A Tale of Squirrels and Pool Noodles

fat squirrel

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

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

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

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

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

“Honey – someone is dead in the garage.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where was it?”

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

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

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

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

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

Wide-eyed the Turk turned, “Seriously.”

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

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

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

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

I Can’t Dig It

Ohio photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I Shall Rule From My She-Fort

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When I was a kid, I loved all things Little House on the Prairie. I wanted a big sister who could braid my locks like Mary. I too had a whiney little turd sibling like Carrie and of course, being the overlooked middle child, Laura and I were simpatico.  I read all of the books (more than once) and like any woman now on the back-end of her 40’s, I settled in once a week to get down and dirty with the Real Prairie Wives of Walnut Grove. (Mrs. Olsen was pretty trashy under those tight curls.) But while there was madness with goats, fires and random blindness, the Ingalls family functioned pretty well in their little cabin removed from society, much like my own.

I’m also sure there was an episode when Ma and the entire family had to shelter in place due to a horrible virus that came from China. (That I’m sure was transmitted because Mrs. Olsen demanded they order Chinese silk for the general store. Hag) The one-room schoolhouse was forced to swap over to poorly planned e-learning leaving Ma Ingalls at home to school her own children and homestead simultaneously while being forced to rely on Pa to shop for necessities. I’m also sure that Pa Ingalls may have sucked at the task but when he forgot to get the coconut milk and brought home sourdough instead of rye, Ma made do but she was pretty pissed. (You guys remember that too right? No? Am I projecting?)

Each week as I carefully construct my alphabetized grocery list, organized by aisle to insure success, and send the Turk off into the wild with little more than a ninja mask to protect him, I feel a little Ma Ingalls. As soon as the Turk returns to the homestead with bags full of quality soy crumbles, kale and the occasional Oreo for balance, immediately I interrogate him. “Was it crowded? Were people wearing masks? Did you stay away from humanity? Were there stupid people crying about needing a haircut like on TV? Tell me everything.” I am literally dying to know what the world is like during this apocalypse.

Why? Because I have barely left this house since mid-March and while I am a major fan of this whole self-isolation thing, as are all career homebodies, I’m getting a little restless.  Way back in March, when the world blew up and it all hit the fan, my darling husband locked me down. “You stay home and I will do it. Just give me list and I can go to stores. You cannot. If I get sick, I can be fine but you cannot. You have asthma and you cannot even breathe like normal person anyway. You get the Corona, you can die. We cannot risk you to die.” And while it was a bit psycho, I know my darling hubby and I know that overprotective, paranoid, psychosis is his love language and protecting me from the horrible virus is his version of stepping in front of a shooter for me.  So for the past two months, he has Rapunzeled my ass in the tower until the plague passes.

Sure, I’ve been busy working from home, educating my little half-breed Turks, doing all the other crap mothers do to keep their family alive and more, but recently I’ve been jonesing to dip my toes into the societal waters for a minute, just to see what’s going on beyond my tree-lined view. However, Pa Turk said no. He hitched up the Cherokee, pulled on his bandit mask and said, “Not yet. Stupid people are everywhere. You cannot risk it. You can die.” And just like Ma Ingalls, I stood on the front deck waving as he headed off into the wilds of suburbia to bring home the tofu.

I understand his point of view but as an independent old broad, I really just want to take care of things myself. I want to choose my own cheeses and grimace at the old lady who cut me in line at the check-out. I want to feel that familiar disappointment when I look at the Target women’s department and roll my eyes at some moron taking up two parking spaces at the wine store. I only need like an hour, but I want to experience society for a little while just to remind me why I choose the reclusive life.  Just about the time I was thinking of breaking out, Pa Turk did something brilliant. He gave me a new fortress from which to rein to quell my need for fresh vistas.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that my engineer husband took our children’s request for a “tree-house” or even a “tree-fort” and turned it into a massive feat of aerial engineering. In case you missed it, here’s the tale. Anyhoo, after a year of waiting for the Turk to add the steps so that they could actually enter the structure 12 feet above their heads, it has happened. The Turk finally finished the tree fort. (Or as he quantified, Phase 1 is done. There’s more to come.)

I sent a friend photos of my view from the new fort and she wisely pointed out it should not be a tree-fort, but rather, a SHE-fort and I should claim it as my own. Utter brilliance! She-fort indeed! Mama has a new domain from which to gaze at the bogs, watch sunset over the wetlands and sip merlot all while two little Turks armed with Nerf guns stand sentinel.

Farewell society. Pa Turk will continue to do my bidding for a while longer while I ride out the next phase of the pandemic in my She-Fort. Ma Ingalls might not have had a she-fort, but she damn well deserved one. Amirite???? Stay safe friends!

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Engineer, Nay, Pain in the Rear

vintage engineer

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

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

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

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

“I don’t.” He replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like last week.

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

“I can go later.”

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

“I can go in an hour.”

3:00 pm “Did you get that gas yet?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh.”

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

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

Raccoon Stew…Ewwww

vintage raccoon

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

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

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

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

Fast forward a few days.

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

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

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

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

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

 

RACCOON STEW 

(from cooks.com)

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

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

 

I Shall Be The Quarantine Queen

quarantine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lament of the Meatless Balls

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“I saw that Mom. Not cool.”

“Keep your mouth shut kid.”

“How long has this been going on Mom? How long have we been living this lie?”

Number 1 son inherited my flair for the dramatic. I’m proud of it until that head full of crazy is aimed at me.  In retaliation, I got all up in his grill, waggling a finger and replied, “If you want to live kid, you will make sure this lie remains in tact. Got it?”

He nodded, bidding a hasty retreat to his pre-teen man-cave while I buried the empty bag reading, “Chicken-less Chicken,” deep in the bottom of the trash.

I’ve danced across the vegetarian line for the majority of my life. My first run at the plant-based life was somewhere around age 8 but as the daughter of a cattle farmer that didn’t go over well. By college I was all in and I have stepped on and off the wagon every since. My main reason has always been that I’m just not a big fan of meat. Unfortunately, my family is…or was.

When we lived in Turkey we seldom ate meat because it was ridiculously pricey and we were ridiculously poor. I learned the magic of legumes from the old Turkish ladies and we didn’t miss it. We kept eating that way for years after we repatriated but as things got busier more meat began creeping into our meals because it was easy. Then…we got old and fat.

In the last few years, my husband, The Turk and I have both entered the geriatric segment of our 40s. These are the years when everything suddenly goes to hell at breakneck speed. While I’ve suffered ass-fattening and random joint crap, he’s developed the man-gut and cholesterol issues. It was time to Nancy Drew my way to nutritional wisdom and turn everything around with food. (Because I’m that kind of hippie.)

“Maybe we should do the Mediterranean Diet. It’s supposed to lower cholesterol.”

Honey, I am Mediterranean. I am doing Mediterranean Diet all my life. If it was working, then I am not having genetically high cholesterol.”

Touché Turk. So I looked elsewhere. I read the China Study and that led to a series of other books and documentaries that touted the benefits of a plant-based diet. This was perfect. I love plants and we eat more legumes than normal people already. And, if the data were correct, this could allow me to live well beyond 100 so that I may burden my children and cause uproar with their spouses. Perfection.

“Family, we’re going plant-based.”

“No meat?” Number 1 asked.

“No meat, no dairy.”

“No cheethburgerth?” Nugget worried.

“We can have veggie burgers with soy cheese though.” I pasted on a huge grin hoping to sell the six year-old on my ridiculousness.

He crossed his arms, “That ith ridiculouth.”

Number 1 chimed in, “Why are you doing this? Do you hate us?”

“I’m fat and Baba’s old. We have to fix this.”

“So…you and Baba eat plants and we stick with burgers.” Number 1 struck a pose of defiance, “I am growing. I need meat to survive.”

“Me too.” Nugget yelled in solidarity.

“Fine.” I gave up…or so they thought. Instead I decided I would veggify my family against their knowledge. I replaced their meatballs with lentil balls, their ground beef with textured vegetable protein and their chicken with “chicken-less chicken.” And it worked too for a long time.

“Honey, have you felt different lately? Maybe less tired.” I asked.

The Turk wrinkled his forehead, “Actually, yes. I am not drinking coffee all the time. Not tired after lunch. Why? What you do to me?”

“Nothing….nothing at all, just wondering.”

Just when I got the Turk’s cholesterol on the down swing I was exposed.

They found my chickenless chicken, which led to a deeper dig revealing my meatless balls. Another case of spying exposed “tuna-less tuna salad” made with chickpeas. The rouse was up.

Fortunately, when I spun the whole plant-eating thing as a move towards saving the planet, the kids agreed to stay the course. However, a trip to IKEA nearly brought my demise.

“Mom, since we’re out, can I have the meatballs for lunch?” Number 1 asked. Part of the deal was to relinquish my meat rules for the kids when away from home.

I felt cold sweat streaming down my cleavage. This was it. I was going to lose him. His expectations had been humbled due to months void of meat and though I’m a huge fan of lentils, there is no way in hell they compare to actual meat. The IKEA menu offered lentil balls too. I could just say, “No. Don’t kill our world. Eat the meatless balls!” and guilt him but he’s old now and a man of almost 12 should make his own decisions.

I shuddered as he stepped off the wagon.  There would be no way to get him back on but I relented. “Ok.”

His fork lingered over the plate as he prepared for greatness. “These are going to be amazing.”

I avoided eye contact, returning to my own meatless balls as he devoured his plate of IKEA balls with a side of lingonberry jam (PS – I feel like a lingonberry is something made up by IKEA.)

When he was done I awaited his proclamation to return to the carnivorous life from henceforth, “Well?”

He shrugged, “Meh.”

My hopes rose, “What?”

“Not that great. Don’t take this the wrong way Mom, but I like your meatless balls better.”

Horns sounded. Confetti fell and I took a victory lap through the storage showroom. (Ok not really but in my head…)

The lesson learned here is that if you scheme and manipulate your family for their own benefit, it will work. Even if they don’t want it to because, obviously, mother knows best.

 

Look Out Below!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“When it will stop?”

“According to Accuweather, 10:00.”

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

“EXACTLY!” 

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

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

“Very funny. Why you are so dramatic?”

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

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

Touché. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.

 

Hi Ho Hi Ho, Back To Work I Go..

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School has started and I’m about to lose my damn mind. It’s not like this is a surprise or anything. I’ve been doing the school year mom spaz-out for the last seven years with two in school for the past three. I’ve worked either full or part-time for all but one of those seven years so I’m not a noob, yet somehow, after a summer of lounging on the beach and sipping afternoon spritzers, I always manage to develop a case of amnesia regarding the level of suckage that occurs when school returns. At present, I’m three weeks in and already feel like I am being pummeled by a heavyweight champ from 5:00am to 9:00pm every single day.

When the alarm sounds at 4:45 my mind instantly fills with profanity. I am a morning person but 4:45 isn’t morning. It’s like morning eve, not quite night and not quite morning. It’s a limbo time when I should not be awake. From the moment I jump over the cat and begin the morning routine it’s a sprint. Number 1 now gets on the bus an hour earlier than his brother so that means any chance of alone time is gone unless I get up at 3:45. (To that I say, no. Just no.) It’s better to be a stressed-out nut-job all day than rise two hours prior to the butt-crack-of-dawn. The marathon from getting one on the bus and the other to before-school care before racing to work leaves me as breathless as when I was a fat kid in gym class struggling through the Presidential Fitness Tests (Thanks Regan. Like Reganomics and Just Say No that was another plan that didn’t work out in the long run but I digress with my liberal tendencies.) After that 2.5 hour sprint it’s time to work a full day with smelly, surly middle schoolers before the afternoon shift of laundry, homework, dinner and running back and forth to the various lessons, practices, appointments and meetings my children deem important to their young lives. 

At 6:00 when the Turk arrives home from his quiet train ride back from the city after a grizzling day punching computer keys behind his desk in a climate controlled office that likely does not smell of a sweat-sock and puberty cocktail, he mutters, “Wow, I am tired.” To which I respond by placing all sharp objects from my reach because the urge to cut a bitch is real. But this is the reality of most working moms and it sucks. Occasionally add in taking on a burly football coach, panic over a hearing aid that goes missing, a burst of adolescent emotions or a forgotten homework assignment and it’s amazing so many children actually make it to adulthood. It’s also understandable why mothers have cornered the market on wine consumption.

The thing is, no one warns you when you’re sniffing your tiny baby’s head fresh from the hospital that motherhood will so quickly turn into a crap-storm and that baby smell will be a distant memory like your perky boobs and waistline. All too quickly you will go from swaddling a gorgeous bambino to wrestling sweat-soaked sports gear from your offsping while trying not to inhale a bodily stench comparable to a decomposing bovine. (I grew up on a farm. I know this stench.) 

There is one positive in the hot mess existence this year though. For the first time ever I share a school with one of my babies. Number 1 son is now a full-on middle schooler which means that along with all the horrors that come with middle school (PS I’ve been in middle school for 20 years and it is still just as bad as when you were there.) he has the added joy of running into his mommy in the halls and lunchroom. Occasionally I can’t resist the urge to pinch his little cheeks and blow him a kiss from the hallway as I take the job of SMother to the next level. It’s comforting to know he’s in the same building and while I thought he might disown me, he’s actually enjoying it too. Likely because not only do I SMother him, I SMother his friends too. We also get a full hour together sans Nugget due to stepped dismissal times and that has been absolutely amazing. Sharing a school with your kid takes mom control to a new level and it’s AWESOME. 

Thankfully in all this madness, my husband the Turk has offered to help lighten my load, “Since you are very busy, I can feed cat so you not have to worry.”

Yes, he is swooping in to take the pain of cracking open a can of Tender Viddles and dumping it into a cat bowl each day off my to do list. Thank God! I could’ve never done that on my own!

Here to you, moms. Hang in there. Christmas break is only 97 days away.