His Baby is Dead and I Don’t Have Time For This Crap

car crash

If I survive this relocation without a lengthy sentence at in some type of mental health facility, I expect one of you dear readers to send me a tiara and sash proclaiming my superiority. Just when buying and selling house was getting stressful, the Turk decided to throw a little more into the mix to test my stress capacity.

Last week, the Turk totaled his car. Impeccable timing right? (If I keep chanting, don’t kill him, don’t kill him, it will sink in right?) Here in Indianapolis there is an epidemic of something the Hoosiers refer to as potholes. However, these are not what the rest of the world might refer to as potholes. These giant missing chunks of road might best be called sinkholes or craters or most accurately, roadway caverns. According to the news, it seems the city neglected the issue for years and now, as one might expect, all hell is breaking loose creating potholes that can knock out a Beamer in 2.5 seconds flat.

You may recall from an earlier post (Here it is in case you missed it but I’m sure you didn’t because you’re a loyal reader of my brilliance.) that The Turk has an unhealthy obsession with BMWs but regrettably he’s got a Kia budget. To fuel his obsession and keep his marriage in tact, he’s learned to rebuild older Beamers with the patience I only wish he’d use on his offspring. The Turk spends hours creeping around nerd sites on the interwebs where dorks like him share tips and tricks about BMWs and I’m pretty sure it’s a cult.

Last year he lost his first “baby” to mechanical issues that went beyond what a simple Turk can do in a suburban garage. “The Ultimate Machine” has been sitting in my driveway since it’s demise as a sort of metal mausoleum. Each time he passed the molding mass he’d shed a tear. Likewise, each time I passed it, I flipped the car the bird. A few months ago he replaced it with a newer version he procured in some shady deal with a couple African guys. (For real, read all about it here.) While the first one was a death trap, the newer version was the one I wasn’t embarrassed to ride in. Unfortunately, driving to work on one of his last days in this city, he hit one of those geological mine-traps. Moments later my phone rang.

“I think I hurt my baby.”

“What?” I screamed with appropriate maternal panic. “What happened to the kids?”

“What? No! My Beamer. I hit a damn pothole. I hate this place. Why there giant holes in the road everywhere? God sakes! We not have roads this bad in Turkey. ”

-Insert hostile gestures and excessive eye rolling on my end of the line here.

“Can you still drive it or are you stranded somewhere?”

“No. I am driving but my car is making very big noise. It might be bad. I am going to BMW dealership.”

This is the point where my eyes rolled back like a cartoon character and my eyeballs were replaced with dollar signs while the cha-ching of a cash register rang between my ears. Nothing cheap ever happens at a BMW dealership.

Fast forward four days, after fighting a 4-day backlog of poor bastards who’d also lost their “babies” to Hoosier-quality potholes (You thought I was exaggerating how bad these things were.) the mechanic finally called with the damage report. $18,000. The Beamer was down and it was going to take nothing short of $18,000 to fix her.

In the midst of a lab in middle school science, my phone rang. Because it was the Turk, I worried something else had hit the fan so with one hand juggling beakers and a “zip-it” gesture to a bunch of 8th graders, I picked-up.

“My baby is dead.”

“Huh”

“They say it cost $18,000 to fix my baby.”

It seemed the epic pot-hole had broken the drive-shaft and sent the broken potion of the drive shaft careening through the transmission case and a few other mechanical things I didn’t care enough to comprehend. Thankfully, due to the presence of children not my own at the moment of receiving the information, I suppressed my desire to spew profanity.

It took mere seconds for my firm decision on the matter. “$18,000? Say goodbye girl. That baby is dead.”

When it comes to handling things like insurance or basically anything that requires phone communication, the Turk is out. “I cannot understand what they say on phone. I sound like idiot.” We didn’t do phone communication when we dated for that exact reason. But I get it. I hate to do anything in Turkish on the phone. It’s one hundred times more difficult to comprehend a second language on the phone without being able to see and read body language. So as I drove to pick him up from the dealership I prepared to spend a few hours on the phone cleaning up the mess.

Much to my surprise, faced with the death of his beloved Beamer, the Turk was struck with brilliance. Similar to when adrenaline allows women to commit stunning feats of strength while in mama bear mode, the Turk had already spend an hour on the phone with the insurance company and all was taken care of. “They will send someone to check on my baby Monday. The lady said it is probably over but I can hope. Maybe it is not over yet.”

I wanted to tell him they were sending someone to pronounce his baby dead on Monday but not wanting to watch him weep like a broken fool all weekend, I lied. “You’re right. Maybe they can fix it.” Then, hoping to share my brilliant fix to the situation, I added, “You know, if they can’t fix your car, you can just take my car and we’ll get a new family car. I mean, you only need to commute to the train station. Seems like a perfect solution.”

Through his fog of depression, the Turk glared at me. “How I drive a Hyundai when I am obviously a BMW man?”

Well, they couldn’t fix his baby and and we are now awaiting a payout for the totaled car. Thanks to life in a city without public transport, we are currently sharing joint custody of a 10-year-old Hyundai and it’s not going well. But we’ve got far bigger issues to deal with over the next couple weeks so we’re sucking it up. We’ll get a car on the other side and hopefully both of us will make it out alive.

And that, my friends, was only one incident of drama in the week. There were many others and in the next installment I’ll explain how I bought homeowners insurance on a house I’ve never seen and drove 3 insurance agents to nearly wet themselves from laughter.

If anyone has connections at Bellevue, reserve me a room. It could be touch and go for the next few weeks.

 

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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

 

I’m Not Ready For A Prison In My Backyard

prison

When Lifetime Television for Women and Gay Men makes the movie of my life, there will be no need for a focus group to come up with winning title. My bio-pic will be called “She Didn’t Get Too Comfortable.” No, I haven’t been contacted by Lifetime execs yet but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time and I like to be prepared. Considering our newest adventure, if somebody isn’t ready to make my biopic then at least TLC should tap us their next reality television moment.

In 12 years we’ve lived in 2 countries, 4 states, 6 towns, and 8 homes. Though we’ve not been huge fans of the Hoosier state, (Really love a lot of Hoosiers but Indiana…not so much.) we hit the 5-year mark and were just starting to get comfortable. As usual, that comfort prompted the universe to pull the rug out from under my propped feet nearly spilling my wine. We’re moving, yet again.

This time the universe decided to deliver the news until it was clear I was settling in to stay for a while. After living for 2 years in a room with baby-poop yellow walls with pink accents, I finally agreed to repaint Number 1’s bedroom to a more masculine tone. As we returned home with $100 worth of paint and supplies in hand, a panicked Turk met us at the door.

“Read this email. I think I am not translating something.”

He pulled up an email from the head of his company. I read it, then read it again. The third time I read it but added my favorite f-word between each sentence.

All the while, the Turk loomed. “Well?”

“No translation issues. We need to be in Boston by January 1.”

The Turk threw out a few of his own favorite bits of bilingual profanity then called his supervisor for some explanation while I listened through a glass at the door like a nosey Nelly.

The Turk and I have both felt like fishes out of water for the past 5 years, but it’s been nice to be constant for our kids and we were finding a way to make it work. Neither of us expected the Turk to get relocated yet again. We foolishly believed our next move would come on our terms. (We’re old but clearly still naïve.)

After tears and frustration, decisions were made; the Turk would go early and the boys and I would join at the end of the school year to try and disrupt their worlds as little as possible. (A loving parental choice? No. There was no way in hell was I moving to New England in the height of winter.) Thankfully, things didn’t work out that way and the Turk was granted a stay. He got to hold off his move until closer to our whole family move in June.

We spent spring break in Boston house hunting but unlike the show, ours adventure wasn’t nearly as tidy. Since we don’t have a mil to drop on a new 500 square foot home in Boston, we have to go a bit further out…not quite to New Hampshire but it’s close. Just like on House Hunters, here’s our top three.

House 1: The “What’s Hiding In the Woods?” House.

This house was a bit of a mess and needed lots of work but it was tucked away in a beautiful wooded area just like I’ve always wanted. It wasn’t love at first sight but we thought it might be worth a bid.  Before we did so, we decided to consult a map because I needed to get my head around its geographic zone. Sprawled across a hotel bed carefully peering at a map of the area (Yes, I’m old like that. Maps trump the interwebs for some things.)  I noticed a pale blue box butting up against the back of the property. I assumed it to be a nature preserve or maybe a state park as that’s what all the other blue boxes on the map represented. Not this time. My blue box was a State Correctional Facility. Behind the picturesque woods surrounding my potential new home, lay a glorious, razor wired, possibly electrified, 12 foot fence. While my BFF tried to reassure me that he’d grown up near there and it was only a facility for the criminally insane not the heavy hitters, we took hard pass.

House 2: The Pinterest Epic Fail House

From the photos, this one had great potential. However, this listing was the real estate equivalent of putting a photo on a dating profile shot from 20 feet away, 15 years earlier. The homeowner had tried to spruce up this pad with a variety of techniques likely found on Pinterest from painting lopsided chalkboards on the bedroom walls to sponge painting the kitchen counter-tops. (Yes, you read that right. They painted the counter-tops.) Couple these design choices with the lingering scent of ganja and dog poop and we executed a hasty exit.

House 3: The, “You Put My Kids Where?” House.

This house had some solid potential. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, yard and wait for it…a “large playroom.” No parent can resist the lure of a separate playroom. Upon entry it was stunning. Most importantly, there was no visible playroom on the first floor which meant all child paraphernalia would be out of sight upstairs. I loved it already. I longingly glided a hand along the wood railings as I ascended the stairs, eager to find my dream playroom waiting for me. Bedroom 1. Bedroom 2. Bedroom 3. Bath. Laundry closet….wait…where was my playroom? I searched for a secret passage, perhaps to an attic or nook. No go. Our agent called from downstairs, “I found the playroom.” Disheartened that it was actually on the first level, I trodded down the stairs to see my bonus room. That’s when the agent led me out the front door, up the outside concrete steps and across the lawn to a separate building. Yep. My playroom was actually a freshly dry walled and finely floored former chicken coop. It seemed this house had a backyard prison of a different sort. While it might sound alluring sending your children to play in a separate building, that level of non-supervision can quickly lead to mass destruction, bloodshed or a small scale prison riot.

Ultimately, due to my fear of the criminally insane, sponge-painted countertops and harboring children in climate-controlled chicken coops, we left empty-handed. But we did come up with a solid list of areas we liked. Now it’s time for me to send in the big guns, The Turk is going in alone and The Turk always completes his mission. Let’s just hope he can avoid the state pen on his next round of house hunting.

 

I’m Probably Going To Hell

woman hypnotist (1)

There is a 90% chance I’m going to hell. A few years ago it might have been closer to an 80% chance but it’s been a rough patch recently. Easter is usually a time when my heathenistic nature is made clear as the appearance of eggs, bunnies and crucifixes tends to spur familiar conversations between the Turk and I.

“I never get it, why bunny? Did Jesus turn into bunny?”

“No. That’s just stupid.”

“Is it? Every year I ask and every year no one can explain.”

“Oh I explain it, you just never listen.”

“And does rabbit come from egg? No. So why eggs?”

It usually goes on and on like this until I hide away like a mole rat in a dark, secluded area far from my husband who was raised in a Muslim country completely void of gummy eggs and chocolate bunnies. We’ve been doing this for a ridiculously long time so when this year’s round started I didn’t think much of it.

On a rainy Sunday, we drove past the local Catholic Church over-flowing with cars. I should probably note, this is the same Catholic Church I weaseled my way into a couple years ago for Number 1 Son to make his first communion. Though I’m a card carrying heathen, I’m also aware that mistakes can be made and if this whole Jesus thing pans out, I don’t want to have sacrificed the souls of my offspring, so I like to cover my bases. Every month the Church sends us requests for money with our names horrifically misspelled. We laugh manically while shredding the request and the Church keeps a family of ethnically diverse names on the registry amid the thousands of Smiths and Johnsons. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

Seeing the crowded parking lot reminded me to ask the Turk, “Do you have Good Friday off?”

To which he replied, “Every Friday is good. Why is one more good than the others?”

Just as I was about to give myself a stroke from rolling my eyes back in my head, Number 1 chimed up from the backseat. “Baba, that’s the day Jesus died.”

The Turk searched for clarity, “But he come back again later?”

“Yes,” I chimed in. “He rolled up on the crowd a few days later and needless to say, they were a bit shocked. I guess it’s like when you think your boss is out of town and he comes back early. I mean, on a big scale.” (Sister Nora would be so proud.)

I thought that would end it but no. From the backseat Number 1 asked, “Wait, if Jesus died then got out of his grave later, doesn’t that make him a zombie?”

Being a long-time fan of all things zombie (old school Night of the Living Dead not this new school Walking Dead crap) I was more than proud that my little cherub had somehow taken in zombie science by osmosis from his mother.

We debated the concept for a while until Number 1 added, “So if we take communion then don’t we technically become zombies too?”

Kid, you spent one freaking year in Catechism and somehow you managed to pay attention to the one part of the whole doctrine that most find pretty creepy. Nice. Not wanting to get further into a theological debate with either Number 1 nor his father, I tried to shut it down by throwing my attention to the Nugget. However, Nugget was elbow deep in a bag of animal crackers and had nothing to say except, “Wook Mom, I ate dis guy’s head off.” He proudly held up a decapitated pachyderm. Nugget often chooses to utilizes the fact that he only has one ear to find a little peace in our nut-job family.

Fast forward to yesterday and me chasing a naked Nugget around the house trying to get him into the shower. In desperation, I tried a conversation technique to distract him long enough to cleanse.

“So how was school today?”

I expected a generic, “Good,” maybe peppered with a bit of “I had fun.” But no.

Instead he said, “Today at thool, I told da kids about Jesus.”

Noooooooooooooo!  “Um, you told the kids what honey?”

“First, I told dem dat Jesus died on de cross.” He stated.

Relieved I continued, “Really?” I wasn’t impressed that my kid was preaching the gospel in preK but since he’d only started talking a year ago and he’s still not a fan of interacting with same age peers, I was just happy he was having a conversation.

“What else did you talk about Nugs?”

By this point he was shimmying in the shower covered in bubbles tossing out information between dance moves. “Den I told dem Jesus is a zombie.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Jesus is a zombie. Dat’s what you said.”

Panic overtook me. Do they call CPS for training one’s children as  a heathen? Was there a red button on the desk for teachers to press in a religious emergency? This is Indiana and they take their religion seriously here. For the love of God, they made Mike Pence.

“So….” I ventured carefully, “what did your friends say to the news of zombie Jesus?”

“Nuffing. Michael said Jesus is in your heart so it’s ok if he’s a zombie.”

And there you have it. So on this Easter weekend just remember…If Jesus is in your heart, he might be a zombie…and clearly, I am going to hell.

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.

Hey Old Broad Winter, I Got Your Back

winter broads

Dear Old Broad Winter,

As I’m sure you’re aware, people are talking about you and not in that, “Oh she looks good for her age,” way. (Because honestly, no one cares if people are talking about you if they are issuing commentary on your youthful looks or your tight buns.) It’s no real surprise that your actions would garner more attention than those of your weaker, wussier counterpart Old Man Winter. (Temps below -20 and hurricane snow could only come from a tough broad.)

Your takeover of society has been going solid for a few weeks, yet I’ve heard numerous ramblings across this land involving harsh, dare I say obscene words describing you. Old Broad Winter, let me apologize for humankind. They are simply not experiencing your wondrous glory as I and they know not what they say.

It seems other members of humanity don’t like these frigid temps and frequent snowfall because it leaves them housebound. To that I say, “Housebound? Hells yeah!” For a working mother exhausted by the constant pace of our school-year life, there is nothing, and I mean nothing better than being housebound in a manner that is totally beyond one’s control.

Housebound is the one time where mommy guilt cannot pry me out in search of an entertainment opportunity for my rambunctious offspring.

“Mom, can we go somewhere?”

“Nope- roads are too slick.”

Housebound is the only time I am able to tamp-down my latent Martha Stewart kitchen tendencies and slap a sub-par dinner on the table scrabbled together from scraps found in the pantry.

“Mom, what’s for dinner?”

“Whatever the hell I can find kids. Looks like tuna cakes, pickled beets and a side of Sponge Bob Mac and Cheese tonight.”

Housebound is the one time I can disregard my educator opinions regarding the negative effects of electronic devices on impressionable minds and comfortably say,

“Sure boys, you can have another 3 hours on the IPad. Just make sure there’s no shooting or bloodshed.”

Best of all, housebound is the one and only time when my word is gospel and even my most argumentative child does not feel the need to take it to the final stop.

“Mom can we go sledding?”

“No, it’s minus 14 out.”

“So? I can wear my snow pants and extra gloves.”

“Son, if you go sledding when it’s -14 degrees, within minutes your face will crack, your teeth will break off, your testicles will freeze into ice cubes and you’ll never be able to give me grandchildren.”

“Mom, that isn’t true.”

“Trust me. I’m a science teacher.”

“Seriously Mom.”

“Is that a risk you’d like to take Number One son?”

“No.”

“I didn’t think so.”

Old Broad Winter, I feel that those who disparage you simply are unable to see things my way. No, I’m not some sanctimommy who so loves the fruit of her loins that she feels said fruit can do no harm. Hells no. I understand the pain that can come from an extended period of time trapped with one’s offspring with snow falling and temps reaching somewhere near that of a polar bear’s butthole. But this year, in my aged genius I’ve found that answer. Embrace the Broad.

While my snow-day parenting may not be getting a segment on The Today Show any time soon, it is a viable survival method to get through extended bouts with Old Broad Winter.

This year I’ve changed my focus and instead of looking at a week of Siberian temps with dread and fear, I look at this as an opportunity to give my sofa a workout. I embrace the chance to mandate afternoon naps for all and spend quality time feeling the sensation of my dimpled thighs melting like hot butter over my sofa-pancakes.

When the time is right, I whip up a hot toddy (which may or may not have an extra shot for therapeutic reasons) and kick my tootsies up in front of a raging fire maintained by my loving Turk (who may or may not have pyromaniacal tendencies.)

When the shrieks of sibling rivalry bust my chill, I calmly suggest (from the sofa of course,) that the matter might best be solved by a cage-match in the playroom and remind all involved that should stitches be required, I will be doing them myself with a rusty needle and a shoelace. (One would be shocked by how successful a deterrent such imagery can provide. Give it a try.)

I also like to use this time to indulge in activities that won’t risk calorie burning. During times of glacial temps, one needs to keep all stored body fat and I am secure in the knowledge that the extra 20 pounds on my ass ensure my prolonged survival.

So Old Broad Winter, now that I’ve learned how to love you, I no longer dread you. I look forward to your interruptions to our hectic life. I’ll take your housebound sentence and raise a mug of hot whiskey in your honor. Bring it on Old Broad. This year, I might be one of your biggest fans.

 

 

Walkin’ The Floors…Carefully

Turk at work

“Welcome to Lowes, how can I help you?” The woman in the blue apron offered a somewhat fearful grin, a move I couldn’t blame her for donning. I was standing at the paint counter with one child repeatedly pushing the “For Help Press Here” button and a second doing a drum solo with paint stirrers. There also may or may not have been flour in my hair and pumpkin dripping down my sweatshirt. Can you help me? Girl, where do I begin?

“I need you to save my husband’s life.” I explained.

The Lowes’ paint lady’s face grew serious. She leaned forward, raised and eyebrow and said in the most sober voice, “Honey, I can help. I do this often.”

She stood back, adjusted her apron and continued, “What did he do? Wrong color? Wrong room? Giant paint stain in the middle of the living room floor? Or did he decide to do a quick ‘touch-up’ the night before Thanksgiving and ruined the entire wall?”

I stood there in slack-jawed awe, “How did you know?”

She nodded with a knowing smirk, “You’re my third one today.”

In a strange way, I was comforted by the thought that women across the tri-county area shared my dismay. Were they too victims of stubborn foreign husbands who watched too much HGTV which led these crazed foreigners to a false believe that DIY renovations were “easy”? Was it possible American husbands suffered this same affliction? It didn’t matter. What mattered was that I was not alone.

It started in September when the Turk found a deal on flooring at Costco. (If you don’t have a foreigner in your life, you will never understand the draw of Costco on the immigrant population of America. If you do have a foreigner- solidarity sister.) I’d been begging for new flooring from the day we signed the papers on our little slice of the American dream/money pit. The already disgusting, cream carpet we’d inherited was never meant for a world with Nugget. I’ve spent the last 3 years renting carpet cleaners every few months, crawling around with a spot cleaner and chasing Nugget with a bottle of my own cleaning concoction trying to keep our rugs from looking like those found in an Atlantic City casino (thankfully minus the cigarette burns). However this summer, the carpets won. There was no more saving them so when the Turk found his “great price,” on flooring, I was weak and I succumbed.

“It not cost much if I do it myself.” He boasted.

“But you don’t know how to do flooring.” I countered.

“It easy. I can do in 2 days. It so easy, it only snap together. All I need are few tools.”

“But…” I tried.

“No. I am engineer. I can handle putting in living room floor.”

“But you’re a water engineer and if we were putting in a living room fountain I’d be behind this 100, but…”

“I take off 2 days and I get done while you guys at school. You not even notice. We be done for Thanksgiving.”

As a women who has been married to this man for more than a decade, I knew this statement was absolutely false. I knew it would not take 2 days and I knew there was no way this man could disassemble half of our bottom floor without issue. But I also really, really wanted floors that were not crispy so sometimes a wife has to have blind faith.

Day 1: My entire home was covered in a thin film of carpet stank and dust but it was nice to arrive home to floors that didn’t look like they could be used on the a CSI episode. Plus we did have some quality family time pulling staples out. (The first of many things the Turk hadn’t thought of in this process.)

Day 2: Like a fool, I thougth I might arrive home after a long day of work to see the beginning of my new hardwoods appearing. Nope. Instead I found the exact same floor I’d left (stapeles and all) with the added bonus of gray strips and slashes on my tan walls.

“Um, what the hell happened here?” I tried to remain cool but off to the side Number One was muttering to Nugget, “I told you Mom was going to be sooooooo mad.”

“What?” The Turk feigned stupidity.

“Are you serious? What the hell did you do to the walls? You were working on the floors, how did you manage to destroy the walls in the process?”

“It still wet. It will match when it dry.” He pleaded.

“Fool, it doesn’t dry lighter it dries darker. You used dark gray paint to touch-up our tan walls. How did you not notice this?” Here is where I need to explain that the Turk didn’t simply touch up a couple spots above the baseboards (…where he put huge holes in the walls removing the carpet but that’s a story for another time.) No, he got so involved with his touching up that he painted swipes as far as he could reach and instead of touch-up dots, he went with large patches and whirling swipes of the wrong color. He felt so successful doing it on one wall that he went on to do it on 3 more, including the wall with the vaulted ceiling. When he does something, that Turk does it big.

As I sat on the staple-riddled subflooring staring at my tan and gray zebra walls, I wondered what were the odds the garbage men would notice if I rolled the Turks lifeless body deep within the recently extracted carpet. But then I realized I have children to raise and jumpsuits like those worn in the pokey certainly don’t work for my body type. Instead, I abandoned all hope of hosting Thanksgiving dinner, had a healthy glass of wine and called it a day.

Sunday afternoon, a full week after the “2 day” project had begun, it was over. With the help of that magical fairy in the blue apron at Lowes, some techniques I’d mastered back in art school and countless profanities muttered under my breath, I managed to fix my walls without any Turkish intervention.

To the Turk’s credit, my floors were beautiful even if they did take far longer than promised and to celebrate his craftsmanship, he promptly covered them with a massive Turkish rug.

You can take the Turk out of Turkey but…you know the rest…

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.