Just a Few Hard Days at the End of School

Tornado S turned 11, nearly two weeks ago. The night before his birthday he asked ever-so-sweetly if I would make brownies for his class. I did. I have a habit of undercooking brownies slightly as I love gooey brownies; so I made sure I cooked them well for the class.

Because of the Walk Out, teachers are suppose to stay at school until 4:30. As I’m an honest person, I was planning on sticking around until 4:30, even though it was my kid’s birthday. Even though it was a Friday.

With the school day over, I was checking email and grades when I decided to turn my phone’s volume up. I noticed I missed 6 calls from my mother.

That’s not good.

She texted me: Check your email. Tornado S is crying and won’t tell us why. Something happened at school.

I clicked into my personal-professional email to find an email from Tornado S’s teacher. “I’m so sorry…. There was an incident…. Three boys told Tornado S that he put bloody mucus in the brownies…. Principal is taking care of it ….. Tornado S cried all afternoon…. Got Tornado E to come in and take care of him …. Come to the school…. I’ll be here until after 5.”

With in moments I was calling the school.

Secretary: School. How can I help you?

Me: I need to talk to Mr. S right now please.

Secretary: Whom may I say is calling?

Me: Full name. Tornado S’s Mom.

Secretary: One moment.

Principal: Hello?

Seriously I’ve never been connected so quickly. So this is bad. I pulled on my authority voice.

Me: Mr. S. This is Full Name. Tornado S’s Mother. I heard there was an incident. I was hoping you can explain it to me.

So apparently a boy, who was getting over being sick, mentioned his mouth was bleeding after eating the brownie. The three other boys heard it and teased Tornado S about it. The 5th grade girls overheard it and told the teacher on duty. Tornado S was very hurt by the incident. There will be a consequence, and it will happen on Monday. But rest assured, there will be a consequence, and Tornado S did not do anything.

And let me say, I wasn’t assuredly rested as there had been an incident earlier this year with Tornado E and another boy. I stared at the email. I shut down my computer and grabbed my stuff and ran out of the school. I made it to the boys’ school in record time.

Hell has no fury.

I walked in to the office like I was wearing my combat boots instead of Mary Janes. I told the secretary that I was there to talk with Tornado S’s teacher; she waved me on. The principal saw me and made I contact with me. I smiled like murder was on my mind and gave him a nod. He ducked into his office. I marched on to Tornado S’s classroom.

And she wasn’t there.

I sweetly asked the secretary where she could be; the secretary suggested I check outside.

Where I found two of Tornado E’s classmates and a mother of a different classmate. Apparently Tornado S’s teacher was working on the talent show. The girls offered to let me go before them, but I declined and waited until they were done.

When Tornado S’s teacher saw me, she immediately apologized. She told me everything that happened, which was a slightly different story than I got from the principal. Shocker. And that the principal was going to let it go, but the teacher was adamant that these boys have consequences. These boys had been causing trouble all year, but their parents defend them. These boys decided to take down Tornado S, who is sweet and kind-hearted. The teacher loves Tornado S. The girls in the class love Tornado S.

When Tornado S refused to tell the teacher what happen, the teacher called for Tornado E to come and talk with Tornado S. Apparently there were tears on all sides. Tornado S was allowed to accompany Tornado E to art class.

The teacher was so angry. She told me I could keep Tornado S home for the last week of school. But I told her Tornado S had to stand his ground. So she told me the art teacher could take Tornado S if he wanted. I said that the bullies needed to know that Tornado S wasn’t pushed around by them. She nodded. She planned on dealing with them in her own way, but she was insisting that the principal suspend them. If she couldn’t make the principal do that, then she would let me know, so that I could throw a fuss. Fine.

We talked a little longer about my boys, about middle school, about high school, about the walk out. Tornado S told her all about the walk out and the protest. “He’s so proud of you.”

When I got home, I let the issue go. Until the next day. After we read Harry Potter, I asked Tornado S about what happened. He lied. He couldn’t remember. I told him I needed the truth. He lied. He said it was no big deal. I told him I needed the truth. This dance went on for 30 minutes until he finally told me what happened. His story was like the teachers. Except no one knew how it ended. Tornado S got up from the lunch table and walked away, leaving the boys to make fun of him to his back.

I hugged Tornado S and told him that was brave.

I sent an email to the principal with Tornado S’s side of the story. I reminded the principal that kids take advantage of the end of the year to cause trouble because they think they would get away with it. I asked him as a mother and a teacher to discipline the boys and give them consequences. They were suspended.

And then the teacher emailed me. She would separate the boys when they got back and monitor them every moment. Another little boy went home and, crying, told the story to his mom. That Monday the boy brought Tornado S a birthday present. The girls formed a tight little gang around Tornado S, making sure the bullies wouldn’t mess with him. I fear if these boys do not go to another school, they will never have a date.

When I got home, I learned the teacher also got Tornado S a present.

I’ve been expecting Tornado S to be bullied for sometime now because he has a bunch of weird quirks. He’s been lucky to have classmates that understand him. These bullies are new to the school, and the leader will not be back next year. I am so glad Tornado S has so many friends.

Next school year, I’m throwing a huge pool party at the beginning of the year to celebrate these awesome kids.

Also I’m going to use this as a wedge to drive Tornado S away from the Dark Side.

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Church Adventures

What my mother doesn’t understand is that they really do like us at church. Well, maybe not that woman who muttered “Jesus Christ” when she saw me yank Tornado A back from crawling on the pew to pass his brother to get in line for communion. But she was in another row, took God’s name in vain, and left right after communion. So the moral high ground is mine! Mwhahaha!

Yeah, but other than her, they like us. The ushers always are glad to see the boys and talk to them. The deacon is charmed by them. Several of the congregation make it a point to talk to them or me. The priest finds them amusing as they blurt out the homily for a treat or ring the gong. (Yeah, my Catholic church has a gong.) Even the traveling priests are amused by my boys. On a few occasions, one of the traveling priest has included my boys into his homily.

Any ways. I had nothing to worry about getting a seat for Sunrise Mass. The ushers would find us a seat. But we went early with my parents, bringing our own chairs, sitting on the edge, watching the sunrise.

When Tornado A complained (loudly) that he wasn’t blessed with holy water, the deacon came by and drenched Tornado A and me. As though our priest didn’t drench us thoroughly Palm Sunday. (4 times!)

During Giving Peace and after people received communion, a few people walked by to whisper how nice the boys looked. The oldest in their three piece suits with ties. Tornado A in a bow tie and suspenders. (I rock suspenders!)

After services, I sent Tornado A to gather song sheets and the older two to help collect and stack chairs. Tornado S and Tornado E both moaned, dragging a chair or two. I ended up having to hand over my purse to Tornado A to help pick up stacks of three chairs while eyeing my older two.

As we were leaving, an older gentleman came over to me.

Older Guy: Ma’am, I had to laugh when I saw your boys. My brothers and I had to get the same summer haircut.

I looked over at my three boys running through the courtyard. Their heads recently shaved, their preferred haircut.

Me: Yeah, they like it. Less work.

Older Guy: (chuckles) That it is. Happy Easter.

Me: Happy Easter.

I walked away and heard the last part of his conversation.

Older Guy: (to his female companion) Those boys have a lot of personality.

Older Woman: I can tell. Their mother must be a saint.

Oh, they do. I just happen to be a saint with a lot of personality to.

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.