When Bedtime Stories Go Bad…A Cautionary Tale

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I’ve always loved a good bedtime story. Back in the day, I recall spending many a night waiting in horror for “The Monster at The End of This Book.” (Spoiler alert – It’s Grover. It was always Grover but you know, my critical thinking didn’t really kick in until I was like…35)

In my 8 plus years of motherhood, I’ve read a buttload of bedtime stories and we never, never read just one. Since there are only so many Big Trucks In Action books a gal can handle, over the years I’ve tried to pass reading duties off to the Turk but the results have never been good. From the other room I’ve overheard:

“Baba, you skipped three pages.”

  “They are not important to story. It fine.”

“Baba, you said that word wrong.”

      “No, that is how we say.”

“No, no it’s not Baba. Do you want me to show you how to sound it out?”

And when he’s tried of reading, he throws out his trademark ending. “And they did not listen to their parents so they all die.” Insuring nightmares all around. (Ah Turks…always spreading joy.)

Even the Nugget, Baba’s biggest 3-year-old fan, now rejects the offer of madcap adventures narrated in a monotone Turkish accent. (In the Turk’s defense, my reading of Turkish tales is about on par with his in English, and I’ve also been the recipient of, “Mom, do you need me to sound that out for you?” Damn kids.)

Over the years, I’ve voiced characters ranging from bus driving pigeons to underwear loving aliens. We frequent the local library more often than Betty Ford frequented rehab. But there is one kind of book we cannot have, under any circumstances. According to Nugget, there shall never be any books in which the characters say goodnight. Why? Because an illustrated bunny or hairy bug kissing his mommy and proclaiming goodnight is enough to send my sensitive Nugget into a deep, sobbing depression that postpones his own bedtime by at least 30 minutes.

A few weeks ago, fed up with Pete the Cat and his damn groovy buttons, I thought it was time to mix it up and try some new authors. With all books mentioning “Goodnight” off the boards, I had limited choices but thought a little known Eric Carle would be a safe bet.

Eager to merge into new territory and ready for respite from that obnoxious hipster Pete the Cat, we curled up ready for a new read. Like a moron, I did not preview the book in depth. (But seriously, who does that? Who wants to curl up with a nice chardonnay and a copy of Elephant and Piggy Go to Market?) It was Eric Carle of The Very Hungry Caterpillar fame. How could I go wrong?

Oh, I went wrong. So very, very wrong.

See, I chose The Very Quiet Cricket, a book about a little cricket who goes on a walk and gets upset when can’t say hello to anyone because he can’t talk. (Right???? What a moron move on the part of a mom who’s kid can’t talk.) As the little bug traverses the countryside everyone greets him and he desperately wants to reply but he can’t…because he can’t make the words come out….just like my little Apraxic Nugget. (Who knew crickets faced rare neurological disorders too? Certainly not I.)

In the past couple months Nugget has moved mountains in his battle to get his neurons to deliver his words to his mouth. He wears his hearing aid like a champ (though not happily) so he can hear the sounds,  spends hours in speech therapy at school and practices constantly. He’s got a handful words that come out right every time, (and might I add “Mom” is one of those as well as “Go Eagles!” because his mother and brother make him watch Eagles football on the reg.) He’s also got a gazillion words that come out in all vowels but if you speak vowel, like those of us who spend hours with the Nug do, or those who have spent serious time with drunks, he’s pretty understandable. Unfortunately, most of the world does not speak Vowel and thus he remains misunderstood by the world.

As we read further I could see Nugget’s brow furrow and soon the tears started to drip. “Ike ee om, e ike e.”(Like me Mom, he like me.). My heart broke. That damn cricket WAS just like him but  midway through the book I didn’t know what to do. Do I read on and hope we get to a happy ending? Do I seize on the moment to reinforce that there are other kids…um or crickets… like him? Do I let Nug collaborate with me on a profanity-laced email to Eric Carle about the need for a trigger warning on his picture books? (I mean it is 2016 and trigger warnings seem to be all the rage even if I think they’re stupid.)

I didn’t know what to do partially because I was shocked he’d made the connection so quickly. When one doesn’t speak the language fluently people tend to underestimate them. I know this. It happened to me when we lived in Turkey all the time. I’ve watched it happen to the Turk countless times (and then laughed when he smacked down those who underestimated him with his big nerd brain) and now I was doing it to my own son. Why wouldn’t he catch on? He’s a super smart dude. He just can’t talk. Even Einstein had a speech problem and look how he turned out.

Thankfully, in our world of bicultural parenting, I have two schools of thought to pull from and rather than getting all talkey-talkey and American, I took the Turkish mother route. We threw the book away (in a very hostile and dramatic fashion while calling Eric Carle unflattering names in Turkish) then I kissed him furiously while reminding him he was a perfect little sultan. I know this manner of Turkish mothering does make life difficult for future wives (Lord do I know that!) but he is my perfect little sultan and if the world needs to learn to speak Vowel for him, then so be it. I’ll make it happen.

 

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Need Good Writing Material…Marry a Foreigner

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Back before I had Nugget and began my foray into the world of special needs parenting and blogging about it, I spent my days in the world of bicultural parenting and blogging about that. The cultural misunderstandings between the The Turk and I have provided me with a font of material for ten years, and will likely continue to do so until one of us cashes it in and leaves the other with a life insurance policy worth about 50 Turkish Lyra.

Anywhoo…for a couple reasons, I’ve decided to dig out a post from the old blog and transplant it here. 1. those cultural mishaps are funny as hell and 2. I’m working on a little project and want to use this as a chance for some shameless self (not only self because this is a group project) promotion.

I’m contributing to a book with some other crazy expat broads all over the world entitled Knocked Up Abroad Again – an anthology about shucking pups all over there globe. I’ve, of course, shared my tale of dancing Turks and misplaced intestines during the birth of Number 1 alongside birth stories from all over. It’s gonna be awesome…if it meets it’s kickstarter goal in the next 10 days. So, if you’d like a copy or you’d like to fund an awesome effort – go here and fund us. Now, on to our show:

Did you know, there is no Tooth Fairy in Turkey?  No?  Me either.

It was totally logical for me to believe that there would be a Turkish Tooth Fairy.  There is a Turkish Red Ridinghood but she goes by Kırmızı Başlıklı Kız.  Bert and Ernie have been fluent in Turkish since the early 70’s and even that sniveling Caliou found a massive fan base with tiny Turks. They even have Santa, though he is called Baba Noel and instead of a big gut and white beard he’s thin with a  ‘stache and instead of milk and cookies he prefers  tea and a smoke and instead of coming on December 25 th he doesn’t make an appearance until December 31st, but other than that…  But hey, cut ’em some slack, it’s tough to have a solid Christmas understanding in a Muslim nation. But I digress.

With this knowledge of childhood icons it was reasonable for me to assume that there was also a fairy that snuck into the sleeping quarters of young Turks and replaced their recently liberated baby teeth with a Lira or two. But no. This ugly truth was revealed last week when the Midget finally lost his first tooth.

For a 5 year old, that is pretty much the pinnacle of fitting in with one’s peers and we all know kindergartners can be pretty intimidating as far as peer pressure goes. The Midget was the last of his friends to go toothless but now he was part of the in-crowd.  As that little tiny white stump freed itself at breakfast, there was much celebration.

I should have been tipped off to the impending cultural divide by the strange look I received from the Turk when I rushed to bag the tooth like evidence on CSI.  However, I get that look often so I paid it no mind.

As the day progressed and the Midget was filled with information from his merry band of munchkins on the playground, he was ready for the big payoff. From dinner through bath he could discuss nothing else and as he carefully tucked the tooth under his pillow, the Turk finally said, “What the hell are you doing?  Throw that thing in garbage. It is disgusting.”

With big blue eyes the Midget said, “But Baba, the Tooth Fairy will take it.”

And then, there it was – the bomb was lowered– “What is Tooth Fairy?  There are no fairies.  Fairies are not real. Why you pretending this?  Only the girls like the fairies.”

Well hell.

Once again, I had to swoop in and wipe away the pain of truth those Turks love to lay down all too often. His are a people that find  joy in bursting bubbles with cold, hard reality. I know. I lived with them and came home with years’ worth of busted bubbles.

After shooting Baba the look, (ya’ll know the look to which I refer) and quickly dismissing  Baba’s proclamations by explaining that boys can like fairies too and that fairies do not like bad kids and Baba was a bad kid so therefore the Tooth Fairy never made a visit to him – it hit me and I rushed The Turk into the closet for a confab.

“Is there no Tooth Fairy in Turkey?”

“No. What the hell is Tooth Fairy?”

“You leave your tooth under the pillow and in the morning the Tooth Fairy has taken it and left you a few bucks. You know, it’s like Santa or the Easter Bunny.”

“No. That is stupid.”

“What did your parents do when you lost a tooth?”

“Throw it in trash, like you should do.”

“No. That’s not happening. This child is in America now and we are doing this like my people.”

“Ok, well maybe Fairy can bring me something a little later too?”

“No. “

After the Midget had tucked the tooth and nodded off, there was much debate over the price per tooth and the absurdity of the tradition but I won and the Midget awoke to a reasonable payoff. But there was much shrapnel to clean up thanks to Baba blowing the Fairy’s cover and as we got ready for school,

“Mom, is it a he or a she?”

“He” It just seemed more festive to make the Tooth Fairy a drag queen.

“How does he know I lost a tooth?”

“I call the hotline.”

“What’s the number?”

“1-888-Tooth-gone.”

“How does he get in?”

“Backdoor” (hehehe)

“Does he keep the teeth?”

“Yes?”

“Did he dig Baba’s teeth out of the trash when he was little?”

“No. He was a really bad kid.” (Take that fun sucker!)

“Do I get more money for bigger teeth?”

“No.”

“Well that’s a rip off.”  

Mom’s gotta keep it real. First I saved Santa before we moved to the US, then  the Tooth Fairy. Easter Bunny, you are totally on your own though, I’ve always found a giant rabbit a little too creepy.

If you want more expat tales – go fund us! Knocked Up Abroad Again 

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Audrey’s Untimely Demise

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“Don’t let Audrey get too much sun,” was the last thought that ran through my head as I backed out of the driveway. Yet somehow, the flood of love and questions from 2 pajama-clad little boys, distracted me from actually voicing my medical directive. By the time I found Audrey, it was almost too late.

Work was hectic and Audrey didn’t cross my mind again until after dinner as my little Turks and I were heading out for our daily football catch. As the door swung open I caught sight of Audrey, slumped over on the deck.

“Audrey!!” I screamed, pushing Nugget out of my way while ordering Number One Son to gather lifesaving materials. “Get the water and an eyedropper! STAT!”

My son, possessing a solid replication of my DNA, especially those genes responsible for over dramatizing the simplest moment (I’m pretty sure most Oscar Award Winners share this gene as well.) screamed back with the appropriate level of panic –“Where Mom! Where’s the damn water?” (Profanity is acceptable in an emergency) 

While I barked directions at him, I whisked Audrey into the house and laid her out on the kitchen table. A very confused Nugget, wanting to get in on the action, begged to be given his own lifesaving task. I wanted to scream, “Get a CBC and Chem6. Call for radiation STAT,” but you know, he’s only 3 and he didn’t spend a large chunk of the ‘90’s watching ER so he’d likely have no idea how to preform either a CBC or a Chem6. Instead I sent him to his playroom to grab his doctor kit. A Fisher Price stethoscope had to be just as good in a pinch, right?

Audrey lay on the table with her little arms limply clutching her traps. A few traps were black but most were still green and viable. Audrey wasn’t my first Venus Flytrap, but she was strongest. She’d been doing fine in our kitchen but in a moment of overconfidence, I surmised that her steady diet of fruit flies might be leading to boredom and that she might enjoy the entomological smorgasbord awaiting her on our deck.

It was for her own good and for the first few days I loving watched her, atop the table, soaking up the sun and snapping up buzzing nuisances one by one. I limited her sun-time and brought her in from the rain in an attempt to recreate her natural habitat. (I’m teaching a botany unit right now so I’m way up on my habitat knowledge.) When it seemed Audrey’s development was taking off, I lovingly transplanted her into a fashionable new pot. (Every girl, even one that eats bugs, likes to feel pretty.)

Things were going so well with Audrey that if our life were a movie, we would have had one of those montages where we run hand and trap through a meadow, pausing only to spin in the sun as she snapped at gnats. All was bliss. Until she got fried.

Slowly and methodically I dropped a combination mixture of rainwater cut with distilled water into her high fashion pot as my sons chanted words of encouragement, “Come on Audrey. Come back to us girl.”

When it looked bleak, we decided Audrey would want us to go outside and play football. That’s the kind of gal she was and who were we to deny her wishes?

30 minutes later, I noticed a small jerk from Audrey when I walked by. I thought my eyes had deceived me so I watched longer. Sure enough, Audrey jerked again. “Oh my God you have got to see this!” I yelled from the kitchen but my kids had moved on to ice pops and Monday Night Football and the Turk long ago learned to ignore those kinds of exclamations from my crazed mind.

“No seriously! Come in here. Audrey is coming back to life.” It was truly a sight to behold as her little arms jerked back up to standing.

“Are you still looking at that plant? What is wrong with you.” The Turk yelled from the other room.

“It’s not just a plant! It’s Audrey!”

“I worry your head crazy sometime.” He retorted.

As I watched Audrey continue to come back, I cannot deny that the thought of giving her a chunk of steak or a drop of blood didn’t cross my mind. Thankfully, I was an avid movie watcher as a kid and had seen Little Shop of Horrors multiple times and knew how fast this situation could go south.

By the next morning Audrey was back to her old self, waving her traps at all passersby in search of food. I limited her sun time and put her back in her comfortable kitchen post. It looked like nothing could harm Audrey now…until…

The remission ended. Seemingly out of nowhere, a deep black spread across her little traps like a cancer. I tried medical intervention but nothing worked. I Googled and Googled but even the internet couldn’t save Audrey this time.

When it became clear the end was inevitable, we put her in plant hospice, feeding her bugs we caught when she didn’t have the energy to work her own traps. Last Friday, Audrey passed over the great rainbow bridge to the swamp in the sky.

I’ve thought about replacing her. I’d like to someday have a Venus named Serena (Get it? Venus and Serena…hahaha) but it’s too soon. I need time to grieve. We’ve left her high fashion pot in tact and as soon as it stops raining for a few days, I’ll cremate her in the barbecue grill.

She was a fighter, but even a flytrap knows when the fight is done.

Farewell Audrey, you were a tough broad and we will miss you.

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