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 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.

Empty Threats

We are caught up in the Marvel Universe. We just need to see Thor: Ragnarok. Or really, the boys need to see Ragnarok. I saw it weeks ago. And my plan was to take the boys to see it this week in the second hand theaters.

It’s not there yet.

So I promised. Not this weekend because they’re with their dad. But next week I’ll take them to see Ragnarok.

Tornado E: Or I could ask Daddy.

Me: No. No. Your dad has already proven he can’t handle taking you to Marvel movies.

Tornado E: It was late. We hadn’t had dinner yet.

Me: You do not skip end credit scenes. You plan for that. You don’t come into movies late. You just don’t.

I mean. Honestly. I’m trying to raise kids who respect the story, respect the movie. Their dad should know better.

Tornado E: I’m going to ask Daddy to take us any ways.

Me: I won’t take you to see Black Panther.

I know. Harsh. But desperate times, people.

Tornado E: But Mama…..

I raised an eyebrow.

He pouted.

Then they got to talk to their dad on the phone several hours later.

Tornado E: Daddy! I’ve got an idea for the weekend.

Me: (hissing) Tornado E.

Tornado E: (laughing.) Nevermind, Daddy. (Sticks out his tongue at me and carries on his conversation with his dad)

I looked over at my dad and pointed at Tornado E and then gestured “What the hell?” My father has no sympathy. He laughed.

Me: Why does he have to be so mean?

My dad: He’s Got Our Genes.

My family is pranksters, jokesters, and storytellers. And we’re mean as hell just for the laughs. Stupid genes.


Little Devil

Me: Tornado A, what do you want to be for Halloween?

Tornado A: Satan!

Me: Ok.

My mother: You’re letting him be Satan for Halloween?

Me: Sure, why not?

My mother: Because. It’s not right. How about you go as a devil, Tornado A?

Tornado A: Satan is The Devil.

My mother eyed me. I shrugged. I envisioned a red suit with red shirt and tie.


The Fem Spot: Maybe you could call him something other than Satan? Doesn’t Paradise Lost have other names for him? Like Lucifer?

I had just finished telling her the costume plans. I decided to ask Tornado A what he wanted to wear, just in case he preferred red sweats and a red turtleneck (none to be found). He asked for a black suit and red shirt and tie. AND HORNS, MAMA!

Me: Well, I am Catholic and an English teacher. I should be able to come up with something….. The Morning Star, The Light Bringer, The Deceiver, The Fallen One. He Who Must Not Be Named. Wait. Wrong book.

The Fem Spot: You’ll think of something.


So it was my youngest son went as the Lord of Hell with a black suit, red shirt, red tie, a pitchfork, and HORNS. And the best joke I heard was at a Halloween event at the zoo.

Comicon Guy: Why isn’t it The Man, himself? Hello, sir. Good evening. But I believe you’re early, and that is a breach of contract.



The Bag

Oh no.

I whispered as my eyes fell upon the bag Tornado A was using for a backpack.

It was a cheap employee laptop bag, a desperation move, a life saver thrown out by my dad when I was told last Wednesday that Tornado A needed a new backpack. That the teacher had told my mom. My mom had told the ex several days before. That Wednesday I counted the stores I needed to go to while the boys were in kung fu and the grading I should do instead. The Rice Krispie Treats that needed to be made at the same time as tomorrow’s lunches. The horrible exhaustion I felt. I thought about tomorrow with the Cub Scout and Boy Scout meetings and the training I was suppose to go to instead and the popcorn money needed to be collected and the lunches to be made.

I don’t know when to get it… Not until the weekend…

I whispered in a near panic, thinking about the to-do list so long that it took up the entire page of a loose leaf sheet of paper, the one that started out as a column, then two, then like vines spread across the paper, choking the white with black ink. The to-do list that rarely shrank but kept growing without an end in sight. Everything needed to be done THIS VERY MINUTE. A to-do list that frightened me more than any other to-do list I ever had. I was failing.

So the next morning my dad produced this work bag, and Tornado A looked at it with disdain. So I fixed the straps to make it his length and ran out of the room. I grabbed my heavy, nearly-full messenger bag. I put it on.

See? We have the same type of bag! We both take it to school!

Tornado A laughed and put it on.

Or like Sheldon!

Just like Mama!

But that was last Thursday, and now it was Monday. I was running late, feeling sick to my stomach because of bad food or not enough vegetables or that To-Do List. I wasn’t dressed or showered though the clock read 7, and I needed to be gone in 15 minutes. I didn’t prep the night before because I was sick and exhausted, waiting only for my hair to dry enough to put it in curlers. And I had forgotten to get a backpack all weekend.

We did a movie night instead. Ant-Man because the boys have to watch the Marvel Universe unfold in order, and I did laundry and graded while the boys slept. And Comicon took most of Saturday. But then we watched Simpsons after we came home while I graded. Yesterday the karate tournament in Phoenix with the long drive and-

It didn’t matter. I forgot. I should’ve put the exhaustion aside and gone to the store. My dad mentioned getting one during work Friday. But it doesn’t matter. I’m the mom. It’s my responsibility. And I. I failed.

I forgot to get Tornado A a new backpack.

I said loudly to the house.

My dad walked by the foyer. “That’s ok, Fae. Tornado A doesn’t want one. He wants that one. Just like his Mama’s.”