Tornado A: The Self-Reported Genius

Me: How was your last day as a 2nd grader?

Tornado A: It was ok.

Me: Are you ready for 3rd grade?

Tornado A: 4th grade.

Me: What?

Tornado A: I think I need to go to 4th grade. Or 5th grade.


As I was cleaning out backpacks a few days later, I found that Tornado A’s teacher had the 2nd graders reflect and assess. Much like I do with my Freshmen.

Question 1: What was the most challenging subject this year? Why do you think it was challenging? What can you do to prepare for next year?

Tornado A’s answer: Nothing. It was too easy.


Then I got Tornado A’s report card. He failed to make straight A’s as he predicted. He got a B in spelling and B in language arts. Not bad.

And then there was this comment: Tornado A needs to slow down; he rushes his work and makes sloppy mistakes.


Silly Rules for Spelling Sentences

At their school, the second graders have to put their 20 spelling words in sentences, due at the end of the week. Tornado E and Tornado S’s teachers did not care how many spelling words were jammed into a sentence. Tornado S could get up to five words. It was impressive. Tornado A has no such luck. He can only put up to two spelling words in a sentence.

So he did.

He got full credit for his ten sentences and a little note from the teacher. “Don’t start with I so often, please.” All but one or two sentences started with I.

Part of me thinks this is a stupid rule. He’s in second grade. But I realize this will make him a better writer.

Tornado A has acquiesced to the demand. But since my genes naturally run deep, he has started all his sentences this week, so far, with “We.” If he does this for every sentence, I’m going to give the kid five bucks.

The Beginning of the End of Summer

Here in Tucson, the school year is about to begin. We go back at the beginning of August. Extremely early. But we have a week of fall break and a week of spring break, and we get out in May. But still. I’m not ready!

The boys are. They can’t stop messing with each other.

I am having nightmares about being unprepared for the start of school. You know how I can fix that? Preparing for school. I’m reading articles, sure, but I need to check my email, fix a few lesson plans, write a few lesson plans, select my first reading material. But I’m avoiding it. I should do it tonight, but I won’t. I have this book and 13 Reasons to watch.

Today I registered the boys at school. I’m realizing what a reputation I’m building. I’m the mom of three energetic boys, who is a teacher. People are impressed as I settle the boys down so I can talk to a teacher. They’re impressed as I scoop Tornado A off a stack of chairs before he can crack his head open. They’re impressed that the boys answer them with thoughtful answers.

The boys got to socialize with friends they hadn’t seen all summer. I commiserated with teachers over the end of summer, sharing ideas for lesson plans. I talked to a few Cub Scout parents about plans for the next year. Tornado A practiced his locker combination until he had it memorized. (I’m hoping for no tears this next year over first day locker jitters.) The music teacher asked Tornado A again if he would join any band. The fifth grade teachers assessed Tornado S, who beamed to be in the next school level. Tornado A was a tornado.

It’s good to have a community. Also I can’t believe the summer is ending for us already!

A Field Trip With 4th Graders, Snow, and a Very Big Hole

A week ago I woke up at 5am on a bus filled with 4th graders and parents in Northern Arizona. I was on a bus because every year the boys’ school has a 4th grader trip to the Grand Canyon, and I was one of the lucky parents to go. I was up at 5 am because Tornado S is a morning person, and unlike his peers, he fell asleep minutes after the bus pulled away from the school at 10 pm the night before.

I tried to doze the last half an hour, wishing for my own bench as Tornado S snuggled next me, watching the forest outside our bus.

At 5:30, we arrived at our destination to watch the sunrise at the Canyon. We were asked to wake our charges and that we could only occupy the hotel lobby bathroom briefly, hinting at better accommodations later. After going on several of these trips, I know this for a lie, so I grabbed my toothbrush, toothpaste, and travel facial pads and hide them in my sweatshirt pocket.

Along with a few other parents, I helped carry the cold breakfast to an outdoor viewing area along the Canyon. A father graciously gave me his box because the last thing was so heavy. As though I didn’t regularly carry an eleven year old over my shoulders. But it was 5:30 in the morning, and I assumed that any biting remark in my head was due to the time.

After waiting in line for the bathroom and modeling to fourth grade girls that they really didn’t need to stand over the sink to brush their hair or their teeth, I met my charges outside. This year they trusted me with three. During Tornado E’s trip, they entrusted me with only two kids. To be fair, one of them was Tornado E, but come on, I know how to deal with more kids. Everyone knows my kids.

Within 5 minutes, I had lost Tornado S. Clearly I was not responsible enough to handle three kids. That was a mistake.

New rule. The three boys would stick together. Always. Don’t look for me. Look for each other. I can find a group of three boys.

I sent the boys to the breakfast line. I stayed in the back, wishing I had remembered my jacket, wishing I hadn’t left my wallet in the bus so I could get hot chocolate, trying not to go to the front of the line and organize the process of getting food. As I waited, I noticed kids with plates piled high with danishes, bagels, breakfast bars. As in, there’s no way an adult would eat that much, much less a skinny 4th grader. Stay calm, Fae; you don’t have to organize everything. Then it got worse.

A large, fluffy, white thing floated down from the partial cloudy skies. I was seeing things. Then another. Oh, God, no. Then another. I’m totally making this up. Then another. Then another. Then another. It was snowing.

Now I know that what I experienced was not even a dusting, which would make me the world’s largest wimp to many readers. But I’m a desert girl who puts up with hellish heat; I don’t do snow. And it was snowing at 6am, and I was up at 6 am, outside in the snow, with only a t-shirt, long sleeve SPF shirt, and a sweatshirt. I was unhappy.

But then there was the amazing view. And I had chocolate milk. Then 4th graders are hilarious. We had a hike along the Grand Canyon with funny, interesting guides. My boys were fast runners who wanted to lead, so the next hour was alternated between running to stay up with the boys and turning around and telling Tornado S to hurry up. Poor Tornado S. My little tortoise. On every hike, my chant is “Hurry up, Tornado S. Tornado S, get your hat on.” A chant that is taken up by many of the adults. That day was no exception.

Every time the group stopped for the tour guides to talk, I stood in a patch of sunlight, dreaming of the time it would be warm enough to shed some clothes, just like on Tornado E’s trip.

Except it never happened.

It was cold and windy when we left the rim. It was cold and windy when we got into town to watch an IMAX movie of the Grand Canyon. (Comfy chairs plus dark room means I have never seen the whole movie.) It was cold and windy when we got out of the theater. It was cold and windy when we had lunch at the Watch Tower. It was cold and windy when we went to a trading post. It was cold and windy when we went to the Wupatki Ruins. It was cold and windy when we went to Sunset Creator. It was cold and windy when we went to dinner.

The whole state was under a wind advisory that day. And Arizona is a pretty large state.

But hey, the kids had fun. I got a lot of pictures and got to talk to a lot of cool adults and hang out with a lot of cool kids. And I walked over 18,000 steps. That’s more than the SeaWorld trip.

But the most surreal moment was when I heard:

“You look so much like your mom it’s crazy.”

I looked around and realized the girl, surrounded with her little girl pack, was talking to me.

“Oh, she does.” “She does look like her mom”

“Who’s her mom?”

“Tornado S’s grandma! The one teaching us line dancing.”

“OH! She does!”

Um, thanks?



As an English teacher and mother…

Tornado S earned another D on a grammar assignment. I was beyond piss. I sat him down and made him redo it. In the midst of my lecture, Tornado E walked in and listened. When I was done, I looked over at Tornado E.

Tornado E: Mama, are you angry at Tornado S for getting a D or are you angry at him for getting a D in grammar?

My child is too smart for his own good.

In the classroom

I spent yesterday afternoon, helping out at Tornado E’s class.  I try to volunteer one day out of the month.  I wanted to do more, but I was afraid I would take too much time from other mom’s volunteering.  I’m starting to think I’m the only one who does go in as I mentioned it to a few of the stay-at-home moms after school.  When I suggested they take a day just because it was fun, they looked at me like I had grown a third eye.  I guess our alone time is precious.  I know it is for me.

I chose yesterday because it was the only day of class this week, because they had a speaker coming in, and because it was supposed to rain all week.  Before the boys, I worked as a teacher’s assistant for a kindergarten and a first grade class and as a Girl Scout troop organizer.  When there’s a schedule deviation or if those kids couldn’t go out every single day to play, hell was likely to break loose within the class room.

I would like to regale you all with tales of humorous acts and speeches, but most of the kids were shy and quiet.  There was only one kid in the class willing to make a fool of himself by saying crazy things, doing crazy things.  My son.

Not only did he dance his way back into the classroom after the presentation, making one of the teachers laugh, he was the one to spout off hilarious things.

As we sat around the table for snack time, the kids were eager to tell the teacher what they did over the weekend. Tornado E didn’t want to be left out of the conversation, even though he felt we did nothing exciting.  He pulled my sleeve.

Tornado E: Mommy, lean over.  I have a secret to tell you.

I leaned over.

Tornado E: (whispering) I’m going to pretend we went to the toy store, ok?

Me: Ok.

Tornado E: (to the teacher) We went to the toy store!

Teacher: Oh?

Tornado E: Yup.  And we saw Toy Story toys.

Teacher: Which one is your favorite?

Tornado E: Buzz Lightyear!

All right.

Later as the teacher was reading a story, she asked the students what kinds of houses they lived in, giving examples of brick, steel, stuck-o.

Tornado E: I live in a gingerbread house!

The teacher looked over at me.  I smiled.

Me: It’s always nice to live in Tornado E’s world.

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Volunteering with my feet Firmly on the ground

Yesterday I volunteered to help Tornado E’s class on their field trip to the fire station that was across the street from the school.  I was looking forward to volunteering as I was curious to see how my son acted in class, the son who the teacher told me couldn’t keep his hands to himself.

As I signed Tornado E into his class, the teacher told me about how they asked for two volunteers to go into the ladder on the ladder truck.  As the teacher bubbled on, I felt a pit grow in my stomach, knowing that yes, the rumors where true that my uncle worked at the fire station and I was going to have to go on that stupidly high, 100 foot tall ladder.  My uncle, being one of my father’s little brother, being from my father’s clan, would get a kick out of forcing his niece up a ladder she was terrified of.  Yup, that’s how the clan rolls.  My dad would totally do the same.

An hour later I walked with the other moms and children to the edge of the street.  Across the street, down the drive way, out of the door, a man walked out, and I KNEW that stance.  I KNEW that walked.  I started to sweat profusely and damning the pro-estrogen that would make me sick but wasn’t strong enough to compete with the testosterone running riot in my blood stream.  Crap.

As we walked across the street, as my uncle stood in the middle of the street to protect us from the stopping traffic, I smiled and began to pray.  When I walked by him, after he had done his introduction, as he held out the door, I hugged him and paid my respects, still praying.

And I learned a few things that day:

  1. Tornado E doesn’t shout out in class.
  2. Tornado E does like to touch and gently shove other kids.
  3. Tornado E has found another little boy who will hug him back while trying to throw each other to the ground.
  4. Tornado E is one of the handfuls in the class.
  5. God answers prayers because two other moms jumped at the chance to ride the ladder with my uncle.

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So Afternoons are better

I was so upset that Tornado E wasn’t in the morning class.  So upset.  Disappointed.  Worried.  Frustrated.  Anxious.  The kid needs naps, and I would inevitably kill him when he threw one too many fits over something silly like being made to eat something for dinner or stopped from hitting his brother.  That’s why I got a replacement kid on the way.

But I think Someone was looking out for me.  Because we’re taking mornings slow.  I’m nursing my tea, watching the news; while they are destroying the house with toys.  They’re watching way too many cartoons as I shower and resettle my stomach, praying that breakfast will stay down.  Unlike previous pregnancies, breakfast is staying down.  Most days.

Note: Rice Krispies not as good the second time.  Not so good at all.

But if we had to race to school to get there at 8 in the morning, which seemed like a breeze just two months ago, I would be retching in the public trash can outside Tornado E’s class room, wearing Depends as my stomach has to eject every last crumb from my body.

So I owe You a Thank you.  And (as usual) an Apology.  (As usual) You gave me what I needed, not what I wanted.  Though this does not make up for “That thing,” I’m still pissed off about that.

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Little Brotherly Love

Yesterday Tornado S and I dropped Tornado E off at school.  Tornado E’s school is Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons.  We wanted to ease Tornado E into school, rather than drop him into the deep end as some of the schools we looked at would do.

I packed the boys into the car after lunch.  Each had his backpack strapped on to his back.  I reminded Tornado E to raise his hand during the class and to listen as I know these are his biggest weakness.  I had observed this last summer during his swim classes and then again at the open house where the teacher went through circle time with the kids.  Really, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

We arrived in good time.  The boys and I braved the sweltering heat as we marched to the classroom.  A few other moms stood around with their kids, talking.  I herded mine to keep them from running around in the landscaping.  No one else’s kid was doing that, so I figured I shouldn’t allow mine either.  Of course, it is desert-scaping; nothing can hurt it.

The teacher opened the door, and the children marched one by one. Tornado S followed his brother.

I grabbed Tornado S.

Me: No, Tornado S.  That’s your brother’s class.  That’s Tornado E’s class.  Not for Tornado S.

Tornado S: Brothr!

He tried to wiggle out of my grasp.  He started to cry, wail, scream.

Me: Tornado S, it’s ok.  You’re going home with Mommy, and we’re going to have fun.  Do you want to have fun with Mommy?

Tornado S: BROTHR!!!

I picked him up, looking straight into his big brown eyes.

Me: I know.  You want to play with Tornado E and his friends.  But you’re not old enough yet.  We can go home and play.  We’ll have some special time.

Tornado S: With Dadda?

Me: Yes, Daddy is home.  We can play with him, too.  Do you think that is a good plan?

Tornado S nodded.  We walked away.

Me: How about a binky?

Tornado S: BINK!

Of course, Tornado S slept through the whole afternoon, missing any Mommy and just Me time.  Poor kid.

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First steps

Yesterday Tornado E went to school for the first time.  He actually coordinated his outfit with a blue football shirt and a blue shorts.  I made him wear tennis shoes, instead of the boots, which need to be retired soon.  He carried his new Transformers backpack on his back.

Tornado S couldn’t go on without his own backpack, so he had a small Kung Fu Panda backpack.  He walked next to Tornado E.

Even with The Husband in tow, we arrived early, and I snapped pictures.

The children lined up to enter the room.  Tornado E found himself in the middle of the line.  One by one the kids entered the class as the teacher greeted them by name.  Tornado E allowed two kids to have cuts as he came near the door.  He stopped at the door.

Teacher: Hi, Tornado E.  How are you?

Tornado E: I’m a little scared.

My eyes welled with tears, which I kept in check because I knew if I cried Tornado S would too.

Teacher: That’s ok.  Everything will be just fine.  Come on in.

Tornado E took his first steps in without looking back.  The teacher’s assistant helped him off with his backpack and sent him to play.

I stood there not knowing when to leave or what to do now.  But a couple of minutes went by, and I didn’t hear a cry for Tornado E.  I called Tornado S, and we went home.  My first child is in pre-kindergarten.

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