I Shall Rule From My She-Fort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An Eviction in My Lair

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

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

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

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

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

“Be careful. I think somebody living there.”

“Hubba wa?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes. I tell you that.”

“How long have you known?”

“Since before Christmas.”

“That’s 4 months ago!”

“Yes.”

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

“What guy?”

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

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

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

“No I get trap.”

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

“Yes. He just need relocation.”

“No. He needs to die.”

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

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

 

Look Out Below!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“When it will stop?”

“According to Accuweather, 10:00.”

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

“EXACTLY!” 

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

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

“Very funny. Why you are so dramatic?”

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

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

Touché. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Squishy Warrior Down

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The email came in around mid-December, “Join the Winter Warrior Challenge! Sign-up Today!!!” As a squishy gal of the advanced forties with bad knees, asthma and a penchant for wine and chocolate, there is nothing in my being that screams “warrior.” At the very least I might scream, “negation team,” but definitely not “warrior.”  Still, I read on. The challenge was for each school divisions to form teams of staff and students. These teams would compete for the most miles covered by walking or running in the month of January. Solid idea right? It would fit well with my standard, be healthy, eat better, become less fat new years resolutions I make every year. Then, I read further.

“All miles must be completed outside, every day. Students can miss a day and they remain on the team but adults who miss a day of outdoor walking, running or biking are dropped from the competition and their miles are no longer add to the team total.” Hubba whaaaaaa? Outside? In January? In New England? Bitch please.

Sure I was born on the icy tundra of Iowa and I was forced to do farm chores in the sub-zero temperatures until I was spawning snot-sickles from my nose, but that is exactly why I left. (And while New England is cold, it doesn’t hold a candle to the cold of Iowa.) My ass has now developed a fine appreciation for central heating and heated steering wheels. Ain’t no way Mama’s goin’ back to the snot-sickle days.

That whole “outside” thing was where I decided this was the most ridiculous challenge of all time. Who would do this? Why would anyone do this? Oh, and what was the grand prize for braving frostbite for 31 days in a row? Amazon gift card? No. Cash money? No. Pizza party? Hells no. The grand prize for this torture was…bragging rights, freakin’ bragging rights. Let me say it again, bitch please.

And then it happened, “Hey guys, I think we should do the Winter Warrior Challenge. We can make a middle school special ed team.” My perky blonde co-worker with two working knees and not a squishy part on her body made the proclamation as I stuffed a piece of post-lunch Godiva into my pie-hole. I tried to take a hard pass but she kept coming back. “We can all do it together and get the kids involved too. It will keep us on track and make us accountable. Great way to start the new year right?” Did I mention how not squishy she is? If you’re not squishy do you really need to be kept on track and accountable? No. But once she’d managed to muster a growing team, pride would not allow me to be the squishy one in the corner, avoiding exercise and spending lunch with Godiva instead.

*Massive sigh* “Fine. I’m in.” I regretted those guilt-driven words the moment they passed my lips but there was no going back. I was about to be a squishy warrior.

Day one, 1/1/20 – *Ding* “Did you get your mile in girls?” the text read. Accountability sucks. But I’d treated myself with some Sherpa-lined sweatpants so I had that to motivate me. (PS – no size 14 butt needs the extra 2” on all sides provided by Sherpa-lined pants but damn, they’re warm.) Day one, done.

By day three, against my intentions, I was actually enjoying my time strolling through the neighborhood cemetery, amid the deceased founding fathers (It makes me feel alive.) listening to my true crime podcasts and waiting for my watch to give the 1-mile buzz and end my task. By the second week I was all in. I walked the track at school, braving sub-zero temperatures at lunchtime and if I couldn’t get my mile in during lunch I would hike up and down my driveway (The only advantage to a massive driveway.) as I waited for Nugget’s bus and on the weekends. Around the 18th  the thrill was gone but I pressed on. I’d come this far and I only had 12 more days to completion and damn it, I was a sub-zero soldier. I was going to see this challenge through.

Day 22: It was Arctic cold and I had no desire to do anything outside, least of all walk for a  stupid mile, but I had only 9 walks left once I finished this one. Even though I began as the most reluctant warrior on the roster, I was adding up the miles at a nice steady pace.  I donned my Sherpa pants and parka and headed out. Instantly, my tears froze and my mascara solidified. As I walked I hurdled patches of ice and remnants of the weekend snow but I pressed on. Until it happened. It was like a scene from Rambo when he gets hit, stumbles but doesn’t quite go down. I couldn’t breathe. I tried to push through like Rambo in a parka. I slowed my pace. I was going to finish the last .10 of a mile no matter what was happening inside my chest. The single digit temperature threw me into an asthma flare and mama needed some albuterol STAT. Crawling up the driveway, I hit the mile mark and rushed inside.

I spent the rest of the day sucking on my inhaler like I was tokin’ on a pipe. When that didn’t work I moved to the nebulizer. For the next two days I was a nice shade of blue as I struggled to get my lungs working again. I had more steroids coursing through me than the WWE in the ‘80s.

Day 23: It was over Johnny.  The squishy warrior had fallen. Only 8 miles left and no matter how much I wanted to, my lungs wouldn’t let me. And after a harsh lecture from my doctor, I accepted defeat. But at least the 22-plus miles I banged out would have helped me shed a few pounds, right? No. I gained three and spent $150 in asthma medicine and $200 in co-pays. Suck it warrior challenge. Next year when that perky blonde mentions the words Winter Warrior again, I will simply slink back to the corner with Godiva and accept my reality. Squishy for life.

 

A Hard Earned Holiday Haze

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

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

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

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

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

“High.”

“What’s the number?”

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

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

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

“Um no. Try reading it again.”

“Is digital. I read it right. 82.”

“I’ll be home in 10.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hi Ho Hi Ho, Back To Work I Go..

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School has started and I’m about to lose my damn mind. It’s not like this is a surprise or anything. I’ve been doing the school year mom spaz-out for the last seven years with two in school for the past three. I’ve worked either full or part-time for all but one of those seven years so I’m not a noob, yet somehow, after a summer of lounging on the beach and sipping afternoon spritzers, I always manage to develop a case of amnesia regarding the level of suckage that occurs when school returns. At present, I’m three weeks in and already feel like I am being pummeled by a heavyweight champ from 5:00am to 9:00pm every single day.

When the alarm sounds at 4:45 my mind instantly fills with profanity. I am a morning person but 4:45 isn’t morning. It’s like morning eve, not quite night and not quite morning. It’s a limbo time when I should not be awake. From the moment I jump over the cat and begin the morning routine it’s a sprint. Number 1 now gets on the bus an hour earlier than his brother so that means any chance of alone time is gone unless I get up at 3:45. (To that I say, no. Just no.) It’s better to be a stressed-out nut-job all day than rise two hours prior to the butt-crack-of-dawn. The marathon from getting one on the bus and the other to before-school care before racing to work leaves me as breathless as when I was a fat kid in gym class struggling through the Presidential Fitness Tests (Thanks Regan. Like Reganomics and Just Say No that was another plan that didn’t work out in the long run but I digress with my liberal tendencies.) After that 2.5 hour sprint it’s time to work a full day with smelly, surly middle schoolers before the afternoon shift of laundry, homework, dinner and running back and forth to the various lessons, practices, appointments and meetings my children deem important to their young lives. 

At 6:00 when the Turk arrives home from his quiet train ride back from the city after a grizzling day punching computer keys behind his desk in a climate controlled office that likely does not smell of a sweat-sock and puberty cocktail, he mutters, “Wow, I am tired.” To which I respond by placing all sharp objects from my reach because the urge to cut a bitch is real. But this is the reality of most working moms and it sucks. Occasionally add in taking on a burly football coach, panic over a hearing aid that goes missing, a burst of adolescent emotions or a forgotten homework assignment and it’s amazing so many children actually make it to adulthood. It’s also understandable why mothers have cornered the market on wine consumption.

The thing is, no one warns you when you’re sniffing your tiny baby’s head fresh from the hospital that motherhood will so quickly turn into a crap-storm and that baby smell will be a distant memory like your perky boobs and waistline. All too quickly you will go from swaddling a gorgeous bambino to wrestling sweat-soaked sports gear from your offsping while trying not to inhale a bodily stench comparable to a decomposing bovine. (I grew up on a farm. I know this stench.) 

There is one positive in the hot mess existence this year though. For the first time ever I share a school with one of my babies. Number 1 son is now a full-on middle schooler which means that along with all the horrors that come with middle school (PS I’ve been in middle school for 20 years and it is still just as bad as when you were there.) he has the added joy of running into his mommy in the halls and lunchroom. Occasionally I can’t resist the urge to pinch his little cheeks and blow him a kiss from the hallway as I take the job of SMother to the next level. It’s comforting to know he’s in the same building and while I thought he might disown me, he’s actually enjoying it too. Likely because not only do I SMother him, I SMother his friends too. We also get a full hour together sans Nugget due to stepped dismissal times and that has been absolutely amazing. Sharing a school with your kid takes mom control to a new level and it’s AWESOME. 

Thankfully in all this madness, my husband the Turk has offered to help lighten my load, “Since you are very busy, I can feed cat so you not have to worry.”

Yes, he is swooping in to take the pain of cracking open a can of Tender Viddles and dumping it into a cat bowl each day off my to do list. Thank God! I could’ve never done that on my own!

Here to you, moms. Hang in there. Christmas break is only 97 days away.

Your Word is…Biscuit

 

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

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

“How did you do?” He prodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Physicist. Sheldon Cooper is a physicist.”

“P-y-s-i-c-i-s-t-s” He answered.

“Nope. Forgot the h.”

“Ugh!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m sorry. That is incorrect.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Saying what?” I asked.

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

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

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

 

Winter Break In The Hot Zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mom, I don’t feel so good.”

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

“Mom, it’s not always about poop!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Queen Gets A New Throne…And No One Died.

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As in any successful pairing, the Turk and I follow the yin and yang of one cheap-ass and one over-spender. In case you’re new here, I’m the cheap-ass. This method has gotten us through numerous times when we barely had two nickels (or Lyra) to rub together. But one thing has held steadfast, my Turk loves to spend. After the past year of relocating which required us to shell out money like sardines in a dolphin show, and a few months as a one-paycheck family, the Turk has been on spending lockdown and it’s taken a toll.

I’d catch him browsing weekly circulars with drool forming in the corners of his mouth. His Amazon shopping cart wish list looked like the cart of a mother of five in the food store and he’d begun to twitch. The Turk needed a shopping fix and it needed to be something big.

With my return to full-time employment, the Turk determined he could return to his preferred way of life and hit the circuit.

“Honey, I find a nice crouch.” He announced proudly. (Some words like crouch and couch are just never going to make it into his English repertoire. I accept that and love him for it.)

“First off, I assume you’re talking about furniture and not a squat. Secondly, we’re waiting on major purchases. Financial planning dear.”

“I know but I have coupon. One day only. Very good deal.”

The Turk loves a coupon. The problem is, if he has a coupon he buys things simply because he has a coupon. (Like the 7-11-style hotdog machine he bought his wife who doesn’t eat hotdogs this Christmas. –But he had coupon. – Readers, I only wish this were not true.) 

“Maybe we just go look?” He pleaded.

Unbeknownst to him, new furniture wasn’t really a hard sell. We purchased our current sofa and loveseat when we first moved back to America. We were broke-ass poor and in desperate need of furniture when we happened upon the classic, North Philadelphia parking lot sale. You know, those sales with the glowing signs claiming: “Emergency Liquidation!” and “Limited Time!” and, “1 Day ONLY!” Which are certainly signs of a legit, high quality retailer.

This was not my first North Philly parking lot sale and while the items are some version of new, they might have “fallen off a truck” hence the “Rock Bottom Prices!” But ask no questions and all goes well. After some negotiations we were the proud owners of a sofa and loveseat at the rock bottom price of $450 including delivery.

That was nearly 8 years ago and that furniture survived 4 inter-state moves and 6 houses. They endured 1 surly cat, 2 wild boys, countless sick days, a few naptime wet pants, Nugget’s kidney surgery, numerous football games, pizza nights and a little bit of spilled everything. It lived a full life and deserved retirement. But thanks to spending a large chunk of my childhood with a Depression Era grandma, I have a hard time parting with items that still serve their purpose and I’d hoped I could eek out another year or two. (Though according to the sag in the sofa, it stopped serving its purpose two moves ago.)

With coupon in hand we went to test-drive some furniture. As the boys bounced across what Nugget calls “love chairs” and sectionals, the Turk and I found something we agreed upon. After some calculations, even my cheap ass had to admit, it was a good deal and it hadn’t even fallen off a truck. When the salesman offered a delivery and haul-away option, I was sold.

“No delivery. I can do.” Informed the Turk.

“Honey, it’s cheap and they’ll move the old ones. Just do it.” I pleaded.

Even Don the sales guy tried to get in on the persuading – “You know, the amount you save with the coupon will more than cover the cost of the delivery…” But even Don the sofa salesman couldn’t convince the Turk.

“No. I can do. I rent truck, then I come here, pick up and drop at home.”

Don the salesman agreed this was a solid plan but the Turk didn’t take into account that his help on the other end consisted of a cranky 40-something wife, an abnormally short 10-year-old, and a hyperactive 5-year-old. While we are a dream team, maybe not so much regarding heavy lifting.

The next day I arrived home from Nugget’s basketball, (PS – if you’ve never watched a league of kindergarteners play basketball, do it. Every game tests the strength of my post-children bladder due to laugher.) to find a large sofa and love chair in the middle of the driveway causing Nugget to exclaim, “Mom, doethn’t Baba know dothse are thupposed to go inthide? Geez Baba.”

This is where it got ugly. Those large items had to move from the driveway into the living room, the old ones needed new homes and the Turk couldn’t do it alone. Bilingual profanity was thrown. I may or may not have left my husband stranded in a stairwell holding a sofa when his complaining pushed me over the edge. Children and the feline scattered and the traditional, husband-wife-furniture-moving-harsh-words were spoken. “If you think you know how to do this better, then do it by yourself!”

Ultimately the furniture got moved and as we sat down on our new thrones and cracked open well-deserved beers, even my stubborn husband admitted he’d made the wrong choice and that a delivery fee was a small price to pay to save a marriage.

A few hours after the sofas were in place; he was off again. He’d found “great deals” on a floor lamp and coffee table. Before he could leave, I had no choice but to seize his wallet. He’d had his fix and this bender needed to end. He’ll be on lock-down until the summer thaw as I rule our home from the clean lines of my mid-century inspired, scotch-guarded throne. (It doesn’t even have butt-dents yet!)