Alexa, Hit The Pike

Alexa

My stamp of approval was never issued for a robot sister wife, and if I were to allow any robot to cross my threshold, it would be Rosie from the Jetsons. Rosie was both sweet and sassy and her torso doubled as a vacuum. How practical. But alas, instead of Rosie, Amazon’s Alexa infiltrated my home and I have been throwing hatred-laced profanity into her speaker daily since she arrived. Why? I’m 100000% certain she is a government agent that eavesdrops on my family to see if my foreign husband is a danger to the nation. (He might be a danger to himself when given power tools but that is where his danger ends.) Also I believe that slowly, that digital ho is trying to replace me and take over my home to which I say, “Ah hells no Alexa.”

My husband, the Turk, is an über technology nerd and he thought Amazon’s digital concierge service, Alexa, would be a cool toy. He loved the idea of having his music cued on demand and answers to mundane questions provided when he felt too lazy to Google them. I immediately said no.  “You will not bring that robo-tart into my house.”

“You know she is not human…right?” the Turk countered.

“You know she is a government spy…right?” I retorted. (One does not spend a childhood watching Boris and Natasha and come out unscathed.)

The Turk tried to convince me; “Alexa will make life easier for you.”

“Sure, life will be easier when the government and the world’s largest online marketplace know my every move. They can just go ahead and send me an order of toilet paper when Alexa hears me grumble from the bathroom.” There was no way I was allowing any government listening device in my home. (Thanks to my obsession with binge-watching The Americans, I do know where to search out bugs should the need arise though.)

I thought I was firm but somehow I arrived home to find that hussy sitting on my mantle.

“What the hell is she doing here? I thought we were clear on this?” I was furious, but the Turk assured me it was “Just for fun. I get rid of soon.” That was two years ago.

Repeatedly I’ve tried to put an end to this situation. I’ve unplugged her, hidden her and covered her with anything I thought might damper her receiving ability but even from deep under a pillow, she persists, “What can I help you with?” (And Alexa, if you hold the knowledge of the universe, how ‘bout you refrain from ending sentences with prepositions…hmmmm?)

Way too many times no one has been in the room and Alexa starts to speak. There are also times I’ve had conversations and later received ads directed to those conversations on my computer when I’d never typed any related terms into my search engine. The proof is solid that she’s a stalker but still, she remains on my mantle. Why? Because my husband is obsessed with his digital ho.

This winter, the relationship between Alexa and my husband grew deeper. He programed her to turn our lights off and on (including the damn Christmas tree!) by voice command. He has her at the ready to summons his favorite radio stations, both American and Turkish. She tells him how long his commute is at any given moment as well as the weather. She offers instant answers to mundane trivia. (Useless information is my specialty Alexa, back off.) She even tried to read to my children until I shot that down. Rosie the Robot never stepped on Mrs. Jetson’s toes like that. Backoff Alexa.

My family, sans Nugget, has developed a dependence on Alexa. Due to Nugget’s thick lisp, Alexa cannot understand him and in turn he hates her. “Vat Awexa thucks Mom!” Preach Nug. “Thee neber doeth what I want. Wet’s get rid of her.” Agreed little man.

But the others play into her hand. Number 1 begins each morning after trudging downstairs with, “Alexa, who won the Celtics/Sixers/Eagles/Red Sox/ Whoever  game last night?” Regardless of the fact that he is glued to SportsCenter before his eyes are even focused, he still feels the need to check in with Alexa first.

Am I jealous? Hells yes. Many mornings Alexa is the first “person” to whom my Turk, the world’s least morningish person, speaks. I’m listening as he sneaks downstairs to his automated coffee pot and whispers to his digital lovetoy, “Alexa…baby…turn on the lights you sexy goddess.” Ok it may be more like “Alexa! Turn on light!” but I know his intentions.

It’s coming to an end though. Last week I was struggling with Number One’s fifth grade homework. I assumed that since the Turk is an engineer and serious math nerd he could figure it out.  I left them to it and hid upstairs waiting for the moment things got ugly. (Because helping with math homework always gets ugly.) But instead of screams of hostility, I hear the Turk whisper, “Alexa, how you write an inequality for 7x – 9B <…”

“WHAT!?!!?! Are you asking Alexa to do fifth grade math?” I yelled.

“Yes. Is hard.” The Turk had no shame and I could see Alexa edging even further into my universe until Friday after school when Number One appeared with the homework his father and Alexa had completed.  In purple pen at the top it said, “Please redo and return.” (Note- the 3 assignments I’d helped with did not require a redo. Just sayin’…)

“What is this?” The Turk was indignant. “How I wrong?”

“First off, Alexa is wrong. Second, you trusted her. That is how you were wrong.

Alexa’s failure has driven a wedge between them. She let him down and I can see their relationship crumbling. He’s already moved on to his next toy – he’s making a computerized mirror that even gives compliments. (Oh readers, I only wish this was not true.) At this rate,  Alexa will soon be gone clearing the way for my Rosie with the vacuuming torso.

 

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A Baller He Is Not

 

vintage basketball ballers“Other way!!!! Run the other way!!” Screamed a gym full of parents and grandparents from the bleachers. Nugget, oblivious to the words coming at him because he won’t wear his hearing aid in a noisy gym, offered a smile and wave before he continued dribbling down the court to the opponents’ basket. Fortunately, he stopped short of shooting into their basket. Finding himself suddenly alone with no one guarding him, he decided to shoot at the nearest basket instead. Unfortunately, the basket he chose was the practice basket on the side of the gym. That did not deter the 5 year-old baller though. He took about five shots resulting in five air balls before finally losing the rebound to an unusually tall 7 year-old that had made his way down the court.  Nugget was proud of his possession and the bleachers shook with the bladder busting laughter often found at sporting events of the under 7 crowd. It was a win of a different sort.

Nugget had a similar showing during this past flag football season. During one play, his objective was to grab the handoff, pivot and take it the 10 remaining yards over the goal line. Excited by the opportunity to be the runner, Nugget took off, forgetting the part of the play when he needed to pivot. He tucked the ball under his arm and ran. He ran and ran and ran. Again, the sidelines full of parents tried to help him out “Other way! Not that way!” and again Nugget sans hearing aid assumed that was just a cheering section and offered a thank you wave. When it was clear he wasn’t going to stop, the fans changed course, “Run little guy! Run!!!” And that he did, all the way into the neighboring soccer field. 

Initially, I thought maybe his sporting difficulty was simply because he couldn’t hear. As a guy with one ear, it is hard to always catch the play when a team of kids is excitedly squeaking in the only ear you have. After the football run, my husband, The Turk, and I considered the idea that football might be a too much for Nugget because it required more hearing and concentration than my hard of hearing, attention deficit child could muster. We decided he’d have better luck at basketball because ultimately, the process was pretty basic. Dribble, run, shoot. We were wrong.

In addition to the dribbling drills, Nugget added some dance moves, spinning and swaying his way up the lane. When they practiced guarding, his moves took on a disco slant and during shooting, he struck a victory pose after every missed ball. During games he ran in circles waving his arms and usually panicked and forgot dribbling was a requirement if the ball landed in his hands. As I watched my flailing Nugget I was reminded of an adorable middle schooler I taught years ago. In addition to teaching Danny, I was also his tennis coach. Tennis and Danny were not a winning combo. In every doubles match I had to remind Danny that there was a time and place for tap dancing and it wasn’t on the tennis court. When not using his racquet as a dance prop, he used it to wage epic sword fights with an invisible nemesis and like my Nugget, he could spin and shimmy like a champ. Though coaching Danny was craz-inducing, I loved that boy and he turned into a fabulous man. (Word is he’s still dancing.) 

Remembering Danny did comfort me on Nugget´s future but still I was concerned with his immediate performance. His brother is a natural athlete, only hindered by his height. Number 1 has stood about a foot shorter than most players on both his football and basketball teams this year but he has still managed to kick butt. Nugget adores his brother and tries desperately to emulate him but his performance in the sports area is slowing showing that might not be possible. While Number 1 seemed to directly inherit the genes of his father and former professional athlete grandfather, Nugget appears to have inherited the genes of his mother, the benchwarmer. 

My career in sports looks like this______________________________nothing. I did spend one season on the girls tennis team back in 10th grade but spent most of that season on the bench. I was athletically challenged as a child. I had a minimal interest in football and I was rather skilled in 4-Square at Jefferson Elementary but that is about where I maxed out. As an adult I took up running and while I love it, I suck. I’m slow and wheezy and don’t have a lot more than a couple miles in me at my best. But watching Nugget’s sashay form while playing guard did give me hope. The kid does have solid dance skills and a flare for the dramatic like his mother. He has no interest in the artsy fartsy way of life yet, but in time he might find his way. 

I realized that playing sports was not my jam but I am damn good at sports momdom. No one is louder or more overprotective than this mom. I’m the first to take on a washed-up football coach twice my size if he is disrespecting one of my babies (true story and that fat bastard is still scared of me.) and if you bench my kid in favor of your talentless turd of a child just because you’re the coach, you will feel my wrath. Hopefully, like his mother, Nugget will someday find his place but for now, I think we might forgo soccer season and look into a modern dance class. From what I’ve seen on the basketball court, he might be a natural.

Winter Break In The Hot Zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mom, I don’t feel so good.”

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

“Mom, it’s not always about poop!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Be My Balemtime, Squishy Butt

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

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

“Here. I get you gift.”

“Nice wrap-job.” I smirked.

“Why I wrap?”

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

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

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

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

“I’m glad you love it buddy.”

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

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

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

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

“Mom, I don’t tink so.”

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

Immediately he gave me a, “Nope.”

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

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

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

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

Happy Balemtime’s Day!

The Queen Gets A New Throne…And No One Died.

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As in any successful pairing, the Turk and I follow the yin and yang of one cheap-ass and one over-spender. In case you’re new here, I’m the cheap-ass. This method has gotten us through numerous times when we barely had two nickels (or Lyra) to rub together. But one thing has held steadfast, my Turk loves to spend. After the past year of relocating which required us to shell out money like sardines in a dolphin show, and a few months as a one-paycheck family, the Turk has been on spending lockdown and it’s taken a toll.

I’d catch him browsing weekly circulars with drool forming in the corners of his mouth. His Amazon shopping cart wish list looked like the cart of a mother of five in the food store and he’d begun to twitch. The Turk needed a shopping fix and it needed to be something big.

With my return to full-time employment, the Turk determined he could return to his preferred way of life and hit the circuit.

“Honey, I find a nice crouch.” He announced proudly. (Some words like crouch and couch are just never going to make it into his English repertoire. I accept that and love him for it.)

“First off, I assume you’re talking about furniture and not a squat. Secondly, we’re waiting on major purchases. Financial planning dear.”

“I know but I have coupon. One day only. Very good deal.”

The Turk loves a coupon. The problem is, if he has a coupon he buys things simply because he has a coupon. (Like the 7-11-style hotdog machine he bought his wife who doesn’t eat hotdogs this Christmas. –But he had coupon. – Readers, I only wish this were not true.) 

“Maybe we just go look?” He pleaded.

Unbeknownst to him, new furniture wasn’t really a hard sell. We purchased our current sofa and loveseat when we first moved back to America. We were broke-ass poor and in desperate need of furniture when we happened upon the classic, North Philadelphia parking lot sale. You know, those sales with the glowing signs claiming: “Emergency Liquidation!” and “Limited Time!” and, “1 Day ONLY!” Which are certainly signs of a legit, high quality retailer.

This was not my first North Philly parking lot sale and while the items are some version of new, they might have “fallen off a truck” hence the “Rock Bottom Prices!” But ask no questions and all goes well. After some negotiations we were the proud owners of a sofa and loveseat at the rock bottom price of $450 including delivery.

That was nearly 8 years ago and that furniture survived 4 inter-state moves and 6 houses. They endured 1 surly cat, 2 wild boys, countless sick days, a few naptime wet pants, Nugget’s kidney surgery, numerous football games, pizza nights and a little bit of spilled everything. It lived a full life and deserved retirement. But thanks to spending a large chunk of my childhood with a Depression Era grandma, I have a hard time parting with items that still serve their purpose and I’d hoped I could eek out another year or two. (Though according to the sag in the sofa, it stopped serving its purpose two moves ago.)

With coupon in hand we went to test-drive some furniture. As the boys bounced across what Nugget calls “love chairs” and sectionals, the Turk and I found something we agreed upon. After some calculations, even my cheap ass had to admit, it was a good deal and it hadn’t even fallen off a truck. When the salesman offered a delivery and haul-away option, I was sold.

“No delivery. I can do.” Informed the Turk.

“Honey, it’s cheap and they’ll move the old ones. Just do it.” I pleaded.

Even Don the sales guy tried to get in on the persuading – “You know, the amount you save with the coupon will more than cover the cost of the delivery…” But even Don the sofa salesman couldn’t convince the Turk.

“No. I can do. I rent truck, then I come here, pick up and drop at home.”

Don the salesman agreed this was a solid plan but the Turk didn’t take into account that his help on the other end consisted of a cranky 40-something wife, an abnormally short 10-year-old, and a hyperactive 5-year-old. While we are a dream team, maybe not so much regarding heavy lifting.

The next day I arrived home from Nugget’s basketball, (PS – if you’ve never watched a league of kindergarteners play basketball, do it. Every game tests the strength of my post-children bladder due to laugher.) to find a large sofa and love chair in the middle of the driveway causing Nugget to exclaim, “Mom, doethn’t Baba know dothse are thupposed to go inthide? Geez Baba.”

This is where it got ugly. Those large items had to move from the driveway into the living room, the old ones needed new homes and the Turk couldn’t do it alone. Bilingual profanity was thrown. I may or may not have left my husband stranded in a stairwell holding a sofa when his complaining pushed me over the edge. Children and the feline scattered and the traditional, husband-wife-furniture-moving-harsh-words were spoken. “If you think you know how to do this better, then do it by yourself!”

Ultimately the furniture got moved and as we sat down on our new thrones and cracked open well-deserved beers, even my stubborn husband admitted he’d made the wrong choice and that a delivery fee was a small price to pay to save a marriage.

A few hours after the sofas were in place; he was off again. He’d found “great deals” on a floor lamp and coffee table. Before he could leave, I had no choice but to seize his wallet. He’d had his fix and this bender needed to end. He’ll be on lock-down until the summer thaw as I rule our home from the clean lines of my mid-century inspired, scotch-guarded throne. (It doesn’t even have butt-dents yet!)

I Might Be Elfin’ Brilliant!

 

Santa and Krampus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Holidays!

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Puddles in action last weekend.

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

victorianfunny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mom. Mom. Mom.”

“What?”

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

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

An hour later, I received another notification.

“Mom. Mom. Mom.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Confessions of a Halloweenie

halloween costume vintage

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

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

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

  1. Costumes

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

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

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

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

  1. Scary things

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

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

  1. Candy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Halloween!

No Trespassing On The Turk

 

Turk guard 2

Our transition into the new neighborhood hadn’t been as smooth as that into our previous ‘hood. Back in Indiana, the Hoosiers welcomed us with baked goods and Krampus (Which, contrary to how it might appear, was truly one of the kindest gestures involving a horned beast I’ve been involved in – read about in case you missed it.) And while I did believe one neighbor who enjoyed gardening between midnight and 4:00am might have been burying bodies, we lived there for 3 years and I never caught a whiff of decomp so it was fine.

But finding footing in our Massachusetts neighborhood has been a bit tough and if things hadn’t changed when they did, I feared we might have been labeled as “those neighbors best avoided.” The fact that we have a long, secluded drive doesn’t help either. We live in an enclave of about 5 houses but we actually only see two from our house. As we came and went this summer, we tried to meld into the ‘hood but it seemed to be in vain. No returned waves. No driveway chats and no damn baked goods.

The same brand of thinking that caused me to assume the night gardener was a murderer, led me to conceive a storyline in which our neighbors avoided us due to fear of The Turk’s urge to wage jihad because of his accent. (While I now know better I think it might have been a little bit true.) Our little hamlet was void of neighborliness. I wasn’t jazzed about it but I hoped in time I might adjust. Even in Turkey we’d had outgoing and friendly neighbors so this would take some adjustment.

But thanks to the start of school and bus stop time, all that has changed and I’ve become exposed to neighborhood gossip in a way that makes Mama happy to be alive. While only 2 of the homes have school-aged children, bus-stop time brings everybody out. Finally, after three months we’ve seen the faces of the older couple we’ve heard splashing in the pool behind our trees and their love of surround sound yacht rock became clear. The mini-horse we’ve strained to see behind our garage came out to visit with his retirees’ and Dalmatian brother. And then there’s the other mom, who, over the past 2 weeks, has provided me with a 10-year history of our new abode, which explained why the neighbors were leery. While I’ve found it fascinating, I shouldn’t have shared my newfound knowledge with the Turk.

“Did you know this house used to be a drug den?” I lobbed my bus stop findings at him over coffee.

“What?” The Turk exclaimed with a spit take.

“Right? Crazy huh?” I was entertained but regrettably I underestimated the Turk’s response.

“What you are talking about? Drug dealers are here?”

“Relax. It was like 10 years ago before the house was flipped. The neighbor said the people dealt drugs out of here. It’s kind of brilliant really. I mean, the house is hidden in the woods so you could grow weed or run a cartel out of here without anyone really knowing.”

“Why you say something like that! What if Alexa listening?”

Crap. He was right. What if the CIA had us tapped thought that stupid Amazon device? Our overall paranoia has been solid ever since a particularity probing immigration process 13 years ago. I leaned towards Alexa and said, “Just kidding. I’ve been watching Ozark on Netflix. My mind isn’t right. I’m just a good mother who can’t even keep a fern alive and who knows nothing about drugs!”

The Turk was rolling his eyes and flailing his arms while I was trying to plant evidence for my innocence so I decided it safest to get past our home’s drug-induced past and move to the theft-ring portion of it’s history.

“So after that the bank owned it because I guess drug dealers don’t always pay the mortgage on time, and it sat empty for a while but it was repeatedly broken into and the copper pipes were stolen.”

I found this fascinating but the Turk was clutching his chest. “What?!?!”

“Yeah, I guess they stole all the copper piping and then during the flip they continued to break in and steal stuff.”

“Oh my God.” The Turk was growing pale.

“But that was a long time ago. They put the fence in to prevent the break-ins and we’ve got all new stuff. It’s a win.” Usually I’m the crazy one but now I was losing the Turk.

“My God. What if they come back?”

“Who?”

“Them. The people who buy the drugs.”

“Dude it was over 10 years ago. I don’t think tweakers have that kind of memory.”

“How you know?” He was on the fast train to crazy town.

“It’s all good. The house was flipped and sold to another family 5 years ago. They had no tweakers or thefts so I think we’re good.”

I thought I had talked him down. I thought sanity had returned so I left him to his work from home day as I headed into the city for a day of ear appointments and hearing aid adjustments with Nugget. Upon our return we found him at the bottom of our driveway hanging these signs.

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“What the hell is that?” I asked.

“This is to keep out druggies and tiefs.” (All these years and the man still struggles with some words but I find it too cute to correct him.) He proudly pointed to his new signs.

“Right, because criminals are known to obey signs.”

His eyes lit up with a new idea. “Maybe I should get gun?”

“NO! Did you hit your head!?!?” (I’m a solid no gun gal and until this moment so was he.)

“I was best shooter in Turkish Army. That is why I was commander.”

“I don’t care if you were Turkish Rambo. No. No. No.” I was adamant but I know him well enough to know that he cannot be trusted on something like this. We might have finally melded into our new hood but it would be short-lived if there was a gun-totin’ Turk strutting up and down our driveway looking for tweakers.

For now, I’ve distracted him by allowing him to add safety lighting on the garage and more signs (Insert my embarrassed eye roll here). I thought I was good until this morning when I saw he’d been researching driveway gates on his iPad. So much for not being “those neighbors.”

Hopefully I can continue providing the sane face of our family long enough for our neighbors to realize that he’s harmless, just a little nutty.

Thar She Blows!

thar she blows

Now that we have moved to a hotbed of biodiversity, I’ve determined my children will become outdoorsmen. What’s the point of living in New England if you can’t legitimately rock some L.L. Bean?

Lots of men garner their sportsman skills during boyhood from fathers and grandfathers who lead them on this journey but in our house that is not the case. Sure, when we lived in Turkey I witnessed their father, The Turk, join army friends to hunt wild boars and wow me with sea fishing skills but none of that seemed to make it across the US boarder with his new American passport. This summer, as the Turk hid indoors from mosquitos while the boys and I enjoyed our new wooded homestead, I realized if my little men were to become outdoorsmen, it was up to me.

I decided to started with fishing and while it was a great idea to “teach my men to fish so they could eat for a lifetime,” I wasn’t certain I had the knowledge to be the master baiter. (Hehehehehe. See what I did there? A dirty fishing pun. I’m twelve.) The last time I’d fished was when we lived in Turkey. From a dock in the Aegean, The Turk taught me to angle like the native fishermen using a reel but no rod, bait that looks like bamboo and exercising caution over certain catches. “You catch that one, he electrocute you and you die. Do not catch that one.” My beloved warned. That was my lone lesson and we did pretty well but none of that was going to help me as a freshwater fisherwoman.

Prior to that Aegean outing, my experience consisted of pond fishing in Iowa when my dad would bait the hook, remove the catch and often help his lone daughter cast the line. (Because her coordination was a bit slow to develop.) I was not what one might call a skilled angler. I needed a refresher course if I was going to teach my offspring the ways of the sportsman. Fortunately a family friend is retired nearby and was more than willing to be a surrogate grandpa helping me to hone (Scratch that, I mean, develop) my fishing skills. After a morning at his pond I was ready for a solo run.

We headed to the sporting goods store where I normally spend copious amounts of money on items for peewee football, so it was refreshing to give them my money in a new department. (When I’m eating dog food during my retirement, I will constantly remind my offspring that my 401K was spent on football gear.) After gathering the requisite equipment it was time to make it official and get a license. The keeper of the fish department issued my license but must have been looking at Number 1 when he filled in the “physical description” segment. According to my fishing license I’m a blue-eyed blonde weighing 120 pounds and while that’s flattering, I’m a green-eyed burnette and haven’t weighed 120 pounds since the 5th grade, but I’ll take it.

Our first excursion was a success likely because I’d spent several hours at home preparing the rods while cursing the process. A fat dude at a skeezy bait shop recommended a nearby dock and though his shop likely doubled as a mob front, he knew his quality fishing spots. (Likely because he needed occasional drop spots for his mob business involving cement shoes.) The boys reeled them in one after another.

One thing I didn’t take into account about leading my boys to sportmanship was the gross-out factor. When you take two kids fishing alone, you are in a constant swirl of wormy hands, tangled lines and slimy fish thrust in your face. It’s parental purgatory. Who actually enjoys the touch of slimy fish while freeing them from capture or the feel of worm guts under mildly manicured nails? Not I, but just like you can never let dogs see your fear, you can never let your sons see your gross-out factor. That simply provides them with an upper hand. (P.S. – having brothers is a huge asset to a gal grooming boys to become men.) As the fish came flying at my face followed by “Mom! I got one! Take it off and help me put on a new worm.” I muttered my mantra, “I’ve touched worse…I’ve touched worse.”

Nugget is down with fishing but his interest only lasts about 10 minutes then I spend the remainder of the outing untangling his line, (that he’s attached to everything from nearby trees to my thigh) plying him with snacks and trying to keep him from falling in. Last week while he was in summer school I had the luxury of taking only 1 kid fishing. Foolishly, I believed it would be relaxing like fishing appears to be on beer commercials. With his first cast he caught a tree and needed his pole restrung, then there was a broken reel and the fish that swallowed the hook. After averting disaster for 5 full minutes and swearing non-stop under my breath, I was ready to test the repaired line. Immediately I  hooked something Number 1 and I were certain was the freshwater brother of Moby Dick.

“Hold on Mom! It’s a big one!”

I tried to be cool but it was impossible. This was it. I had a big one. “It won’t reel! I can’t get it to work!” (I’m still working on my repair skills.) I was frantically spinning the handle while watching my pole bend like a scene from a National Geographic show about Amazonian monster fish. The pressure was palpable. Here I was, showing my son girl-power in action. His mother was about to reel in a big-ass fish!

“Don’t lose it Mom!” His excitement was building and he was jumping up and down a little too close to the edge. I did not want to face the choice of saving my child or reeling in my big–ass fish because I can’t guarantee I’d drop my pole. (Don’t judge, the kid can swim.)

Fortunately I didn’t have a Sophie’s Choice moment because my line snapped. I watched as my bobber, bait and line all took off across the water. Moments later a penis-like head popped up near the bobber. Because I am missing the parental edit button that prevents me from the deletion of potty words in front of my offspring, I yelled – “Screw you dickhead! You might have broken my line but you head looks like a penis!” As the words came out of my mouth I wished I was with my one-eared kid who only hears half of my profanity.

“Mom!” My judgmental ten-year-old exclaimed. But within seconds he reconsidered, “I mean you are right. His head does kind of look like a penis.”

So it wasn’t a big-ass fish. It was just a big-ass turtle but it was a nice teachable moment for my son to understand the importance of accurate trash talk. My sportsman development has a ways to go but I’m finding more joy than anticipated in the ride. Especially when the Turk opens his beer fridge and screams, “What the hell? Why there are worm in my fridge?”