Lingual Angst

(scene opens in cluttered dining room)

Me: (types word into Google translate for correct pronunciation) Okay Gamma, first spelling word: Calabaza.
Gamma: (scribbles it down, shows mother)
Me: ….Couv? Try again (hands back paper) Ca-la-ba-za.
Gamma: (tries again)
Me: …Trqb? (temper rising) No. Try. Again. Ca. La. Ba. Za.
Gamma: (hurriedly marks paper)
Me: CLBZ? Do you not hear vowels?! What’s a vowel?
Gamma: (nervous) Person, place, or thing?
Me: (flips table) Go to your room. I have to write a letter to your teacher.

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Big Brother is Mommy’s friend

(scene opens in dim dinning room)

Me: (putting lunch box on the table) I packed your lunch, Gamma. Do you like being able to get milk at the cafeteria?
Gamma: (slurping cereal) Yeah. I get chocolate.
Me: That’s nice. No more rice krispy treats. That account is for milk only.
Gamma: (pauses, stares wide eyed)
Me: I can see online what you’re buying and I have the same problem with your brothers. That food account is for milk and lunches, not treats and chips.
Gamma: That’s creepy.

Reading for Success

(scene opens in crowded middle school cafeteria orientation night)

Alpha: (pushing through milling crowd) Mom! Mom!
Me: (looks up from a signing a million pieces of paperwork) What?
Alpha: I need five dollars (points to bake sale table). I want to get a blunt cake.
Me: (pauses, processes) Blunt. Cake.
Alpha: Yeah! Little round cakes with vanilla frosting!
Me: Oh. Those are bundt cakes. Bun.d.nt. (draws out sounds) Not blunt. Those aren’t legal. Yet.
Alpha: (confused as well as stubborn) Really! They’re blunt cakes. I saw the “L” in there!
Me: Then you’re really not getting one apart from me not having the five dollars.

Unimpressed

(scene opens in moderately organized kitchen)

Alpha: So where are we going?
Me: St. Louis. We’re spending the night and on Monday we’re going to see the eclipse! (with great enthusiasm)
Alpha: (dismayed) But we have school on Monday.
Me: I’m taking you out of school. Once in a lifetime chance! Non-academic learning potential!
Alpha: (wilting further) We’re getting gym locker combinations on Monday.
Me: Solar. Eclipse. In. Totality.
Alpha: (Sagging completely) It’s just….just that…its less time I can hang out with my friend.
Me: Holy god. It’ll be another 99 years before this happens again. Could you just try to enjoy the fact that your nerdly space-obsessed mother finds a 3 minute event to be more important than sitting at a desk for six hours?

Musical Mishaps

(scene opens in toy strewn parlor, summer school work in progress)

Me: Okay, twenty minutes of baritone. Let’s do some scale work.
Beta: I only know four notes.
Me: (pause for mini-stroke) A year of band and you only know four notes? (flips through book, finds scale) Here – start at G and play the octave.
Beta: (obligatory suffering, starts playing)
Me: (listens to the audio equivalent of a bucket of legos dumped out) What the hell was that?
Beta: (defensively) I’m playing the scale.
Me: (takes baritone, runs the scale) The notes go in order, lowest tone to highest then you go back down. Not a grab bag of sounds. What day were you not paying attention where you missed this part of music theory? How is the sound of it not audible common sense?
Beta: (cue more suffering)

Work Smarter

(scene opens in tossed dining room)

Alpha: (suffering) Why are we doing this!? We’re the only kids in the whole neighborhood doing summer work.
Me: Because I want you to be smarter than you are now.
Alpha: I don’t want to be smarter, I want to be like everyone else.
Me: (dies a little)
Beta: “The lowest point in the US is in California. What is the name of this point?” Duh, California.
Me: Death Valley.
Boys: (stare)
Me: Get back to work.

Optimism at its finest

(scene opens in dawn-tinged bedroom)

Gamma: (comes running in)
Me: (opens eyes right before impact)
Gamma: I graduated! Today I go to first grade.
Me: (in amused pity) No, honey, the graduation ceremony was early. You have two more days of kindergarten.
Gamma: (face falls in shocked disappointment) But I’m a first grader now!
Me: (gently) You don’t go to first grade until August. You have two more days of kindergarten.
Gamma: (crushed) I was robbed. (slumps out of the room)
Husband: (mumbled into pillow) For someone who had such a hard year, that was a resolute show of spirit.
Me: Now she has all summer to get even more excited.

Threefold rule

(scene opens in crowded foyer, conversation in progress)

Gamma: I don’t want my toys to become voodoo!
Beta: No, your toys aren’t voodoo, there are dolls called voodoo dolls.
Gamma: But that’s scary! I don’t want voodoo dolls.
Beta: Your dolls don’t become voodoo dolls, they’re something totally different.
Gamma: But they hurt people! If you punch them don’t I get hurt?
Beta: I don’t know how it works actually.
Me: (rubbing forehead) It’s time to go, guys. Let me get my jacket on and I’ll explain sympathetic magic to you on the way to school, okay?
Gamma: Yay! Mommy is teaching us magic!

Literary Skills

(scene opens in cluttered dining room)

Beta: Mom what are these?
Me: (already through) What do they look like?
Beta: Star Wars books. But what are they for?
Me: Read the whole cover. (watches his eyes skip from the logo to the fine print at the bottom)
Beta: They’re for first grade.
Me: Beta, read the whole thing.
Beta – (long silence) OH! This one is for reading and this is writing. And math.
Me – Can you tell me why the last thing you read on this page was the big white letters, easily taking up 3/5ths of the page? Instead of maybe starting at the top and reading your way down?
Beta – Uh….I don’t know.
Me – (thinking about how much money she’s going to save on not sending kids to college)

Mentoring

(scene opens in destroyed dining room)

Me: Alpha, I have something to talk to you about.
Alpha: Yeah?
Me: Remember the hard time you used to have in school? The yelling, the running out of the classroom?
Alpha: You’re going to tell me that Gamma is doing the same thing?
Me: Yeah. For the same reasons. She’s got some kids picking on her. I thought that maybe you could talk to her and give her some advice on how it feels and how it’ll get better and how we’re trying to help.
Alpha: Okay. (leaves)

(short time passes)

Me: (heading downstairs to cluttered basement, finds Alpha) You’re playing Xbox?
Alpha: Yeah. Where else would I be?
Me: I thought you were talking with your sister and trying to help her out by sharing some of your hard earned wisdom.
Alpha: I have to do that now?

Hard Lessons

(scene opens in gloomy foyer)
Me: What took you so long?
Beta: I had to put my shoes on.
Me: Well, Gamma left without you.
Beta: (sounds of outrage and distress)
Me: You’ve been mean and rude to her all morning, she’s convinced you don’t like her, and now you’re going to be upset that she walked to school without you?
Beta: (Distress intensifies as he fights with his jacket)
Me: What did you think would happen? No one is going to waste time trying to be friends with someone who’s mean to them. And now you’re on your own. Have a nice day at school.

To-do list

(scene opens in gloomy foyer)

Me: You have everything?
Alpha: Yes. (shrugs on backpack)
Me: What are you going to do today?
Alpha: Turn in all my math homework! (picks up violin case)
Me: Good jo…
Alpha: Then conquer Asia!
Me: It’s good to have goals.
Alpha: (strides out the front door)