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!

Winter Break In The Hot Zone

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School breaks are some of the most beautiful and magical times of life…if you are a teacher. If you’re the parent waiting at home maybe not so much. But as a teacher, just when every ounce of patience has been sucked from your soul and you cannot muster one more fake smile when someone asks the same question for the 7,899th time, break comes in and whisks you away.  

New England is sensible and thus spreads breaks out in a manner conducive to winter survival. Instead of being stuffed in your house for two hellish weeks at Christmas, they save a week and give it back as a little gift mid-February. It’s brilliant.

February break beckoned me like a siren for weeks. I’d pull myself out of bed with the promise of an impending week of freetime. My kids shared my motivation with that same promise. We didn’t need the promise of a beachy get-away, just staying in our jammies past 6:00 a.m. and vegging on the sofa. (We’re a simple people.)

With the dismissal bell on Friday I was dizzy with excitement. Nine glorious days lay in front of me, whatever would I do? Should I catch up on Oscar nominees? (Nah. I don’t care about the Oscars.) Should I face reality and do tax stuff? (Probably not. Taxes are a buzzkill) Would I finally drop of that bag of clothing donations that I’ve been driving around with for two months? (Spoiler alert- I didn’t and I’m likely to drive around with it for another 3 months.) It didn’t matter what I planned because I had time for everything.

Break got off to a nice start with a snowstorm. Number 1 and I sledded down our massive driveway until it morphed into an ice slide and my old ass required a dog sled to get back to the top. Nugget, who isn’t a fan of cold or snow,  made about two runs, both on my lap. As our saucer sled picked up speed that might rival an Indy car, trees rushed towards us and I sacrificed myself (and my ski pants) to save Nugget. When we’d completed our roll to safety Nugget shook himself back to sanity, “What da hell Mom?”

“Well Nugs, force equals mass times acceleration. We had a lot of mass on that run thus our acceleration was greatly increased.”  As often happens in our house, the 5 year-old understood physics well enough to nod in agreement. Science is our jam.

We filled our break with a sprinkling of playdates, television, sugary baked goods and lots of reading for Mom. This is where things took a bad turn. During an early morning news perusal, I learned the National Geographic channel is releasing a new docudrama and I have a freakish adoration of the NatGeo docudrama. This one is based on the 2001 classic book, The Hot Zone. Immediately, I decided that would be my winter break reading. I like to be prepared for my docudramas so if I run to the bathroom and miss a scene, I still know what’s going to happen because I read the book. (I’m not a fan of suspense.)

In case you are not an avid fan of the National Geographic Channel or if you missed The Hot Zone on it’s first run, it’s a stunning work of creative nonfiction chronicling the origins of the Ebola virus. Yep, my winter break leisure reading was a book about Ebola. (I nerd hard.) I was well past the chapters chronicling the initial infection in an African cave and into infection of the masses by the time Number 1’s tummy began to rumble.

“Mom, I don’t feel so good.”

And as is the requisite Mom retort in such situation I replied, “Did you poop today?”

“Mom, it’s not always about poop!”

Oh but it is kid, it is always about poop.

It didn’t occur to me that my son might have Ebola until he actually started throwing up and that is when the panic began to set in. As I rubbed my baby’s back and tried to play it cool, I couldn’t help but wish I’d hijacked a hazmat suit from my previous science lab. I could still offer love and console him from behind a plastic shield. The touch of a mother can transcend latex gloves.

My son unfortunately inherited my stomach and when he vomits he does it with such force that the neighbors know what’s going on. As he emerged from the bathroom with face and eyes mottled by broken blood vessels, my Ebola fears were confirmed. My first born was obviously in the beginnings of the red eyes and zombie-face mentioned as stage one of the disease in the book.

I covered the bed nearest the bathroom with sheets to prevent mass infection before allowing his body to touch only blankets from his bed that he’s already infected. Fortunately, it was my husband, the Turk’s, side of the bed.

“Mom, isn’t this a little excessive?” he asked as I snapped on my latex dishwashing gloves and began bleaching the entire bathroom.

“Nope.” I muttered from behind the respirator the Turk used for his last venture into the attic.

As the illness continued to ravage his young body, I tried to keep cool. I tried to convince myself it was only a stomach bug but the immense mass of crazy in my head wouldn’t let me. I reassured myself with the knowledge that the nurse in chapter 8 had survived Ebola infection so I might make it through too. While my actions appear be questionable, I am the better parent. At the first sign of illness, the Turk hightailed it out of the house to run copious “errands” and was not seen again until evening though he did phone in every hour to check status.(Most likely to see if it was safe to return.) A parent present, even in a hazmat suit, trumps the one who hides in fear at Home Depot.

By bedtime, I tucked my exhausted little boy in bed and it was over. We all braced ourselves for doom the following day but it never came. No one else got Ebola and we ended our break with more frivolity.  Perhaps it wasn’t Ebola or perhaps the knowledge garnered from my leisure reading saved us all. Either way, once again, the survival of our family can be credited to my intense love of really weird books. But I might have to shelve The Hot Zone until after cold and flu season.

 

Be My Balemtime, Squishy Butt

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On this fine, February day when so many of us are freezing off our patooties, we are expected express undying love in the form of fine chocolates, botanicals and perhaps even boo-tay.  I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day and not only because my soul is dark. My disdain for the heart-filled holiday is mainly because romance and the Turk are polar opposites. For the first 10 or so years of our union, he missed the Valentine’s Day train completely. Please, don’t give him a cultural pass- they have Valentine’s day in Turkey too. Being void of romance is a life choice for the Turk.

Though I’m not a fan, I do rally for the sake of the kids. This morning, I lined up my red gift bags covered in hearts and half-naked babies, stuffed with paper in holiday hues housing chocolate delicacies and gifts to declare my love. In return, the Turk slapped down a crumpled brown paper bag bearing a Wal-mart logo.

“Here. I get you gift.”

“Nice wrap-job.” I smirked.

“Why I wrap?”

Ultimately, this is miles beyond where we started so I let it go. When one is the lone female in a house of XY chromosomes, holiday expectations are lowered exponentially.

But there is one bright, heart-shaped ray of light snaking through my bitterness and that is Nugget. Nugget is like my tiny, one-eared Cupid and his love for “Balentimes Day” can turn even my dark heart.

As soon as the Christmas gifts are unwrapped Nugget begins his Balemtime countdown. His receiving box was decorated and ready to go around February 1. He had classroom cards signed with a good week to spare. He’s also spent the past few weeks giving me a regular run-down of his classmates and just who is in the running to be his Balemtime.

“Mom, I just wuv Balemtime’s Day. It’s a whole day of wuv and candy. It is da best day ever!”

“I’m glad you love it buddy.”

“And Mom, you can be my Balemtime.” He proclaimed showering me in goopy kisses that would be a bit more adorable if he wasn’t suffering from a very runny nose.

“Honey, I’ll always be your Balemtime.”

He snuggled his little Nugget toes under my legs and continued, “Good because eben when I’m big, I want you to be my Balemtine. You can be my foreber Balemtime”

As any good mother does, I saw an opening in this loving, mother-child moment to switch the conversation from love into something that would better serve me. “Ok, since we’re going to be Balemtimes forever, how about you work on sleeping in your bed all night.” For the past several months after stories and chats and more patience than I usually possess, I tuck an adorable 5 year-old in between Spiderman sheets and a Hulk comforter only to wake hours later with that same 5 year-old wedged up my butt. Every. Damn. Night. I wake up exhausted and cranky and it needs to end.

“Mom, I don’t tink so.”

Hubba whaaaa? This was not the response I was expecting from my forever Balemtime. I decided to punt. “Ok, how about you sleep with your brother instead?”

Immediately he gave me a, “Nope.”

Before I could demand an explanation he provided one. “I need a woman Mom. He’s not a woman.”

“You need a woman?” The only thing that would’ve made the moment better would’ve been if I’d had a mouth full of water so I could do a spit take.

“Yeth. I need a woman because they’re squishy and they smell good, like you. That’s why you’re my Balemtime foreber. You smell so good and I just wuv sleeping with your big squishy butt.”

And with that my fate was sealed. I can’t say no to a man who loves my big, squishy butt. That’s how I ended up with the Turk. So I may never sleep again, but that’s ok. I have a life-long, squishy-butt-lovin’ Balemtime and what more could I want?

Happy Balemtime’s Day!

I Might Be Elfin’ Brilliant!

 

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Contrary to the belief of modern medicine, advanced maternal age has some major perks. One of the biggest perks is being so old that you have no interest in keeping up with all the pre-Christmas antics of young whippersnapper parents. Spend $50 bucks and stand in line for two hours so you can freak out on Santa’s lap? How ‘bout we send him a letter instead.  Christmas parades and festivals? Let’s just decorate cookies at home where it’s warm and Alexa plays Christmas carols. Elf on the Shelf? Hells no. Well, that was hells no until this year when I had a stroke of brilliance and finally found use for that felt-clad munchkin.

I’ve long been of the camp that my old school Irish Catholic/Turkish mothering is enough to keep my kids in line for the holiday season. Also, I’m not opposed to stuffing a stocking with undies and holding the good stuff until Easter if the line isn’t toed. (Full disclosure- Christmas of ’14 may or may not have ended this way.)I’ve long stood by the adage, “We don’t need an elf on the shelf because Santa already put you on the good list. Just keep yourself there.”

That worked for many years but then along came Nugget. If you’re a regular reader of this fine literary work, you know that my youngest son, Nugget, is a force of nature. He’s a one-eared, 1 ½  kidneyed, hard of hearing powerhouse that has kept us on our toes since he came screamin’ into this world five years ago. This year he started kindergarten and with that came 20 peers who all seemed to have those damn elves at home. But I held firm to my, “Santa thinks you’re already good,” stance for the first few days of the holiday season before I couldn’t any more. He was a butthead and my plan no longer worked so I sucked it up and ordered our house a snitch on the shelf.

What I was not prepared for was the price of these damn elves. There was no way this frugal Fannie was going to shell out $30 for a stuffed Barbie-wanna-be who was going to add an extra chore to my daily workload. With a little scrolling, I found one for half-price who happened to be rocking a green onesie instead of the standard red. I didn’t care. I’m cheap.

A few days later, thanks to the magical mail system, the snitch appeared on my doorstep. I wasn’t quite sure how to make the introduction so I wrote a note in my finest elf-handwriting with misspellings and backwards letters scrawled with my non-dominant hand. (I also learned that should the need ever arise, I could write a virtually undetectable ransom note in the same style. My mind never stops planning.) Then I needed to come up with a name for the sign off. I went with the first thing that sprang to my deranged mind – Puddles. A few hours later, when we all arrived home after a movie, the kids were shocked to find we’d been infiltrated by Puddles, Santa’s little narc.

For like one day it was fun to place Puddles in uproarious situations then I was over it. I haven’t the memory or the time to create elaborate Puddles centered tableaus every damn night, but someone in our house did. His young memory and boyish creativity was made for Puddles scenography and fortunately, thanks to his age, a butthead classmate in 3rdgrade and a giant blunder by his foreign father unfamiliar with the whole Santa rouse, the fat man jig was up and he was already in on the action. Number 1 Son jumped at the opportunity to take on Puddles duties. He began drawing out plans, listing scenarios and Googling things normal parents probably would’ve stopped. He was an elfin’ master.

Puddles hung from the kitchen light, stuffed his face in a cupcake, hid in the pantry eating cookies, sucked down giant cups of coffee, bathed in bowls of fruit, lounged about reading raunchy detective fiction and was all too often found around the booze. Nugget was elated. Every morning he bounds down the stairs to see what kind of mayhem Puddles has unleashed upon our abode.

I was glad to pass off the task until I started to make some connections. Puddles had a sugar addiction. Puddles needed excessive coffee. Puddles frequented the wine cabinet…was Number 1 Son actually modeling this damn elf after his beloved mother? The resemblance was uncanny but it was cheaper than therapy so I let it go.

I thought passing the elf duty buck to an older sibling was a stroke of parenting brilliance and that I had achieved greatness until I was one-upped. The other day I was giving an Oscar-worthy performance as a substitute teacher at the elementary school. (How did I never know about this subbing thing? It’s way more fun than being the actual teacher and there’s no homework!) We were sharing tales about weekend elfin antics (Because every kid has a damn elf now. Smooth move young parents. Like we needed one more thing to do at Christmas!) when one girl shared her tale.

“Well, we have an elf on the shelf and he pretty much watches from the shelf all the time but when we’re bad…(shaking her head like a soldier just back from war)…when we’re bad, Krampus in the corner shows up and he is terrifying. His yellow eyes stare at you and you just know he can’t wait to eat you if you screw up one more time.”

Clearly Krampus worked because this was the most well-behaved, polite child I’ve seen in years. I was in complete awe of her parents. How had I never thought of Krampus in the corner? Utter brilliance. I’ve been a mom for over 10 years and it seems I still have so much evil to amass.

Watch your ass Puddles, you may have had a party this year but next year you’ll have competition and if I know Nugget, Krampus in the corner will rein in our house next December.

Happy Holidays!

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Puddles in action last weekend.

Burning Trains and Bedwetting- The Things That Keep You Laughing…

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The stress of a relocation lasts far beyond the initial move. Having done this a few times, I know it can easily take a year to get everyone adjusted and at least a solid nine months for stress to begin to dissipate. Unfortunately we’re not there yet. Relocation is not for the weak. Between falling trees, stanky wells and a job search moving at the pace of a molasses flow in Siberia, the last few weeks have been stressful here at casa de Turkish Delights. I try my best to remain Little Margie Sunshine but sometimes circumstances dull my shine. But as is usually the case, just when things get crappy, life hands out some of its best laughs.

I’d been dealing with some unrelenting stress for a little too long so I decided to reward myself with a day off last week. (Or at least a – post -mom duties, pre- bus stop “day” off.) I’d start with a pot of coffee, then break out the cookies I’d squirreled away into an undisclosed location and catch up on my beloved trashy spy drama, The Americans. I started watching this show 5 years ago but there are too many boobies and bullets in these tales of 80’s espionage so I’ve been limited to consuming my spy-tales on the rare occasion of no offspring present which is why I’m not even at the halfway point of the series.

Before I could even get the kids on the bus, my phone began blowing up with texts, photos and finally a call.

“Honey, can you come get me?” The Turk asked.

My husband left for work more than an hour prior so I had no idea what he was talking about. “What? Where are you?” I yelled into the phone over the roar of the school bus.

“My train is on fire. Look at pictures. I send pictures.”

I quickly scrolled over the photos I’d ignored, (not that I always ignore things he sends me but…) and I’ll be damned. There it was, my Turk standing in front of a flaming train. I didn’t know whether to be concerned or to crack up. He seemed unharmed so I went with my go-to and busted out laughing. “Where are you? You’re ok, right? How did this happen?” Though I was laughing, I could feel my day off slipping away. I reached out to pull the Russians back but…but…no.

“Everybody had to get off train and now we all stuck. There are no Ubers. There is another train behind that is stuck but it is not on fire. Only my train on fire. Can you pick me?”

I felt sorry for my Mediterranean husband, standing in the middle of nowhere, perhaps even in a cranberry bog, with nothing more than a winter coat and travel mug of coffee to keep him warm, but I also had to laugh at the situation. I mean, it’s not every day you are commuting and your train bursts into flames next to a Dunkin Donuts. “I’m on my way.”

I made it in just under twenty minutes and was soon a participant in a parade of spouses filing through a Dunkin Donuts parking lot, stopping just long enough to load a hostile commuter and their briefcases before departing. I took solace in the knowledge that all of these other spouses were also losing their beautifully planned days as well.

When the Turk got in the car he gave me the play by play and we proceeded to laugh all the way home because when life sets your train on fire, there’s not much you can do but laugh.

My restructured day involved five million errands, six million loads of laundry, the news that I needed a root canal and not a single Russian spy. By day’s end I was ready for a restful sleep but my children felt differently. Not long into the night, Nugget appeared by my bedside.

“Mom. Mom. Mom.”

“What?”

“I had a bad dream.” He finished his statement while hurdling himself across my body, “I need to sleep in here.”

Too tired to fight, I snuggled up with my 5 year-old and went back to sleep.

An hour later, I received another notification.

“Mom. Mom. Mom.”

This time it was Number 1 Son at my bedside. “What?”

“Something’s wrong. I think I peed in my bed.” He was traumatized. He hadn’t wet the bed in years.

“It’s ok. Sometimes when you’re really, really tired accidents happen.” I tried to reassure him.

“Not me. I don’t pee the bed.” Number 1 and I stripped the mattress and began the process of remaking his bed in the wee hours of the morning and after more reassurance, he finally gave up the fight and returned to bed.

The next morning Number 1 was still lamenting the previous night’s happenings. “I just don’t get it Mom. I never pee the bed. I’m old.” (Child, if 10 is old go get yourself a damn job.)

Before we could rehash everything in daylight, Nugget strutted down the stairs, curiously wearing different pajamas than I’d put him in the night before.

I knew that that meant. The kid has a history of shady behaviors in the night. “Did you just pee in my bed Nugget?”

Rubbing his eyes and stretching his arms over his bedhead, he casually replied, “Nah.”

“Well, why are you wearing different pajamas?” I asked.

“Because I peed in Teo’s bed last night. I couldn’t sleep in a wet bed so I changed my jammies and came to your bed.” Nugget was very nonchalant about his evil doings, as is usually the case. This is why we opted to turn his college fund into a bail fund a few years ago. It’s important to understand your investing.

It only took a second for Number 1 to make the connection. “Wait. So I didn’t pee my bed? You peed in my bed?  Oh my God, I slept in your pee! Disgusting! You suck!”

While the stress is still high, the universe continues to send me comedic interludes to keep me somewhat sane and out of the Betty Ford Clinic for a little longer. Laugh it up because sometimes, it’s the only think keeping you balanced!

 

Confessions of a Halloweenie

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I hate Halloween. There. I said it. I know that due to its recent rise in popularity admitting such hatred is paramount to hating Christmas (which I may or may not be guilty of as well) but I really, really, really hate Halloween.

It might seem hard to hate a holiday that is focused upon the gross overconsumption of sugar and in the case of the older ghouls, booze, (…These are a few of my favorite things…) but I do. And it’s probably difficult to fathom that having been a professional costume designer for a large chunk of my life, I would so actively despise the season of donning costumes, but I do. My level of hatred for Halloween is on the same level of Eagles fans’ hatred for the Dallas Cowboys. (And as a bleeding-green Eagles fan, I promise this is some serious revulsion.)

My reasons for hating Halloween falls into 3 major categories: Costumes, Scary Things and Candy.

  1. Costumes

It’s all so complicated now. Gone are the days of slappin’ a sheet over your head, cutting a couple eyeholes and hittin’ the streets with a pillowcase to collect the goods. (Though my mother never allowed this as sheets weren’t cheap so “You’re not going to ruin them.”) I once had a Lucy from Charlie Brown costume that left nary enough room to breathe through the plastic mask and the coordinating plastic smock was so flammable that my mom kept steering me clear of all jack-o-lanterns so I wouldn’t melt. It wasn’t great but it served the purpose for the 3 years my mother made me wear it until I outgrew the plastic smock. Sure, I was oxygen deprived when I got home but I wasn’t spending a year’s college tuition on a costume for one night. Nor was I competing in some unspoken parental contest for the best costume. (Don’t think I didn’t see you over there lady, eyein’ up my kid’s costume…)

As counterintuitive as it seems, costume designers are generally not fond of Halloween. People steal your crap or expect you to whip them up something at no charge because, “You do costumes? Cool. Can you make me a giant Velociraptor-Meets-Headless Horseman costume for free?” Hells no fool. Do you expect an accountant to do your taxes “for free”? I didn’t think so. But when it comes to my own kids, I’ve made every costume for their entire lives. From Nugget’s pirate costume requiring a “hooker” (We eventually realized he meant hook) to Number One’s choice this year – the murderous Viking. If they can dream it, I’ll find a way to make it happen (though I often need to remind them I’m not Dreamworks.)

What I can’t deal with is adults in costumes. Why? Because it’s too damn hard to tell who’s wearing a costume and who just looks like that anyway. For example, the other day, Number One and I pulled into Dunkin for replenishment (Because we’re in New England so…Dunkin…) and we spent the next 10 minutes trying to decide if the lady who waited on us was in costume or if she just looked like a witch naturally. And it wasn’t just that one woman. It happens everywhere you go in the week leading up to Halloween. Is that a mask or is that your face? Did you mean to wear your make-up like that or is it a tragic error? Should I tell you? Is that a fashion failure or a costume? Do I compliment you on your costume and risk humiliating one or both of us?

People, I beg you, do not put me in this position. I have neither the tact nor the self-control to handle these situations without intense embarrassment to us both.

  1. Scary things

With Halloween comes bloody stumps, dripping goo and splattered gray matter everywhere. Lest we forget, there are also scary movies, spooky spectacles and terrifying haunted horrors that are on television, billboards and in every store from the place I buy my hardware to the place I buy toilet paper. These images stick in the minds of my offspring and reappear just as I tuck their little bodies into bed minutes prior to Mommy’s chill time. Thanks to Halloween, I spend a large chunk of autumn sleeping on a sliver of Nugget’s bed, talking an insomniac Number One down and forgoing large chunks of my badly needed Mommy chill time.

My children, like their mother, are giant wusses. Back in the day, when my crew gathered around the television to watch rented VCR tapes of classic flicks like Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and Friday the 13th, I was the one volunteering to throw more corn into the air popper, or grabbing another round of Crystal Pepsi – from the store 5 miles away. If things got too tense and I ran out of errands to keep me from actually watching the terror, I’d fake an early curfew or, if necessary, diarrhea. As Nugget says, “Scawy suff is da wurst!” Preach little man.

  1. Candy

If the social confusion and terror inducing festivities were not enough, there is the candy. Starting in September, every store moves out the school supplies and swaps in bite-sized bits of chocolatey-peanuty-gooey-fatty goodness. As a woman of girth, I do not need this. I’ve been in a long-standing battle with an extra 20 pounds since the birth of Nugget, five years ago. (Spoiler alert – so far the 20 pounds is winning.) The last thing I need is to be met by pocket-sized temptation at every turn.

In my brilliance, I usually start my newest life change in September making my dive into a carb-free or sugar-free or fat-free or whatever-free lifestyle I’m pursuing in full swing just in time for Halloween. Try as I might, things always get ugly when Fun-Size arrives.

Then there is the battlefield that engulfs our home as soon as we return from the trick-or-treat trail.

“Mom! He took my candy!” Nugget screams even before he’s shed his costume.

“No I didn’t.” My husband, the Turk, retorts.

“Mom, Baba always takes the good stuff. That sucks.” Whines Number One Son.

With chocolate fingers and a guilty smirk the Turk replies, “Taxes. You live in my house, you pay taxes.”

This battle rages on until the last bit of candy is finally gone weeks later. The Turk claims it to be a good dose of reality for our future taxpayers while the kids loudly lament the injustice. While the Turk is blatant about his thievery, I like to keep mine on the down low, sneaking a piece when the goods are left unattended. Either way, every Halloween sends the Turk and I both a little further down the diabetes track.

So yes, I hate Halloween and I think my reasons are pretty valid. But for another year, I will suck it up. I’ll dress my offspring in so many layers they can barely move and follow behind as they cover more miles in one night than their legs knew possible. I’ll watch their sugar highs rise and fall and shield Nugget’s eyes from “scawy guys.” And when it’s over I’ll pair my wine with a side Mr. Goodbar and check off another year.

Happy Halloween!

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.