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…

 

 

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

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“It happens. No matter what you do it will happen.” The other expats told me smugly over tiny cups of Turkish coffee one morning. In hindsight I realize they knew, but as a self-righteous new mother who’d spent 9 months reading and years before that judging others’ parenting because I obviously knew better than those who’d actually been at the job, (You know, the kind of broads which seem to have taken over the internet recently…) I surmised I would do better. My bi-cultural kids would remain equally tied to both cultures, Turkish and American.

Before I’d even birthed my first half-breed I began to worry about how this whole bi-cultural identity thing would play out. At that point we were living in Turkey and it wasn’t clear in which culture we’d be living for the long haul. He’d be immersed in the Turks so how did I make him American too? Should I just hit up McDonald’s weekly, slap down a few McNuggets, play a little Lynard Skynard and say, “There ya go buddy, there is a little slice of my people. Now go forth and live among your father’s people.” (Full disclosure: I did have ridiculous cravings for the McRoyal (a bastard brother of the Quarter Pounder) while I was pregnant so I guess he did get a solid dose of my people in utero.)

The Turk told me not to worry about it, but that’s not how I roll. I began pumping every bi-cultural parent in the school where I taught about their experiences for research.

Olga from Sweden married to a Turk: “Tolga might be a blue-eyed blonde but he’s not very Swedish. He is much more Turkish boy as long as we live here.”

Jennifer from American married to a Turk: “My girls chose to be Turkish instead of American. Not my choice but we live here so I get it.”

Grant from England married to a Turk: “I’d hoped Julide would keep a bit of a connection to England but she identifies as Turkish completely. It saddens me but you can not prevent it.”

The conclusion was clear, bi-cultural kids identified mostly with the culture they lived in but I wasn’t a fan of that theory so, in the spirit of the clueless (kind of like anti-vaxers and science deniers) I ignored the evidence and decided that my kid would be the exception.

Nine years later I’d like to issue a public apology for my stupidity. My half-breeds, currently nestled away in middle America, despite all my efforts and hopes, are Americans. To confirm that, this week alone Number 1 son brushed off three attempts by both The Turk and myself to reconnect him with his other half.

       Attempt 1: Through the belly.

“Mom, what are we having for dinner?”

“Mercimek. Your favorite.”

“Ugh. Turkish food again?”

“Son, in our house it’s just called food.”

“Whatever. Can’t we have hamburgers?”

Damn you America and your artery clogging goodness.

Attempt 2: Groove is in the heart.

Nugget was getting his groove on to some Turkish music videos when I noticed the video he was shaking his Pull-Up clad butt to had been filmed on the streets of the village we lived in when Number 1 was little.

“Number 1, come look at this! This video is in our old ‘hood. This is so cool! We have tons of photos of you on that street. Come here, watch this.”

While the Turk and I dove head-first into nostalgia, Number 1 glanced at the screen and muttered, “Cool.” Before immediately returning to his March Madness bracket selection prep.

Damn you America, even a nice beat that you can dance to couldn’t pull him away.

 Attempt 3: Pulling Out The Big Guns

“Number 1, we need to talk about you maybe going to Turkey with Baba next month. He’s going to check on Babaanne (grandma) and we think maybe you should go.”  This whole discussion was a rare moment of collaborative, unilaterial parenting on my part as was illustrated by the look of shock on the Turk’s face when I agreed to it. I wasn’t sold on the idea but since it was clear my oldest half-breed was pulling away from his Turkish side, I felt it imperative to give him one more hard push back in.

As a sane person I’m sure you’re asking, why send just the two of them? Well, I’m not a sadist and thus I am unwilling to travel 12 hours by plane with a one-earred, 3 year-old tyrant. Nugget doesn’t travel well in any mode but his jacked-up ear situation makes flying miserable and I’m not doing it. Conversely Babanne doesn’t fly. Period. She is a very stubborn Turk so we’ve been in a stalemate for the past few years. Finally I relented and said I’d stay home with Nugget and the Turk and Number 1 could go (While I stay up for a week straight contemplating the sanity in sending my baby into a country who’d had a political coup mere months prior, to a city that has bombings on the reg and is on the cusp of a make or break election about the time of their intended arrival. Oh and lets not even get into all the unwarranted and irrational Not Without My Daughter scenerios that would flash through my sleep deprived mind.) Secretly I prayed Number 1 wouldn’t want to go but it was my maternal duty as a bi-cultural parent to promote this moment.

Number 1 thought for about 30 seconds and said. “I don’t want to go.”

“Really? (Oh thank GOD!!!!) But why not?”

“Well for one, it’s scary. I watch the Turkish news with you guys. I’m not clueless. And actually I don’t really want Baba to go either. And for two, if it was Cleveland or someplace good where we could go watch LeBron James or something I’d go but Turkey? Nah.” (Sweet Jesus, did my son just prefer Cleveland over transcontinental adventure? Lord Almighty he really was too far gone.)

Relieved and disappointed all in one breath, I muttered to the Turk, “I think we’re losing him to America.”

“Yes. I think so.” He agreed with a twinge of heartbreak.

My soul filled with lapsed Catholic guilt. I felt like I’d stolen our son. But they’d warned me. All those expat parents had warned me and as it turned out, my son was not the exception but the rule. He lived in America now so he became American.

We’re not giving up though. We’ll keep eating Turkish food-aka-food, keep sharing stories of his other culture, keep celebrating Turkish holidays (Just not Kurban Bayram -that one where you slice the lamb on your balcony because even The Turk is still scarred from that one.). We’ll continue trying to keep him bilingual, force him to watch Turkish league football (as long as I still get my NFL time with him too) and I’ll keep his Turkish side alive even if it kills me because some day, years from now, that little half-breed will be glad we did.

Hells Yeah, It’s Thanksgiving Gurl!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAPPY THANKSGIVING From the Turks!!!!

When Bedtime Stories Go Bad…A Cautionary Tale

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

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

“Baba, you skipped three pages.”

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

“Baba, you said that word wrong.”

      “No, that is how we say.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Need Good Writing Material…Marry a Foreigner

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Back before I had Nugget and began my foray into the world of special needs parenting and blogging about it, I spent my days in the world of bicultural parenting and blogging about that. The cultural misunderstandings between the The Turk and I have provided me with a font of material for ten years, and will likely continue to do so until one of us cashes it in and leaves the other with a life insurance policy worth about 50 Turkish Lyra.

Anywhoo…for a couple reasons, I’ve decided to dig out a post from the old blog and transplant it here. 1. those cultural mishaps are funny as hell and 2. I’m working on a little project and want to use this as a chance for some shameless self (not only self because this is a group project) promotion.

I’m contributing to a book with some other crazy expat broads all over the world entitled Knocked Up Abroad Again – an anthology about shucking pups all over there globe. I’ve, of course, shared my tale of dancing Turks and misplaced intestines during the birth of Number 1 alongside birth stories from all over. It’s gonna be awesome…if it meets it’s kickstarter goal in the next 10 days. So, if you’d like a copy or you’d like to fund an awesome effort – go here and fund us. Now, on to our show:

Did you know, there is no Tooth Fairy in Turkey?  No?  Me either.

It was totally logical for me to believe that there would be a Turkish Tooth Fairy.  There is a Turkish Red Ridinghood but she goes by Kırmızı Başlıklı Kız.  Bert and Ernie have been fluent in Turkish since the early 70’s and even that sniveling Caliou found a massive fan base with tiny Turks. They even have Santa, though he is called Baba Noel and instead of a big gut and white beard he’s thin with a  ‘stache and instead of milk and cookies he prefers  tea and a smoke and instead of coming on December 25 th he doesn’t make an appearance until December 31st, but other than that…  But hey, cut ’em some slack, it’s tough to have a solid Christmas understanding in a Muslim nation. But I digress.

With this knowledge of childhood icons it was reasonable for me to assume that there was also a fairy that snuck into the sleeping quarters of young Turks and replaced their recently liberated baby teeth with a Lira or two. But no. This ugly truth was revealed last week when the Midget finally lost his first tooth.

For a 5 year old, that is pretty much the pinnacle of fitting in with one’s peers and we all know kindergartners can be pretty intimidating as far as peer pressure goes. The Midget was the last of his friends to go toothless but now he was part of the in-crowd.  As that little tiny white stump freed itself at breakfast, there was much celebration.

I should have been tipped off to the impending cultural divide by the strange look I received from the Turk when I rushed to bag the tooth like evidence on CSI.  However, I get that look often so I paid it no mind.

As the day progressed and the Midget was filled with information from his merry band of munchkins on the playground, he was ready for the big payoff. From dinner through bath he could discuss nothing else and as he carefully tucked the tooth under his pillow, the Turk finally said, “What the hell are you doing?  Throw that thing in garbage. It is disgusting.”

With big blue eyes the Midget said, “But Baba, the Tooth Fairy will take it.”

And then, there it was – the bomb was lowered– “What is Tooth Fairy?  There are no fairies.  Fairies are not real. Why you pretending this?  Only the girls like the fairies.”

Well hell.

Once again, I had to swoop in and wipe away the pain of truth those Turks love to lay down all too often. His are a people that find  joy in bursting bubbles with cold, hard reality. I know. I lived with them and came home with years’ worth of busted bubbles.

After shooting Baba the look, (ya’ll know the look to which I refer) and quickly dismissing  Baba’s proclamations by explaining that boys can like fairies too and that fairies do not like bad kids and Baba was a bad kid so therefore the Tooth Fairy never made a visit to him – it hit me and I rushed The Turk into the closet for a confab.

“Is there no Tooth Fairy in Turkey?”

“No. What the hell is Tooth Fairy?”

“You leave your tooth under the pillow and in the morning the Tooth Fairy has taken it and left you a few bucks. You know, it’s like Santa or the Easter Bunny.”

“No. That is stupid.”

“What did your parents do when you lost a tooth?”

“Throw it in trash, like you should do.”

“No. That’s not happening. This child is in America now and we are doing this like my people.”

“Ok, well maybe Fairy can bring me something a little later too?”

“No. “

After the Midget had tucked the tooth and nodded off, there was much debate over the price per tooth and the absurdity of the tradition but I won and the Midget awoke to a reasonable payoff. But there was much shrapnel to clean up thanks to Baba blowing the Fairy’s cover and as we got ready for school,

“Mom, is it a he or a she?”

“He” It just seemed more festive to make the Tooth Fairy a drag queen.

“How does he know I lost a tooth?”

“I call the hotline.”

“What’s the number?”

“1-888-Tooth-gone.”

“How does he get in?”

“Backdoor” (hehehe)

“Does he keep the teeth?”

“Yes?”

“Did he dig Baba’s teeth out of the trash when he was little?”

“No. He was a really bad kid.” (Take that fun sucker!)

“Do I get more money for bigger teeth?”

“No.”

“Well that’s a rip off.”  

Mom’s gotta keep it real. First I saved Santa before we moved to the US, then  the Tooth Fairy. Easter Bunny, you are totally on your own though, I’ve always found a giant rabbit a little too creepy.

If you want more expat tales – go fund us! Knocked Up Abroad Again 

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My Adopted Home Is Bleeding and You Need To Understand Why

I woke up this morning with a broken heart again and I’m tired of it. I’m too old for this crap. People of Earth, I’m tried of citizens acting like a bunch of unruly toddlers, (And God knows I’m clear on the behaviors of unruly toddlers- even unruly toddlers with anesthesia hang-overs this week). This world is in desperate need of a swift kick in the ass and a good grounding with no electronics for at least a month. I mean, people WTF?

My mature response to the world’s current state is a burning desirer to jump on my bicycle and ride far, far away with my handlebar streamers flowing in the wind and my banana seat cutting into my thigh-chub. But as adulthood took away my damn banana seat and replaced my handlebar basket with a fat kid in a bike trailer behind me, riding off into the sunset is not an option. So instead I will do what I know how to do and keep pushing for understanding.

Yesterday, after a fun family outing, something was tugging at me. I knew something was wrong but had no idea what. I flipped on NPR but nothing. An hour later as I was talking to my neighbor, the Turk yelled – “Honey get in here! Something big happening!” A coup. Though the Turk had been though one before, this was my first coup and I was quickly wishing I hadn’t dropped out of Turkish school before we got to the “big news words” lessons. Within minutes we had English news on the TV, Turkish news on the laptop, Twitter on the tablets and were texting with his sister in Turkey. God bless technology.

Last night’s events in Turkey left many people confused. My favorite Tweet was from a British woman who Tweeted, “Can Turkish people please just Tweet in English so the rest of us can understand what’s happening?” I hear ya girl but I speak both languages, had a Turk at my side and I was still confused. Turkey, like most countries, has a complex political history and if you’re really interested I can suggest a slew of reading materials (because I’m an uber-nerd and that’s how I roll.) But if you’re not interested in a PhD in Turkish politics, here’s some important things to know:

  1. There is good reason for the unrest and these are not just a bunch of hot-tempered Muslims. (Because if you watch the American news, that’s the image projected.)
  1. The true origins of the coup will never be known. Was it orchestrated by a small faction of the military? Was it organized by the entire military? Was it staged by the Prime Minister in an attempt to garner further power? (I know where my vote goes, but I’ve been in a Turkish jail once (long story) and I’m not going back in the next time I go to Turkey so I’ll remain silent) We will never know as the government has been silencing, censoring and jailing the media in Turkey for some time now. Any journalist found to be exposing anything that shows the PM in a bad light is immediately jailed. (Chew on that.)
  1. Turkey’s leadership has become increasingly more corrupted in recent years. When I lived there it was bad- it’s far worse now. The leadership has long pitted the uneducated poor against the educated middle class, using religion as a springboard. This divisive governing is what you saw exploding on your television screen last night. Sound familiar America? Dividing the people by exploiting the poor and uneducated through anger and religion? Trump has taken his lessons from some of the best in the world and if you look at Syria, Iraq and now Turkey, you’ll see how it ends.
  1. These are people. These are my people. When you marry someone, you take on their family. When you marry someone from another culture, you take on that culture. When you marry someone, move to their country, learn their language and are embraced by their entire culture for years, even after you leave, you become one of them. Watching my adopted home bleed as it has in recent months has been gut wrenching. Waiting for social media check-ins after bombings to make sure family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and former students are safe is a terrible feeling and it just keeps happening. Turkey took me in when I was a scared expat. Turkey taught me how to be a mother. Turkey showed me how adaptable I am. Turkey gave me a new language and culture and Turkey will always be mine. When you watch these images, do not disregard this as an angry nation. This is my adopted home.

People of the world, educate your children. Put away your guns. Change things now, before it’s too late. Our children are counting on us.

Gecmis Olsun Turkiye

Ne Mutlu Turk’um Diyene

turkish-flag

 

Tenacious Mom VS City Hall

Deaf Child Area Sign

Once upon a time there was a tenacious mom with a kid who couldn’t hear so well, so she decided it might be a good idea to get a sign to warn passersby. She wanted a sign that said “Yo, Slow Down Fool. Deaf Kid Up In Here.” But research quickly showed her that signs like that were frowned upon by the founding fathers of her town. (Hoosiers can be uptight like that.) So she settled on a sign that read, “Deaf Child Area.” It wasn’t as eloquent or direct as her chosen wording but it would do. Tenacious Mom called the City and inquired about how a sign like that might be procured.

The first City secretary was flustered by Tenacious Mom’s request. “Oh ma’am, I don’t know anything about signs like that. You should check somewhere else.”

The second City secretary was confused but had the good sense to redirect Tenacious Mom’s call. “Honey, I’ve got no clue but I’ll connect you to the Streets Department and I’m sure they’ll know what to do.

Much like Goldilocks, Tenacious Mom hoped her third connection would be just right. But as we all know, crap never happens like that. Tenacious Mom left a charming message and awaited what she assumed would be an informative return call from an intelligent City official, after all, City officials are there to assist the people…right? (Aw hells no. Not even in fairy tales.)

            One week later, Tenacious Mom received a call. The man identified himself as the Superintendent of Streets and when he gave his name, Tenacious Mom –also known as Smartass Mom- bit her tongue to avoid commenting as the Superintendent of Streets’ first name was the same as his last. (For the purpose of avoiding litigation, he will henceforth be known as Steve Steves.)

“Hello Ma’am. I have a message here that you are interested in procuring a Deaf Child sign for your street.”

            “Yes, Steve Steves, I am.”

“I’m assuming you have a deaf child?”

            “That’s a solid deduction Steve Steves.”

“Well Ma’am, by law in the State of Indiana, we are not required to put up that kind of sign.”

            “Really?”

“Yes Ma’am. Deaf Child, Blind Child and Children at Play. We’re not required to put those up. We get nervous mothers asking for Children at Play signs every week. If I gave a sign to every mom who wanted to let her kid play in the street, ha ha, I’d never get anything done, ha ha ha.”

            “So parents of deaf and blind children just want to let their kids play in the street too?”

“No Ma’am. I was just explaining why we don’t put up those kinds of signs.”                    

            “I’m assuming in Indiana it’s ok to run over deaf and blind children who didn’t see or hear  the car coming? Obviously they’re of less value as they can’t hear or see.”

“No Ma’am, now I didn’t say that. We Hoosiers respect our children.”

            “Just not deaf or blind ones, as it seems to be unimportant to keep those kids safe by alerting   drivers that my kid might not hear them coming.”

“Now Ma’am, there’s no need to get upset. There’s good reasoning behind this that proves these kinds of signs are unnecessary.”

            “Oh Steve, I’m not upset. We’re just discussing. Right? Now I’m pretty new to this state and I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of some of the laws here but why don’t you tell me more about why signs protecting small children who cannot hear or see are unnecessary, because to a gal like me, that sounds a bit odd. ”

“Yes Ma’am. There have been studies that show drivers are immune to such signs and do not yield, thus the sign is of no use. Might I suggest you place something large and colorful on your sidewalk when your child is outside playing instead?”

            “Large and colorful?”

“Yes Ma’am, when our kids were young my wife and I used to pull out one of those neon turtles with the ‘children playing’ flag, to alert traffic.”

            “Ah yes, a neon turtle to protect my deaf son. Steve Steves, can I ask, do you have a deaf child?”

“No Ma’am.”

            “Do you have a blind child?”

“No Ma’am.”

            “Then you shouldn’t tell mothers to use a neon turtle to protect their deaf or blind children.”

“Again, Ma’am, I’m just trying to help.”

            “No Steve, I don’t feel like you are. I think you called to feel me out. You wanted to see if I was going to be a pain in your ass about this or if I was going to be easily cajoled by the suggestion of a neon turtle. Well Steve, as I mentioned before, I’m new in town. I’m a life-long teacher, an advocate for deaf kids and unfortunately for you, I’m coming from Philadelphia and my husband is from Turkey. Steve, I’ll be honest with you, we don’t fight like Hoosiers. We fight like Philly Turks and I’m assuming you had World Civ in school so you know how Turks fight.”

“Now Mrs. Özemet, there’s really no need to fight. There are options.”

            “Like what Steve?”

“Well, you can petition City Council with your request.”

            “Fantastic! Get us on the docket for the next meeting. The Turk and I will be there to petition. Should I bring my own expert testimony and research? Is the venue Power Point ready?”

“Um, I…I…I’d have to check.”

            “You do that Steve because I’m not going away.”

“Let me do some checking and get back to you Mrs. Özemet. Maybe there are other options I’m not aware of.”

            “Good thinking Steve Steves. If I don’t hear back in a few days, I’ll just swing by your office and we can chat in person.”

Three days later, Steve Steves called Tenacious Mom to inform her that her request had been passed through City Council without any need for her to be present. Was it fear of The Turk waging jihad? Was it fear of a Philly smack-down? We may never know, but she again fought the urge to morph into Smartass Mom and thanked the man with two first names for his assistance.

One month later, just when Tenacious Mom was about to visit Steve Steves’ office to “check” on things, City workers mounted not one, but two, Deaf Child Area signs on either side of her house. Though she still longed for a sign that read, “Yo, Slow Down Fool. Deaf Kid Up In Here,” she was pretty damn pleased with the ones she got.

The Moral Of Our Story: Men with two first names should never take on a tenacious mom and her Turkish husband.

Deaf Child Area

 

Just A Little Off The Top Please

sunnet (1)

This week I’m taking on the role of special guest star (you know, like they used to do in bad 70’s shows like Fantasy Island.) over on Canadian Expat Mom’s blog. She’s a groovy gal who put together a book I contributed to coming out soon called – Once Upon An Expat. It’s going to be an awesome read with stories from expat women all over the world.

Anyhooo, in my role as special guest star, I’ve written a little piece about penises. Yes, penises. I can say the word just like Dr. Ruth, though I tend to quickly revert to weiner because inside I’m only 10. Ok, it’s not all about weiners, (oops, see there it happened, I’m an immature child) it’s more about the Turkish circumcision ceremony called a sunnet where a boy becomes a man at age eight when his weiner is whacked. Since our oldest is turning 8 this week, it’s been a hot topic in our house.

Go visit, read my tale of tallywhackers and stay for the Canadian charm. Here’s the link one more time…Just a Little Off The Top

Now go…you know how nice Canadians are…enjoy.

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Musings From My Bi-Cultural World

I’m not a very good American. Fine patriots like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin would probably label me an over-educated Liberal, Socialist. (Full disclosure, I’m more Libertarian than Liberal. Back in 2011 I ran a solid campaign to become Ronn Paul’s VP but the bastard never called me. Perhaps he felt my stance on immigration was a bit harsh.) The only flag I’ve ever owned is the one they passed out to family members at my husband’s naturalization ceremony, unless you count that Springsteen bandanna I procured down the Jersey shore on a bad hair day back in ‘98. I vote in every election but only out of my Jedi-like sense of duty not my sense of patriotism. My husband has been an America for two years now and he’s miles ahead of me in the race to be a good American.

I think the problem is that I find a good majority of my countrymen quite off-putting which results in my laissez faire patriotism. How can one be overjoyed to come from a people who created three-pound hamburgers available to you in the comforts of your car with a 900 oz. soda on the side? (Diet soda, of course.) We are the people who created Wal-Mart, fast food and obesity. (See that connection?)

For the love of God, we are the people whose current top presidential candidates consist of a reality show jackass, a surgeon who thinks if the kindergarteners at Sandy Hook had charged the gunman they’d be here today and the wife of a former president. Really? This is the best we’ve got? Oh Americans, you make it easy to get down on you.

But then, just when I get down on my people, something happens to show me the half-full side of the glass.

Last week, a good family friend in Turkey, someone my husband has known all of his life, died. Ali was 39. He came home from work with a tight chest and a shooting pain in his arm. He went in to lie down and was dead an hour later. You, my American reader, know from that brief description that Ali was having a heart attack. You know in that situation you do not lie down. You pop an aspirin and get your ass to the ER, STAT. But Ali was in Turkey where the above is not a commonly known practice for one with those symptoms. You know how to treat a heart attack because in America, whether you want it or not, we look out for your well-being.

You know if you’re on fire you stop, drop and roll.

You know that you should exercise daily and brush after every meal.

You know that if you eat too much sugar you are at risk for diabetes.

You know that if you eat only those 3-pound burgers and 900 oz. sodas you will probably need to know how to treat a heart attack.

Why do you know these things? Because we have a ridiculous number of organizations that educate the masses on issues of health and safety. Starting in elementary school you learn these things and if you missed it, you can catch it on a TV commercial. (In that same vein, we all also know what do to in the case of 4-hour erection. Thank you advertisers.) We know these things because everyone’s health and well-being is important to us in America. Even if you take your health for granted (insert comment on 900 oz. soda again), we are still going to take care of you.

Countless times on this journey of ours with the Nugget our Turkish family has commented on how different things are going to be for him because he is in America. Oh, we know. The advances here are amazing. (2 months ago they literally took my baby’s kidney out of his body through a 4-inch slot, reconstructed it, shoved it back in and it works. Whaaaaat?) Early Intervention resources will hopefully bring my little one-eared wonder up to speed with other kids his age by the time he gets to kindergarten. Audiology gave us his gazillion dollar hearing aid to test-drive for three months before we had to fork over a dime. (When I was in labor with Number One Son in Turkey, we had to pay in-full for the birth before we were allowed onto the maternity ward. Fun Fact: the hearing aid costs 4 times more than Number One’s birth.)

All stupid insurance and big pharma issues aside, why is medical care so much better here than in Turkey and other nations? I think it’s because Americans have a fight unlike any others. We see a problem and we need to fix it. We don’t accept answers without facts. We know things can be better and fight to make it so. Once we’ve solved the problem, we want to educate you so you can be better too because in the end, we look out for our countrymen, even if we don’t like them.

When the doctor determined, in Ali’s apartment, that a 39-year-old died of a heart attack, it was accepted and he was buried in traditional Muslim fashion 24-hours later. No autopsy. No more questions were asked. Ali was dead and that was that. That’s how things go in Turkey. I’ve seen it often.

But that is not how it works in America. Questions would be asked and answers demanded. Tests would be run and evidence pored over. And in the end, those answers would be used to help others.

Through our many, many trials with the Nugget, my mother-in-law has always said, “Margaret can handle it. She is American.” Full disclosure, it has honked me off more than once but I think now I get it. She’s right. I can handle it because I’m going to find answers. I’m going to get the facts and I’m going to work to fix things. I’m going to fight because I’m an American. So maybe I am a crappy patriot but maybe I am not such a crappy American after all. (Insert snaps in the z formation and a head toss as I drop the mic and walk off.)

Riveter at work on Consolidated bomber, Consolidated Aircraft Corp., Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Howard R Hollem for the Farm Security Administration, October 1942. Credit Line: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division LC-DIG-fsac-1a34953.
Riveter at work on Consolidated bomber, Consolidated Aircraft Corp., Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Howard R Hollem for the Farm Security Administration, October 1942. Credit Line: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division LC-DIG-fsac-1a34953.