I should have put up a sign. Sorry, grading.

Last week was midterms. I actually said to my kids, “Sorry. All laundry services have been suspended until midterms are graded.”

But all midterms were graded. I magnanimously graded late work. All grades were in on time.

Instead of collapsing into a nap/read/gorge-on-salads-and-fruits to regain my strength and sanity, I had to study for a test. A test that I need to be an official teacher, not a temporary-we’ll-see-if-you’ll-make-it teacher. And I misjudged my expiration date. Because I left time to retake the test if need be. Nope. It’s a one shot. From the free throw line. No pressure.

But I’ve done my share of free-throws. And I know how to study. 15 minute increments with 5 minute break. A little every day. Don’t stress. Except the two weeks of intense grading consuming my every waking minute. So I was a little nervous.

During the afternoon, on our first official day off, I sat down to study since no one wanted to go to the movies with me. Thanks, boys.

Me: Tornado E! Here take this. Help me study!

I got a teenage look of boredom and are-you-kidding-me.

Tornado A: I’ll help, Mama!

He grabbed the answers for the study guide.

Me: I’m going to take this test and tell you the answers, and you’re going to tell me if I got it right.

Tornado A: Ok, Mama!

I started to read the long, intricate problem.

Tornado A: You can do it, Mama! This one’s easy!

I glanced up before returning to the problem I was reading.

Me: A!

Tornado A: Yea, Mama! That’s right! Now what’s number 2?

Me: Hold on. I have to read it.

I started reading the problem.

Tornado A: This one is easy, Mama!

Me: Thanks.

I kept reading.

Tornado A: It’s an easy one, Mama!

Me: D!

Tornado A: Good one, Mama! Now 3! It’s easy too!

Me: Baby, you only have the letter answers. I’ve the test.

Tornado A: I know, Mama! But this one is easy!

And so it continued through out the practice test. Except when I got it wrong. Then Tornado A would console me and encourage me to do it again.

He makes a heck of a cheerleader.




Oh, and I did pass my test.


A Book Signing

We had a Festival of Books this weekend, and Tornado E missed it as he was off on an all-weekend school trip. Unfortunately for Tornado E, several authors he likes were in town. Fortunately for me, one of those authors was one of my favorites. So I decided that I HAD to see her and get her to sign a book.

Because I’ve never been to a book signing, I worried that I would only get one book signed, so I slyly asked Tornado S to come with me under the guise of a Mommy Day. Tornado S said yes.

But first we went to the lecture. An hour talk. Which included two other authors in a panel discussion about world creating. It was great. It was funny. I learned a lot. Tornado S was bored out of his mind.

But boredom is good for the mind.

After the lecture, while I waited in line, he ran around in circles to get the energy out. Then he came and stood with me, holding Tornado E’s book. We got to the front of the line.

HB: Hi! (She reached out for a book)

Tornado S: Hi!  (handing her the book) I don’t read your books yet. But my big brother does. But he can’t be here because he’s away for the weekend for school. So can you sign it for my brother?

HB: You stood in line for your big brother? (Tornado S nodded) That was very kind of you. Do you want me to make this out to your brother? What’s his name?

I spelled it for her.

Me: (Whispering to Tornado S) Did you want to ask her your question?

Tornado S: OH! Are you going to make a movie out of your books?

HB: I hope so. Fingers crossed. It’s not up to me.

Tornado S took back the book.

I handed her my book.

Me: I’m a huge fan. Thank you for writing such great books.

HB: Thank you. What’s your name?

I spelled it.

Tornado S: She has two books! Can you sign both of them?

HB: Sure! That’s what I’m here for!

Me: Oh, thanks. (I quickly pulled out the second book and handed it to her) I’ve loved your books since the first one.

HB: (Laughs) Thanks for sticking with me.

Me: I’m making it a family thing. (I patted Tornado S on the head and grabbed my book.) Thank you.

And that’s how my quiet, shy introvert had more guts than me.

The Tornadoes Try to Plan an Impromptu Vacation

On the first day of Rodeo break two weeks ago, I texted my best friend at 10 am.

My phone rang with her ringtone.

Wally: Why aren’t you at school?

Me: Rodeo Break!

Wally: Your town is so weird.

We talked for 45 minutes as she commuted to school. Tornado A insisted on talking to her, but then she had to go. As we were saying goodbye, Tornado S entered the room.

Tornado S: Are we going to see Wally?

Me: Um, no.

Tornado E entered the room.

Tornado E: We’re going to see Wally?!

Me: No. She lives in California.

Tornado A: Is Wally coming to see us?!

Me: No, she’s going to class. Can you here this?

Wally: (laughing) Yeah, but I got to get to class. Tell the boys I love them. I love you.

Me: I love you too. Good luck. Study hard. Bye.

Wally: Thanks. Good luck. Bye.


Tornado E: When can we see Wally?

Me: Probably this summer.

Tornado S: Why can’t we see her today?

Me: Because she lives 8 hours away, and she has work and school.

Tornado A: So she can come here!

Me: Not possible.

So I have realized we can vacation nowhere but Southern California, so we can visit Wally. Today I told the younger tornadoes about my thought.

Tornado A: Wally is mommish.

Tornado S: Because she’s family!

Tornado A: She’s not family! She’s not related to us!

Tornado S: She’s kin!

Me: I call her my sister.

Tornado A: She doesn’t share our blood.

Me: She shares our heart, and that is more than enough.

Tornado S: YEA!

Tornado: Ok. That’s good enough.

More Things I Didn’t Think I Needed to Say

I walked into the bedroom after bedtime. To find. Tornado S still getting dressed and Tornado A lying face down with his naked butt in the air.

Because it’s totally normal for a seven-year-old to go to bed naked and stick his butt in the air.

Me: Get dressed.

Tornado A: Why?

Me: Because no one goes to bed naked around here.

Tornado A: Why?

Me: Because you’re not old enough (to remember to put on clothes if we have to do an emergency exit).

Tornado A: Fine.

Then he got underwear on.

Is this going to be another Penis Rule? We go to bed with clothes on.


I promised the boys $25 for souvenir money for the Renaissance Fair. Tornado A handed me a $5 bill on Thursday to add to his total for Sunday.

While we browsed, I refused to buy anything before we left because I didn’t want to carry it, I didn’t want it lost, I didn’t want to deal with buyer’s remorse, I didn’t want to deal with regret, and I didn’t want to deal with more whining, pleading, and begging for more money. This is nearly the rule for all places with gift shops.

First we stopped at a pirate store where Tornado A inquired after one piece of finger armor. $10.

Then we were at a wooden store shop, where he inquired over several swords. $25, $30, $5, $10, $15.

Then we found a soap store, where he inquired about a bar of “Bite Me” soap. $5

Tornado A: If I get the armor and the bar of soap, I can get the $15 sword, Mama! Please, Mama! May I buy the soap now?

Me: Not yet.

Then he wandered through a store that sword staffs. The cheapest he could find was $45.

Then he wandered through a store that sold stones. Fishing for stones would cost him $7. And he did not see a carved stone he liked.

More staffs that were too expensive for him, but he mused over the wands at $12, $20, and $28.

He found plastic helmets at $50.

Tornado A browsed a candle shop, but I knew just by looking at the intricately carved candles, they were too expensive. But the candle maker humored Tornado A and explained the process and such.

Then we found the boys’ favorite wooden armory, where we have purchased nearly every year.

After much browsing and questioning of the staff, Tornado A settled on a small sword and a small shield. Each shield had to be scrutinized. No unicorns. Perhaps a wolf. Ah, but we are dragonlings. There were five of those. Not the baby dragon; not fierce enough. Maybe, no, not the head of a dragon. Not twin dragons. Not the somewhat, sort of Welsh dragon. But wyrm with wings!

He chose unpainted to paint it himself, and the artist explained what to use for paints and what she likes and thanked the boys once again for their business.

Then we went back to the wand store where Tornado E and Tornado S debated over wands for 30 minutes.

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.