Your Word is…Biscuit

 

spelling bee

“Mom! I made it. I’m in the spelling bee!” Number 1 was barely off the bus when he broke the news.

“Awesome! I was in the 5th grade spelling bee too, back in the day.” I replied.

“How did you do?” He prodded.

“This isn’t about me. Tell me more about your bee.”

As we trodded up our ridiculously long driveway,  Number 1 proudly regaled me with the tale of how he brought orthographic fame to our family by securing one of the three spelling bee seats from his classroom. (Orthography-the conventional spelling system of a language. – Thanks Word-of-The-Day calendar.)

He was elated and I was in shock. My life has long been built around the mantra, “That’s why Jesus gave us spell check,” and his father is no orthographic star in either of his languages. (See that, I learned the word  so I need to use it a few times. It’s not like orthography is something I can throw out daily, though I will try.) I have no clue how the offspring of such a union could be a spelling champ but the kid has aced every spelling test for the past couple years so clearly, orthography is his jam. (Seriously, I like that word.)

A few days later he came home with a packet of words that would be used and instructions for parents to come watch. I arranged to leave my school and sneak over to his for the event and began to nag him about studying the words. “I will Mom, I will.” Five days later, two days before the epic spelling bee, he remembered to look over the word list.

“Quiz me Mom?” He requested and because I’m both an overbearing Turkish mother by training and a teacher, I was all over that like hot butter on a pancake. We made it through the first column on the A’s and it wasn’t going well. By the next column on the B’s it was getting ugly and the C’s were an epic disaster. “I don’t know what’s happening. Why can’t I spell?”  

I thought of possible explanations, alien abduction, brain sucking amoeba, a sudden and unexpected vengeance by his parental spelling genes, lots of things were possible. But I could sense his growing panic so I opted for pedestrian logic, “You might just be tired. Let’s work on it at breakfast.” Thankfully, he bought it.

At 6:00 a.m. while SportsCenter murmured in the background, we hit the list again.

“Physicist. Sheldon Cooper is a physicist.”

“P-y-s-i-c-i-s-t-s” He answered.

“Nope. Forgot the h.”

“Ugh!”

After about 4 more like that I saw the ship was sinking. There was no way he was going to master the packet of 300 words before the next day so I took a different approach, confidence building. “You know these, you’re just putting too much pressure on yourself.”

Reluctantly, he agreed. “Maybe you’re right Mom.”

I also thought it was time to share my 5th grade spelling bee tale of woe. “It was the spring of 1983 and I had a tragic, tragic mullet. I’d hoped to look like Joan Jett but I looked more like Joe Dirt.”

“Mom, what does this have to do with me?”

“Can it kid. We’re going in a time warp so ride along. I wore my best JC Penny jeans from their Pretty Pluss collection, polished my Earth Shoes and donned a brand new pink and mint green polo- collar with the collar popped, of course. I’d practiced my wordlist a million times and I was ready. I was going to bust that bee wide open. The stage facing a gym full of parents and the rest of Lincoln Middle School, was a bit unnerving but I was a winner. I sat on a metal folding chair in Row 2, poised on the edge of greatness. The first round was simple. The 30 of us on stage whizzed through round one words. Round 2 was equally easy and then it was my turn. I approached Mr. Renaud at the podium and prepared for my word. From behind his huge, early 80’s mustache he said, “Biscuit. Your word is biscuit.”

Easy-peasy. I loved me some biscuits fresh from the tube so I could nail this. “B-i-s-c-u-t, biscuit.”

“I’m sorry. That is incorrect.”

Hubba whaaaaaat? Wrong? I felt the redness fill my face as I took the walk of shame back to Row 2. Then I had to sit there, brooding in humiliation until Barbra Knowles took the title a full 700 rounds later. (Ok, maybe it was like 25 but it seemed like 700.)”

“Cool story Mom but what does this have to do with me?” My ingrate son asked.

“I’m just saying that no matter how hard you prepare it’s still luck of the draw. You might be completely ready but nerves take over and it’s done. But you know what? To this day I have never forgotten the word that did me in and I will always know how to spell biscuit.”

The next morning he woke up a nervous wreck and begged me not to come to the spelling bee. “Mom, if you come I’ll be even more nervous. Can we just call it good?”

Unknown to him I’d already arranged with another mom to have her take video in case I couldn’t get there so we were good. “Ok, but just remember, “Biscuit””

As I waved him away at the bus stop I again yelled, “BISCUIT!!!!” 

Unfortunately, I received a text during period 2 that his reign was over. My darling offspring had also gone out on round 2. “Scenery” had brought him down. As he got off the bus I was ready to cheer him up. I had made a pitcher of conciliatory lemonade and was prepared to bribe him with an offer to jump on the trampoline with him. (Yes, this big busted mother loves her son enough to risk 2 black eyes from jumping if it would cheer him up.)

As soon as he got off the bus I exclaimed, “Scenery is your biscuit!”

Looking over his shoulder to make sure no one had heard, he whined, “MOOOOOM!”

“I saw the video and I’m sorry buddy. But now you understand my story right?”

“Not really Mom, I was kinda glad I got out early. I was so nervous.”

I continued trying to validate his performance, “Maybe you didn’t hear the word right. It’s a tough word.”

“Nah.” He brushed me off. “I heard. I just screwed up.”

It was becoming clear I was more upset about this ordeal than he was and perhaps that was due to my painful ‘83 flashback. “We all have our biscuits and now you have your biscuit too.”

He looked at me. “Mom, I’m going to need you to stop saying that.”

“Saying what?” I asked.

“Anything with the words your and biscuit. I think it means something other than what you think it means.”

As I snorted in uncontrollable laughter I agreed. Maybe talk of biscuits was best left out of conversations with one’s tween son. But I will continue to hold it in my pocket for the next time he’s upset, “Remember son, we all have a biscuit.” or if he’s sassy in the presence of friends and needs a little embarrassment to keep him in check, “Son, how about you tell your friends about your biscuit?”

Because we all have our biscuits, what matters is how you handle it.

 

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Winter Break In The Hot Zone

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School breaks are some of the most beautiful and magical times of life…if you are a teacher. If you’re the parent waiting at home maybe not so much. But as a teacher, just when every ounce of patience has been sucked from your soul and you cannot muster one more fake smile when someone asks the same question for the 7,899th time, break comes in and whisks you away.  

New England is sensible and thus spreads breaks out in a manner conducive to winter survival. Instead of being stuffed in your house for two hellish weeks at Christmas, they save a week and give it back as a little gift mid-February. It’s brilliant.

February break beckoned me like a siren for weeks. I’d pull myself out of bed with the promise of an impending week of freetime. My kids shared my motivation with that same promise. We didn’t need the promise of a beachy get-away, just staying in our jammies past 6:00 a.m. and vegging on the sofa. (We’re a simple people.)

With the dismissal bell on Friday I was dizzy with excitement. Nine glorious days lay in front of me, whatever would I do? Should I catch up on Oscar nominees? (Nah. I don’t care about the Oscars.) Should I face reality and do tax stuff? (Probably not. Taxes are a buzzkill) Would I finally drop of that bag of clothing donations that I’ve been driving around with for two months? (Spoiler alert- I didn’t and I’m likely to drive around with it for another 3 months.) It didn’t matter what I planned because I had time for everything.

Break got off to a nice start with a snowstorm. Number 1 and I sledded down our massive driveway until it morphed into an ice slide and my old ass required a dog sled to get back to the top. Nugget, who isn’t a fan of cold or snow,  made about two runs, both on my lap. As our saucer sled picked up speed that might rival an Indy car, trees rushed towards us and I sacrificed myself (and my ski pants) to save Nugget. When we’d completed our roll to safety Nugget shook himself back to sanity, “What da hell Mom?”

“Well Nugs, force equals mass times acceleration. We had a lot of mass on that run thus our acceleration was greatly increased.”  As often happens in our house, the 5 year-old understood physics well enough to nod in agreement. Science is our jam.

We filled our break with a sprinkling of playdates, television, sugary baked goods and lots of reading for Mom. This is where things took a bad turn. During an early morning news perusal, I learned the National Geographic channel is releasing a new docudrama and I have a freakish adoration of the NatGeo docudrama. This one is based on the 2001 classic book, The Hot Zone. Immediately, I decided that would be my winter break reading. I like to be prepared for my docudramas so if I run to the bathroom and miss a scene, I still know what’s going to happen because I read the book. (I’m not a fan of suspense.)

In case you are not an avid fan of the National Geographic Channel or if you missed The Hot Zone on it’s first run, it’s a stunning work of creative nonfiction chronicling the origins of the Ebola virus. Yep, my winter break leisure reading was a book about Ebola. (I nerd hard.) I was well past the chapters chronicling the initial infection in an African cave and into infection of the masses by the time Number 1’s tummy began to rumble.

“Mom, I don’t feel so good.”

And as is the requisite Mom retort in such situation I replied, “Did you poop today?”

“Mom, it’s not always about poop!”

Oh but it is kid, it is always about poop.

It didn’t occur to me that my son might have Ebola until he actually started throwing up and that is when the panic began to set in. As I rubbed my baby’s back and tried to play it cool, I couldn’t help but wish I’d hijacked a hazmat suit from my previous science lab. I could still offer love and console him from behind a plastic shield. The touch of a mother can transcend latex gloves.

My son unfortunately inherited my stomach and when he vomits he does it with such force that the neighbors know what’s going on. As he emerged from the bathroom with face and eyes mottled by broken blood vessels, my Ebola fears were confirmed. My first born was obviously in the beginnings of the red eyes and zombie-face mentioned as stage one of the disease in the book.

I covered the bed nearest the bathroom with sheets to prevent mass infection before allowing his body to touch only blankets from his bed that he’s already infected. Fortunately, it was my husband, the Turk’s, side of the bed.

“Mom, isn’t this a little excessive?” he asked as I snapped on my latex dishwashing gloves and began bleaching the entire bathroom.

“Nope.” I muttered from behind the respirator the Turk used for his last venture into the attic.

As the illness continued to ravage his young body, I tried to keep cool. I tried to convince myself it was only a stomach bug but the immense mass of crazy in my head wouldn’t let me. I reassured myself with the knowledge that the nurse in chapter 8 had survived Ebola infection so I might make it through too. While my actions appear be questionable, I am the better parent. At the first sign of illness, the Turk hightailed it out of the house to run copious “errands” and was not seen again until evening though he did phone in every hour to check status.(Most likely to see if it was safe to return.) A parent present, even in a hazmat suit, trumps the one who hides in fear at Home Depot.

By bedtime, I tucked my exhausted little boy in bed and it was over. We all braced ourselves for doom the following day but it never came. No one else got Ebola and we ended our break with more frivolity.  Perhaps it wasn’t Ebola or perhaps the knowledge garnered from my leisure reading saved us all. Either way, once again, the survival of our family can be credited to my intense love of really weird books. But I might have to shelve The Hot Zone until after cold and flu season.

 

New Year…Wider Butt

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Well 2019 is off and running and it’s already looking better than that miserable 2018.  For starters, Mama’s back to work full-time. (Which is good because, though it was fun for a few months, I’m not a good stay-at-home mom and we’re not near a tax bracket that allows me to take on ‘lady of leisure’ as a career choice.) I’ve kicked the sugar monkey off my back for a couple weeks so far, reintroduced kale into our diet (much to the dismay of my family) took the stationary bike out of storage and I’ve managed to exercise twice. (I do not have to disclose how long each of those sessions lasted.) I’m not usually a diet resolution kind of gal as I’m not a fan of failure but after a year from hell filled with a cross-country move, a shift in old lady hormones and a banged up foot that left me gimpy and in a boot for months, my ass spread needed immediate attention. (I also have a 5 year old whose height hovers around butt-level and reminds me daily in his little lisp that “Mom, I wuv your big, fat butt.” Gee, thanks kid.)

So as the clock struck midnight on December 31, I decided to made some changes. No more watching My 600 Pound Life to feel better about myself. No more excuses using the bum foot (It’s not going away until I have surgery over the summer so suck it up woman.) No more eating like an adolescent boy and basically getting back to the way I lived life before all hell broke loose last year. While I have been busily shifting gears to return to my ongoing quest for a Tyra Banks bod, (I won’t let any 10” height difference dissuade me damn it.), I also realized it important to take a minute to pat myself on the back for having survived last year.

I dreaded the start of 2018. I knew that as soon as Ryan Seacress dropped the ball and the champagne was spilled, it was game on. (Full disclosure: I seldom see midnight on New Years’ Eve but you get the gist.) The start of 2018 meant boxes needed packed, houses needed bought and sold, jobs needed left and really crappy decisions needed to be made. The new year meant that the process of relocating once again was upon us and that totally sucked.

In case you missed it (or ICYM as the kids say. I just figured that out recently because after years in the bible belt I automatically assumed the CYM part stood for Christian Youth Ministry. This heathen’s scars linger.) let me recap our 2018:

January –

  • Made the official decision to accept my husband, the Turk’s, relocation from Indianapolis to Boston – making it relocation #8 for our 10 year old. (Yes, he has a therapy fund.)

February –

  • Began the horrific task of prepping a fixer-upper that wasn’t quite fixed-up, to sell. (ie-undoing, redoing and finishing The Turk’s “projects”)

March –

  • Fought off a relocation-mandated spousal job counselor who called daily to remind me to begin my job hunt in Massachusetts. (Yo girl, how ‘bout we find a home first?)
  • Broke the news to my students I was abandoning them.
  • Celebrated 2 family birthdays.
  • Began the horrors of packing up a family of 4.

April –

  • Headed to Boston to house hunt with the world’s worst realtor.
  • Considered buying a house until we noticed a prison in its backyard.
  • Upon returning home, fired the world’s worst realtor.
  • Got new a realtor.
  • Sent the Turk back out to “Just buy a damn house. I don’t care where, I don’t care what – just buy us a damn house!”
  • Bought a house in Massachusetts and sold a house in Indiana on the same day. (Booyah.)

May –

  • Did the 700 pages of papers necessary to sell a house.
  • Did the 800 pages of papers necessary to buy a house.
  • Taught the final month of school, including exams and wrote 60-plus grade reports.
  • Bought homeowners insurance on a house I’d never seen. (Thanks Zillow)
  • Began a half-assed job search after excessive pressure from the pushy relocation-mandated spousal job counselor.
  • Organized packers, movers, moving vans, car carriers, closing dates on both homes, travel accommodations and all those ridiculous things you have to do to buy and sell homes, pack up a life and schlep halfway across the country.
  • Said good-byes.
  • Quit my job.
  • Questioned my sanity. Repeatedly

June –

  • Closed on two different houses 3 days apart.
  • Drove from Indiana to Massachusetts with two kids, a Turk and a surly cat.
  • Waited on a moving van.
  • Spent hours on the phone trying to locate said moving van.
  • Finally unpacked new house.
  • Dealt with ridiculous power issues at new house and forged a wonderful bond with the linemen from the power company. (This will come in handy during the storm this weekend.)

July –

  • Finally sat down. On the beach. Which is 15 minutes from my house.

August –

  • Ate copious amounts of seafood in honor of my new homeland.
  • Took my little half-breeds to frolick on the beach on the reg.
  • Threw myself into the new culture through PeeWee football.

September –

  • Sent my children to school and shared the weirdest moment of silence ever.
  • Spent every other moment taking kids to football.

October-

  • Netflixed and chilled.
  • More football.
  • Tried to decide what to be when I grow up.
  • Became painfully aware that while I was distracted with relocation, my ass had grown substantially.
  • Decided to start running again in an attempt to rein in my ample backside.

November –

  • Jacked up my foot trying to reduce my substantial ass and was sentenced to a boot for the next two months.
  • Decided it was time to actually find a job.
  • Mourned because I couldn’t find a job.
  • Celebrated the end of the longest PeeWee football season known to mother-kind.
  • Lamented my grande gluteus maximus from my gimpy position.

December –

  • Bit the bullet and took up substitute teaching.
  • Realized I already knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’m a teacher. That’s what I do.
  • Got a job teaching.

As you can see, it was a hell of a year. I needed a nap and a cocktail after just recalling it all. If gaining 15-20 pounds was what I needed to survive that crap show, then that’s a reasonable trade-off. I’ll give this whole new lifestyle a change for a few more weeks and if we don’t agree then no harm no foul. I’m just as feisty with a fat butt and I might need those extra pounds to get me through my first New England winter. One thing is for certain – I have no intention to relive a year like that ever again. (Hear that Turk? I’m not relocating again…unless…they show the big bucks…)

Bloggin’ and Boggin’, It’s Cranberry Time!

OceanSpray time (1)

As a kid in Iowa, New England might as well have been a different country. My school wasn’t down with geography but as I’ve learned, that’s a trait shared by many land-locked education systems. (I think it’s jealousy.) Everything I knew about New England could be boiled down to four things:

  1. Pilgrims landed there.
  2. Paul Revere and the Boston Tea Party happened there.
  3. Everyone hated their football team.
  4. Cranberries came from there.

The latter was something I knew because even as a kid I loved cranberries. My mouth watered when Mom opened the can and jiggled out the gel every Thanksgiving. (Shut up, that was classy in the 70s!) When most of the family turned up their noses, I scarfed down the extra tart cranberry relish made by Grandma Pete every Christmas. And thanks to an unsubstantiated claim by a small-town doctor regarding my mild kidney issue, my mother poured bottles of cranberry juice down my gullet for the first ten years of life to my joy.

As a kid, I’d seen photos in magazines of people standing in the water, scooping up cranberries and found it fascinating. My dad and uncle harvested corn and soybeans every fall with huge combines, filling truck after truck but that wasn’t fascinating. It was boring old farming. Maybe if the corn was the perfect shade of red and Dad scooped the corn out of a pool my interest would’ve been piqued but otherwise – meh.

When my husband The Turk told me our new home in Massachusetts was in cranberry country, I was pretty psyched. I wasn’t sure what cranberry country would look like but I was ready for the adventure. As I’ve discussed earlier (here it is in case you missed it) the downside of cranberry country is the plethora of snakes (The little bastards love the bogs but sometimes take a wrong turn to my front steps.) and the sand – sand that is enough to drive a mother crazy. Otherwise cranberry country is beautiful, consisting of lots of low-lying bogs filled with little bushes about 8 inches high everywhere you turn.

From the moment we landed in cranberry country this summer, I’ve waited for harvest season. I wanted to see if the images on TV and in those magazines were legit and more importantly, I wanted to see cranberries harvested for real. I asked everyone I met if they knew a cranberry farmer but came up empty. I considered putting out a call on the local Facebook page but that seemed a bit psycho and as we’re new in this little town, I’m trying to keep my crazy on the down low.

September came and went and I didn’t see a single bog harvest. The bogs were turning that beautiful shade of red but not a single one was flooded and filled with people in waders. Every errand I’d run would turn into a bog-stalking mission and every trip came up empty, until yesterday.

I’d just dropped Number 1 Son off at school following a doctor’s appointment and was cruising home when I spied it, a flooded bog! I slowed just in time to see the tell-tale floating crimson circle. PAYDIRT! I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by even if it was on a major thoroughfare. I whipped a quick U-ie and headed back with the lone intention of snapping a few photos. My scientific nerdom has long filled me with fascination about these berries and this coupled with my dangerous level of curiosity led to what happened next.

I couldn’t get a good photo and besides, was a photo really enough? I saw an open driveway and skidded in. I tried to look sane but when the woman standing there shoved her small son protectively behind her I realized I’d failed. The day-long drizzle had my hair frizzing like a cartoon crazy and thanks to the damp cold, I had on so many layers my ensemble was only missing a shopping cart.

From the men knee deep in water to the woman loading the truck, their expressions were universal – What the hell is this nut job doing and is she packin’ heat? Immediately I tried to prove my harmlessness.

“I know this sounds crazy, but I’ve never seen a cranberry harvest before. We just moved from Indiana.” (I think I was better before I offered up the Indiana reference but I kept going.) “Can I just take some photos to show my kids?” When you throw in a reference to motherhood you’re always legit.

The farmers were more than amenable to my request causing me to think back to my own dad and what he might have done if some crazy New Englander stopped off in his cornfield and asked to take photos because she’d never seen corn harvested before. I knew what Dad would’ve done and that’s what led me to my next action – “So, how does this whole thing work?”

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Public interest is something that a farmer cannot resist. Farming is a thankless job so even if some lunatic woman shows interest, a good farmer will take the PR opportunity. He and his partner (a bad-ass female in chest-high waders) explained the entire process.

They use a machine to knock the berries off the bush to the ground.

-They then flood the blog with knee-deep water and the berries float on top for harvest.

-Berries are corralled with a black rubber barrier about 6” wide and dragged to shore.

-A huge pump pulls the berries out and dumps them into a truck.

-The truck takes the berries to the Ocean Spray plant on the other side of town and then returns over and over until the bog is empty.

It’s not all that different than harvesting corn but when you add the colors and the whole flooding process and even the word “bog” it just seems cooler. As the farmers in the bog pointed out, you don’t realize how cool it is until some crazy woman recently relocated from Indiana whips her car off the road to take photos and ask a gazillion questions.

I told them about growing up on a corn farm and we soon found that though the crops and processes are vastly different, the rest is basically the same right down to the cranberry farmer’s wife and young son bringing him lunch like my mom and we kids once did.

The Turk didn’t share my excitement, nor did my boys but that’s ok. If my dad were still alive he would’ve loved it and that was enough. My nerd bucket is filled and the farmers even told me Ocean Spray was hiring this week if I was interested in getting in on the packaging end of things. I’m giving it some thought. I do look fabulous in a hairnet.

So this Thanksgiving buy an extra bag or a couple more cans of cranberry goodness. I gotta keep my new found people in business. We have to support our farmers be they in a field or a bog because without farmers we’re all screwed.

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More Drama Than You Can Shake A Snake At

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Batman and Robin. Starsky and Hutch. Cagney and Lacey. While the Turk and I are more Bert and Ernie than the afore mentioned crime fighting duos, when it comes down to it, our partnership puts them all to shame. After dipping our toes into the speed and fury of the Boston housing market on our first relocation visit, we determined our best choice was  to send in a lone Turk to make a stealth buy. Many wives would fear this but Bert and I have rolled this way before.

The housing market was a see-it-buy-it situation, no time for thinking. The Turk, being a former military commando, (I found it hilarious at first too but it’s true.) was ideal for the job. He was going to fly out and buy us a house in Massachusetts while I simultaneously sold ours in Indiana. Impossible? Perhaps, but three days later, he gallantly returned having slapped a sold sign on a new home in Massachusetts while I did the same on our old one. We bought and sold on the same day, in two different states- step aside dynamic duos.

According to Zillow.com, the new house looked good but it was hard to figure out it’s geography. The Turk’s explanation didn’t help much. “It has very long driveway. There are trees. You see water from deck. You will like.”

My first glimpse was at closing. He was right. There were trees. There was a driveway that will likely leave us housebound for the entirety of snow season but in the off-season it provides nice cardio getting the mail. The water view is actually a cranberry bog, one of hundreds in our new hometown.

For a girl born in the middle of Iowa cornfields, the thought of living in cranberry country was both exotic and exciting. What could be more New England than sitting in an Adirondack chair, looking through the fall foliage at a flooded bog mid-harvest? Far more majestic than a dusty cornfield with a massive combine roaring through.

Unfortunately, that charm soon faded when we learned that with bogs come frogs – which is cool – but with frogs come snakes – which is not cool. At all.

Our first snake showed up hours after we closed on the home. Walking out the front door, Nugget’s Batman hi-top clad foot was about to land on the front step when I spied a   slimy bastard right in his path. With one swift mom-grab I swept Nugget to safety.

“What is dis? The Turk exclaimed as he ran into us. “What are you doing?” He hadn’t yet spied the enemy.

Having spent the past couple years teaching science, a career with a high ratio of snake views, I calmly pointed out the creepy son of a bitch swirling around the front step.

“God!!!!!!! What the hell??!!?!???!” He screamed before running inside and slamming the door. It took a few minutes before he remembered his sons and I were still in snake territory and needed the door opened for sanctuary.

The Turk’s squeal sent the  snake in search of refuge under the deck allowing us to make a break for it.

“God! I not know there are snakes here. I wouldn’t buy this house if I know there are snakes.”

“That’s a bit dramatic dear.” I countered. I was obnoxiously stoic until the anaconda attacks began to come daily. Even a science teacher desensitized to the horror, can’t take that crap.

The pinnacle was the snake that fought back. The boys and I had arrived home from yet another day at the beach, (After the past years of exile in land-locked Indiana there can never be too much time spent frolicking in the lapping waves.) and Number 1 nearly stepped on the hostile reptile sunning himself on the step.

“Mom! We got another!” He screamed.

Experienced snake shoo-ers by now,  we began screaming and clapping which usually causes the perpetrator to slither away in terror. Not this one though. He just rolled his lid-less eyes and was like, “Whatevs woman.” We took it up a notch by throwing pebbles in his general area. Again, nothing. Finally I decided I was going in for the kill with a rock to the head. Unfortunately I’m not athletically skilled so I missed and that’s when the evil serpent decided to fight back. The previously innocuous anaconda reared up like he was some kind of king cobra and jabbed at both Number 1 and I. Nugget, who is terrified of snakes, was half a mile down the driveway screaming in terror.

“We’ve got a psycho one here Mom.” Number 1 noted. “I can handle this.” Number 1 (who thankfully is more athletic than his mother) drew back with a rock and was about to launch when the snake bid a hasty retreat. Standing guard like a short Rambo, rock still in hand, he screamed at Nugget and I, “Go! Go! Go!” While waving us towards the door. Number 1 backed through the door last, muttering, “Game on sucker.”

Once inside, a battle plan was made. I could no longer allow my family to be tormented by the constant fear that a reptilian tyrant was hiding in every nook of our homestead. I considered negotiations with the snake people. Maybe start with threats of sanctions to get them to agree to peace talks. But before I could send off my first declaration, a glance out the window revealed my nemesis had returned and was preparing to slither up the door itself. The damn snake was holding us hostage!

Realizing this was a life and death situation I made immediate contact with the Turk, safely tucked away in his downtown office. In case things went south, I needed him to understand what had gone down. It was important he know the full story when the media arrived.

I texted: Snake holding us hostage -Help us – Send pizza.

To which he responded: *thumbs up*

The boys and I were on our own here.

Full disclosure, my first thought was “We have to burn this mother down. I don’t care if we just took out a new mortgage. No sane adjustor would call ‘insurance fraud’ on a house infested with snakes.” But instead I turned to Google.

As is so often the case, the great and wise Google held the answer- Snake-B-Gone. (I also had the choices of Shoo Snake, Snake-Away and Snake-Out, all real products!) Though it sounds like a product the Coyote purchased from the ACME company in the classic cartoon, it was legit. A few clicks later we located the goods in a hardware store two towns over and the boys and I were off.

As instructed on the container, I sprinkled liberally over the infested area. The powdery substance had a delicious cinnamon smell, causing Nugget to remark, “Dis smells like Chrissmas.” I had doubts about the power of any deterrent that smelled like a beloved holiday, but I hoped for the best. Just to be safe, I trashed talked while I sprinkled.

“Can you smell that slimy bastards? That’s the smell of your demise. It’s over. You are done.” Number 1 tried to point out snakes don’t have ears but I retorted that Nugget only has 1 and it doesn’t prevent him from knowing when he’s in big trouble.

It’s been 3 weeks and we’ve had only 1 new sighting, which was quickly met with more Snake-B-Gone and heightened trash talk. Personally, I think the trash talk has more power than the chemical but what evs. I do fear the coming fall. Rumor has it that the snake intensity picks up when they flood the blogs for harvest so if you never hear from me again, know I’m likely being held hostage by a nest of hostile snakes seeking retribution.

If that happens, send Snake-be-Gone!

 

Hold On, I’ll Grab My Metal Bra.

female viking 1 (1)

For the past few weeks my life has been nothing but anxiety, packing tape and exhaustion. Now that we’ve officially started the epic journey of relocating our family (and cat) from Indiana to Boston, I’ve spent every second I am not working or attending to the task of keeping my offspring alive, packing or painting or pitching or bitching and often it’s all of the above simultaneously. It sucks. Moving sucks. Selling a house sucks. Buying a house sucks. It all just sucks. What sucks more is that by no choice of their own, this has become my kids’ life too.

“Mom, where is my Eagles jersey?”

Sorry buddy, I packed it.

“Mom, where is my blue Nerf gun?”

Sorry buddy, I packed it.

“Hey Mom, I can only find one pair of underwear.”

Oops, perhaps I packed too much.

Due to our familial crap show of late, I owed my dudes a little fun while Baba was out in Boston house hunting. When my dear friend (who I’m about to abandon amid the Hoosiers) suggested we take our male-spawns to Vikingfest, how could I say no?

Full disclosure, I don’t know a lot about vikings. I know they’re scruffy and untamed. (Much like my children.) I know they are surly and hostile. (Again, much like my children.) I know they are all named Thor and usually wear horns on their heads and pigtails. I know they ride boats and like to carve broads with big hooters on the fronts  of said boats and I know that their female counterparts wear metal bras. (I learned that from Elmer Fudd so it’s legit.) But the ad for Vikingfest promised ax throwing, jousting and traditional food and unless it’s a cannibal convention, I’m always in with the phrase “traditional food.” We were in.

After driving past the venue twice, we finally arrived to a giant field with a huge fire burning in the center which I hoped was for viking burials or at least a good virgin sacrifice. (Spoiler alert, we caught neither but we were there during daylight hours so I hold out hope.)  Aside from the fire, the entrance was a bit underwhelming but we were all game for an adventure so we pressed on with hopeful souls.

As we made our way to the “Wolf Petting” (Spoiler alert – it might have been a husky.) we met our first vikings. She wore a metal bra (SeeElmer Fudd IS historically accurate.) and was wrapped in a skimpy but seemingly vikingesque ensemble. Her male counterpart wore horns on his head and was dripping in faux furs. That couple was all I needed and I was 100% in on the adventure. If grown-ass adults are willing to don full costumes on a chilly Sunday morning and commit to this adventure I was down enough to pretend that a husky was a wolf too.

We soon learned that first couple were just an introduction. Down a winding path through the woods, we found a viking village fully stocked with grown-ass adult cosplayers who were so into their roles, they refused to admit their real names were not Asgaut and Esbjorn. I get it. It’s hard to be a pillaging bad-ass named Larry. But that was real commitment.

These modern-day vikings committed to their roles so hard that most had even camped there over the weekend under nothing more than traditional lean tos. I respect commitment but it was 30 degrees that night and there was was a Holiday Inn just down the road – vikings are not a sensible people.

During the hands-on-fashion segment of the experience, one could slip on a nice chainmail top and a festive steele helmut while accessorizing with a throwing axe. Fearing the enticing combination of chainmail and cleavage, I determined my rocking such an ensemble might be too much for the nerd population so I left the fashion segment to Number 1 Son. As a viking supposedly named Asguat but likely named Steve, slipped the chainmail over my son, I waited for his Turkish conqueror genetics to take over. I expected him to embrace his proven link to Genghis Khan. (Fo reals – I heard it on NPR, 98% of all males of Turkish and Arab descent share DNA with Genghis Khan which so explains Nugget.) I hoped for a battle roar and an arm raised in victory. Instead I got, “Ow. Mom, this is heavy. I don’t want to wear it.”  So much for genetics.

Overall I’m pretty nerdy by nature. I’ve got a solid knowledge of all things Star Wars and if an episode of classic Star Trek is on, I’m there. Oh, and don’t expect to see me do anything but bask in the glory of the Christmas Doctor Who marathon. My nerd hand is definitely strong, but I’ve never cosplayed. I mean not since I rocked my Wonder Woman Underooos back in ‘82. I was a professional costume designer for years back in  Philly but it never once crossed my mind to get into this whole world of make believe. However, I’m ridiculously fascinated by the concept of cosplay. What makes these people go all in and what keeps me from joining in the nerddom?

The more weekend warriors we encountered, the more my fascinated grew. Walking around in pelts and a metal bra all day before bedding down on some pine needles and wolf-hides for the night in the middle of suburbia doesn’t call to me. At all. But these people were game-on all weekend long and that’s when I got it.

Vikingfest, just like all the other events that draw cosplayers like moths to flames, are escapes. That chubby dude in the fur tunic sucking on the giant turkey leg is likely an I.T. guy. The only war he wages all week is against people using PASSWORD as their company password. But for one weekend in some unnamed park in the middle of nowhere, he can pretend to be a total badass named Tahvo. Let’s let him have that with respect because tomorrow Tahvo will be the guy saving those files you thought you’d saved while staring over his glasses and scoffing at your stupidity.

If anybody could use an escape from reality right now it’s a full-time working mom at the end of the school year, selling her house while simultaneously buying another 1000 miles away, packing up an entire family (and cat) to move across the country the day school ends. So pass me a metal bra and pour me a drink Tahvo, Brunhilda might be joining you soon!

female viking

 

Please, Let Me Teach You…

old-classroom

“Girl, you have orchestrated some serious BS in all the years I’ve known you but this just might be your best work yet. Don’t they know you’re just makin’ this crap up as you go?” My dearest friend, as southern women do, has an amazing ability to make what might seem like an insult sound like a compliment (Bless her heart.) Since she’s been my cohort for the past 100 years and has used her Mississippi charm to get our asses out of numerous jams, I knew she meant it with only the highest regard. “Do ya’ll think they’d let me fly in and be a fly on the wall?  I might need to see this in person.”

The Thelma to my Lousie was accurate. I’ve long been a master of BS, a skill I credit to my genetic linage of cattle traders. However, every good BS artist eventually hits something she cannot talk her way out of and I worried I was about to hit mine. I’d spent a couple weeks preparing for one of my biggest acts of BS to date and if I fell on my face it would totally be worthy of pointed laughter and mocking in a thick southern drawl. After all, I’d done the same to her on too many occasions. That’s true friendship.

So what was this situation I’d gotten myself into? Money laundering? Organ trafficking? Mercenary work on a remote island nation? Nah. Far bigger. Dear readers, I had agreed to present at the Hoosier of Association of Science Teachers convention. I was slated to teach science teachers how to teach science better. Mercenary work looked more enjoyable.

If you’re a regular reader of this fine work of literary genius, you might have read an earlier blog  in which I explained how I started as an art teacher and ended up as a science teacher. (Here it is if you’re dying to know more.) In terms of my career path the phrase, “What a long strange trip it’s been” has never been more accurate. That being said, of all the subjects I’ve taught, science, wins as favorite. But in the back of my mind, I’m always weary that someone will figure out I’m BSing my way through it.

Last year, it was suggested I attend the same gathering of science teaching professionals. Since I already have an unreasonable fear of Hoosiers (Why are they all so tall?) and at that point was suffering from an even more intense case of Imposter Syndrome, I was  hesitant. Would the Hoosier teachers demand credentials upon entry then admonish me upon learning I wasn’t one of them? I mean I didn’t go to IU or Purdue, I wasn’t a Hoosier and I didn’t even have a degree in science. I was ripe for victimization. But because I knew, if I was to remain in the science field, I’d need to stop fearing Hoosier hostility so I reluctantly agreed.

The sensible shoes and lack of discernable fashion within the overall crowd did not make it easy for me to blend in. I’m no trend-setter but I looked like Naomi Campbell’s short sister milling around a convention center full of science teachers. I watched enough Cagney and Lacey to know that if one wants to make it out alive, it’s best to keep her head down and blend. So I stuck to the back row in most sessions and left the questions to the legitimate scientists. I made it out unscathed, save for the one AP Chemistry session that left me staring at the presenter while a droplet of shame-drool tumbled down my chin. (I barely passed chemistry in 1988. In 30 years my comprehension has remained constant.)

Having gone in undercover last year I noticed something – the type of science these people were teacher was bore-ass. Perhaps in the eyes of the presenters arguing biological classification and exploring chemical equations on a whiteboard was a gas, but to we lesser-nerds, their methods weren’t grabbing anybody, especially not kids. And for kids like those in my classes who don’t always learn in the old schools ways, they were shut out completely. When the call for submissions came out last November searching for presenters for the 2018 conference, this Norma Rae couldn’t resist. I determined it was up to me to lead the charge for all of those not born with a scientific mind. In my clouded mind (perhaps due to age, perhaps due to a misspent youth) I rationalized that who could better teach science teachers how to teach science than an art teacher-turned-theater teacher-turned-writing teacher-turned-ESL teacher-turned-science teacher…right? The connection is obvi.

I dashed off a stunning proposal full of big, nerdy words and educational catch phrases. While my proposal was solid, I secretly hoped they would sense my illegitimacy and squash my dream before I had the opportunity to humiliate myself in front of a group of Hoosiers who might assault me using pocket protectors like ninja stars. However, the league of science teachers on the selection committee did not have a fine nose for BS because not only was I selected, I was also given an ideal time slot. I was screwed.

In the weeks leading up to my presentation I changed direction at least 50 times. While I am highly skilled at the art of BS, my medium is usually rooted in full confidence or complete ignorance. In this case, I had neither. I knew too much to feign ignorance and too little to be confident. Though I’ve taught for over 15 years, I’ve been teaching science less than 2 years so I had a solid fear of a legit science teacher shiving me with a broken test tube for lecturing them on something I knew little about.

Hours before my presentation with my epic doom looming on the horizon, I sat through a series of painfully boring presentations including one which caused me to consider gnawing off my own foot to escape. The presentation should’ve been cool. It promised to teach us how to use sci-fi movies to teach science. It sounded amazing and my initial excitement was shared with the 65 other people in the room. But by the end only two of us remained and we only stayed because we were blocked in by a projector cart. Upon browsing the presenter’s credentials, I learned he is a professor of science methods – this crap show was led by the dude who teaches science teachers how to teach science. It was like the Bat-symbol glared upon the wall calling me. I’m coming Commissioner Gordon and I’m bringin’ my BS to save the day!

A few hours later, I wowed my own packed house with my crazy playdough cell models, digestive tracts made out of gummy worms and pantyhose, and dramatic tales of droplets named Phil cruising through the water cycle. Best of all, no one gnawed off their own foot to leave early. (No one even left early! ) I even had some groupies at the end and none of them tried to shiv me with a test tube. All in all, the master of BS reined supreme and I further proved to my darling friend that I still got it.

 

Mastication is a Dangerous Word

sword swallower

The longer one spends in middle school, the more one’s maturity is arrested. This phenomenon is referred to as “going native.” Going native is the idea that after prolonged exposure to their charges, an adult, namely a teacher, unintentionally falls to the same developmental plane as his or her pupils. I’ve been in middle school for over 15 years, not counting my time on the inside back in the ‘80s. There’s not a lot of hope left for my maturity. I certainly love a good fart joke, but lately I’m having a harder then usual time holding on to the minimal maturity gap I hold over my middle schoolers. I’m on the verge of going full-on native and it all started with mastication.

Last year when I was determining the subject areas necessary for middle school scientific brilliance, I decided that a peek into human anatomy was essential and as they say, it’s easiest to “go with what you know.” Since I’ve been digesting and pooping all my life, and have a strange obsession with both due to a bad gut, I am a master of the poop tract. (Don’t worry, I did have to good sense to list it as “Digestive System” on my formal documents as calling it the Poop Tract might be frowned upon by the higher ups.) I figured it would be a slam-dunk unit that would require little research / relearning on my end.

I needed a unit I had full comfort in this year because last January I spent every damn night re-learning physics so I could break it down and teach it to middle schoolers the next day. (Full disclosure, I didn’t really get physics the first time through back in the 90s so trying to teach it nearly killed me.) I was not going to fall victim to the same fate again.

Given my WebMD research on the esophagus, gall bladder, gut micro-biome, intestinal absorption, and because I love a good highball, the liver, our study of the poop tract was going to be an easily digested piece of cake. I planned labs and projects from analyzing enzymes in saliva to building 3-D digestive systems. This was going to be epic.

Then we actually began.

It was the moment I uttered the word mastication to a group of 8th graders that it hit me. I tried to keep my adult-cool and not don the same shade of red as those seated at the lab tables before, me but I could feel it rising. I couldn’t suppress the giggles. I was going native.

After altering my delivery from mastication to “chewing really hard” for the next class, I thought I might be in the clear. I hadn’t even considered that eventually we’d hit the anus. As a woman who cannot speak the name of the 7th planet from the sun without uncontrolled giggling, (Uranus…hehehehehehehe. If you missed my struggle with this last year, go have a look here.) this did not look promising. I’ve been in middle school all these years for a reason.

I made the executive decision to spend a portion of our first class on an anal extravaganza. I gave each class of middle schoolers free rein to gawfaw wildly at my every mention of the word anus to get it out of their system (and mine.) Was this my best teaching moment? Perhaps not, but it get the job done and there has been ample anus discussion in the past weeks with the only giggles being the ones I suppress.

Honestly, what human with any sense of humor would not chuckle when an excited 10 year-old responses to the question, “What is the job of the anus?” with an exuberant, “Well Mrs. O, that is where the magic happens.”

What could elicit such a response? See, in that guy’s class, we magically made poop. We tore up bagels, mixed them with ginger ale (aka stomach acid) and shoved our concoction through a variety of contraptions including a pair of pantyhose that served as intestines. We hit the highpoint as the glob that began as bagels came out the bottom of the pantyhose as a perfectly formed, rather realistic turd. The crowd went wild and a high-pitched “POOP!!!!!!” punctuated the hallway. Magic indeed my friend.

If making poop were not exciting enough, I’ve also filled the minds of my cherubs with fun facts like: the average human farts 14-21 times daily (more if you eat Taco Bell) and the loudest fart ever recorded clocked in at 194 decibles for 1/3 of a second which is louder than a cannon blast. (FYI, the perpetrator suffers back pain from that honker to this day. No mention of Taco Bell consumption prior, but I’m guessing yes.)

As we’ve moved into building models of the digestive track I’ve gotten to say things like, “That purple anus is too big.” And “Your rectum is on the floor, don’t forget to attach it. Or my favorite, “Don’t forget to paint your anus.” 

Fortunately, we’re about to move out of this unit because my heart can no longer handle the stifled laughter that occurs with walking the line of going native. A few more days of this and I’m going to blow. Next week we move on to nutrients. Its time to say goodbye to the anus but I’m sure it won’t be gone forever. After all, that is where the magic happens.

Mama Don’t Need No Tribe

high priestess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If I try, “Let’s write together.”

I get, “No. I can’t.”

It’s killing my old teacher heart.

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

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

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

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

Go to school – hissy fit.

Go to anything for his brother– hissy fit.

Grandma shows up – hissy fit.

Grandma leaves – hissy fit.

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

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

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

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

“No.” The Turk replied.

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Arrrrrrgggg, Fall Break, How Dare Ye!

Blackbeard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mom, I need a hooker for Hawoween.”

“Hubba whaaaaaa?”

“I hooker. I need one.”

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

“You need a what?”

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

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

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

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