A Tale of Squirrels and Pool Noodles

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While the world has been blowing up these past months, out here in our little house in the woods, things have remained as insane as they were prior to this current apocalypse with the added joy of some acts of aggression by Mother Nature’s little cherubs. During this spring’s hiatus of humanity, it seems all creatures great and small held some kind of gathering, a symposium, if you will. (No doubt it was spearheaded by the angry groundhog who’s taken up residence in my front lawn. It’s obvious by his waddle that he’s a vindictive diva.) Anyhooo, the outcome of the symposium seems to have been a directive for widespread assault on my home by Mother Nature’s SWAT unit starting with the squirrels.

Thanks to many years of urban living, I view squirrels as rats with fluffy tails so when we found out they had taken up residence in the un-finished apartment above our garage (What we first thought were raccoon squatters turned out to be an entire battalion of fuzzy-tailed rodents.) I was less than amused. Thankfully our garage is detached and a good 20 yards from our house but still, it was a situation that could not go unremedied.

My husband, the ninja Turk, set up a trap he found on-line and prepared for battle. His handy trap yielded its first capture about a month ago and while the captive was set free to likely burrow back into the above-garage apartment again, the furry bastard did manage to spread the peanut-butter the Turk had liberally used as bait, all over the second floor before he met his fate. Unfortunately, a few of his offspring fell victim to the Turk’s obstacle course of glue traps and it has been game on since.

Last week the weather finally warmed and it seemed the heat had sent the squatters in search of living quarters more conducive to the change in climate. The battle was toning down so I summonsed a fount of courage to gather my beach goodies from the warzone. (Because when it’s beach time, ain’t no damn fuzzy tailed rat keeping me away from my lounge chairs and noodles.) Within seconds of entering the premises, my nose was assaulted with the smell of death. Two steps further and I saw something any farm girl recognizes and immediately knows the sorce from whence it came… horse flies. They swarmed the windows on both levels of the top floor apartment. I haven’t been a farm girl in well over 30 years but I knew the combo before me meant something, somewhere was dead.

Thanks to my true crime addiction, I assumed a serial killer had snuck in and hidden a victim between the boxes of Thanksgiving linens and winter sheets, careful to leave no trace aside from the body. I did what any logical gal in that situation would do, grabbed my beach chairs, slung my noodles over my shoulder and got the hell out of there.  Then I immediatley passed the buck to my husband to deal with the stench.

“Honey – someone is dead in the garage.”

“Dead?” The Turk, shot me a wild glare. “You need stop watch that ID channel. It make you crazy.” The man knows me well.

“No seriously. I can smell it and there are flies.”

He slowly pulled himself away from nerding on his computer and rolled his eyes my way. “Fine. I go look.”

Anxiously I stood outside the big rollie-uppie garage door awaiting confirmation. Any second he was going to come out and say, “My beautiful, thin, brilliant wife who I am so lucky to have married all those years ago, you are correct. I have found the corpse of an evil, fuzzy tailed rodent upstairs. Your olfactory skills are beyond amazing. What a lucky man I am. Have you ever considered writing detective novels?”

Instead, he stomped down the stairs, threw up the rollie-uppy door and said. “You are crazy. No dead things there.” Before huffing back to his lair for further nerding.

Alas, a nose knows and this nose knew it would only take one or two more hot days for reality prevail. Three days later, The Turk dragged me away from making pizza dough in Tina to inspect. (What? I named my mixer Tina. Doesn’t everyone name those they depend on? What am I supposed to call her? Kitchenaid? Please.) He pointed to the upstairs windows whose screens were now bulging with massive horse flies desperate for escape. “WHAT IZ DIS?”

“I told you. Something’s dead in there. Read the flies man. That’s what we used to do on the farm.”

He cocked his head and squinted his eyes, “WHAT?”

“Flies come from decomposition. When somethings dead, maggots…”

“STOP!” He yelled. “You want me throw out before I even go inside? Why you know these things and why you have to tell me?” He didn’t wait for my likely, smart-assed answer before banishing the kids and I so he could commence a corpse hunt.

Tina and I were still kneading dough when Nugget burst into the kitchen, “Mom! You gotta thee thith, it thooooooo groth.”

It took the Turk mere minutes to find a deflated, decomposing fluffy-tailed rodent, frozen forever in a pose that said, “Oh crap.”

“Where was it?”

“Top floor in corner by beach stuff. He die under your beach chair and you miss him.”

“Hubba what?” Could I have really missed a decomposing tree rat hiding under my beach chair when I’d grabbed them just days prior? This was a new level of space cadetery, even for me.

Just to prove he was right, the Turk had me inspect the crime scene. Though he didn’t go as far as putting down a chalk-outline around the body as I would have done, he was 100% on the money. I’d grabbed three beach chairs, two noodles and a bag of sand toys right off the top of that dead tree rat and hadn’t even noticed. Quarantine has destroyed my mind.

The next day an angry squirrel stood on a branch outside our bedroom window, screaming at the Turk.

“He’s saying, you kill my father, prepare to die.”

Wide-eyed the Turk turned, “Seriously.”

“Yes dear. I speak fluent squirrel now in addition to Turkish and English.”

He simply shrugged, accepted my tale and left. Quarantine has killed his brain too.

This morning, there was a squirrel on the front deck peering inside the window, inches from the screen.

They really are coming for us but we’re just crazy enough to fight back.

I Shall Rule From My She-Fort

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When I was a kid, I loved all things Little House on the Prairie. I wanted a big sister who could braid my locks like Mary. I too had a whiney little turd sibling like Carrie and of course, being the overlooked middle child, Laura and I were simpatico.  I read all of the books (more than once) and like any woman now on the back-end of her 40’s, I settled in once a week to get down and dirty with the Real Prairie Wives of Walnut Grove. (Mrs. Olsen was pretty trashy under those tight curls.) But while there was madness with goats, fires and random blindness, the Ingalls family functioned pretty well in their little cabin removed from society, much like my own.

I’m also sure there was an episode when Ma and the entire family had to shelter in place due to a horrible virus that came from China. (That I’m sure was transmitted because Mrs. Olsen demanded they order Chinese silk for the general store. Hag) The one-room schoolhouse was forced to swap over to poorly planned e-learning leaving Ma Ingalls at home to school her own children and homestead simultaneously while being forced to rely on Pa to shop for necessities. I’m also sure that Pa Ingalls may have sucked at the task but when he forgot to get the coconut milk and brought home sourdough instead of rye, Ma made do but she was pretty pissed. (You guys remember that too right? No? Am I projecting?)

Each week as I carefully construct my alphabetized grocery list, organized by aisle to insure success, and send the Turk off into the wild with little more than a ninja mask to protect him, I feel a little Ma Ingalls. As soon as the Turk returns to the homestead with bags full of quality soy crumbles, kale and the occasional Oreo for balance, immediately I interrogate him. “Was it crowded? Were people wearing masks? Did you stay away from humanity? Were there stupid people crying about needing a haircut like on TV? Tell me everything.” I am literally dying to know what the world is like during this apocalypse.

Why? Because I have barely left this house since mid-March and while I am a major fan of this whole self-isolation thing, as are all career homebodies, I’m getting a little restless.  Way back in March, when the world blew up and it all hit the fan, my darling husband locked me down. “You stay home and I will do it. Just give me list and I can go to stores. You cannot. If I get sick, I can be fine but you cannot. You have asthma and you cannot even breathe like normal person anyway. You get the Corona, you can die. We cannot risk you to die.” And while it was a bit psycho, I know my darling hubby and I know that overprotective, paranoid, psychosis is his love language and protecting me from the horrible virus is his version of stepping in front of a shooter for me.  So for the past two months, he has Rapunzeled my ass in the tower until the plague passes.

Sure, I’ve been busy working from home, educating my little half-breed Turks, doing all the other crap mothers do to keep their family alive and more, but recently I’ve been jonesing to dip my toes into the societal waters for a minute, just to see what’s going on beyond my tree-lined view. However, Pa Turk said no. He hitched up the Cherokee, pulled on his bandit mask and said, “Not yet. Stupid people are everywhere. You cannot risk it. You can die.” And just like Ma Ingalls, I stood on the front deck waving as he headed off into the wilds of suburbia to bring home the tofu.

I understand his point of view but as an independent old broad, I really just want to take care of things myself. I want to choose my own cheeses and grimace at the old lady who cut me in line at the check-out. I want to feel that familiar disappointment when I look at the Target women’s department and roll my eyes at some moron taking up two parking spaces at the wine store. I only need like an hour, but I want to experience society for a little while just to remind me why I choose the reclusive life.  Just about the time I was thinking of breaking out, Pa Turk did something brilliant. He gave me a new fortress from which to rein to quell my need for fresh vistas.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that my engineer husband took our children’s request for a “tree-house” or even a “tree-fort” and turned it into a massive feat of aerial engineering. In case you missed it, here’s the tale. Anyhoo, after a year of waiting for the Turk to add the steps so that they could actually enter the structure 12 feet above their heads, it has happened. The Turk finally finished the tree fort. (Or as he quantified, Phase 1 is done. There’s more to come.)

I sent a friend photos of my view from the new fort and she wisely pointed out it should not be a tree-fort, but rather, a SHE-fort and I should claim it as my own. Utter brilliance! She-fort indeed! Mama has a new domain from which to gaze at the bogs, watch sunset over the wetlands and sip merlot all while two little Turks armed with Nerf guns stand sentinel.

Farewell society. Pa Turk will continue to do my bidding for a while longer while I ride out the next phase of the pandemic in my She-Fort. Ma Ingalls might not have had a she-fort, but she damn well deserved one. Amirite???? Stay safe friends!

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An Eviction in My Lair

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Life here in isolation is getting hectic now that we’re rolling on work and school for everybody. The Turk is still hiding in the basement, the kids have called dibs on the kitchen and I’m left squatting in whatever corner I can find. This drove me to the brilliant idea of using this quarantine time to finally finish my office in the apartment over the garage. I would create my own lair perfect for hiding from my family, planning  world domination and maybe even working on occasion.

Our house came with a detached garage that houses a half-finished, three-room, two-floor apartment. When we landed here, I staked my claim on the sunny, 2nd-floor bedroom with windows that overlook the cranberry bogs. I hung up my Wonder Woman memorabilia, unloaded my cases of books and planned to write my bestseller. But before I could achieve greatness, my new lair needed paint (Because the half-finished neon-blue it current holds makes my eyes cross.) and something to cover the sub-flooring and a door. Crazy as it was, I felt like a barrier between the apartment and the open garage might be important. (This request has provided a plethora of ‘I told you Turk’ moments recently.)

“Is easy. I can do. No big job.” My darling husband, the Turk, proclaimed…2 years ago.

So after waiting more than 700 days for the Turk to step up, I gave up. I decided that in this time of excessive home-ness, I could pull a solid HGTV move with the assistance of a 12 and 6 year-old. We’d bust out a little work then, bam – Mama’s got a cushy new hidey-hole.

Step one: planning.  Measuring was math so I deemed our homeschool math lesson that day would be to survey the area and create a totally-not-to-scale drawing showing our plans. We set off, but then my husband issued his ominous warning,

“Be careful. I think somebody living there.”

“Hubba wa?”

“Yes I hear him. He has family. Lots of feet running above last time I am there putting away Christmas decorations. Be careful, I can put trap there.”

My husband has a long history of waging war on rodents. In the 14 years of our union I have witnessed the man I love Rambo out on mice, groundhogs, chipmunks and a few squirrels. He calls on his time as a Turkish commando to dominate small, furry beings and it gets ugly, fast.

Our sons have witnessed Baba’s insanity too,  and by the time we found an apartment floor carpeted with sticky traps, no one was surprised. Nugget simply facepalmed and muttered, “Babba ith nutth.”

We spent a good twenty minutes in there mapping our plan without a single sign of the squatters the Turk warned of…but then I saw a footprint. On a blue box there was a huge, perfectly identifiable raccoon footprint. (I was a Brownie for 2 years, ’79 and ’80, so I know my tracks.) That crazy Turk was right!

Immediately we fled down the stairs to the first floor. Unfortunately, that is our storage room and I promised to dig out the Easter baskets.

“We’ll find the damn plastic eggs then we are out of here before that crazy raccoon decides to attack.” Two sets of little boy eyes widened at me like a crazy woman. “Relax. Maybe it was an old footprint. We were up there for 20 minutes and we didn’t see or hear anything.” It was that “hear anything” that did me wrong. I’d barely gotten the sentence out when something began running around upstairs and whatever it was, it was angry.

Now all of our eyes widened. We froze. Was he coming to throw down? Would I win in a raccoon fight? 20 years ago maybe but I’m old now. Would my children leave me to die if I couldn’t win? (Yes. They might be mama’s boys but they are still male.)  But immediately Nugget showed he’s the guy you need in a raccoon fight. He grabbed a plastic bucket, starting beating it with a shoe and shouting, “I am a weally big guy! Thith ith a weally big guy yelling!” He kept at it again and again and suddenly, the beast above stopped. Nugget had saved us.

We fled back to the house and I immediately alerted the Turk. “Something is up there and it is huge!”

“Yes. I tell you that.”

“How long have you known?”

“Since before Christmas.”

“That’s 4 months ago!”

“Yes.”

“Well he needs to go. As soon as this pandemic crap is over, I’m calling the guy.”

“What guy?”

“You know, the guy that takes care of wild beasts hiding in your home.”

“I think that guy is only on TV.  But I can take care.”

“How? You are not sending the cat in there.”

“No I get trap.”

“You’re going to trap the raccoon and then let him go?”

“Yes. He just need relocation.”

“No. He needs to die.”

“That’s why I take care. You are mean. I can just evict him.”

Today Fed Ex delivered a  trap. The Turk has a plan. He’s going to make soup for the raccoon and put it in the trap. He saw it on YouTube. He thinks it might help to leave a beer too because he saw a raccoon drinking a beer once on Facebook. Needless to say, my dreams of an evil lair are dashed but this battle of Turk versus raccoon should provide a lot of entertainment during the rest of the quarantine. Stay tuned!

 

I Shall Be The Quarantine Queen

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Stay home. Avoid people. Socially distance yourself. Spend copious time in stretch fabrics and fuzzy slippers. Order in and have groceries delivered. I HAVE BEEN TRAINING FOR THIS FOR MY WHOLE LIFE. I shall be the Queen of Quarantine.

We’re in a weirdo space right now. It kind of feels like being stuck in Jello. Every morning we get up and brace for the damage report and every night we lay in bed waiting for the anxiety to fade.  But over here in our little 1400 square feet of heaven, we’ve got it under control.

On the first floor, I’ve spent the past week busily stress baking and then following that up with stress eating said baked goods. Cakes, pies, brownies, an obscene array of cookies and today I moved on to breads. If the carbs were not enough, there have been soups from lentil to tomato and dinners including such classics as lasagna and falafel, and mousakka and makarna. (PS – there is no better time to be a vegetarian family than when all you crazy carnivores are storming the meat department pre-quarantine. Ain’t nobody whipping tofu off the shelf or grabbin’ soy crumbles from my basket. We are livin’ the dream. ICYMI – here’s how I fooled my family into the veg life. ) I literally cannot stop. Any good shrink would say this excessive kitchen self-flagellation is my attempt to show love and protection to the men who live here but I don’t know…maybe I’m also a fat girl that loves to cook because she loves to eat.

The second floor remains a tween hidey-hole providing a hotbed of entertainment for Number 1. Normally he’s not a video game kind of kid but with nothing to do and crappy weather, well, any port in a storm. My history dork found a series of games he loves and from what I hear coming down the stairs, so far he has slayed some bastard in the Egyptian Pyramids, ridden his horse in a loincloth around a digitalized version of our old town in Turkey and taken down the Empire and a gazillion Storm Troopers before driving Le Mans.

The basement is housing an exasperated Turk who traded a cushy office in Boston for a corner of the basement where he hunches over his computer like a troll under a bridge desperate to finish work. For the first several days, Nugget’s sword fights and basketball games occurring above his head would send the Turk into a rage causing him to bound up the stairs with his trademark, “WHAT IZ DIS???” To which his charming youngest son would reply, “Baba chill.” I do feel for the guy though, between work and a graduate class he’s got a lot to accomplish under his bridge. We’re hopeful we might see him before the end of the quarantine.

Nugget transcends all three floors like only a spastic, ADHD 6 -year-old with an overactive imagination much like his crazy mother’s, can.  In the past week he has been the following, in full costume, LeBron James in the Cleveland days, Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett, Yoda, Iron Man, Captain America, Chewbacca, Fletcher Cox of the Philadelphia Eagles and Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos, The Flash, Darth Vader, a Storm Trooper and Gordon Hayward of the Celtics. I’m sure he’s had more personalities that I’m forgetting too. After donning full regalia for each of his characters, he runs from floor to floor, chasing bad guys, shooting baskets or holding the line while carrying on full conversations in distinct voices. Could it be a sign of early-onset crazy? Sure, but it is too damn funny to stop.

In between the lunacy we’re also working on school, (because it sucks to have a mom who’s a teacher during times like these) drawing tons, reading loads and watching Britbox on the telly. I’m a big fan of the low gore, high dialogue murders found on British television. They remind me of Turkish television but I don’t have to exhaust my brain by translating the whole show only to have the murder solved before I get the entire story translated. The kids are on the Britbox train too. Number 1 loves when I flip on a show and tell him how he and I watched the show religiously back in Turkey. (Because we had 1 channel in English and it was BBC). Nugget is more of a murder man. Boba Fett and I watched an entire murder mystery yesterday on the sofa and he called the perp long before I did. He’s like a 3 foot Jessica Fletcher.

We also hit up a few concerts during the past week too. The Dropkick Murphys put on a stunning show in my living room, and though none of us looked as good as we did when I used to go see them live in the late 90’s, we’re still punk. I also forced my children to sit through the Indigo Girls and Wilco live streams while I regaled them with tales of when their mother was cool and waved lighters at their concerts. (They were painfully unimpressed.)

 We’ve also had quality fire pits, soccer matches and even a relay that nearly killed my aged ass. Fortunately, our beaches are still open and free of idiotic 20 somethings whooping it up. Is it because our beaches are 35 degrees and rocky? Regardless, our beach time has been paramount leaving Nugget to ask, “How do you even thurvive a quaranthine without a beach?”

So at the risk of being too Mary Sunshine in this moment, this smothering mother, with introvert tendencies, that loves a good excuse for kitchen time is finding the bright side in this cray. Stay safe, stay healthy and stay home and wash yo damn hands!

 

Lament of the Meatless Balls

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“I saw that Mom. Not cool.”

“Keep your mouth shut kid.”

“How long has this been going on Mom? How long have we been living this lie?”

Number 1 son inherited my flair for the dramatic. I’m proud of it until that head full of crazy is aimed at me.  In retaliation, I got all up in his grill, waggling a finger and replied, “If you want to live kid, you will make sure this lie remains in tact. Got it?”

He nodded, bidding a hasty retreat to his pre-teen man-cave while I buried the empty bag reading, “Chicken-less Chicken,” deep in the bottom of the trash.

I’ve danced across the vegetarian line for the majority of my life. My first run at the plant-based life was somewhere around age 8 but as the daughter of a cattle farmer that didn’t go over well. By college I was all in and I have stepped on and off the wagon every since. My main reason has always been that I’m just not a big fan of meat. Unfortunately, my family is…or was.

When we lived in Turkey we seldom ate meat because it was ridiculously pricey and we were ridiculously poor. I learned the magic of legumes from the old Turkish ladies and we didn’t miss it. We kept eating that way for years after we repatriated but as things got busier more meat began creeping into our meals because it was easy. Then…we got old and fat.

In the last few years, my husband, The Turk and I have both entered the geriatric segment of our 40s. These are the years when everything suddenly goes to hell at breakneck speed. While I’ve suffered ass-fattening and random joint crap, he’s developed the man-gut and cholesterol issues. It was time to Nancy Drew my way to nutritional wisdom and turn everything around with food. (Because I’m that kind of hippie.)

“Maybe we should do the Mediterranean Diet. It’s supposed to lower cholesterol.”

Honey, I am Mediterranean. I am doing Mediterranean Diet all my life. If it was working, then I am not having genetically high cholesterol.”

Touché Turk. So I looked elsewhere. I read the China Study and that led to a series of other books and documentaries that touted the benefits of a plant-based diet. This was perfect. I love plants and we eat more legumes than normal people already. And, if the data were correct, this could allow me to live well beyond 100 so that I may burden my children and cause uproar with their spouses. Perfection.

“Family, we’re going plant-based.”

“No meat?” Number 1 asked.

“No meat, no dairy.”

“No cheethburgerth?” Nugget worried.

“We can have veggie burgers with soy cheese though.” I pasted on a huge grin hoping to sell the six year-old on my ridiculousness.

He crossed his arms, “That ith ridiculouth.”

Number 1 chimed in, “Why are you doing this? Do you hate us?”

“I’m fat and Baba’s old. We have to fix this.”

“So…you and Baba eat plants and we stick with burgers.” Number 1 struck a pose of defiance, “I am growing. I need meat to survive.”

“Me too.” Nugget yelled in solidarity.

“Fine.” I gave up…or so they thought. Instead I decided I would veggify my family against their knowledge. I replaced their meatballs with lentil balls, their ground beef with textured vegetable protein and their chicken with “chicken-less chicken.” And it worked too for a long time.

“Honey, have you felt different lately? Maybe less tired.” I asked.

The Turk wrinkled his forehead, “Actually, yes. I am not drinking coffee all the time. Not tired after lunch. Why? What you do to me?”

“Nothing….nothing at all, just wondering.”

Just when I got the Turk’s cholesterol on the down swing I was exposed.

They found my chickenless chicken, which led to a deeper dig revealing my meatless balls. Another case of spying exposed “tuna-less tuna salad” made with chickpeas. The rouse was up.

Fortunately, when I spun the whole plant-eating thing as a move towards saving the planet, the kids agreed to stay the course. However, a trip to IKEA nearly brought my demise.

“Mom, since we’re out, can I have the meatballs for lunch?” Number 1 asked. Part of the deal was to relinquish my meat rules for the kids when away from home.

I felt cold sweat streaming down my cleavage. This was it. I was going to lose him. His expectations had been humbled due to months void of meat and though I’m a huge fan of lentils, there is no way in hell they compare to actual meat. The IKEA menu offered lentil balls too. I could just say, “No. Don’t kill our world. Eat the meatless balls!” and guilt him but he’s old now and a man of almost 12 should make his own decisions.

I shuddered as he stepped off the wagon.  There would be no way to get him back on but I relented. “Ok.”

His fork lingered over the plate as he prepared for greatness. “These are going to be amazing.”

I avoided eye contact, returning to my own meatless balls as he devoured his plate of IKEA balls with a side of lingonberry jam (PS – I feel like a lingonberry is something made up by IKEA.)

When he was done I awaited his proclamation to return to the carnivorous life from henceforth, “Well?”

He shrugged, “Meh.”

My hopes rose, “What?”

“Not that great. Don’t take this the wrong way Mom, but I like your meatless balls better.”

Horns sounded. Confetti fell and I took a victory lap through the storage showroom. (Ok not really but in my head…)

The lesson learned here is that if you scheme and manipulate your family for their own benefit, it will work. Even if they don’t want it to because, obviously, mother knows best.

 

Look Out Below!

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Frequently my phone chimes with a love note from Accuweather, “HIGH WIND WARNING IN EFFECT UNTIL 10PM.” Or “GALE WARNINGS UNTIL MIDNIGHT.” Immediately, I’m  flushed with dread. It’s not like I’ve never seen big winds before. I grew up in Iowa and I’ve been through a tornado or two in my day. But Iowa has like a handful of trees in the whole state so when winds start to wail, dry corn stalks come flying at your head, not the tops of 50-foot pines like here in Massachusetts.

When my husband, the Turk, found our charming little house in the woods two years ago, he was so taken by the remoteness and the stunning view of cranberry bogs behind it, that it never occurred to him it could be a death-trap in high winds. I felt the same love he did, until we had our first windstorm. When winds began reaching speeds around 50 mph, and the trees surrounding my home started to bend over, I was sure we were about to die. It was so bad, I even wore one of the Turk’s work hard-hats for the dangerous journey from garage to house. 

I survived the first windstorm but the second was worse. I even picked the kids up on my way home from work to avoid standing in the kill-zone waiting on the bus. As Number 1 caught sight of the backbending trees, he lost it. “We’re going to die Mom! A huge tree is going to crash into our house and we will die!”

“Relax. Maimed maybe but death is not likely.”

“Seriously Mom? Do you not see the branches falling in our yard like confetti of death? If a tree falls on our house, what do we do? Become homeless?”

That’s when Nugget chimed, “If a tree fallth, you juth call Flo at Progrethive or Jake from Thate Farm. Duh.” (Note to self- curtail that kid’s television time.)

Until last Friday, my husband always managed to be out of town for work during the worst of these windstorms. When I would send videos of swaying trees, he would blow me off with a, “Calm down. Is nothing.”

It’s easy to think this when you’re not running from pine boughs flying overhead while your terrified kids are hiding in the basement, asking about the structural integrity of the second floor. But last week, the Turk got to experience the full brunt of Mother Nature himself. As I arrived home from work that afternoon, the Turk emerged from his basement office. “What is happening? Sound like tornado outside.”

“Windstorm. This is what I’ve been telling you about and finally you’re here for one.”

“When it will stop?”

“According to Accuweather, 10:00.”

“Tonight?!? But trees can snap by then.”

“EXACTLY!” 

He paced from window to window, watching the woods around us do a little tango. 

“Maybe you should go down the driveway and wait for Nugget’s bus. You know, to protect your wife from danger.” If I get impaled by a falling branch, you cannot raise these boys on your own.”” I wasn’t totally joking.

“Very funny. Why you are so dramatic?”

“Dramatic? I think that a man from a male-dominated Muslim country would be elated to protect a woman from potential doom.”

“We live US now. We have equal rights.” 

Touché. 

As he snuggled into his fuzzy slippers, I donned my cold weather gear and headed down the drive, watching branches and twigs rain down around me. In hindsight I should have used the argument that his life insurance was worth much more than mine. (If he gets killed on the job he’s got triple indemnity but accident death by tree is still a good payout.) But since this wasn’t my first windstorm, I was feeling cocky.

Five minutes into my wait I heard a very large crack overhead. It was the kind of crack that you know is about to release something massive. My head snapped up. Which one was it? Which tree held my demise? I spun left, then right. So many trees! Why so damn many trees? Then I heard the tell tale wood on wood smack of a very large branch losing to gravity. I covered my head and assumed the tornado position. (Iowa habits are hard to break.)

SMACK! A huge hunk of wood landed inches from my cowering body immediately followed by another huge WOOSH of as a massive branch landed on the other side.

Cautiously, I unfurled. hoping another branch wasn’t coming to finish the job.  I took a look at my attempted assassins. The branch dwarfed me by feet and the hunk of wood weighed at least 10 pounds. I did as any wife would and immediately texted photos to the Turk as an I-told-you-so.

“LOOK AT THIS! I ALMOST JUST DIED! I HOPE YOU ARE HAPPY.”

The Turk made a fatal error as he texted back, “Is just little twig.”

Twig? Bitch please. I dragged the violators off the drive fuming. Then, as I shielded Nugget from any more flying tree parts as he got off the bus, I hauled that big-ass piece of wood all the way up to the house and dropped it right on the Turk’s cushy slippers. 

“Whoa. This is huge. What if it hit you?”

“Yes. What if this big ass piece of wood had fallen on my head. What then? Wouldn’t you feel like crap?”

He searched the air for an answer before finally declaring, “We will burn it in fireplace. For revenge.”

It wasn’t the heartfelt admittance of guilt I desired but for my Turk, there is no bigger show of love than an offer to seek revenge so I’ll take it but next time…his ass will be the one dodging flying trees.

 

 

A Hard Earned Holiday Haze

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There are mere hours left until I have to return to reality. Were I not a grown-ass woman, I might fold my arms, bow my head defiantly and simply refuse to put on pants and go, but there are bills to pay and responsibilities to be upheld so hence, I must return to work. I must go back to packing lunches, prodding my offspring through homework and taking on the role of personal Uber for my family, oh reality. But this year I’m more ready to return to reality than I’ve been in years.

In the past, when I began the glorious educational hiatus that is Christmas break, I made lofty organizational goals, domestic aims that might make Martha Stewart proud and parenting ambitions that would land me a feature in any issue of Working Mother. Usually I achieved about 90% so I assumed this year would be no different. My 2019 to-do list included baking six types of cookies and 4 kinds of fudge, color-coordinated gift-wrapping, a host of holiday kid projects and enough family activities to make the Brady Bunch jealous. As the last days of school wrapped up I was ready to turn my energy to that list but then Nugget got cooties and thus began my downfall.

My poor Nugget not only missed the 1stgrade Christmas concert but also all the glory of the pre-break madness as he was stuck at home with the Turk shivering from a nasty fever and a host of germs flowing through his body.

“He has fever.” The Turk alerted me at work.

“I know. He’s had it since yesterday. How high?”

“High.”

“What’s the number?”

“I don’t need number. I am Turkish. I could tell when I touch him so I give him medicine.”

“Well in America we judge fevers with numbers so I’m going to need that.”

Five minutes later I received another text, “His fever is 82 degrees.”

“Um no. Try reading it again.”

“Is digital. I read it right. 82.”

“I’ll be home in 10.”

After a lesson on how to take a temperature, and a call to the doctor, I learned that my beloved Christmas break would be taking a 3-5 day delay due to a  nasty virus winding it’s way though the elementary schools. No outings, no activities, no baking, just hours of snuggling with my baby.

While it wasn’t what I’d planned it was exactly what I needed after the past few months of madness and mayhem. We caught up on some of his shows, (That Apple and Onion never cease to crack me up.) watched a large hunk of classic Star Wars movies and put everything on the back burner. It was blissful.

I assumed that as soon as Nugget was recovered we would pick up my to-do list and we did…kind of. By the time the cooties had left him it was a mad dash to get things ready for Christmas so we cut down the list and punted. We managed to make an insane amount of cookies expertly decorated by Nugs and the color-coordinated wrapping morphed into a “done is good” situation. And while in days gone by I would have been a hot mess over such slacking, this year my advanced age (and perhaps the box of wine) allowed me to accept defeat gracefully while my butt melted into my sofa.

Instead of worrying about giving my family a Martha Stewart worthy holiday season I abandoned them. I started by spending a couple days in Maine solving holiday themed murders before heading to Connecticut to dissect the psychological diagnoses of Mr. Parish. I stole money from a plane crash in Bora Bora while scuba diving and lived in a drug-fueled haze with a band loosely resembling Fleetwood Mac. (It’s amazing what can happen when you avoid Facebook.) I’ve never managed to finish this many books in two weeks since…ever but once I left reality I couldn’t go back.

I devoured book after book on the Reese Witherspoon Book Club list – PS – I’m way more Reese’s Club than Oprah’s. Reese keeps it real with smut and murder and I appreciate that. And when I wasn’t reading I was learning how to exploit my paranoia with the Doomsday Preppers (Those people are certifiable.) and how to save my Homestead with Marty Raney. (My entire family is now addicted to Homestead Rescue and Marty’s hairy chest.) I’m not really and HGTV gal, I need more drama like missing outhouses and underground bunkers and Marty fits the bill perfectly.

So now that fudge is no longer coursing through my veins and I’ve had more relaxation than I’ve had in over a year, I might be ready to go back to middle school. Break didn’t look anything like I’d planned and it was awesome. And maybe, just maybe I will keep it up until the sun comes back in April… but until then, you can find me in Bora Bora…or maybe Tailand…wherever Reese sends me.

 

I’m An Unsupportive Athletic Supporter

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I am not an athlete. In third grade I was a miserable outfielder handicapped by ADD and when I decided to retire from softball after one season, a collective sigh of relief was heard throughout the land.

I toyed with tennis in high school and though I could return 1 out of every 10 balls, I was shocked to learn that my chances of being the next Billie Jean King were slim.

In my twenties and thirties I took up running and I still do it occasionally (when my old lady knees don’t hurt and motivation strikes) but running is not a sport. Running is the athletic equalizer for us nerds. The only athletic skill required is the ability to put one foot in front of the other and any pace is acceptable. I like running because the ability to run for a prolonged period of time is useful should I ever need to escape during a zombie apocalypse. (I may be slow but I can outrun the walking dead!)

I try to fake it by talking sports with the kids at school but my knowledge only comes from being forced to watch Sportscenter daily by the small, multi-sport athlete that managed to spring forth from my loins.

Unfortunately, due to the constant stream of sporty crap happening in our home, my little weirdo Nugget has also become an athletic supporter. But, thankfully, he has his mother’s athletic prowess. Go here to read more about Nugget’s career in sports. In actuality, Nugget is only into sports for the costumes. He can’t play a game of living room basketball without donning a Celtics jersey. For tossing the football in the backyard, he’s got on full pads, jersey and helmet. As a cherry on top, Nugget prefers to play his games alone as the scene in his head is not as disappointing as reality.

In the past months it became clear that while I gave birth to a sporty dude, I will never be a quality sports mom and I should probably farm that job out to someone more capable. This fall we went through a long and painful football season. We’ve gone through numerous football seasons but this one just sucked. The drama was over the top and the disappointment was brutal. As is the norm in PeeWee football, the coaches kids were the stars but unlike the other 5 seasons we’ve played, this year they didn’t try to hide it.

Every night after practice I was faced with a surly, frustrated child and every night I threw out some version of advice from a late 90’s self-help manual I assumed was applicable in the sports world. I threw down with the coach and even sent my secret weapon, the Turk, to stand on the sidelines and look like a crazy-ass Middle Easterner. (Don’t laugh, it usually works. Thanks to cultural ignorance running wild in America, most regular white dudes assume he could wage jihad if provoked. Full disclosure, he doesn’t even know what jihad is.)But when nothing changed even after the Turk, I finally lost it.

“Yes I get it. It sucks really bad this year. It’s not fair that you get the shaft because your father doesn’t stand on the sidelines and spew testosterone but what the hell can I do?”

“Mom, don’t lose it.”

“Son, that ship has sailed. Mama is soooooo over this. So quit. Just stop going and call it done. We can actually have a freakin’ normal life again.”

“Mom, you can’t just quit in sports.”

“Why not? If Andrew Luck can walk away from the NFL where he’s making serious bank, you can walk away from Pee Wee football.”

“That’s not how teams work.” He countered.

Maybe he was right. My knowledge of team sports ended with “There is no I in team.” And I still think that’s stupid.

So we kept going and the whining and drama continued. When the loses began to pile up I felt relief. There was no chance we were going to the playoffs with this level of suckage. I could smell freedom coming. And then they won. And they won again. And the other teams kept losing which meant that we had, by some ridiculously bad joke, been thrust into the post-season. God help me.

As expected the season ended much as it had been, with most of the team on the sidelines and the coaches kids leading us all to an amazing defeat. The scoreboard continued to blare the extreme deficit and my insides twittered. “We’re almost done!” I whispered to the Turk and he giggled back in happy agreement.

It was now November and I’d been schlepping all over southern Massachusetts, standing in the rain and the cold and doing nightly therapy since August and it was almost over. As the team left the field after their big loss only a handful seemed disappointed. The rest were just relieved. Another mom who’d had a season much like ours leaned in and whispered, “Is it too soon to jump the coach and yell, ‘your kids lost the game, not mine because my kid was on the freakin’ sideline for the whole damn game!” While I agreed vehemently I realized when I farm out my role of sports mom, she might not be a top choice though I liked her spunk.

While I’m sure some real sports mom would say there were valuable lessons learned about sticking things out, there was only one lesson he learned that matters. “Mom, I think I’m ready to go to soccer full-time. I’m over this PeeWee football crap.” And to that I say, THANK GOD!

Gorilla Boobies and Nunchucks

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“Mom, what are we going to do about Halloween costumes?” Number 1 asked.

“I’ve got time. I’ll get on it next week.”

“Actually Mom, you only have like two weeks.”

Were this a 70’s sitcom I would’ve done a spit-take while a laugh track behind me chortled at my dismay. We’ve been so busy dealing with Nugget’s surgery, a visit from Grandma and a football season with enough drama to rival the entire Dance Moms franchise that Halloween fell off my radar.

Unlike many, we are absolutely not Halloween people. I hate all things scary, bloody and gory. The last horror movie I saw was in 1986 and that damn Freddy Kurger still haunts my dreams. The only time I succumbed to a haunted house was during college in the ‘90’s and I still shudder when passing abandoned farmhouses from memories of that “Homestead of Horror.”

My husband, The Turk, totally doesn’t get Halloween. “Why they walk around to get candy? Why we not just buy the candy and they can stay home and eat?” Halloween wasn’t a thing in 1980’s Turkey during his childhood because when you live in an often hostile nation, who needs manufactured anxiety just for fun?

Our offspring tend to follow my lead when it comes to goblins and ghouls. Nugget has not been able to walk into any store with a Halloween display without having his eyes covered since the Halloween goods started appearing in August. “Hawoween guys are da worsth!” Number 1 has managed to wiggle out of a couple haunted house invites from friends and while his buds are priming up to don bloody masks and plastic meat cleavers, he’s trying to find the only costume options void of bloodshed but still cool enough to hide his wussy soul.

While we don’t do the scary parts, we do costumes hard core. Back in the day, I was a costume designer in professional theater. I worked for theatres, dance companies, operas and even a few indie films. I created everything from giant mudmen to bloody brides and all things in between and I did it for close to 15 years. So when my kids dream up a costume, they know Mom can handle it. Our kitchen becomes Dreamworks Studio for the weeks leading up to the big dance and they love it. I’ve made dinosaurs, an epic number of Star Wars characters, monsters, superheroes, a viking, a pirate, a Ghostbuster, a mad scientists and a few I’m forgetting. It’s my moment to pull out the old skills and mom real hard. But this year…

“Mom, I don’t want you to get upset…”

(P.S. When you start with that phrase it’s usually a solid bet mom is going to get upset.)

“…but I was wondering if I could get a store-bought costume this year?” Number 1, my first born, my intercontinental sidekick, my baby boy was kicking me to the curb.

“Well…” I wiped a fake tear that was intended to add to his guilt but in reality was a tear of relief. Mama ain’t got time for this madness this year. “I guess…if you really want one…”

He did and within a day we had a plan to morph my adorable little 6th grader into a badass gorilla, an age appropriate and not at all gory option. Fortunately Nugget stilled held great expectations for a mom-made, red ninja costume complete with gold nunchucks so Dreamworks is still in business.

“Wew, if you guyth are going to the Hawoween thore, I am thooooooo thaying home.” Nugget’s fear was real and he wasn’t budging even for his brother. But Nugget gave us his blessing, “Good. Go wif-out me!” and we were all set.

We scored our gorilla suit on our first stop with the added bonus of a 25% off sale and within hours I had a four and a half foot gorilla lounging in my living room. That’s when Number 1 had a brilliant idea.

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Gorilla reclining

“I’m going to hide in the trees and wait for Nugget to get off the bus, then I’m going to jump out and scare him.”

“You know this is not going to end well.” I warned.

“But it will be hilarious.”

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You don’t see me….

As I headed down to meet the bus I was followed by a stocky little gorilla. I crossed my fingers that none of the neighbors mistook him for a midget Sasquatch and took him out. Once he was in place, he gave me the code “ka-kaw, ka-kaw,” I was to yell when Nugget was heading his way. Nugget departed the bus glad-handing like a politician before jumping into my arms with my post-school hug and then he was on his way up our huge driveway while I was “ka-kawing” behind him.

“Grrrrrrr!” The hairy beast jumped from behind the tree and while we both expected a scream in response, the gorilla was instead met with a harsh blow right to the crotch. Eventually he unmasked the gorilla and realized King Kong was only his brother but the damage was done and there was a hairy lump, clutching his crotch on my driveway.

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That did not end well…

“That wath not funny.” Nugget lectured. “You know I hate to be thcared.”

“Why did you hit me though?” Wailed the gorilla.

“Becauthe, I’m a ninja so when I fight I hit your penith to protect mythelf. If I had my nunchucks I could weally geth you.”

And so the lesson learned is,  if you are attacked without nunchucks, hit their penis. It works.

“Also, I fink you need to wear a thirt. I can thee your gorilla boobieth and it’th groth.”

Happy Halloween Y’all!

Man of the Ear

ear“Are you really sure about this?” I asked Nugget one last time as we spun through the hospital’s revolving door for the third time. (Revolving doors never get old in our family.)

“Yeth. I am thure. I’m ready Mom.” The idea of letting a six-year-old make his own medical decisions seemed nuts but in the end, it’s his body. After spending the summer jumping through more hoops than a participant in the Westminster Dog Show, Nugget will be heading into surgery tomorrow to get an abutment implanted in his skull that will eventually hold his hearing aid and while he can’t wait, I’m ‘bout to lose my damn mind.

Six years ago this chunky Nugget came roaring in and while he was as big as a small toddler, weighing in only an ounce shy of 10 pounds, he had more issues to contend with than his thunder thighs. He had a kidney that didn’t quite work taking up his entire abdomen. He had a divot in his throat that we hoped had closed better on the inside than it had on the out and as a cherry on the top, he had one ear. The other spot was filled in with a tiny nub that kind of resembled a mini-ear but with no opening or inner workings. After failing the newborn hearing test and a few kidney scans we spent his first couple years splitting our time between children’s hospitals and doctors until we finally got the diagnosis that put it all together – Branchio-oto-renal syndrome. Branchio-the divot in his throat, oto- that missing ear and renal, the  hot mess kidney. With an official answer, we were on our way to getting a handle on things.

The first three years of his life were filled with procedures, surgeries, early interventionists, audiologists and a mother that played detective better than Cagney and Lacey combined. Eventually we hit a good groove and things became manageable. A speech impediment and anxiety issues are far easier to deal with than internal organ issues but there was still one surgery left and that one is happening tomorrow.

Because he doesn’t have an ear, there is no place to put the hearing aid and no tube to send the sound through so he wears a BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aid). He’s worn it on a headband up until now that holds the aid close to his bone and transmits soundwaves through his skull. But being the one-eared guy wearing a Bjorn Borg head-band all day as well as a transmitter around his neck connected to one around the teacher’s neck has taken a toll on his self-esteem. (And I thought being the chubby kid was rough!)

Last year a little asshead from a neighboring class did mock him but the perpetrator was quickly reported by the class narc and received a harsh punishment. I asked Nugget if he was upset about the incident, “Nah. It didn’t bother me because I didn’t hear him.” Note to the asshat, if you’re going to mock the one-eared guy, you’ll need to do it on the side he actually has an ear or your efforts are fruitless. This is a prime example of how Nugget handles all this. In his six years he’s gained more self-acceptance than most adults. Last week he came home from school with  a self-portrait complete with one ear, “Dats who I am Mom. I’m just keepin’ it real.” It worked for Van Gough, so why not Nugget?

Six is the magical age when a kid can break free of the headband and get an abutment implanted so the hearing aid just snaps on, streamlining the process and turning him into “a man” as Nugget explained. “When I get my BAHA implant, I’m going to be big, like a man. No more little kid.” He has been counting down to this manhood for years. This summer we got the approval and now it’s time. It’s all great for him but the thought of wheeling my baby into surgery one more time gives me more anxiety than the current political climate. And if I’m bad, my husband The Turk, AKA Captain Anxiety, is about to blow. 

“Baba is thrething me out Mom.” Nugget confided in me last night in bed.

“Right??!? He stresses me out too!” I confirmed.

“Can we leave him home?”

“Sorry Nugs but no. We can send him for coffee a lot though and if we take him he can drive and we can snuggle in the backseat.”

“Thounds good to me Mom.”

So send some good vibes our way for tomorrow, Nugget becomes a man, or at least his ear does and while that happens I’ll be twitching and pacing and The Turk will be getting coffee….again…and again.