“I Ain’t From ‘Round These Parts.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Can I Order a Sister-Wife On Amazon?

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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…

 

Get That Fat Kid Off My Baby!

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The night before any big game is the perfect breeding ground for a serious case of the jitters. Last Friday in our house, the jitters didn’t just pop-by to visit, but they settled in at the dinner table, somewhere between the tuna melts and green beans.

“I’m really worried about tomorrow. Coach said those guys are really big,” lamented Number 1 Son.

“Big? How big can they be?” I countered. “This is a 4th grade league. I doubt that 4th graders from the next town over are really that much bigger.”

“But Mom…”

“Don’t be a wuss. Get in there and take ‘em down and don’t come home until your pants are covered in grass stains.”(Though I’m a suburban mother, my inner spirit seems to have become that of a washed up high school football star.)

Because my husband, the Turk, occasionally carries the sanity in our union, he quickly chimed in and overrode my input, “If guy is too big you just hit his pads and run away. Got it? Run away so he not crush you. You can beat him. He will be slow because he is fat so just run away. You don’t want fat guy fall on top of you. Ok?” As if the Turk’s instruction was not enough, he punctuated it with a reenactment in the middle of the kitchen floor using 4 year-old Nugget as a visual aid.

“Run away?” I scoffed. “Yo, this isn’t your futbol where you fake a booboo when you need a rest. This is American football where we fight like the violent, obese people we are.”

“It is better he look like wimp than get crush by fat Hoosier.” -Quote, The Turk.

The Turk did have a point, Hoosiers – the government mandated term for the native people of Indiana- are not a small people. (For reals, I have 6th graders that tower over me and while I’m no giant, I wear really big shoes.) However, I’d seen all the teams in our burb’s 4th grade division and with the exception of a couple 5 footers, they were all regular sized 4th graders. We also have a 95-pound ball carrier weight limit, (I was well aware of this because my offspring and I held our collective breath at weigh-in hoping that with pads, he’d clear it. Like is mother, he’s short but he’s solid.) and 98% of the league had cleared it.

“Relax, Coach was probably just trying to psyche you guys up.” I assured him.

The Turk chimed in with another tip from his runt playbook. “But if your mom is wrong, remember, you are Turk and do what I say. Hit, run away, then jump on at end like you there whole time.” His father added.

At 7:30 Saturday morning, after our ritual 20 minutes of searching for cleats, struggling into pads and the ‘protect your goods’ check about all things manly, we were ready for his pregame drop-off.

While Number 1 and his team of 4-foot bobble-heads warmed up, the rest of us had time to grab a coffee before the coin-toss. After struggling 6 miles across wet grass like a Sherpa with chairs hanging off my back and a screaming Nugget, hostile about spending another day doing something for his brother, hanging from my front, I was ready to plop down and enjoy a little Saturday morning football magic. It was then that the Turk pointed out we were on the wrong field.

“This cannot be his game.” He said.

“Of course it is. We’re the red guys and there he is.” I gestured toward the cutest lineman in the universe…(known to the rest of the crowd as white-helmet-bobble-head-number-14)

The Turk countered with his own point toward the middle of the field where the coin toss was on. “If this our game, who those men?” On one side of the ref were two white-helmet-bobble-heads in red jerseys appropriately 4’ 6ish and scrawny, but counter to them were two man-sized players in orange jerseys who may or may not have been able to vote in the last election.

“WHAT ARE THOSE?” I screamed. “WE’RE PLAYING GROWN-ASS MEN!”

A mom behind me chimed in, “Right????!?!! If they’re 4th graders I’m 25.” Nice one girl.

I glanced down the sidelines to see that the two jolly orange giants mid-field were not anomalies. Their entire line-up was comprised of so-called 4th graders who could likely slap on a fake mustache and stop off at any watering-hole for a post-game highball.

“Oh hells no.” I yelled, “This cannot happen. This cannot be legal.” I stammered but before I could rush the field and throw a very un-football hissy fit, the whistle blew and the David V. Goliath Saturday saga had begun.

The Turk and I scanned the field and high-fived when we found our kid. Two parents have never been more excited to see their kid warming the bench. Our hopes were soon dashed as the starting offensive line took the team, and there in the path of calamity was my baby, Number 14.

My little lineman, being one of only two on his team over the 90 pound mark, was assigned the task of covering a kid that could best be described as the 9 year-old embodiment of Jabba the Hutt. Baby Jabba, we would soon learn, already had a nickname. Ten feet away from me, a family of larger beings cheered and screamed for their son/my son’s nemesis – Sugar Foot. “Come on Sugar Foot! Hold that line!!!!” the mother yelled and before struggling into a 3-point stance across from my son, Baby Jabba waved and possibly blew a kiss. My first-born was up against a fat man named Sugar Foot and all I could do was pray Sugar Foot didn’t fall on him.

Play after play Number 1 Son faced off with Sugar Foot and, after realizing early on that simple physics would prevent him from stopping an object twice his size, my son decided to take his father’s advice. He gave Sugar Foot the old hit and run, but made sure to jump on top of any available body pile to make it look good.

Meanwhile on the sidelines I chanted my mantra – “Fat man don’t fall on my baby, fat man don’t fall on my baby.” It was like a crime scene and the Turk didn’t make it through. He gave up early on, “I cannot watch.” and left under the guise of taking Nugget for a walk. “Call me from emergency room.” I, however could not look away. A good football mom never leaves the a death match unfolding before her because he might have to run on the field and pull a fat kid off her baby.

In the end, the fat guys were too slow and we beat a team twice our size. Except for a few bruises, Number 1 walked away unscathed physically. Nugget, however, saw an opportunity. Everytime he finds his brother in a vulnerable position, I hear him scream “HERE COME SUGA FOOT!!!!” before enacting a full body slam. Well played kid, well played.

 

Only A Fool Would Underestimate A Football Mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mother Tongue…Ewwww

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The other day someone used the term “mother tongue” in response to languages in our house. That term grosses me out. I am a middle schooler trapped in an old lady body so combining the words mother and tongue could not be any more gross. But after I threw-up in my mouth at the Oedipal imagery, I got to thinking about it. When it comes to language in our house, we are both amazing and a hot mess.

Language is something I’ve learned to both love and despise. I love it for its ability to express the mirage of thoughts hurling through my head, but it also sucks because for us, language is the root of many problems.

For example, I can unequivocally say that every major argument the Turk and I’ve had in our years of marriage has come down to language and something getting lost in translation. Even though we’ve been at this for over a decade and we both speak each other’s languages we still have major miscommunications and now our kids are in on the magic.

 -quiet side whisper- “Mom, what the heck is Baba trying to say?”

“No clue kids, just nod. We’ll figure it out later.”

Then there are the languages themselves. Turkish being blunt and including no sugar coating and English being one where we might sugar coat too much. In Turkish a person is never curvy or plump. A person is fat. Just fat. That doesn’t always flow so well with sensitive English speakers.

“Why I add extra words when I don’t need? She is fat. It is true. I tell her. What is wrong with that?”

And lets not disregard issues we have with preconceived notions we face when speaking our second languages. In Turkish conversations, people think I comprehend faster than I do so they hit me with rapid-fire Turkish while I’m at “hi, how ya doin’.” In English, people hear the Turk’s accent and assume he just started learning English last week rather than 20 years ago, so they assume he’s stupid. (They usually see their misjudgment later when he hits them with a zinger.)

Number 1 Son never had an issue bouncing between languages rather than choosing a mother tongue, until he was old enough to choose. His choice of English over Turkish upset many family members while elating others, sticking his father and I in a quagmire.

Then there is Nugget. For his whole life of almost 4 years, language has been his Achilles heel. As a kid with Childhood Apraxia of Speech who couldn’t get any words to form or any sound to come out until very recently, he was no fan of spoken English. As a Hard of Hearing dude with one ear, he’s doesn’t always catch spoken language to begin with and he’s often dependent on ASL when his lone ear lets him down. However, he’s painfully aware that only a handful of people besides Mom can sign with him so if he can’t sign, can’t speak, what’s a guy to do?

Now, after a year full of daily speech therapy he’s gone from a kid with CAS to a kid with an adorable lisp and a couple other speech impediments (And mastered a find grasp of profanity because even with one ear that kid can hear every damn foul word his mother drops a mile away.) He’s also added more signs and keeps up with his ASL. Recently, spurred by his love of a fabulously flamboyant, Liberace-esque Turkish singer, he’s started picking up Turkish. So what’s his mother tongue? Who knows but 3 languages by 4 is damn impressive.

No one I knew as a kid spoke a second language but  I had great aspirations, so I ordered both French and Spanish dictionaries from the bargain section of the Weekly Reader book order. I soon learned that one does not learn a language by reading the dictionary. I tried Spanish class in high school but called it a day after, “Me llamo Margie, y tu?” I did pick up enough Spanish later to get me into trouble in Mexico, but basically I top out at Dora the Explorer level.

This week Nugget had a birthday party with some Developmental PreK buds at a trampoline park. It was his first big party and he was psyched until he realized how loud the park was and thus turned off what hearing he has (as he does in noisy situations). As I was signing to him we were surprised to see a bunch of other people doing the same. Nugget was elated and signed, Look Mom, they sign too! A group from the local Deaf school was there on a field trip and many took time out to chat with us. It was great for Nugget to share a mother tongue and great for me to hone my ASL skills.

After the party we stopped off at McDonalds (Yes, I do that occasionally. I’m not proud but it happens.) and much to my surprise, we sat next to a woman speaking Turkish to her young son. As we chatted she told me she was here for her husband’s work and didn’t speak any English. She was desperate for someone to speak Turkish with, besides her husband. She was shocked and elated to have found that at McDonalds. I was transported ten years back when I was a lonely wife newly landed in a foreign country, struggling with the language and longing for someone, anyone, to speak English with so I certainly understood. It rocks when life gives you an opportunity to reciprocate. We talked forever before exchanging numbers and she even complimented me on my Turkish (Which made me beam because I generally sound like a stammering moron in Turkish, but thanks to my early years of motherhood in Turkey I do rock the mom-talk quite well.)

So maybe we have no familial mother tongue and maybe my relationship with language has become a bit hostile in recent history, but as I settled in for my evening wine/decompression with The Turk that evening, I was damn proud of myself for having flexed my muscles in 3 languages in a matter of hours. Not bad for a girl who didn’t make it through 9th grade Spanish. Next up, perhaps we’ll all learn Icelandic…

 

 

The Birthday Clock Never Stops…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkish kid

“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.

When Cross-Cultural Appliance Buying Goes Wrong

STORE-M0RE-FREEZER

There is a roar in my kitchen. No, it’s not the roar of hangry children scavenging for food nor the roar of a rabid beast that happened in through the screen door. It is my refrigerator. The refrigerator my darling husband, the Turk, secured from some sketchy deal last fall. The refrigerator takes up half of my kitchen but was “a really good deal.”

The roar began a mere month after my husband, our neighbor and two strapping young lads, grunted, growled, sweat and struggled to get the oversized behemoth into our tiny kitchen. (Oh yes, you read that right, it took 4 men-to get this refrigerator into our home. But it was a really good deal.) After the Turk removed a few cabinets and hacked a piece of wall out, his fridge eventually fit into our kitchen.

“How good this is right?” He beamed

“Are you planning to start a catering business?” I asked.

“Don’t worry. Later you will love.” He hoped.

Initially the roar was intermittent but now it’s loud and proud and this old gal can’t take it anymore. It’s the kind of dull roar that could push a woman, like myself, with questionable sanity and on the doorstep of pre-menopause, to lose her damn mind. Last week as I was chopping onions to the beat of the roar it occurred to me that if I were to record the sound and submit it as Exhibit A, no jury of my peers would ever convict me. That’s when I told the Turk to watch his ass. This roar is fo reals yo.

How did we get to the point where a refrigerator could begin my spiraling descent into madness when life as a geriatric, full-time working mother (as a middle school teacher, if that’s not enough to usher one to insanity!) with a hyper 8 year-old, special needs 3 year old and crazy Turkish husband hadn’t managed to do it? Who would’ve guessed a Kitchenaid would be my demise?

This fridge mess started about a year and a half ago when we purchased our current fixer-upper. Like most normal people who make fixer-upper purchases, (not those on HGTV who seem to have limitless funds and only work about 2 hours per day) we agreed to make upgrades as budgets allowed.

Item one on our upgrade list was the refrigerator. The house came with one that was not much bigger than fridge I kept stocked with cheap beer in my college dorm room. If me, the 5’4” goddess that I am, can easily clean the top of an appliance destined to house and cool food for a family of 4, that bitch is too damn small. But as life would have it, the very day we took possession of the house and labeled the mutant-micro fridge upgrade number one, Nugget’s kidney issue imploded.

A bum kidney had been percolating inside his tiny body but literally hours before the movers arrived it all went to hell, starting a series of hospital visits and procedures and ending in Mama taking a year off work to care for him. As is the case for most of us not on HGTV, when a household income is halved, fixing-upping goes on hold too. Mutant-micro-fridge would have to stay

For a long year we stooped to search the top shelf, shopped frequently because the damn thing couldn’t hold more than a stick of butter and quart of milk, and because the appliance was about the size of a toddler, used duct-tape to keep Nugget out. (After I caught him in his playroom manhandling an open bottle of wine that had been stored on the door.) But when Mama finally went back to work and that second paycheck returned, the first purchase on the charts was a brand-new fridge!

Like an American, I planned to head to a big box store, hand over some plastic and await delivery from 2 burly men in a truck. In stark contrast, like a good Turk, my husband decided to search out the best (aka sketchiest) deal and do whatever it would take to save a buck. One would think that after 10 years of marriage and 3 years of living in his county, amongst his people, I’d have seen it coming. Back in Turkey when we needed things, they appeared, delivered by hairy men in beat-up Toyotas. No receipt. No warranty. No questions. Things just happened that way.

Things are expensive in Turkey, really expensive and wages for most who are not in a position to take a bribe here or there are low. You could go to the mall and buy on taksit – a payment plan- or you could do as my father-in-law did and roll up in the old neighborhood with your mustache groomed and fedora pulled low to see a friend of a friend who knows a guy who knows another guy. The next day – boom – 2 hairy guys in a Toyota are delivering a heater.

After smacking my head on the top of the mutant-mini-fridge and screaming “Where in the hell am I going to put these groceries,” one too may times. The Turk took his cue.

“Don’t worry. I take care this.”

Two days later he pulled into the driveway in a huge U-Haul, rolled up the back and said. “Look what I get you! It very heavy. I think we need help.” (Yes, you read that right. The fridge was so big he needed to rent a U-Haul. The BIG U-Haul!!)

It was good for a while but then the roar began…and the leaking. The very good deal’s freezer would freeze into a solid block of ice, but then it would melt two days later. Some mornings I would stumble downstairs at 4:30am desperate for coffee only to be met with the River Styx running across the kitchen. The Turk fixed the freezing by buying a deep freezer for the garage and the melting with a beach-towel dam but I knew the time with this beast was limited. (The Kitchenaid, not the Turk – I’m pretty sure he’s a life sentence.)

Finally last week I lost it.

“That is it! This weekend we are going to Home Depot and we are buying a refrigerator. It will come in a box. It will be delivered. It will be installed by people who are not wastewater engineers. It will have a warranty and it may or may not be a good deal. I do not give a damn. I do not care.”

“Ok” he muttered.

“Oh I don’t think you heard me. We did this the Turk way and now we’re doing it the big, fat, lazy American way. Got it…wait what?”

“I say, ok. I cannot take that sound any more. It killing me.”

Last Saturday we bought a new refrigerator to be delivered the following week. The next day, The Turk found a better deal on the same fridge so he returned the first fridge and bought the better deal. (I had my fears but in the end, his deal was made in a store and was actually legit.)  He got his good deal after all but most importantly, this time the good deal will come in a box with a warranty and the two suckers who install it will have to figure out how to get the behemoth with the lower level iceberg out of my kitchen.

 

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January, You’re Dead To Me

january

I’m not a fan of January. I’ve tried over forty of them and have yet to find any redeeming qualities in a single one. They’re gray, depressing, boring and butt numbing cold. (Global warming, you suck.) I’ve given this one a solid try but I see it’s just like all the other Januarys and next week after the presidential inauguration, its suckage is just going to ramp up to epic levels. So I’ve made an executive decision. I’m not going to do January this year. I’m going to hide out until it’s over. Harsh? Drastic? Perhaps, but that’s how I roll. January, you’re dead to me.

I’m going into my pillow fort and I will not come out until January is safely passed. And if February, doesn’t start off strong I’m skipping that too. I’ve got enough supplies to stay in my pillow fort until March. (I’m a planner and stockpiler, yet still a safe distance from doomsday prepper.) I’ve decided I have no choice but to take drastic measures and thankfully, my Mediterranean blooded Turk is right with me on this one. (Which is great because usually in situations such as these he just gives me the side eye and mutters about my instability in Turkish.)

I’m sorry kids, but you are on your own for the next few weeks because neither of your parents can do January anymore.

I know, it may seem harsh to turn over self-survival to a guy who has not yet mastered the concept that pooping should occur in the toilet and not in his pants and his brother who hasn’t gotten past the sixes on the multiplication tables, but I don’t see any other way. January is too much and we as parents just… can’t.

Simply put, the Turk is genetically incapable of cold weather. His blood is thin and according to him, solidifies into ice crystals the moment temps drop below 40 degrees. My dear husband hunches like a turtle somewhere in mid-November and does not stand straight again until April. It’s been hard on him since he moved to this country but now that he is on the other side of 40, we have to worry more about the old man. I’d hate for him to stroke out due to freezing temps. (Though he does have stellar life insurance that would provide my children and I with a bungalow in a warmer climate…no…no…that thinking is wrong!)

As for me, I understand that due to my ample supply of body fat you might wonder why I am incapable of dealing with the cold. I don’t get it either but I’m old and old people have these issues. The cold makes me surly and slug-like and though I was able to combat it in my youth, with the combination of my advanced age and the impending doom coming with the January 20th presidential inauguration, this year I simply haven’t the will.

Kids, if you need to go anywhere, I’d suggest you pile a few of your father’s old engineering books on the seat of the car (they’re in Turkish and thus extra bulky) and give it a go. Number One Son, you should be able to see over the steering wheel while your brother Nugget navigates from the safety of his car seat. Just practice a few times around the block before you hit the open road. If anyone questions you, cite a medical condition for your small stature then accuse them of judgmental intolerance. That should get any pesky do-gooders off your back. (If that doesn’t work, let Nugget and his newly developed canine-calibur biting skills handle things.)  

If anyone needs us, I’ll be where I’ve been since January 1: with the cat in the barcalounger, huddled under my grandma’s old quilt, binge watching Stranger Things on my IPad using the kids headphones to block out the world and dreaming of finding a portal to a warmer dimension.

The Turk will be where he’s been since January 1 as well: in Number One’s new beanbag chair, three feet in front of the fireplace with his little Turkish tootsies baking in a roaring fire.

January, it’s over for us and this time, it’s definitely you, not me.

january1

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!!!!