Just A Little Off The Top Please

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This week I’m taking on the role of special guest star (you know, like they used to do in bad 70’s shows like Fantasy Island.) over on Canadian Expat Mom’s blog. She’s a groovy gal who put together a book I contributed to coming out soon called – Once Upon An Expat. It’s going to be an awesome read with stories from expat women all over the world.

Anyhooo, in my role as special guest star, I’ve written a little piece about penises. Yes, penises. I can say the word just like Dr. Ruth, though I tend to quickly revert to weiner because inside I’m only 10. Ok, it’s not all about weiners, (oops, see there it happened, I’m an immature child) it’s more about the Turkish circumcision ceremony called a sunnet where a boy becomes a man at age eight when his weiner is whacked. Since our oldest is turning 8 this week, it’s been a hot topic in our house.

Go visit, read my tale of tallywhackers and stay for the Canadian charm. Here’s the link one more time…Just a Little Off The Top

Now go…you know how nice Canadians are…enjoy.

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The Heathen Has An Easter Epiphany


Ah, Easter. As practicing heathens it’s not really that exciting for us, (though you won’t catch either of us passing up the chance to decapitate a chocolate bunny). We don’t go to mass because I’d hate to have my skin catch fire from the holy water in front of all those poor, innocent, kids just waiting to have their Easter baskets blessed. We don’t go to egg hunts because Nugget is such a tyrant right now that we can’t afford the lawsuits he’d likely generate unleashed upon the toddler masses. We’ll hide a few plastic eggs in the yard that we will continue to find until August, stuff some baskets and have our annual Turkish/American cultural confusion chat about how an egg laying bunny ties in with that whole Jesus on the cross scenario. (It’s been nine years and I still haven’t mastered an explanation deemed suitable. Did Lucy and Ricky have the same struggle?)

Though we tend to keep Easter pretty low-key, thanks to my occasional practice of lapsed Catholicism and the Midget’s post-Catechism questions I have been able to keep one foot in the Lenten guilt pool and thanks to all that guilt, I had an Easter Epiphany this week and it had absolutely nothing to do with egg laying bunnies. (Though I do deserve a few medicinal Cadbury Eggs for the stress.)

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, (Here it is in case you missed it.) Nugget started a preschool program at the deaf school. The goal was to boost his ASL, get him familiar with the deaf and hard of hearing culture and give this tired old lady a break. Three hours, two days a week, that was it. It didn’t start well but due to my Irish/Catholic genetic make-up, I was certain that tough love was all he needed to find his way.

School days played out like this: I’d drop him off. He’d scream bloody murder. I’d depart, blowing kisses and promising to return soon while frantically signing I’m so sorry to his teachers. Then I’d sit in my car until my stomach lining had eaten itself from guilt before heading off.

I’ve spent most of my life working with kids and I know it is a rare unicorn that does not freak out when first dropped at preschool. I also know that most kids calm down after a belief distraction or in particularly bad cases, after an hour. However, upon my return (every damn time) Nugget’s face was tear-stained, he was sniffling and he would hug me like I’d just returned from war rather than from the Starbucks on the corner. Through  signed conversations with his teachers (parts of which I’m sure I didn’t catch) I learned he’d cried the entire time. They reassured me that in time he would grow accustomed but by week three I wasn’t buying it.

At home he stopped working on his speech. Before he started preschool he had about a dozen word approximations, all vowels and only translatable by me or one fluent in drunken mumbling by toothless vowel speakers, but compared to where he’d started, it was huge. He’d again grown ridiculously attached, like after his kidney surgery. He was so bad that my attempts to pee alone would send him into a fit of terror. On school mornings he would sign, don’t want to go to school over and over and as soon as we pulled onto school grounds he would have a toddler-sized panic attack, hyperventilating and all.

After each drop off the Turk would call and ask me if it had gone better and with each, “Hells no,” he’d tell me to give up. Turks don’t like to cause their babies any undue stress or pain. (They don’t feel the same towards adults. Ask my mother-in-law.)

Last week when I left I had that feeling mothers get when they know something isn’t right. Carol Brady called it “women’s intuition.” I call it, “crap, I screwed up.” It felt like we might be doing more harm than good. I did some Googling, because that’s how I roll at this parenting game, did some thinking, called everyone whose opinion matters and let it simmer.

The Irish/Catholic mother in me wanted him to suck it up. The teacher in me worried he was manipulating me because what’s more fun, going to school or cruising the aisles of Trader Joe’s with mom? The tired old mom in me hated to see her tiny break go and the special needs mom in me realized this was a situation requiring an entirely different examination.

I’m pretty new to this special needs parent thing and it seems to get more complicated the older they get. I learned this week that parenting a special needs kid is pretty much like starting all over again. All those things I learned about momming the first time around, don’t necessarily apply. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t and it’s trying to figure that out that is responsible for my increased frequency of visits with Miss Clairol to cover my ever-spreading gray.

Through my fog of guilt and torment, I realized there are lots of things to take into consideration with my Nug that I didn’t have to with his brother. Like the fact that his chronological age and developmental age aren’t necessarily the same and that his medical past has a huge effect on his anxiety and that sensory issues are real. (Even though I always thought they were just a wuss-out.) Most of all, I learned sometimes boundaries aren’t meant to be pushed and I think that’s what Nugget was trying to tell me.

So we’re taking a break. I’d never have done it with his brother and I’d never recommend it as a teacher. But my Easter Epiphany taught me that being a special needs parent means knowing your kid and making decisions that work just for him reguardless if those decisions fly in the face of traditional theory. My Easter Epiphany also taught me that no one is more valuable in these situations than other special needs parents because you really can’t understand unless you’ve been there.

Is this the right decision?  Who knows, but my gut thinks so and Nugget seems to agree.  That’s the other thing I’m learning about special needs parenting, much like all parenting – it’s a crapshoot, so kiss the dice and let it roll. (Meanwhile I’ll be snarfing down chocolate eggs while I wait to see what happens.)

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Four-Eyes? Nah Girl, They Call Me Six-Eyes.

In honor of hitting the big 4-4 this week, I’ve chosen to reveal my most recent age related humiliation. I have several but thankfully they have yet to include false teeth falling out at dinner or adult diapers. I’m old, but I’m not that old.


Way back in Ms. Fox’s 7th grade science class (She was the first Ms. teacher I ever experienced and since feminism hadn’t reached rural Iowa yet I didn’t understand why she didn’t just go with Miss. I get it now Ms. Fox – good on you sister.) Anywhooo, after copying a series of particularly boring notes on cell division from the board, I glanced at my lab partner’s paper only to realize that what I’d interpreted as miscellaneous squiggles (Because isn’t that what any cell diagram really is – squiggles?) were actually words. Troubled by this development, I approached my mother who’d been wearing glasses since about birth, and said, “I think I might need glasses.”

As luck would have it I did and after much deliberation I picked out a pair of horn-rimmed glasses just like Bailey’s from WKRP in Cincinatti. (If you’re under 40, Google her. She was awesome.) Bailey with her nerdy, brainiac look and early 80’s G-rated sarcasm was my idol and I was elated to take my adoration to the emulation level. But I soon realized that glasses suck. In the winter they fog up. In the summer they slide down your nose. You can’t wear trendy sunglasses and when you sit on them and break them, your parents want to set you on fire. (They didn’t actually Joan of Arc me, but the fear was real.)

Fortunately, I learned to survive using my glasses only in class for many, many years. Then somewhere in my 30’s I needed them for the computer and eventually to drive at night but mostly I got by without them for close to 20 years. With both of my pregnancies everything shifted – and though the neck down shifting was less than desirable, the neck up shifting gave me stellar vision. Both times I didn’t need my glasses until three or four months after giving birth when things re-shifted. But this last time around, oh baby did things shift in a bad way.

Since I was old when I had the Nugget, by the time my vision shifted back to what I thought was normal I was almost 42 and when I went in for a new prescription I heard the dreaded B-word – bifocal. How could I have an infant and need bifocals? Mother nature you are a cruel hussy. But faced with the choice between squinting 24/7 like Mama June Booboo or wearing b…b…bifocals, I accepted the latter. The doughboy who fit my new frames assured me that with progressives no one would ever guess I was wearing b…b…bifocals. But what he didn’t explain was that I wouldn’t be able to see out of them either.

After mulitpule refittings they decided to check my prescription. When I said, “I can’t see out of them. I’m 42 and I can’t see 20 feet away. I think that’s the problem.” The rather surly woman replied, “Well, at your age eyes change.”

Of course eyes change you bimbo, isn’t that what glasses are for?

Fast forward a year – In a fit of desperation I decided to go online and MacGyver my own prescription by mixing a few old ones. A few online tutorials, some measuring and $24.99 later I received a pair of glasses in my mailbox that changed my life. I saw clearly for the first time in two years. Sure, I had a giant granny-line in the middle of my lens that said, “Look at me, I’m old!” but with the vision I had, I didn’t care. I realized that if I wore them all the time, I saw even better so I ordered three more pairs and officially shifted my love from shoes to glasses.

But  a few months ago, everything shifted again. I wasn’t able to count the feathers on the bird three streets over any more. No matter how many times I nodded my head up and down I couldn’t get anything to sharpen. There was only one answer; I was going blind. I didn’t want worry the Turk that he was doomed to a life of leading me around so I had Number One Son read all tiny print and hoped for the best when driving.

As things got worse I braced myself for my impending fate. Outside I waved farewell to the trees and birds. I stared lovingly at my children’s faces hoping to emblazon them into my memory. I saved countless audio books for when I could no longer survive with even the geriatric large print and then, I sucked it up and made an appointment with a new eye doctor to hear the bad news.

My new eye doctor was 12, but maybe bad news feels better if delivered by Doogie Houser? After a thorough exam and his proclamations of utter amazement at my ability to MacGyver my own prescription, he broke the news. “Sometimes, after a late in life pregnancy and nursing things continue to adjust for quite some time. That’s what you’re experiencing.” I gripped the edges of the chair waiting for him to lower the boom and tell me where to buy my white cane. “I do need to tweak your prescription, but  overall, you just need to use eye drops. Your eyes are too dry and that’s what changing your vision.”

Huh? Eye drops? Well how ‘bout that.

He sent me home with a sample and within hours, I was back to counting the dust spots on my neighbor’s chandelier through my MacGyvered prescription. (The man really should put up some blinds.)

My new glasses should arrive Friday but I don’t feel like I really need them. I mean, I did just put an end to degenerative blindness with a couple drops of Visine, I’m good. If only there was a drop of something for an overactive imagination…cb4979f7db9a0d5b065102cee9a226bf



Hannibal Lecter Goes To Nursery School

d12fc594e4e224b8aec6afd7e609d067 (1)First days suck and now it has become clear that both of my kids suck…nay…super-suck at first days. I had great hopes that Nug would be more macho, or at least the toddler version of stoic, whatever that is, but no. He too is a big ol’ mama’s boy dead set on giving his mother an ulcer to match the one caused by years and years of his brother’s first day antics.

Last week was Nugget’s first day in the Early Childhood program at the deaf school. We thought it would be good for him to spend time with kids like him, hone his ASL vocabulary and get accustomed to a school environment before we start full-time school in August. Ok, that’s a load of crap. That’s what I told the Turk but in reality, I just really wanted those four hours a week to meander around Target and maybe drink a latte that wasn’t filled with toddler saliva. My needs are simple but I’m a desperate mother.

Leading up to his first day I pumped it up. We talked all about school and bought an Elmo backpack that counts when you punch Elmo in the nose. (Yeah, you’re probably not supposed to punch Elmo but you know how he gets.) We gathered his requisite supplies and even got a lunch box. It was all very exciting as he was well on his way to big boy status.

On D-Day we put Number One on the bus and drove downtown to the deaf school. Nugget was atwitter, signing along with his jams, dancing in his car seat and laughing at his own wit. Like a fool, I thought, finally, something with this kid is going to be easy. He’s going to be one of those rare unicorn babies that walk into their classroom, wave goodbye and poof, parenting success.

Of course, leading up to this I’d had a massive meltdown and had to be texted off the ledge the night before. (Yes, texted off the ledge is a thing. It’s the modern remake of talked off the ledge. Get with the times.) I was sure my baby was going to be sold to a child labor syndicate or tied to a snowdrift for timeout, (Yes, I realize that is not possible but you can’t reason with anxiety. I read that in a self-help book once.) or worse, what if he couldn’t communicate his needs? I mean in our world I’m the only one who….then it hit me… this is the only place where someone else would be able to communicate with him. The entire school functions only in ASL, his first language, so of course they’d understand him. Once I got past that and the whole leaving my baby out in the wild thing, I was cool with it. Nugget being so excited only made it easier.

We walked in the big doors, greeted the school secretary who patiently waited through my remedial signing as I explained who we were and where we were heading. (Seriously, I feel like I signed for 10 minutes straight and when I was all done and proud of myself, he simply signed, Ok. Very anticlimactic.) Down the winding hall we went with a bounce in both our steps. This was going to be awesome. First days rock with this kid. Good work magical unicorn baby.

But then he saw the door. Nugget froze. He stiffened his body and I had to push him in on his little heels. It was the toddler version of that scene in Silence of the Lambs when they wheel Hannibal in on a handcart. He took one look around and immediately lay down on the ground. There I stood with a little fat kid, bundled in a huge winter coat and Elmer Fudd hat lying stiff as a board at my feet staring at the ceiling. What is this? Where in the hell did magical unicorn baby go?

I nervously smiled while trying to understand everything his teachers were signing to me. The teachers gathered around and began signing to him, reassuring him and introducing themselves. How did my magical unicorn baby respond? He closed his eyes and squeezed them shut because when someone is signing and you don’t want to listen you just don’t look at them, obviously. Genius move unicorn baby.

After a few minutes of working through my bag of tricks and standard Irish-Catholic mother threats, his teacher and I decided it best if I just made a clean break…only there was nothing clean about it. I heard his screams all the way back to the front office. Fortunately, it’s a deaf school and thus, I was probably one of the few that heard him at  full volume.

I spent the next three hours in the parking lot counting down until pick-up. Though upon my arrival he lovingly embraced me like I’d just crawled out of a watery grave, he was still pissed. As we walked out of the building at least five teachers totally unrelated to his class signed to me how sad he’d been all morning. (Guilt is even more powerful when it comes in a second language.)

Thankfully, his teacher is amazing. She’s like a beautiful, deaf Judy Collins who gracefully signs songs and very exciting stories. She told me his communication was stellar and that he’d let her know why he was pissed and what he did and did not want…repeatedly. I guess that’s a win huh?

Week two is going about as well as week one but we’ll keep trying. He’s already picked up new signs and is beginning to learn his ABC’s in ASL, something his father has yet to master. It seems school, as with all things Nugget, will be a struggle but in time we’ll get there.  Tomorrow morning, I’ll wheel Hannibal in and we’ll try again.

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