A Hard Earned Holiday Haze

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There are mere hours left until I have to return to reality. Were I not a grown-ass woman, I might fold my arms, bow my head defiantly and simply refuse to put on pants and go, but there are bills to pay and responsibilities to be upheld so hence, I must return to work. I must go back to packing lunches, prodding my offspring through homework and taking on the role of personal Uber for my family, oh reality. But this year I’m more ready to return to reality than I’ve been in years.

In the past, when I began the glorious educational hiatus that is Christmas break, I made lofty organizational goals, domestic aims that might make Martha Stewart proud and parenting ambitions that would land me a feature in any issue of Working Mother. Usually I achieved about 90% so I assumed this year would be no different. My 2019 to-do list included baking six types of cookies and 4 kinds of fudge, color-coordinated gift-wrapping, a host of holiday kid projects and enough family activities to make the Brady Bunch jealous. As the last days of school wrapped up I was ready to turn my energy to that list but then Nugget got cooties and thus began my downfall.

My poor Nugget not only missed the 1stgrade Christmas concert but also all the glory of the pre-break madness as he was stuck at home with the Turk shivering from a nasty fever and a host of germs flowing through his body.

“He has fever.” The Turk alerted me at work.

“I know. He’s had it since yesterday. How high?”

“High.”

“What’s the number?”

“I don’t need number. I am Turkish. I could tell when I touch him so I give him medicine.”

“Well in America we judge fevers with numbers so I’m going to need that.”

Five minutes later I received another text, “His fever is 82 degrees.”

“Um no. Try reading it again.”

“Is digital. I read it right. 82.”

“I’ll be home in 10.”

After a lesson on how to take a temperature, and a call to the doctor, I learned that my beloved Christmas break would be taking a 3-5 day delay due to a  nasty virus winding it’s way though the elementary schools. No outings, no activities, no baking, just hours of snuggling with my baby.

While it wasn’t what I’d planned it was exactly what I needed after the past few months of madness and mayhem. We caught up on some of his shows, (That Apple and Onion never cease to crack me up.) watched a large hunk of classic Star Wars movies and put everything on the back burner. It was blissful.

I assumed that as soon as Nugget was recovered we would pick up my to-do list and we did…kind of. By the time the cooties had left him it was a mad dash to get things ready for Christmas so we cut down the list and punted. We managed to make an insane amount of cookies expertly decorated by Nugs and the color-coordinated wrapping morphed into a “done is good” situation. And while in days gone by I would have been a hot mess over such slacking, this year my advanced age (and perhaps the box of wine) allowed me to accept defeat gracefully while my butt melted into my sofa.

Instead of worrying about giving my family a Martha Stewart worthy holiday season I abandoned them. I started by spending a couple days in Maine solving holiday themed murders before heading to Connecticut to dissect the psychological diagnoses of Mr. Parish. I stole money from a plane crash in Bora Bora while scuba diving and lived in a drug-fueled haze with a band loosely resembling Fleetwood Mac. (It’s amazing what can happen when you avoid Facebook.) I’ve never managed to finish this many books in two weeks since…ever but once I left reality I couldn’t go back.

I devoured book after book on the Reese Witherspoon Book Club list – PS – I’m way more Reese’s Club than Oprah’s. Reese keeps it real with smut and murder and I appreciate that. And when I wasn’t reading I was learning how to exploit my paranoia with the Doomsday Preppers (Those people are certifiable.) and how to save my Homestead with Marty Raney. (My entire family is now addicted to Homestead Rescue and Marty’s hairy chest.) I’m not really and HGTV gal, I need more drama like missing outhouses and underground bunkers and Marty fits the bill perfectly.

So now that fudge is no longer coursing through my veins and I’ve had more relaxation than I’ve had in over a year, I might be ready to go back to middle school. Break didn’t look anything like I’d planned and it was awesome. And maybe, just maybe I will keep it up until the sun comes back in April… but until then, you can find me in Bora Bora…or maybe Tailand…wherever Reese sends me.

 

Christmas Is Coming and The Turk is a Mess

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The Christmas tree is up giving our living room that cozy, “please nap here and consume lots of snacks” feel. The countdown until break is on at school and we’ve had a couple perfect snowfalls that brought with them a large dose of holiday spirit. I spend my lunch breaks buying with-one-click and evenings trying to remember what I ordered and when I should start checking tracking numbers online. 

I love this time of year. Not the feel of hemorrhaging money and the relentless so-much-crap-to-do stress but the overall feeling of anticipation is the best.  More than that, as a gal who loves indulgence, what could be better than an entire month where not only is that extra cookie or glass of wine acceptable, it’s encouraged. And if all that were not enough, it is impossible not to feel the holiday vibe when you have a crazed 6 year-old with a Santa obsession under foot. All hail the holiday season!!!!

But there is one thing about the season that is killing me and if I were Commissioner Gordon, I’d send up the Bat-signal. My husband, The Turk, is in desperate need of help this holiday season. Years and years ago my husband was the best gift giver in the world. He’d plan ahead and fill his little tokens of love with thought. It wasn’t about how much he spent (Because trust me, we never had two dimes to spare in those years) but it was what he chose. For years I’ve worn a tiny evil eye charm from him around my neck that cost little to nothing and it still makes me smile. Fast forward thirteen years and that Turk is gone leaving me with a man who gives me poorly wrapped laundry baskets and can openers from major holidays and all I can say is, “What the hell fool?”

“Mom, we tried.” Number One (One of the best mama’s boys around) is always first to absolve himself of any association to these crap gifts. “But you know Baba…”

“Yeth. Baba buys crappy stuff. Thorry Mom.” Nugget adds.

Occasionally the Turk tries to blame his heritage, “Turkey is Muslim country and there is no Christmas so…” but it doesn’t work. He’s been Americanized in a nation that overdoes Christmas like no other for close to 20 years. Spare me dude.

He also tries to use the husband line, “You are so hard to buy for.” 

Really? Am I? I literally texted you photos and a link for the slippers I wanted yet I still got slippers akin to those worn by your Turkish grandmother, you know, the one who’s 95 and wears a babushka-like headscarf.  

Occasionally he’ll try, “Just buy it and I wrap. We not tell the kids.”

Seriously? I’m a major fan of the surprise and not a major fan of wrapping so that’s a hard pass from me. 

Now that the kids are old enough to join him, I have a better chance because they will lobby for me. Like the year I taught Nugget to say “InstaPot” which was more like,  “Inthpoth” but it worked, I got one. It would’ve been better had it been filled with gold and chocolate but it worked. However last year, he hit a new low. Undoubtedly, Christmas 2018 shook the ridiculous meter. Was it because he left the boys at home and attempted to shop alone? Or was it because, judging by his purchases, he had a few drinks prior to purchase?

Here’s the Christmas of 2018 in a nutshell:

Gift 1:  Turkish grandma slippers. (Again.)

Gift 2: A red cowbell that had, “Ring For Beer” painted on it. (I was unaware we moved into a frat house.)

Gift 3: A giant O that holds wine corks. (Ok that one was useful and might already be filled. Don’t judge.)

Gift 4: A beer opener that was also a Plinko board for bottle caps with things like “Take a Shot” or “Chug” as the winning slots. (See previous frat house comment.) 

Gift 5: A laundry hamper. “Well, we need one.” (Ahhhhh hells no.)

And the pièces de résistance…….

Gift 6: A hot dog cooker – you know, like the kind they have at 7-11 with the spinning metal rods. Here’s the irony…I don’t eat hot dogs. I don’t even eat meat!

“What? Everyone like a sausage cooker right?” Was his only reply to my less-than-enthusiastic response. He kept up the year of giving with a can opener for Valentines day, “What? It is Kitchenaid.” And he rounded out the year last month with an anniversary gift of …”Oh, sorry. I forget.”

So now we are t-minus 10 days and I can sense his fear. My perfect little babies have berated him for an entire year and I think it’s working. “Baba, don’t blow it this year.”

As of today there are three poorly wrapped boxes under the tree with my name on them and countless promises from my boys, “This year Mom, you will actually like it.” The boxes are too big for chocolate diamonds but also way too big for Turkish grandma slippers so I’m cautiously optimistic. After all, it’s the thought that counts…unless it’s a fricken’ hotdog cooker and then all bets are off.

 

Gorilla Boobies and Nunchucks

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“Mom, what are we going to do about Halloween costumes?” Number 1 asked.

“I’ve got time. I’ll get on it next week.”

“Actually Mom, you only have like two weeks.”

Were this a 70’s sitcom I would’ve done a spit-take while a laugh track behind me chortled at my dismay. We’ve been so busy dealing with Nugget’s surgery, a visit from Grandma and a football season with enough drama to rival the entire Dance Moms franchise that Halloween fell off my radar.

Unlike many, we are absolutely not Halloween people. I hate all things scary, bloody and gory. The last horror movie I saw was in 1986 and that damn Freddy Kurger still haunts my dreams. The only time I succumbed to a haunted house was during college in the ‘90’s and I still shudder when passing abandoned farmhouses from memories of that “Homestead of Horror.”

My husband, The Turk, totally doesn’t get Halloween. “Why they walk around to get candy? Why we not just buy the candy and they can stay home and eat?” Halloween wasn’t a thing in 1980’s Turkey during his childhood because when you live in an often hostile nation, who needs manufactured anxiety just for fun?

Our offspring tend to follow my lead when it comes to goblins and ghouls. Nugget has not been able to walk into any store with a Halloween display without having his eyes covered since the Halloween goods started appearing in August. “Hawoween guys are da worsth!” Number 1 has managed to wiggle out of a couple haunted house invites from friends and while his buds are priming up to don bloody masks and plastic meat cleavers, he’s trying to find the only costume options void of bloodshed but still cool enough to hide his wussy soul.

While we don’t do the scary parts, we do costumes hard core. Back in the day, I was a costume designer in professional theater. I worked for theatres, dance companies, operas and even a few indie films. I created everything from giant mudmen to bloody brides and all things in between and I did it for close to 15 years. So when my kids dream up a costume, they know Mom can handle it. Our kitchen becomes Dreamworks Studio for the weeks leading up to the big dance and they love it. I’ve made dinosaurs, an epic number of Star Wars characters, monsters, superheroes, a viking, a pirate, a Ghostbuster, a mad scientists and a few I’m forgetting. It’s my moment to pull out the old skills and mom real hard. But this year…

“Mom, I don’t want you to get upset…”

(P.S. When you start with that phrase it’s usually a solid bet mom is going to get upset.)

“…but I was wondering if I could get a store-bought costume this year?” Number 1, my first born, my intercontinental sidekick, my baby boy was kicking me to the curb.

“Well…” I wiped a fake tear that was intended to add to his guilt but in reality was a tear of relief. Mama ain’t got time for this madness this year. “I guess…if you really want one…”

He did and within a day we had a plan to morph my adorable little 6th grader into a badass gorilla, an age appropriate and not at all gory option. Fortunately Nugget stilled held great expectations for a mom-made, red ninja costume complete with gold nunchucks so Dreamworks is still in business.

“Wew, if you guyth are going to the Hawoween thore, I am thooooooo thaying home.” Nugget’s fear was real and he wasn’t budging even for his brother. But Nugget gave us his blessing, “Good. Go wif-out me!” and we were all set.

We scored our gorilla suit on our first stop with the added bonus of a 25% off sale and within hours I had a four and a half foot gorilla lounging in my living room. That’s when Number 1 had a brilliant idea.

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Gorilla reclining

“I’m going to hide in the trees and wait for Nugget to get off the bus, then I’m going to jump out and scare him.”

“You know this is not going to end well.” I warned.

“But it will be hilarious.”

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You don’t see me….

As I headed down to meet the bus I was followed by a stocky little gorilla. I crossed my fingers that none of the neighbors mistook him for a midget Sasquatch and took him out. Once he was in place, he gave me the code “ka-kaw, ka-kaw,” I was to yell when Nugget was heading his way. Nugget departed the bus glad-handing like a politician before jumping into my arms with my post-school hug and then he was on his way up our huge driveway while I was “ka-kawing” behind him.

“Grrrrrrr!” The hairy beast jumped from behind the tree and while we both expected a scream in response, the gorilla was instead met with a harsh blow right to the crotch. Eventually he unmasked the gorilla and realized King Kong was only his brother but the damage was done and there was a hairy lump, clutching his crotch on my driveway.

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That did not end well…

“That wath not funny.” Nugget lectured. “You know I hate to be thcared.”

“Why did you hit me though?” Wailed the gorilla.

“Becauthe, I’m a ninja so when I fight I hit your penith to protect mythelf. If I had my nunchucks I could weally geth you.”

And so the lesson learned is,  if you are attacked without nunchucks, hit their penis. It works.

“Also, I fink you need to wear a thirt. I can thee your gorilla boobieth and it’th groth.”

Happy Halloween Y’all!

Your Word is…Biscuit

 

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

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

“How did you do?” He prodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Physicist. Sheldon Cooper is a physicist.”

“P-y-s-i-c-i-s-t-s” He answered.

“Nope. Forgot the h.”

“Ugh!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m sorry. That is incorrect.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Saying what?” I asked.

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

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

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

 

Enter The Tree Huggin’ Badass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What the hell you are talking about?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Alexa, Hit The Pike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What Is a Righ Strika?

soccer granny

“Where’z ma righ strika?!?! Com’ on!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No.” Was his immediate response.

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

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

Touche.

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

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

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

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

 

 

A Baller He Is Not

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Maybe we just go look?” He pleaded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homesteaders Are Usually Dead By My Age

female lumberjack

After we returned to the US, years ago, the Turk accompanied me on a work trip to visit a group of homesteaders. These people lived without electricity, running water and indoor plumbing. It wasn’t for religious reasons or out of necessity. It was just a bunch of crazy hippies who’d decided homesteading would be cool. After a lunch of kale and canned meat eaten while bundled in winter coats, they proudly showed off composting toilets and guest huts made from mud and straw. Being a writer, I’m always enthralled with strange life choices but the Turk was visibly twisted at every turn. Eventually, the free-range rooster chased him to the car where he waited out my adventure. On the road back to civilization we were a little shell-shocked.

“What the hell that?!” He exclaimed.

“It’s odd right?”

“Odd? No. It crazy. Why people choose live like that? In my country people live like that in village because they have no money. Only in America would people choose to live like villagers.”

In the past week those crazy hippies kept crossing my mind as the Turk and I have battled our own turn to villager life at our little house in the woods. As weather moved from fall into winter this week, our wooded home began to take on the characteristics of a death trap. When encased by 40-foot pines, the chance of a tree or substantial segment of said tree, plummeting to earth like a pre-historic spear is real. This was exactly what I saw happening as the prediction for the first snow was revealed. Though the prediction was for a dusting, I have a solid skepticism of all weather personnel. Instead of a dusting, my mind saw a heavy snow pushing a 40-foot Christmas tree through my roof and into my cranium as I slumbered.

As the snow began to fall, the “dusting” mark was quickly surpassed. Reports on the local Facebook page warned of a wave of power outages creeping down our street. Block by block, transformers were blowing and, of course, our generator was in the garage, safely wrapped in it’s original packaging. (Because the Turk has yet to admit his fear of it and has thus far avoided installation.) Amid the sparkling flakes falling gently to the ground, one could hear the creaks and cracks of breaking limbs plummeting around us. The Turk and I contemplated pulling out his stock of company hard hats for protection but chose instead to turn up the television loud enough to mask the noise until the power failed.

By a twist of fate, we kept our power but as the sun came up the next morning there were two surprises, three to four inches of snow (Dusting my ass – hence my skepticism is justified) and a massive 20 foot branch sprawled across our front lawn mere feet from the front door. We thought we’d dodged a bullet but later realized we were not so lucky as three trees had crashed through our back fence.

“I have to fix fence. This not safe. Anything can come in here.” He lamented.

“Just what do you think is going to sneak into our backyard besides Sasquatch? There is nothing around here but woods and cranberry bogs.”

“What if coyote jump over fence?”

“If he does I’m sure he won’t stay long. We’ve got nothing to offer.”

“I will fix this weekend.” He claimed.

“You’re going to physically bend the chain-link fence back into place with your bare hands?”

“Why not? I am Turk.”

We spent the following weekend hacking and chopping the down trees into fire wood while simultaneously laying scars in my brain for the next tree-fall, I mean snowfall. After a brief attempt by SuperTurk to bend the steel pipes of the fence back into shape, he decided to table that project for a few weeks. The weekend of fence work and hauling wood made me feel rather Laura Ingles and though I loved Little House on the Prairie, I’m not really down with it in 2018.

Another added dimension to having a house in the woods of New England is that it comes with a well. The Turk and I have never had a well before but he assured me that as a water engineer he was more than capable of caring for the system and saving his family from death by toxic water. It was going well until Thanksgiving week when our water turned brown and took on an unbearable iron stench. Our shower smelled like a crime scene and every tub, sink and toilet in the house turned dark orange.

For days the Turk was in denial about the water but after pouring himself a nice glass of brown water, he stated “Maybe something wrong with the well.” He then disappeared into the well closet downstairs not to be seen for hours. Every few hours he would trudge upstairs, pour another cup of brown water, mutter Turkish profanity and return to the well closet.

Meanwhile, like Laura Ingles, I went out to fetch water, (So maybe it was Poland Spring in a jug rather than water from a babbling brook but it was totally the same.) This is not the first time I’ve had to go out and fetch water. Back in Turkey, tap water wasn’t safe to drink. In the city it was easy, you made a call and a sweaty Turk delivered bottled water but when we lived at the Turkish water treatment plant (yet another relocation for the Turk’s job) I had to trudge across the grounds with a toddler tied to my back and bring back drinking water from the purification building. Foolishly I thought we’d gotten past that stage of life.

By day two, the kids were refusing to shower and my hands had turned black from washing dishes, so the Turk decided to seek assistance. Hours later he returned with some new tricks from the local well company and by the next morning his attempts were starting to pay off as the toilets turn from brown to light orange. (We’re going to stick with drinking the Poland Spring for a bit longer though.)

Between hauling water, dodging falling pines, chopping downed trees into firewood, and shoring fences, the Turk and I are basically homesteading and we’re both too damn old for it. While I love our secluded little corner of New England, there is something to be said for suburbs with city water and free of 40-foot pine death traps. But as I tell the boys, “This builds character.” And if this week is any indication, by the end of winter I should have more character than Sally Fields in Sybil. Wish me luck; it’s going to be a long winter.