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.


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.


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


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

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


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.

Being Safe

The annual Gem and Mineral Show started last weekend. Tradition dictates that I take the boys. They have all sorts of fun, looking and learning, talking to vendors, charming vendors. Nearly every year, I take the boys alone because, you know, it’s tough to hear someone say the same thing a thousand and one times. “Don’t touch. Look with your eyes.” It’s also hard to say it a thousand and one times, but that’s a different issue.

Luckily, as the boys get older, they get more mature. I’m down to saying it eight hundred-fifty-four times.

This year we started off on time. We made good time. We got a good parking place. We started looking in a few tents, looking at raw and polished opal and lapis lazuli. Please don’t touch; this stuff is hundreds of dollars.

Then it happened.

A panic attack.

My chest began to ache. It felt like I was stuck in a vice. Like a band tightening and tightening around my chest.

I’ve been through this before so I started to monitor my breath. Breathe one-two-three. Hold one-two-three-hour. Breathe out one-two-three-four-five-six-seven. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

As we walked, I looked for a safe place. A place to keep the boys out of trouble. Safe. We were in public. I couldn’t break down here. Safe. The mini food court was safe. With food to occupy the boys.

So I led them there, concentrating on my breathing, listening to their chatter. I got them there and sat them at a table.

Me: (in a hush tone) Boys, I’m having a panic attack.

Three boys: Oh no, Mama!

Me: It’s ok. We’re going to sit here for a little while until it’s over. So, here Tornado E, why don’t you get a bag of kettle corn and two waters. We’ll share. And no fighting because I can buy more.

Tornado E: But Mama, I don’t want to buy popcorn with my money. I want to buy rocks!

I laughed a littler.

Me: It’s my money that I’m using. Not the money I set aside for your rocks.

So off he went. A big boy responsibility. And then the boys snacked on popcorn and drank water as I concentrated on breathing, wondering if I had family selling in the area, wondering when was the time to call for someone to get us.

Then finally. Finally the pain eased. The boys raced out of the area to explore more rocks. And we were safe.

A Scene Stealer

It was my first Pack meeting, and it was Tornado S’s last.

I was volunteered/conned into the leadership position of Cubmaster/Chairman. I prefer Cubmaster to Chairman and Den Leader to Cubmaster. But someone has to lead, and I have the most leadership. I will be damned if I let this Pack go down. Besides what else do I have to do when I’m not mothering, teaching, den leading, or writing? Nothing.

So it was my first Pack meeting as Leadership.

I called the boys in, so we could start promptly. (My first order of business. Start all meetings and events on time. Damnit.) Then I realized that no one had been assigned to the flag ceremony. Ah-

I turned to the Webelos 2 leader and asked if his den would like to run it as it was their last pack meeting. Two boys instantly volunteered for flags. Tornado S volunteered to lead.

Heaven, help me.

If I had none, we would’ve practiced. Tornado S is not a fluent reader with his stops and breaks and stutters. I had no paper, just my phone. He was my introvert. And he’s, well, he’s my Tornado S.

The leader: I have no problem with that.

I pulled out my phone, found a ceremony online, and handed the phone to Tornado S.

He bounded up the stairs to the middle of the stage.

I blessed myself.

Tornado S took center stage. He help up The Ears and waited, a peace sign stuck up as far as he could reach. I mirrored it with a finger to my lips. The boys, in drips and drabs, mirrored it. Some of the seasoned adults mirrored it.

We waited.

He waited for the rustling to die down.

We waited.

He waited.

The leader: Tornado S, I think we’re good.

Then Tornado S started to read.

Two sentences in, I realized he was reading the positions that everyone should be. I stared at him for another sentence, wondering if I should shout at him. When he started the next sentence, I ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time.

Me: (putting my hand on the phone) Just read the leader parts.

Tornado S: (smiled and kept reading.)

Me: (Through a forced smile) Tornado S.

Tornado S: Color guard, attention.

Me: (Through my forced smile) Louder.

Tornado S: Color guard, march!

And it went well until we got to the pledge. Where Tornado S decided to say the whole thing in one breathe. The Scout Oath wasn’t any better as he ended the speed recite in a mutter, and I was grateful for the Boy Scouts in attendance to loudly recite the Oath. I stopped Tornado S before he could mangle the Law.

Me: Thank you, Tornado S. My son, everyone.

With that, he gave a huge smile and magnanimous wave.

My DNA runs strong in that kid, especially when the rest of the night he took every opportunity to steal the show.

A Religious Debate

It was a full out rebellion when I came home. To be fair, they were ready to revolt, patiently waiting for me to come home. Like a trap to be sprung on an unsuspecting victim.

To be fair. I was running late. And they had just spent 5 days at their dad’s, which usually means late nights and early mornings.

Tornado S: I don’t want to go to religious class.

He spoke as I set down my things.

Me: Give me a good reason.

Tornado S: You only make me go because Tornado A has to go.

Me: That’s not a reason. If you must talk to me, say it louder because I need to use the bathroom.

Tornado S: I don’t want to go!

Me: (from behind a closed door.) Still not a reason!

Tornado S: Fine! Why do you want me to go?

Me: (Finished with my business, hands washed, and walking back into the common area on my way to my pretzel) That’s not a reason.

Tornado S: Well, I want one.

Me: Fine. You need to be educated in the religion you are being raised in.

Tornado S: (silently fuming)

Tornado A: I don’t want to go to religious class.

Me: Follow me while I get something out of my room. What’s your reason?

Tornado A: I know everything.

Says the 2nd grader who has only been in religious class for this year.

Me: …..

Tornado A: Ask me something.

Me: Prove it.

Tornado A: I know what those winter candles are called.

Me: What are they called?

Tornado A: One is called Love. I can’t remember the others.

Me: So you don’t know everything. Keep following me; I have to get something in the kitchen.

Tornado A: Ask me anything about Jesus. (pause) Or Moses!

This would be too easy.

I turned. I stopped. I leaned down so I’m face to face. He meets my eye.

Me: Tell me about Isaiah.

Tornado A: (opens his mouth. shuts his mouth. thinks.) I can tell you about a saint! (My eyebrows went up.) I can tell you about Saint Pius. (Now he has my attention)

Me: Oh?

Tornado A: He knew Saint Patrick.


Me: You’re going to religious class. It’s time to get going. Everyone in the car!












Unconditional Love

Me: I love you no matter what, no matter what you do. I will love you forever and always.

Tornado E: What if I kill someone?

Me: Don’t. (Sigh) But yes.

Tornado S: What if I make the death ray?

Me: Don’t! But yes.

Tornado A: What if I kill a lot of people?

Me: What? Don’t! But yes.

Tornado E: What if I take over a country?

Me: Don’t do that. But yes.

What if I build the Death Star?

What if I killed Daddy?

What if I killed you?

What if I kill my brothers?

What if I blow up a small planet?

What if I kill you and Daddy?

Really. I don’t know where I went wrong. I don’t know where this conversation went wrong. Lord, help me.


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.