Mama Don’t Need No Tribe

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Everyone has those words or phrases that rub them wrong way like the ever-despised word “moist.” Personally, that one isn’t a trigger for me because when someone says “moist” my mind automatically follows that with “cake.”

It’s not gross words that rile me up, but more phrases that might be found in a middle management training manual, like “team building.” Or, “I just want to circle back to that.” Unless we’re out riding our bikes to the Dairy Queen in 6th grade or rounding up our wagon train to conquer the Wild West, I see no need for you to “circle back,” just call me.

But the phrase that has really been eating at me lately is “my tribe.” As an incredibly politically incorrect human, it’s probably shocking to most that I might be a little uncomfortable with that term. I’m especially uncomfortable when “my tribe” is used by a bunch of white chicks in reference to likeminded friends when they’re out grabbing pumpkin spice lattes. Even we offensive broads have limits.

This whole tribe thing has been stuck in my brain lately though and I’ve been giving it way more thought than necessary. It started last week when I was having a difficult time with Nugget which resulted in a true special needs mom meltdown. That’s when it was suggested that the answer to my problems was that I needed to find “my tribe.”

At the risk of sounding like an 80’s Rob Lowe character, I’ve always been a loner. People are fine and all, and I do have a pocket of friends I consider to be sisters and gay brothers, plus a huge web of people beyond that, but I’m an arms-length kind of gal. I don’t do tribal friendship. (Perhaps because I don’t do pumpkin spice lattes?) However, in my pocket of sisters and gay brothers and even in my web beyond, I don’t have any close special needs parent connections so my journey with Nugget has been a lonely road.

When you have a kid that carries a genetic label few have ever heard of and even fewer can spell (Branchio-oto-renal syndrome doesn’t usually pop up in spell check), and has a whole host of diagnoses that follow him around, it’s easy to feel like Tom Hanks in Castaway with no one to share your woes but Wilson the washed ashore volleyball. (Full Disclosure: sometimes when the Turk and I do talk about Nugget’s issues, the big English words throw him off and he basically turns into Wilson too. I love him but I know his limits.) But a tribe? I don’t know about that kind of hippie madness.

Last year Nugget finally started to catch up developmentally. About mid December, that dude started busting through every limitation that had been weighing him down. He gained years in months and it was exactly what my mom heart needed to believe things were finally going in the right direction.

And then this year he got stuck in a mudbog. Since school started this year Nugget has stagnated. No growth. No change. When I persist, “Let’s work on letters.” I’m met with, “Nope. Can’t do dat.”

If I try, “Let’s write together.”

I get, “No. I can’t.”

It’s killing my old teacher heart.

In addition to his genetic anomalies, Nugget also drew the long straw on a healthy dose of stubborn Turk genes too. Many a teacher and medical professional have said, “Wow, he really only does what he wants to do.”

To which I can only respond, “It seems you’ve not met his father.” But recently those Turk genes are about to do me in and have me worried of they are a sign of more than just obstinace.

The driving force behind my recent meltdown, the one that spurred the whole tribe thing, has been Nugget’s hatred of everything resulting in hissy fits that would make Naomi Campbell proud. There are tears, flailing, occasional profanity and relentless arguing and that’s just on Nugget’s side. I’m about a step from postal.

Simply put, Nugget doesn’t want to do anything.

Go to school – hissy fit.

Go to anything for his brother– hissy fit.

Grandma shows up – hissy fit.

Grandma leaves – hissy fit.

And the list goes on and on. After one particularly rough day when the hissy fit was so bad at school he had to go home, I immediately spiraled into a pit of mom guilt so deep even mid-day, high-dollar chocolate couldn’t bring me out.

It’s been a rough year with a new and highly incompetent teacher (It’s not brain surgery girl, it’s special ed preschool.) and I’m beginning to think special ed is holding him back. I spiraled from, maybe we should pull him from that school, to maybe if I weren’t so busy taking care of other people’s kids all day mine wouldn’t be in this mess.

I talked it out at work, (A major advantage to dealing with special ed school issues for you own kid is working in a special ed school) until I finally relented and called Wilson – I mean, the Turk. I’m not sure why I was moved to call him but I assumed that women with tribes do that kind of thing.

“I don’t know, I just think maybe if I weren’t working all the time I could get Nugget going again and put an end to this crap.” I whimpered on the verge of tears.

“No.” The Turk replied.

“What?”

“Honey, calm down. He is asshole. Even if you home all the time, he still be asshole.”

“Are you joking?” Sometimes it’s hard to tell with that accent.

“No. Don’t you remember Number 1 at this age? He was asshole too. He is not asshole now so they get over it. You don’t need to quit.”

The Turk was right. There was never a time when I understood more fully why animals eat their young than when our oldest was four. He was indeed a raging asshole but fortunately, he grew out of it.

“When I kid, I hate school too. My father get so mad because I never learn letters or write. I not do it because I thought it was stupid. Maybe he’s the same. Relax. We get him there.”

And with that, my meltdown ended. I didn’t need some ridiculous tribe; I only needed Wilson to finally talk back to me on my desert island.

Unfortunately, we are only 3.5 months into this grand age of 4 and with some wine and more high-dollar midday chocolate, I might make it through. Better than that though, I realized a gal doesn’t need a tribe as long as she has a straight shooting Turk.

 

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Arrrrrrgggg, Fall Break, How Dare Ye!

Blackbeard

I’m having a difficult relationship with fall break this year. I’m torn and I think it might be best if fall break and I see other people.

Don’t get me wrong, like any human who spends their days in the trenches, dodging free-range sneezes and sauntering through unexpected fart bombs having chosen the title of Teacher, I love me some fall break. After two hard months of school, (2 months immersed in middle school hormones mind you) Mama needed a break. I mean, how long can one discuss worm poop and owl regurgitation before needing a breather? But somehow, this year fall break wasn’t what I needed.

It wasn’t like I was expecting an actual “break,” bingeing on Netflix and merlot while thumbing through People. No, that’s the stuff dreams are made of. For teacher-moms, a school break is never really a break. You just go from working two full-time jobs to working one (though not packing lunches and living via Crockpot for a few days is AH-MAZING!). Instead, I was ready for a break filled with outdoor entertainment with two tiny Turks, later bedtimes and a break from our insane schedule. What I wasn’t expecting was for fall break to show me how much I miss out on by working all the time.

Missing my babies didn’t hit at first, likely because the Turk and I made the error of taking a family get-away at the start of break. We were just going on an overnighter but as history has shown us, that never goes well.

This trip, like many through our history, went downhill from the onset.

“Why there are no signs for Cincinnati? We are driving for two hour, we should be there now.” The Turk muttered while making another obscene gesture at another passing truck.

Because I’m now well-versed in life with the Turk, I pulled up the directions on my phone to assess the situation. “You took 70. You were supposed to take 74.”

“What?” He wailed. “No. Your phone has problem. It is always wrong.”

Again, because I’ve lived this life for a looooong time, I pulled it up on his phone as proof.

“Oh.” He whispered. “They must have put wrong sign up back there.”

“I’m sure they did honey. I’m sure they did.”

Thus began an hour long journey through winding rural Indiana roads by two people terrified of Indiana (If you didn’t read my last post, click here. It explains everything.) with a ¼ tank of (PS- Rural Indiana, if you could replace just one or two of those churches with a gas station, that would be fantastic. Thanks.) and two carsick, starving children. By the time we reached civilization on the Ohio border, Number 1 was hangry, Nugget was nearly catatonic and I was surlier than normal. When the Turk proclaimed, “I think we just keep going to zoo. I am not so hungry.” after having stuffed his face with a family-sized bag of peanut M&M’s, I began to vividly imagine his death and wondered if the Twinkie Defense would hold up.

However, I didn’t get a chance to plot his demise because my darling offspring beat me to it. From the backseat came an uncharacteristically loud, “No Baba! Not this time. We are going to eat and we are going to eat now or you will regret it!” from Number 1. Never doubt the power of a hangry 9 year-old.

That incident was followed by stomping through a crowded zoo in unseasonable heat, a Nugget meltdown because a bird looked at him, a hostile tirade from the Turk because the gorilla exhibit was under construction (One word man, Harambe. The construction was justified.) and a skeezy hotel in which the elevator got stuck and the air conditioner fell off the wall. While it may seem dramatic, that’s pretty much how all of our family overnights pan out so it was no big thing and we made it out alive.

The boys and I spent the next chunk of break planning out Halloween costumes. Having a mom who used to be a professional costume designer, my boys think big when it comes to costumes. The day one of my children asks for a store-bought costume I may weep (in a sadness/relief combo).

Nugget had an exact image in his head but getting a four year-old with a speech impediment to explain that image can be challenging.

“Mom, I need a hooker for Hawoween.”

“Hubba whaaaaaa?”

“I hooker. I need one.”

I’ve never been one of those parents skilled in the art of keeping inappropriate topics away from little ears, but I’m also pretty sure a discussion of hookers never came up in our house. So hope was strong we were just having a miscommunication.

“You need a what?”

After a few charades it became clear what he really needed was a pirate’s hook for his hand. Because as he explained, “I can’t be a piwate wifout a hooker.”

And that was it. I was done. Sometimes it takes your 4 year-old asking for a hooker and your 9 year-old threatening harm to his father to show you how fast they’re growing up and to send a mom into a meltdown.

Our fall has been hectic with pee wee football (PS- We won the league championship though I may not be allowed to attend another championship game due to some language choices made in the heat of the moment.) a million other commitments and a raging battle with Nugget’s special ed class as I struggle to find out why he’s in a developmental standstill. I run out the door at 7:00 and rush back at 4:30. By the time we tackle daily tasks we’re lucky to have a couple hours together before bed. I miss my boys and spending a few full days with them always shows me how much.

So fall break, even though I longed for you, you suck. While I needed a few days without getting up at the butt-crack of dawn, I didn’t need the reminder that our life is like a raging river and I’m bobbing along like a flailing carp. If fall break left me in this state, all I can say is Christmas break- have mercy on me.

Can I Order a Sister-Wife On Amazon?

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I needed new sneakers. So this morning I went online, found the model I like, picked a festive color and with a few clicks the deal was done before I even made it through a full cup of coffee. Tomorrow my new kicks will be waiting on my doorstep when I arrive home, ready and willing to escort my tired tootsies through the next 30 casual Fridays. Bingo bango, the interwebs solved my problem.

This got me thinking. I have another big problem. Could the interwebs solve that problem too? This problem is a bit more complex though; because I’ve decided I need a sister-wife. For real.

Now that school has started I am a hot mess. Between my full-time teaching job and my full-time job as a Turkish wife and my full-time plus job as an overbearing S-mother, I’m dying. Our household fluctuates between panic mode and squalor on the reg and my forty-something ass is dragin’.

-Dinner is mushy? Sorry family but that happens when Mom starts the slowcooker at 4:45 AM.

-“Hello? Yes this is Nugget’s mother. He didn’t wear his hearing aid to school…again?” That’s what happens when Mom isn’t there to micromanage putting him on the bus.

– “Yes, I realize the house looks like a crack-den but I’ve got a mountain of papers to grade.” I’m on it this weekend.

-“What permission slip? You needed it 2 weeks ago? Sorry Number 1 Son.” I’m on it.

-“No, the fish tank isn’t supposed to be green.” I’m on it.

-“Why are you discontinuing my cell service? Really? I haven’t paid the bill since July?” My bad. I’m on it.

-“What’s the…is that… cat barf on my foot?” Even the cat is out to get me.

A mortal woman can only keep this up for so long before being drawn to drastic measures, like pharmaceutical assistance (Though I don’t think Mother’s Little Helpers were really intended for upping the pace, were they?) and since I’m of an advanced age and our judgmental world now frowns upon such things, I’ve decided there is a better way. The way of the sister-wife.

Anyone who knows me (especially my husband the Turk) has long been troubled by my fascination with the whole concept of sister-wives. It started years ago in Turkey when Big Love was one of the only shows we got in English. Then there were the various documentaries I consumed on the topic followed by every episode of every season of TLC’s train wreck, Sister Wives. My obsession is strong.

Mock me if you will, but if you put all your Judge Judy tendencies aside, it makes good sense. Like a fool, I’ve given my family an unrealistic standard of mothering and while I kept it up for many years, now I’m ready to call in reinforcements.

If I get a sister-wife, she could stay home to make sure bills are paid, hearing-aids are worn, permission slips are actually signed and my house is kept in an inhabitable, dare I say, clean state. Currently there is a pod of cockroaches waiting on the doorstep in little fedoras carrying tiny Samsonite just waiting for the moment I lose the frontline battle with the crumbs. The struggle is real.

My sister-wife, let’s call her Eunice. Why Eunice? Because Eunice is a sensible name that says, stability, strength and no sex appeal. It’s a name fit for a sister-wife in a floral frock rocking excess facial hair and a uni-brow. More importantly, have you ever seen a big-boobed bombshell called Eunice? No. (I’m desperate. I’m not stupid.)

Even with Eunice’s mad housekeeping skills, love of gluten-free baking and ability to take on any issue that might arise, I have no worries about my husband trading me in for Eunice. For one, being from Turkey he’s seen a lot of bearded women with uni-brows and it’s not his jam. And for two, The Turk and I have equal levels of crazy that no other mortal would dare take on. As the Turks say, “There is a lid for every pot,” and much like Ricky was the lid for Lucy, the Turk is mine. Eunice hasn’t a chance.

According to the TLC series and Big Love, Eunice and I will be able to sip coffee together in the morning as we lament our daily duties, but we will often argue over small things until we draw up a workable, color-coded chore chart for both of us. I can handle that. It’s all about balance. If reality television is to be believed (And it is right? I mean, of course it’s true love on The Bachelor, right?) we won’t share clothes (because Eunice is selfish with her frocks) but we will cheer each other on as we visit our personal trainer and when difficulty arises, we’ll have our family therapist make a house call. (*note to self-get a family therapist and keep her on retainer.)

So you see, I’ve got it all figured out. Since there are not enough hours in the day for me to manage the life and limb of all the beings in this home and in my 6 daily classes, AND make sure no one in either position dies, I don’t see any other choice. If a fat, white man in America can order a hot Russian bride over the internet, why can’t a desperately exhausted mom find herself a lifesaving sister-wife the same way?

Eunice, I need you girl. I know you’re out there and my search has begun. I will find you. I won’t rest until I do. But I should probably bring this idea up with The Turk first…

 

Get That Fat Kid Off My Baby!

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The night before any big game is the perfect breeding ground for a serious case of the jitters. Last Friday in our house, the jitters didn’t just pop-by to visit, but they settled in at the dinner table, somewhere between the tuna melts and green beans.

“I’m really worried about tomorrow. Coach said those guys are really big,” lamented Number 1 Son.

“Big? How big can they be?” I countered. “This is a 4th grade league. I doubt that 4th graders from the next town over are really that much bigger.”

“But Mom…”

“Don’t be a wuss. Get in there and take ‘em down and don’t come home until your pants are covered in grass stains.”(Though I’m a suburban mother, my inner spirit seems to have become that of a washed up high school football star.)

Because my husband, the Turk, occasionally carries the sanity in our union, he quickly chimed in and overrode my input, “If guy is too big you just hit his pads and run away. Got it? Run away so he not crush you. You can beat him. He will be slow because he is fat so just run away. You don’t want fat guy fall on top of you. Ok?” As if the Turk’s instruction was not enough, he punctuated it with a reenactment in the middle of the kitchen floor using 4 year-old Nugget as a visual aid.

“Run away?” I scoffed. “Yo, this isn’t your futbol where you fake a booboo when you need a rest. This is American football where we fight like the violent, obese people we are.”

“It is better he look like wimp than get crush by fat Hoosier.” -Quote, The Turk.

The Turk did have a point, Hoosiers – the government mandated term for the native people of Indiana- are not a small people. (For reals, I have 6th graders that tower over me and while I’m no giant, I wear really big shoes.) However, I’d seen all the teams in our burb’s 4th grade division and with the exception of a couple 5 footers, they were all regular sized 4th graders. We also have a 95-pound ball carrier weight limit, (I was well aware of this because my offspring and I held our collective breath at weigh-in hoping that with pads, he’d clear it. Like is mother, he’s short but he’s solid.) and 98% of the league had cleared it.

“Relax, Coach was probably just trying to psyche you guys up.” I assured him.

The Turk chimed in with another tip from his runt playbook. “But if your mom is wrong, remember, you are Turk and do what I say. Hit, run away, then jump on at end like you there whole time.” His father added.

At 7:30 Saturday morning, after our ritual 20 minutes of searching for cleats, struggling into pads and the ‘protect your goods’ check about all things manly, we were ready for his pregame drop-off.

While Number 1 and his team of 4-foot bobble-heads warmed up, the rest of us had time to grab a coffee before the coin-toss. After struggling 6 miles across wet grass like a Sherpa with chairs hanging off my back and a screaming Nugget, hostile about spending another day doing something for his brother, hanging from my front, I was ready to plop down and enjoy a little Saturday morning football magic. It was then that the Turk pointed out we were on the wrong field.

“This cannot be his game.” He said.

“Of course it is. We’re the red guys and there he is.” I gestured toward the cutest lineman in the universe…(known to the rest of the crowd as white-helmet-bobble-head-number-14)

The Turk countered with his own point toward the middle of the field where the coin toss was on. “If this our game, who those men?” On one side of the ref were two white-helmet-bobble-heads in red jerseys appropriately 4’ 6ish and scrawny, but counter to them were two man-sized players in orange jerseys who may or may not have been able to vote in the last election.

“WHAT ARE THOSE?” I screamed. “WE’RE PLAYING GROWN-ASS MEN!”

A mom behind me chimed in, “Right????!?!! If they’re 4th graders I’m 25.” Nice one girl.

I glanced down the sidelines to see that the two jolly orange giants mid-field were not anomalies. Their entire line-up was comprised of so-called 4th graders who could likely slap on a fake mustache and stop off at any watering-hole for a post-game highball.

“Oh hells no.” I yelled, “This cannot happen. This cannot be legal.” I stammered but before I could rush the field and throw a very un-football hissy fit, the whistle blew and the David V. Goliath Saturday saga had begun.

The Turk and I scanned the field and high-fived when we found our kid. Two parents have never been more excited to see their kid warming the bench. Our hopes were soon dashed as the starting offensive line took the team, and there in the path of calamity was my baby, Number 14.

My little lineman, being one of only two on his team over the 90 pound mark, was assigned the task of covering a kid that could best be described as the 9 year-old embodiment of Jabba the Hutt. Baby Jabba, we would soon learn, already had a nickname. Ten feet away from me, a family of larger beings cheered and screamed for their son/my son’s nemesis – Sugar Foot. “Come on Sugar Foot! Hold that line!!!!” the mother yelled and before struggling into a 3-point stance across from my son, Baby Jabba waved and possibly blew a kiss. My first-born was up against a fat man named Sugar Foot and all I could do was pray Sugar Foot didn’t fall on him.

Play after play Number 1 Son faced off with Sugar Foot and, after realizing early on that simple physics would prevent him from stopping an object twice his size, my son decided to take his father’s advice. He gave Sugar Foot the old hit and run, but made sure to jump on top of any available body pile to make it look good.

Meanwhile on the sidelines I chanted my mantra – “Fat man don’t fall on my baby, fat man don’t fall on my baby.” It was like a crime scene and the Turk didn’t make it through. He gave up early on, “I cannot watch.” and left under the guise of taking Nugget for a walk. “Call me from emergency room.” I, however could not look away. A good football mom never leaves the a death match unfolding before her because he might have to run on the field and pull a fat kid off her baby.

In the end, the fat guys were too slow and we beat a team twice our size. Except for a few bruises, Number 1 walked away unscathed physically. Nugget, however, saw an opportunity. Everytime he finds his brother in a vulnerable position, I hear him scream “HERE COME SUGA FOOT!!!!” before enacting a full body slam. Well played kid, well played.

 

Misfortune Is Simply Fodder For Funny

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We’ve all met that person who has a full cannon of personal anecdotes with stories so crazy, so outlandish that you end up wiping tears from your cheeks while you wonder to yourself, “This can’t be true, right?” Well, I’m here to tell you these stories are true. (Unless the storyteller is in a bar, then these might be big ol’ booze lies.)

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that there are people, like myself, whose lives are so ridiculous that our life’s purpose is to provide entertainment to the masses by sharing our tales. I’m also certain the universe crossed the paths of the Turk and I all those years ago for no other reason than to make us the life of every party we attend by recounting our daily foibles and if last week is any indicator, there is no hope of things changing.

It began on Sunday. I was working in the yard when I heard the vacuum. Since I’d vacuumed an hour earlier, this Nancy Drew needed to investigate. As I called to him from the garage, he began to stammer his now frequent catch phrase. “Don’t worry, I fix it.”

No woman, anywhere, ever wants to hear the phrase “Don’t worry, I fix it.” Ever.

Inside the house, I found a dusting of drywall with bits of plaster coating half of the living room and interspersed within the furniture were huge chunks of insulation. Reflexively I looked up to the vaulted ceiling and released a large, involuntary, “Ohhhhhh nooooo.”

The Turk stood at the top of the stairs, right below the giant hole in my living room ceiling. Sheepishly he added, “I fix it. Don’t worry. Next week I take vacation and I do it then. Don’t worry.”

He’d gone into the attic to check on a leak and prepare to install a ceiling fan (Another project he felt capable of executing after watching a couple YouTube videos. God help us.)

“You stepped off the beams didn’t you?” I asked.

“How you know?”

“Because in American houses there is nothing between the beams.”

He looked down at me with utter confusion. “How I know that? In Turkey houses are concrete.”

Touche.

“At least I didn’t fall through there,” he added pointing to a full set of six other dent/not quite holes, going across the ceiling.

—-

That was Sunday. Monday was uneventful followed by a Tuesday that started the same but escalated quickly to hot mess status.

Thanks to summer storms, we dealt with a long day of power outages so though I’m usually a frugal gal, (cheap ass and tight wad have also been used to describe me but I prefer frugal.) I declared, “We’re going out for dinner!”

As we enjoyed a dinner prepared by someone other than myself and served in an air conditioned establishment, I cut a deal with the Turk – “Help Number 1 get ready for football tryouts with a little catch or fold the 3 loads of laundry I busted out between power outages.” The choice might seem obvious but in our house, football is my jam so it could go either way. (For a recap of our football journey, check out this previous entry.)

“I take football.” And those were his famous last words.

Minutes later a small voice outside yelled, “Um, Mom…Mom…Mom!!!!” immediately followed by a loud Nugget voice yelling, “Mom! Baba is boken.”

From the upstairs window I could see the Turk writhing on the ground and spewing Turkish profanity. His thrashing body was mere inches from a hole I’d asked him to fill for the past two years (Isn’t it always?) so I bit my tongue and yelled from the window, “Are you broken?”

“Evet.” (‘Yes’ in Turkish. We go bilingual for clarity in states of emergency.)

“Do you need help?” I called; wanting to make sure it was real and not soccer field drama being employed to get out of playing catch, before I abandoned my laundry pile.

He switched back to English, “I think I need go hospital.”

After some Turkish profanity on my part, and an epic level of tongue-biting around the whole hole situation, I loaded up one broken Turk and two half-breed Turks and headed to the ER where I nervously filled the silence with statements like, “You’ve only been an American for 4 years, you’re not American enough for football yet.” And “Next time I bet you choose laundry.” (FYI – Unless you’re open to sarcasm, nervous joking and huge bouts of impatience, I’m the last person you want by your side in an Emergency Room.)

…3 hours later we had a diagnosis of a fractured ankle along with a pair of crutches, orders to put no weight on it until he went to the orthopedist and a prescription for pills that made him so goofy I thought he might have to sleep it off in the car.

Thankfully, by the end of the week the orthopedist put him on one crutch and a walking boot. It was a damn good thing too because when it comes to caregiving I am nothing short of Nurse Ratchett and between one immobile Turk and two incredibly needy ½ Turks, a few more days might have given me a ticket to a vacation at Betty Ford Rehab.

So that was last week, and while most of our weeks don’t usually result in a maiming, the level of drama is constant and this summer has been no different.

The other day Number 1 Son said, “Mom, why do you always laugh when bad things happen? It’s a little psycho.”

I replied, “Well son, yes I am a little psycho, but years ago I learned that with this ridiculous life, if I didn’t laugh and entertain people with my crazy tales, I’d be dead.”

He nodded in understanding but I think that was just for the part where I admitted to being a little psycho.

There are 2 weeks left before school starts and 4 more weeks before the Turk is out of his cast. That’s a lot of room for more ridiculousness. But fret not, I’ll keep sharing my stories because clearly it’s my station in life. I’m preparing for my canonization somewhere in my 60s..St. Margaret of the Turks…what do you think?

 

 

Only A Fool Would Underestimate A Football Mom

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Last football season, a large man (and I mean Midwestern large which tends to be a bit larger than average large) somewhere near the precipice of mid-life was hunkered down in a three-point stance while a team of 60 pounders surrounded him, preparing for their first football practice in pads. Moving from flag to tackle football is a rite of passage here in Middle America and this man was certainly doing his part to make the ritual both exciting and intimidating. As I looked on, still a flag football mom then, I was in awe of the length of time that fat man spent in the prone, starting position. I was more impressed that he was able to remain in the stance as he gave loud and clear instruction to his PeeWee charges.

It wasn’t until he dismissed them to run a lap and simultaneously summonsed the other coach for aid, that I realized the fat man was still in the three-point stance because he couldn’t get out of the three-point stance. His knees had locked, his back had seized and he no longer had the strength to pull his own girth back up to standing. Aided by another large, knock kneed former baller, the coach gimped to standing before the PeeWee’s made it around one lap wearing more pads than their own body weight.

A solid smart-assed commentary ran through my head as I looked on, hitting on highlights like “old jocks are pathetic,” and ending on something about “trying to relive some long ago glory days through a nine-year-old son.” I’m pretty harsh in my head. (I’m pretty harsh with the words that come out of my mouth too but it’s worse in my head. Just remember that.)

A lot changes in a year and now, as a full-on tackle football mom, I need to issue an apology to the fat man stuck in the three-point stance. (In my head because it would seem really weird to find him now and apologize and god knows I don’t want to look any more crazy than I already am.) Because I have now realized that I, a 45-year-old mother- am totally and completely living her football glory vicariously through a nine-year-old son.

It hit me during sign-ups but really came on full-force during equipment hand out. I think it was the smell of the stinky pads that triggered something or maybe it was teaching my son how to pull off a helmet without removing an ear (unlike his brother, this son has 2 ears so it’s a bit more tricky.). Maybe it was showing him how to lace up the shoulder pads or how to take off both pads and jersey in one shot, but regardless, in the past week I have been transported back to my days on the gridiron and the love of the game that was instilled there.

Ok, I didn’t really have days on the gridiron but only because back in the dark ages girls weren’t allowed on organized football teams. It wasn’t like now when a few sassy little broads with fight are allowed on the field where they kick serious butt. (Go you little broads go!) No, 30+ years ago, girls like me were stuck strutting their stuff in backyard games with brothers and neighbor boys. But that was better than nothing.

Much like my own nine-year old son, I too was a stocky little scrapper perfectly built for a spot on the line. Thanks to copious hand-me-downs from cousins and brothers, I had a Lynn Swann jersey, football pants with sub-substandard pads and a helmet missing key protective elements (Which, if fully researched would probably explain a lot about my current memory issues.). On hot, late summer afternoons my brothers and I, with the occasional addition of a few cousins or friends, suited up and played some of the best damn football that backyard had ever seen.

It hasn’t been hard to instill a love of football in my boys, though the Turk is still working on understanding a sport he’d never really seen until adulthood. He doesn’t get the excitement but he tries. He’s even learned to throw a spiral during our countless backyard games of catch with Number One. (Though mine is still far superior. I’ve got a serious rep on the playground at school for my mad skills as well.)

Because of the Turk’s newness on the football scene, most training and background knowledge falls to me. (Left up to his father, the poor kid would still be stuck in his helmet.) And in a very, very traditional Midwestern town, I am usually the lone mother taking care of football business (and pushing her way through a bunch of old jock fathers.) After equipment pick-up last week, shopping for cleats and pants and all the accouterments that go with PeeWee ball, I asked Number One if he was ok being the guy who did all his football stuff with his mom. In his infinite wisdom he said, “Of course! You’re a football mom and football moms know way more than those old guys.” Right answer kid.

Last year NFL head coach and certified moron Bruce Arians blamed mothers for the decline of football enrollment. “We feel like this is our sport. It’s being attacked…It’s the best game that’s ever been f—— invented, and we got to make sure that moms get the message, because that’s who’s afraid of our game right now. It’s not dads, it’s moms.”

Oh Bruce. You freakin’ dumbass. You clearly don’t know many football moms because we could take down your stupid ass with a shoulder hit before you even had time to brace. No man in his right mind would mess with an old football mom, especially football moms who live vicariously through their sons because chauvinist pigs like you, dear Bruce, wouldn’t let us on the field.

So as summer here in middle America begins to wind down (because we go back to school ridiculously early) and football practices get put on the calendar, our house is alive again with the joy of football. And this football mom is loosening up her throwing arm because sometimes it’s perfectly fine to live out the dreams you weren’t allowed to live in real life through a very excited child.

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Mother Tongue…Ewwww

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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…

 

 

When Your Bi-Cultural Child Doesn’t Want To Be Bi-Cultural Anymore

Turkish kid

“It happens. No matter what you do it will happen.” The other expats told me smugly over tiny cups of Turkish coffee one morning. In hindsight I realize they knew, but as a self-righteous new mother who’d spent 9 months reading and years before that judging others’ parenting because I obviously knew better than those who’d actually been at the job, (You know, the kind of broads which seem to have taken over the internet recently…) I surmised I would do better. My bi-cultural kids would remain equally tied to both cultures, Turkish and American.

Before I’d even birthed my first half-breed I began to worry about how this whole bi-cultural identity thing would play out. At that point we were living in Turkey and it wasn’t clear in which culture we’d be living for the long haul. He’d be immersed in the Turks so how did I make him American too? Should I just hit up McDonald’s weekly, slap down a few McNuggets, play a little Lynard Skynard and say, “There ya go buddy, there is a little slice of my people. Now go forth and live among your father’s people.” (Full disclosure: I did have ridiculous cravings for the McRoyal (a bastard brother of the Quarter Pounder) while I was pregnant so I guess he did get a solid dose of my people in utero.)

The Turk told me not to worry about it, but that’s not how I roll. I began pumping every bi-cultural parent in the school where I taught about their experiences for research.

Olga from Sweden married to a Turk: “Tolga might be a blue-eyed blonde but he’s not very Swedish. He is much more Turkish boy as long as we live here.”

Jennifer from American married to a Turk: “My girls chose to be Turkish instead of American. Not my choice but we live here so I get it.”

Grant from England married to a Turk: “I’d hoped Julide would keep a bit of a connection to England but she identifies as Turkish completely. It saddens me but you can not prevent it.”

The conclusion was clear, bi-cultural kids identified mostly with the culture they lived in but I wasn’t a fan of that theory so, in the spirit of the clueless (kind of like anti-vaxers and science deniers) I ignored the evidence and decided that my kid would be the exception.

Nine years later I’d like to issue a public apology for my stupidity. My half-breeds, currently nestled away in middle America, despite all my efforts and hopes, are Americans. To confirm that, this week alone Number 1 son brushed off three attempts by both The Turk and myself to reconnect him with his other half.

       Attempt 1: Through the belly.

“Mom, what are we having for dinner?”

“Mercimek. Your favorite.”

“Ugh. Turkish food again?”

“Son, in our house it’s just called food.”

“Whatever. Can’t we have hamburgers?”

Damn you America and your artery clogging goodness.

Attempt 2: Groove is in the heart.

Nugget was getting his groove on to some Turkish music videos when I noticed the video he was shaking his Pull-Up clad butt to had been filmed on the streets of the village we lived in when Number 1 was little.

“Number 1, come look at this! This video is in our old ‘hood. This is so cool! We have tons of photos of you on that street. Come here, watch this.”

While the Turk and I dove head-first into nostalgia, Number 1 glanced at the screen and muttered, “Cool.” Before immediately returning to his March Madness bracket selection prep.

Damn you America, even a nice beat that you can dance to couldn’t pull him away.

 Attempt 3: Pulling Out The Big Guns

“Number 1, we need to talk about you maybe going to Turkey with Baba next month. He’s going to check on Babaanne (grandma) and we think maybe you should go.”  This whole discussion was a rare moment of collaborative, unilaterial parenting on my part as was illustrated by the look of shock on the Turk’s face when I agreed to it. I wasn’t sold on the idea but since it was clear my oldest half-breed was pulling away from his Turkish side, I felt it imperative to give him one more hard push back in.

As a sane person I’m sure you’re asking, why send just the two of them? Well, I’m not a sadist and thus I am unwilling to travel 12 hours by plane with a one-earred, 3 year-old tyrant. Nugget doesn’t travel well in any mode but his jacked-up ear situation makes flying miserable and I’m not doing it. Conversely Babanne doesn’t fly. Period. She is a very stubborn Turk so we’ve been in a stalemate for the past few years. Finally I relented and said I’d stay home with Nugget and the Turk and Number 1 could go (While I stay up for a week straight contemplating the sanity in sending my baby into a country who’d had a political coup mere months prior, to a city that has bombings on the reg and is on the cusp of a make or break election about the time of their intended arrival. Oh and lets not even get into all the unwarranted and irrational Not Without My Daughter scenerios that would flash through my sleep deprived mind.) Secretly I prayed Number 1 wouldn’t want to go but it was my maternal duty as a bi-cultural parent to promote this moment.

Number 1 thought for about 30 seconds and said. “I don’t want to go.”

“Really? (Oh thank GOD!!!!) But why not?”

“Well for one, it’s scary. I watch the Turkish news with you guys. I’m not clueless. And actually I don’t really want Baba to go either. And for two, if it was Cleveland or someplace good where we could go watch LeBron James or something I’d go but Turkey? Nah.” (Sweet Jesus, did my son just prefer Cleveland over transcontinental adventure? Lord Almighty he really was too far gone.)

Relieved and disappointed all in one breath, I muttered to the Turk, “I think we’re losing him to America.”

“Yes. I think so.” He agreed with a twinge of heartbreak.

My soul filled with lapsed Catholic guilt. I felt like I’d stolen our son. But they’d warned me. All those expat parents had warned me and as it turned out, my son was not the exception but the rule. He lived in America now so he became American.

We’re not giving up though. We’ll keep eating Turkish food-aka-food, keep sharing stories of his other culture, keep celebrating Turkish holidays (Just not Kurban Bayram -that one where you slice the lamb on your balcony because even The Turk is still scarred from that one.). We’ll continue trying to keep him bilingual, force him to watch Turkish league football (as long as I still get my NFL time with him too) and I’ll keep his Turkish side alive even if it kills me because some day, years from now, that little half-breed will be glad we did.