a clique within the sex siblings.  A Clique!  How messed up is that?  Like my older cousins who can’t be in the same room for more than an hour before some stupid pissing contest starts which leads to an argument which leads to a physical fight.

It’s hard being one of the few sane ones in the clan.

But somehow, even though we are competitive (set up a game of Hotels among us and we’ll mad dog each other and play to rule the world) and my parents unintentionally set us up to compete, my brothers and I don’t feel the need to compete with each other anymore.  Each enjoys his/her accomplishments for the sake of being accomplishments, not something to lord over the other two. When my mom does say “But Fae did this” or “Face did that” or “The Friendly Giant does this,” we let the words roll over us like a wave or point out that “I am handling it my way.”

Now I have to find a my own way to get the boys to do as I ask/demand/command.  Because I see the hunger of competition in their eyes.  I see Tornado E holding his “wins” over Tornado S.  I see Tornado S crumbling at the first sign that Tornado E will “beat” him.  I see that I’m not raising the men I want them to be.

So far I’ve learned if it’s easy, it ain’t parenting.  Back to the drawing board.

Hmmm . . . what about bribing . . . ?

It’s a memory day

Once upon a time, this date meant the cumulation of 18 years of hard work.  Eight of those years geared specifically for this date.  Hours of thinking, reading, writing, researching, asking questions, bothering teachers.  Hours of babysitting, xeroxing, filing, answering phones, hauling boxes.  All so that I could make fun of the ceremony with a friend, shake the hand of my mentor after he correctly pronounced my name, and throw tortillas instead of a cap.  It was the most important day in my life.  For a while.

Then that date was eclipsed five years later.

Now, on May 18th, I don’t think about racing home, because I overslept at my boyfriend’s place, to beat my parents to my apartment.  I don’t think about the mad dash to get dressed and to the auditorium on time.  I don’t think of tripping over the word “Ecclesiastes” in front of hundreds of people.  I don’t think of my best friend looking right through me or winking at my mentor as I shook his hand or begging my friend to hide the tortillas because he was wearing pants and I was wearing a dress.

Instead I think of how I begged The Mother not to let me go into labor with four hours of sleep.  I remember withering in pain on the ground as we waited for the babysitter to arrive.  I think of crying at the thought of being too late to get epidural and the relief to get it.  I think of how the baby arrived only because I was too stubborn and willful for my own good.  I remember crying as I held Tornado S for the first time.  I remember how I wanted just to stare at him, how I felt awake and alive even though I was so very, very tired.

Four years have passed with laughter and tears, smiles and frowns, triumphs and disappointments.  Each day I marvel at this child that is mine who is so different from me and his father and his brother.  Every day I am grateful he is my boy.

Happy Birthday, Tornado S.

(If you’re bored, here’s Tornado S’s birth story.)

Weapons of minor destruction

I bought flails for the boys yesterday.  Do you know what a flail is? It’s a weapon that has a ball with spikes attached to a handle by a chain.  It is sometimes mistakenly called a mace or a morning star.  Obviously our flails are soft like Nerf.  The question that begs to be asked is: Why would I buy my children more weapons?

Because we already own:

5 nerf-like swords

4 hard plastic swords

2 staffs that switch to spears

1 battle-ax

1 wooden sword

1 wooden dagger

4 adult-size plastic daggers

4 shields

3 inflatable swords

4 extendable light sabers

1 light-up light saber

3 soft throwing stars

Obviously I’m teaching my sons to defend a small castle.  Now it’s off to dig a moat and buy a few crossbows.

Creating a little magic

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today.  Sort of.  I wasn’t grumpy.  Just blah.  Everything had a negative outlook to it.

My head was filled with dark thoughts that I couldn’t shake.  Even after I meditated.  Even after I played my songs for just this kind of an emergency.  Even after a little bit of chocolate.  Just blah.

Then it took forever to get the boys dressed and ready to go.  And I couldn’t find my sunglasses.  And I had to threaten to get them in the car. And I forgot the coupons I needed.  And no, you may not have any juice.  We were done with one of the errands when I realized I didn’t have my receipt to pick up my pictures.  I drove back to the house.  Where is the damn receipt?  F-it.  And sure, there was no line at the bread store.  And sure, I did clean the bathrooms while waiting for the boys.  But I was blah.

Then I learned that I had waited too long to pick up my pictures, and they were gone.  And I wish I had someone to blame, but really I only had myself.  But we only found a shirt for Tornado E at the store, so we needed to go somewhere else for an Easter shirt for Tornado A.  And then the customer at the cash register was difficult with a difficult problem that took forever.  And then I had to take away our lunch plans because the boys weren’t listening.  And the boys were running around like mad.  We stopped at the fountain outside and threw coins to make wishes.  “Please give me one for the win column,” I whispered for I was feeling blah.

So the next store we found a shirt for Tornado A, and the boys sat next to the stroller like I ordered them.  We stood in a long line waiting to pay.  I noticed a tube of touchable bubbles for $2.  What the hell?  I needed something because I was feeling blah.

While we were rung up, the sweet cashier carried on a conversation with the boys.  They stood still and answered her.  She sent us a way with a smile and pocket full of change.

We returned to the fountain, and I divided the change between the boys.  I opened up the bubbles and started blowing.  Because they were the touchable type, they didn’t pop easily.  In just a few minutes the courtyard to the mall entrance was filled with bubbles.

My boys danced around, popping bubbles, laughing, dodging people.  Other children, walking with their families, stopped to pop a bubble or two and laugh.  People, coming from the parking lot, stopped and smiled before entering the mall.  Those coming out of the mall paused with surprise and amazement.  I kept filling the air with bubbles, laughing.  It was like magic.

One woman, arms full with bags, stopped and popped a bubble next to her before returning to her conversation with her friend.

A fast-walking man smiled down at the boys, when he had to dodge them as they chased their bubbles.

Tornado A squealed from his stroller, tiny hands reaching for the bubbles.

And I laughed to watch it all unfold as I kept filling the air with bubbles.

“They’re having lots of fun aren’t they.”

I turned to the voice.  A guy, dressed fashionably in goth, ear-buds hanging around his neck,  holding a smoking cigarette, smiled down at me.

“Yes, I am.  Yes, they are.”

“Would you mind if I gave them some coins for the fountains?”

“Uh, no.  Thank you.”

“Here, little dude.  Open your hand.”

He leaned down and poured coins into Tornado S’s hand.

“What do you say?” I prompted.

“Thank you.”

“Here you go, little dude.  No, open your hand.  There.”

He poured coins into Tornado E’s hand.

“What do you say?”

“Thank you.”

The guy smiled.

“Have a good day!”

“Thank you!  You too!”

He walked into the mall.

I finished off the bottle of bubbles.  Then we left, and the world seemed filled with magic and bubbles.

A Little Assertive

Tornado S is my shy one, my “quiet” one, my I-don’t-know-you-so-I-don’t-trust-you one.  And I wouldn’t change him for the world.  At home, with the people he knows, he’s a tornado, spinning destruction, shouting and screaming.  With strangers, he’s quiet, hiding behind my leg.  Unless Tornado E acts like it’s ok.  If Tornado E, who has never met a stranger, is at ease with the person or situation, then so is Tornado S.

Saturday we were at the county fair. Tornado E was going down the large slide, and Tornado S wanted to ride the pirate ships again.  Fine.  Tornado S waited his turn, went in, and choose the boat he wanted.  He waited.

Ride operator: Why don’t you take this boat with this little boy?

Tornado S: No.

Ride operator: It’ll be fun.  You can ride together.

Tornado S: No.  I want this one.

Ride operator: It’s more fun to ride with someone.  Do you want to try?

Tornado S: No.  I want this one.

The ride operator shrugged and put Tornado S into the boat he wanted.

I smiled because even if he’s a little shy, Tornado S can handle himself and feels comfortable to stand firm until he gets what he wants.  That’s my boy.

A typical Sunday

Where does the day start?

At 12:30 AM when I finally forced myself to bed?

At 1:20 to 3:30 Am when Tornado A was alternating screaming his head off and dozing?

At 6:15 when Tornado A was whining from his bed?

6:15 Get Tornado A out of the crib, feed him pain medication, feed him breakfast of bananas and toast that he will smear all over the high chair instead of eating.

6:25 Tornado S stumbles out.  Put out breakfast for the boys, milk and day old blueberry muffins.  Tell Tornado A to stop whining because you’ll be back.

6:30 Tornado E stumbles out.

6:45 Get Tornado A out of high chair, wipe him off.  Swallow a bowl of cereal.

7:15 Dress Tornado A.  Encourage older children to get dressed.

7:43 Save Tornado A from rocking chair.  Ask boys why they aren’t dressed.

8:00 Shower.  Dress.  Save Tornado A from mountain of stuffed animals.  Ask boys why they aren’t dressed.  Point out they can solve their own problems.

8:10 Try to bribe older boys to get dressed.

8:20 Morning nap for Aida.  Cartoons for boys.  Morning nap for me.

9:30 Tornado A is up.  So am I.  The older boys are still alive and relatively unharmed.

9:45 Make meringue cookies.  Start debating baking dessert for the week.  Ask Tornado S where his underwear is.

10:00 Save Tornado A from the rocks in the back yard.  Make him spit out the rock in his mouth.  Learn the boys have emptied the sand box and that it has water from the rain.

10:03 Strip beds.  Put sheets in the wash.

10:39 Tornado E learns to climb his bed without a ladder.

10:45 Save Tornado S from the top of his dresser.

10:46 Save Tornado A from mountain of stuffed animals.

11:00 Pizza nuked for the boys.  Cheese, raisins, hard-boiled yolks for Tornado A.

11:10 Put sheets in the dryer.  Debate doing my sheets.  Tornado A starts to whine.

11:30 Get Tornado A out of the high chair.

11:33 Remove slice of pizza from Tornado A’s hand.

11:34 Remind older boys that Tornado A will eat what they don’t.

11:45 Learn that the wagon is filled with water, sand, and mud.  And that Tornado A found it.

11:50 Learn that the older boys can survive 50s in only a shirt and underwear.

12:00 Tornado A starts loosing it.  Give Tornado A pain medication.

12:05 Tornado A’s afternoon nap.

12:15 Lunch for me.

12:30 Clean up kitchen.  Encourage boys to get dressed so they can help bake or do crafts.

12:40 Pretend I’m somewhere else.

12:45 Mess around online and look for new dessert recipes.  Older boys have a wet sand fight.

1:00 Find new recipe.

1:10 Start recipe only to hear Tornado A screaming.

1:10 Tornado A  will not be consoled.  Tornado A must be carried.

1:15 Agree to let the boys make a potion.  Obviously I was not thinking.

1:30 Bake while alternating holding Tornado A and placing him on the floor to scream.  Realize the boys are too quiet but don’t care at that moment.

2:03 Learn what making a potion really is.  Demand that boys clean up bathroom.

2:07 Try to make beds.  Hold Tornado A instead.

2:30 Take out cupcakes out of oven.  Console a screaming Tornado A.

2:45 Tornado A is content to play with a ball.  Tell boys that we’re leaving in 15 minutes.  Attempt to make beds, which makes Tornado A scream.

3:00 Tornado S is naked.  Tornado E has clothes on but no shoes.  Tornado A is screaming.

3:05 Pack up Tornado A.  Drag Tornado E to the car without shoes and tie.  Buckle him in.  Tornado S hands over underwear and pants.  Dress those clothes on Tornado S.  Buckle Tornado S in the car.

3:30 Grab rest of the clothes.  Go to parents’.

3:45 Carry Tornado S into parents’ house and hand him over.  Carry Tornado E into parents’ house and hand him over.  Carry Tornado A into parents’ house and hand him over.  Go back to car for stuff.  Debate fleeing to Mexico.

4:00 Feed Tornado A late.  Hand Tornado A back to my dad.

4:30 Read the paper.

5:15 Hand Tornado A to my mom.  Help with dinner.

5:45 Dinner.

6:25 Wonder if parents would realize if I left the boys with them.

6:45 Pack up boys.

7:00 Dress Tornado A.  Feed Tornado A.

7:15 Put Tornado A to bed.

7:20 Draw bath for boys.  Dump them in.

7:40  Bark orders to get the boys dressed for bed.

7:50 Read bedtime story, prayers, and lullaby. kisses.

8:00 Boys are officially in bed.

8:01 Crash on the couch.

9:30 Clean kitchen and great room.

10:30 Write menu, chores list, grocery list, rental list, email and bum around on the internet.

When would you say Monday starts?

Explaining God

I overheard this conversation the other day.

Tornado E:  And God is great.   He is real! He lives in Heaven.  And He can control EVERYTHING.  He can control the weather.  He can shoot lightning from his hands.

Tornado S: Count Dooku is real!  He shoots lightning out of his hands!

Tornado E: Count Dooku is not real!  God is real!

Tornado S: God shoots lightning out of His hands!  And Count Dooku shoots lightning out of his hands!  They are both REAL!

Tornado E: No, Tornado S!  That’s not how it works!  (little wheels in the brain spinning, spinning, spinning)