Bloggin’ and Boggin’, It’s Cranberry Time!

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As a kid in Iowa, New England might as well have been a different country. My school wasn’t down with geography but as I’ve learned, that’s a trait shared by many land-locked education systems. (I think it’s jealousy.) Everything I knew about New England could be boiled down to four things:

  1. Pilgrims landed there.
  2. Paul Revere and the Boston Tea Party happened there.
  3. Everyone hated their football team.
  4. Cranberries came from there.

The latter was something I knew because even as a kid I loved cranberries. My mouth watered when Mom opened the can and jiggled out the gel every Thanksgiving. (Shut up, that was classy in the 70s!) When most of the family turned up their noses, I scarfed down the extra tart cranberry relish made by Grandma Pete every Christmas. And thanks to an unsubstantiated claim by a small-town doctor regarding my mild kidney issue, my mother poured bottles of cranberry juice down my gullet for the first ten years of life to my joy.

As a kid, I’d seen photos in magazines of people standing in the water, scooping up cranberries and found it fascinating. My dad and uncle harvested corn and soybeans every fall with huge combines, filling truck after truck but that wasn’t fascinating. It was boring old farming. Maybe if the corn was the perfect shade of red and Dad scooped the corn out of a pool my interest would’ve been piqued but otherwise – meh.

When my husband The Turk told me our new home in Massachusetts was in cranberry country, I was pretty psyched. I wasn’t sure what cranberry country would look like but I was ready for the adventure. As I’ve discussed earlier (here it is in case you missed it) the downside of cranberry country is the plethora of snakes (The little bastards love the bogs but sometimes take a wrong turn to my front steps.) and the sand – sand that is enough to drive a mother crazy. Otherwise cranberry country is beautiful, consisting of lots of low-lying bogs filled with little bushes about 8 inches high everywhere you turn.

From the moment we landed in cranberry country this summer, I’ve waited for harvest season. I wanted to see if the images on TV and in those magazines were legit and more importantly, I wanted to see cranberries harvested for real. I asked everyone I met if they knew a cranberry farmer but came up empty. I considered putting out a call on the local Facebook page but that seemed a bit psycho and as we’re new in this little town, I’m trying to keep my crazy on the down low.

September came and went and I didn’t see a single bog harvest. The bogs were turning that beautiful shade of red but not a single one was flooded and filled with people in waders. Every errand I’d run would turn into a bog-stalking mission and every trip came up empty, until yesterday.

I’d just dropped Number 1 Son off at school following a doctor’s appointment and was cruising home when I spied it, a flooded bog! I slowed just in time to see the tell-tale floating crimson circle. PAYDIRT! I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by even if it was on a major thoroughfare. I whipped a quick U-ie and headed back with the lone intention of snapping a few photos. My scientific nerdom has long filled me with fascination about these berries and this coupled with my dangerous level of curiosity led to what happened next.

I couldn’t get a good photo and besides, was a photo really enough? I saw an open driveway and skidded in. I tried to look sane but when the woman standing there shoved her small son protectively behind her I realized I’d failed. The day-long drizzle had my hair frizzing like a cartoon crazy and thanks to the damp cold, I had on so many layers my ensemble was only missing a shopping cart.

From the men knee deep in water to the woman loading the truck, their expressions were universal – What the hell is this nut job doing and is she packin’ heat? Immediately I tried to prove my harmlessness.

“I know this sounds crazy, but I’ve never seen a cranberry harvest before. We just moved from Indiana.” (I think I was better before I offered up the Indiana reference but I kept going.) “Can I just take some photos to show my kids?” When you throw in a reference to motherhood you’re always legit.

The farmers were more than amenable to my request causing me to think back to my own dad and what he might have done if some crazy New Englander stopped off in his cornfield and asked to take photos because she’d never seen corn harvested before. I knew what Dad would’ve done and that’s what led me to my next action – “So, how does this whole thing work?”

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Public interest is something that a farmer cannot resist. Farming is a thankless job so even if some lunatic woman shows interest, a good farmer will take the PR opportunity. He and his partner (a bad-ass female in chest-high waders) explained the entire process.

They use a machine to knock the berries off the bush to the ground.

-They then flood the blog with knee-deep water and the berries float on top for harvest.

-Berries are corralled with a black rubber barrier about 6” wide and dragged to shore.

-A huge pump pulls the berries out and dumps them into a truck.

-The truck takes the berries to the Ocean Spray plant on the other side of town and then returns over and over until the bog is empty.

It’s not all that different than harvesting corn but when you add the colors and the whole flooding process and even the word “bog” it just seems cooler. As the farmers in the bog pointed out, you don’t realize how cool it is until some crazy woman recently relocated from Indiana whips her car off the road to take photos and ask a gazillion questions.

I told them about growing up on a corn farm and we soon found that though the crops and processes are vastly different, the rest is basically the same right down to the cranberry farmer’s wife and young son bringing him lunch like my mom and we kids once did.

The Turk didn’t share my excitement, nor did my boys but that’s ok. If my dad were still alive he would’ve loved it and that was enough. My nerd bucket is filled and the farmers even told me Ocean Spray was hiring this week if I was interested in getting in on the packaging end of things. I’m giving it some thought. I do look fabulous in a hairnet.

So this Thanksgiving buy an extra bag or a couple more cans of cranberry goodness. I gotta keep my new found people in business. We have to support our farmers be they in a field or a bog because without farmers we’re all screwed.

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I’m Probably Going To Hell

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There is a 90% chance I’m going to hell. A few years ago it might have been closer to an 80% chance but it’s been a rough patch recently. Easter is usually a time when my heathenistic nature is made clear as the appearance of eggs, bunnies and crucifixes tends to spur familiar conversations between the Turk and I.

“I never get it, why bunny? Did Jesus turn into bunny?”

“No. That’s just stupid.”

“Is it? Every year I ask and every year no one can explain.”

“Oh I explain it, you just never listen.”

“And does rabbit come from egg? No. So why eggs?”

It usually goes on and on like this until I hide away like a mole rat in a dark, secluded area far from my husband who was raised in a Muslim country completely void of gummy eggs and chocolate bunnies. We’ve been doing this for a ridiculously long time so when this year’s round started I didn’t think much of it.

On a rainy Sunday, we drove past the local Catholic Church over-flowing with cars. I should probably note, this is the same Catholic Church I weaseled my way into a couple years ago for Number 1 Son to make his first communion. Though I’m a card carrying heathen, I’m also aware that mistakes can be made and if this whole Jesus thing pans out, I don’t want to have sacrificed the souls of my offspring, so I like to cover my bases. Every month the Church sends us requests for money with our names horrifically misspelled. We laugh manically while shredding the request and the Church keeps a family of ethnically diverse names on the registry amid the thousands of Smiths and Johnsons. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

Seeing the crowded parking lot reminded me to ask the Turk, “Do you have Good Friday off?”

To which he replied, “Every Friday is good. Why is one more good than the others?”

Just as I was about to give myself a stroke from rolling my eyes back in my head, Number 1 chimed up from the backseat. “Baba, that’s the day Jesus died.”

The Turk searched for clarity, “But he come back again later?”

“Yes,” I chimed in. “He rolled up on the crowd a few days later and needless to say, they were a bit shocked. I guess it’s like when you think your boss is out of town and he comes back early. I mean, on a big scale.” (Sister Nora would be so proud.)

I thought that would end it but no. From the backseat Number 1 asked, “Wait, if Jesus died then got out of his grave later, doesn’t that make him a zombie?”

Being a long-time fan of all things zombie (old school Night of the Living Dead not this new school Walking Dead crap) I was more than proud that my little cherub had somehow taken in zombie science by osmosis from his mother.

We debated the concept for a while until Number 1 added, “So if we take communion then don’t we technically become zombies too?”

Kid, you spent one freaking year in Catechism and somehow you managed to pay attention to the one part of the whole doctrine that most find pretty creepy. Nice. Not wanting to get further into a theological debate with either Number 1 nor his father, I tried to shut it down by throwing my attention to the Nugget. However, Nugget was elbow deep in a bag of animal crackers and had nothing to say except, “Wook Mom, I ate dis guy’s head off.” He proudly held up a decapitated pachyderm. Nugget often chooses to utilizes the fact that he only has one ear to find a little peace in our nut-job family.

Fast forward to yesterday and me chasing a naked Nugget around the house trying to get him into the shower. In desperation, I tried a conversation technique to distract him long enough to cleanse.

“So how was school today?”

I expected a generic, “Good,” maybe peppered with a bit of “I had fun.” But no.

Instead he said, “Today at thool, I told da kids about Jesus.”

Noooooooooooooo!  “Um, you told the kids what honey?”

“First, I told dem dat Jesus died on de cross.” He stated.

Relieved I continued, “Really?” I wasn’t impressed that my kid was preaching the gospel in preK but since he’d only started talking a year ago and he’s still not a fan of interacting with same age peers, I was just happy he was having a conversation.

“What else did you talk about Nugs?”

By this point he was shimmying in the shower covered in bubbles tossing out information between dance moves. “Den I told dem Jesus is a zombie.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Jesus is a zombie. Dat’s what you said.”

Panic overtook me. Do they call CPS for training one’s children as  a heathen? Was there a red button on the desk for teachers to press in a religious emergency? This is Indiana and they take their religion seriously here. For the love of God, they made Mike Pence.

“So….” I ventured carefully, “what did your friends say to the news of zombie Jesus?”

“Nuffing. Michael said Jesus is in your heart so it’s ok if he’s a zombie.”

And there you have it. So on this Easter weekend just remember…If Jesus is in your heart, he might be a zombie…and clearly, I am going to hell.

Walkin’ The Floors…Carefully

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“Welcome to Lowes, how can I help you?” The woman in the blue apron offered a somewhat fearful grin, a move I couldn’t blame her for donning. I was standing at the paint counter with one child repeatedly pushing the “For Help Press Here” button and a second doing a drum solo with paint stirrers. There also may or may not have been flour in my hair and pumpkin dripping down my sweatshirt. Can you help me? Girl, where do I begin?

“I need you to save my husband’s life.” I explained.

The Lowes’ paint lady’s face grew serious. She leaned forward, raised and eyebrow and said in the most sober voice, “Honey, I can help. I do this often.”

She stood back, adjusted her apron and continued, “What did he do? Wrong color? Wrong room? Giant paint stain in the middle of the living room floor? Or did he decide to do a quick ‘touch-up’ the night before Thanksgiving and ruined the entire wall?”

I stood there in slack-jawed awe, “How did you know?”

She nodded with a knowing smirk, “You’re my third one today.”

In a strange way, I was comforted by the thought that women across the tri-county area shared my dismay. Were they too victims of stubborn foreign husbands who watched too much HGTV which led these crazed foreigners to a false believe that DIY renovations were “easy”? Was it possible American husbands suffered this same affliction? It didn’t matter. What mattered was that I was not alone.

It started in September when the Turk found a deal on flooring at Costco. (If you don’t have a foreigner in your life, you will never understand the draw of Costco on the immigrant population of America. If you do have a foreigner- solidarity sister.) I’d been begging for new flooring from the day we signed the papers on our little slice of the American dream/money pit. The already disgusting, cream carpet we’d inherited was never meant for a world with Nugget. I’ve spent the last 3 years renting carpet cleaners every few months, crawling around with a spot cleaner and chasing Nugget with a bottle of my own cleaning concoction trying to keep our rugs from looking like those found in an Atlantic City casino (thankfully minus the cigarette burns). However this summer, the carpets won. There was no more saving them so when the Turk found his “great price,” on flooring, I was weak and I succumbed.

“It not cost much if I do it myself.” He boasted.

“But you don’t know how to do flooring.” I countered.

“It easy. I can do in 2 days. It so easy, it only snap together. All I need are few tools.”

“But…” I tried.

“No. I am engineer. I can handle putting in living room floor.”

“But you’re a water engineer and if we were putting in a living room fountain I’d be behind this 100, but…”

“I take off 2 days and I get done while you guys at school. You not even notice. We be done for Thanksgiving.”

As a women who has been married to this man for more than a decade, I knew this statement was absolutely false. I knew it would not take 2 days and I knew there was no way this man could disassemble half of our bottom floor without issue. But I also really, really wanted floors that were not crispy so sometimes a wife has to have blind faith.

Day 1: My entire home was covered in a thin film of carpet stank and dust but it was nice to arrive home to floors that didn’t look like they could be used on the a CSI episode. Plus we did have some quality family time pulling staples out. (The first of many things the Turk hadn’t thought of in this process.)

Day 2: Like a fool, I thougth I might arrive home after a long day of work to see the beginning of my new hardwoods appearing. Nope. Instead I found the exact same floor I’d left (stapeles and all) with the added bonus of gray strips and slashes on my tan walls.

“Um, what the hell happened here?” I tried to remain cool but off to the side Number One was muttering to Nugget, “I told you Mom was going to be sooooooo mad.”

“What?” The Turk feigned stupidity.

“Are you serious? What the hell did you do to the walls? You were working on the floors, how did you manage to destroy the walls in the process?”

“It still wet. It will match when it dry.” He pleaded.

“Fool, it doesn’t dry lighter it dries darker. You used dark gray paint to touch-up our tan walls. How did you not notice this?” Here is where I need to explain that the Turk didn’t simply touch up a couple spots above the baseboards (…where he put huge holes in the walls removing the carpet but that’s a story for another time.) No, he got so involved with his touching up that he painted swipes as far as he could reach and instead of touch-up dots, he went with large patches and whirling swipes of the wrong color. He felt so successful doing it on one wall that he went on to do it on 3 more, including the wall with the vaulted ceiling. When he does something, that Turk does it big.

As I sat on the staple-riddled subflooring staring at my tan and gray zebra walls, I wondered what were the odds the garbage men would notice if I rolled the Turks lifeless body deep within the recently extracted carpet. But then I realized I have children to raise and jumpsuits like those worn in the pokey certainly don’t work for my body type. Instead, I abandoned all hope of hosting Thanksgiving dinner, had a healthy glass of wine and called it a day.

Sunday afternoon, a full week after the “2 day” project had begun, it was over. With the help of that magical fairy in the blue apron at Lowes, some techniques I’d mastered back in art school and countless profanities muttered under my breath, I managed to fix my walls without any Turkish intervention.

To the Turk’s credit, my floors were beautiful even if they did take far longer than promised and to celebrate his craftsmanship, he promptly covered them with a massive Turkish rug.

You can take the Turk out of Turkey but…you know the rest…

Arrrrrrgggg, Fall Break, How Dare Ye!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mom, I need a hooker for Hawoween.”

“Hubba whaaaaaa?”

“I hooker. I need one.”

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

“You need a what?”

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

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

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

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

4 Wise Men and Krampus Wished Me a Merry Christmas

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Ten days ago, a goat appeared in my mailbox. It was a small goat, carved of wood with a couple of crazy-ass eyes that did conjure thoughts of Krampus, the half goat, half man Christmas demon. It was wrapped in tissue with “On The First Day…” scrawled on the paper. Immediately, as one does in situations such as this, I began to sing. (When faced with a mystery everyone sings right? Didn’t Matlock?) In my sought-after style resembling a tone-deaf church lady, I sang, “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…a goat in my mailbox.” Hubba whaaa? I am known for my extreme skill at misquoting lyrics, (You will never convince me it’s not really Big ‘ole Jeff left the lights on instead of Big ‘ole jet airliner) but I could’ve sworn it was a partridge in a pear tree.

Entrenched in end of semester grading and swimming through the pain that is the lead up to Christmas break, I didn’t have any extra brain cells to spend on my mailbox Krampus so I tucked him in the napkin bin and chalked it up to something quirky in my strangely friendly neighborhood. (For real, people bring you baked goods in this ‘hood and they are not even laced with weed or trying to convince you to becoming a Jehovah’s Witness. Definitely unlike all of our old ‘hoods.)

It was all rather innocuous until the Turk found the goat and with a quiver of panic in his voice said, “Wat is dis? Is religious thing?”

My darling husband The Turk, simply by being from a Muslim country, frequently finds himself the recipient of unwarranted advances from the devout of Indiana hoping to save his soul. (If only they knew it was a lost cause long before he married this lapsed Catholic infidel.) The poor guy has received more invitations to attend church than a Kardashian has had butt lifts. (I don’t get the whole ‘come to church with me thing’. In the Catholicism I grew up with, if you weren’t part of the club by birth, we offered you nothing more than a cool welcome and a rear pew.)

Given his experiences, it made sense that he assumed the goat was another attempt to convert the foreign neighbor to some form of Christianity. I however, not nearly as sane as my husband, went to a much darker place.

As a long-time crime show connoisseur and the proud owner of a ridiculously wild imagination, I surmised I knew the real meaning behind the goat in my mailbox and when two more goats arrived on day three, my suspicions were all confirmed.

On day three, upon returning home from a long day at school I opened my mailbox to find 2 more carved animals with the crazy-ass Krampus eyes. A snowstorm had forced my stalker to double up on a delivery. A total of three tissue clad, goats was too many. It was time to open an investigation.

Thanks to my incredibly warped and well trained mind, I concluded I had 9 days left to live as I was now facing death by bludgeoning with a goat horn underneath my Christmas tree, orphaning my children and leaving my Turk a widower. (Which also meant I had 9 days to line him up with a new wife because I love him that crazy bastard too much to leave him to handle life on his own.) While changing into my evening yoga pants, I took a quick glance through my closet to choose my 12th day of Christmas ensemble because even though I’d be dead, I still wanted to look good when they showed footage of the crime scene on Dateline.

Once I’d covered those important things, I laid out my investigation. (Using the scientific method of course, because when you spend your days drilling it into the minds of middle schoolers, it infects your world.)

Question: Who is leaving secret messages in my mailbox and what is their motive?

Hypothesis: I hypothesize that the messages are a warning that I will be killed by a crazy-eyed goat on the 12th day of Christmas.

Procedure:

  1.  Establish a perimeter
  2. Dust mailbox for prints
  3. Set up surveillance
  4. Swab goats for DNA and run any findings through CODIS
  5. Install a camera in the mailbox, record all criminal activity. Isolate images of any questionable individuals and run the images through FBI facial recognition software.
  6. Interview neighbors in the hopes of identifying suspicious behavior.

Since steps 1 – 5 were hard and would likely be a lot of work and I had laundry to do and dinner to make, I decided to skip ahead to step 6. I sent a text to my neighbor on the right.

  Me: Weird question, but have you been receiving any small carved goats in your mailbox recently?

            Her : Um no. It’s 4:00. Are you drinking already?

            Me: Perhaps. Do you think these are a sign that someone is coming to kill me?

           Her: Totally. You should have some wine to relax.

I told you this neighborhood was idyllic.

Having reached a dead end with the right side neighbor, I went left.

   Me: Odd question – have you been receiving small carved goats in your mailbox or is this a message that someone is coming to kill me?

            Her: No but we got them last year.

            Me: OMG. Really? Did someone try to kill you? I didn’t see it in the HOA newsletter.

            Her: No attempted murder. It’s a surprise gift from a neighbor. It will be a nativity set in the end.

           Me: Ahhhhhhhhh. Good to know.

           Her: No need to panic.

           Me: Well, I am from Philly…and Turkey…sooooo….

           Her: Understood.

And there you have it. Word is that this is not a message from a serial killer or a secret summonsing from Krampus. But so far I’ve got 3 goats, 4 wise men (Even though I’m sure Sister Nora said there were only three.) and what may be a shepherd or a member of Al Qaida, I’m not yet sure.

I’m not sure I believe the story so if you never hear from me again, I ask only two things – make sure you watch my Dateline episode so I win at ratings postumously  and more importantly, make sure the Turk doesn’t marry a whore.

Merry Christmas to all!!

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