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.

Back To School Blows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You can sleep in over Christmas Break.”

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

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

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

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

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Terrible Twos? Ah Hells No, Now It’s The Tyrannical Threes!

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I’m relatively certain that the individual who coined the phrase, “terrible twos” did so before his or her child turned three. There is not a parent on Earth that would honestly agree that a two-year-old tyrant is worse than a three-year-old tyrant. Ok, maybe that Duggar woman would disagree but after passing 82 children through her lady parts, it’s understandable that her sanity might be compromised.

My darling Nugget’s birthday was this week and, as usual, the date marking my successfully delivering offspring into this world makes me a bit emotional. On both of their birthdays I can’t help get little weepy as I recount those glory years, when they were cuddly and smelled like…well…babies or dwelling on life when they were tiny bundles of love that wore what I put on them and didn’t sass me or argue about every damn thing! (Previously I would have said before they could talk but in the past year Nugget has proved that one can sass and argue just as effectively in sign language so there goes that thought.)

Amid all the mushy melancholy and buttercream frosting, I had a thought. Maybe since the Nugget had such a rough go as a two-year old, what with the whole deaf thing, the apraxia thing, the bum kidney thing, and on and on…maybe the universe will give me a break and we will waltz through three like a pair of washed-up musicians on Dancing With The Stars. I mean, after the past year, don’t I deserve it?

I have good reason to fear three. My darling, kind and loving Number One Son was literally Satan on Earth when he was three. The sweet child I’d doted on since birthing him in a crazy Turkish hospital morphed into a pocket-sized Attila the Hunn the moment he blew out those three candles. Add in his adult-sized vocabulary, stubborn Turk genes and hot temper (No really, by 4 we were seriously considering anger management classes for him.) and I often doubted that kid would see 4.

Yet somehow, like childbirth, I’d blocked that horror out, until the Nugget’s big 0-3 started to draw near. As an incident over the shade of an ice pop blew into a throw-down last week leaving a sobbing Nugget clutching me, signing Why is Baba so mad? Why did Baba make me cry? and the Turk screaming Turkish profanity followed by “What the hell is wrong with him?” It grew apparent, 3 was coming to take my Nugget as well. But being the Positive Pollyanna that I am, I tried to lay out my rational as to why three would be better with Nugget than with Number 1 for the Turk. (While I took the brunt of the horror on round one, he was not left unharmed and we both suffer from Post Traumatic Turkish Toddler issues. And since Nugget is a major Baba’s boy, it’s not looking good for the Turk on this round.)

“Maybe since he’s got a few delays, the whole three thing will be delayed too and   we’ll get it in spurts instead of all at once.”

“No. You are crazy. He is crazy. This will be very bad.”

“Maybe since he had such a rough year and he’s made such huge strides this year   will be a breeze. It’s karma.”

“No. This will be bad. I see if I can travel more for work this year.”

“Maybe since we’re really old now, it won’t bother us as much.”

“No. Now I just get piss faster.”

The signs started to show around 2.5 but it was too soon so I wrote it off. But as the sass via sign started, I worried. When he began to sigh, “Uggggg Ooooooooom! (Aw Mom!)” while rolling his eyes and storming off, I saw the tidal wave beginning to form. Then, this week when he handed me a poop-filled diaper, leaving a trail of poop on my freshly (like mere hours earlier freshly) cleaned, white carpet, and began to explain that he was uncomfortable and needed a shower “Ow!” (Now!), it was clear there would be no delays. 3 had arrived like a freight train and no one would be spared.

But as I cuddled a chubby little birthday boy who somehow appeared in my bed in the middle of the night, I got a little weepy thinking about how much has changed for him in the past year and how much he’s accomplished. Last summer he was lethargic and miserable with a kidney that just wasn’t working and now he’s an unstoppable ball of fire. Last summer he was so angry because he couldn’t hear or communicate and now he gladly wears his hearing aid and communicates in both ASL and spoken English (though he’s still only using vowels, he knows what he’s saying even if the rest of us don’t.) Last summer we didn’t really understand all that was going on with Nugget or even what BOR Syndrome was and now we’re a veritable font of knowledge on the subject and have made great strides at getting him on track.

So even though 3 pretty much sucks and we’ll be in for quite a year, I gladly take it. Especially if it means that my baby is finally catching up. (Full disclosure: I could not have chosen a better time to go back to work.) Good luck Developmental Preschool. You’re going to need it with this one!

 

Thanks For The Coffee Klatch Paul Stanley

Toddlers on bench in gas masks during WWII

Unleash the balloons! Discharge the confetti cannons! It’s over. (No, not the US presidential race, we can only dream about that ending. We’re stuck in that crap-nado for at least six more months.) No, the case conference was yesterday and Nugget now officially has an IEP and is placed in a school for fall. He’s even been put on a bus route. (Though I doubt the chubster’s stump-like legs will be capable of mounting bus stairs and thus he will need a drop off, but I digress.) While the beginning of his formal education doesn’t look at all like I’d anticipated, we’ve got an education plan and the next step is happening.

We had great options but Nugget fell into the in-between and none were ideal right now, so he’ll be spending his first semester on the Island of Misfit Toys with other little buddies that need an extra push to get things going. (Side note- when we visited the Island, Nugget had a grand time laughing at a kid with enormous glasses and that kid pointed and laughed right back, because on the Island, it is perfectly acceptable for a kid with one ear and a hearing aid on his forehead and a kid with Coke-bottle glasses to mock each other. The Island is a level playing field. Socialization at it’s core.) He’ll have a full morning of social time and therapy, much like a Baby Betty Ford Clinic. Best of all, the teachers will meet Nugget in his zone, not all sign language, not all speech but a combo of both, just like Nugget.

In addition to his speech and language needs, they will also help him with his anxiety. (Again, much like a Baby Betty Ford Clinic – sans pharmaceuticals.) The plan is to bring that sassy little chunk out of his Mama-needin’ shell so he’ll become comfortable enough to entertain the masses with his sweet dance moves and vowel-based recreations of Flo Rida jams. (El-um u i ous : That’s ‘Welcome to My House’ as interpreted by the Nugget.) The kid is well on his way to comedic genius and while I’d love to save it all for my own entertainment pleasure, the world needs a good laugh right about now and Nugs is ready to lead the charge…as soon as he can get off his mama’s lap. (I’m assuming Jerry Seinfeld started on his mom’s lap as well. Right?)

While the decision is made, I still had my doubts. The what-if’s are massive in this Polly-the-Planner, Wilma-the-Worrier mind of mine. Sure, all parents worry about making a wrong choice – like will Timmy become an ax murderer because I sent him to a Waldorf school over a Montessori school? (Unlikely, but though he’ll be able to knit at age 3, he might never learn to sort beans properly.) In the realm of special needs parenting the worry is heightened because your kid is already behind and parents are often working against developmental time clocks, age deadlines, insurance restrictions and school district constraints. (Man, have I learned a lot this year!)

Just as I was getting ready to dosi-do into a second-guessing square dance over my morning coffee, I got a little gift from Paul Stanley that seemed to put things in perspective. Paul Stanley, yes Star Child from Kiss and a founding father of hair metal, has the same ear deformity Nugget does and even wears the same kind of hearing aid. Didn’t know Star Child was half-deaf with one ear did ya? (There is your useless trivia for today. You’re welcome.) That’s why he started the hair thing – to hide his ear. And I guess that also explains the whole volume thing too. Gene: Turn it up guys, Paul can’t hear a damn thing, he’s only got one ear! Paul Stanley never went public about his Microtia until recently and since then he’s been a huge supporter of tiny Microtians doing great things for kids all over. (And you thought he was just some sleazy, tight pants wearin’ rock star didn’t you? Nice, Judgy Judy)

Anyway, this morning an interview with Paul Stanley came across my inbox and my second-guessing ceased. In the article, the writer asked Stanley his secret to overcoming the huge obstacles placed before him as a kid. He replied, “You don’t take giant steps. You initially take baby steps appropriately. As you have small successes and small wins, it encourages you to go the next step.” Logical? Yes, but sometimes when wisdom is delivered by a hairy rock icon it sticks better. Thank you Star Child.

Nugget is doing just that. He started by signing single words and now he’s signing sentences. He used to be a miserable, grunting tyrant and now he uses sign language to recreate hilarious adventures from his day. (Explaining how he got an owie is usually Oscar worthy.) Signing has given him enough confidence to try verbal approximations and he just keeps building. It really doesn’t matter where he is in school because right now, he is taking baby steps at his pace and eventually those will lead to great success. In time, Nugget might just pick-up a guitar and forge a new sound that will take the world by storm. (Though in all honesty I look for him to be more R&B than Metal. Chubby guys are good at smooooooooth.) Take your time Nugget and keep going with those baby steps. We’ll get there. I have no doubt about it.

 

I Think My Spirit Guide is a Wrestling Quaker

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With the exception of a stint in a private school owned by the Turkish mafia (What? Mafia bosses care about education too.) and a year in public school, I’ve spent my entire teaching career in Quaker schools. If you’re not familiar with Quaker schools let me nutshell it for you. Quaker schools were created by the Religious Society of Friends (Codename: Quakers) to educate their young’uns, although now most students are not Quakers. These are groovy, progressive schools where equality is the norm, community service is part of the curriculum and you can’t help but get sucked into their hippie thinking. (Quakers are pretty badass for pacifists.)

After many years in various Quaker schools, the Quaker way is deeply rooted in my thinking and parts of it occasional spring forth from my cluttered brain in times of need. This week, one Quaker idea has really been poppin’ thanks to my one-eared, bum kidneyed, hard of hearing, apraxic, high-strung, Nugget’s latest journey and that’s the idea that “a way opens.” It started in the dairy section of Aldi. (Yes, I’m a value shopper. No shame in that.) I heard, “Relax, a way opens,” over and over in the voice of my former coworker Mr. Ross, a wrestling coach/hippie Quaker. (I’m guessing this means he’s my spirit guide. I’m not sure how that works but admitting I hear voices sounds like a cry for help so I’m going with spirit guide.)

Most likely, Mr. Ross became my spirit guide because he was the one who best explained the theory to me many years ago. “If there’s a rock in the stream, the water doesn’t try to break the rock. The water makes a new way around the rock. Thus, a way opens.” It was pretty Zen for a dude who spent most of his time in headlocks and half nelsons. Ultimately, it might not be the road you were planning to travel, but a road will open, in time.

Right now, I really need a way to open in the, choosing-a-school-for-the-One-Eared-Wonder arena. As of August he phases out of Early Intervention and moves on to big boy school, but due to summer break decisions must be made now. We have 3 choices: the ASL based deaf school, the speech based deaf school with no ASL or the all encompassing developmental preschool which I lovingly liken to the Island of Misfit Toys- everybody who needs a little extra help can find it there.

We tried the ASL deaf school earlier this year and even though signing is his first language, it was a di- freakin’-saster. (Here, in case you missed it.) Since his main issue now is developing speech I had grand plans for him to attend the speech-based deaf school but after demonstrating a flagrant disregard for his mother’s plans by throwing his placement evaluation like Pete Rose in a title game, I began to worry. After discussions with his developmental pediatrician, speech therapist and audiologist last week my grand plans began to crack. All three suggested that due to Nugget’s increasing anxiety issues, he might not be ready for a speech intensive school. Why ya gotta do me like this Nug? Mama had a plan.

With every professional suggesting a holding pattern, I knew what they were really saying…look how well he’s done with you this year… you should give him one more year…stay home with him, just one more year. Sure I nodded and claimed I’d give proper consideration, while my insides screamed “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Now I certainly love my Nug and I will agree this has been a great year for him developmentally, but regular viewers may recall my fear of financial ruin forcing me to take up pole dancing on cellulite night as a means of survival. That fear hasn’t diminished and I’m staying flexible just in case. Here in the real world Mama needs to bring in some dough and while I’d love to stay home (Ok, not really, 24/7 Nugget duty is hard and I’m old.) I really must get back to the workforce.

Going back to work not only means freedom from the threat of pole dancing, it also means wearing pants not intended for yoga. (While I enjoy my yoga pants, my pants have not been exposed to yoga in the past year and Mama desperately needs the stand-up-and-suck-it-in goodness that occurs with a waistband.) I long for commutes where my sports radio is not disturbed by constant demands for It’s Signing Time Music Time. (Yes, I’m butch like that but only during football season.) I want lunch without that little bastard Daniel Tiger and coffee that doesn’t have remnants of a toddler’s masticated bagel. All of that is at my fingertips if I just get this school thing right. See, I’ve already taken a teaching position for next school year. (Now you see my plan? Mommy goes to school, Number 1 is in school, Nugget starts school. Easy peasy…or not.) So the need for accurate Nugget placement is high.

Hopefully my Spirit Guide is right and soon, a way will open. In the past, through all our trials, (And there have been an inordinate amount, damn it) a way has always opened. It wasn’t always what I’d hoped for but it’s always worked out, eventually. (Though I may now have a compromised liver and nervous tick, everything has to resolve, eventually.) On an up note, somehow in this stress, I developed not an ulcer, but rather a wrestling Quaker spirit guide so it seems my body has learned to handle stress differently this year. Perhaps a way is opening…

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Grab Your Cape One Eared Wonder, It Is Time.

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When Nugget was a few weeks old and his failure of the newborn hearing screening was confirmed (Like that was hard, I mean, the guy has one ear. Duh.) we were told “The Center will be in touch to register him. They can keep track of him from here out.” Now I assumed, as one does, that “The Center” was something akin to the Hall of Justice. Logically, I also assumed that since the One Eared Wonder was born with a genetic glitch, as is true of most members of the Justice League, X-Men, Avengers, etc., it would only be a matter of time before The Center sent his cape and tights and called him in for duty. We got that call this week but we’re still waiting on the cape and tights.

Early Monday morning Nugs and I were instructed to report to The Center for his “evaluation.” While they tried to convince me this “evaluation” was for school placement, I knew better. I’ve got forty plus years of Wonder Woman fandom under my belt. I know how these things work. I also know it’s imperative to keep things on the down low, so I played along with the school rouse.

I tried to explain the process to Nugget, but to him it all sounded a bit too much like school. Unfortunately for him, The Center also shares a campus with his old school and if you’re following along, you’ll recall that that whole deaf preschool thing did not set well with the little dude and at present, he’s a preschool drop-out. As soon as we neared the sprawling, gated campus, (Huh. See that, sprawling, gated campus, synonymous with superhero training grounds –ie the Xavier Institute from the X-Men. They can’t fool me. I know what’s really going on.) Nugget knew exactly where we were and the meltdown commenced.

From the backseat he was screaming, sobbing, and signing no, no, no, I go home over and over and over. (While this is not behavior befitting one quested with world salvation, I’m sure AquaMan behaved the same when his AquaMom took him that first time too.) I assured him that I was staying and it would be fun but he’s heard enough of my crap over this situation and was not buying it. So, as I’ve now grown accustomed to doing, I entered The Center with a screaming fat kid clinging to my torso like a hostile chimp.

I was a bit concerned when I was able to just open the door and walk in. I’d expected there to be a handprint recognition security system or a membership swipe card at the very least. Upon entry we were met with a team led by a small older woman (their version of Dr. Charles Xavier-obviously) and her team of attractive young people, likely hiding their own superpowers beneath career wear. We were ushered back to the ‘testing suite’ where the One Eared Wonder was wired up to headphones and the process began. (While I’d hoped for a segment where they strapped him to an upright table for endurance, strength and mind control testing while I looked on from a glass-enclosed balcony above, that didn’t happen. I’m assuming they wait until he’s successfully completed kindergarten for that phase.)

As the testing continued so did his hostility, even after he was introduced into a room of fellow-trainees. (AKA two other almost-three year olds.) The other trainees were a bit more independent and did not demand to remain on their mommy’s laps. Because of this bravery, I assumed they were undercover members of The Center being used as a control group. That assumption was dashed when the interpreters entered the room.

Three kids, not quite three-years old, all of whom only communicate in ASL, received a team of two older women who interpreted their every sign for the hearing evaluators (whose hidden talents must not include the ability to read chubby fingered toddler ASL) and the result was hilarious.

The quiet room was now filled with dramatic, rapid-fire, voice-overs of every single thought the toddlers expressed:

Can I get some water?

                        I spilled my water.

            I want more water.

                        Did somebody poop?

            I pooped.

                        She pooped.

                                    I go home now! (Nugget, of course)

            Where is my snack? Can I eat his? He’s not eating it. I want.

                                    I’m done with this! We go in car now! (Nugget, of course)

            I’m ready for nap.

                        I don’t like this snack. Got something else?

            Are we done?

                        Where is my dad? My dad has snacks.

                                    I don’t want snack. GO HOME NOW! (At least he was consistent)

Upon our departure, I was given another form to complete regarding home behaviors and skills. While there was a question asking – does you child easily lift extremely heavy objects (Why yes, last week Nugget held my car up during an oil change.) I was taken aback when there were no questions like, does your child spontaneously take flight, walk through walls and/or appear out of nowhere. After completing the form I added a note suggesting those be added for the next printing.

Now we wait. Our next meeting is scheduled for May and I’m hoping that’s when he gets his cape and tights but if it’s based on Monday’s performance, we might be stuck with a bath towel and pajama bottoms for a while longer.

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The Heathen Has An Easter Epiphany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hannibal Lecter Goes To Nursery School

d12fc594e4e224b8aec6afd7e609d067 (1)First days suck and now it has become clear that both of my kids suck…nay…super-suck at first days. I had great hopes that Nug would be more macho, or at least the toddler version of stoic, whatever that is, but no. He too is a big ol’ mama’s boy dead set on giving his mother an ulcer to match the one caused by years and years of his brother’s first day antics.

Last week was Nugget’s first day in the Early Childhood program at the deaf school. We thought it would be good for him to spend time with kids like him, hone his ASL vocabulary and get accustomed to a school environment before we start full-time school in August. Ok, that’s a load of crap. That’s what I told the Turk but in reality, I just really wanted those four hours a week to meander around Target and maybe drink a latte that wasn’t filled with toddler saliva. My needs are simple but I’m a desperate mother.

Leading up to his first day I pumped it up. We talked all about school and bought an Elmo backpack that counts when you punch Elmo in the nose. (Yeah, you’re probably not supposed to punch Elmo but you know how he gets.) We gathered his requisite supplies and even got a lunch box. It was all very exciting as he was well on his way to big boy status.

On D-Day we put Number One on the bus and drove downtown to the deaf school. Nugget was atwitter, signing along with his jams, dancing in his car seat and laughing at his own wit. Like a fool, I thought, finally, something with this kid is going to be easy. He’s going to be one of those rare unicorn babies that walk into their classroom, wave goodbye and poof, parenting success.

Of course, leading up to this I’d had a massive meltdown and had to be texted off the ledge the night before. (Yes, texted off the ledge is a thing. It’s the modern remake of talked off the ledge. Get with the times.) I was sure my baby was going to be sold to a child labor syndicate or tied to a snowdrift for timeout, (Yes, I realize that is not possible but you can’t reason with anxiety. I read that in a self-help book once.) or worse, what if he couldn’t communicate his needs? I mean in our world I’m the only one who….then it hit me… this is the only place where someone else would be able to communicate with him. The entire school functions only in ASL, his first language, so of course they’d understand him. Once I got past that and the whole leaving my baby out in the wild thing, I was cool with it. Nugget being so excited only made it easier.

We walked in the big doors, greeted the school secretary who patiently waited through my remedial signing as I explained who we were and where we were heading. (Seriously, I feel like I signed for 10 minutes straight and when I was all done and proud of myself, he simply signed, Ok. Very anticlimactic.) Down the winding hall we went with a bounce in both our steps. This was going to be awesome. First days rock with this kid. Good work magical unicorn baby.

But then he saw the door. Nugget froze. He stiffened his body and I had to push him in on his little heels. It was the toddler version of that scene in Silence of the Lambs when they wheel Hannibal in on a handcart. He took one look around and immediately lay down on the ground. There I stood with a little fat kid, bundled in a huge winter coat and Elmer Fudd hat lying stiff as a board at my feet staring at the ceiling. What is this? Where in the hell did magical unicorn baby go?

I nervously smiled while trying to understand everything his teachers were signing to me. The teachers gathered around and began signing to him, reassuring him and introducing themselves. How did my magical unicorn baby respond? He closed his eyes and squeezed them shut because when someone is signing and you don’t want to listen you just don’t look at them, obviously. Genius move unicorn baby.

After a few minutes of working through my bag of tricks and standard Irish-Catholic mother threats, his teacher and I decided it best if I just made a clean break…only there was nothing clean about it. I heard his screams all the way back to the front office. Fortunately, it’s a deaf school and thus, I was probably one of the few that heard him at  full volume.

I spent the next three hours in the parking lot counting down until pick-up. Though upon my arrival he lovingly embraced me like I’d just crawled out of a watery grave, he was still pissed. As we walked out of the building at least five teachers totally unrelated to his class signed to me how sad he’d been all morning. (Guilt is even more powerful when it comes in a second language.)

Thankfully, his teacher is amazing. She’s like a beautiful, deaf Judy Collins who gracefully signs songs and very exciting stories. She told me his communication was stellar and that he’d let her know why he was pissed and what he did and did not want…repeatedly. I guess that’s a win huh?

Week two is going about as well as week one but we’ll keep trying. He’s already picked up new signs and is beginning to learn his ABC’s in ASL, something his father has yet to master. It seems school, as with all things Nugget, will be a struggle but in time we’ll get there.  Tomorrow morning, I’ll wheel Hannibal in and we’ll try again.

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