Mother Tongue…Ewwww

frustration (1)

The other day someone used the term “mother tongue” in response to languages in our house. That term grosses me out. I am a middle schooler trapped in an old lady body so combining the words mother and tongue could not be any more gross. But after I threw-up in my mouth at the Oedipal imagery, I got to thinking about it. When it comes to language in our house, we are both amazing and a hot mess.

Language is something I’ve learned to both love and despise. I love it for its ability to express the mirage of thoughts hurling through my head, but it also sucks because for us, language is the root of many problems.

For example, I can unequivocally say that every major argument the Turk and I’ve had in our years of marriage has come down to language and something getting lost in translation. Even though we’ve been at this for over a decade and we both speak each other’s languages we still have major miscommunications and now our kids are in on the magic.

 -quiet side whisper- “Mom, what the heck is Baba trying to say?”

“No clue kids, just nod. We’ll figure it out later.”

Then there are the languages themselves. Turkish being blunt and including no sugar coating and English being one where we might sugar coat too much. In Turkish a person is never curvy or plump. A person is fat. Just fat. That doesn’t always flow so well with sensitive English speakers.

“Why I add extra words when I don’t need? She is fat. It is true. I tell her. What is wrong with that?”

And lets not disregard issues we have with preconceived notions we face when speaking our second languages. In Turkish conversations, people think I comprehend faster than I do so they hit me with rapid-fire Turkish while I’m at “hi, how ya doin’.” In English, people hear the Turk’s accent and assume he just started learning English last week rather than 20 years ago, so they assume he’s stupid. (They usually see their misjudgment later when he hits them with a zinger.)

Number 1 Son never had an issue bouncing between languages rather than choosing a mother tongue, until he was old enough to choose. His choice of English over Turkish upset many family members while elating others, sticking his father and I in a quagmire.

Then there is Nugget. For his whole life of almost 4 years, language has been his Achilles heel. As a kid with Childhood Apraxia of Speech who couldn’t get any words to form or any sound to come out until very recently, he was no fan of spoken English. As a Hard of Hearing dude with one ear, he’s doesn’t always catch spoken language to begin with and he’s often dependent on ASL when his lone ear lets him down. However, he’s painfully aware that only a handful of people besides Mom can sign with him so if he can’t sign, can’t speak, what’s a guy to do?

Now, after a year full of daily speech therapy he’s gone from a kid with CAS to a kid with an adorable lisp and a couple other speech impediments (And mastered a find grasp of profanity because even with one ear that kid can hear every damn foul word his mother drops a mile away.) He’s also added more signs and keeps up with his ASL. Recently, spurred by his love of a fabulously flamboyant, Liberace-esque Turkish singer, he’s started picking up Turkish. So what’s his mother tongue? Who knows but 3 languages by 4 is damn impressive.

No one I knew as a kid spoke a second language but  I had great aspirations, so I ordered both French and Spanish dictionaries from the bargain section of the Weekly Reader book order. I soon learned that one does not learn a language by reading the dictionary. I tried Spanish class in high school but called it a day after, “Me llamo Margie, y tu?” I did pick up enough Spanish later to get me into trouble in Mexico, but basically I top out at Dora the Explorer level.

This week Nugget had a birthday party with some Developmental PreK buds at a trampoline park. It was his first big party and he was psyched until he realized how loud the park was and thus turned off what hearing he has (as he does in noisy situations). As I was signing to him we were surprised to see a bunch of other people doing the same. Nugget was elated and signed, Look Mom, they sign too! A group from the local Deaf school was there on a field trip and many took time out to chat with us. It was great for Nugget to share a mother tongue and great for me to hone my ASL skills.

After the party we stopped off at McDonalds (Yes, I do that occasionally. I’m not proud but it happens.) and much to my surprise, we sat next to a woman speaking Turkish to her young son. As we chatted she told me she was here for her husband’s work and didn’t speak any English. She was desperate for someone to speak Turkish with, besides her husband. She was shocked and elated to have found that at McDonalds. I was transported ten years back when I was a lonely wife newly landed in a foreign country, struggling with the language and longing for someone, anyone, to speak English with so I certainly understood. It rocks when life gives you an opportunity to reciprocate. We talked forever before exchanging numbers and she even complimented me on my Turkish (Which made me beam because I generally sound like a stammering moron in Turkish, but thanks to my early years of motherhood in Turkey I do rock the mom-talk quite well.)

So maybe we have no familial mother tongue and maybe my relationship with language has become a bit hostile in recent history, but as I settled in for my evening wine/decompression with The Turk that evening, I was damn proud of myself for having flexed my muscles in 3 languages in a matter of hours. Not bad for a girl who didn’t make it through 9th grade Spanish. Next up, perhaps we’ll all learn Icelandic…

 

 

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Hells Yeah, It’s Thanksgiving Gurl!

turkey-riding

The time is upon us again and my heart, with her arteries prepared to clog within days, is all a twitter. Why? Because, my friends, it is nearly Thanksgiving the most wonderful time of the year.

I’ve always had a solid love of Thanksgiving (not really that odd for a fat kid) and that love has only grown stronger with age. During our years living in Turkey, I deemed November the “Month of Which We Do Not Speak” and would refer to the month only by it’s Turkish name, Kasim, so I would not be reminded of what I’d lost. (On more than one occasion post-repatriation, I have legitimately been asked how the Turks celebrate Thanksgiving so I feel like I should issue a little reminder that while there is a Thanksgiving turkey, there is no Thanksgiving in Turkey. I’ll just leave that there. No need to admit if you had to think about it. I judge silently.)

While many people get the tingles at the mere mention of Christmas, I do not. I’m not a fan of the Holly Jolly. Christmas is hectic and expensive. There is always high drama and high expectations and quite frankly, ain’t nobody got time for that. The Turkish version of Christmas happens on December 31st and includes a skinny dude with a ‘stache called Baba Noel delivering, one – just one- gift to ring in the new year. None of this 3-month lead up, no stores blaring Christmas music from the first of October and they give you a whole extra prep week. I’ve lobbied for this approach in America with no takers. (America, considering our current plague of obesity, would it be so bad to have a chain-smoking, trim Santa as a role model?)

No, Thanksgiving is my jam. Last year Thanksgiving came after a dismal autumn that included Nugget’s kidney reconstruction, copious visits to get his hearing aid fitted, his Apraxia diagnosis and our introduction to learning ASL. Mama was playing stay-at-home mom so funds were tight and I was weighing my options for pole-dancing as a means to provide Christmas. It was not our finest November and even Thanksgiving couldn’t bring me around.

But this year…this family is in fighting form! Mama’s back to work in a job that does not include dancing or poles, (Yes society, your collective sigh of relief is audible.) Nugget’s kidney is pumping like new. And though he has a love/hate relationship with it, his hearing aid has been a game changer for his speech and while he still uses ASL to communicate on the reg, he also never shuts up. (Though I can only decipher about 50%, in his mind he’s fluent and has gone so far as to begin adding in some Turkish which isn’t all that helpful but amazing all the same.) This year Thanksgiving, it is GAME ON.

I made my menu last Friday and had 90% of my food shopping done by Saturday morning (and booze…of course I already bought the booze.) On Sunday, I began the great turkey thaw of ’16 so I can brine that bird on Tuesday. Monday I sent the Turk (who took the week off to use up some vacation time with the intention of winterizing our world, but instead became my Girl Friday…or I guess that would be my Turk Friday.) all over the city in search of missing ingredients. Before you feel too bad for the Turk, know that while he’s relatively new to this whole Thanksgiving thing, he is a Black Friday junkie and he spent much of Sunday laying out his own plan of attack for the wee hours of Friday morning.

Tuesday as I lovingly rub Lonna, (That’s this year’s bird. I find I put in more effort if I name them. Don’t judge me.) and whisper sweet nothings into that little slot where her head used to be, I will cover her in brine and await the glory of what she will become. Tuesday evening I will return home after a hard day at school, elated to begin Thanksgiving break. As I turn Lonna in her brine, in a celebratory gesture, I’ll grab her by the wings and turn my kitchen into a dance floor as Lonna and I execute a quality Argentinian Tango. (I get all my moves from Dancing With the Stars. So does Nugget.)

Wednesday is what I like to call the pregame. Pies, cake, relishes, rolls and anything else I can chop, dice or shred. Don’t expect meals, children, Mama’s got cooking to do. Number One Son will be whipping up piecrusts while Nugget proofs the yeast…ok more like Number One will whine about going to play outside while Nugget rubs roasted pumpkin into the cat’s fur.

And Thursday when my alarm goes off at it’s usual ungodly hour I will rise without once even considering snooze, pull on my fatigues,(or yoga pants, whichever is clean) paint my face with camo (or moisturizer as camo make-up makes my glasses slide down my nose) and take my place at the kitchen counter, prepared for greatness.

It’s been a crap year. 2016 has held maximum suckage. We’ve lost greats, lived on edge for an entire year, been bombarded with stupidity on so, so many fronts, face great uncertainty about our future and elected a moron. But even amid all that, my family has so much to be thankful for and what better way to celebrate than by stuffing ourselves into obesity with high quality edibles made with love by a surly mother. (I’m pretty sure that’s how the first Thanksgiving got started too.)

So do as I’ve been doing since about November 9th, turn off the television (except for football or Dancing With The Stars) unplug from the stress of social media (love you all but the break has done me good) explore new wines, play obscene amounts of Uno with the kids and enjoy this fine, fine holiday.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING From the Turks!!!!

November, You Suck

novemberEvery year I have great aspirations for November but in recent years November has regularly taken a huge bite out of my ample hindquarter. Instead of an introduction to the holiday season, November has become a hot mess of a month marked by disasters large and small. There are always a slew of familial cooties ranging from black lung to barfs. Usually there is some form of vehicular calamity or housing crisis. Inevitably, there is some level of familial drama, either on this side of the world with mine or across the globe with the Turks. We usually have at least one ER run or at the very least, Urgent Care and that’s all before we get to Thanksgiving.

Yet still, knowing what I know of how November rolls, every year I foolishly sign on to participate in National Novel Writing Month, (NaNoWrMo for those that are tragically hip.) Because, when I tell my story to Savannah Guthrie during my interview on The Today Show about my runaway best seller, I will tell her it all began in November. Obviously writing a 50,000 word rough draft in the midst of children needing fed (Seriously, when is it legal to send them out to forage alone?) a house needing kept, a full-time job and the general mayhem November routinely brings me, is not only a sensible goal, but an attainable one.

I started off with a bang, getting up at 4:30 every morning and cranking along on my tale. After some solid success this year shopping out expat tales from the early days of the Turk and I, and hitting the big 10-year mark where I’m pretty sure some legal boundaries fall away. (Just kidding. No one can gag order this broad. It’s just not in my genetics.) I decided this year’s November novel would be the real life adventure of us. Because when your life-story starts with a mix-up resulting in deportation, includes an emergency Turkish C-section, has a dash of mad-cow disease AND a one eared baby after depositing the very left-leaning main characters in Indi-freakin-ana, well even F. Scott Fitzgerald couldn’t make that crap up.

By the end of week one, as the calendar officially shifted into November, my work was hampered by a nasty cold contracted during 12-hour days of parent-teacher conferences. As I rallied over the weekend, I was sidetracked again on Monday with that bastard Standard Time causing my offspring to wake right alongside me at 4:30 too. (I’m really over this time change concept. Where do I direct my hate mail?)

I lost Wednesday wiping tears and reassuring my darling Number One Son that he and his father would not be “sent away” by the new president because they were born in a Muslim country. (I also assured him that for anyone to remove any member of my family they would have to get through me first and everyone knows that a fortysomething mama bear (skilled in special needs parenting) with a big ass and a solid knowledge of TaeBo from the late 90’s is a formidable protector.)

Thursday was lost to the croup. Just about the time my nation lost its damn mind, my darling Nugget started to bark. From the bark came the wheeze. From the wheeze came the fever, the mad dash to the doctor and a toddler case of roid-rage following the steroids she prescribed. While the roids did the trick, that Nugget still needed a lot of snuggles and it’s tough to snuggle and write an epic work of greatness simultaneously. Oh, and did I mention that Thursday was our anniversary as well? No? No need. When you have 10 years under your belt and a barking Nugget, it’s just another day.

Friday, I had to forgo my passion to do my job. Much to every teacher’s dismay, those  lab reports don’t grade themselves and I’m not one of those science teachers that can pull a lab out of thin-air. I actually have to give it a go first to be sure no one loses an eye.

Saturday I woke with renewed energy. My barking child was finally on the road to recovery but I was scheduled to attend a workshop on ASL rhymes for toddlers. While it was amazing and incredibly helpful to learn I’d been doing everything wrong with Nugget in that zone over the past year, it also took away my writing time. I’d decided to forgo any writing on Saturday to celebrate the afore mentioned anniversary with the Turk…but then the sitter didn’t show. She got confused on the time…so I decided it best to drown my sorrows and go to bed early.

Which brings us to today. It’s Sunday morning at the butt-crack of dawn. Only one child is awake, the one who doesn’t demand as many snuggles and is easily appeased by an IPad. I’ve got coffee and quiet and my brilliance is waiting to pour forth. I’ve also got another  cold which brings with it a massive dose of laissez-faire.

So now that it’s mid-November and I’m still only 5000 words in with 45,000 more to go in 2 weeks, I fear failure is imminent. I’m not a quitter (ok, I totally am but just in case my kids read this one day I felt I should throw that in) but I don’t know if this is going to happen. I apologize world. I know you are waiting with bated breath to hear how things play out. Did the Turk really propose on the 3rd date? (Spoiler alert – yes he did.) Did our stunning main characters stay married through 2 global moves, 4 states, 8 homes and a butt load of bad luck? (So far so good but if he continues to ignore the “clean” light on the dishwasher it could end soon.) And who had mad cow disease? (Well if I tell you that, you won’t buy the book should I ever get around to writing it.)

Touché November, you’ve won again.

Stay tuned world. Someday I will tell this tale but I think odds are pretty solid, it will not happen in November.

Terrible Twos? Ah Hells No, Now It’s The Tyrannical Threes!

birthday drama

I’m relatively certain that the individual who coined the phrase, “terrible twos” did so before his or her child turned three. There is not a parent on Earth that would honestly agree that a two-year-old tyrant is worse than a three-year-old tyrant. Ok, maybe that Duggar woman would disagree but after passing 82 children through her lady parts, it’s understandable that her sanity might be compromised.

My darling Nugget’s birthday was this week and, as usual, the date marking my successfully delivering offspring into this world makes me a bit emotional. On both of their birthdays I can’t help get little weepy as I recount those glory years, when they were cuddly and smelled like…well…babies or dwelling on life when they were tiny bundles of love that wore what I put on them and didn’t sass me or argue about every damn thing! (Previously I would have said before they could talk but in the past year Nugget has proved that one can sass and argue just as effectively in sign language so there goes that thought.)

Amid all the mushy melancholy and buttercream frosting, I had a thought. Maybe since the Nugget had such a rough go as a two-year old, what with the whole deaf thing, the apraxia thing, the bum kidney thing, and on and on…maybe the universe will give me a break and we will waltz through three like a pair of washed-up musicians on Dancing With The Stars. I mean, after the past year, don’t I deserve it?

I have good reason to fear three. My darling, kind and loving Number One Son was literally Satan on Earth when he was three. The sweet child I’d doted on since birthing him in a crazy Turkish hospital morphed into a pocket-sized Attila the Hunn the moment he blew out those three candles. Add in his adult-sized vocabulary, stubborn Turk genes and hot temper (No really, by 4 we were seriously considering anger management classes for him.) and I often doubted that kid would see 4.

Yet somehow, like childbirth, I’d blocked that horror out, until the Nugget’s big 0-3 started to draw near. As an incident over the shade of an ice pop blew into a throw-down last week leaving a sobbing Nugget clutching me, signing Why is Baba so mad? Why did Baba make me cry? and the Turk screaming Turkish profanity followed by “What the hell is wrong with him?” It grew apparent, 3 was coming to take my Nugget as well. But being the Positive Pollyanna that I am, I tried to lay out my rational as to why three would be better with Nugget than with Number 1 for the Turk. (While I took the brunt of the horror on round one, he was not left unharmed and we both suffer from Post Traumatic Turkish Toddler issues. And since Nugget is a major Baba’s boy, it’s not looking good for the Turk on this round.)

“Maybe since he’s got a few delays, the whole three thing will be delayed too and   we’ll get it in spurts instead of all at once.”

“No. You are crazy. He is crazy. This will be very bad.”

“Maybe since he had such a rough year and he’s made such huge strides this year   will be a breeze. It’s karma.”

“No. This will be bad. I see if I can travel more for work this year.”

“Maybe since we’re really old now, it won’t bother us as much.”

“No. Now I just get piss faster.”

The signs started to show around 2.5 but it was too soon so I wrote it off. But as the sass via sign started, I worried. When he began to sigh, “Uggggg Ooooooooom! (Aw Mom!)” while rolling his eyes and storming off, I saw the tidal wave beginning to form. Then, this week when he handed me a poop-filled diaper, leaving a trail of poop on my freshly (like mere hours earlier freshly) cleaned, white carpet, and began to explain that he was uncomfortable and needed a shower “Ow!” (Now!), it was clear there would be no delays. 3 had arrived like a freight train and no one would be spared.

But as I cuddled a chubby little birthday boy who somehow appeared in my bed in the middle of the night, I got a little weepy thinking about how much has changed for him in the past year and how much he’s accomplished. Last summer he was lethargic and miserable with a kidney that just wasn’t working and now he’s an unstoppable ball of fire. Last summer he was so angry because he couldn’t hear or communicate and now he gladly wears his hearing aid and communicates in both ASL and spoken English (though he’s still only using vowels, he knows what he’s saying even if the rest of us don’t.) Last summer we didn’t really understand all that was going on with Nugget or even what BOR Syndrome was and now we’re a veritable font of knowledge on the subject and have made great strides at getting him on track.

So even though 3 pretty much sucks and we’ll be in for quite a year, I gladly take it. Especially if it means that my baby is finally catching up. (Full disclosure: I could not have chosen a better time to go back to work.) Good luck Developmental Preschool. You’re going to need it with this one!

 

Here We Go Again…But I’m Cool With It

 

Full KubiHulkHere we go again. At approximately the butt-crack of dawn tomorrow morning Nugget will be in pre-op. Again. You might remember my grand appeals at the start 2016, begging that this year not suck. Well, now that we’re 7 months in with Trump and his hate train barreling down the tracks, senseless racist violence erupting seemingly daily, bombings in the Turk’s motherland on the reg and countless dead musical legends, I think it’s safe to say my pleading was disregarded. (Thanks Universe! This will be remembered.) 2016, it appears that much like your older brother 2015, you suck.

But I’m no Negative Nellie and I’m taking a different approach to this situation because even though my little guy will be sedated and out of my reach for a couple hours, this one is easy. This time around no one is pulling a vital organ from my Nugget to trim and reshape before stuffing it back into this abdomen with a slew of tubing and the hopes it will work again. This time we won’t be stuck in a hospital room for days, cradling a baby writhing in pain. This time we’re lucky and this year I’ve met a lot of people who have taught me just what it means to be one of the lucky ones.

A few months ago, in the children’s section at the library, I met a kindred spirit. I knew from her first F-bomb over the abstract puzzles we were meant to be. While other mothers discussed things like better options for Christian-based Mother’s Day Out programs (Seriously? What in the hell Hoosiers? I never heard of these before and I don’t get it…but you do you girl…no judgments.) my new potty mouthed friend and I were comparing notes on the two local children’s hospitals. We were discussing the merits of nursing staffs and surgical waiting rooms. We were talking about how much your prospective changes when you spend a lot of time in these places and how other parents are so lucky they will never need to know this. Then we were talking about her son.

Unlike me, my new friend wasn’t one of the lucky ones. Three months before we met, her five year-old didn’t get to leave the hospital. His rare and rapidly spreading brain tumor that initially took her through our shared experiences, took his life just months after diagnosis. When we met she was days from moving back to her native state while trying to hold things together for her younger son and prepare for the “miracle” son arriving in a few months. She was a tough broad and her story and those hours our kids played together will stick with me forever.

And then there is our Deaf Fairy Godmother’s son. After battling cancer and losing an eye to it years ago, her 19 year old is once again battling the same rare cancer he beat previously. The woman that so dramatically changed our life by teaching us how to relate to our little deaf Nugget and cheering us on every step of the way has spent the past month sitting by her own son’s hospital bed in that same children’s hospital. So far, it’s looking good and the hope is there that they will once again, be some of the lucky ones. (Now if you are a regular reader you know I’m not a promoter in any way but if you have the ability, please go to this Go Fund Me page and help out. This family is amazing. They are Deaf parents and activists of 4 deaf sons on their 3rd round of fighting cancer and they could sure use any generosity you might find.)

There are so many more families I’ve met this year fighting fights most would never dream of, so as we go into surgery tomorrow, it’s pretty easy to keep things in perspective. This time around Nugget is having reconstruction work done on some teeth and jaw parts that didn’t form due to his hard-core infant drug use. He had so much radioactive crap pumped into his kidneys those first months it’s a wonder he doesn’t glow. (Though it might explain his frequent Hulk-out moments) And he’s getting a new ear tube since his old one fell out and has been stuck in his Atresia canal for more than a month because it’s too small for the tube to fall out like in a normal kid. (Seriously, can you imagine something sitting in your ear like a bug for a month? No wonder he gets surly.)

As with anything, there is a risk. There’s always the risk of more hearing loss with the tube implantation due to his anatomy but there’s risk without the tube too. Like everything in life, it’s a crapshoot. But so far, we’ve been the lucky ones and I will always be aware of that. So tomorrow morning we’ll kiss our Nugget, then kiss the dice and hope for the best. Even when things are uncertain, (I’m lookin’ at you 2016!) perspective is the key – and hey, with only one ear to fix, it will take half as long! Perspective.

I Found Dory…Kind Of…

woman with fish

That little orange hellcat Nemo, is like a rock icon in the birth defects world. (Yes, that is a thing.) He’s the mascot for a variety of groups because what better point of reference for a one-eared Microtian (like my Nugget) or a kid with a limb difference than a sassy orange whippersnapper. For kids like mine, Nemo is the man…or the fish…I guess.

With Finding Dory hitting the big screens, it’s good to have that little finned wonder back in full force when Nugget is old enough to be targeted by the typically outlandish marketing campaign. I assumed we’d see Dory eventually, likely at home because convincing Nugget to sit through an entire movie in a quiet theatre is basically akin to overseeing union negations with a bunch of drunken longshoremen. But a few days ago in a moment of weakness, I loaded up my tiny Turks and hit a morning matinee.

What prompted such madness? Heat stroke? Hormonal imbalance? Sign language threats from a knee-high Nugget? While all could be viable options, it was none of those. Rather, in my numerous special needs parenting groups, again and again posts touted that every parent of a special needs kid needs, nay, must, see Finding Dory. Now, special needs parents are not “must” kind of people. Unlike those broads on the frontline of the Mommy Wars (which I’m pretty sure didn’t exist before Facebook and might I add – girls, this crap really needs to end.) special needs parents never tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your kid, but rather we’re more “hey, anything is worth a try” kind of people. So these recommendations held weight.

Over the past couple weeks, Nugs and I have been butting heads like a couple of mountain goats. (Goats or rams? No clue, but you get the point.) And while I attribute much of this to turning three in a month, it’s a lot more than that. We’re out of sync. So under the guise of “hey, anything is worth a try,” I hoped that finding that crazy Dory might give me some guidance. (Desperate times my friends, desperate times.)

Nugget’s been rough lately for a few reasons. For one, having a super-talkative big brother (who never shuts up) home all summer makes Nugget want to talk…which is awesome…but thanks to his apraxia of speech, he can only say vowels with the rare odd consonant. He’ll address me with phrases like, “Ay un a o ou a oo.” If I don’t immediately translate his drunken ramblings into Standard English he slaps his head and yells, “Ugh!” If I ask him to sign it, he yells, “O om!” (no Mom) while stomping off muttering “arggggg.” It’s like living with Charlie Brown. (And full disclosure, I’ve always had Lucy tendencies. The kid better not try to kick a football…)

We’ve always battled frustration meltdowns that happen when he misunderstands situations due to his hearing loss but now, since he thinks he’s talking (I guess he can’t hear the missing sounds?) he doesn’t want to sign, so no one understands him. Add to this his genetic combo of two hotheaded ethnicities and he’s become as aggressive as a linebacker with roid rage. Just to push me a bit further, he’s also developed a new love of the spontaneous nudist life (People, things have occurred in recent days that will likely take years of therapy to erase from my memory…one word…poop.). So even Dory was worth a shot. 

Five minutes into previews, Nugget said he was done and wanted to go. (Hey kid, I just shucked out 30 bucks for tickets and we are staying at least through the opening credits!) As any good (read- cheap ass) mother does, I began pulling a small grocery store’s inventory out of my “purse” in the hopes of feeding him into complacency. That bought me ten minutes until he screamed, “air uus ox?” (Where’s my juice box?) Unfortunately, an usher was unexpectedly fluent in drunken vowel speak and immediately got all up in my business. I had no choice but to hit concessions and buy a $50 box of M&Ms.

The rest of the movie was a combo of wrestling, walking up and down the stairs (again and again and again) and watching from the entrance but at least we made it to the closing credits. And while Dory didn’t solve all my problems as I’d hoped, I did walk away with three bits of knowledge.

  1. I’m never taking this kid to a movie ever again. Ever. Never.
  2. It’s really hard to fix a hearing aid in a dark theatre, especially after it has been flung down the aisle by an angry child.
  3. The groups were right – special needs parents really do need to see this movie.

Dory’s parents wanted to shield her from the world because she was born with something that was going to make life difficult for her, much more difficult than for other fish. The same is true for parents of kids born with special needs. We parents know how hard life is and how much harder is it going to be for our special little guys. Once her parents realized they couldn’t hide Dory away, just like the rest of us, Dory’s parents armed her with ways to adapt and hoped for the best. It’s the same for Nugget. I’d do anything to make his journey easier but sometimes the best I can do is arm him with tools to make his own way. I think right now we’re just stuck in a phase of tool development and he’s testing the waters in preparation for finding his own way when school starts.

I’ve thought a lot about that damn blue fish over the past days and I must say, it helps. Not quite as much as that glass of wine after he finally goes to sleep, but the movie did make things more clear. If for no other reason, it reminded us both to “just keep swimming.”

 

 

Tenacious Mom VS City Hall

Deaf Child Area Sign

Once upon a time there was a tenacious mom with a kid who couldn’t hear so well, so she decided it might be a good idea to get a sign to warn passersby. She wanted a sign that said “Yo, Slow Down Fool. Deaf Kid Up In Here.” But research quickly showed her that signs like that were frowned upon by the founding fathers of her town. (Hoosiers can be uptight like that.) So she settled on a sign that read, “Deaf Child Area.” It wasn’t as eloquent or direct as her chosen wording but it would do. Tenacious Mom called the City and inquired about how a sign like that might be procured.

The first City secretary was flustered by Tenacious Mom’s request. “Oh ma’am, I don’t know anything about signs like that. You should check somewhere else.”

The second City secretary was confused but had the good sense to redirect Tenacious Mom’s call. “Honey, I’ve got no clue but I’ll connect you to the Streets Department and I’m sure they’ll know what to do.

Much like Goldilocks, Tenacious Mom hoped her third connection would be just right. But as we all know, crap never happens like that. Tenacious Mom left a charming message and awaited what she assumed would be an informative return call from an intelligent City official, after all, City officials are there to assist the people…right? (Aw hells no. Not even in fairy tales.)

            One week later, Tenacious Mom received a call. The man identified himself as the Superintendent of Streets and when he gave his name, Tenacious Mom –also known as Smartass Mom- bit her tongue to avoid commenting as the Superintendent of Streets’ first name was the same as his last. (For the purpose of avoiding litigation, he will henceforth be known as Steve Steves.)

“Hello Ma’am. I have a message here that you are interested in procuring a Deaf Child sign for your street.”

            “Yes, Steve Steves, I am.”

“I’m assuming you have a deaf child?”

            “That’s a solid deduction Steve Steves.”

“Well Ma’am, by law in the State of Indiana, we are not required to put up that kind of sign.”

            “Really?”

“Yes Ma’am. Deaf Child, Blind Child and Children at Play. We’re not required to put those up. We get nervous mothers asking for Children at Play signs every week. If I gave a sign to every mom who wanted to let her kid play in the street, ha ha, I’d never get anything done, ha ha ha.”

            “So parents of deaf and blind children just want to let their kids play in the street too?”

“No Ma’am. I was just explaining why we don’t put up those kinds of signs.”                    

            “I’m assuming in Indiana it’s ok to run over deaf and blind children who didn’t see or hear  the car coming? Obviously they’re of less value as they can’t hear or see.”

“No Ma’am, now I didn’t say that. We Hoosiers respect our children.”

            “Just not deaf or blind ones, as it seems to be unimportant to keep those kids safe by alerting   drivers that my kid might not hear them coming.”

“Now Ma’am, there’s no need to get upset. There’s good reasoning behind this that proves these kinds of signs are unnecessary.”

            “Oh Steve, I’m not upset. We’re just discussing. Right? Now I’m pretty new to this state and I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of some of the laws here but why don’t you tell me more about why signs protecting small children who cannot hear or see are unnecessary, because to a gal like me, that sounds a bit odd. ”

“Yes Ma’am. There have been studies that show drivers are immune to such signs and do not yield, thus the sign is of no use. Might I suggest you place something large and colorful on your sidewalk when your child is outside playing instead?”

            “Large and colorful?”

“Yes Ma’am, when our kids were young my wife and I used to pull out one of those neon turtles with the ‘children playing’ flag, to alert traffic.”

            “Ah yes, a neon turtle to protect my deaf son. Steve Steves, can I ask, do you have a deaf child?”

“No Ma’am.”

            “Do you have a blind child?”

“No Ma’am.”

            “Then you shouldn’t tell mothers to use a neon turtle to protect their deaf or blind children.”

“Again, Ma’am, I’m just trying to help.”

            “No Steve, I don’t feel like you are. I think you called to feel me out. You wanted to see if I was going to be a pain in your ass about this or if I was going to be easily cajoled by the suggestion of a neon turtle. Well Steve, as I mentioned before, I’m new in town. I’m a life-long teacher, an advocate for deaf kids and unfortunately for you, I’m coming from Philadelphia and my husband is from Turkey. Steve, I’ll be honest with you, we don’t fight like Hoosiers. We fight like Philly Turks and I’m assuming you had World Civ in school so you know how Turks fight.”

“Now Mrs. Özemet, there’s really no need to fight. There are options.”

            “Like what Steve?”

“Well, you can petition City Council with your request.”

            “Fantastic! Get us on the docket for the next meeting. The Turk and I will be there to petition. Should I bring my own expert testimony and research? Is the venue Power Point ready?”

“Um, I…I…I’d have to check.”

            “You do that Steve because I’m not going away.”

“Let me do some checking and get back to you Mrs. Özemet. Maybe there are other options I’m not aware of.”

            “Good thinking Steve Steves. If I don’t hear back in a few days, I’ll just swing by your office and we can chat in person.”

Three days later, Steve Steves called Tenacious Mom to inform her that her request had been passed through City Council without any need for her to be present. Was it fear of The Turk waging jihad? Was it fear of a Philly smack-down? We may never know, but she again fought the urge to morph into Smartass Mom and thanked the man with two first names for his assistance.

One month later, just when Tenacious Mom was about to visit Steve Steves’ office to “check” on things, City workers mounted not one, but two, Deaf Child Area signs on either side of her house. Though she still longed for a sign that read, “Yo, Slow Down Fool. Deaf Kid Up In Here,” she was pretty damn pleased with the ones she got.

The Moral Of Our Story: Men with two first names should never take on a tenacious mom and her Turkish husband.

Deaf Child Area

 

Pardon My Dance Break…

dancing boys

Like most discerning television enthusiasts just shy of age 3, Nugget has sophisticated viewing tastes. He loves the hard-hitting facts exposed in Sid the Science Kid, the fast-paced adrenaline rush of Paw Patrol and the gritty work-place drama of The Odd Squad. While he’d love to be an avid binge-watcher, he’s only allowed that luxury in the presence of phlegm or vomit. (his or mine). After a hard day on the swings, nothing takes the edge off like kicking back with a juice box in one hand and the TV remote in the other.

While his television viewing is generally age appropriate, (with the exception of his unexplainable love of The Goldbergs which I fear is due to seeing his own Smother in the adoringly oppressive Beverly) there is one show that we just can’t keep him away from and due to the scantily clad nature of the ladies, the age appropriateness is questionable. My Nugget is currently obsessed with Dancing With The Stars and while he’s danced with fandom in recent seasons, this time around he is obsessed, even requesting a Dancing With The Stars themed birthday party.

Every morning upon waking, he signs – Dancing With The Stars tonight? If my answer is yes, he’s elated. If it’s no he demands a quick fix from YouTube so he can carry on with his day. This coming week’s two-night finale is likely to blow his tiny mind. (Back to back Dancing? Madness!) An odd obsession for a toddler boy or is he merely emulating his adoringly oppressive mother’s interests much like his love of Wonder Woman and the musical stylings of Flo Rida? Or is this the first sign that finally, after losing hope with Number One Son following 8 years of less than stellar art projects and school performances, that my Nugget may have gotten my artsy farty gene? A mama can only hope but I venture to guess his current obsession stems from something far deeper.

See, Nugget is Team Nyle all the way and waits in anticipation for any glimpse of his dancing hero. For those of you, (unlike Nugget and by extension now, even the Turk) who aren’t DWTS fans, Nyle DiMarco is a profoundly deaf actor and model (and fine male specimen) that was the recent winner of America’s Next Top Model. (No, Nugget is not a fan of ANTM, nor am I. Tyra, love ya girl but that show is ridiculous.) Winning Top Model and being deaf gave him a direct path to the token “disabled star” slot on the latest season of Dancing With The Stars.

As with most television programing, this show also has a formula that relies on stereotypes and the token disability slot is part of that, as is the token geriatric slot, the old jock slot, the rehabilitated child star slot, the washed-up musician slot and the hottie-past-her-prime slot. But much to the surprise of both the DWTS producers and its fan base, (primarily old broads and their bored husbands (oh, and Nugget too)) this year’s token disabled star quickly proved that he wasn’t disabled at all.

In case you, unlike myself, have not spent the past few years pouring over audiograms and learning about the four levels of hearing loss, being Profoundly Deaf means you hear nothing and even aided you still hear nothing. That means that when this man is dancing, he is dancing to complete silence. (Suck on that Baryshnikov.) And in case you are not watching this season, the “disabled” man who dances to silence has been absolutely amazing, receiving top scores and far surpassing the rest for the competition for the entire season. But better than that, he’s used his time in the spotlight to push his political agenda, one that happens to be mine- bilingual (ASL and speech) language acquisition for all deaf and hard of hearing children. (Click here, in case you missed my high horse tirade on the matter and want to better understand why this is even a thing.)

From political appearances to forming the Nyle DiMarco Foundation, this man has made huge strides in the push for bilingual education for all deaf kids all in the midst of rehearsing a cha-cha and polishing his pasa doble. In addition to this activism that warms the hearts of parents like me, what’s much more important is his role modeling. My Nugget is obsessed with Dancing With The Stars because when he is watching he sees a guy that talks with his hands just like he does. He sees a guy that learns with his eyes, just like Nugget does and he sees a guy that keeps it classy in a world that is growing increasingly trashy. (Just like Nugget damn well better do when he’s a grown man or his mama is going to take care of that.)

Something tells me that when the producers filled the token disabled contestant slot with Nyle DiMarco, they had no idea that he would prove again and again that being deaf is not a disability but rather, a different approach. They also had no idea that he would bring with him not only the entire Deaf community, but the parents of deaf and hard of hearing kids, advocates, supporters, educators and anyone who works with these kids, one little chubby toddler in Indiana and tons of other kids who see themselves in this guy and millions of viewers who are shocked to have their preconceived notions of the deaf obliterated by dance.

It’s wonderful to see someone using this ridiculous platform that is Dancing With The Stars for good instead of trying to reignite a flailing career. Good on you Nyle DiMarco. This family will be watching you in the finals next week. (Not like we have any other choice…Nugget rules.) You’ve certainly got our votes but I am hopeful that this love affair will fade before I have to come up with a Dancing With The Stars themed birthday cake in July. I already have all those football decorations…

dancing girl

 

 

Thanks For The Coffee Klatch Paul Stanley

Toddlers on bench in gas masks during WWII

Unleash the balloons! Discharge the confetti cannons! It’s over. (No, not the US presidential race, we can only dream about that ending. We’re stuck in that crap-nado for at least six more months.) No, the case conference was yesterday and Nugget now officially has an IEP and is placed in a school for fall. He’s even been put on a bus route. (Though I doubt the chubster’s stump-like legs will be capable of mounting bus stairs and thus he will need a drop off, but I digress.) While the beginning of his formal education doesn’t look at all like I’d anticipated, we’ve got an education plan and the next step is happening.

We had great options but Nugget fell into the in-between and none were ideal right now, so he’ll be spending his first semester on the Island of Misfit Toys with other little buddies that need an extra push to get things going. (Side note- when we visited the Island, Nugget had a grand time laughing at a kid with enormous glasses and that kid pointed and laughed right back, because on the Island, it is perfectly acceptable for a kid with one ear and a hearing aid on his forehead and a kid with Coke-bottle glasses to mock each other. The Island is a level playing field. Socialization at it’s core.) He’ll have a full morning of social time and therapy, much like a Baby Betty Ford Clinic. Best of all, the teachers will meet Nugget in his zone, not all sign language, not all speech but a combo of both, just like Nugget.

In addition to his speech and language needs, they will also help him with his anxiety. (Again, much like a Baby Betty Ford Clinic – sans pharmaceuticals.) The plan is to bring that sassy little chunk out of his Mama-needin’ shell so he’ll become comfortable enough to entertain the masses with his sweet dance moves and vowel-based recreations of Flo Rida jams. (El-um u i ous : That’s ‘Welcome to My House’ as interpreted by the Nugget.) The kid is well on his way to comedic genius and while I’d love to save it all for my own entertainment pleasure, the world needs a good laugh right about now and Nugs is ready to lead the charge…as soon as he can get off his mama’s lap. (I’m assuming Jerry Seinfeld started on his mom’s lap as well. Right?)

While the decision is made, I still had my doubts. The what-if’s are massive in this Polly-the-Planner, Wilma-the-Worrier mind of mine. Sure, all parents worry about making a wrong choice – like will Timmy become an ax murderer because I sent him to a Waldorf school over a Montessori school? (Unlikely, but though he’ll be able to knit at age 3, he might never learn to sort beans properly.) In the realm of special needs parenting the worry is heightened because your kid is already behind and parents are often working against developmental time clocks, age deadlines, insurance restrictions and school district constraints. (Man, have I learned a lot this year!)

Just as I was getting ready to dosi-do into a second-guessing square dance over my morning coffee, I got a little gift from Paul Stanley that seemed to put things in perspective. Paul Stanley, yes Star Child from Kiss and a founding father of hair metal, has the same ear deformity Nugget does and even wears the same kind of hearing aid. Didn’t know Star Child was half-deaf with one ear did ya? (There is your useless trivia for today. You’re welcome.) That’s why he started the hair thing – to hide his ear. And I guess that also explains the whole volume thing too. Gene: Turn it up guys, Paul can’t hear a damn thing, he’s only got one ear! Paul Stanley never went public about his Microtia until recently and since then he’s been a huge supporter of tiny Microtians doing great things for kids all over. (And you thought he was just some sleazy, tight pants wearin’ rock star didn’t you? Nice, Judgy Judy)

Anyway, this morning an interview with Paul Stanley came across my inbox and my second-guessing ceased. In the article, the writer asked Stanley his secret to overcoming the huge obstacles placed before him as a kid. He replied, “You don’t take giant steps. You initially take baby steps appropriately. As you have small successes and small wins, it encourages you to go the next step.” Logical? Yes, but sometimes when wisdom is delivered by a hairy rock icon it sticks better. Thank you Star Child.

Nugget is doing just that. He started by signing single words and now he’s signing sentences. He used to be a miserable, grunting tyrant and now he uses sign language to recreate hilarious adventures from his day. (Explaining how he got an owie is usually Oscar worthy.) Signing has given him enough confidence to try verbal approximations and he just keeps building. It really doesn’t matter where he is in school because right now, he is taking baby steps at his pace and eventually those will lead to great success. In time, Nugget might just pick-up a guitar and forge a new sound that will take the world by storm. (Though in all honesty I look for him to be more R&B than Metal. Chubby guys are good at smooooooooth.) Take your time Nugget and keep going with those baby steps. We’ll get there. I have no doubt about it.

 

I Think My Spirit Guide is a Wrestling Quaker

shaman

With the exception of a stint in a private school owned by the Turkish mafia (What? Mafia bosses care about education too.) and a year in public school, I’ve spent my entire teaching career in Quaker schools. If you’re not familiar with Quaker schools let me nutshell it for you. Quaker schools were created by the Religious Society of Friends (Codename: Quakers) to educate their young’uns, although now most students are not Quakers. These are groovy, progressive schools where equality is the norm, community service is part of the curriculum and you can’t help but get sucked into their hippie thinking. (Quakers are pretty badass for pacifists.)

After many years in various Quaker schools, the Quaker way is deeply rooted in my thinking and parts of it occasional spring forth from my cluttered brain in times of need. This week, one Quaker idea has really been poppin’ thanks to my one-eared, bum kidneyed, hard of hearing, apraxic, high-strung, Nugget’s latest journey and that’s the idea that “a way opens.” It started in the dairy section of Aldi. (Yes, I’m a value shopper. No shame in that.) I heard, “Relax, a way opens,” over and over in the voice of my former coworker Mr. Ross, a wrestling coach/hippie Quaker. (I’m guessing this means he’s my spirit guide. I’m not sure how that works but admitting I hear voices sounds like a cry for help so I’m going with spirit guide.)

Most likely, Mr. Ross became my spirit guide because he was the one who best explained the theory to me many years ago. “If there’s a rock in the stream, the water doesn’t try to break the rock. The water makes a new way around the rock. Thus, a way opens.” It was pretty Zen for a dude who spent most of his time in headlocks and half nelsons. Ultimately, it might not be the road you were planning to travel, but a road will open, in time.

Right now, I really need a way to open in the, choosing-a-school-for-the-One-Eared-Wonder arena. As of August he phases out of Early Intervention and moves on to big boy school, but due to summer break decisions must be made now. We have 3 choices: the ASL based deaf school, the speech based deaf school with no ASL or the all encompassing developmental preschool which I lovingly liken to the Island of Misfit Toys- everybody who needs a little extra help can find it there.

We tried the ASL deaf school earlier this year and even though signing is his first language, it was a di- freakin’-saster. (Here, in case you missed it.) Since his main issue now is developing speech I had grand plans for him to attend the speech-based deaf school but after demonstrating a flagrant disregard for his mother’s plans by throwing his placement evaluation like Pete Rose in a title game, I began to worry. After discussions with his developmental pediatrician, speech therapist and audiologist last week my grand plans began to crack. All three suggested that due to Nugget’s increasing anxiety issues, he might not be ready for a speech intensive school. Why ya gotta do me like this Nug? Mama had a plan.

With every professional suggesting a holding pattern, I knew what they were really saying…look how well he’s done with you this year… you should give him one more year…stay home with him, just one more year. Sure I nodded and claimed I’d give proper consideration, while my insides screamed “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Now I certainly love my Nug and I will agree this has been a great year for him developmentally, but regular viewers may recall my fear of financial ruin forcing me to take up pole dancing on cellulite night as a means of survival. That fear hasn’t diminished and I’m staying flexible just in case. Here in the real world Mama needs to bring in some dough and while I’d love to stay home (Ok, not really, 24/7 Nugget duty is hard and I’m old.) I really must get back to the workforce.

Going back to work not only means freedom from the threat of pole dancing, it also means wearing pants not intended for yoga. (While I enjoy my yoga pants, my pants have not been exposed to yoga in the past year and Mama desperately needs the stand-up-and-suck-it-in goodness that occurs with a waistband.) I long for commutes where my sports radio is not disturbed by constant demands for It’s Signing Time Music Time. (Yes, I’m butch like that but only during football season.) I want lunch without that little bastard Daniel Tiger and coffee that doesn’t have remnants of a toddler’s masticated bagel. All of that is at my fingertips if I just get this school thing right. See, I’ve already taken a teaching position for next school year. (Now you see my plan? Mommy goes to school, Number 1 is in school, Nugget starts school. Easy peasy…or not.) So the need for accurate Nugget placement is high.

Hopefully my Spirit Guide is right and soon, a way will open. In the past, through all our trials, (And there have been an inordinate amount, damn it) a way has always opened. It wasn’t always what I’d hoped for but it’s always worked out, eventually. (Though I may now have a compromised liver and nervous tick, everything has to resolve, eventually.) On an up note, somehow in this stress, I developed not an ulcer, but rather a wrestling Quaker spirit guide so it seems my body has learned to handle stress differently this year. Perhaps a way is opening…

wrestler (1)