Mama Don’t Need No Tribe

high priestess

Everyone has those words or phrases that rub them wrong way like the ever-despised word “moist.” Personally, that one isn’t a trigger for me because when someone says “moist” my mind automatically follows that with “cake.”

It’s not gross words that rile me up, but more phrases that might be found in a middle management training manual, like “team building.” Or, “I just want to circle back to that.” Unless we’re out riding our bikes to the Dairy Queen in 6th grade or rounding up our wagon train to conquer the Wild West, I see no need for you to “circle back,” just call me.

But the phrase that has really been eating at me lately is “my tribe.” As an incredibly politically incorrect human, it’s probably shocking to most that I might be a little uncomfortable with that term. I’m especially uncomfortable when “my tribe” is used by a bunch of white chicks in reference to likeminded friends when they’re out grabbing pumpkin spice lattes. Even we offensive broads have limits.

This whole tribe thing has been stuck in my brain lately though and I’ve been giving it way more thought than necessary. It started last week when I was having a difficult time with Nugget which resulted in a true special needs mom meltdown. That’s when it was suggested that the answer to my problems was that I needed to find “my tribe.”

At the risk of sounding like an 80’s Rob Lowe character, I’ve always been a loner. People are fine and all, and I do have a pocket of friends I consider to be sisters and gay brothers, plus a huge web of people beyond that, but I’m an arms-length kind of gal. I don’t do tribal friendship. (Perhaps because I don’t do pumpkin spice lattes?) However, in my pocket of sisters and gay brothers and even in my web beyond, I don’t have any close special needs parent connections so my journey with Nugget has been a lonely road.

When you have a kid that carries a genetic label few have ever heard of and even fewer can spell (Branchio-oto-renal syndrome doesn’t usually pop up in spell check), and has a whole host of diagnoses that follow him around, it’s easy to feel like Tom Hanks in Castaway with no one to share your woes but Wilson the washed ashore volleyball. (Full Disclosure: sometimes when the Turk and I do talk about Nugget’s issues, the big English words throw him off and he basically turns into Wilson too. I love him but I know his limits.) But a tribe? I don’t know about that kind of hippie madness.

Last year Nugget finally started to catch up developmentally. About mid December, that dude started busting through every limitation that had been weighing him down. He gained years in months and it was exactly what my mom heart needed to believe things were finally going in the right direction.

And then this year he got stuck in a mudbog. Since school started this year Nugget has stagnated. No growth. No change. When I persist, “Let’s work on letters.” I’m met with, “Nope. Can’t do dat.”

If I try, “Let’s write together.”

I get, “No. I can’t.”

It’s killing my old teacher heart.

In addition to his genetic anomalies, Nugget also drew the long straw on a healthy dose of stubborn Turk genes too. Many a teacher and medical professional have said, “Wow, he really only does what he wants to do.”

To which I can only respond, “It seems you’ve not met his father.” But recently those Turk genes are about to do me in and have me worried of they are a sign of more than just obstinace.

The driving force behind my recent meltdown, the one that spurred the whole tribe thing, has been Nugget’s hatred of everything resulting in hissy fits that would make Naomi Campbell proud. There are tears, flailing, occasional profanity and relentless arguing and that’s just on Nugget’s side. I’m about a step from postal.

Simply put, Nugget doesn’t want to do anything.

Go to school – hissy fit.

Go to anything for his brother– hissy fit.

Grandma shows up – hissy fit.

Grandma leaves – hissy fit.

And the list goes on and on. After one particularly rough day when the hissy fit was so bad at school he had to go home, I immediately spiraled into a pit of mom guilt so deep even mid-day, high-dollar chocolate couldn’t bring me out.

It’s been a rough year with a new and highly incompetent teacher (It’s not brain surgery girl, it’s special ed preschool.) and I’m beginning to think special ed is holding him back. I spiraled from, maybe we should pull him from that school, to maybe if I weren’t so busy taking care of other people’s kids all day mine wouldn’t be in this mess.

I talked it out at work, (A major advantage to dealing with special ed school issues for you own kid is working in a special ed school) until I finally relented and called Wilson – I mean, the Turk. I’m not sure why I was moved to call him but I assumed that women with tribes do that kind of thing.

“I don’t know, I just think maybe if I weren’t working all the time I could get Nugget going again and put an end to this crap.” I whimpered on the verge of tears.

“No.” The Turk replied.

“What?”

“Honey, calm down. He is asshole. Even if you home all the time, he still be asshole.”

“Are you joking?” Sometimes it’s hard to tell with that accent.

“No. Don’t you remember Number 1 at this age? He was asshole too. He is not asshole now so they get over it. You don’t need to quit.”

The Turk was right. There was never a time when I understood more fully why animals eat their young than when our oldest was four. He was indeed a raging asshole but fortunately, he grew out of it.

“When I kid, I hate school too. My father get so mad because I never learn letters or write. I not do it because I thought it was stupid. Maybe he’s the same. Relax. We get him there.”

And with that, my meltdown ended. I didn’t need some ridiculous tribe; I only needed Wilson to finally talk back to me on my desert island.

Unfortunately, we are only 3.5 months into this grand age of 4 and with some wine and more high-dollar midday chocolate, I might make it through. Better than that though, I realized a gal doesn’t need a tribe as long as she has a straight shooting Turk.

 

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Arrrrrrgggg, Fall Break, How Dare Ye!

Blackbeard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mom, I need a hooker for Hawoween.”

“Hubba whaaaaaa?”

“I hooker. I need one.”

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

“You need a what?”

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

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

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

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

“I Ain’t From ‘Round These Parts.”

gun-totin-hoosier

I have a confession. I’m scared of Indiana. We’ve lived here for close to 5 years now and the only times we leave the Indianapolis-metro area and trek into the great unknown parts of the state are when enroute to somewhere safe, like Chicago or Philadelphia.

I’ve met a few people from the unknown parts and they are wonderful people but I am sure they are an anomaly – those who made it out alive.

My fear isn’t a simple unease. No. It’s a full-on, scardey cat, wussy-wuss, don’t make me go there, terror. In my mind, everything outside of the metro-Indianapolis area is filled with 7 feet-tall, (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Hoosiers as a people are HUGE.) camo clad Hoosiers toting multiple automatic weapons, ready to take out a city slicker with no explanation. I’m certain that if I stopped at a rural farmstand because I wanted to make zoodles for dinner and accidently dropped the word “zoodle” a hostile Hoosier will gun me down with the zucchini still in my hand.

Is it crazy and irrational? Of course it is! But you cannot expect rational thought to suddenly step in and take over my life when it’s never been invited to visit before. And the news is no help. Every night the local news is filled with stories of rural Hoosiers perpetrating crimes so bizarre that they often make the national news. Trust me readers, crazy-ass stuff happens in rural Indiana.

Many people in my life, especially native Hoosiers, find it hilarious that a woman who spent a chunk of her life in a major Turkish city (and let’s be honest, Turkey has never been known as a utopia of safety) can be fearful of the backwoods of a Great Plains state. But the fear is real I tell you.

Over the summer I registered for a workshop to fulfill professional development credits for work. Immediately after hitting “send” I saw the error in my plan. The workshop was in rural Indiana, a little too close to Kentucky. (Don’t judge, everybody is scared of Kentucky.) As the date approached I thought about ways to get out of it- faking a lung transplant. Claiming I was urgently needed in Turkey for family business. Blaming a hostile 4 year-old for losing my registration. I’ve got a good stock of viable excuses.

The workshop was to qualify me as a testing leader for Hoosier Stream Watch, an organization that relies on citizen science to monitor and report on the health of waterways statewide. (Yes, even in the Deliverance Zone.) It’s an amazing organization and I wanted to be involved, if I could find a way to get over my fear of death in the boondocks.

When I signed up, I assumed I’d be standing on the bank of a babbling brook, filling test tubes and maybe swirling a pH strip. That was it.

That was not it. The day before the workshop I got an email with a first line reading, “Don’t forget your waders.” Waders? Hubba-whaaaaa? The term “waders” suggests I’ll be wading and a city girl thigh deep in stream water, deep in the heart of rebel country makes her nothing more than a water-logged, easy to shoot, target.

When I broke the news of what I was about to undertake my husband, The Turk, was not a fan.

“I don’t think you can go.” The Turk proclaimed, the night before my workshop. (His crazy is not as extreme as mine, but he’s not heading to rural Indiana for fun either.)

“Why?”

“Why you stand deep in stream? What if you drown?”

“What??? Drowning? Why did you bring that up? Shot by a redneck yes, but I didn’t even think of drowning!”

“I am water engineer more than 20 years. I see things. One time, back in Turkey…”

“NO! Stop right there. Every time you start a story with “one time, back in Turkey,” someone meets an untimely demise in a horrific manner. Keep your death stories to yourself.” For reals, those stories are the stuff nightmares are made of. The only thing worse are his stories that begin, “When I was in Turkish army…”

“Ok. You go. Don’t say I did not warn you.”

Early the next morning I headed out to meet my doom. If I survived my foray into the backcountry and managed not to get shot, then chances were solid I would drown like a hairy Turk in a wastewater cesspool. Damn professional development.

I immediately learned most of my workshop comrades were homeschooling mothers from local farms, striving to keep their numerous young’uns safe from the heathenistic horrors of public education while giving them a biblical understanding of science…(Oh reader, I only wish I’d made that up.) Thankfully, none of them appeared to have firearms tucked into their mom-jeans.

As we hit the stream I was grateful I’d chosen this workshop during a month-long drought. The stream we were tasked with testing wasn’t so much a babbling brook, but more like a belching stream. I wasn’t going to drown today. But then our instructor sent us around the bend.

From her spot safe and dry on the bank, she instructed, “Next you’ll need to test the velocity of the stream from that spot right in the middle.” The lone dude in the group volunteered to go but he needed a partner and since I only have two children where the rest of the homeschoolers had between 8 and 9 children each (again, totally true.) I was sent to the middle of the stream.

If you’ve never tested the velocity of a stream, (And why would you?) it involves an apple, a stopwatch and math. As my extremely tall Hoosier partner headed into the stream, I timidly waded in. Thanks to my stump-like legs, the mid-calf boots I’d ordered hit me about mid-knee so I thought I was safe and I was, until the apple didn’t move. (Note to self- next time someone says bring waders…bring waders…)

We stood in the stream, stopwatches poised, waiting for the apple to pass the finish line. Thanks to a still day and low tributaries, we waited and we waited and while we waited the sludge beneath my boots began to open-up and suck me in. Like a 70’s superhero, I’d fallen victim to quicksand. (Or not, but quicksand seemed so much more dramatic in the moment.) My boots started taking on water. I was going down.

Then, the apple passed my timing arm and we were safe to head to dry land…safe, were I not butt-cheek deep in stanky swamp water.

After sharing a few new words with my homeschool moms, words they’d likely never heard before and words that likely burned their righteous ears, my man-partner helped me free my boots. While we fought with the sludge, I’m pretty sure the mothers on the banks sent thoughts and prayers into the ether for my nearly orphaned children and their potty-mouthed upbringing. Within moments I was safe on a muddy bank, soaking wet and smelling of stank water.

After another three hours identifying macro invertebrates and learning more about mayflies than I knew possible, I was sprung. I’d almost made it out alive when my joy turned to panic on the interstate ramp. As I was sprinting towards the safety of a northbound interstate lane, I was nearly side-swiped by a large pick-up truck sporting a window decal filling his entire back window. Half of the window displayed a massive gun while the other half read, “Careful, both driver and cab are fully armed.”

An overwhelming sense of justice swept across me. My fear was vindicated. The Hoosiers of the backwoods were just as I’d suspected. My crazy was validated. I could do nothing more than chuckle as I floored it back to the safety of suburbia all the while vowing never to leave again.

 

Can I Order a Sister-Wife On Amazon?

hilda 2

I needed new sneakers. So this morning I went online, found the model I like, picked a festive color and with a few clicks the deal was done before I even made it through a full cup of coffee. Tomorrow my new kicks will be waiting on my doorstep when I arrive home, ready and willing to escort my tired tootsies through the next 30 casual Fridays. Bingo bango, the interwebs solved my problem.

This got me thinking. I have another big problem. Could the interwebs solve that problem too? This problem is a bit more complex though; because I’ve decided I need a sister-wife. For real.

Now that school has started I am a hot mess. Between my full-time teaching job and my full-time job as a Turkish wife and my full-time plus job as an overbearing S-mother, I’m dying. Our household fluctuates between panic mode and squalor on the reg and my forty-something ass is dragin’.

-Dinner is mushy? Sorry family but that happens when Mom starts the slowcooker at 4:45 AM.

-“Hello? Yes this is Nugget’s mother. He didn’t wear his hearing aid to school…again?” That’s what happens when Mom isn’t there to micromanage putting him on the bus.

– “Yes, I realize the house looks like a crack-den but I’ve got a mountain of papers to grade.” I’m on it this weekend.

-“What permission slip? You needed it 2 weeks ago? Sorry Number 1 Son.” I’m on it.

-“No, the fish tank isn’t supposed to be green.” I’m on it.

-“Why are you discontinuing my cell service? Really? I haven’t paid the bill since July?” My bad. I’m on it.

-“What’s the…is that… cat barf on my foot?” Even the cat is out to get me.

A mortal woman can only keep this up for so long before being drawn to drastic measures, like pharmaceutical assistance (Though I don’t think Mother’s Little Helpers were really intended for upping the pace, were they?) and since I’m of an advanced age and our judgmental world now frowns upon such things, I’ve decided there is a better way. The way of the sister-wife.

Anyone who knows me (especially my husband the Turk) has long been troubled by my fascination with the whole concept of sister-wives. It started years ago in Turkey when Big Love was one of the only shows we got in English. Then there were the various documentaries I consumed on the topic followed by every episode of every season of TLC’s train wreck, Sister Wives. My obsession is strong.

Mock me if you will, but if you put all your Judge Judy tendencies aside, it makes good sense. Like a fool, I’ve given my family an unrealistic standard of mothering and while I kept it up for many years, now I’m ready to call in reinforcements.

If I get a sister-wife, she could stay home to make sure bills are paid, hearing-aids are worn, permission slips are actually signed and my house is kept in an inhabitable, dare I say, clean state. Currently there is a pod of cockroaches waiting on the doorstep in little fedoras carrying tiny Samsonite just waiting for the moment I lose the frontline battle with the crumbs. The struggle is real.

My sister-wife, let’s call her Eunice. Why Eunice? Because Eunice is a sensible name that says, stability, strength and no sex appeal. It’s a name fit for a sister-wife in a floral frock rocking excess facial hair and a uni-brow. More importantly, have you ever seen a big-boobed bombshell called Eunice? No. (I’m desperate. I’m not stupid.)

Even with Eunice’s mad housekeeping skills, love of gluten-free baking and ability to take on any issue that might arise, I have no worries about my husband trading me in for Eunice. For one, being from Turkey he’s seen a lot of bearded women with uni-brows and it’s not his jam. And for two, The Turk and I have equal levels of crazy that no other mortal would dare take on. As the Turks say, “There is a lid for every pot,” and much like Ricky was the lid for Lucy, the Turk is mine. Eunice hasn’t a chance.

According to the TLC series and Big Love, Eunice and I will be able to sip coffee together in the morning as we lament our daily duties, but we will often argue over small things until we draw up a workable, color-coded chore chart for both of us. I can handle that. It’s all about balance. If reality television is to be believed (And it is right? I mean, of course it’s true love on The Bachelor, right?) we won’t share clothes (because Eunice is selfish with her frocks) but we will cheer each other on as we visit our personal trainer and when difficulty arises, we’ll have our family therapist make a house call. (*note to self-get a family therapist and keep her on retainer.)

So you see, I’ve got it all figured out. Since there are not enough hours in the day for me to manage the life and limb of all the beings in this home and in my 6 daily classes, AND make sure no one in either position dies, I don’t see any other choice. If a fat, white man in America can order a hot Russian bride over the internet, why can’t a desperately exhausted mom find herself a lifesaving sister-wife the same way?

Eunice, I need you girl. I know you’re out there and my search has begun. I will find you. I won’t rest until I do. But I should probably bring this idea up with The Turk first…

 

Only A Fool Would Underestimate A Football Mom

vintage footballers

Last football season, a large man (and I mean Midwestern large which tends to be a bit larger than average large) somewhere near the precipice of mid-life was hunkered down in a three-point stance while a team of 60 pounders surrounded him, preparing for their first football practice in pads. Moving from flag to tackle football is a rite of passage here in Middle America and this man was certainly doing his part to make the ritual both exciting and intimidating. As I looked on, still a flag football mom then, I was in awe of the length of time that fat man spent in the prone, starting position. I was more impressed that he was able to remain in the stance as he gave loud and clear instruction to his PeeWee charges.

It wasn’t until he dismissed them to run a lap and simultaneously summonsed the other coach for aid, that I realized the fat man was still in the three-point stance because he couldn’t get out of the three-point stance. His knees had locked, his back had seized and he no longer had the strength to pull his own girth back up to standing. Aided by another large, knock kneed former baller, the coach gimped to standing before the PeeWee’s made it around one lap wearing more pads than their own body weight.

A solid smart-assed commentary ran through my head as I looked on, hitting on highlights like “old jocks are pathetic,” and ending on something about “trying to relive some long ago glory days through a nine-year-old son.” I’m pretty harsh in my head. (I’m pretty harsh with the words that come out of my mouth too but it’s worse in my head. Just remember that.)

A lot changes in a year and now, as a full-on tackle football mom, I need to issue an apology to the fat man stuck in the three-point stance. (In my head because it would seem really weird to find him now and apologize and god knows I don’t want to look any more crazy than I already am.) Because I have now realized that I, a 45-year-old mother- am totally and completely living her football glory vicariously through a nine-year-old son.

It hit me during sign-ups but really came on full-force during equipment hand out. I think it was the smell of the stinky pads that triggered something or maybe it was teaching my son how to pull off a helmet without removing an ear (unlike his brother, this son has 2 ears so it’s a bit more tricky.). Maybe it was showing him how to lace up the shoulder pads or how to take off both pads and jersey in one shot, but regardless, in the past week I have been transported back to my days on the gridiron and the love of the game that was instilled there.

Ok, I didn’t really have days on the gridiron but only because back in the dark ages girls weren’t allowed on organized football teams. It wasn’t like now when a few sassy little broads with fight are allowed on the field where they kick serious butt. (Go you little broads go!) No, 30+ years ago, girls like me were stuck strutting their stuff in backyard games with brothers and neighbor boys. But that was better than nothing.

Much like my own nine-year old son, I too was a stocky little scrapper perfectly built for a spot on the line. Thanks to copious hand-me-downs from cousins and brothers, I had a Lynn Swann jersey, football pants with sub-substandard pads and a helmet missing key protective elements (Which, if fully researched would probably explain a lot about my current memory issues.). On hot, late summer afternoons my brothers and I, with the occasional addition of a few cousins or friends, suited up and played some of the best damn football that backyard had ever seen.

It hasn’t been hard to instill a love of football in my boys, though the Turk is still working on understanding a sport he’d never really seen until adulthood. He doesn’t get the excitement but he tries. He’s even learned to throw a spiral during our countless backyard games of catch with Number One. (Though mine is still far superior. I’ve got a serious rep on the playground at school for my mad skills as well.)

Because of the Turk’s newness on the football scene, most training and background knowledge falls to me. (Left up to his father, the poor kid would still be stuck in his helmet.) And in a very, very traditional Midwestern town, I am usually the lone mother taking care of football business (and pushing her way through a bunch of old jock fathers.) After equipment pick-up last week, shopping for cleats and pants and all the accouterments that go with PeeWee ball, I asked Number One if he was ok being the guy who did all his football stuff with his mom. In his infinite wisdom he said, “Of course! You’re a football mom and football moms know way more than those old guys.” Right answer kid.

Last year NFL head coach and certified moron Bruce Arians blamed mothers for the decline of football enrollment. “We feel like this is our sport. It’s being attacked…It’s the best game that’s ever been f—— invented, and we got to make sure that moms get the message, because that’s who’s afraid of our game right now. It’s not dads, it’s moms.”

Oh Bruce. You freakin’ dumbass. You clearly don’t know many football moms because we could take down your stupid ass with a shoulder hit before you even had time to brace. No man in his right mind would mess with an old football mom, especially football moms who live vicariously through their sons because chauvinist pigs like you, dear Bruce, wouldn’t let us on the field.

So as summer here in middle America begins to wind down (because we go back to school ridiculously early) and football practices get put on the calendar, our house is alive again with the joy of football. And this football mom is loosening up her throwing arm because sometimes it’s perfectly fine to live out the dreams you weren’t allowed to live in real life through a very excited child.

football (1)

Mother Tongue…Ewwww

frustration (1)

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…

 

 

The Birthday Clock Never Stops…

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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 Your Bi-Cultural Child Doesn’t Want To Be Bi-Cultural Anymore

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“It happens. No matter what you do it will happen.” The other expats told me smugly over tiny cups of Turkish coffee one morning. In hindsight I realize they knew, but as a self-righteous new mother who’d spent 9 months reading and years before that judging others’ parenting because I obviously knew better than those who’d actually been at the job, (You know, the kind of broads which seem to have taken over the internet recently…) I surmised I would do better. My bi-cultural kids would remain equally tied to both cultures, Turkish and American.

Before I’d even birthed my first half-breed I began to worry about how this whole bi-cultural identity thing would play out. At that point we were living in Turkey and it wasn’t clear in which culture we’d be living for the long haul. He’d be immersed in the Turks so how did I make him American too? Should I just hit up McDonald’s weekly, slap down a few McNuggets, play a little Lynard Skynard and say, “There ya go buddy, there is a little slice of my people. Now go forth and live among your father’s people.” (Full disclosure: I did have ridiculous cravings for the McRoyal (a bastard brother of the Quarter Pounder) while I was pregnant so I guess he did get a solid dose of my people in utero.)

The Turk told me not to worry about it, but that’s not how I roll. I began pumping every bi-cultural parent in the school where I taught about their experiences for research.

Olga from Sweden married to a Turk: “Tolga might be a blue-eyed blonde but he’s not very Swedish. He is much more Turkish boy as long as we live here.”

Jennifer from American married to a Turk: “My girls chose to be Turkish instead of American. Not my choice but we live here so I get it.”

Grant from England married to a Turk: “I’d hoped Julide would keep a bit of a connection to England but she identifies as Turkish completely. It saddens me but you can not prevent it.”

The conclusion was clear, bi-cultural kids identified mostly with the culture they lived in but I wasn’t a fan of that theory so, in the spirit of the clueless (kind of like anti-vaxers and science deniers) I ignored the evidence and decided that my kid would be the exception.

Nine years later I’d like to issue a public apology for my stupidity. My half-breeds, currently nestled away in middle America, despite all my efforts and hopes, are Americans. To confirm that, this week alone Number 1 son brushed off three attempts by both The Turk and myself to reconnect him with his other half.

       Attempt 1: Through the belly.

“Mom, what are we having for dinner?”

“Mercimek. Your favorite.”

“Ugh. Turkish food again?”

“Son, in our house it’s just called food.”

“Whatever. Can’t we have hamburgers?”

Damn you America and your artery clogging goodness.

Attempt 2: Groove is in the heart.

Nugget was getting his groove on to some Turkish music videos when I noticed the video he was shaking his Pull-Up clad butt to had been filmed on the streets of the village we lived in when Number 1 was little.

“Number 1, come look at this! This video is in our old ‘hood. This is so cool! We have tons of photos of you on that street. Come here, watch this.”

While the Turk and I dove head-first into nostalgia, Number 1 glanced at the screen and muttered, “Cool.” Before immediately returning to his March Madness bracket selection prep.

Damn you America, even a nice beat that you can dance to couldn’t pull him away.

 Attempt 3: Pulling Out The Big Guns

“Number 1, we need to talk about you maybe going to Turkey with Baba next month. He’s going to check on Babaanne (grandma) and we think maybe you should go.”  This whole discussion was a rare moment of collaborative, unilaterial parenting on my part as was illustrated by the look of shock on the Turk’s face when I agreed to it. I wasn’t sold on the idea but since it was clear my oldest half-breed was pulling away from his Turkish side, I felt it imperative to give him one more hard push back in.

As a sane person I’m sure you’re asking, why send just the two of them? Well, I’m not a sadist and thus I am unwilling to travel 12 hours by plane with a one-earred, 3 year-old tyrant. Nugget doesn’t travel well in any mode but his jacked-up ear situation makes flying miserable and I’m not doing it. Conversely Babanne doesn’t fly. Period. She is a very stubborn Turk so we’ve been in a stalemate for the past few years. Finally I relented and said I’d stay home with Nugget and the Turk and Number 1 could go (While I stay up for a week straight contemplating the sanity in sending my baby into a country who’d had a political coup mere months prior, to a city that has bombings on the reg and is on the cusp of a make or break election about the time of their intended arrival. Oh and lets not even get into all the unwarranted and irrational Not Without My Daughter scenerios that would flash through my sleep deprived mind.) Secretly I prayed Number 1 wouldn’t want to go but it was my maternal duty as a bi-cultural parent to promote this moment.

Number 1 thought for about 30 seconds and said. “I don’t want to go.”

“Really? (Oh thank GOD!!!!) But why not?”

“Well for one, it’s scary. I watch the Turkish news with you guys. I’m not clueless. And actually I don’t really want Baba to go either. And for two, if it was Cleveland or someplace good where we could go watch LeBron James or something I’d go but Turkey? Nah.” (Sweet Jesus, did my son just prefer Cleveland over transcontinental adventure? Lord Almighty he really was too far gone.)

Relieved and disappointed all in one breath, I muttered to the Turk, “I think we’re losing him to America.”

“Yes. I think so.” He agreed with a twinge of heartbreak.

My soul filled with lapsed Catholic guilt. I felt like I’d stolen our son. But they’d warned me. All those expat parents had warned me and as it turned out, my son was not the exception but the rule. He lived in America now so he became American.

We’re not giving up though. We’ll keep eating Turkish food-aka-food, keep sharing stories of his other culture, keep celebrating Turkish holidays (Just not Kurban Bayram -that one where you slice the lamb on your balcony because even The Turk is still scarred from that one.). We’ll continue trying to keep him bilingual, force him to watch Turkish league football (as long as I still get my NFL time with him too) and I’ll keep his Turkish side alive even if it kills me because some day, years from now, that little half-breed will be glad we did.

January, You’re Dead To Me

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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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