Mama Don’t Need No Tribe

high priestess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If I try, “Let’s write together.”

I get, “No. I can’t.”

It’s killing my old teacher heart.

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

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

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

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

Go to school – hissy fit.

Go to anything for his brother– hissy fit.

Grandma shows up – hissy fit.

Grandma leaves – hissy fit.

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

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

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

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

“No.” The Turk replied.

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Arrrrrrgggg, Fall Break, How Dare Ye!

Blackbeard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mom, I need a hooker for Hawoween.”

“Hubba whaaaaaa?”

“I hooker. I need one.”

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

“You need a what?”

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

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

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

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

Can I Order a Sister-Wife On Amazon?

hilda 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Birthday Clock Never Stops…

apple watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ya’ll Need Some Science Up In Here

science

In my 15 years  plus year of teaching, I’ve taught art, theatre, English, ESL, writing and a few other related subjects administrators threw my way. But now this ol’ grammar gal is teaching science. And while it has required pulling up some knowledge from the deepest recesses of my frontal lobe that I have not accessed since college in the early 90’s and provided my hippocampus with some marathon-caliber workouts (not to mention teaching me all these fancy new words) I absolutely love it. Somewhere between explaining cellular respiration to a room of stinky, middle schoolers and prepping microscope slides on my kitchen table, I realized I should’ve been a science teacher all along.

In my classes we grow things, we build things and we take things apart and make them into something new. We make huge messes, shoot things from catapults and blow things up. We have class in the woods and stomp through streams. We form questions, sometimes strange and ridiculous questions, and then we test for the answer. It’s freakin’ awesome! All those years I sat perched on a desk discussing character motivations and surmising the story after the story, I had no idea there was so much fun happening in science class. Had I known there was a job that condoned using warning labels as mere suggestion, I’d have been on it from day one.

So why did it take me 15 years in the ed biz to figure this out? Do I really have that little self-awareness? Perhaps. But I think the real blame goes to the teachers that shaped me back in the day.

27 years ago, my high school in rural Iowa boasted a whopping 99 in its graduating class, (That total is not inclusive of those classmates who were knocked up at graduation and there was more than one…). I’m quite certain the majority of the school’s educators thought pedagogy was a either dessert from Poland or a something from page 432 of the Kama Sutra. If you didn’t stand out as a stellar scholar bound for one of the three state schools by 8th grade, you were lumped into Category 2 – a direct ticket to community college or trade school at best. Even though I was a kid with learning issues, I loved science and had big dreams of life in a lab until I met Algebra. After repeatedly coming up empty-handed in my search for X, I was awarded the Category 2 badge. While being a card-carrying member of Category 2 kept the academic expectations low resulting in far more time for my excessive extra-circulars, it took a lot more fight to get out.

Though I had the label, I didn’t see myself as a Category 2er, so even though it wasn’t sanctioned, I started the college process on my own. When I proclaimed my ardent desire to get the hell out of Iowa and head to the East Coast where I would fulfill my destiny of greatness, the school’s lone guidance counselor replied, “Oh honey, you’re not smart enough for college.”

That guidance counselor had also provided guidance for my parents 20 years prior where they too had been put into Category 2 along with numerous aunts and uncles as well as my older brother. We were a long line of Category 2s. When she regained her composure and stopped laughing, she provided me with a brochure from the nearby community college and suggested I look into their Ag Management program. “You’ve a perfect candidate for the 6 week program in Hog Confinement Management.”

From beneath my sky-high bangs and through a foggy haze of residual Aqua-net my mouth dropped open. I fancied myself to be a Midwestern Molly Ringwald, and hoped to meet up with the rest of the Brat Pack as soon as I got to the East Coast for college.

“Hog Confinement Management? Are you kidding? Do I look like I do hogs?”  I probably brushed back a strand of crispy, permed hair to punctuate my point.

“Oh dear, you’ve got so much to learn.”

On that point she was right. I did have a lot to learn and once I started learning, I never wanted to stop. I did get into college and I went on to get more than a couple degrees. However, none of them were in science because though I’d proven myself to be above a Category 2, the label was still there reminding me I wasn’t smart enough for a career in science.

But with time and especially with old age, things change and sometimes people see something in you you never saw in yourself- like a science teacher where an English teacher had always been. When I started refreshing my brain and revisiting ideas like phototropism and cell division, my passion for science was reignited and by the time I had a classroom of kids searching for cell walls under microscopes and using my nerdy rhymes to differentiate the xylem from the phloem, I realized I was more than capable. Who knew I had the potential to be a chubbier, cooler Bill Nye for the modern age?

Ironically, I teach science to kids that would easily be labeled Category 2. Many of my students are on the Autism spectrum and others are figuring out how to learn with executive function issues, dyslexia and ADHD. Some struggle to understand the material while others understand perfectly but struggle to get their thoughts out of their brain. Regardless of their diagnoses, I think they are all amazing. Never in a million years would I label one of these awesome kids and let them think they were not smart enough to follow their passions. That’s not my job. That is not any teacher’s job. My job is to give them a love of learning, ignite in them a passion for science and most of all, help them believe in themselves. 

Coming back into the scientific realm I’ve seen a lot of changes. Unlike 30 years ago, while science knows more, society trusts less and it’s a dangerous combination. Science education has never been more important that it is right now and I’m so crazy jazzed to be a part of this. The world we’re living in right now needs more scientists and science needs more people that see the world differently. (And man, I’ve got classes full of those!)

Maybe one of my hyper focused autistic kids holds the key to stopping climate change or perhaps I’m turning a kid on to plants that will become a botanist on the first Martian colony (seriously, I think I have that guy in 3rd period). What if the kid that struggles with writing sentences has the potential to master gene splicing to end a deadly disease? But instead of someone helping him, they labeled him as Category 2 and he gave up. Not on my watch. I’m pretty sure that in this era Category 2s will be the ones who will save the day. Watch out world, here we come. (Just as soon as we figure out where in the hell to find X in an algebraic equation….)

 

*In the next episode I’ll tell you all about trying to look cool at the Science Teacher’s Convention and rallying the troops for the upcoming March For Science. I’m all in baby!

Hells Yeah, It’s Thanksgiving Gurl!

turkey-riding

The time is upon us again and my heart, with her arteries prepared to clog within days, is all a twitter. Why? Because, my friends, it is nearly Thanksgiving the most wonderful time of the year.

I’ve always had a solid love of Thanksgiving (not really that odd for a fat kid) and that love has only grown stronger with age. During our years living in Turkey, I deemed November the “Month of Which We Do Not Speak” and would refer to the month only by it’s Turkish name, Kasim, so I would not be reminded of what I’d lost. (On more than one occasion post-repatriation, I have legitimately been asked how the Turks celebrate Thanksgiving so I feel like I should issue a little reminder that while there is a Thanksgiving turkey, there is no Thanksgiving in Turkey. I’ll just leave that there. No need to admit if you had to think about it. I judge silently.)

While many people get the tingles at the mere mention of Christmas, I do not. I’m not a fan of the Holly Jolly. Christmas is hectic and expensive. There is always high drama and high expectations and quite frankly, ain’t nobody got time for that. The Turkish version of Christmas happens on December 31st and includes a skinny dude with a ‘stache called Baba Noel delivering, one – just one- gift to ring in the new year. None of this 3-month lead up, no stores blaring Christmas music from the first of October and they give you a whole extra prep week. I’ve lobbied for this approach in America with no takers. (America, considering our current plague of obesity, would it be so bad to have a chain-smoking, trim Santa as a role model?)

No, Thanksgiving is my jam. Last year Thanksgiving came after a dismal autumn that included Nugget’s kidney reconstruction, copious visits to get his hearing aid fitted, his Apraxia diagnosis and our introduction to learning ASL. Mama was playing stay-at-home mom so funds were tight and I was weighing my options for pole-dancing as a means to provide Christmas. It was not our finest November and even Thanksgiving couldn’t bring me around.

But this year…this family is in fighting form! Mama’s back to work in a job that does not include dancing or poles, (Yes society, your collective sigh of relief is audible.) Nugget’s kidney is pumping like new. And though he has a love/hate relationship with it, his hearing aid has been a game changer for his speech and while he still uses ASL to communicate on the reg, he also never shuts up. (Though I can only decipher about 50%, in his mind he’s fluent and has gone so far as to begin adding in some Turkish which isn’t all that helpful but amazing all the same.) This year Thanksgiving, it is GAME ON.

I made my menu last Friday and had 90% of my food shopping done by Saturday morning (and booze…of course I already bought the booze.) On Sunday, I began the great turkey thaw of ’16 so I can brine that bird on Tuesday. Monday I sent the Turk (who took the week off to use up some vacation time with the intention of winterizing our world, but instead became my Girl Friday…or I guess that would be my Turk Friday.) all over the city in search of missing ingredients. Before you feel too bad for the Turk, know that while he’s relatively new to this whole Thanksgiving thing, he is a Black Friday junkie and he spent much of Sunday laying out his own plan of attack for the wee hours of Friday morning.

Tuesday as I lovingly rub Lonna, (That’s this year’s bird. I find I put in more effort if I name them. Don’t judge me.) and whisper sweet nothings into that little slot where her head used to be, I will cover her in brine and await the glory of what she will become. Tuesday evening I will return home after a hard day at school, elated to begin Thanksgiving break. As I turn Lonna in her brine, in a celebratory gesture, I’ll grab her by the wings and turn my kitchen into a dance floor as Lonna and I execute a quality Argentinian Tango. (I get all my moves from Dancing With the Stars. So does Nugget.)

Wednesday is what I like to call the pregame. Pies, cake, relishes, rolls and anything else I can chop, dice or shred. Don’t expect meals, children, Mama’s got cooking to do. Number One Son will be whipping up piecrusts while Nugget proofs the yeast…ok more like Number One will whine about going to play outside while Nugget rubs roasted pumpkin into the cat’s fur.

And Thursday when my alarm goes off at it’s usual ungodly hour I will rise without once even considering snooze, pull on my fatigues,(or yoga pants, whichever is clean) paint my face with camo (or moisturizer as camo make-up makes my glasses slide down my nose) and take my place at the kitchen counter, prepared for greatness.

It’s been a crap year. 2016 has held maximum suckage. We’ve lost greats, lived on edge for an entire year, been bombarded with stupidity on so, so many fronts, face great uncertainty about our future and elected a moron. But even amid all that, my family has so much to be thankful for and what better way to celebrate than by stuffing ourselves into obesity with high quality edibles made with love by a surly mother. (I’m pretty sure that’s how the first Thanksgiving got started too.)

So do as I’ve been doing since about November 9th, turn off the television (except for football or Dancing With The Stars) unplug from the stress of social media (love you all but the break has done me good) explore new wines, play obscene amounts of Uno with the kids and enjoy this fine, fine holiday.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING From the Turks!!!!

November, You Suck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Touché November, you’ve won again.

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

When Bedtime Stories Go Bad…A Cautionary Tale

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

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

“Baba, you skipped three pages.”

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

“Baba, you said that word wrong.”

      “No, that is how we say.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hang on Toto – Dorothy’s Gotta Grab Her Purse

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For a mama bear like myself, being unable to physically get to my children is enough to require a Valium drip chased with a Quaalude cocktail. I attribute this to having begun my parenting journey in a nation where mall greeters dress in fatigues and Uzis rather than the smiling geriatrics to which Americans are accustomed. Thanks to eternal unrest, Turkey’s mama bears roar a little louder and they trained me well. Add to this my recent year-long tour as translator for my apraxic/hard of hearing Nugget and boom – this mother is a hot mess control freak. Given that background, you can only imagine what happened when the Wicked Witch of Indiana decided to throw a few tornados at me last week.

At the end of a very trying Thursday that had been filled with scientific concepts leaving my students with deer-in-headlights gazes, I was not elated to be greeted by a black sky at carpool. Frantically, I shoved kid after kid into their parents’ cars, fearful that the rapidly darkening skies were about to drench my ass. As I offered my final “see you tomorrow” coupled with a yo-mama-gets-to-deal-with-you-now wave, the first drop fell.

Cockily, I patted myself on the back for beating Mother Nature and proceeded to tie up the end of my day. As I packed my bags to head home (because no matter how hard I try I can’t help but look like a Talbot’s-togged Sherpa as I parade into and out of school each-day) a text from Number One’s school shot across my phone.

            Due to weather conditions, students are sheltering in place and will not be released until tornado threat has passed

Hubba whaaaaa? There was no mention of a tornado on my check of the morning weather. Nor was there any little tornado symbol on my Weather Ap. What kind of madness was that hag Mother Nature up to?

I looked at my phone – I looked at the door. Back to my phone, back to the door. Do I make a break for it? Could I outrun a tornado? Yes, of course I could. My babies need me! It’s a 25-minute drive home, likely into the path of the twister but an old Hyundai can outrun a whirling feat of nature right? I just got new tires. Seemed logical.

Before I could grasp the stupidity behind my reasoning, the sirens on my side of town blared. Crap.

Within minutes I was hunkered down in a hermetically sealed room with 30 high school students who’d not yet been dismissed for the day. Hunkering down in a room, sans air movement, with a group of teenagers at the end of a hot August day, is like winning the B.O. lotto. The funk of that room will live in my nostrils…FOREVER.

I tried to remain calm but we were facing natural disaster and my babies were all the way across town, one at home with Grandma (And napping soundly through it all. Sometimes, hearing loss is a blessing.) and the other huddled in a broom closet, butt to butt with 25 classmates (Also, like me, feeling the funk.) The problem was, Number One Son has ridiculous storm anxiety – like hiding in the closet, shaking uncontrollably anxiety. My mind was tourmented with the thought of my normally chill son in the midst of a horrific panic attack while I was stuck listening to a sixteen-year-old repeatedly recount his unprecedented success hunting Ommpaloompas, or Hoochi-Koochis or whatever the hell those damn Pokeman things are called.

As any modern mother would do, I began frantically texting. First to the Turk.

Me: Did you get the message from Number One’s school? I’m stuck at my school. There is a warning here too.

            The Turk: Yes

Me: Yes? WTH? I might be dying in a tornado and that’s all you can say.

            The Turk: Yes

Me: Seriously?

            The Turk: …

Me: Hello??????

The Turk: I in mailroom. Can’t reach phone.

Me: Wha huh? Is there a tornado downtown too?

The Turk: Yes.

Me: Oh. My bad. Sorry. Love you. Don’t die.

            The Turk: Ok.

The incident started at 3:20 and was set to end at 3:45. No problem right? But then it was extended until 4:00, then 4:15. When the threat looked real, the line of parents waiting outside in the pick-up line had to be brought into our stanky survival zone. With them, they brought dogs, siblings, a newborn and a cleaning crew. The scent, “eau de adolescent funk,” quickly added notes of canine breath, dirty diaper and chain smoker. I seized my asthmatic card, sliding to the 2” crack in the door and sticking my nose into it.

As the countdown to 4:00 commenced, the sirens blared again and the warning extended to 4:45. This was my breaking point. I ran all possible scenarios through my head. I’d been following the radar on the Ommpalooma hunter’s phone (that kid had magnificent service, likely the reason for his great hunting success) and saw there was a small break in the tornado zones. If I hit every round-a-bout just right…nah, I couldn’t risk it. Plus did I have some responsibility to these stinky people I was hunkered down with? My phone chimed.

            The Turk: I’m out! Going home.

 Me: Be careful! There are new warnings on our side of town.

            The Turk: Tornados not hurt me. I am Turk!

Me: Um, honey, that’s not how it works.

At 4:45 there was a break in the warnings and I decided to flee. Five minutes later another alarm came along with another warning from Number One’s school –

“A new tornado warning has been issued until 5:20. Students have been evacuated from busses and are sheltering in the buildings.”

The sirens blared around me but like Batman in the Batmobile, this mom in her Santa Fe drove on. It was exhilarating, if not stupid, to be driving into potential disaster, but I had to get to my boys. I took comfort in the knowledge that if stranded, I could survive for days on the discarded french fries and granola bar remnants in the back seat.

 Me: I’m on my way. If I go missing, I was on 116th street.

            The Turk: I at his school.

Me: Inside?

            The Turk: No. Parking lot.

Me: Are you safe?

            The Turk: Of course. I am Turk. Tornado not get me.

*sigh* (someday I’ll need to explain the science of tornados to him, someday.)

By 5:30 we were all home together, recounting the horrors our noses faced in each of our respective safety zones. As the Turk and I enjoyed a well-deserved beer, we hoped our children didn’t inherit our stubbornness and poor judgment…but those chances are not strong.

Back To School Blows

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – transitions suck. I’m a routine gal and since the acorn rarely falls far from the tree, my kids are too. For the past year we’ve been in a groove that eventually worked well for us. But now, the times, they are a changin’. While sucking it up and accepting it would be the mature thing to do, maturity has never really been my jam.

This week we moved from our stable, mom’s-got-everything-covered-even-if-it-drives-her-batcrap-crazy life, back into mom’s-going-to-work-every-man-for-himself life. It’s been a year so it may take some time to transition properly. On top of that, the kids are back in school too and anyone who has traversed that trail knows the impending suckage there. (Is it a cry for help if I order cheap wine by the case at this point? What would Betty Ford do?)

Number 1 is in third grade and while we’ve been at this school thing for some time now, third grade is that year when they go from cuddly little sweethearts into smelly big boys. Thanks to his Turk genes, Number 1 has had back hair since birth so he’s already pretty manly, but having finally hit a growth spurt (one that now leaves him only a foot shorter than his friends rather than 2 feet shorter) he just seems big suddenly.

Nugget, now a mature, yet still surly, three year old, started his tour of duty on the Island of Misfit Toys…aka…Developmental Preschool. He’ll spend his mornings singing and signing, playing and partying all while bonding with other kids that struggle like him. To combat his anxiety, we had three visits to his classroom prior to the first day so I assumed we were all prepared for this. Nugget was but Mom was not.

Sitting in my own teacher training the day before Nugget’s start, I had a weird feeling of loss. Due to all his health issues last year, I could probably count on one hand the times Nugget and I have been apart. He’s been kind of like an extra appendage, sometimes helpful and often not, but something I’d grown accustomed to having. As the speaker – who was speaking on the difficult journey of special needs parents (oh the irony)- continued on, the connections were too much and the flood-gates opened. Those flood-gates remained open for the next 24 hours.

Looking at my Nugget and how big he suddenly seemed brought me to tears. Carrying his supplies in to Meet The Teacher Night brought me to tears. Laying out his clothes, wiping his butt, pretty much anything, brought me to tears. I wasn’t expecting this at all.

It all boiled down to this. My baby is now a kid and there is no going back. When kids start school time fast-forwards at an obscene pace. The years move faster, the kids change faster and their maturity grows (Sometimes, I mean, I’ve taught middle school for years so I’ve got a special understanding of the hard-fought battle with maturity.). As a family, you become part of a larger school community that links you to your community in a very different way. After all, you are now the recipient of tax payer dollars and you have a voice in the stupidity of school district decisions. (Even if they ignore your calls and delete your emails …not that I’d know how that feels…I mean, that happened to a friend…)

Once kids start school, every day goes into overdrive as you try to squeeze every second out of it between work, school, practices, homework and everything else. Everyone is running around like headless chickens and life is based around waiting for the next break.

“We can go to pool again over Labor Day weekend.”

“We’ll do something fun on Fall Break.”

“You can sleep in over Christmas Break.”

And before you know, you’ve “waited away” an entire year. It sucks.

This is the part where I’m supposed to impart wisdom and share my resolution to be in the moment or my resolve to live a purposeful life as I put work to the side when I’m with my kids and just enjoy the ride. Ah hells no. I mean come on, who really does that? Who? I’ll tell you. No one. Ain’t nobody got time for that. That’s just the crap you read on parenting blogs.

No, this year I will stock up on wine, try to remember to look at my daily calendar on occasion (before I miss appointments and those bastards charge me anyway). I will strive to make sure everyone has a lunch packed (because even when I was home last year I might or might not have forgotten a couple) and clean underwear. (Though I cannot promise Number One will be wearing them. He’s embraced the natural life and seems unwilling to go back.) Ultimately, I will put my head down and run into this everybody-is-in-school-now life, like a runty running back pushing through a defensive line (it is football season after all), while hoping like hell to come out alive on the other side.

To quote the greats, “Cover me Bree, I’m goin’ in.”

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