A Tale of Squirrels and Pool Noodles

fat squirrel

While the world has been blowing up these past months, out here in our little house in the woods, things have remained as insane as they were prior to this current apocalypse with the added joy of some acts of aggression by Mother Nature’s little cherubs. During this spring’s hiatus of humanity, it seems all creatures great and small held some kind of gathering, a symposium, if you will. (No doubt it was spearheaded by the angry groundhog who’s taken up residence in my front lawn. It’s obvious by his waddle that he’s a vindictive diva.) Anyhooo, the outcome of the symposium seems to have been a directive for widespread assault on my home by Mother Nature’s SWAT unit starting with the squirrels.

Thanks to many years of urban living, I view squirrels as rats with fluffy tails so when we found out they had taken up residence in the un-finished apartment above our garage (What we first thought were raccoon squatters turned out to be an entire battalion of fuzzy-tailed rodents.) I was less than amused. Thankfully our garage is detached and a good 20 yards from our house but still, it was a situation that could not go unremedied.

My husband, the ninja Turk, set up a trap he found on-line and prepared for battle. His handy trap yielded its first capture about a month ago and while the captive was set free to likely burrow back into the above-garage apartment again, the furry bastard did manage to spread the peanut-butter the Turk had liberally used as bait, all over the second floor before he met his fate. Unfortunately, a few of his offspring fell victim to the Turk’s obstacle course of glue traps and it has been game on since.

Last week the weather finally warmed and it seemed the heat had sent the squatters in search of living quarters more conducive to the change in climate. The battle was toning down so I summonsed a fount of courage to gather my beach goodies from the warzone. (Because when it’s beach time, ain’t no damn fuzzy tailed rat keeping me away from my lounge chairs and noodles.) Within seconds of entering the premises, my nose was assaulted with the smell of death. Two steps further and I saw something any farm girl recognizes and immediately knows the sorce from whence it came… horse flies. They swarmed the windows on both levels of the top floor apartment. I haven’t been a farm girl in well over 30 years but I knew the combo before me meant something, somewhere was dead.

Thanks to my true crime addiction, I assumed a serial killer had snuck in and hidden a victim between the boxes of Thanksgiving linens and winter sheets, careful to leave no trace aside from the body. I did what any logical gal in that situation would do, grabbed my beach chairs, slung my noodles over my shoulder and got the hell out of there.  Then I immediatley passed the buck to my husband to deal with the stench.

“Honey – someone is dead in the garage.”

“Dead?” The Turk, shot me a wild glare. “You need stop watch that ID channel. It make you crazy.” The man knows me well.

“No seriously. I can smell it and there are flies.”

He slowly pulled himself away from nerding on his computer and rolled his eyes my way. “Fine. I go look.”

Anxiously I stood outside the big rollie-uppie garage door awaiting confirmation. Any second he was going to come out and say, “My beautiful, thin, brilliant wife who I am so lucky to have married all those years ago, you are correct. I have found the corpse of an evil, fuzzy tailed rodent upstairs. Your olfactory skills are beyond amazing. What a lucky man I am. Have you ever considered writing detective novels?”

Instead, he stomped down the stairs, threw up the rollie-uppy door and said. “You are crazy. No dead things there.” Before huffing back to his lair for further nerding.

Alas, a nose knows and this nose knew it would only take one or two more hot days for reality prevail. Three days later, The Turk dragged me away from making pizza dough in Tina to inspect. (What? I named my mixer Tina. Doesn’t everyone name those they depend on? What am I supposed to call her? Kitchenaid? Please.) He pointed to the upstairs windows whose screens were now bulging with massive horse flies desperate for escape. “WHAT IZ DIS?”

“I told you. Something’s dead in there. Read the flies man. That’s what we used to do on the farm.”

He cocked his head and squinted his eyes, “WHAT?”

“Flies come from decomposition. When somethings dead, maggots…”

“STOP!” He yelled. “You want me throw out before I even go inside? Why you know these things and why you have to tell me?” He didn’t wait for my likely, smart-assed answer before banishing the kids and I so he could commence a corpse hunt.

Tina and I were still kneading dough when Nugget burst into the kitchen, “Mom! You gotta thee thith, it thooooooo groth.”

It took the Turk mere minutes to find a deflated, decomposing fluffy-tailed rodent, frozen forever in a pose that said, “Oh crap.”

“Where was it?”

“Top floor in corner by beach stuff. He die under your beach chair and you miss him.”

“Hubba what?” Could I have really missed a decomposing tree rat hiding under my beach chair when I’d grabbed them just days prior? This was a new level of space cadetery, even for me.

Just to prove he was right, the Turk had me inspect the crime scene. Though he didn’t go as far as putting down a chalk-outline around the body as I would have done, he was 100% on the money. I’d grabbed three beach chairs, two noodles and a bag of sand toys right off the top of that dead tree rat and hadn’t even noticed. Quarantine has destroyed my mind.

The next day an angry squirrel stood on a branch outside our bedroom window, screaming at the Turk.

“He’s saying, you kill my father, prepare to die.”

Wide-eyed the Turk turned, “Seriously.”

“Yes dear. I speak fluent squirrel now in addition to Turkish and English.”

He simply shrugged, accepted my tale and left. Quarantine has killed his brain too.

This morning, there was a squirrel on the front deck peering inside the window, inches from the screen.

They really are coming for us but we’re just crazy enough to fight back.

I Can’t Dig It

Ohio photos

If one were to dig through decades of public records, I assume no less than 75% of all divorce decrees site the reason for dissolving said union as “home maintenance project.” Over the past days, the Turk and I nearly joined that crowd. Fortunately, his final jab of the shovel revealed the treasure we’d nearly killed each other to find, a septic tank lid.

Let me start from the beginning of our descent into the seven circles of hell. One of the many joys of our little house in the woods (like falling trees and raccoon invasions,) was that it came with a septic system rather than the luxury of a public sewer system to which we city dwellers are accustomed. The Turk and I were septic tank virgins prior to this purchase but he designed wastewater treatment plants back in Turkey and now spends his days talking about things like leeching fields, bio-solids and sludge removal, and I’m a Google queen so we could handle it. The thing we didn’t know was to ask for the exact geographical location of the tank lid before signing the final papers, which seemed like no big whoop, until it was time to pump.

Calling the septic man was on my to-do list since fall but it only ever crept into my consciousness at 3:00 in the morning when a random toilet flush seeming to glug more than normal caused me to imaging my septic system exploding and waking to find the remnants covering my homestead. However, once I returned to dreamland, all worries were forgotten. Fortunately, I saw the pooper-scooper at the neighbors’ last week and stuck while the iron was hot. I was on the horn getting a poop-pointment within minutes. There was only one problem, where was the tank lid?

The septic man assured me locating the tank was simple and a map could be found on page 15 of a report he guaranteed was in our closing documents. It wasn’t. Then he told me I could get the map from the Department of Health. I couldn’t. They’re closed for Covid. The Turk was certain he knew where it was and began to randomly dig in the general vicinity. I managed to watch him dig random holes for only a few minutes before I hid. I had no need to witness his descent into madness.

Hours before the poop-truck was due to arrive, the septic man texted me a map he’d managed to secure from…somewhere. Though I was thankful for this crumb, the map looked like Nugget had drawn it. It had no key to tell me which direction it faced and no scale. The only writing on the map was the word ‘deck’ scrawled on a rectangle. We have 3 decks, ask in the vicinity of said buried treasure.

With map in hand, I tried a low-scale search and recovery mission in the opposite direction of where the Turk had dug the first 50 holes. When I came up empty, the Turk decided to try his hand. Again, I ran for cover because I knew where this was heading when suddenly I heard, “Honey! I think I found it!”

In mutual madness we dug in tandem around the red concrete circle hidden in our yard. (If you’re following along, there are now 2 areas of the yard excavated.) Success. It was right where the new 1st grade quality map said it would be…until it wasn’t. As we neared the edges, we found this was only a concrete disc. Someone literally buried a 2’ concrete circle, painted red, in our yard for no apparent reason other than to screw with us. (Or perhaps it was to mark a shallow grave. It could go either way but I stopped digging just in case.)

Dejected, I canceled the poop truck and we returned to digging holes where the Turk was certain the tank should be following industry logic. “Why it is not here? Pipe comes out here. Outlet for effluent is 16 inches from here….pipe must be 10 feet. It has to be right here. Where it is? What the hell?”

Worried I was going to either lose my husband’s sanity or my yard, I dialed up the previous owners. Surely they would know exactly where it is right? No.

“I think….it might be….you know what, I’ll see if we have a map.”

Moments later I received a map. This map was likely drawn by a 2nd grader because it had straight lines, but still no words. It was dated 1973 and it showed the septic to be in a completely different location –the front yard.  Give me strength.

“I think it’s next to the fence,” came along with the second map. Armed with this new information, Number 1 Son and I decided it would be an easy find. The Turk was out on a grocery run and we planned to gloat about our success upon his return. That didn’t happen.

We dug the entire area in front of fence. We dug up bushes. We dug 3 feet down because Google said sometimes that happens. We dug to the driveway. We dug to the steps. We even managed to dig up some kind of wire we shouldn’t have but in none of that did we find a freaking septic tank. After 2 hours of digging the 12 year-old and I were exhausted and empty handed.

This continued for another 3 hours when the Turk got home. Our yard looked like a scene from the movie Holes. I was near tears and the Turk was near meltdown so we called in a friend who works in plumbing to help. He did the measuring thing. He did the map thing. Then he joined us. “What the hell? This is crazy. Is has to be right here. Where could it be?” His validation was just what the Turk needed.

“That is what I say. How it is not here?”

After another hour of measuring pipes, following lines and trying not to fall in any of the holes now pocking our property, greatness finally struck. What was listed on the drawing as a deck wasn’t a deck. It had been converted into a mudroom years ago making all our measurements – WRONG.  The digging started again but now in a different location and after removing all of the soil from the foundation and coming up empty, yet again, the Turk jabbed the shovel into the corner for safe keeping. CLUNK.

4 days, 2 maps, 5 grown-ups, 1 kid and that damn lid was on the corner of our house, covered only by gravel, right where no one would ever expect it to be.

Much beer was consumed after that clunk and when the poop man pulled up the driveway (after nearly driving into the ravine) the next day, I would’ve hugged that pooper-scooper were it not for the social distancing thing…and the fact that he seemed to have some of his work on him. As further validation, he also confirmed that lid was in the last place he’d have expected too.

We’re good to flush for at least another year or two and next time there will be no search because I’ve painted it orange. (Like I’d ever forget now.)  We managed to salvage our marriage once the holes were filled and I learned something important. Should I ever need to dig a shallow grave, it will take me about an hour but I can get ‘er done. However, I will need some Advil the next day.

 

Engineer, Nay, Pain in the Rear

vintage engineer

You’ve seen the memes circulating the interwebs since the start of this pandemic. “Check on your extravert friends, we are not ok.” Or, “Check on your friends with strong-willed children, we are not ok.” Or, my personal favorite, “Check on your friends who work in professions which require them to refrain from saying 90% of what they are thinking, we are not ok.” In all this memeing, there is a forgotten group. For us, I’d like to offer this, “Check on your friends who are married to engineers, we are not ok.”

Those of us, the brave, the tired, the prematurely gray, who have spent hunks of our lives married to engineers have an unspoken bond. When one engineer spouse meets another, we immediately share a knowing nod that says, “I feel ya.”  There is no need to explain the madness, the half-finished projects, the overblown plans or the lack of common sense, because we battle it everyday. Are our spouses intellegent? Of course. It takes a serious nerd with a freakish understanding of physics to go into engineering. It also takes a brain that functions unlike the rest of humanity. 

Now, with the world on lock-down, all of those engineers are working at home. They have invaded our domains of sanity. Not only are our engineers home, they are bringing dozens of additional engineers with them via conference calls and Zooms. Last week I was privy to a conference call while changing laundry outside The Turk’s hidey-hole. In addition to my husband’s thick Turkish accent, there were two Indian accents, a French accent, a New England accent, one thick southern drawl and another that was unclear if it was an accent or annunciation issue. 

“I can’t understand half of these people so how do you?” I asked the Turk.

“I don’t.” He replied.

As each engineer on the call went off on what seemed to an unrelated tangent, it was clear the Turk was not alone. I fled before I got disorganization angina. (Yes it’s a real thing. I get it whenever I go into our garage.)

Then there are the plans. When my engineer is busy with work, he doesn’t have the brain space leftover to devise masterplans that he is fully capable of designing but is probably only partially capable of executing. (And even if he is capable, he loses interest half-way through – thus the hole in my bathroom ceiling at present.) The past month has gone something like this:

Laying in bed, “I have idea. This summer I am going to knock the wall, build new steps and turn attic into huge closet so we have more room for clothes.”  – or you could just rotate summer and winter clothes like me.

Sitting by the fire pit, “I have idea. This summer I can dig up yard and put in irrigation system. Then grass can grow.” – or we could just pay a landscaper to put down sod every year for 20 years and it would be cheaper than your idea.

On the deck, “I have idea. This summer I can rent machine, what is it…excavator? I can build jogging track all around woods. I can bring truck with gravel and we can walk there every day.” –or we can just keep walking in the cemetery across the street and never allow you into an excavator.

Eating lunch, “I have idea. This summer I am going to build new guest room in garage apartment.” – gotta catch that raccoon first.

Drinking coffee, “Last night I have idea. This summer I am putting new section on tree house that connect to other two trees. Then I can drink my beer there.” – or you could just finally put the steps on so the kids can get in it after waiting a year.

Readers, it’s rough. Every day he has a new plan and I can literally feel money slipping through my fingers with every word he utters.  And if that were not enough, there are the very engineerish things that might just kill me.

Like last week.

9:00 am “Honey, there is a wicked storm blowing through later with 65 mph winds. You should go get gas for the generator.”

“I can go later.”

12:00 pm “Are you going to get the gas now before the storm?”

“I can go in an hour.”

3:00 pm “Did you get that gas yet?”

“I can’t go now. It is raining. We be ok. I have plenty gas in shed  and tank of propane too.”

5:30 pm – Power gone – “You need to go hook up the generator.”

5:55 pm- leaning out the window in the pouring rain, still with no power.  “What the hell are you doing? Turn it on!”

“I can’t. There is mouse inside. I am waiting for him to leave.” (Insert heavy  profanity on my end)

6:15 pm – Generator is finally on and a drenched Turk enters. “I have to go get gas for generator. Propane and gas are gone.”

The Moment I’d Been Waiting For…“I know dear, you used the gas in the snow blower and the propane on the grill when you got drunk last fall and wanted to grill a frozen pizza.”

“Oh.”

Long story short, when he tried to get gas, the power was out in the gas stations too. Fortunately we had enough gas to get us through bedtime but when the power was still out the next morning, the Turk was forced to go out gathering gas so I could make the coffee that would keep me from strangling him. 

Brilliance comes with a price and this is the price. I get that, but please, check on your friends who live with engineers, we are so not ok. 

Raccoon Stew…Ewwww

vintage raccoon

So, your news feeds are nothing but doom. Your Fitbit no longer bothers to remind you to move after having it’s nudges ignored too often. Your mirror keeps reflecting back a head full of multi-colored roots. (Personally I’ve decided to embrace the gray, or what I like to call Jesus’s highlights.) You don’t remember how pants with buttons work anymore and your days flow seamlessly from coffee to wine. Add in some e-learning and managing video conferencing for 2 working parents and 2 kids and you need a good laugh. Dear readers, I am here for you.

I’m sure that after last week’s blog chronicling the pending Turk/raccoon cage match, you’re dying to know how things are panning out right? In case you missed it, last week I explained that we have a squatter living in the apartment above our garage. He’s suspected to have been in residence there for several months and has not bothered to make recompense for his time with us.  While I intended to, in a very American fashion, assassinate the adversary, my Turkish husband determined it best to relocate the furry little bastard instead. Since I’m not a fan of blood splatter, even on television, he won and last week a massive kill-free trap arrived on my doorstep thanks to FedEx.

It took a bit for the Turk and our offspring to get the gist of the trap but thankfully, they figured it out without using our surly cat as a model. The Turk had found a recipe for a special soup on YouTube that was guaranteed to lure the rodent into the cage but when I pointed him to the kitchen to conquer the task on his own, he and the boys determined it best to make a test run with peanut butter and beer and tackle the soup if the peanut butter failed.

So far, the Turk’s trap has remained bare.

Fast forward a few days.

I was preparing yet another of the 5 million meals I’ve been forced to make during this quarantine crap, when my darling husband burst into the kitchen with tears of laughter streaming down his face. He’d been on his weekly phone call with his mother in Turkey. As a typical Turkish mama’s boy he spends a good forty-five minutes or so every weekend exchanging the happenings on both sides of the Atlantic and of course, his battle against Rafet Raccoon, (I felt it easier to wage war with an enemy possessing a human name.) was a hot topic.  He explained to his mother that raccoons are real, not just cartoons like in Turkey, and that they run free in the US. He then explained that one had gotten into our garage and that he was trying to capture it by having me make a magical raccoon soup. That’s where it went south.

There were shrieks.  There were screams of disbelief. There were repeated exclamations of, “Why? Why? Why? What have they done to you in that awful country?” (PS – he first set foot in America like 20 years ago. Chill lady.) Hunting isn’t a thing in Turkey unless it’s for protection from something like wild boars. (True story. That’s the only time the Turk ever went hunting in his life.) His mother spent a good ten minutes lamenting the way her baby boy had morphed into an ugly American before he realized she’d totally misunderstood the story.

Somehow she’d gotten confused with his tale and my mother-in-law thought I’d sent my husband hunting for the raccoon so that I could then butcher the damn beast and make my family a nice raccoon soup.  And that’s when the tears of laughter began to flow and my darling husband had to dig deep to determine if he should correct her misunderstanding or just keep laughing and let her roll on to madness.

The misconception that I was some kind of bayou gal sending my husband out to gather roadkill for a nice family feast is not surprising. My in-laws referred to me as “the American” for years and while we did fine when I lived in Turkey, my mother-in-law has long been a wonderful critic of all things American, especially me.

So while we’ve yet to trap the little bandit in the garage, he’s still providing some serious entertainment and my husband, even during today’s phone call, is still using this as a nice opportunity to torment his mother. And just in case she decided to use Google to translate this post, as she sometimes does, here’s a little something to keep the fun alive.

 

RACCOON STEW 

(from cooks.com)

1 raccoon, cut into cubes
2 or 3 onions, sliced
2 to 3 c. canned tomatoes, chopped
Salt & pepper
Bay leaf
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
4 Carrots
1 Onion
3 Potatoes
2 Turnips

Brown the raccoon slowly in a Dutch oven. There should be enough fat within the tissues that no additional oil is required. Add onions during the last of the browning process so they won’t become scorched. Reduce the heat, add enough tomatoes and liquid to cover the meat, season and cover. Simmer over low heat until almost completely tender. Add cubed vegetables of your choice and continue to simmer until vegetables are tender. Serve hot with biscuits.

 

An Eviction in My Lair

vintageraccoon

Life here in isolation is getting hectic now that we’re rolling on work and school for everybody. The Turk is still hiding in the basement, the kids have called dibs on the kitchen and I’m left squatting in whatever corner I can find. This drove me to the brilliant idea of using this quarantine time to finally finish my office in the apartment over the garage. I would create my own lair perfect for hiding from my family, planning  world domination and maybe even working on occasion.

Our house came with a detached garage that houses a half-finished, three-room, two-floor apartment. When we landed here, I staked my claim on the sunny, 2nd-floor bedroom with windows that overlook the cranberry bogs. I hung up my Wonder Woman memorabilia, unloaded my cases of books and planned to write my bestseller. But before I could achieve greatness, my new lair needed paint (Because the half-finished neon-blue it current holds makes my eyes cross.) and something to cover the sub-flooring and a door. Crazy as it was, I felt like a barrier between the apartment and the open garage might be important. (This request has provided a plethora of ‘I told you Turk’ moments recently.)

“Is easy. I can do. No big job.” My darling husband, the Turk, proclaimed…2 years ago.

So after waiting more than 700 days for the Turk to step up, I gave up. I decided that in this time of excessive home-ness, I could pull a solid HGTV move with the assistance of a 12 and 6 year-old. We’d bust out a little work then, bam – Mama’s got a cushy new hidey-hole.

Step one: planning.  Measuring was math so I deemed our homeschool math lesson that day would be to survey the area and create a totally-not-to-scale drawing showing our plans. We set off, but then my husband issued his ominous warning,

“Be careful. I think somebody living there.”

“Hubba wa?”

“Yes I hear him. He has family. Lots of feet running above last time I am there putting away Christmas decorations. Be careful, I can put trap there.”

My husband has a long history of waging war on rodents. In the 14 years of our union I have witnessed the man I love Rambo out on mice, groundhogs, chipmunks and a few squirrels. He calls on his time as a Turkish commando to dominate small, furry beings and it gets ugly, fast.

Our sons have witnessed Baba’s insanity too,  and by the time we found an apartment floor carpeted with sticky traps, no one was surprised. Nugget simply facepalmed and muttered, “Babba ith nutth.”

We spent a good twenty minutes in there mapping our plan without a single sign of the squatters the Turk warned of…but then I saw a footprint. On a blue box there was a huge, perfectly identifiable raccoon footprint. (I was a Brownie for 2 years, ’79 and ’80, so I know my tracks.) That crazy Turk was right!

Immediately we fled down the stairs to the first floor. Unfortunately, that is our storage room and I promised to dig out the Easter baskets.

“We’ll find the damn plastic eggs then we are out of here before that crazy raccoon decides to attack.” Two sets of little boy eyes widened at me like a crazy woman. “Relax. Maybe it was an old footprint. We were up there for 20 minutes and we didn’t see or hear anything.” It was that “hear anything” that did me wrong. I’d barely gotten the sentence out when something began running around upstairs and whatever it was, it was angry.

Now all of our eyes widened. We froze. Was he coming to throw down? Would I win in a raccoon fight? 20 years ago maybe but I’m old now. Would my children leave me to die if I couldn’t win? (Yes. They might be mama’s boys but they are still male.)  But immediately Nugget showed he’s the guy you need in a raccoon fight. He grabbed a plastic bucket, starting beating it with a shoe and shouting, “I am a weally big guy! Thith ith a weally big guy yelling!” He kept at it again and again and suddenly, the beast above stopped. Nugget had saved us.

We fled back to the house and I immediately alerted the Turk. “Something is up there and it is huge!”

“Yes. I tell you that.”

“How long have you known?”

“Since before Christmas.”

“That’s 4 months ago!”

“Yes.”

“Well he needs to go. As soon as this pandemic crap is over, I’m calling the guy.”

“What guy?”

“You know, the guy that takes care of wild beasts hiding in your home.”

“I think that guy is only on TV.  But I can take care.”

“How? You are not sending the cat in there.”

“No I get trap.”

“You’re going to trap the raccoon and then let him go?”

“Yes. He just need relocation.”

“No. He needs to die.”

“That’s why I take care. You are mean. I can just evict him.”

Today Fed Ex delivered a  trap. The Turk has a plan. He’s going to make soup for the raccoon and put it in the trap. He saw it on YouTube. He thinks it might help to leave a beer too because he saw a raccoon drinking a beer once on Facebook. Needless to say, my dreams of an evil lair are dashed but this battle of Turk versus raccoon should provide a lot of entertainment during the rest of the quarantine. Stay tuned!

 

I Shall Be The Quarantine Queen

quarantine

Stay home. Avoid people. Socially distance yourself. Spend copious time in stretch fabrics and fuzzy slippers. Order in and have groceries delivered. I HAVE BEEN TRAINING FOR THIS FOR MY WHOLE LIFE. I shall be the Queen of Quarantine.

We’re in a weirdo space right now. It kind of feels like being stuck in Jello. Every morning we get up and brace for the damage report and every night we lay in bed waiting for the anxiety to fade.  But over here in our little 1400 square feet of heaven, we’ve got it under control.

On the first floor, I’ve spent the past week busily stress baking and then following that up with stress eating said baked goods. Cakes, pies, brownies, an obscene array of cookies and today I moved on to breads. If the carbs were not enough, there have been soups from lentil to tomato and dinners including such classics as lasagna and falafel, and mousakka and makarna. (PS – there is no better time to be a vegetarian family than when all you crazy carnivores are storming the meat department pre-quarantine. Ain’t nobody whipping tofu off the shelf or grabbin’ soy crumbles from my basket. We are livin’ the dream. ICYMI – here’s how I fooled my family into the veg life. ) I literally cannot stop. Any good shrink would say this excessive kitchen self-flagellation is my attempt to show love and protection to the men who live here but I don’t know…maybe I’m also a fat girl that loves to cook because she loves to eat.

The second floor remains a tween hidey-hole providing a hotbed of entertainment for Number 1. Normally he’s not a video game kind of kid but with nothing to do and crappy weather, well, any port in a storm. My history dork found a series of games he loves and from what I hear coming down the stairs, so far he has slayed some bastard in the Egyptian Pyramids, ridden his horse in a loincloth around a digitalized version of our old town in Turkey and taken down the Empire and a gazillion Storm Troopers before driving Le Mans.

The basement is housing an exasperated Turk who traded a cushy office in Boston for a corner of the basement where he hunches over his computer like a troll under a bridge desperate to finish work. For the first several days, Nugget’s sword fights and basketball games occurring above his head would send the Turk into a rage causing him to bound up the stairs with his trademark, “WHAT IZ DIS???” To which his charming youngest son would reply, “Baba chill.” I do feel for the guy though, between work and a graduate class he’s got a lot to accomplish under his bridge. We’re hopeful we might see him before the end of the quarantine.

Nugget transcends all three floors like only a spastic, ADHD 6 -year-old with an overactive imagination much like his crazy mother’s, can.  In the past week he has been the following, in full costume, LeBron James in the Cleveland days, Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett, Yoda, Iron Man, Captain America, Chewbacca, Fletcher Cox of the Philadelphia Eagles and Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos, The Flash, Darth Vader, a Storm Trooper and Gordon Hayward of the Celtics. I’m sure he’s had more personalities that I’m forgetting too. After donning full regalia for each of his characters, he runs from floor to floor, chasing bad guys, shooting baskets or holding the line while carrying on full conversations in distinct voices. Could it be a sign of early-onset crazy? Sure, but it is too damn funny to stop.

In between the lunacy we’re also working on school, (because it sucks to have a mom who’s a teacher during times like these) drawing tons, reading loads and watching Britbox on the telly. I’m a big fan of the low gore, high dialogue murders found on British television. They remind me of Turkish television but I don’t have to exhaust my brain by translating the whole show only to have the murder solved before I get the entire story translated. The kids are on the Britbox train too. Number 1 loves when I flip on a show and tell him how he and I watched the show religiously back in Turkey. (Because we had 1 channel in English and it was BBC). Nugget is more of a murder man. Boba Fett and I watched an entire murder mystery yesterday on the sofa and he called the perp long before I did. He’s like a 3 foot Jessica Fletcher.

We also hit up a few concerts during the past week too. The Dropkick Murphys put on a stunning show in my living room, and though none of us looked as good as we did when I used to go see them live in the late 90’s, we’re still punk. I also forced my children to sit through the Indigo Girls and Wilco live streams while I regaled them with tales of when their mother was cool and waved lighters at their concerts. (They were painfully unimpressed.)

 We’ve also had quality fire pits, soccer matches and even a relay that nearly killed my aged ass. Fortunately, our beaches are still open and free of idiotic 20 somethings whooping it up. Is it because our beaches are 35 degrees and rocky? Regardless, our beach time has been paramount leaving Nugget to ask, “How do you even thurvive a quaranthine without a beach?”

So at the risk of being too Mary Sunshine in this moment, this smothering mother, with introvert tendencies, that loves a good excuse for kitchen time is finding the bright side in this cray. Stay safe, stay healthy and stay home and wash yo damn hands!

 

Look Out Below!

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Frequently my phone chimes with a love note from Accuweather, “HIGH WIND WARNING IN EFFECT UNTIL 10PM.” Or “GALE WARNINGS UNTIL MIDNIGHT.” Immediately, I’m  flushed with dread. It’s not like I’ve never seen big winds before. I grew up in Iowa and I’ve been through a tornado or two in my day. But Iowa has like a handful of trees in the whole state so when winds start to wail, dry corn stalks come flying at your head, not the tops of 50-foot pines like here in Massachusetts.

When my husband, the Turk, found our charming little house in the woods two years ago, he was so taken by the remoteness and the stunning view of cranberry bogs behind it, that it never occurred to him it could be a death-trap in high winds. I felt the same love he did, until we had our first windstorm. When winds began reaching speeds around 50 mph, and the trees surrounding my home started to bend over, I was sure we were about to die. It was so bad, I even wore one of the Turk’s work hard-hats for the dangerous journey from garage to house. 

I survived the first windstorm but the second was worse. I even picked the kids up on my way home from work to avoid standing in the kill-zone waiting on the bus. As Number 1 caught sight of the backbending trees, he lost it. “We’re going to die Mom! A huge tree is going to crash into our house and we will die!”

“Relax. Maimed maybe but death is not likely.”

“Seriously Mom? Do you not see the branches falling in our yard like confetti of death? If a tree falls on our house, what do we do? Become homeless?”

That’s when Nugget chimed, “If a tree fallth, you juth call Flo at Progrethive or Jake from Thate Farm. Duh.” (Note to self- curtail that kid’s television time.)

Until last Friday, my husband always managed to be out of town for work during the worst of these windstorms. When I would send videos of swaying trees, he would blow me off with a, “Calm down. Is nothing.”

It’s easy to think this when you’re not running from pine boughs flying overhead while your terrified kids are hiding in the basement, asking about the structural integrity of the second floor. But last week, the Turk got to experience the full brunt of Mother Nature himself. As I arrived home from work that afternoon, the Turk emerged from his basement office. “What is happening? Sound like tornado outside.”

“Windstorm. This is what I’ve been telling you about and finally you’re here for one.”

“When it will stop?”

“According to Accuweather, 10:00.”

“Tonight?!? But trees can snap by then.”

“EXACTLY!” 

He paced from window to window, watching the woods around us do a little tango. 

“Maybe you should go down the driveway and wait for Nugget’s bus. You know, to protect your wife from danger.” If I get impaled by a falling branch, you cannot raise these boys on your own.”” I wasn’t totally joking.

“Very funny. Why you are so dramatic?”

“Dramatic? I think that a man from a male-dominated Muslim country would be elated to protect a woman from potential doom.”

“We live US now. We have equal rights.” 

Touché. 

As he snuggled into his fuzzy slippers, I donned my cold weather gear and headed down the drive, watching branches and twigs rain down around me. In hindsight I should have used the argument that his life insurance was worth much more than mine. (If he gets killed on the job he’s got triple indemnity but accident death by tree is still a good payout.) But since this wasn’t my first windstorm, I was feeling cocky.

Five minutes into my wait I heard a very large crack overhead. It was the kind of crack that you know is about to release something massive. My head snapped up. Which one was it? Which tree held my demise? I spun left, then right. So many trees! Why so damn many trees? Then I heard the tell tale wood on wood smack of a very large branch losing to gravity. I covered my head and assumed the tornado position. (Iowa habits are hard to break.)

SMACK! A huge hunk of wood landed inches from my cowering body immediately followed by another huge WOOSH of as a massive branch landed on the other side.

Cautiously, I unfurled. hoping another branch wasn’t coming to finish the job.  I took a look at my attempted assassins. The branch dwarfed me by feet and the hunk of wood weighed at least 10 pounds. I did as any wife would and immediately texted photos to the Turk as an I-told-you-so.

“LOOK AT THIS! I ALMOST JUST DIED! I HOPE YOU ARE HAPPY.”

The Turk made a fatal error as he texted back, “Is just little twig.”

Twig? Bitch please. I dragged the violators off the drive fuming. Then, as I shielded Nugget from any more flying tree parts as he got off the bus, I hauled that big-ass piece of wood all the way up to the house and dropped it right on the Turk’s cushy slippers. 

“Whoa. This is huge. What if it hit you?”

“Yes. What if this big ass piece of wood had fallen on my head. What then? Wouldn’t you feel like crap?”

He searched the air for an answer before finally declaring, “We will burn it in fireplace. For revenge.”

It wasn’t the heartfelt admittance of guilt I desired but for my Turk, there is no bigger show of love than an offer to seek revenge so I’ll take it but next time…his ass will be the one dodging flying trees.

 

 

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!