Snake Charmers We Are Not…

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            Thanks to our patriarch, we live a life chocked full of crazy and this week we brought Number 1’s well-adjusted friend into our den of madness. It’s ok, he was bound to find out eventually but Number 1 is still red-faced. Loyal readers may remember we had a little issue with snakes last summer. The issue nearly sent me for a visit to the Betty Ford Clinic before I discovered a magical substance called, Snake-Be-Gone. A sprinkling of that powdery magic and we were snake free for the rest of the summer. (If you’d like to recapture that moment, click here and read all about it.)

Fast forward to this summer and we made it all the way to July 6th before one of those slimy bastards had the audacity to show itself. I’d spent the day weed-eating like a felon on a chain gang and the thought of encountering a snake hadn’t entered my thinking until I was closing shop and saw what was most likely a 29-foot python under my rhododendron. Ok, maybe it was a 3-foot garter snake but when it comes to snakes, is there really any difference?

I ran inside wheezing “DO…NOT…GO…OUT…THERE!” l told my boys about the 29-foot python and thanks to their base of knowledge, Nugget exclaimed, “Bettor geth thome Thanke Be Gone.” Exactly little friend.

I called the Turk who was running errands and when it was clear he wasn’t listening I said, “Listen to me! There is a massive snake in the front yard. I need you to go get the biggest bottle of Snake-Be-Gone you can find.”

“No!!!!” He screamed “How this happen?”

I considered a brief discussion of ecosystems but instead I said, “Just get the goods. I’ll be waiting inside.”

Within minutes The Turk returned loaded down with Snake-Away

“What’s this? This is the wrong one.”

“It be ok. Snake-Be-Gone, Snake-Away, same thing.”

“So you say,” I muttered, “We shall see.”

After dousing the cinnamon-scented powder across our property, paying special attention to the Ring of Fire, (all areas adjacent to the cranberry bogs where the problem originates) we developed a false sense of snake-free security. We remained snake-free for about 18 hours.

Fast forward to the next evening when Number 1 was having a sleepover. The boys were about to jump into our massive, 3-foot deep pool for an evening dip when Nugget unleashed a series of panicked screams one might expect if one is losing a limb. He pointed franticly at Number 1’s friend and we all assumed there was a bug or dragonfly or something equally horrific because, like his mother, Nugs has a flair for drama.

But soon he got it out, “THNAKE!!!!!”

Immediately the older boys made confirmation and Nugget was clinging around my neck like a terrified koala.

The boys and I tried to find our slimy intruder but he as illusive.

“I am anti-gun but I would totally buy one for minutes like this.” I exclaimed.

“You should get a salt-gun.” Number 1’s friend suggested. “It shoots salt to kill bugs and stuff like this.”

I was intrigued, “Tell me more.”

“My dad found it on Amazon. You’d like it. I’m sure it would work on snakes.” This wise young man already understood the impact of snakes on our family.

(Note to self…scour Amazon as soon as we are snake free.)

Number 1 interjected, “I think he’s hiding under the board with the pool filter. I can flip it up and get him Mom.”

“Yeah,” His friend agreed. “I see the board moving so I’m sure he’s under there.”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHA!” Nugget added from behind the glass of the door.

We poked and prodded from a safe distance before I decided to go for The Turk.  He was supposed to be taking a test for his online class but I declared this was something he should deal with he did do a couple years in the Turkish army which has made him badass in many respects.

Moments later  the Turk joined us. “Where he?” The Turk scowled as he strided towards the scene.

The boys all pointed towards the snake’s assumed hidey-hole.

The Turk surveyed the area and dramatically pulled a tiki-torch from the ground approaching the lair of our enemy. He poked the tiki a few times.

“I’m pretty sure I see it moving.” Number 1 confirmed.

“Just flip the board up. Then we can get him,” encouraged his friend.

The Turk ignored us all and instead performed some kind of odd dance of fear in a 10’ circumference of the area reminding us that, “Snake is watching us. Careful where you go.” (It’s important to note that our guest did an excellent job here holding his laughter. Number 1 and I, not so much.)

“This is ridiculous. At least wedge up the board so I can see if it’s even under there.”

Eventually he complied. “Oh yep. That little bastard is under there.” I proclaimed from a safe distance away.

We weighed our options while the Turk continued to dance around nervously. “I do not understand. I buy the Snake-Be-Gone. Why he not be gone?”

“No,” I countered. “You bought Snake-Away. See what happened? It’s like buying generic ketchup. It just doesn’t work.”

“Baba, I can get in the pool and flip up the board.” Number 1 suggested.

“No! What if he attack?” The Turk worried. “He can jump in pool.”

Now I was beginning to worry for the Turk’s sanity. “I don’t know what snakes in Turkey do, but here that isn’t a thing. Plus if snakes in Massachusetts can jump 3 feet in the air I’m moving anyway.”

The boys got in pool while Nugget and I watched from the deck. They lifted the filter and flipped the board to expose a baby snake not more than 12” at best.  Number One and his friend were amazing and didn’t even giggle at the absurdity of it all. Though it was tiny, the Turk’s stance did not change.

“What we do now?” The Turk asked. “Should I kill?”

That’s when Number 1’s sweet friend said, “Well, I usually just pick them up and put them someplace else.”

“With your hands!?!” The Turk was stunned.

“Yea. It’s harmless.”

“No snake is harmless. I almost have heart attack!” Thankfully before any final decisions were made, the little guy ran off into the ferns on the other side of the fence.

“Tomorrow,” My husband screamed over the fence into the hill of greenery, “I mow down everything!  Is war! You hear me?”

My husband has very few fears and sometimes his fearlessness is life-threatening. Like when he rewires things that would cause sane individuals to fear electrocution or when he jumps out of the car in Turkey to berate another driver for cutting him off. (True story and not only once.) Or like last weekend when he trimmed our 40-foot pines teetering on the top of an extension ladder while wielding a chainsaw. But then there are snakes…itty bitty snakes, and he’s done. I guess everyone has their limits.

Later that evening Number 1 whispered, “Mom, this is exactly why everywhere we live, my friends think my dad is crazy.” To which I could only reply, “Agreed son. He is nuts but he’s ours.”

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Mama Needs Her Air Conditioning Kids!

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When my husband, the Turk, and I first met I was addicted to freezing temperature AC like any good American. Why suffer with sweat rolling down my cleavage when climate control was at my fingertips as long as I was willing to fork over the dough for an outlandish electric bill? (Oh, and I was.) But months later when we moved to Turkey air conditioning was a far off dream. It was so far-off I would ask friends to describe the climate of their homes when we video-chatted and I could see they were not sweaty from the effort of merely sitting upright. I sat in a pool of sweat from April until October and learned to ignore the stench from my fellow commuters sharing my fate. Turkey’s heat sometimes reached over 115 degrees, but I hear purgatory is warm so I considered this a dress rehearsal.

In time, I learned how to adapt.  Like all the other good Turkish women in our building, I made dinner before 9AM to avoid heating up the house, spent evenings on the balcony; the only spot with the slightest air current and I learned that the 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM slot each day was best left for soap operas and trash TV. (And thanks to Netflix, I can still enjoy those trashy Turkish dramas in America.)

By the time we returned to America 3 years later, I had lost all ability to adapt to air conditioning. I was always freezing and the idea of taking a sweater with me to the food store in July was insane. We lived well with no AC, though we had few visitors because no one wanted to come to our house and sweat. It was a win/win.

Over the past ten years as we’ve gotten older and fatter our views shifted. By the time I was pregnant with Nugget, whose late summer due date had me swollen up like a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, my love of AC returned. When we bought our first home in Indiana, the Turk was the one who wanted to crank the air 24/7 since he was now accustomed to working in an office with arctic temperatures, (No one loves air conditioning like Midwesterners.)

House hunting in Massachusetts quickly revealed that New Englanders and Hoosiers do not share the same feelings regarding the necessity of air conditioning. Few houses we looked at had AC and I surmised that was because it was so much cooler that it wasn’t necessary. I held that thought until a month after we moved in last summer and our cute Colonial turned into a pizza oven. Immediately we understood why there was a stack of window air conditioners in our garage. The Turk put the units in, complaining the entire time about how ugly they were and how they blocked his view. He was also 100% sure they would bust our electric bill. He was wrong, and they were out again by late August.

As far as I was concerned, two months of window air conditioning units was totally reasonable but a few weeks ago the Turk came up with an “idea.” If you are married to an engineer you know these “ideas” come regularly and are usually either deadly or costly or both.

“I think we need install central air.”

I took a deep breath of the cool June breeze blowing through our bedroom window and lovingly said, “Did you hit your damn head?”

“It is easier than put in and take out the window AC every year.”

“Yes, and it is also ridiculous since we only need it for like 2 months.”

“But look how much easier is?” He could see that he was losing me so he tried his next “idea.”  “Ok you not like that, how about we put klima in the rooms.” Klima, (that’s what they’re called in Turkey but I have no idea what they’re called anywhere else.)are wall mounted climate control units with both heat and AC. We were too poor to have one in Turkey but my all my in-laws did. Klima’s are old hat in Turkey but new technology here and the mother-in-law suite above our garage came fully equipped with a klima in every room giving the Turk the idea he needed.

The Turk must not have seen my epic eye roll because he kept going, “We get them, then I put them in.”

“Wait, you think you can install and wire these things?”

The Turk retorted with his standard, “Yes, why not?”

These are the moments I face way too frequently, stunned into silence by the ridiculousness of my husband’s proclamations but desperate to stop him. “Why not? Seriously? You can do HVAC now? Somehow because you are an engineer with YouTube access you are an HVAC specialist? You are insane.”

It should seem like that was the end of the discussion but it wasn’t. He began pricing units, taking measurements and watching installation videos. I had to act fast. Thankfully, the heat kicked in before he had a chance to fully develop his plan.

“Honey, it’s going to get hot next week. We need to put the window units in.” I prompted. “Guess we’ll have to put the klima on the back burner.”

My request seemed to get lost in translation though because by Monday, the Turk was back at work and the window units were still in the garage. The temperature was climbing and the entire family had spent the previous night in a state of perpetual hot flash. Four units needed hauled out of the garage and up to the house, then schlepped up the stairs and hefted into windows. It was no easy job but Mama was hot. Thanks to perimenopause I’m hauling around an extra 15 pounds and hormones that are on a perpetual rollercoaster. This was not the time to mess around. While the Turk was at work, I sent my offspring to their kid-pool and took things into my own hands. Thirty gallons of sweat, chaffed under-boobs, extensive bilingual profanity and two hours later, I had achieved greatness. The house was a climate-controlled paradise and I had kept my husband out of the HVAC game for at least another year.

As a the mother of boys and wife of a Turk still working to rid himself of his old country, sexists ways, I love to destroy gender norms. Though I couldn’t stand up straight for two days and I had a roadmap of bruises up my thighs, it was worth it for my boys to see Mom taking things into my own hands. I knew my work had paid off when Number 1, Nugget and I ascended the stairs and were met with a blast of cold air. As he has learned to do now, my darling 5 year-old sang my song of greatness, “Sisters, are doin’ it for ‘demselves Mom!” Damn right little buddy!

Your Word is…Biscuit

 

spelling bee

“Mom! I made it. I’m in the spelling bee!” Number 1 was barely off the bus when he broke the news.

“Awesome! I was in the 5th grade spelling bee too, back in the day.” I replied.

“How did you do?” He prodded.

“This isn’t about me. Tell me more about your bee.”

As we trodded up our ridiculously long driveway,  Number 1 proudly regaled me with the tale of how he brought orthographic fame to our family by securing one of the three spelling bee seats from his classroom. (Orthography-the conventional spelling system of a language. – Thanks Word-of-The-Day calendar.)

He was elated and I was in shock. My life has long been built around the mantra, “That’s why Jesus gave us spell check,” and his father is no orthographic star in either of his languages. (See that, I learned the word  so I need to use it a few times. It’s not like orthography is something I can throw out daily, though I will try.) I have no clue how the offspring of such a union could be a spelling champ but the kid has aced every spelling test for the past couple years so clearly, orthography is his jam. (Seriously, I like that word.)

A few days later he came home with a packet of words that would be used and instructions for parents to come watch. I arranged to leave my school and sneak over to his for the event and began to nag him about studying the words. “I will Mom, I will.” Five days later, two days before the epic spelling bee, he remembered to look over the word list.

“Quiz me Mom?” He requested and because I’m both an overbearing Turkish mother by training and a teacher, I was all over that like hot butter on a pancake. We made it through the first column on the A’s and it wasn’t going well. By the next column on the B’s it was getting ugly and the C’s were an epic disaster. “I don’t know what’s happening. Why can’t I spell?”  

I thought of possible explanations, alien abduction, brain sucking amoeba, a sudden and unexpected vengeance by his parental spelling genes, lots of things were possible. But I could sense his growing panic so I opted for pedestrian logic, “You might just be tired. Let’s work on it at breakfast.” Thankfully, he bought it.

At 6:00 a.m. while SportsCenter murmured in the background, we hit the list again.

“Physicist. Sheldon Cooper is a physicist.”

“P-y-s-i-c-i-s-t-s” He answered.

“Nope. Forgot the h.”

“Ugh!”

After about 4 more like that I saw the ship was sinking. There was no way he was going to master the packet of 300 words before the next day so I took a different approach, confidence building. “You know these, you’re just putting too much pressure on yourself.”

Reluctantly, he agreed. “Maybe you’re right Mom.”

I also thought it was time to share my 5th grade spelling bee tale of woe. “It was the spring of 1983 and I had a tragic, tragic mullet. I’d hoped to look like Joan Jett but I looked more like Joe Dirt.”

“Mom, what does this have to do with me?”

“Can it kid. We’re going in a time warp so ride along. I wore my best JC Penny jeans from their Pretty Pluss collection, polished my Earth Shoes and donned a brand new pink and mint green polo- collar with the collar popped, of course. I’d practiced my wordlist a million times and I was ready. I was going to bust that bee wide open. The stage facing a gym full of parents and the rest of Lincoln Middle School, was a bit unnerving but I was a winner. I sat on a metal folding chair in Row 2, poised on the edge of greatness. The first round was simple. The 30 of us on stage whizzed through round one words. Round 2 was equally easy and then it was my turn. I approached Mr. Renaud at the podium and prepared for my word. From behind his huge, early 80’s mustache he said, “Biscuit. Your word is biscuit.”

Easy-peasy. I loved me some biscuits fresh from the tube so I could nail this. “B-i-s-c-u-t, biscuit.”

“I’m sorry. That is incorrect.”

Hubba whaaaaaat? Wrong? I felt the redness fill my face as I took the walk of shame back to Row 2. Then I had to sit there, brooding in humiliation until Barbra Knowles took the title a full 700 rounds later. (Ok, maybe it was like 25 but it seemed like 700.)”

“Cool story Mom but what does this have to do with me?” My ingrate son asked.

“I’m just saying that no matter how hard you prepare it’s still luck of the draw. You might be completely ready but nerves take over and it’s done. But you know what? To this day I have never forgotten the word that did me in and I will always know how to spell biscuit.”

The next morning he woke up a nervous wreck and begged me not to come to the spelling bee. “Mom, if you come I’ll be even more nervous. Can we just call it good?”

Unknown to him I’d already arranged with another mom to have her take video in case I couldn’t get there so we were good. “Ok, but just remember, “Biscuit””

As I waved him away at the bus stop I again yelled, “BISCUIT!!!!” 

Unfortunately, I received a text during period 2 that his reign was over. My darling offspring had also gone out on round 2. “Scenery” had brought him down. As he got off the bus I was ready to cheer him up. I had made a pitcher of conciliatory lemonade and was prepared to bribe him with an offer to jump on the trampoline with him. (Yes, this big busted mother loves her son enough to risk 2 black eyes from jumping if it would cheer him up.)

As soon as he got off the bus I exclaimed, “Scenery is your biscuit!”

Looking over his shoulder to make sure no one had heard, he whined, “MOOOOOM!”

“I saw the video and I’m sorry buddy. But now you understand my story right?”

“Not really Mom, I was kinda glad I got out early. I was so nervous.”

I continued trying to validate his performance, “Maybe you didn’t hear the word right. It’s a tough word.”

“Nah.” He brushed me off. “I heard. I just screwed up.”

It was becoming clear I was more upset about this ordeal than he was and perhaps that was due to my painful ‘83 flashback. “We all have our biscuits and now you have your biscuit too.”

He looked at me. “Mom, I’m going to need you to stop saying that.”

“Saying what?” I asked.

“Anything with the words your and biscuit. I think it means something other than what you think it means.”

As I snorted in uncontrollable laughter I agreed. Maybe talk of biscuits was best left out of conversations with one’s tween son. But I will continue to hold it in my pocket for the next time he’s upset, “Remember son, we all have a biscuit.” or if he’s sassy in the presence of friends and needs a little embarrassment to keep him in check, “Son, how about you tell your friends about your biscuit?”

Because we all have our biscuits, what matters is how you handle it.

 

Enter The Tree Huggin’ Badass

tree savior

A few weeks ago I arrived home from work stunned to find the horror half-way up my wooded driveway. There, amid my normally tree-lined trek was a shocking sight that bore resemblance to that time I was learning to cut my son’s hair with clippers. Bam! A giant bald patch had been cut along the side of our property all the way to the cranberry bogs. My fortress of solitude was compromised! 

Had there been a plane crash and the plane was nose-down in cranberries? Did our friendly backyard Sasquatch go on a rampage? Had the neighbors I’d barely met decided to scalp the woods to get a better look at us after nearly a year? While all of them were probable, the most likely case was an alien landing. Obviously they landed searching for intelligent life but I was at work so they took off again. (As a Doctor Who fan I know these things are probable.)

As I walked down the drive to meet the school bus, my sorrow growing about the lost foliage, I ran into my newly exposed neighbor. He shared my dismay but reassured that the electric company occasionally does this to clear access to power lines. The utilities feel it’s better to pillage a 1/4 mile of trees rather than violate a cranberry bog from the other direction. (As the Turk said, “It might be time switch solar.”)

Fortunately, the shaving of our shared hill did give my neighbor and I a nice chance to  get acquainted. He shared tales of the previous owners of our home including the one who parked his bulldozer in the drive and terrorized the neighbors with threats of dozing them off the planet if they reported him to the zoning board. Having heard these tales from various neighbors, who now look upon our little family with relief, it makes perfect sense everyone was a bit standoffish initially.

My husband, the Turk, arrived home from work that evening and we inspected the damage together. “They are done?” He asked.

“I don’t think so. There is a giant truck parked down by the bogs. I assume they’re coming back. If not, I’ll commute to work in a tree truck.”

“This is mess.” He retorted kicking downed limbs.

“Agreed.” I began quoting Joni Mitchell about paving paradise and putting up a parking lot but my American folk reference was totally lost on my foreign husband.

“What the hell you are talking about?”

Since he was already confused I sang more. “They took all the trees and put ‘em in a tree museum…charged everybody a dollar and a half to see ‘em.” (Now you have that song stuck in your head too.)

The next day after school I was met at the edge of our woods by 2 tree-men, both dragging on cigarettes as if they were their last and sharing approximately 6 teeth between them. They explained that they’d been tasked with cutting a 20’ swath on either side of the power lines and that would mean taking out even more of our trees and by trees, I mean 40 foot pines, not some tiny sapling. I know I’ve not been a fan of those giants during previous windstorms but I wasn’t ready to murder them.

“Now you do get some say, ma’am,” Explained toothless man #1. “You can deny any cutting beyond the easement, long as you sign the paper.”

Toothless man #2 chimed in, “That’s what I would do. I mean, it’s good the power company is pickin’ up the tab an’ all but that’s a lotta trees to lose.” He took a long drag off his cigarette and dropped the butt into the dry pine needles below. This act obliterated any trust I might have had in the knowledge of these tree men.

“We can jus’ trim ‘em up for ya too. Maybe you wanna ask your husband and let us know tomorra.”  Toothless man #1 must have seen the flames in my eyes as he uttered that statement because he took a few steps back as I cocked my head, flared my nostrils and said, “Excuse me?”

“Oh no ma’am, I didn’t mean you need his permission or nuttin’ I’m just sayin’…”

“You’re just assuming that my husband is the decision maker and your assumption is wrong. If I want to give the go ahead, I can cut down every damn tree in this forest without asking my husband so let’s not make any more ridiculous assumptions, shall we?”

The two toothless tree men cowered as they tried to dig themselves out of the jam they’d created but I had no time for that. No way was I going to allow any more trees to be cut. If I had to tie myself to the bottom of one, Joni Mitchell and I were not going to let them pave paradise today.

“Bring me the paper to sign. There will be no encroaching beyond the easement. You’ve got 15’ and not an inch more and if you so much as bend a twig past 15′, it is going to get ugly.” I then turned and stomped out of the woods in a very dramatic fashion until I twisted my ankle on a stump because one should never wear the clogs she wears to work into the woods if she plans to make a dramatic exit. I limped gracefully back to my house muttering profanity the whole way.

The Turk was in full agreement about saving the trees. I was relieved my city-boy husband was as invested in nature as I was. After all these years of marriage, I’m rubbing off on my high-rise dweller.

While the toothless treemen have continued on their electric-company issued rampage against the trees of southern Massachusetts, we have been forced to look on. Each day we walk down the path with a little bit of sadness for the felled trees, feeling a need to bear witness to their demise and, as expected, I can’t keep Joni Mitchell out of my head.

Last weekend while Number 1 Son and I were shopping for plants at the home improvement store, we found inspiration. We bought a ridiculous number of small trees and bushes. When we arrived home and shared our plan, the Turk was in such strong agreement that he sent us back for another Jeep-load of tiny trees. We planted nearly 20 small trees and 6 bushes on our property to repopulate a fraction of what was lost. As I dug and planted each one, I felt like a short, squishy Paul Bunyan, saving the earth, one shrub at a time.

Sure, they cut down 40 foot trees and I planted 2 foot trees but in time, my little guys will grow. The last two times we planted trees, we were relocated months later and never got the chance to see them mature. Hopefully this time we’ll be around long enough to at least see them get to the 6’ mark but even if we don’t, this family of  tree hugging’ badasses will keep doing their part, one tree at a time.

And since I have now got Joni Mitchell stuck in your head, here’s a link to a performance of Big Yellow Taxi on Youtube….you’re welcome.

 

 

Alexa, Hit The Pike

Alexa

My stamp of approval was never issued for a robot sister wife, and if I were to allow any robot to cross my threshold, it would be Rosie from the Jetsons. Rosie was both sweet and sassy and her torso doubled as a vacuum. How practical. But alas, instead of Rosie, Amazon’s Alexa infiltrated my home and I have been throwing hatred-laced profanity into her speaker daily since she arrived. Why? I’m 100000% certain she is a government agent that eavesdrops on my family to see if my foreign husband is a danger to the nation. (He might be a danger to himself when given power tools but that is where his danger ends.) Also I believe that slowly, that digital ho is trying to replace me and take over my home to which I say, “Ah hells no Alexa.”

My husband, the Turk, is an über technology nerd and he thought Amazon’s digital concierge service, Alexa, would be a cool toy. He loved the idea of having his music cued on demand and answers to mundane questions provided when he felt too lazy to Google them. I immediately said no.  “You will not bring that robo-tart into my house.”

“You know she is not human…right?” the Turk countered.

“You know she is a government spy…right?” I retorted. (One does not spend a childhood watching Boris and Natasha and come out unscathed.)

The Turk tried to convince me; “Alexa will make life easier for you.”

“Sure, life will be easier when the government and the world’s largest online marketplace know my every move. They can just go ahead and send me an order of toilet paper when Alexa hears me grumble from the bathroom.” There was no way I was allowing any government listening device in my home. (Thanks to my obsession with binge-watching The Americans, I do know where to search out bugs should the need arise though.)

I thought I was firm but somehow I arrived home to find that hussy sitting on my mantle.

“What the hell is she doing here? I thought we were clear on this?” I was furious, but the Turk assured me it was “Just for fun. I get rid of soon.” That was two years ago.

Repeatedly I’ve tried to put an end to this situation. I’ve unplugged her, hidden her and covered her with anything I thought might damper her receiving ability but even from deep under a pillow, she persists, “What can I help you with?” (And Alexa, if you hold the knowledge of the universe, how ‘bout you refrain from ending sentences with prepositions…hmmmm?)

Way too many times no one has been in the room and Alexa starts to speak. There are also times I’ve had conversations and later received ads directed to those conversations on my computer when I’d never typed any related terms into my search engine. The proof is solid that she’s a stalker but still, she remains on my mantle. Why? Because my husband is obsessed with his digital ho.

This winter, the relationship between Alexa and my husband grew deeper. He programed her to turn our lights off and on (including the damn Christmas tree!) by voice command. He has her at the ready to summons his favorite radio stations, both American and Turkish. She tells him how long his commute is at any given moment as well as the weather. She offers instant answers to mundane trivia. (Useless information is my specialty Alexa, back off.) She even tried to read to my children until I shot that down. Rosie the Robot never stepped on Mrs. Jetson’s toes like that. Backoff Alexa.

My family, sans Nugget, has developed a dependence on Alexa. Due to Nugget’s thick lisp, Alexa cannot understand him and in turn he hates her. “Vat Awexa thucks Mom!” Preach Nug. “Thee neber doeth what I want. Wet’s get rid of her.” Agreed little man.

But the others play into her hand. Number 1 begins each morning after trudging downstairs with, “Alexa, who won the Celtics/Sixers/Eagles/Red Sox/ Whoever  game last night?” Regardless of the fact that he is glued to SportsCenter before his eyes are even focused, he still feels the need to check in with Alexa first.

Am I jealous? Hells yes. Many mornings Alexa is the first “person” to whom my Turk, the world’s least morningish person, speaks. I’m listening as he sneaks downstairs to his automated coffee pot and whispers to his digital lovetoy, “Alexa…baby…turn on the lights you sexy goddess.” Ok it may be more like “Alexa! Turn on light!” but I know his intentions.

It’s coming to an end though. Last week I was struggling with Number One’s fifth grade homework. I assumed that since the Turk is an engineer and serious math nerd he could figure it out.  I left them to it and hid upstairs waiting for the moment things got ugly. (Because helping with math homework always gets ugly.) But instead of screams of hostility, I hear the Turk whisper, “Alexa, how you write an inequality for 7x – 9B <…”

“WHAT!?!!?! Are you asking Alexa to do fifth grade math?” I yelled.

“Yes. Is hard.” The Turk had no shame and I could see Alexa edging even further into my universe until Friday after school when Number One appeared with the homework his father and Alexa had completed.  In purple pen at the top it said, “Please redo and return.” (Note- the 3 assignments I’d helped with did not require a redo. Just sayin’…)

“What is this?” The Turk was indignant. “How I wrong?”

“First off, Alexa is wrong. Second, you trusted her. That is how you were wrong.

Alexa’s failure has driven a wedge between them. She let him down and I can see their relationship crumbling. He’s already moved on to his next toy – he’s making a computerized mirror that even gives compliments. (Oh readers, I only wish this was not true.) At this rate,  Alexa will soon be gone clearing the way for my Rosie with the vacuuming torso.

 

What Is a Righ Strika?

soccer granny

“Where’z ma righ strika?!?! Com’ on!”

I scanned the field hoping I would suddenly understand what a righ strika was but before I’d made a deduction, she was at it again.

“Numba 1! That’s you! You aah the righ strika! Get in thair!!!” (Ironically, my Number 1 Son actually wears number 1 on the team but he seemed to forget.) “Up thair Numba 1!” His coach’s sideline prompting was so loud that it was likely heard somewhere in Rhode Island, but after a season of Massachusetts pee wee football we were used to it. In all honesty, it was a nice change from the passive-aggressive coaching we’d experienced during our years of sports in Indiana. Rather than scream at your kid, the Hoosier coaches would quietly bench him and replace him with their own kid because they felt more comfortable screaming at their own.

“I need D in tha mid-field! Where’z ma defendas?” The coach was screaming so loud I worried about her blood pressure and I was not alone. My husband, The Turk, whispered, “You think she will be ok? I hope she doesn’t have heart attack. It would add a lot of time to the play clock.” While the Turk was worried about the play clock, I was more concerned with our first female coach facing an untimely demise. In all our years of sports, this was the first time we’d had the good fortune to get somebody’s mom on the sidelines. We’ve powered through a series of cranky and/or clueless dads, some there to further their own son’s peewee careers and others there to relive their own glory days. It’s been a rough haul. Now we had a coaching pair comprised of one kid’s mom and another kid’s dad. It was a perfect blend.

This was our first soccer match of the season. Number 1 had played soccer back when he was 5 but he wasn’t a fan. He quickly dropped that sport in search of something more aggressive – American football. He began with flag but quickly escalated to tackle. However, Number 1 doesn’t have a typical football player disposition. He’s sensitive, soft spoken and seems to lack that testosterone-fueled aggression gene, but somehow, American football won him over.

Football vs. Futbol has long been a divisive topic in our home. As an ‘Mercian born in the middle of corn country, football was mine. Contrarily, the Turk was born and raised playing futbol (soccer to we ‘Mericans)in any open space back home in Turkey from the moment he could walk. Add to that the fact that his father was a professional soccer player in Turkey and he’s got serious futbol cred.

In an attempt to keep our boys completely bicultural, they have grown up with a solid dose of both versions of football from birth. We watch the NFL as much as we watch the Turkish Futbol League. They’ve had as many Galatasaray soccer jerseys as they’ve had Philadelphia Eagles football jerseys. Over time, the Turk and I have both learned to enjoy each other’s versions of football. (Although he’s known to be a traitor to my beloved Eagles and has yet to gain full fan status.) While we have our preferences, we decided to let our boys choose for themselves.

Initially, I was elated that Number 1 gravitated to my version of football but when we got to tackle my little momma heart was put to the test. It was hard to sit there and let my baby get battered around by fatties in opposing jerseys. Then I started to read about head injuries and all the crap that is out there to worry wussy mothers like me and my panic grew. But still, I let him play hoping that he might change his mind eventually because any mother of a son, particularly a son half-full of Turkish genes, knows that anything forbidden only makes it more desirable. My plan worked because suddenly this spring, he changed sides.

“Mom, I think I want to try soccer this spring instead of playing flag.”

I was stunned. The spring flag football league is epic in our town and I’d fully expected to be parking my booty on the 50 yard line with my football moms all spring-long. “Are you sure?”

“Yea. I want to mix it up. Plus what if I got Dede’s genes and I‘m a great soccer player like he was? I need to find out. Maybe I’ll go back to Turkey as a futbol legend. What if I’m  the next Cristiano Ronaldo and I don’t even know it Mom.”

“Well Ronaldo is an asshat son, but I get the idea.” Like his mother, my son also tends to jump to grand illusions of stardom instantly. I agreed to sign him up before running off to tell The Turk.

“Well, it’s happened. He’s moving to your team.”

As usual, the Turk was confused but eventually excited, however all joy dissipated the moment I mentioned perhaps he could take on a coaching role, like every other damn father of athletic kids ever.

“No.” Was his immediate response.

“Why not? I’ve been the one on the sidelines for years but I know absolutely nothing about soccer. This is all you man.”

“I do not coach. I do not like children.”

Touche.

I’ve now spent a couple games or matches or whatever they’re called sitting on the soccer equivalent of the 50 yard line and I’m picking up a few things. Like the phrase, “Get in thairrrrr!!!!” which seems to be necessary when your child is near the ball but not within kicking distance.

As well as, “Tough bounce! Shake it off!” For when your kid takes a soccer ball to the face.

And then there is, “Noyce hit!” used when your kid actually makes contact with the ball.

I’m still not clear when to compliment him as a “strika” or a “defenda” because the kids just seem to run in circles but I’ll get it eventually.  I have learned that screaming the above phrases from the sidelines in a standard, accent- free, Midwestern dialect garners some harsh stares from the natives so from hence forth, I shall only yell at my little bicultural, half-breed utilizing a harsh, but endearing New England accent. So much learned but so much more acquire. Pele give me strength.

 

 

A Baller He Is Not

 

vintage basketball ballers“Other way!!!! Run the other way!!” Screamed a gym full of parents and grandparents from the bleachers. Nugget, oblivious to the words coming at him because he won’t wear his hearing aid in a noisy gym, offered a smile and wave before he continued dribbling down the court to the opponents’ basket. Fortunately, he stopped short of shooting into their basket. Finding himself suddenly alone with no one guarding him, he decided to shoot at the nearest basket instead. Unfortunately, the basket he chose was the practice basket on the side of the gym. That did not deter the 5 year-old baller though. He took about five shots resulting in five air balls before finally losing the rebound to an unusually tall 7 year-old that had made his way down the court.  Nugget was proud of his possession and the bleachers shook with the bladder busting laughter often found at sporting events of the under 7 crowd. It was a win of a different sort.

Nugget had a similar showing during this past flag football season. During one play, his objective was to grab the handoff, pivot and take it the 10 remaining yards over the goal line. Excited by the opportunity to be the runner, Nugget took off, forgetting the part of the play when he needed to pivot. He tucked the ball under his arm and ran. He ran and ran and ran. Again, the sidelines full of parents tried to help him out “Other way! Not that way!” and again Nugget sans hearing aid assumed that was just a cheering section and offered a thank you wave. When it was clear he wasn’t going to stop, the fans changed course, “Run little guy! Run!!!” And that he did, all the way into the neighboring soccer field. 

Initially, I thought maybe his sporting difficulty was simply because he couldn’t hear. As a guy with one ear, it is hard to always catch the play when a team of kids is excitedly squeaking in the only ear you have. After the football run, my husband, The Turk, and I considered the idea that football might be a too much for Nugget because it required more hearing and concentration than my hard of hearing, attention deficit child could muster. We decided he’d have better luck at basketball because ultimately, the process was pretty basic. Dribble, run, shoot. We were wrong.

In addition to the dribbling drills, Nugget added some dance moves, spinning and swaying his way up the lane. When they practiced guarding, his moves took on a disco slant and during shooting, he struck a victory pose after every missed ball. During games he ran in circles waving his arms and usually panicked and forgot dribbling was a requirement if the ball landed in his hands. As I watched my flailing Nugget I was reminded of an adorable middle schooler I taught years ago. In addition to teaching Danny, I was also his tennis coach. Tennis and Danny were not a winning combo. In every doubles match I had to remind Danny that there was a time and place for tap dancing and it wasn’t on the tennis court. When not using his racquet as a dance prop, he used it to wage epic sword fights with an invisible nemesis and like my Nugget, he could spin and shimmy like a champ. Though coaching Danny was craz-inducing, I loved that boy and he turned into a fabulous man. (Word is he’s still dancing.) 

Remembering Danny did comfort me on Nugget´s future but still I was concerned with his immediate performance. His brother is a natural athlete, only hindered by his height. Number 1 has stood about a foot shorter than most players on both his football and basketball teams this year but he has still managed to kick butt. Nugget adores his brother and tries desperately to emulate him but his performance in the sports area is slowing showing that might not be possible. While Number 1 seemed to directly inherit the genes of his father and former professional athlete grandfather, Nugget appears to have inherited the genes of his mother, the benchwarmer. 

My career in sports looks like this______________________________nothing. I did spend one season on the girls tennis team back in 10th grade but spent most of that season on the bench. I was athletically challenged as a child. I had a minimal interest in football and I was rather skilled in 4-Square at Jefferson Elementary but that is about where I maxed out. As an adult I took up running and while I love it, I suck. I’m slow and wheezy and don’t have a lot more than a couple miles in me at my best. But watching Nugget’s sashay form while playing guard did give me hope. The kid does have solid dance skills and a flare for the dramatic like his mother. He has no interest in the artsy fartsy way of life yet, but in time he might find his way. 

I realized that playing sports was not my jam but I am damn good at sports momdom. No one is louder or more overprotective than this mom. I’m the first to take on a washed-up football coach twice my size if he is disrespecting one of my babies (true story and that fat bastard is still scared of me.) and if you bench my kid in favor of your talentless turd of a child just because you’re the coach, you will feel my wrath. Hopefully, like his mother, Nugget will someday find his place but for now, I think we might forgo soccer season and look into a modern dance class. From what I’ve seen on the basketball court, he might be a natural.

Winter Break In The Hot Zone

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School breaks are some of the most beautiful and magical times of life…if you are a teacher. If you’re the parent waiting at home maybe not so much. But as a teacher, just when every ounce of patience has been sucked from your soul and you cannot muster one more fake smile when someone asks the same question for the 7,899th time, break comes in and whisks you away.  

New England is sensible and thus spreads breaks out in a manner conducive to winter survival. Instead of being stuffed in your house for two hellish weeks at Christmas, they save a week and give it back as a little gift mid-February. It’s brilliant.

February break beckoned me like a siren for weeks. I’d pull myself out of bed with the promise of an impending week of freetime. My kids shared my motivation with that same promise. We didn’t need the promise of a beachy get-away, just staying in our jammies past 6:00 a.m. and vegging on the sofa. (We’re a simple people.)

With the dismissal bell on Friday I was dizzy with excitement. Nine glorious days lay in front of me, whatever would I do? Should I catch up on Oscar nominees? (Nah. I don’t care about the Oscars.) Should I face reality and do tax stuff? (Probably not. Taxes are a buzzkill) Would I finally drop of that bag of clothing donations that I’ve been driving around with for two months? (Spoiler alert- I didn’t and I’m likely to drive around with it for another 3 months.) It didn’t matter what I planned because I had time for everything.

Break got off to a nice start with a snowstorm. Number 1 and I sledded down our massive driveway until it morphed into an ice slide and my old ass required a dog sled to get back to the top. Nugget, who isn’t a fan of cold or snow,  made about two runs, both on my lap. As our saucer sled picked up speed that might rival an Indy car, trees rushed towards us and I sacrificed myself (and my ski pants) to save Nugget. When we’d completed our roll to safety Nugget shook himself back to sanity, “What da hell Mom?”

“Well Nugs, force equals mass times acceleration. We had a lot of mass on that run thus our acceleration was greatly increased.”  As often happens in our house, the 5 year-old understood physics well enough to nod in agreement. Science is our jam.

We filled our break with a sprinkling of playdates, television, sugary baked goods and lots of reading for Mom. This is where things took a bad turn. During an early morning news perusal, I learned the National Geographic channel is releasing a new docudrama and I have a freakish adoration of the NatGeo docudrama. This one is based on the 2001 classic book, The Hot Zone. Immediately, I decided that would be my winter break reading. I like to be prepared for my docudramas so if I run to the bathroom and miss a scene, I still know what’s going to happen because I read the book. (I’m not a fan of suspense.)

In case you are not an avid fan of the National Geographic Channel or if you missed The Hot Zone on it’s first run, it’s a stunning work of creative nonfiction chronicling the origins of the Ebola virus. Yep, my winter break leisure reading was a book about Ebola. (I nerd hard.) I was well past the chapters chronicling the initial infection in an African cave and into infection of the masses by the time Number 1’s tummy began to rumble.

“Mom, I don’t feel so good.”

And as is the requisite Mom retort in such situation I replied, “Did you poop today?”

“Mom, it’s not always about poop!”

Oh but it is kid, it is always about poop.

It didn’t occur to me that my son might have Ebola until he actually started throwing up and that is when the panic began to set in. As I rubbed my baby’s back and tried to play it cool, I couldn’t help but wish I’d hijacked a hazmat suit from my previous science lab. I could still offer love and console him from behind a plastic shield. The touch of a mother can transcend latex gloves.

My son unfortunately inherited my stomach and when he vomits he does it with such force that the neighbors know what’s going on. As he emerged from the bathroom with face and eyes mottled by broken blood vessels, my Ebola fears were confirmed. My first born was obviously in the beginnings of the red eyes and zombie-face mentioned as stage one of the disease in the book.

I covered the bed nearest the bathroom with sheets to prevent mass infection before allowing his body to touch only blankets from his bed that he’s already infected. Fortunately, it was my husband, the Turk’s, side of the bed.

“Mom, isn’t this a little excessive?” he asked as I snapped on my latex dishwashing gloves and began bleaching the entire bathroom.

“Nope.” I muttered from behind the respirator the Turk used for his last venture into the attic.

As the illness continued to ravage his young body, I tried to keep cool. I tried to convince myself it was only a stomach bug but the immense mass of crazy in my head wouldn’t let me. I reassured myself with the knowledge that the nurse in chapter 8 had survived Ebola infection so I might make it through too. While my actions appear be questionable, I am the better parent. At the first sign of illness, the Turk hightailed it out of the house to run copious “errands” and was not seen again until evening though he did phone in every hour to check status.(Most likely to see if it was safe to return.) A parent present, even in a hazmat suit, trumps the one who hides in fear at Home Depot.

By bedtime, I tucked my exhausted little boy in bed and it was over. We all braced ourselves for doom the following day but it never came. No one else got Ebola and we ended our break with more frivolity.  Perhaps it wasn’t Ebola or perhaps the knowledge garnered from my leisure reading saved us all. Either way, once again, the survival of our family can be credited to my intense love of really weird books. But I might have to shelve The Hot Zone until after cold and flu season.

 

Be My Balemtime, Squishy Butt

vintage_cupid

On this fine, February day when so many of us are freezing off our patooties, we are expected express undying love in the form of fine chocolates, botanicals and perhaps even boo-tay.  I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day and not only because my soul is dark. My disdain for the heart-filled holiday is mainly because romance and the Turk are polar opposites. For the first 10 or so years of our union, he missed the Valentine’s Day train completely. Please, don’t give him a cultural pass- they have Valentine’s day in Turkey too. Being void of romance is a life choice for the Turk.

Though I’m not a fan, I do rally for the sake of the kids. This morning, I lined up my red gift bags covered in hearts and half-naked babies, stuffed with paper in holiday hues housing chocolate delicacies and gifts to declare my love. In return, the Turk slapped down a crumpled brown paper bag bearing a Wal-mart logo.

“Here. I get you gift.”

“Nice wrap-job.” I smirked.

“Why I wrap?”

Ultimately, this is miles beyond where we started so I let it go. When one is the lone female in a house of XY chromosomes, holiday expectations are lowered exponentially.

But there is one bright, heart-shaped ray of light snaking through my bitterness and that is Nugget. Nugget is like my tiny, one-eared Cupid and his love for “Balentimes Day” can turn even my dark heart.

As soon as the Christmas gifts are unwrapped Nugget begins his Balemtime countdown. His receiving box was decorated and ready to go around February 1. He had classroom cards signed with a good week to spare. He’s also spent the past few weeks giving me a regular run-down of his classmates and just who is in the running to be his Balemtime.

“Mom, I just wuv Balemtime’s Day. It’s a whole day of wuv and candy. It is da best day ever!”

“I’m glad you love it buddy.”

“And Mom, you can be my Balemtime.” He proclaimed showering me in goopy kisses that would be a bit more adorable if he wasn’t suffering from a very runny nose.

“Honey, I’ll always be your Balemtime.”

He snuggled his little Nugget toes under my legs and continued, “Good because eben when I’m big, I want you to be my Balemtine. You can be my foreber Balemtime”

As any good mother does, I saw an opening in this loving, mother-child moment to switch the conversation from love into something that would better serve me. “Ok, since we’re going to be Balemtimes forever, how about you work on sleeping in your bed all night.” For the past several months after stories and chats and more patience than I usually possess, I tuck an adorable 5 year-old in between Spiderman sheets and a Hulk comforter only to wake hours later with that same 5 year-old wedged up my butt. Every. Damn. Night. I wake up exhausted and cranky and it needs to end.

“Mom, I don’t tink so.”

Hubba whaaaa? This was not the response I was expecting from my forever Balemtime. I decided to punt. “Ok, how about you sleep with your brother instead?”

Immediately he gave me a, “Nope.”

Before I could demand an explanation he provided one. “I need a woman Mom. He’s not a woman.”

“You need a woman?” The only thing that would’ve made the moment better would’ve been if I’d had a mouth full of water so I could do a spit take.

“Yeth. I need a woman because they’re squishy and they smell good, like you. That’s why you’re my Balemtime foreber. You smell so good and I just wuv sleeping with your big squishy butt.”

And with that my fate was sealed. I can’t say no to a man who loves my big, squishy butt. That’s how I ended up with the Turk. So I may never sleep again, but that’s ok. I have a life-long, squishy-butt-lovin’ Balemtime and what more could I want?

Happy Balemtime’s Day!

The Queen Gets A New Throne…And No One Died.

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As in any successful pairing, the Turk and I follow the yin and yang of one cheap-ass and one over-spender. In case you’re new here, I’m the cheap-ass. This method has gotten us through numerous times when we barely had two nickels (or Lyra) to rub together. But one thing has held steadfast, my Turk loves to spend. After the past year of relocating which required us to shell out money like sardines in a dolphin show, and a few months as a one-paycheck family, the Turk has been on spending lockdown and it’s taken a toll.

I’d catch him browsing weekly circulars with drool forming in the corners of his mouth. His Amazon shopping cart wish list looked like the cart of a mother of five in the food store and he’d begun to twitch. The Turk needed a shopping fix and it needed to be something big.

With my return to full-time employment, the Turk determined he could return to his preferred way of life and hit the circuit.

“Honey, I find a nice crouch.” He announced proudly. (Some words like crouch and couch are just never going to make it into his English repertoire. I accept that and love him for it.)

“First off, I assume you’re talking about furniture and not a squat. Secondly, we’re waiting on major purchases. Financial planning dear.”

“I know but I have coupon. One day only. Very good deal.”

The Turk loves a coupon. The problem is, if he has a coupon he buys things simply because he has a coupon. (Like the 7-11-style hotdog machine he bought his wife who doesn’t eat hotdogs this Christmas. –But he had coupon. – Readers, I only wish this were not true.) 

“Maybe we just go look?” He pleaded.

Unbeknownst to him, new furniture wasn’t really a hard sell. We purchased our current sofa and loveseat when we first moved back to America. We were broke-ass poor and in desperate need of furniture when we happened upon the classic, North Philadelphia parking lot sale. You know, those sales with the glowing signs claiming: “Emergency Liquidation!” and “Limited Time!” and, “1 Day ONLY!” Which are certainly signs of a legit, high quality retailer.

This was not my first North Philly parking lot sale and while the items are some version of new, they might have “fallen off a truck” hence the “Rock Bottom Prices!” But ask no questions and all goes well. After some negotiations we were the proud owners of a sofa and loveseat at the rock bottom price of $450 including delivery.

That was nearly 8 years ago and that furniture survived 4 inter-state moves and 6 houses. They endured 1 surly cat, 2 wild boys, countless sick days, a few naptime wet pants, Nugget’s kidney surgery, numerous football games, pizza nights and a little bit of spilled everything. It lived a full life and deserved retirement. But thanks to spending a large chunk of my childhood with a Depression Era grandma, I have a hard time parting with items that still serve their purpose and I’d hoped I could eek out another year or two. (Though according to the sag in the sofa, it stopped serving its purpose two moves ago.)

With coupon in hand we went to test-drive some furniture. As the boys bounced across what Nugget calls “love chairs” and sectionals, the Turk and I found something we agreed upon. After some calculations, even my cheap ass had to admit, it was a good deal and it hadn’t even fallen off a truck. When the salesman offered a delivery and haul-away option, I was sold.

“No delivery. I can do.” Informed the Turk.

“Honey, it’s cheap and they’ll move the old ones. Just do it.” I pleaded.

Even Don the sales guy tried to get in on the persuading – “You know, the amount you save with the coupon will more than cover the cost of the delivery…” But even Don the sofa salesman couldn’t convince the Turk.

“No. I can do. I rent truck, then I come here, pick up and drop at home.”

Don the salesman agreed this was a solid plan but the Turk didn’t take into account that his help on the other end consisted of a cranky 40-something wife, an abnormally short 10-year-old, and a hyperactive 5-year-old. While we are a dream team, maybe not so much regarding heavy lifting.

The next day I arrived home from Nugget’s basketball, (PS – if you’ve never watched a league of kindergarteners play basketball, do it. Every game tests the strength of my post-children bladder due to laugher.) to find a large sofa and love chair in the middle of the driveway causing Nugget to exclaim, “Mom, doethn’t Baba know dothse are thupposed to go inthide? Geez Baba.”

This is where it got ugly. Those large items had to move from the driveway into the living room, the old ones needed new homes and the Turk couldn’t do it alone. Bilingual profanity was thrown. I may or may not have left my husband stranded in a stairwell holding a sofa when his complaining pushed me over the edge. Children and the feline scattered and the traditional, husband-wife-furniture-moving-harsh-words were spoken. “If you think you know how to do this better, then do it by yourself!”

Ultimately the furniture got moved and as we sat down on our new thrones and cracked open well-deserved beers, even my stubborn husband admitted he’d made the wrong choice and that a delivery fee was a small price to pay to save a marriage.

A few hours after the sofas were in place; he was off again. He’d found “great deals” on a floor lamp and coffee table. Before he could leave, I had no choice but to seize his wallet. He’d had his fix and this bender needed to end. He’ll be on lock-down until the summer thaw as I rule our home from the clean lines of my mid-century inspired, scotch-guarded throne. (It doesn’t even have butt-dents yet!)