The Demise of The Ultimate Machine

BMW ad (2)

“There is something wrong my car.” The Turk proclaimed

That’s never a phrase one wants to hear, but when you’ve been milking every ounce of life out of a limping lump of metal nearing the big 2-0 mark, it’s not really that shocking. Though my denial was strong, I’d been expecting this since the moment he took said limping lump off the ramps and by some crazy Turkish voodoo got the car to run.

I brushed off my token- surprised-not-surprised reaction. “Is it something big like ‘my engine fell out in the driveway’ or more like ‘I’ve got a nail in my tire?’”

“Well…engine is still there…”

The lack of details proved we were nowhere near the nail-in-the-tire zone.

“Does it still run?” I prodded.

“Sometimes.” I’m pretty sure there was a tear in his eye as he added, “It might be end of The Ultimate Machine.”

The Ultimate Machine was the name The Turk bestowed upon his creation that began as a beat-up ’98 BMW. About the time I was bringing the Nugget into this world, the Turk was preparing for his own baby, The Ultimate Machine. While I was in a haze of newborn sleep depravation, the Turk decided to hatch his plan to get the car of his dreams by any means necessary -such as taking advantage of my post partum confusion.

Since there was no way his sensible wife would ever sign off on a BMW manufactured in this century, he determined it best to buy one from a desperate college student on Craig’s list. From day one, he was enraptured with the car but his love was blind. As he pulled the Ultimate Machine into the drive at his initial introduction, it clunked and chugged and expelled a thick white cloud of toxic gas with each acceleration.

“What the hell is this?” I begged, shielding my children from the mushroom cloud coming from the exhaust pipe.

“Don’t worry. I fix it.” He beamed.

“How? You don’t know anything about car repair. You barely know how to check the oil.”

“It’s ok. I have Youtube.” (A stubborn immigrant’s direct path to the American dream.)

Thus began a great odyssey that would keep the Turk in the garage (and subsequently my car out in the cold and all of us playing Frogger over mechanic’s tools) for the next 8 months.

Like some women hide online shopping boxes, my husband began to hide car parts coming in at a rapid rate from destinations where I’m pretty sure they don’t make BMWs. He spent late nights watching fix-it videos and laid desire-filled gazes on every BMW he saw like some men do in the presence of a buxom broad. He was in deep, but things only got deeper when I issued an ultimatum.

“Yo, it is almost spring and I want to get these bikes and stroller and everything else normal people put in a garage back in the garage. You have 1 more month to get that damn thing back together and out of my garage.”

“Ok, ok. I almost done.”

“Are you really going to drive this downtown to work every day?”

“Why you say that? Of course. It is The Ultimate Machine. When I die, you bury me in it.”

A few weeks later he pulled the Ultimate Machine out of the drive with nary a puff of smoke behind it. He was elated as he headed off for his morning commute. I immediately signed him up with AAA roadside assistance…just in case.

The Ultimate Machine’s time on the ramps since that grand departure has been extensive. It’s had numerous flat tires, a few tows (That AAA was my best investment in life thus far), lots of leaking fluids, countless junkyard excursions and other things that were only remedied by hours of YouTube videos and boxes of parts from around the globe. The Turk learned more than he’d ever dreamed and until I threatened him with death in his sleep, he even planned to build a paint booth in our garage. Through it all, his love for that stupid car remained.

“I wish you’d talk to me the way you talk to that car.” I muttered in a hostile huff.

“Oh Honey that will never happen. Ultimate Machine never talks back to me.”

That crazed Turk kept it running for 3 years until that fateful day when it seemed the price of repair was bigger than the sum value of The Ultimate Machine. Logically I thought we should buy a new family car and he should take over mine. That idea was a lead balloon. “How I go from Ultimate Machine to a Hyundai? I can not. It hurts too much.”

So he got a budget and knowing the Turk and his inability to adhere to any budget, I low-balled him and off he went to find the next car of his dreams.

I think it’s important to note here that The Turk does not believe in dealerships…or “stealerships” as he calls them. After a week of browsing local sellers and even a police auction, he announced – “I found it. I found my new love.” And like a man in love he showed me photos, relived details and pined. The Turk was smitten and when that was clear he dropped the bomb. “But it is a bit over budget.” (Thus the lowball.) After forcing him to agree that he would take up male cage dancing to make up for the deficit, he sealed the deal.

On a warm spring evening two large African men arrived in my driveway in a white BMW. Even I had to admit, it was pretty, but it was 10 years newer and all in one piece so it wasn’t hard to beat the Ultimate Machine.

At the kitchen table we signed over titles and then I did my best Cagney and Lacey. (Unfortunately I had to be both so it was probably a bit confusing to the three men, none of whom shared my first language.) Where do you work? Where do you live? Give me your employer’s phone number…and on and on before I hit it with the big one…”Just so you know, if this car isn’t what you claim, I will come to your work and I will kill you. We clear? He may be the Turk but I’m a Philly girl and we don’t play.” The huge man looked down at me, a chubby mom pushing 5’4” if I stretch, so I added my best crazy eyes. It worked.

The three men loaded into my car so the Turk could drive them back to their home. For a moment I questioned the sanity in this move, then rememeerd his life insurance was healthy and let the bad thoughts go. The Turk later reported that once in the car, the larger of the two men looked at my husband and said, “Man, your wife is scary.”

To which he could only reply, “Oh, I know.”

Now if I could only use my crazy eyes to get that Ultimate Machine out of my driveway!

Mother Tongue…Ewwww

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The other day someone used the term “mother tongue” in response to languages in our house. That term grosses me out. I am a middle schooler trapped in an old lady body so combining the words mother and tongue could not be any more gross. But after I threw-up in my mouth at the Oedipal imagery, I got to thinking about it. When it comes to language in our house, we are both amazing and a hot mess.

Language is something I’ve learned to both love and despise. I love it for its ability to express the mirage of thoughts hurling through my head, but it also sucks because for us, language is the root of many problems.

For example, I can unequivocally say that every major argument the Turk and I’ve had in our years of marriage has come down to language and something getting lost in translation. Even though we’ve been at this for over a decade and we both speak each other’s languages we still have major miscommunications and now our kids are in on the magic.

 -quiet side whisper- “Mom, what the heck is Baba trying to say?”

“No clue kids, just nod. We’ll figure it out later.”

Then there are the languages themselves. Turkish being blunt and including no sugar coating and English being one where we might sugar coat too much. In Turkish a person is never curvy or plump. A person is fat. Just fat. That doesn’t always flow so well with sensitive English speakers.

“Why I add extra words when I don’t need? She is fat. It is true. I tell her. What is wrong with that?”

And lets not disregard issues we have with preconceived notions we face when speaking our second languages. In Turkish conversations, people think I comprehend faster than I do so they hit me with rapid-fire Turkish while I’m at “hi, how ya doin’.” In English, people hear the Turk’s accent and assume he just started learning English last week rather than 20 years ago, so they assume he’s stupid. (They usually see their misjudgment later when he hits them with a zinger.)

Number 1 Son never had an issue bouncing between languages rather than choosing a mother tongue, until he was old enough to choose. His choice of English over Turkish upset many family members while elating others, sticking his father and I in a quagmire.

Then there is Nugget. For his whole life of almost 4 years, language has been his Achilles heel. As a kid with Childhood Apraxia of Speech who couldn’t get any words to form or any sound to come out until very recently, he was no fan of spoken English. As a Hard of Hearing dude with one ear, he’s doesn’t always catch spoken language to begin with and he’s often dependent on ASL when his lone ear lets him down. However, he’s painfully aware that only a handful of people besides Mom can sign with him so if he can’t sign, can’t speak, what’s a guy to do?

Now, after a year full of daily speech therapy he’s gone from a kid with CAS to a kid with an adorable lisp and a couple other speech impediments (And mastered a find grasp of profanity because even with one ear that kid can hear every damn foul word his mother drops a mile away.) He’s also added more signs and keeps up with his ASL. Recently, spurred by his love of a fabulously flamboyant, Liberace-esque Turkish singer, he’s started picking up Turkish. So what’s his mother tongue? Who knows but 3 languages by 4 is damn impressive.

No one I knew as a kid spoke a second language but  I had great aspirations, so I ordered both French and Spanish dictionaries from the bargain section of the Weekly Reader book order. I soon learned that one does not learn a language by reading the dictionary. I tried Spanish class in high school but called it a day after, “Me llamo Margie, y tu?” I did pick up enough Spanish later to get me into trouble in Mexico, but basically I top out at Dora the Explorer level.

This week Nugget had a birthday party with some Developmental PreK buds at a trampoline park. It was his first big party and he was psyched until he realized how loud the park was and thus turned off what hearing he has (as he does in noisy situations). As I was signing to him we were surprised to see a bunch of other people doing the same. Nugget was elated and signed, Look Mom, they sign too! A group from the local Deaf school was there on a field trip and many took time out to chat with us. It was great for Nugget to share a mother tongue and great for me to hone my ASL skills.

After the party we stopped off at McDonalds (Yes, I do that occasionally. I’m not proud but it happens.) and much to my surprise, we sat next to a woman speaking Turkish to her young son. As we chatted she told me she was here for her husband’s work and didn’t speak any English. She was desperate for someone to speak Turkish with, besides her husband. She was shocked and elated to have found that at McDonalds. I was transported ten years back when I was a lonely wife newly landed in a foreign country, struggling with the language and longing for someone, anyone, to speak English with so I certainly understood. It rocks when life gives you an opportunity to reciprocate. We talked forever before exchanging numbers and she even complimented me on my Turkish (Which made me beam because I generally sound like a stammering moron in Turkish, but thanks to my early years of motherhood in Turkey I do rock the mom-talk quite well.)

So maybe we have no familial mother tongue and maybe my relationship with language has become a bit hostile in recent history, but as I settled in for my evening wine/decompression with The Turk that evening, I was damn proud of myself for having flexed my muscles in 3 languages in a matter of hours. Not bad for a girl who didn’t make it through 9th grade Spanish. Next up, perhaps we’ll all learn Icelandic…

 

 

We’ve Got Weed…No, Not That Kind

weed girl (1)

We are “those neighbors.” You know the ones, every neighborhood has them. (Hopefully after this exposè there will be several more.) We are the neighbors with the yard resembling a botanical experiment gone awry amongst a neighborhood of golf course caliber lawns. While our neighbors sport lush green carpets, we crazy-ass hippies are displaying a meadow of fuzzy dandelions and boisterous weeds and we do it without apology. Sorry neighbors, we’ve got weeds but we have our reasons.

For a few weeks every spring our yard resembles an abandoned homestead and we love it. Dog walkers with their looks of disdain and fellow residents of our development who refer to our home as a cautionary tale, can suck it. The dandelions are staying and we have scientific evidence to support our stance. (We’re nerds and as in the case of most nerds we fight with facts because upper arm development is lacking.)

This is the Turk’s first real yard. He grew up an apartment dweller in the concrete jungles of Turkey so the only yard he knew was a postage stamp size piece of grass at his family’s summer house. In his city, people walk blocks to enjoy tiny plots of grass at a nearby park. Grass is a HUGE commodity in a country that is virtually a desert and where water costs the same as gas in the US. If you see a “Keep off Grass” sign in Turkey, you damn well better. (Legalities prevent me from explaining why I know that fact intimately so you’ll just have to trust me on that one.) 

Since this is his first real round at lawn life, his learning curve has been a slow but gradual climb. Watching his ineptitude at digging holes for trees gave me great comfort, since I now know he won’t be able to burry my body should the need arise. The Turk, on the other hand, was unnerved by my speed and agility with a spade and now sleeps with one eye open. Thankfully that Turk has a know-it-all, farmer’s daughter and botany enthusiast for a wife who can guide him to greatness. (One more reason that Turk is a damn lucky man. Don’t worry, I remind him on the reg.)

I worried that due to his love of all things ‘Merican, he might be sucked in to the epic American quest for the perfect, weed-free lawn. As we signed closing papers I feared the Turk would be spending his weekends trimming the lawn with scissors while hand seeding quadrant after quadrant and spraying gallons of weed killer, subsequently killing off the weeds our ecosystem desperately needs for pollinators to ensure our continued survival. (I am a science teacher. Ecosystems are my jam.) How wrong I was. I was flabbergasted when I learned that my polar opposite husband was on the hippie-lawn train with me, even if our focuses were not identical.

We lived in our new neighborhood less than one week when the Turk watched a lawn treatment company spray numerous neighboring lawns while posting ominous “Caution- Stay off for 24 hours” signs. My hot-headed Ottoman lost it and it was this tree hugger’s dream.

“Why they do that? So stupid. I do not understand Americans.” He paced and as he did, his anger grew. While I loved the words coming from his mouth, I’d seen him wage war against wasps in the shed and was stunned he could harbor a love for bees.

“They want to drink that? They want their kids to drink that?”

This was where he began to lose me. “What are you talking about?”

“That poison goes to ground water. It does not get out in treatment plant. You cannot filter things like that out. How stupid they are.” Ah, there it was. His stance wasn’t about saving the lives of our honey-bearing friends; he was all about ground water. It made perfect sense. My Turk is an environmental engineer specializing in water so he knows of which he speaks. We were now a unified force of nerdom.

I suggested we print up a yard sign, “Let the Weeds Bee.”

The Turk replied, “No. That is stupid.”

Fine.

The first year I was unnerved by the scoffs we’d get from passersby. (Who knew Hoosiers could be such turf elitists?) But the life-cycle of the dandelion plant is generally 3-4 weeks so our abandoned home-inspired lawn would only last until May at best. So I steeled my self against the nature-haters and carried on.

But this year, I’m older and wiser and much too close to menopause to keep my opinions bottled up. This year, when people give my lawn the side-eye I go all Erin Brockavich on their asses. I put on my best Silkwood (Not to brag but I do a fab ‘80’s Cher) and sound the alarm.

“Oh this is not the lawn of lazy homeowners. No, this is the lawn of environmentally responsible individuals working to leave a better world for our children.” I screamed at the fat guy with the dog who turned up his nose.

To the family with the look of scorn I yelled, “Better enjoy that apple your kid has because if you keep killing off the pollinators in your quest for a weed-free lawn, there will be no more apples.” Could there be a kinder way? Perhaps but again, I’m premenopausal so…

I did take a kinder approach with my neighbors, many of whom curse us as each gust of wind aids in the seed dispersal process, transporting dandelions from our lawn to theirs. I gently, yet unapologetically explained the reason behind our resolute decision to avoid weed killers, quoting peer reviewed case studies and scientific data, then closing with a gentle reminder that as an environmental engineer and science teacher chances of us getting on board with neighborhood lawn etiquette are virtually nil. I haven’t swayed many to my save the pollinators side, but the Turk and his groundwater stance has changed some minds. Hopefully next year we won’t be the only house on the block rockin’ the uninhabited lot lawn look.

Bucking the norm isn’t for the weak. It’s a good thing the Turk and I are naturals at swimming upstream so we’re cool with leading the charge.

I might print up a few of my “Let The Weeds Bee!” yard signs. Just in case.

The Birthday Clock Never Stops…

apple watch

Birthdays are awesome…until you’re about 22. Then instead of offering milestones to greatness, birthdays start tallying up the years. When you hit 30 the tally shows adulthood is inevitable. 35 means it’s time to actually stop lying about it and actually start a retirement fund. When the calendar flips to 40 you can literally feel your gums recede and the fluid actually drain from your knees. I’m pretty sure the number associated with my recent birthday led to my immediate development of diabetes while my cholesterol skyrocketed and I gained 5 pounds of belly fat all within a two hour span. Aging blows.

What I wouldn’t give to spring out of bed and…(wait, let’s just stop there. What I wouldn’t give to spring out of bed period.) but really, wouldn’t it be great to have the same excitement about your birthday at 50 that you had at 5? (FYI, I’m not 50…not yet man, don’t make it any worse.) You know, that kind of excitement that leads to wearing a paper crown with your number on the front and telling every human or mammal you encounter, “Today is my birthday! Give me cake!”

My darling husband, The Turk, has never been great with holidays. I’m still waiting for a much-hyped 10th anniversary celebration and we’re only a little ways out from our 11th. Anniversaries are not his jam but he is coming around on birthdays. This year he shopped for a gift almost an entire week before my actual birthday, a massive improvement over days of old when he would head to the nearest supermarket for some expired roses moments before closing. No, this year he even took the boys along for help. Unfortunately, that was where things went wrong.

Within moments of returning and seconds after hiding the goods, Nugget with his newly acquired language skills, beamed, “Mom, we got you asshole atch.” Hubba whaaaaaa? Though Number 1 son and the Turk tried desperately to shush him, Nugget would not be silenced. “Asshole atch.” He told me again while squirming away from the hands desperately trying to cover his motor-mouth.

Because I may be geriatric  but still possess the maturity of a 12 year old boy, I immediately began to see images in my disturbed mind of sparkly buttcheeks sitting atop my wrist with a rapidly moving second hand shaped like a stink cloud. This caused me to laugh even harder. (I really am 12. It’s ok. I own it.) “You unt asshole atch?” The Nugget persisted.

While I was busy wiping the tears from my face, Number 1 was livid. “I can’t believe you told her! It was supposed to be a surprise! You suck Nugget!” Number 1 was right. He did suck but in Nugget’s defense, no one had any clue he was a blabbermouth because this was his first violation.

Somewhere around two, Nugget was diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech – which involves a misfiring of neurons the prevent kids from being able to get the information from their brain to their lips to get the words out. Up until the past few months, Nugget had only signed and offered a few brief sentences using only vowels. Since he was a silent partner, for most of his 3 1/2 years, he’d been dragged along on many secret missions with all of us comfortable in the knowledge that our secrets were safe with him. Not so now it seems.

Now that Nugget has his hearing aid so he’s hearing all the sounds, is immersed in his special school with daily speech therapy and basically spends 3 hours each day working on his communication skills, he has exploded and there is no putting any cat back in any bag. The kid never shuts up.

You can see the thought process he goes through to get every sound out. His determination is astonishing. But, as illustrated in the case of the asshole ach, he’s still working on quite a few sounds like F. Every time anyone asks him to form an F he shoots back a look that insinuates F is not an actual sound and that we are clearly F-ing with him. I consider this the universe helping a sister out since he’s already demonstrated high skill with profanity thus far that last thing that kid needs is the power of the f-bomb. Sometimes only those closest to him understand him, but sometimes (usually with his favorite phrases like – ‘what the hell?’ Or, ‘oh for godsake!’) he’s a clear as a bell. It’s a process but after 3 years of silence, we’ll take every bit of it. (Until he gets suspended from PreK for that profanity bit…)

Nugget definitely blew the surprise by telling me all about my APPLE watch and quite honestly, there were about a hundred other things I might have requested over a pricey Dick Tracy wrist piece…like a dishwasher that actually washes the dishes…or the downpayment on a car younger than my offspring…or that dental work that keeps getting shoved to the back burner over and over again. But now that I’ve got it, I do quite enjoy it, probably since I spent most of the 70’s talking to my wrist pretending to be Maxwell Smart and now I’m legit.

As the Turk said, “It your birthday. You deserve special thing you do not ask for.” True that Turk, and though I didn’t ask for an asshole watch, hearing that Nugget tell me all about it is exactly what I’ve wanted.

When Cross-Cultural Appliance Buying Goes Wrong

STORE-M0RE-FREEZER

There is a roar in my kitchen. No, it’s not the roar of hangry children scavenging for food nor the roar of a rabid beast that happened in through the screen door. It is my refrigerator. The refrigerator my darling husband, the Turk, secured from some sketchy deal last fall. The refrigerator takes up half of my kitchen but was “a really good deal.”

The roar began a mere month after my husband, our neighbor and two strapping young lads, grunted, growled, sweat and struggled to get the oversized behemoth into our tiny kitchen. (Oh yes, you read that right, it took 4 men-to get this refrigerator into our home. But it was a really good deal.) After the Turk removed a few cabinets and hacked a piece of wall out, his fridge eventually fit into our kitchen.

“How good this is right?” He beamed

“Are you planning to start a catering business?” I asked.

“Don’t worry. Later you will love.” He hoped.

Initially the roar was intermittent but now it’s loud and proud and this old gal can’t take it anymore. It’s the kind of dull roar that could push a woman, like myself, with questionable sanity and on the doorstep of pre-menopause, to lose her damn mind. Last week as I was chopping onions to the beat of the roar it occurred to me that if I were to record the sound and submit it as Exhibit A, no jury of my peers would ever convict me. That’s when I told the Turk to watch his ass. This roar is fo reals yo.

How did we get to the point where a refrigerator could begin my spiraling descent into madness when life as a geriatric, full-time working mother (as a middle school teacher, if that’s not enough to usher one to insanity!) with a hyper 8 year-old, special needs 3 year old and crazy Turkish husband hadn’t managed to do it? Who would’ve guessed a Kitchenaid would be my demise?

This fridge mess started about a year and a half ago when we purchased our current fixer-upper. Like most normal people who make fixer-upper purchases, (not those on HGTV who seem to have limitless funds and only work about 2 hours per day) we agreed to make upgrades as budgets allowed.

Item one on our upgrade list was the refrigerator. The house came with one that was not much bigger than fridge I kept stocked with cheap beer in my college dorm room. If me, the 5’4” goddess that I am, can easily clean the top of an appliance destined to house and cool food for a family of 4, that bitch is too damn small. But as life would have it, the very day we took possession of the house and labeled the mutant-micro fridge upgrade number one, Nugget’s kidney issue imploded.

A bum kidney had been percolating inside his tiny body but literally hours before the movers arrived it all went to hell, starting a series of hospital visits and procedures and ending in Mama taking a year off work to care for him. As is the case for most of us not on HGTV, when a household income is halved, fixing-upping goes on hold too. Mutant-micro-fridge would have to stay

For a long year we stooped to search the top shelf, shopped frequently because the damn thing couldn’t hold more than a stick of butter and quart of milk, and because the appliance was about the size of a toddler, used duct-tape to keep Nugget out. (After I caught him in his playroom manhandling an open bottle of wine that had been stored on the door.) But when Mama finally went back to work and that second paycheck returned, the first purchase on the charts was a brand-new fridge!

Like an American, I planned to head to a big box store, hand over some plastic and await delivery from 2 burly men in a truck. In stark contrast, like a good Turk, my husband decided to search out the best (aka sketchiest) deal and do whatever it would take to save a buck. One would think that after 10 years of marriage and 3 years of living in his county, amongst his people, I’d have seen it coming. Back in Turkey when we needed things, they appeared, delivered by hairy men in beat-up Toyotas. No receipt. No warranty. No questions. Things just happened that way.

Things are expensive in Turkey, really expensive and wages for most who are not in a position to take a bribe here or there are low. You could go to the mall and buy on taksit – a payment plan- or you could do as my father-in-law did and roll up in the old neighborhood with your mustache groomed and fedora pulled low to see a friend of a friend who knows a guy who knows another guy. The next day – boom – 2 hairy guys in a Toyota are delivering a heater.

After smacking my head on the top of the mutant-mini-fridge and screaming “Where in the hell am I going to put these groceries,” one too may times. The Turk took his cue.

“Don’t worry. I take care this.”

Two days later he pulled into the driveway in a huge U-Haul, rolled up the back and said. “Look what I get you! It very heavy. I think we need help.” (Yes, you read that right. The fridge was so big he needed to rent a U-Haul. The BIG U-Haul!!)

It was good for a while but then the roar began…and the leaking. The very good deal’s freezer would freeze into a solid block of ice, but then it would melt two days later. Some mornings I would stumble downstairs at 4:30am desperate for coffee only to be met with the River Styx running across the kitchen. The Turk fixed the freezing by buying a deep freezer for the garage and the melting with a beach-towel dam but I knew the time with this beast was limited. (The Kitchenaid, not the Turk – I’m pretty sure he’s a life sentence.)

Finally last week I lost it.

“That is it! This weekend we are going to Home Depot and we are buying a refrigerator. It will come in a box. It will be delivered. It will be installed by people who are not wastewater engineers. It will have a warranty and it may or may not be a good deal. I do not give a damn. I do not care.”

“Ok” he muttered.

“Oh I don’t think you heard me. We did this the Turk way and now we’re doing it the big, fat, lazy American way. Got it…wait what?”

“I say, ok. I cannot take that sound any more. It killing me.”

Last Saturday we bought a new refrigerator to be delivered the following week. The next day, The Turk found a better deal on the same fridge so he returned the first fridge and bought the better deal. (I had my fears but in the end, his deal was made in a store and was actually legit.)  He got his good deal after all but most importantly, this time the good deal will come in a box with a warranty and the two suckers who install it will have to figure out how to get the behemoth with the lower level iceberg out of my kitchen.

 

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January, You’re Dead To Me

january

I’m not a fan of January. I’ve tried over forty of them and have yet to find any redeeming qualities in a single one. They’re gray, depressing, boring and butt numbing cold. (Global warming, you suck.) I’ve given this one a solid try but I see it’s just like all the other Januarys and next week after the presidential inauguration, its suckage is just going to ramp up to epic levels. So I’ve made an executive decision. I’m not going to do January this year. I’m going to hide out until it’s over. Harsh? Drastic? Perhaps, but that’s how I roll. January, you’re dead to me.

I’m going into my pillow fort and I will not come out until January is safely passed. And if February, doesn’t start off strong I’m skipping that too. I’ve got enough supplies to stay in my pillow fort until March. (I’m a planner and stockpiler, yet still a safe distance from doomsday prepper.) I’ve decided I have no choice but to take drastic measures and thankfully, my Mediterranean blooded Turk is right with me on this one. (Which is great because usually in situations such as these he just gives me the side eye and mutters about my instability in Turkish.)

I’m sorry kids, but you are on your own for the next few weeks because neither of your parents can do January anymore.

I know, it may seem harsh to turn over self-survival to a guy who has not yet mastered the concept that pooping should occur in the toilet and not in his pants and his brother who hasn’t gotten past the sixes on the multiplication tables, but I don’t see any other way. January is too much and we as parents just… can’t.

Simply put, the Turk is genetically incapable of cold weather. His blood is thin and according to him, solidifies into ice crystals the moment temps drop below 40 degrees. My dear husband hunches like a turtle somewhere in mid-November and does not stand straight again until April. It’s been hard on him since he moved to this country but now that he is on the other side of 40, we have to worry more about the old man. I’d hate for him to stroke out due to freezing temps. (Though he does have stellar life insurance that would provide my children and I with a bungalow in a warmer climate…no…no…that thinking is wrong!)

As for me, I understand that due to my ample supply of body fat you might wonder why I am incapable of dealing with the cold. I don’t get it either but I’m old and old people have these issues. The cold makes me surly and slug-like and though I was able to combat it in my youth, with the combination of my advanced age and the impending doom coming with the January 20th presidential inauguration, this year I simply haven’t the will.

Kids, if you need to go anywhere, I’d suggest you pile a few of your father’s old engineering books on the seat of the car (they’re in Turkish and thus extra bulky) and give it a go. Number One Son, you should be able to see over the steering wheel while your brother Nugget navigates from the safety of his car seat. Just practice a few times around the block before you hit the open road. If anyone questions you, cite a medical condition for your small stature then accuse them of judgmental intolerance. That should get any pesky do-gooders off your back. (If that doesn’t work, let Nugget and his newly developed canine-calibur biting skills handle things.)  

If anyone needs us, I’ll be where I’ve been since January 1: with the cat in the barcalounger, huddled under my grandma’s old quilt, binge watching Stranger Things on my IPad using the kids headphones to block out the world and dreaming of finding a portal to a warmer dimension.

The Turk will be where he’s been since January 1 as well: in Number One’s new beanbag chair, three feet in front of the fireplace with his little Turkish tootsies baking in a roaring fire.

January, it’s over for us and this time, it’s definitely you, not me.

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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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Uranus Is Huge and Filled With Gas, Much Like My Own

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I’ve spent way too many years in middle school. Including my own sentence back in the ‘80’s, I’ve spent somewhere around 20 years in middle school. Even during my time teaching in Turkey, I was in middle school. Is it odd that I’m most comfortable in the one stage of life most people spend years trying to forget? Perhaps. But don’t be mistaken, it’s not like I hit my peak in middle school and thus decided to stay. Oh no. I was a hot mess of braces, bad hair, excess chub and incredible fashion missteps. (I have photographic proof if in doubt.) Middle school was certainly not my jam, so why do I keep going back? No clue but I do love it. Yet another reason that I’m a psychoanalyst’s dream.

While I’ve matured past middle school in some aspects of life, (like my sagging neck and creaky knees) the middle schoolers I teach often surpass me in maturity. This became clear again last week as my middle school science classes began an in-depth study of the Milky Way Galaxy.

As every Earthling knows, (ok maybe not those crazies who are certain Jesus’ sat astride a T-Rex, but I don’t believe those science deniers really deserve to be labeled Earthlings.) that any study of the Milky Way must include, at the very least, mention of the Gas Giant Uranus. (Ok, I cracked up just typing that!)

This is my first time teaching about space so way back last summer when I planned to add this into my winter curriculum, it never occurred to me that I’d have to have various in-depth discussions of Uranus. (HA! Better yours than mine! HA!) No, I was lured into astronomy by the thought of settlements on Mars and the anniversary of Pluto being striped of his planetary status (10 years people, it’s been ten years!). Uranus never entered my mind. (No offense, but I don’t think of my anus often either.)

Perhaps Uranus didn’t come to mind because the last astronomy class I took was in January of ‘92 and involved standing in a cornfield on the northern Iowa tundra during sub-zero temps. The class consisted of staring into the darkness while snot-cicles formed under our noses, clad in layers of clothes scavenged from dorm mates enrolled in more sensible academic pursuits. Not a lot of science happened as we hid bargain booze in our long johns and cracked jokes for survival.

“It’s so dark I can’t even see Uranus.”

“Uranus is so cold it got a crack in it.”

“Move over! Uranus is the only thing I can see though this telescope right now.”

Brilliant young astronomers we were not.

In the years since then, attempts have been made to push through an alternate pronunciation for the gas ball, but it’s useless. You can’t let the world mispronounce your name for 166 years and then decide to change it, (I know, people have been mispronouncing mine for 40+ years.) especially if your name is the butt of so many jokes. (See what I did there? Butt…Uranus…ha!)

During our introduction to planetary alignment, I rushed through the whole “gas giants” section of the solar system with only a few giggles (me, not the kids.) But by fourth period I’d met my maturity cap. The transition between Saturn and Neptune was killing me! Sure, statements like “Uranus rotates horizontally” is relatively innocuous but let’s be honest, if you had to repeatedly explain “Uranus is huge. It is made of gas.” You’d lose it too.

I made it through a few more classes filled with snickers and giggles from both the kids and me. We were all clear on the importance of Uranus and it looked like we might make it until, the Great Toilet Paper lab.

See, there is this method of teaching AU (Astronomical Units, for those of you who haven’t taken an astronomy class since 1992 either. Solidarity my people.) illustrating the vast distances between planets by using toilet paper rolled out on the floor. While Mercury is only half a sheet from the sun, Saturn is 65 sheets of toilet paper away and on and on.

It’s fun and provides an easily visible representation of distance. Unfortunately, my classroom is not big enough to hold an entire scale map of the solar system made in t.p., so the talk of Uranus had to be moved into public space…public space filled with other middle schoolers and teachers. Our immaturity fest was on display as phrases like, “How much toilet paper does Uranus need?” wafted through the halls.

Within seconds, every other adult in the vicinity was sharing the same contorted gafaw-stiffling grimace I’d been wearing all week. Finally, I was not alone. No one in middle school is mature enough for Uranus. No one.

Years ago when I coached middle school boys tennis, no matter how hard I tried, every day at the end of practice, when it was time to say, “Alright boys, pick up your balls.” I couldn’t do it without busting into giggles. Every damn time. It’s kind of reassuring to see that while I’m a very different teacher than I was all those years ago, my soul is still 12.

While this exploration of Uranus has been painful, (hehehe…) it has taught me that, someday when we are all sitting in the TV room at Shady Pines Retirement Villa, I’ll still be crackin’ fart jokes and laughing about Uranus. You’ll just have to listen harder to catch my toothless ramblings.

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November, You Suck

novemberEvery year I have great aspirations for November but in recent years November has regularly taken a huge bite out of my ample hindquarter. Instead of an introduction to the holiday season, November has become a hot mess of a month marked by disasters large and small. There are always a slew of familial cooties ranging from black lung to barfs. Usually there is some form of vehicular calamity or housing crisis. Inevitably, there is some level of familial drama, either on this side of the world with mine or across the globe with the Turks. We usually have at least one ER run or at the very least, Urgent Care and that’s all before we get to Thanksgiving.

Yet still, knowing what I know of how November rolls, every year I foolishly sign on to participate in National Novel Writing Month, (NaNoWrMo for those that are tragically hip.) Because, when I tell my story to Savannah Guthrie during my interview on The Today Show about my runaway best seller, I will tell her it all began in November. Obviously writing a 50,000 word rough draft in the midst of children needing fed (Seriously, when is it legal to send them out to forage alone?) a house needing kept, a full-time job and the general mayhem November routinely brings me, is not only a sensible goal, but an attainable one.

I started off with a bang, getting up at 4:30 every morning and cranking along on my tale. After some solid success this year shopping out expat tales from the early days of the Turk and I, and hitting the big 10-year mark where I’m pretty sure some legal boundaries fall away. (Just kidding. No one can gag order this broad. It’s just not in my genetics.) I decided this year’s November novel would be the real life adventure of us. Because when your life-story starts with a mix-up resulting in deportation, includes an emergency Turkish C-section, has a dash of mad-cow disease AND a one eared baby after depositing the very left-leaning main characters in Indi-freakin-ana, well even F. Scott Fitzgerald couldn’t make that crap up.

By the end of week one, as the calendar officially shifted into November, my work was hampered by a nasty cold contracted during 12-hour days of parent-teacher conferences. As I rallied over the weekend, I was sidetracked again on Monday with that bastard Standard Time causing my offspring to wake right alongside me at 4:30 too. (I’m really over this time change concept. Where do I direct my hate mail?)

I lost Wednesday wiping tears and reassuring my darling Number One Son that he and his father would not be “sent away” by the new president because they were born in a Muslim country. (I also assured him that for anyone to remove any member of my family they would have to get through me first and everyone knows that a fortysomething mama bear (skilled in special needs parenting) with a big ass and a solid knowledge of TaeBo from the late 90’s is a formidable protector.)

Thursday was lost to the croup. Just about the time my nation lost its damn mind, my darling Nugget started to bark. From the bark came the wheeze. From the wheeze came the fever, the mad dash to the doctor and a toddler case of roid-rage following the steroids she prescribed. While the roids did the trick, that Nugget still needed a lot of snuggles and it’s tough to snuggle and write an epic work of greatness simultaneously. Oh, and did I mention that Thursday was our anniversary as well? No? No need. When you have 10 years under your belt and a barking Nugget, it’s just another day.

Friday, I had to forgo my passion to do my job. Much to every teacher’s dismay, those  lab reports don’t grade themselves and I’m not one of those science teachers that can pull a lab out of thin-air. I actually have to give it a go first to be sure no one loses an eye.

Saturday I woke with renewed energy. My barking child was finally on the road to recovery but I was scheduled to attend a workshop on ASL rhymes for toddlers. While it was amazing and incredibly helpful to learn I’d been doing everything wrong with Nugget in that zone over the past year, it also took away my writing time. I’d decided to forgo any writing on Saturday to celebrate the afore mentioned anniversary with the Turk…but then the sitter didn’t show. She got confused on the time…so I decided it best to drown my sorrows and go to bed early.

Which brings us to today. It’s Sunday morning at the butt-crack of dawn. Only one child is awake, the one who doesn’t demand as many snuggles and is easily appeased by an IPad. I’ve got coffee and quiet and my brilliance is waiting to pour forth. I’ve also got another  cold which brings with it a massive dose of laissez-faire.

So now that it’s mid-November and I’m still only 5000 words in with 45,000 more to go in 2 weeks, I fear failure is imminent. I’m not a quitter (ok, I totally am but just in case my kids read this one day I felt I should throw that in) but I don’t know if this is going to happen. I apologize world. I know you are waiting with bated breath to hear how things play out. Did the Turk really propose on the 3rd date? (Spoiler alert – yes he did.) Did our stunning main characters stay married through 2 global moves, 4 states, 8 homes and a butt load of bad luck? (So far so good but if he continues to ignore the “clean” light on the dishwasher it could end soon.) And who had mad cow disease? (Well if I tell you that, you won’t buy the book should I ever get around to writing it.)

Touché November, you’ve won again.

Stay tuned world. Someday I will tell this tale but I think odds are pretty solid, it will not happen in November.

When Bedtime Stories Go Bad…A Cautionary Tale

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I’ve always loved a good bedtime story. Back in the day, I recall spending many a night waiting in horror for “The Monster at The End of This Book.” (Spoiler alert – It’s Grover. It was always Grover but you know, my critical thinking didn’t really kick in until I was like…35)

In my 8 plus years of motherhood, I’ve read a buttload of bedtime stories and we never, never read just one. Since there are only so many Big Trucks In Action books a gal can handle, over the years I’ve tried to pass reading duties off to the Turk but the results have never been good. From the other room I’ve overheard:

“Baba, you skipped three pages.”

  “They are not important to story. It fine.”

“Baba, you said that word wrong.”

      “No, that is how we say.”

“No, no it’s not Baba. Do you want me to show you how to sound it out?”

And when he’s tried of reading, he throws out his trademark ending. “And they did not listen to their parents so they all die.” Insuring nightmares all around. (Ah Turks…always spreading joy.)

Even the Nugget, Baba’s biggest 3-year-old fan, now rejects the offer of madcap adventures narrated in a monotone Turkish accent. (In the Turk’s defense, my reading of Turkish tales is about on par with his in English, and I’ve also been the recipient of, “Mom, do you need me to sound that out for you?” Damn kids.)

Over the years, I’ve voiced characters ranging from bus driving pigeons to underwear loving aliens. We frequent the local library more often than Betty Ford frequented rehab. But there is one kind of book we cannot have, under any circumstances. According to Nugget, there shall never be any books in which the characters say goodnight. Why? Because an illustrated bunny or hairy bug kissing his mommy and proclaiming goodnight is enough to send my sensitive Nugget into a deep, sobbing depression that postpones his own bedtime by at least 30 minutes.

A few weeks ago, fed up with Pete the Cat and his damn groovy buttons, I thought it was time to mix it up and try some new authors. With all books mentioning “Goodnight” off the boards, I had limited choices but thought a little known Eric Carle would be a safe bet.

Eager to merge into new territory and ready for respite from that obnoxious hipster Pete the Cat, we curled up ready for a new read. Like a moron, I did not preview the book in depth. (But seriously, who does that? Who wants to curl up with a nice chardonnay and a copy of Elephant and Piggy Go to Market?) It was Eric Carle of The Very Hungry Caterpillar fame. How could I go wrong?

Oh, I went wrong. So very, very wrong.

See, I chose The Very Quiet Cricket, a book about a little cricket who goes on a walk and gets upset when can’t say hello to anyone because he can’t talk. (Right???? What a moron move on the part of a mom who’s kid can’t talk.) As the little bug traverses the countryside everyone greets him and he desperately wants to reply but he can’t…because he can’t make the words come out….just like my little Apraxic Nugget. (Who knew crickets faced rare neurological disorders too? Certainly not I.)

In the past couple months Nugget has moved mountains in his battle to get his neurons to deliver his words to his mouth. He wears his hearing aid like a champ (though not happily) so he can hear the sounds,  spends hours in speech therapy at school and practices constantly. He’s got a handful words that come out right every time, (and might I add “Mom” is one of those as well as “Go Eagles!” because his mother and brother make him watch Eagles football on the reg.) He’s also got a gazillion words that come out in all vowels but if you speak vowel, like those of us who spend hours with the Nug do, or those who have spent serious time with drunks, he’s pretty understandable. Unfortunately, most of the world does not speak Vowel and thus he remains misunderstood by the world.

As we read further I could see Nugget’s brow furrow and soon the tears started to drip. “Ike ee om, e ike e.”(Like me Mom, he like me.). My heart broke. That damn cricket WAS just like him but  midway through the book I didn’t know what to do. Do I read on and hope we get to a happy ending? Do I seize on the moment to reinforce that there are other kids…um or crickets… like him? Do I let Nug collaborate with me on a profanity-laced email to Eric Carle about the need for a trigger warning on his picture books? (I mean it is 2016 and trigger warnings seem to be all the rage even if I think they’re stupid.)

I didn’t know what to do partially because I was shocked he’d made the connection so quickly. When one doesn’t speak the language fluently people tend to underestimate them. I know this. It happened to me when we lived in Turkey all the time. I’ve watched it happen to the Turk countless times (and then laughed when he smacked down those who underestimated him with his big nerd brain) and now I was doing it to my own son. Why wouldn’t he catch on? He’s a super smart dude. He just can’t talk. Even Einstein had a speech problem and look how he turned out.

Thankfully, in our world of bicultural parenting, I have two schools of thought to pull from and rather than getting all talkey-talkey and American, I took the Turkish mother route. We threw the book away (in a very hostile and dramatic fashion while calling Eric Carle unflattering names in Turkish) then I kissed him furiously while reminding him he was a perfect little sultan. I know this manner of Turkish mothering does make life difficult for future wives (Lord do I know that!) but he is my perfect little sultan and if the world needs to learn to speak Vowel for him, then so be it. I’ll make it happen.