A New Game

Tornado A has always had insomnia.  It takes him an hour or more to fall asleep.  Then about once a week, he’s awake for 2 to 3 hours.  Now he can be lulled to stay in my bed listening to his favorite album.  Nothing quiet and soft either.  This summer he began sleeping on the floor with his brothers, and the insomnia stopped.  Until his father started taking custody.

The only nice thing is he plays a new game with me while he does his bedtime battle.

Tornado A: I need a hug.

I hugged him.

Tornado A: I need a kiss.

I kissed him.

Tornado A: I need a big hug.

I hugged him tighter and longer.

Tornado A: I need a big kiss.

I gave him a loud smacking kiss on his cheek.

Tornado A: I need a bigger hug.

I squeeze him tighter and longer.

Tornado A: I need a bigger kiss.

I gave him a louder smacking kiss on his cheek.

Tornado A: I need a little hug.

I hugged him quickly.

Tornado A: I need a little kiss.

I gave him a quick peck.

Tornado A: (whispering) I need a tiny hug.

I gave him a quick squeeze.

Tornado A: (whispering) I need a tiny kiss.

I gave him a gentle, quick peck.

Sometimes it goes on a little bit.  If he does it randomly during the day, I swing him around.

But how can I resist this game?  Even at bedtime?


The Fish

Do you remember last summer when I mentioned Tornado A has no fear of drowning?  He thought he could swim.  This summer he still thinks he can swim, so my parents and I have been working with him every day.

“I a baby shark!  You a mama shark!”

He and I blow bubbles together and go under the water together.  He plays on the step and yells, “Mommy!  Watch this!”  He jumps and puts his face in the water, holding his breath.  He jumps up and says, “Together, Mommy!”

“I a fish!  You a mama shark!”

We do “Ring Around the Rosie” as I bob us up and down, just to dive under at the end.

“I a baby fish!  You a mama fish!”

I put him on the kick board and help him move around, repeating “kick, kick, kick.”  He kicks well.  Lately he jumps in and grabs me and starts kicking with such force that I have to brace myself.  I end up letting him kick his way around the pool.

“I no spiderman!  I a spiderpig!”

Believe it or not, my father taught him that Simpson reference.  Tornado A crawls along the walls of the pool with ease.

“I a baby whale!  You a mama whale!”

Then there’s the tossing him in the air to a grandparent and back.  There’s the pushing him through the water towards another adult, telling him to kick.  He jumps from the step to kick in my direction.

“Mommy!  Are you ready?!”

“I ready!”


“Steps!  Are you ready?!”

And I push him back to the steps.

Today was his first day of swim lessons.

Today I decided to up the ante.  I put two pool noodles under him and worked with him to reach and kick.  We moved around the pool.  I placed him on the step to make him take a breather because he won’t if I leave it up to him.  I turned to my mom to say something when I felt movement in the water.  I turned to see Tornado A reaching and kicking his way towards me with noodles under him.  (I wasn’t more than a foot away, I promise.)  He reached for me, smiled, then turned back to the steps.  He swam in a few circles.  I looked over at my mom.  She was staring at Tornado A.  I looked back at Tornado A.

My mom: He’s just weeks behind Tornado S.

Me: Um, I think he’ll be swimming by the end of the summer.

My mom: Or in a few days.

Christ.  Apparently determination is everything.

Granted Tornado S was on the cusp of swimming for nearly two years, so I can comfort myself with that.

That’s a first

I should be studying.  The test is Thursday morning.  I’m not feeling very prepared.  The boys are playing a video game for a little while, and so I should hit the books.  I do have one amazing saving grace.

Vacation Bible School.

Not only is it all morning all week but it includes Tornado A too!  All three boys are out of the house for three hours every morning, which gives (gave) me three mornings to study.  It’s amazing!  It’s wonderful!  I’ve even survived the guilt trip of being begged to volunteer.  “I can’t.  I’d love to, but I can’t.  I have my teaching certificate test this week.”  “OH!  Study!  Take the time to study!  Your boys will be fine.”  Thanks.

The boys got ready quickly.  Tornado A even used the bathroom.  (Awkward potty stage of only using the potty when naked)  I gave Tornado A a little backpack with an extra diaper, wipes, and a sandwich bag.  He nearly skipped through the parking lot.

I got the boys’ group assignments.  I dropped Tornado E first and forced him into his VBS shirt.  Then I left Tornado S, who didn’t give me any trouble with his shirt, with his group.  Then I found Tornado A’s group.

Teacher: Oh good!  A boy!  I was worried we would have all girls.

The girls were around 5 and 6.  But Tornado A’s name was on the list.  I signed him in just like I did with the other boys.

Teacher: Here’s his shirt if you could put it on.

Tornado A was helpful.

Teacher: Don’t worry, Mama.  He’ll be fine.  He’ll have lots of fun.  We’ll take good care of him.

“We’ll take good care of him.”  My baby.  My baby is going to school.  Ish.  He’s going to be away from me and with strangers for three hours.  My baby.

Me: Well, he has a backpack with a diaper and wipes.

Tornado A nodded and turned to show off his backpack.

Tornado A: My backpack!

Teacher: Thank you.  I’m sure we won’t need it.  We’ll be fine.

My baby.

I gave Tornado A a hug and kiss.

Me: Remember to listen and do as you’re told.  Have fun.  Bye, sweetheart.

He sat down with the rest of the girls and began coloring with them.

My baby!  My baby is at school.  Ish.

I walked away and watched.  Maybe I should stay.  Even though I have to go grocery shopping before I study.  I need to study.  But my baby might need me.

Then I felt a hand on my shoulder.  The Sweet Girl’s Mother.  (See that.  I need better nicknames.)

Friend: Hi!

Me: Hi.

Friend: How are you doing?

I looked over to Tornado A’s group.

Me: Tornado A.  It’s his first time in something like that.

She rubbed my shoulder and looked me straight in the eye.

Friend: He’ll be fine.  We’ll take care of him.

Tears welled in my eyes.

Me: (nodding) Ok.

Friend: He’ll be fine.  (beat) Hey, don’t you have a big test?

Me: Right.  Ok.  It’ll be fine.  You’re here.  Half a dozen moms that know him are here and about two dozen kids who know him.  (She nodded.)  It’ll be fine.  Ok.  All right.  I’m going to go.  (She nodded.)  Good luck,

Friend: You too.

Me: Thanks.

And I ran out and to the car before I could start crying or volunteer to be with Tornado A.

My Passenger

The other day I had to drive across town to drop off some paperwork at the school district.  Our city is sprawling without a freeway system.  (Don’t get me started on that cluster-.)  It can be a drive.  Tornado A was sitting in the back, playing with toys and chatting with me.

Tornado A: Snack, Mommy?

Me: You had a snack.

Tornado A: Bread, Mommy?

Me: No, we don’t need to go to the bakery.

Tornado A: Prezzle, Mommy?

We just passed a bakery that was known for pretzels.

Me: Not today, Tornado A.

Tornado A: Sushi, Mommy?

As we passed a sushi joint.

Me: Nope.  Not today.

Tornado A: Lunch, Mommy?

Me: It’s still early morning, sweetheart.  Lunch is a while away.

We were approached a traffic light.

Tornado A: Stay green!  Stay green!  Stay green!  Stay green!

Oh God, what am I teaching my son?  I better check my road rage.  And hard.

We sailed through the green light.

Tornado A: YEA!!!

In case you’re wondering, he repeated this with every light.  That’s a lot of traffic lights.

Then we arrived at the district.

Tornado A: Mommy!  We go up the snake?!

He pointed to the spiral staircase.

As it happens, we did have to go up the spiral staircase.  When we left the office, he was excited to leave.

Tornado A: Mommy!  We go down the snake?!

Me: Yes!  Hold on to the rail.

When we got down to the bottom floor, Tornado A looked at me.

Tornado A: Mommy!  We go up the snake?!

Me: No, it’s time to go.

Tornado A: NO!!!

He tried to run up the stairs, but I scooped him up and threw him over my shoulder.

Tornado A: Not a sack of potatas!  Mommy!  I not!  A sack of potatas!

So I put him on my hip and kissed him.

Me: No, you’re not.  You’re my Tornado A.  And I love you.

Tornado A hugged me tight.

Tornado A: I love you!

Spelling and Eating

There is only one casserole I will eat.  Sour Cream and Chicken Enchilada Casserole.  I adore the stuff.  Apparently so does my baby brother because he asked for it for his birthday dinner.  (I guess when you always eat out, a home-cooked meal is a treat, and I’m just the opposite.)

Saturday we all gathered to have dinner in honor of my brother’s 29th birthday.  I looked over mid-meal to Tornado A who sat next to me.  My little vegetarian (weird for a meat-eating family, right?) was digging into the casserole.  It was almost gone.  I made eye contact with my mom and, in a discreet manner, pointed to Tornado A.

My mom: I know.  I’ve been watching him eat.  I can’t believe me.

Me: I know, right?  (giggle)  No one tell him there’s M-E-A-T in it.

Tornado A: I eat the chicken!

Oh God.

Please Lord, in Your infinite mercy, let that be a fluke.

Me: (sound normal; don’t panic; it was a fluke; it was a fluke.)  Is it good?

Tornado A: WAY!  I like chicken!  I eat chicken now!

We’ll see next time I give your chicken strips.

I’m Batman

I got Tornado A a Batman shirt for his birthday.  Because if you can be Batman, you should always be Batman.

And of course, if you buy your kid a Batman shirt, especially a cute little toddler, then you have to teach him to say, “I’m Batman.”  Especially if you’re a nerd.  (Or go to their site because they have stuff that is so funny you’ll cry or snort out soda out your nose.  Then you can email me, and we can talk about our favorite videos.  It’ll be fun.)

So through the day, I would say, “Tornado A, say ‘I’m Batman.'”  And Tornado A would say “I’m Batman!”  It was adorable.

Until Tornado E manipulated it.

Tornado E: Tornado A!  Tornado A!  Tell Mommy where you want to go for dinner?!

Tornado A: Batman want McDonald’s!

Um, yeah.  About manipulation.

Me: No McDonald’s.

Tornado E: But Mom-myyyyy!  You said anywhere he wanted.

Me: Anywhere HE wanted but NOT McDonald’s.

Tornado A: Batman wants McDonald’s!

But then Tornado A took control.

Tornado A: Batman wants to go home!

Tornado A: Batman play cars!

Tornado A: Batman tired!

Tornado A: Batman pooped!

I no longer can tell if this is cute or not.

Instant Friends

We had to buy a birthday present for a kindergartener boy.  As I made my selection in the Lego aisle, Tornado A and I heard the familiar sounds of a toddler playing with trains and a mother telling him that he could play for five minutes, just five minutes, we have to leave in five minutes.

So Tornado A did what any kid would do, he went to the next aisle and sat down and played trains with the little boy.

It’s hard to tell what the best thing is about little kids.  Their imagination.  Their wonderment.  Their need to try everything, except food.  Or this, their ability to see every child as a friend.  All it takes is someone around their size and instant friend.  Nothing else matters, not even the other child’s name.  Or in this case, the setting.

I’m not like that.  I’m sure I was once, but I grew up with little demons, who taught me not to trust, always hide, always shield.  So I play the shell game with my thoughts and feelings.  I strap on armor and pull the vizor down.  I’m ready for battle.

 Sort of like this.

I don’t want the boys to see every situation as a battle, every person an enemy waiting to happen.  So I indulge when they find playmates, even if it means hanging out in Target in the train aisle for 15 minutes.

As we watched them play, I told the mom how I am always amazed how they find friends.  She agreed and asked my son’s name and age.  We compared notes as her son was only a few months younger.  We talked train toys, and I advised her to be careful of the Thomas trains because they have a variety of different sets that aren’t compatible and told her how a friend had travel train cases.  We talked about older siblings and fighting and rivalry.  We talked about their little friends.  Then it was getting late, and we helped the boys clean up and dragged them away down opposite sides of the aisle.

Sometimes grown-ups meet a person, and it’s an instant friend.   It doesn’t matter about their name or situation or circumstance.  It’s a connection.  We’re not alone.

Rookie Mistake

I’m making Tornado S draw a picture every day because his fine motor skills need to improve and the kid is terribly behind on what he should be able to draw.  He forgets eyes and mouths.  In kindergarten!  What?!

So any ways.  I have relented the last several days and let him draw with the fat markers instead of the triangle crayons.  I left him and Tornado A drawing.  (Tornado A LOVES to draw and color.  Finally a kid who likes art!)  Tornado E and I left the room to research environmentalists for his Cub Scout badge.


Big Mistake!


I left an almost three-year-old with a big box of the markers alone.


He colored his arms.  (Fine.)

He colored his tummy.  (Fine.)

He colored his legs.  (Fine.)

He colored his toes.  (Fine.)

He colored his face.  (Um, less than fine.)

He colored his hair.  (WHAT?  HIS HAIR?!  Less, LESS than fine.)

He colored the pantry door.  (NO.  Not Fine.  Not Fine.)

He colored the walls.  (Not Fine At All.  AT ALL.)

He colored the cloth living room chairs.  Two of them.    (NOT FINE AT ALL.  NOT AT ALL.)

I am an idiot.

So I handed him a wet sponge and taught him that if he makes a mess he has to clean it.

And he had fun.  For the first 5 minutes.  The next 5 taught him he has to draw on paper and only paper.

I am not a rookie.  I shouldn’t make such stupid mistakes.

The markers are put away, and I will be sitting with them when they color and do art projects.

Speaking of which. . . Tornado S owes me a drawing.

The Quiet Game

I just needed 5 minutes.  Just 5 minutes of quiet.  No yelling.  No bickering.  No name-calling.  No scolding.  No lecturing.  No fighting.  I had a headache tittering on becoming a migraine.  I just needed quiet and caffeine.  Since we were leaving Tornado S’s school, I would settle for quiet.  And I had an idea!

The Quiet Contest!  Perfect!  No.  Wait.  Not perfect.  They don’t compete well, and I want them all to be quiet.  What if-  What if everyone can win?  Is this a bribe?  No, a prize!  Everyone gets a prize for being quiet in the car from Tornado S’s school to home.  What could go wrong?

Me: Ok, boys.  We’re going to play a game.  What prize do you want 50 cents or a piece of candy?

Tornado E: Candy!

Tornado A: Candy!

Tornado S: 50 cents!

Hmmm.  Should they all agree?  Should we vote?  No, it doesn’t matter.

Me: Ok, everyone is able to earn his own prize.  Candy for Tornado E.  Candy for Tornado A.  50 cents for Tornado S.

Tornado E: I changed my mind.  I want 50 cents.  Can I spend it?

Me: You can do what ever you want with it.

Tornado E: When can I spend it?

Me: When we go to a store.  Maybe tomorrow.

Tornado E: Ok, 50 cents.

I get everyone in the car and buckled.

Me: The game is who ever is quiet from the school to the house gets their prize.  So no talking or making noise until we get home, and, then Tornado A gets candy, and Tornado S and Tornado E get 50 cents each.  (I looked them all in the eye to make sure they understood.)  Oh, and one rule.  No one is allowed to make anyone else make a noise, or he is out of the game.  Got it?

Three boys: YES!

Me: Ok, it starts now.

I turned on the car.  We left the parking lot.

Tornado S: Mommy?

Me: Tornado S, remember the game.

Tornado S: But I want to tell you something.

Me: Tornado S. The game.

Tornado S started to whine.  And he’s out.

Tornado E: Tornado S, stop crying.

Me: Et tu, Tornado E?

Tornado E is out of the game.

Tornado S: (Whining) But I want to tell you something.  I changed my mind.  I want to talk to you.

Me: The game, Tornado S.  We were playing a game.

Tornado S: (Whining) It’s not fair!  We need to start over!

Tornado E: Tornado S, be quiet!

Tornado S whined more.

We pull into the garage.

Me: Tornado A gets candy!

Tornado A: YEA!

Huh.  I totally thought Tornado A would lose.  I wonder if I should try it again another time.

Tornado A and I left the older two whining in the car and went and got candy.

God, I needed caffeine.  And chocolate.  And silence.

That sucks

Tornado A and I were grocery shopping, and we were at our final store.  We were at the organic food store because I was picking up stuff to make miso soup.  Mmmm.  Miso soup.  I figured it would be a great snack for me.  And the store had tofu on sale.  Score.

When we got to the refrigerated section, the tofu on sale was gone.  All of it.  Every kind.  Gone.  All that was left was the stuff not on sale.  Three times more expensive.  Ah damn.  I bent over and looked down the shelf to be sure.  Hoping.  And-

Me: That sucks.  Oh that sucks.

I stood up and shook my head.

Me: Man, that sucks so bad.  Just sucks.

I was so disappointed.

Tornado A: Sucks!


Tornado A: Sucks!


Tornado A: Sucks!

Me: No, Tornado A.  Stinks.

Tornado A: Sucks!

Me: Stinks!

Tornado A: (laughing) Sucks!

Oh, no.  I’m in so much trouble.

Tornado A: (laughing) Sucks!  Sucks!  Sucks!

So much trouble.


Me: (singing softly with the store music) Who’s trippin’ down the streets of the city?  Smiling at ev-

Tornado A: SUCKS!

By now, we’re were nearing the cash register.

Me: Tornado A!  Wanna go to the bread store?

Tornado A: WAY!!!

Me: Ok!  Let’s buy these real quick and go get bread!

Tornado A: WAY!!!

Shoo.  God, I’m such a bad mother.