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.

Need Good Writing Material…Marry a Foreigner

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Back before I had Nugget and began my foray into the world of special needs parenting and blogging about it, I spent my days in the world of bicultural parenting and blogging about that. The cultural misunderstandings between the The Turk and I have provided me with a font of material for ten years, and will likely continue to do so until one of us cashes it in and leaves the other with a life insurance policy worth about 50 Turkish Lyra.

Anywhoo…for a couple reasons, I’ve decided to dig out a post from the old blog and transplant it here. 1. those cultural mishaps are funny as hell and 2. I’m working on a little project and want to use this as a chance for some shameless self (not only self because this is a group project) promotion.

I’m contributing to a book with some other crazy expat broads all over the world entitled Knocked Up Abroad Again – an anthology about shucking pups all over there globe. I’ve, of course, shared my tale of dancing Turks and misplaced intestines during the birth of Number 1 alongside birth stories from all over. It’s gonna be awesome…if it meets it’s kickstarter goal in the next 10 days. So, if you’d like a copy or you’d like to fund an awesome effort – go here and fund us. Now, on to our show:

Did you know, there is no Tooth Fairy in Turkey?  No?  Me either.

It was totally logical for me to believe that there would be a Turkish Tooth Fairy.  There is a Turkish Red Ridinghood but she goes by Kırmızı Başlıklı Kız.  Bert and Ernie have been fluent in Turkish since the early 70’s and even that sniveling Caliou found a massive fan base with tiny Turks. They even have Santa, though he is called Baba Noel and instead of a big gut and white beard he’s thin with a  ‘stache and instead of milk and cookies he prefers  tea and a smoke and instead of coming on December 25 th he doesn’t make an appearance until December 31st, but other than that…  But hey, cut ’em some slack, it’s tough to have a solid Christmas understanding in a Muslim nation. But I digress.

With this knowledge of childhood icons it was reasonable for me to assume that there was also a fairy that snuck into the sleeping quarters of young Turks and replaced their recently liberated baby teeth with a Lira or two. But no. This ugly truth was revealed last week when the Midget finally lost his first tooth.

For a 5 year old, that is pretty much the pinnacle of fitting in with one’s peers and we all know kindergartners can be pretty intimidating as far as peer pressure goes. The Midget was the last of his friends to go toothless but now he was part of the in-crowd.  As that little tiny white stump freed itself at breakfast, there was much celebration.

I should have been tipped off to the impending cultural divide by the strange look I received from the Turk when I rushed to bag the tooth like evidence on CSI.  However, I get that look often so I paid it no mind.

As the day progressed and the Midget was filled with information from his merry band of munchkins on the playground, he was ready for the big payoff. From dinner through bath he could discuss nothing else and as he carefully tucked the tooth under his pillow, the Turk finally said, “What the hell are you doing?  Throw that thing in garbage. It is disgusting.”

With big blue eyes the Midget said, “But Baba, the Tooth Fairy will take it.”

And then, there it was – the bomb was lowered– “What is Tooth Fairy?  There are no fairies.  Fairies are not real. Why you pretending this?  Only the girls like the fairies.”

Well hell.

Once again, I had to swoop in and wipe away the pain of truth those Turks love to lay down all too often. His are a people that find  joy in bursting bubbles with cold, hard reality. I know. I lived with them and came home with years’ worth of busted bubbles.

After shooting Baba the look, (ya’ll know the look to which I refer) and quickly dismissing  Baba’s proclamations by explaining that boys can like fairies too and that fairies do not like bad kids and Baba was a bad kid so therefore the Tooth Fairy never made a visit to him – it hit me and I rushed The Turk into the closet for a confab.

“Is there no Tooth Fairy in Turkey?”

“No. What the hell is Tooth Fairy?”

“You leave your tooth under the pillow and in the morning the Tooth Fairy has taken it and left you a few bucks. You know, it’s like Santa or the Easter Bunny.”

“No. That is stupid.”

“What did your parents do when you lost a tooth?”

“Throw it in trash, like you should do.”

“No. That’s not happening. This child is in America now and we are doing this like my people.”

“Ok, well maybe Fairy can bring me something a little later too?”

“No. “

After the Midget had tucked the tooth and nodded off, there was much debate over the price per tooth and the absurdity of the tradition but I won and the Midget awoke to a reasonable payoff. But there was much shrapnel to clean up thanks to Baba blowing the Fairy’s cover and as we got ready for school,

“Mom, is it a he or a she?”

“He” It just seemed more festive to make the Tooth Fairy a drag queen.

“How does he know I lost a tooth?”

“I call the hotline.”

“What’s the number?”

“1-888-Tooth-gone.”

“How does he get in?”

“Backdoor” (hehehe)

“Does he keep the teeth?”

“Yes?”

“Did he dig Baba’s teeth out of the trash when he was little?”

“No. He was a really bad kid.” (Take that fun sucker!)

“Do I get more money for bigger teeth?”

“No.”

“Well that’s a rip off.”  

Mom’s gotta keep it real. First I saved Santa before we moved to the US, then  the Tooth Fairy. Easter Bunny, you are totally on your own though, I’ve always found a giant rabbit a little too creepy.

If you want more expat tales – go fund us! Knocked Up Abroad Again 

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I Said, Stop Growing Up! Now!

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Parenthood has an uncanny way of making one painfully aware of the speed at which life travels while simultaneously pointing out the snail’s pace required by some developmental processes. In other words, one minute you’re like, “How in the hell did you outgrow the pants I bought two weeks ago?” while in the next breath you’re uttering, “Sweet Jesus child, are you ever going to wipe your own butt?” It’s a balance.

Thanks to his special needs and health issues, I’ve spent the past year oooing and ahhhing over Nugget’s developmental strides like him finally saying “Om!” (Mom) while we prepare for Developmental Preschool. Nugget’s strides don’t make me feel old; they make me feel elated. But Number One Son, on the other hand, his made recent developments that make me feel like screaming “NO! Stop! SOMEBODY SLOW THIS CRAP DOWN!”

A week from now Number One is starting 3rd grade and while it’s not as traumatic as that almighty kindergarten start that haunts a mother for months prior, it’s still a reminder of how freakin’ fast this whole childhood thing goes. (And, if you’re old like me, how much closer you are to the end. Ew.)

To further confirm my suspicion that Number One Son was growing up way faster than I am prepared for, we had a week of events to prove it. It started with a sleepover invite.

“We’d like Richard’s best buds to come for a sleep over to celebrate his birthday!”

Richard? When did they become best buds? Why don’t I know they are best buds? What is this secrecy?

I did my best Nancy Drewing and was met with, “Duh Mom, he was at my birthday party and we played basketball every day at lunch.” Clearly in the world of mini-men, that is all it takes to catapult one into BFF status. (Just another way life is easier for the male species.) But the real issue is, why did he withhold this information from his beloved Smother?

I’m not a sleepover fan. They make me nervous and kick my doom and gloom anxiety into overdrive. Because of this, to date; we’ve had one…just one, sleepover…and we knew those people pretty well and I was still nervous. We did meet Richard’s father and Richard’s dog when they dropped him off at Number One’s B-day, and while he seemed like a nice enough guy with a seemingly well-behaved K-9, I had some reservations. In hindsight, I probably should not have shared those reservations with the kid though.

“I don’t know Number One, I don’t think you can stay over. We don’t know these people.”

“Mom, it will be fine. They’re nice.”

“You don’t know that. What if they have a gun in the house? Or worse, what if they have an entire semi-automatic arsenal and shooting range in their basement. This is Indiana, you know.”

“You always say that Mom. I’m sure they don’t.”

“You say that now but you won’t be saying that when you come home with a hand shot off.”

*massive 8 year old eyeroll* “MOM!”

“Ok, then what if they are Trump supporters? You know, you are a half-breed and those Trumpagogs don’t take kindly to one-half of your people. This is Indiana, you know.”

“There was only one kid in our class who liked Trump and it wasn’t Richard. I choose smart friends Mom.” (Right on Number One.)

“Well, it’s a rough time for Turks right now and maybe these people are undercover operatives working for Erdogan planning to take you hostage under the suspicion of being a Gulenist, and they will then extradite you back to your birth place where you will be subjected to life in prison with no chance of a fair trail. Did you ever think of that?”

“Was that even English Mom? You watch too much Turkish news.”

Eventually, I put the discussion on hold with the whole, “Let’s see what Baba says.” Knowing the Turk’s overprotective tendencies, I figured I was safe. But no. Instead he told Number One – “Maybe. We think about it.”

Nooooo! Why ya gotta do me like that Turk?

After putting the kid off as long as we could, my crazy won the Turk over and we said “no” as a united force. (I’m pretty sure it was the Turkish operative thing.) We did compromise and let him stay at the party until 9:00 and Number One, who is a rabid homebody, was secretly ok with it in the end.

But then there was the girl. There is an awesome little broad who was in Number One’s class last year and happens to live across the neighborhood. Every so often she pops over on her scooter and wants to play. But she doesn’t want to play dumb stuff, she wants to have water gun battles, or shoot hoops or play Star Wars. She’s the kind of girl who gets hurt and lets the blood run without a tear shed, because she damn sure isn’t going to get left behind. She’s badass and this week she popped by.

Normally, Number One plays for 5 minutes and gives the brush off, but not this time. This time he was enthralled and when she started breaking out obscure Star Wars facts, I saw him blush. BLUSH! Aw hells no kid. I mean, big picture –- yes, this is the exact kind of girl I will be choosing for him as a life partner in 20 years so I guess it’s good to see he’s on the right path…but now? Really? No. Just no. There will be no love interests at age 8.

I do love that badass little chick but I’m not above starting a smear campaign to keep my little boys hanging on to the apron strings. My Beverly Goldberg hand is strong and I intend to keep my little pookies all mine for as long as possible…at least until they’re old enough to hold lucrative employment. Then I’ll charge rent but my boys can stay as long as they like! (Apologies to my future daughters-in-law but these boys are mama’s boys for the long haul.)

If You Need Me, I’ll Be In My Iron Lung

CDC Iron Lung “You should’ve come in sooner.” This is what my doctor said as I wheezed into her stethoscope. “You really need to work on your self-care.” I tried to argue my case to the petite little flower I call my primary care physician, explaining that due to my possession of the same metabolism as those in the sloth family, I eat pretty healthy and do exercise. (For reals, it’s bad. One lapse and I could totally be the next contestant on My 600 Pound Life.) I thought I was doing pretty good at self-care.

“That’s not the kind of self-care I’m talking about.” She corrected. “If this was one of your kids with these symptoms you would’ve had them in here last week. Why did you wait so long for yourself?” Ah yes, petite little flower, you know me well.

I’ve never been great at putting my needs before those of my family but once the crap hit the fan with Nugget’s health last summer, I definitely lost any grip I might have on self-care. (Though I really think it should be called something else. Self-care sounds kind of dirty and it makes me think of weird things like Gwyneth Paltrow’s promotion of vagina steaming.) I blame my deeply-rooted lapsed Catholicism for my self-inflicted martyrdom. It’s one thing to believe your kids need you, but it’s another when you actually do serve as your kid’s primary language interpreter thus allowing him to communicate with the rest of the world in addition to being his advocate and protector. Between the whole deaf thing, the apraxia of speech and Nugget’s bum kidney, my mama bear genes have been in hyper-drive for about three years so it’s no surprise the crap had to hit the fan eventually.

I’m well aware of the adage; “You can’t take care of them if you don’t take care of you.” But let’s be honest, anyone who has been on the frontlines of a full familial bout of the stomach flu knows that is just crap. Moms don’t get to be sick and that’s that…until mom loses something important like a limb, heart function or the ability to breathe. That’s what happened to me this week and landed me in the ER for one of the very few times in my life.

I’ve had asthma for over 20 years and it’s usually pretty maintained but every few years I need to wheel out the old iron lung and take up residency for a bit. It’s been about four years since I’ve been hit hard so I was feeling cocky. A few weeks ago Wheezy started to rear her ugly head and just kept getting worse so after hitting the inhaler like a crack-pipe (Is that a thing still or is crack whack now and I’m showing my age?) for a week, I decided I might need to see the doctor. However, when I did, my doctor determined it wasn’t my asthma but instead it was my heart.

When your father drops dead of a heart issue at 37, every doctor you see for the rest of your life will panic at the first sign of chest pains. I’m aware of this but this time around the mere suggestion of my heart failing me sent me into a tailspin. I mean I was weak and fatigued, had massive chest pains on the left side, was short of breath and at my age, Web MD as well as my real MD said it could go either way – asthma or heart failure. It was enough to send this old girl reeling. What if I really was like my dad this time? Who would take care of my babies? Oh dear God don’t make me leave them with the Turk!

My doctor ran a couple tests and sent me for more and while I awaited results, I began mentally writing my will, lamenting the fact I have no quality possessions to bequeath and getting pissed that Brexit just tanked any investments I might have left my beloveds. (Stupid stock market wussies.) Being a planner, I determined I wanted Elvis Costello played at my funeral and decided I should go shopping as the Turk really couldn’t be trusted to pick out a stylish yet flattering ensemble for my internment. Just as I was about to start Googling a replacement wife for the Turk (I love that man but God knows he cannot handle things on his own.) things took a turn and this very stubborn woman determined it might be time for an ER run.

Fortunately, my potential demise coincided with the same time grandma got off work so I didn’t have to schlep my offspring with me to the ER but I did make the Turk go – just in case I died behind the wheel. I’d hate to be responsible for a 40 car pile-up on my way to meet St. Peter.

20 minutes and a flurry of activity later, I was getting a rush of IV roids and a breathing treatment that left me feeling like what I imagine a heroine junkie feels like after a fix. I had been so short of air for so many days; I forgot the simple euphoria of oxygen. Three hours later they determined it wasn’t my heart, “just asthma” – though as anyone with asthma will tell you, saying “just asthma” is moronic as it’s like saying, “oh, it wasn’t anything big, just an inability to perform a task essential to sustaining life.”

I was home for bedtime with an armload of drugs and strict instructions to take it easy. So I’ve spent the last two days lounging about (as much as one can with a Nugget and family of Turks to care for), sucking on a breathing machine like it’s a hash pipe and popping ‘roids while warning my family, “Keep Mommy calm or she’ll get roid-rage!” I’ve also promised my family I would attend to my health before the Grim Reaper stops off for a cocktail again. But in the meantime, if you see a good price for an Iron Lung on Amazon, let me know. It looks like I might be due for an upgrade.

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I Found Dory…Kind Of…

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That little orange hellcat Nemo, is like a rock icon in the birth defects world. (Yes, that is a thing.) He’s the mascot for a variety of groups because what better point of reference for a one-eared Microtian (like my Nugget) or a kid with a limb difference than a sassy orange whippersnapper. For kids like mine, Nemo is the man…or the fish…I guess.

With Finding Dory hitting the big screens, it’s good to have that little finned wonder back in full force when Nugget is old enough to be targeted by the typically outlandish marketing campaign. I assumed we’d see Dory eventually, likely at home because convincing Nugget to sit through an entire movie in a quiet theatre is basically akin to overseeing union negations with a bunch of drunken longshoremen. But a few days ago in a moment of weakness, I loaded up my tiny Turks and hit a morning matinee.

What prompted such madness? Heat stroke? Hormonal imbalance? Sign language threats from a knee-high Nugget? While all could be viable options, it was none of those. Rather, in my numerous special needs parenting groups, again and again posts touted that every parent of a special needs kid needs, nay, must, see Finding Dory. Now, special needs parents are not “must” kind of people. Unlike those broads on the frontline of the Mommy Wars (which I’m pretty sure didn’t exist before Facebook and might I add – girls, this crap really needs to end.) special needs parents never tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your kid, but rather we’re more “hey, anything is worth a try” kind of people. So these recommendations held weight.

Over the past couple weeks, Nugs and I have been butting heads like a couple of mountain goats. (Goats or rams? No clue, but you get the point.) And while I attribute much of this to turning three in a month, it’s a lot more than that. We’re out of sync. So under the guise of “hey, anything is worth a try,” I hoped that finding that crazy Dory might give me some guidance. (Desperate times my friends, desperate times.)

Nugget’s been rough lately for a few reasons. For one, having a super-talkative big brother (who never shuts up) home all summer makes Nugget want to talk…which is awesome…but thanks to his apraxia of speech, he can only say vowels with the rare odd consonant. He’ll address me with phrases like, “Ay un a o ou a oo.” If I don’t immediately translate his drunken ramblings into Standard English he slaps his head and yells, “Ugh!” If I ask him to sign it, he yells, “O om!” (no Mom) while stomping off muttering “arggggg.” It’s like living with Charlie Brown. (And full disclosure, I’ve always had Lucy tendencies. The kid better not try to kick a football…)

We’ve always battled frustration meltdowns that happen when he misunderstands situations due to his hearing loss but now, since he thinks he’s talking (I guess he can’t hear the missing sounds?) he doesn’t want to sign, so no one understands him. Add to this his genetic combo of two hotheaded ethnicities and he’s become as aggressive as a linebacker with roid rage. Just to push me a bit further, he’s also developed a new love of the spontaneous nudist life (People, things have occurred in recent days that will likely take years of therapy to erase from my memory…one word…poop.). So even Dory was worth a shot. 

Five minutes into previews, Nugget said he was done and wanted to go. (Hey kid, I just shucked out 30 bucks for tickets and we are staying at least through the opening credits!) As any good (read- cheap ass) mother does, I began pulling a small grocery store’s inventory out of my “purse” in the hopes of feeding him into complacency. That bought me ten minutes until he screamed, “air uus ox?” (Where’s my juice box?) Unfortunately, an usher was unexpectedly fluent in drunken vowel speak and immediately got all up in my business. I had no choice but to hit concessions and buy a $50 box of M&Ms.

The rest of the movie was a combo of wrestling, walking up and down the stairs (again and again and again) and watching from the entrance but at least we made it to the closing credits. And while Dory didn’t solve all my problems as I’d hoped, I did walk away with three bits of knowledge.

  1. I’m never taking this kid to a movie ever again. Ever. Never.
  2. It’s really hard to fix a hearing aid in a dark theatre, especially after it has been flung down the aisle by an angry child.
  3. The groups were right – special needs parents really do need to see this movie.

Dory’s parents wanted to shield her from the world because she was born with something that was going to make life difficult for her, much more difficult than for other fish. The same is true for parents of kids born with special needs. We parents know how hard life is and how much harder is it going to be for our special little guys. Once her parents realized they couldn’t hide Dory away, just like the rest of us, Dory’s parents armed her with ways to adapt and hoped for the best. It’s the same for Nugget. I’d do anything to make his journey easier but sometimes the best I can do is arm him with tools to make his own way. I think right now we’re just stuck in a phase of tool development and he’s testing the waters in preparation for finding his own way when school starts.

I’ve thought a lot about that damn blue fish over the past days and I must say, it helps. Not quite as much as that glass of wine after he finally goes to sleep, but the movie did make things more clear. If for no other reason, it reminded us both to “just keep swimming.”

 

 

Hold On America, Mom’s Comin’…

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Here in Indiana, the land of Hoosiers (And no, even after 3.5 years I still don’t know what the hell a Hoosier is and why these people have hung on to the moniker.) the political scene has been, well, there has actually been a political scene for once. Usually the presidential primary race is determined before the Hoosiers get a chance for input but this year being the gigantic cluster duck that it is, Hoosiers had a say yesterday. While I was elated to have a break in the nonstop bore-ass coverage of the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500 (Seriously, if you hate car racing as I do, May is rough here.) I must say that if I see one more nasty, spiteful, crap-filled political ad, Mama’s gonna blow.

I’m sure most of my Stateside readers have suffered through most of the same ads, with the exception of incessent references to Hoosier Sensibility.(Something I see in the general populous but has yet to be demonstrated by their elected officials. I’m lookin’ at you Governor.) And while a few of the ads were tolerable, the rest resembled a third grade playground smack down. (Sorry third graders, I know you’re more mature than that but you get my point right?) All of this got me thinking, do you know what kind of president America really needs? America  needs an old, hard-assed mom for prez. Who better to whip this country into shape? Moms multitask 24/7, negotiate with hostile parties hourly, placate stubborn dictators daily, and solve monumental problems maintaining tight budgets on the reg. Many African nations have figured out that electing moms is the answer, so get on it America.

So as of today I am officially launching an inquest into my presidential run as a mom-centric third party candidate. (PS- that 3rd party will be called the Wine Party. It opens a treasure trove of wine/whine wordplay ad options.) America, I get it. You need me.

Years ago I threw my hat into the ring for VP on the Ronn Paul ticket but was wholly disregarded. (And yes, my bitterness remains.) Prior to the white smoke confirming Pope Fran, I also lobbied to become replacement Pope but was denied. (The Vatican said something about me having lady parts and being a heathen ruled me out. Whatevs.) But third time’s a charm, right? Before you all rush out for yard signs, I need to do a little background cleansing and issue a few payoffs. I’m pretty sure Chris Christie can guide me through the process. (Plus we share the chub card and chubs help chubs.) Once I’ve fully expunged the early 90’s I’ll be ready to roll.

As we are at the inception of my campaign, I’ve only begun to hash out the details of my platform but here are some of my top plans:

On Immigration: I’m not a jackass with absolutely no understanding of the US immigration system who believes mass deportation is a moral and ethical option. However, I am going to implement mass deportation of the Stupid by Choice. Those who are offended by the innocuous (I’m looking at you red Starbucks cups people.) as well as the woman now bringing a $5 million lawsuit against Starbucks for putting ice in her iced coffee, will top my list. It’s time to make America intelligent again (Or at the very least, let’s make America C students again.).

On World Policy: Like my potential opponents, I am also highly concerned with world affairs. (Let me clarify, like a couple of my potential opponents. There is at least one who is “uuuugely” clueless about world affairs.) After sending my secret team of CIA moms to bump off a few leaders who must go, (No one would suspect murder by mom and Lord knows moms can handle it.) I will then eliminate ISIS by assembling the Legion of Badassery. The Legion of Badassery will be led by the Turkish mafia backed-up by members of other Eastern European crime families. ISIS has nothing on these dudes. Thanks to my years in Turkey, I’ve got connections. You’re welcome world.

Pay Inequality: (Excuse me while I play my woman card.)  I will take care of the gender-based pay gap by issuing all women a 27% pay increase to make up for the difference. Any male business owner who does not comply will be sentenced to 9 months of wearing a pregnancy simulator, while driving a filthy mini-van full of tired toddlers and hormonal adolescents after a full work day. That should solve that. On a related note, any male politician who takes it upon himself to write legislation pertaining to any component of women’s health will likewise be sentenced to 40 years of wearing a menstrual cramp simulator for one week each month. During that week there will be no sick days accepted and they will be commuting in the above mentioned mini van. (40 years jackasses, think about it.)

In addition I will bring diversity to the White House with my Muslim-born First Man, my foreign born First Midget and my hard of hearing First Nugget. These past weeks of political overload have moved me. America, I’m here for you. I mean… as long as I can get some big money behind me to fund my run. Super Pacs, you know where to find me- on the playground, at the bottom of the swirly slide.

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RETREAT! RETREAT! (FYI- It doesn’t mean run away to the devout)

 

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The end is near in the great Let’s Catholicize My Kid adventure. First Communion is only a couple weeks away and in honor of the life-changing event, we had to spend the first beautiful Saturday of the year stuck in a First Communion Retreat last weekend. When I hear the word retreat my mind immediately conjures black and white images of men climbing out of trenches as John Wayne screams “RETREAT! RETREAT!” But as I learned, that’s not how the pious view the word. (I also learned running away from the church with arms flailing shouting “RETREAT!”  is frowned upon.)

Back in the 80s, Catholics didn’t do retreats. That was something best left to the Methodists but it seems in my absence, Catholics have decided to go full-boar into Retreating. In 2nd grade alone we’ve had two: one for Confession (Which we skipped due to my moral opposition to the practice. Like my dad used to say, why make a conference call when you’ve got a direct line at home.) and one for Communion. Due to the afore mentioned skippage and the falsities I may or may not have propagated justifying our absence, we needed to attend the Communion Retreat or risk being outted as the heathens we are. So at 8:00 on Saturday morning, mere hours before 13 children were to descend upon my home for a free-range birthday party, Number 1 and I slid into the back pew and prepared to Retreat.

Last week , I mentioned to my mom that I worried Number 1 Son wasn’t doing any actual First Communion preparation during the Catechism class I’d been hauling him to every Monday for the past year. How did I know this? Because in the past month alone he’d brought home approximately 4,782 Jesus-themed, shoddily-constructed arts and crafts projects and had no idea why there was wine involved with communion. (How is he even my child? Even at 8 I knew all about the wine, then again, I’d just read The Thornbirds so maybe I was advanced.)

In 1980, when I did First Communion, we spent a year preparing with Sister Nora standing over us, ruler in hand, making certain we had things down. We practiced with saltines and grape juice, rehearsed the procession like a drill team and knew every prayer Father was going to utter during the course of mass even before he got to them. Sister Nora had no time for Jesus-themed arts and crafts, souls were on the line damn it! In the weeks leading up to the big dance, the pressure was on as were weekly rehearsals.

“Do not drop it! If you drop it, you are dropping Jesus.”

“Sip the wine, don’t gulp. You are Communicants not drunkards.”

“Genuflect! We genuflect, we do not squat!”

“Kneel up! No butts on the pews children. Butts up for Jesus.”

By the time that organ blared on a crisp April Sunday, we were a well-oiled religious machine. That does not seem to be the case for Number 1’s class and so we Retreated.

The first hour was an intensive, Priest-led cram session, going over everything from the whats and whens to the hows and whys. I quelled the urge to point out that perhaps if the Jesus-themed crafts were taken down a notch, this curriculum could’ve been covered in Catechism. According to the mutterings of the other 90 parents in my general vicinity, I was not alone in that thought.

As Father wrapped up with what I now realize must be standard First Communion wine instruction, “Sip, don’t chug” we were sent off into groups for an entire hour of rotating through…you guessed it…Jesus-themed arts and crafts!!!!! (For the love of God people, what is this madness? Is there a Jesus-craft discount center nearby?) Our first task, glazing a ceramic communion chalice, wasn’t too bad with the exception of the mother on my right reminding her 8 year-old daughter, “Make sure you do a good job on this, we’ll be using this at your wedding.” WHAT?!?! No pressure kid, no pressure. I just wanted my kid to get paint on the chalice in addition to his shirt. I guess if I’m going to Retreat, I need to up my expectations.

Unfortunately as we moved to the next rotation, Number 1 Son was done. Why? Because even with the power of Jesus in your arts and crafts, no 8-year-old boy is down with playing Martha Stewart for an hour. As I observed a room of 45 parents crafting and 45 kids wandering aimlessly, it seemed the feeling was mutual.

While Retreating didn’t give me a full change of heart on this Catholic madness, I did feel a twitter of joy in the cultural significance of it all. It’s a good feeling to pass something down to your kids that was an important part of your own childhood; even if you’re not so sure you buy into it anymore. Maybe that’s what Retreating is all about.

Pulling out of church, I relished the fact that I wouldn’t have to Retreat again for 5 years when it’s Nugget’s turn. Right now, Nugget doesn’t need organized religion, his soul is in a holding pattern. But then, Nugget, the child who has been raised in a heathen household, has about 3 words in his spoken vocabulary and has attended church exactly once -at his baptism- changed that opinion. He was sorting through various Catholic paraphernalia we’d amassed that morning, stopped on a postage-stamp sized painting and said “Hi Esus.” The Turk and I shared a wide-eyed Scooby to Shaggy look while mouthing, “Did he just say Hi Jesus? How does he even know who that is?”

He went on to say it again and again and again. Perhaps the Catholic force is strong in that one and maybe 30 years from now, 90 parents will be reluctantly Retreating with a half-deaf, half Turkish, Father Nugget. Even a terribly lapsed Catholic mother would be proud of that.

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The Heathen Has An Easter Epiphany

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Ah, Easter. As practicing heathens it’s not really that exciting for us, (though you won’t catch either of us passing up the chance to decapitate a chocolate bunny). We don’t go to mass because I’d hate to have my skin catch fire from the holy water in front of all those poor, innocent, kids just waiting to have their Easter baskets blessed. We don’t go to egg hunts because Nugget is such a tyrant right now that we can’t afford the lawsuits he’d likely generate unleashed upon the toddler masses. We’ll hide a few plastic eggs in the yard that we will continue to find until August, stuff some baskets and have our annual Turkish/American cultural confusion chat about how an egg laying bunny ties in with that whole Jesus on the cross scenario. (It’s been nine years and I still haven’t mastered an explanation deemed suitable. Did Lucy and Ricky have the same struggle?)

Though we tend to keep Easter pretty low-key, thanks to my occasional practice of lapsed Catholicism and the Midget’s post-Catechism questions I have been able to keep one foot in the Lenten guilt pool and thanks to all that guilt, I had an Easter Epiphany this week and it had absolutely nothing to do with egg laying bunnies. (Though I do deserve a few medicinal Cadbury Eggs for the stress.)

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, (Here it is in case you missed it.) Nugget started a preschool program at the deaf school. The goal was to boost his ASL, get him familiar with the deaf and hard of hearing culture and give this tired old lady a break. Three hours, two days a week, that was it. It didn’t start well but due to my Irish/Catholic genetic make-up, I was certain that tough love was all he needed to find his way.

School days played out like this: I’d drop him off. He’d scream bloody murder. I’d depart, blowing kisses and promising to return soon while frantically signing I’m so sorry to his teachers. Then I’d sit in my car until my stomach lining had eaten itself from guilt before heading off.

I’ve spent most of my life working with kids and I know it is a rare unicorn that does not freak out when first dropped at preschool. I also know that most kids calm down after a belief distraction or in particularly bad cases, after an hour. However, upon my return (every damn time) Nugget’s face was tear-stained, he was sniffling and he would hug me like I’d just returned from war rather than from the Starbucks on the corner. Through  signed conversations with his teachers (parts of which I’m sure I didn’t catch) I learned he’d cried the entire time. They reassured me that in time he would grow accustomed but by week three I wasn’t buying it.

At home he stopped working on his speech. Before he started preschool he had about a dozen word approximations, all vowels and only translatable by me or one fluent in drunken mumbling by toothless vowel speakers, but compared to where he’d started, it was huge. He’d again grown ridiculously attached, like after his kidney surgery. He was so bad that my attempts to pee alone would send him into a fit of terror. On school mornings he would sign, don’t want to go to school over and over and as soon as we pulled onto school grounds he would have a toddler-sized panic attack, hyperventilating and all.

After each drop off the Turk would call and ask me if it had gone better and with each, “Hells no,” he’d tell me to give up. Turks don’t like to cause their babies any undue stress or pain. (They don’t feel the same towards adults. Ask my mother-in-law.)

Last week when I left I had that feeling mothers get when they know something isn’t right. Carol Brady called it “women’s intuition.” I call it, “crap, I screwed up.” It felt like we might be doing more harm than good. I did some Googling, because that’s how I roll at this parenting game, did some thinking, called everyone whose opinion matters and let it simmer.

The Irish/Catholic mother in me wanted him to suck it up. The teacher in me worried he was manipulating me because what’s more fun, going to school or cruising the aisles of Trader Joe’s with mom? The tired old mom in me hated to see her tiny break go and the special needs mom in me realized this was a situation requiring an entirely different examination.

I’m pretty new to this special needs parent thing and it seems to get more complicated the older they get. I learned this week that parenting a special needs kid is pretty much like starting all over again. All those things I learned about momming the first time around, don’t necessarily apply. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t and it’s trying to figure that out that is responsible for my increased frequency of visits with Miss Clairol to cover my ever-spreading gray.

Through my fog of guilt and torment, I realized there are lots of things to take into consideration with my Nug that I didn’t have to with his brother. Like the fact that his chronological age and developmental age aren’t necessarily the same and that his medical past has a huge effect on his anxiety and that sensory issues are real. (Even though I always thought they were just a wuss-out.) Most of all, I learned sometimes boundaries aren’t meant to be pushed and I think that’s what Nugget was trying to tell me.

So we’re taking a break. I’d never have done it with his brother and I’d never recommend it as a teacher. But my Easter Epiphany taught me that being a special needs parent means knowing your kid and making decisions that work just for him reguardless if those decisions fly in the face of traditional theory. My Easter Epiphany also taught me that no one is more valuable in these situations than other special needs parents because you really can’t understand unless you’ve been there.

Is this the right decision?  Who knows, but my gut thinks so and Nugget seems to agree.  That’s the other thing I’m learning about special needs parenting, much like all parenting – it’s a crapshoot, so kiss the dice and let it roll. (Meanwhile I’ll be snarfing down chocolate eggs while I wait to see what happens.)

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Four-Eyes? Nah Girl, They Call Me Six-Eyes.

In honor of hitting the big 4-4 this week, I’ve chosen to reveal my most recent age related humiliation. I have several but thankfully they have yet to include false teeth falling out at dinner or adult diapers. I’m old, but I’m not that old.

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Way back in Ms. Fox’s 7th grade science class (She was the first Ms. teacher I ever experienced and since feminism hadn’t reached rural Iowa yet I didn’t understand why she didn’t just go with Miss. I get it now Ms. Fox – good on you sister.) Anywhooo, after copying a series of particularly boring notes on cell division from the board, I glanced at my lab partner’s paper only to realize that what I’d interpreted as miscellaneous squiggles (Because isn’t that what any cell diagram really is – squiggles?) were actually words. Troubled by this development, I approached my mother who’d been wearing glasses since about birth, and said, “I think I might need glasses.”

As luck would have it I did and after much deliberation I picked out a pair of horn-rimmed glasses just like Bailey’s from WKRP in Cincinatti. (If you’re under 40, Google her. She was awesome.) Bailey with her nerdy, brainiac look and early 80’s G-rated sarcasm was my idol and I was elated to take my adoration to the emulation level. But I soon realized that glasses suck. In the winter they fog up. In the summer they slide down your nose. You can’t wear trendy sunglasses and when you sit on them and break them, your parents want to set you on fire. (They didn’t actually Joan of Arc me, but the fear was real.)

Fortunately, I learned to survive using my glasses only in class for many, many years. Then somewhere in my 30’s I needed them for the computer and eventually to drive at night but mostly I got by without them for close to 20 years. With both of my pregnancies everything shifted – and though the neck down shifting was less than desirable, the neck up shifting gave me stellar vision. Both times I didn’t need my glasses until three or four months after giving birth when things re-shifted. But this last time around, oh baby did things shift in a bad way.

Since I was old when I had the Nugget, by the time my vision shifted back to what I thought was normal I was almost 42 and when I went in for a new prescription I heard the dreaded B-word – bifocal. How could I have an infant and need bifocals? Mother nature you are a cruel hussy. But faced with the choice between squinting 24/7 like Mama June Booboo or wearing b…b…bifocals, I accepted the latter. The doughboy who fit my new frames assured me that with progressives no one would ever guess I was wearing b…b…bifocals. But what he didn’t explain was that I wouldn’t be able to see out of them either.

After mulitpule refittings they decided to check my prescription. When I said, “I can’t see out of them. I’m 42 and I can’t see 20 feet away. I think that’s the problem.” The rather surly woman replied, “Well, at your age eyes change.”

Of course eyes change you bimbo, isn’t that what glasses are for?

Fast forward a year – In a fit of desperation I decided to go online and MacGyver my own prescription by mixing a few old ones. A few online tutorials, some measuring and $24.99 later I received a pair of glasses in my mailbox that changed my life. I saw clearly for the first time in two years. Sure, I had a giant granny-line in the middle of my lens that said, “Look at me, I’m old!” but with the vision I had, I didn’t care. I realized that if I wore them all the time, I saw even better so I ordered three more pairs and officially shifted my love from shoes to glasses.

But  a few months ago, everything shifted again. I wasn’t able to count the feathers on the bird three streets over any more. No matter how many times I nodded my head up and down I couldn’t get anything to sharpen. There was only one answer; I was going blind. I didn’t want worry the Turk that he was doomed to a life of leading me around so I had Number One Son read all tiny print and hoped for the best when driving.

As things got worse I braced myself for my impending fate. Outside I waved farewell to the trees and birds. I stared lovingly at my children’s faces hoping to emblazon them into my memory. I saved countless audio books for when I could no longer survive with even the geriatric large print and then, I sucked it up and made an appointment with a new eye doctor to hear the bad news.

My new eye doctor was 12, but maybe bad news feels better if delivered by Doogie Houser? After a thorough exam and his proclamations of utter amazement at my ability to MacGyver my own prescription, he broke the news. “Sometimes, after a late in life pregnancy and nursing things continue to adjust for quite some time. That’s what you’re experiencing.” I gripped the edges of the chair waiting for him to lower the boom and tell me where to buy my white cane. “I do need to tweak your prescription, but  overall, you just need to use eye drops. Your eyes are too dry and that’s what changing your vision.”

Huh? Eye drops? Well how ‘bout that.

He sent me home with a sample and within hours, I was back to counting the dust spots on my neighbor’s chandelier through my MacGyvered prescription. (The man really should put up some blinds.)

My new glasses should arrive Friday but I don’t feel like I really need them. I mean, I did just put an end to degenerative blindness with a couple drops of Visine, I’m good. If only there was a drop of something for an overactive imagination…cb4979f7db9a0d5b065102cee9a226bf