Summer of Doom

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We’ve been New Englanders for one year now and while I am sometimes guilty of being  dramatic, (It’s a surprise, I know) I’m not being dramatic when I say that New England wants me dead. At first I thought it was just trying to toughen me up, you know, like when they jump you into a girl gang. I’d take some scratches and a few bruises then I’d be one of them. In the past year, I took many a scratch and bruise from New England, from snake invasions and stanky wells to falling pine trees and winter sunsets at four o’freakin’clock but I made it a whole year. I assumed I was jumped in and one of the gang. Now I could spend the summer enjoying the evenings  on my deck and lazy days cooling my toes in the ocean like a New Englander. However, New England had other plans and if the sharks or deadly mosquitoes don’t kill me this summer, my anxiety will.

Our little house in the woods is less than 20 minutes off Cape Cod.(12 if I’m behind the wheel) It’s a quick jaunt to some of the Cape’s most stunning beaches. Last summer we were noobs. We arrived in the height of tourist season and were just trying to survive but this year, it was going to be epic. But then Jaws and his whole damn extended family decided to ambush my plan.

Sure, there were sharks last year. There were even two major attacks but those weren’t on the beaches we go to and those guys were way out in the water, not near the shore. Nothing to worry about until one Sunday in late June after we’d been strolling on a nearby beach and found out it was later closed due to a shark sighting within twenty feet of shore. Waaaaay too close. As beach season heated up (I’m accustomed to beach season in Jersey which begins on Memorial Day but here it’s too damn cold until about mid July.) the number of sightings grew and they kept getting closer and closer until there was one sighted in less than 2’ of water. As a solid nutjob, I never go in deeper than 2’ because you never know what lurks but now we know- sharks- that’s what lurks. Every night on the news there was a round-up of beach closings and sightings and every night my anxiety climbed until I decided this would be the summer of no beaches. Jaws and his kin had won and I was fine with that until,

“Mom, when are we going to start going to the beach?” Number 1 son asked.

“When the sharks leave.”

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he countered.

“Fine. Then my answer is never. We are never going to the beach. I worked too damn hard to get you and your brother this far for either of you to become  shark hors d’oeuvres.”

Number 1 walked away muttering, “You seriously need therapy Mom.” But my adoring youngest nodded in agreement.

Sure the native New Englanders laugh at me but I will remind them of my wisdom as they adjust to life with a pegleg.

As I was adjusting to life with no beach, and coping with that the ticks covering our universe that were harboring Lyme Disease, I was hit by another death threat – EEE or Eastern Equine Encephalitis – a potentially fatal disease spread by mosquitoes. A few weeks ago we got the warning that in addition to West Nile, mosquitoes in our section of the state had been found carrying EEE. For the love of god Mother Nature, will your rage never calm?!?! We quickly escalated from the yellow shading on the map indicating high threat to the orange meaning situation critical.

“You know if we go outside we can die.” I announced to my husband the Turk over dinner.

“Of course. Everyday there is something. You get hit by bus. You get bite by snake. Tree fall on you and boom. You can die.”

I’d forgotten that his people are of the doom and gloom variety. “No, I mean there are deadly mosquitoes here now. You’re supposed to stay inside in the evening. The county is coming to spray our house tonight and they’re doing mass fly-over sprays all week.”

“Good.” I know he hasn’t listened to a word I said when he reacts to something drastic with “Good.” I thought about letting him become mosquito bait but he’s such a wussy when sick, I’m sure if his brain was swollen from encephalitis he’d be a nightmare.

Stupidly I began Googling EEE. This is probably why when Nugget turned up with a mosquito bite I had to take an extra anxiety pill washed down with a glass of merlot for survival. Immediately, I bought every brand of bug repellent on the market, spray, mist, bracelets, clip-on, you name it I got it. I’ve even begun judging sprays based on their olfactory-pleasantry.

What’s that scent you’re wearing? It’s captivating.  Eau de Deet. It scents and protects.

Each time we head out the door I douse my kids head to toe, blocking out the whines of agony. “Suck it up boys. It’s a spray to play world now.”

“But it stinks.”

“Would you rather smell like Deep Woods Off or die of a swollen brain?”

The Turk has an approach more like this, “Do not go outside. There flies there and you can die.” (For 13 years I’ve tried to teach him there is a difference between mosquito and fly in English but to him they’re all the same.) 

It’s been tough. As I sit here on my deck, covered in Cutter, gazing upon flaming citronella, I relent. Just when I think I’m getting you New England, you hit me with a new hell. You win. Between your man-eating fish and your brain-sucking insects, you remain victorious.

But don’t count me out. I’ve dodged your snakes and sharks, I can handle your jump-in.

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Load ‘Em Up And Move ‘Em Out

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The email from our relocation agent concluded, “We realize that relocations can be difficult so we are here to make the transition as seamless and comfortable as possible for you and all members of your family.” Were this my first relocation rodeo, I might have bought this line, but I’ve done the relocation jam a few times so in response to the email all I could think was, “bitch please.”

From past experience, (And I’ve had way too much experience with moves.) I know that the load out is the worst. When you have control issues, like myself, it’s even worse. It might not be bamboo under your fingernails while being held hostage in a goat crate bad, but it feels about like that.

Load out week is when the proverbial crap hits the turbo fan. Packers show up and progress at a pace that illustrates utter disdain for any form of organization you may have attempted to put into place. Bubble wrap and packing tape flow like confetti at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Boxes form a modern art version of Mt. Rushmore in your garage and every ounce of hostility or contempt you’ve suppressed towards your spouse for the entirety of your union flows to the surface like the damn Mississippi. It’s an ugly, ugly time.

Having traversed this path before, I knew what was coming. However, I tried to block  out the horrors when I realized this particulair move out week would coincide with my end of the school year. The same week I would be wrapping up a job, finishing grades, preparing to close on a house, finishing underwriting on a new house and dealing with my own children who were done with their educational pursuits and ready to wreck summertime havoc, total strangers would be shoving my earthy possessions into a semi without my watchful eye. Conversely the children I teach were likewise ready to be done for the summer, acting like rabid monkeys while partaking in a final week full of exhaustive “special” activities. I was on the precipice of mayhem.

This timing meant there was no choice but to turn over the reins to the Turk but the mere thought of such an action gave me palpitations. In an attempt to maintain a semblance of control, I woke at 4:00am daily to organize the packing and leave psycho post-it notes on virtually everything. “Pack!”  “Don’t Pack!”  “Pack Carefully!” (PS – had I encountered my own post-its, I’d have immediately hated me.)  I laid out all this psychosis before going to work at 7:00 where I did thinks like standing in a stream with a bunch of middle schoolers in 90 degree heat or leading group hikes without mentioning the giant snake that crossed the trail before us.

Initially I’d crafted a much more sensible plan. I was going to finish teaching Friday, have the packers on Saturday, load the truck on Sunday and leave Monday allowing me to orchestrate every moment without relying on the Turk. Perfection. But then the moving company changed their mind and the crap-tastic moving maelstrom began.

The packers arrived mid-week while I was at work rather than Saturday as was scheduled in my master plan. They then informed us the moving van would arrive on Friday rather than Monday shooting my plan completely to hell. While the Turk was awed by the two heavily tattooed and equally heavily muscled women packing our house, I was left void of all control and near death by anxiety. When I arrived home from work to the disarray, I’m pretty sure the look of terror in our cat Cengiz’s eyes was the same one reflected in mine. I harkened back to the earlier email, “…we are here to make the transition as seamless and comfortable as possible for you and all members of your family.” In that moment, even the cat was thinking, “Bitch please.”

The night before the truck was to load, I had to go to graduation to say my final, tearful goodbyes to my school babies. I tucked my mini-Turks safely away at grandma’s and left the Turk with some important tasks at the house in lieu of child rearing.

1 – Get Cengiz to what the The Turk likes to call, “The Cat Hotel” (aka boarding) to avoid traumatizing the surly cat any further.

2 – Clean the refrigerator. (Including scrubbing Nugget goo off the doors.)

3 – Clean so I don’t have to clean the entire house before we roll out.

If you’re a regular reader, (and I’m sure you are…) you know how the Turk responds to to-do lists. I rushed home from grandma’s the next morning before work only to be met at the door by Cengiz.

“Why is the cat still here?” I asked.

“He did not want to go.”

“You’re kidding me right? How do you know this?”

“He tell me.”

“You speak cat now?”

“Yes. Turks are very connected to animals.”

I tried to do one of those deep breathing techniques we teach the kids at school to keep them from having a meltdown. It worked for like two seconds until I opened the fridge.

“What the hell? Why is this still full and gross?”

“I can do it.”

“But the whole point was you stayed here to do it last night.”

“Well I started with the beer fridge. I got that done though.”

“You cleaned out the beer fridge? Let me guess, by drinking it clean?”

“Yes. How else I clean it?”

Before I could express my profanity laden frustration rant, a massive semi pulled into our little segement of suburbia. It was gameday and we were painfully unprepared.

I had less than an hour before I needed to be at work and my hostility and anxiety were in overdrive.

I began throwing orders at the Turk, “Get the cat in the carrier. I’ll take him to the Cat Hotel.” before heading off to instill adequate fear into the moving crew. I needed to insure supreme care and caution would be exercised in my absence. (I may be 5’4 and squishy but in my mind I’m like 6’7” and intimidating as hell.) Five minutes later I returned to find the cat holed-up under a futon with the Turk on his knees pleading.

“Come out Cengiz. It be ok. You will love the Cat Hotel. You meet friends. It be fun. I promise.”

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“See? He not want to go.”

“It doesn’t matter! Get the cat in the carrier. I have to go.”

I watched the Turk click, snap, use baby talk and even use Turkish sweet nothings but Cengiz wasn’t coming out. I’m all for letting people pursue their own methodology but sometimes there is no time for such madness when my method is proven.

I snapped to Number One Son waiting downstairs who magically appeared with his brother, both clutching the cat carrier. Stepping over the Turk, I clutched the futon and She-Hulked that badboy across the room, grabbed Cengiz by his neck scruff and put him in the carrier. Done.

The Turk put him in the car all the while cooing and reassuring the cat.

The entire load-out would progress in a similar fashion. The Turk was left in charge but I’m sure you know who had to finish the job with a hostile cleaning in 99% humidity at the end of the process. But hey, at least the beer fridge was clean.

Somehow, it all got loaded, the house got cleaned and Cengiz treated his first stay at a Cat Hotel like a spa visit. Most importantly, I will not disclose how much wine it took to get me through phase one.

 

Ya’ll Need Some Science Up In Here

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In my 15 years  plus year of teaching, I’ve taught art, theatre, English, ESL, writing and a few other related subjects administrators threw my way. But now this ol’ grammar gal is teaching science. And while it has required pulling up some knowledge from the deepest recesses of my frontal lobe that I have not accessed since college in the early 90’s and provided my hippocampus with some marathon-caliber workouts (not to mention teaching me all these fancy new words) I absolutely love it. Somewhere between explaining cellular respiration to a room of stinky, middle schoolers and prepping microscope slides on my kitchen table, I realized I should’ve been a science teacher all along.

In my classes we grow things, we build things and we take things apart and make them into something new. We make huge messes, shoot things from catapults and blow things up. We have class in the woods and stomp through streams. We form questions, sometimes strange and ridiculous questions, and then we test for the answer. It’s freakin’ awesome! All those years I sat perched on a desk discussing character motivations and surmising the story after the story, I had no idea there was so much fun happening in science class. Had I known there was a job that condoned using warning labels as mere suggestion, I’d have been on it from day one.

So why did it take me 15 years in the ed biz to figure this out? Do I really have that little self-awareness? Perhaps. But I think the real blame goes to the teachers that shaped me back in the day.

27 years ago, my high school in rural Iowa boasted a whopping 99 in its graduating class, (That total is not inclusive of those classmates who were knocked up at graduation and there was more than one…). I’m quite certain the majority of the school’s educators thought pedagogy was a either dessert from Poland or a something from page 432 of the Kama Sutra. If you didn’t stand out as a stellar scholar bound for one of the three state schools by 8th grade, you were lumped into Category 2 – a direct ticket to community college or trade school at best. Even though I was a kid with learning issues, I loved science and had big dreams of life in a lab until I met Algebra. After repeatedly coming up empty-handed in my search for X, I was awarded the Category 2 badge. While being a card-carrying member of Category 2 kept the academic expectations low resulting in far more time for my excessive extra-circulars, it took a lot more fight to get out.

Though I had the label, I didn’t see myself as a Category 2er, so even though it wasn’t sanctioned, I started the college process on my own. When I proclaimed my ardent desire to get the hell out of Iowa and head to the East Coast where I would fulfill my destiny of greatness, the school’s lone guidance counselor replied, “Oh honey, you’re not smart enough for college.”

That guidance counselor had also provided guidance for my parents 20 years prior where they too had been put into Category 2 along with numerous aunts and uncles as well as my older brother. We were a long line of Category 2s. When she regained her composure and stopped laughing, she provided me with a brochure from the nearby community college and suggested I look into their Ag Management program. “You’ve a perfect candidate for the 6 week program in Hog Confinement Management.”

From beneath my sky-high bangs and through a foggy haze of residual Aqua-net my mouth dropped open. I fancied myself to be a Midwestern Molly Ringwald, and hoped to meet up with the rest of the Brat Pack as soon as I got to the East Coast for college.

“Hog Confinement Management? Are you kidding? Do I look like I do hogs?”  I probably brushed back a strand of crispy, permed hair to punctuate my point.

“Oh dear, you’ve got so much to learn.”

On that point she was right. I did have a lot to learn and once I started learning, I never wanted to stop. I did get into college and I went on to get more than a couple degrees. However, none of them were in science because though I’d proven myself to be above a Category 2, the label was still there reminding me I wasn’t smart enough for a career in science.

But with time and especially with old age, things change and sometimes people see something in you you never saw in yourself- like a science teacher where an English teacher had always been. When I started refreshing my brain and revisiting ideas like phototropism and cell division, my passion for science was reignited and by the time I had a classroom of kids searching for cell walls under microscopes and using my nerdy rhymes to differentiate the xylem from the phloem, I realized I was more than capable. Who knew I had the potential to be a chubbier, cooler Bill Nye for the modern age?

Ironically, I teach science to kids that would easily be labeled Category 2. Many of my students are on the Autism spectrum and others are figuring out how to learn with executive function issues, dyslexia and ADHD. Some struggle to understand the material while others understand perfectly but struggle to get their thoughts out of their brain. Regardless of their diagnoses, I think they are all amazing. Never in a million years would I label one of these awesome kids and let them think they were not smart enough to follow their passions. That’s not my job. That is not any teacher’s job. My job is to give them a love of learning, ignite in them a passion for science and most of all, help them believe in themselves. 

Coming back into the scientific realm I’ve seen a lot of changes. Unlike 30 years ago, while science knows more, society trusts less and it’s a dangerous combination. Science education has never been more important that it is right now and I’m so crazy jazzed to be a part of this. The world we’re living in right now needs more scientists and science needs more people that see the world differently. (And man, I’ve got classes full of those!)

Maybe one of my hyper focused autistic kids holds the key to stopping climate change or perhaps I’m turning a kid on to plants that will become a botanist on the first Martian colony (seriously, I think I have that guy in 3rd period). What if the kid that struggles with writing sentences has the potential to master gene splicing to end a deadly disease? But instead of someone helping him, they labeled him as Category 2 and he gave up. Not on my watch. I’m pretty sure that in this era Category 2s will be the ones who will save the day. Watch out world, here we come. (Just as soon as we figure out where in the hell to find X in an algebraic equation….)

 

*In the next episode I’ll tell you all about trying to look cool at the Science Teacher’s Convention and rallying the troops for the upcoming March For Science. I’m all in baby!

January, You’re Dead To Me

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I’m not a fan of January. I’ve tried over forty of them and have yet to find any redeeming qualities in a single one. They’re gray, depressing, boring and butt numbing cold. (Global warming, you suck.) I’ve given this one a solid try but I see it’s just like all the other Januarys and next week after the presidential inauguration, its suckage is just going to ramp up to epic levels. So I’ve made an executive decision. I’m not going to do January this year. I’m going to hide out until it’s over. Harsh? Drastic? Perhaps, but that’s how I roll. January, you’re dead to me.

I’m going into my pillow fort and I will not come out until January is safely passed. And if February, doesn’t start off strong I’m skipping that too. I’ve got enough supplies to stay in my pillow fort until March. (I’m a planner and stockpiler, yet still a safe distance from doomsday prepper.) I’ve decided I have no choice but to take drastic measures and thankfully, my Mediterranean blooded Turk is right with me on this one. (Which is great because usually in situations such as these he just gives me the side eye and mutters about my instability in Turkish.)

I’m sorry kids, but you are on your own for the next few weeks because neither of your parents can do January anymore.

I know, it may seem harsh to turn over self-survival to a guy who has not yet mastered the concept that pooping should occur in the toilet and not in his pants and his brother who hasn’t gotten past the sixes on the multiplication tables, but I don’t see any other way. January is too much and we as parents just… can’t.

Simply put, the Turk is genetically incapable of cold weather. His blood is thin and according to him, solidifies into ice crystals the moment temps drop below 40 degrees. My dear husband hunches like a turtle somewhere in mid-November and does not stand straight again until April. It’s been hard on him since he moved to this country but now that he is on the other side of 40, we have to worry more about the old man. I’d hate for him to stroke out due to freezing temps. (Though he does have stellar life insurance that would provide my children and I with a bungalow in a warmer climate…no…no…that thinking is wrong!)

As for me, I understand that due to my ample supply of body fat you might wonder why I am incapable of dealing with the cold. I don’t get it either but I’m old and old people have these issues. The cold makes me surly and slug-like and though I was able to combat it in my youth, with the combination of my advanced age and the impending doom coming with the January 20th presidential inauguration, this year I simply haven’t the will.

Kids, if you need to go anywhere, I’d suggest you pile a few of your father’s old engineering books on the seat of the car (they’re in Turkish and thus extra bulky) and give it a go. Number One Son, you should be able to see over the steering wheel while your brother Nugget navigates from the safety of his car seat. Just practice a few times around the block before you hit the open road. If anyone questions you, cite a medical condition for your small stature then accuse them of judgmental intolerance. That should get any pesky do-gooders off your back. (If that doesn’t work, let Nugget and his newly developed canine-calibur biting skills handle things.)  

If anyone needs us, I’ll be where I’ve been since January 1: with the cat in the barcalounger, huddled under my grandma’s old quilt, binge watching Stranger Things on my IPad using the kids headphones to block out the world and dreaming of finding a portal to a warmer dimension.

The Turk will be where he’s been since January 1 as well: in Number One’s new beanbag chair, three feet in front of the fireplace with his little Turkish tootsies baking in a roaring fire.

January, it’s over for us and this time, it’s definitely you, not me.

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4 Wise Men and Krampus Wished Me a Merry Christmas

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Ten days ago, a goat appeared in my mailbox. It was a small goat, carved of wood with a couple of crazy-ass eyes that did conjure thoughts of Krampus, the half goat, half man Christmas demon. It was wrapped in tissue with “On The First Day…” scrawled on the paper. Immediately, as one does in situations such as this, I began to sing. (When faced with a mystery everyone sings right? Didn’t Matlock?) In my sought-after style resembling a tone-deaf church lady, I sang, “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…a goat in my mailbox.” Hubba whaaa? I am known for my extreme skill at misquoting lyrics, (You will never convince me it’s not really Big ‘ole Jeff left the lights on instead of Big ‘ole jet airliner) but I could’ve sworn it was a partridge in a pear tree.

Entrenched in end of semester grading and swimming through the pain that is the lead up to Christmas break, I didn’t have any extra brain cells to spend on my mailbox Krampus so I tucked him in the napkin bin and chalked it up to something quirky in my strangely friendly neighborhood. (For real, people bring you baked goods in this ‘hood and they are not even laced with weed or trying to convince you to becoming a Jehovah’s Witness. Definitely unlike all of our old ‘hoods.)

It was all rather innocuous until the Turk found the goat and with a quiver of panic in his voice said, “Wat is dis? Is religious thing?”

My darling husband The Turk, simply by being from a Muslim country, frequently finds himself the recipient of unwarranted advances from the devout of Indiana hoping to save his soul. (If only they knew it was a lost cause long before he married this lapsed Catholic infidel.) The poor guy has received more invitations to attend church than a Kardashian has had butt lifts. (I don’t get the whole ‘come to church with me thing’. In the Catholicism I grew up with, if you weren’t part of the club by birth, we offered you nothing more than a cool welcome and a rear pew.)

Given his experiences, it made sense that he assumed the goat was another attempt to convert the foreign neighbor to some form of Christianity. I however, not nearly as sane as my husband, went to a much darker place.

As a long-time crime show connoisseur and the proud owner of a ridiculously wild imagination, I surmised I knew the real meaning behind the goat in my mailbox and when two more goats arrived on day three, my suspicions were all confirmed.

On day three, upon returning home from a long day at school I opened my mailbox to find 2 more carved animals with the crazy-ass Krampus eyes. A snowstorm had forced my stalker to double up on a delivery. A total of three tissue clad, goats was too many. It was time to open an investigation.

Thanks to my incredibly warped and well trained mind, I concluded I had 9 days left to live as I was now facing death by bludgeoning with a goat horn underneath my Christmas tree, orphaning my children and leaving my Turk a widower. (Which also meant I had 9 days to line him up with a new wife because I love him that crazy bastard too much to leave him to handle life on his own.) While changing into my evening yoga pants, I took a quick glance through my closet to choose my 12th day of Christmas ensemble because even though I’d be dead, I still wanted to look good when they showed footage of the crime scene on Dateline.

Once I’d covered those important things, I laid out my investigation. (Using the scientific method of course, because when you spend your days drilling it into the minds of middle schoolers, it infects your world.)

Question: Who is leaving secret messages in my mailbox and what is their motive?

Hypothesis: I hypothesize that the messages are a warning that I will be killed by a crazy-eyed goat on the 12th day of Christmas.

Procedure:

  1.  Establish a perimeter
  2. Dust mailbox for prints
  3. Set up surveillance
  4. Swab goats for DNA and run any findings through CODIS
  5. Install a camera in the mailbox, record all criminal activity. Isolate images of any questionable individuals and run the images through FBI facial recognition software.
  6. Interview neighbors in the hopes of identifying suspicious behavior.

Since steps 1 – 5 were hard and would likely be a lot of work and I had laundry to do and dinner to make, I decided to skip ahead to step 6. I sent a text to my neighbor on the right.

  Me: Weird question, but have you been receiving any small carved goats in your mailbox recently?

            Her : Um no. It’s 4:00. Are you drinking already?

            Me: Perhaps. Do you think these are a sign that someone is coming to kill me?

           Her: Totally. You should have some wine to relax.

I told you this neighborhood was idyllic.

Having reached a dead end with the right side neighbor, I went left.

   Me: Odd question – have you been receiving small carved goats in your mailbox or is this a message that someone is coming to kill me?

            Her: No but we got them last year.

            Me: OMG. Really? Did someone try to kill you? I didn’t see it in the HOA newsletter.

            Her: No attempted murder. It’s a surprise gift from a neighbor. It will be a nativity set in the end.

           Me: Ahhhhhhhhh. Good to know.

           Her: No need to panic.

           Me: Well, I am from Philly…and Turkey…sooooo….

           Her: Understood.

And there you have it. Word is that this is not a message from a serial killer or a secret summonsing from Krampus. But so far I’ve got 3 goats, 4 wise men (Even though I’m sure Sister Nora said there were only three.) and what may be a shepherd or a member of Al Qaida, I’m not yet sure.

I’m not sure I believe the story so if you never hear from me again, I ask only two things – make sure you watch my Dateline episode so I win at ratings postumously  and more importantly, make sure the Turk doesn’t marry a whore.

Merry Christmas to all!!

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November, You Suck

novemberEvery year I have great aspirations for November but in recent years November has regularly taken a huge bite out of my ample hindquarter. Instead of an introduction to the holiday season, November has become a hot mess of a month marked by disasters large and small. There are always a slew of familial cooties ranging from black lung to barfs. Usually there is some form of vehicular calamity or housing crisis. Inevitably, there is some level of familial drama, either on this side of the world with mine or across the globe with the Turks. We usually have at least one ER run or at the very least, Urgent Care and that’s all before we get to Thanksgiving.

Yet still, knowing what I know of how November rolls, every year I foolishly sign on to participate in National Novel Writing Month, (NaNoWrMo for those that are tragically hip.) Because, when I tell my story to Savannah Guthrie during my interview on The Today Show about my runaway best seller, I will tell her it all began in November. Obviously writing a 50,000 word rough draft in the midst of children needing fed (Seriously, when is it legal to send them out to forage alone?) a house needing kept, a full-time job and the general mayhem November routinely brings me, is not only a sensible goal, but an attainable one.

I started off with a bang, getting up at 4:30 every morning and cranking along on my tale. After some solid success this year shopping out expat tales from the early days of the Turk and I, and hitting the big 10-year mark where I’m pretty sure some legal boundaries fall away. (Just kidding. No one can gag order this broad. It’s just not in my genetics.) I decided this year’s November novel would be the real life adventure of us. Because when your life-story starts with a mix-up resulting in deportation, includes an emergency Turkish C-section, has a dash of mad-cow disease AND a one eared baby after depositing the very left-leaning main characters in Indi-freakin-ana, well even F. Scott Fitzgerald couldn’t make that crap up.

By the end of week one, as the calendar officially shifted into November, my work was hampered by a nasty cold contracted during 12-hour days of parent-teacher conferences. As I rallied over the weekend, I was sidetracked again on Monday with that bastard Standard Time causing my offspring to wake right alongside me at 4:30 too. (I’m really over this time change concept. Where do I direct my hate mail?)

I lost Wednesday wiping tears and reassuring my darling Number One Son that he and his father would not be “sent away” by the new president because they were born in a Muslim country. (I also assured him that for anyone to remove any member of my family they would have to get through me first and everyone knows that a fortysomething mama bear (skilled in special needs parenting) with a big ass and a solid knowledge of TaeBo from the late 90’s is a formidable protector.)

Thursday was lost to the croup. Just about the time my nation lost its damn mind, my darling Nugget started to bark. From the bark came the wheeze. From the wheeze came the fever, the mad dash to the doctor and a toddler case of roid-rage following the steroids she prescribed. While the roids did the trick, that Nugget still needed a lot of snuggles and it’s tough to snuggle and write an epic work of greatness simultaneously. Oh, and did I mention that Thursday was our anniversary as well? No? No need. When you have 10 years under your belt and a barking Nugget, it’s just another day.

Friday, I had to forgo my passion to do my job. Much to every teacher’s dismay, those  lab reports don’t grade themselves and I’m not one of those science teachers that can pull a lab out of thin-air. I actually have to give it a go first to be sure no one loses an eye.

Saturday I woke with renewed energy. My barking child was finally on the road to recovery but I was scheduled to attend a workshop on ASL rhymes for toddlers. While it was amazing and incredibly helpful to learn I’d been doing everything wrong with Nugget in that zone over the past year, it also took away my writing time. I’d decided to forgo any writing on Saturday to celebrate the afore mentioned anniversary with the Turk…but then the sitter didn’t show. She got confused on the time…so I decided it best to drown my sorrows and go to bed early.

Which brings us to today. It’s Sunday morning at the butt-crack of dawn. Only one child is awake, the one who doesn’t demand as many snuggles and is easily appeased by an IPad. I’ve got coffee and quiet and my brilliance is waiting to pour forth. I’ve also got another  cold which brings with it a massive dose of laissez-faire.

So now that it’s mid-November and I’m still only 5000 words in with 45,000 more to go in 2 weeks, I fear failure is imminent. I’m not a quitter (ok, I totally am but just in case my kids read this one day I felt I should throw that in) but I don’t know if this is going to happen. I apologize world. I know you are waiting with bated breath to hear how things play out. Did the Turk really propose on the 3rd date? (Spoiler alert – yes he did.) Did our stunning main characters stay married through 2 global moves, 4 states, 8 homes and a butt load of bad luck? (So far so good but if he continues to ignore the “clean” light on the dishwasher it could end soon.) And who had mad cow disease? (Well if I tell you that, you won’t buy the book should I ever get around to writing it.)

Touché November, you’ve won again.

Stay tuned world. Someday I will tell this tale but I think odds are pretty solid, it will not happen in November.

The Heathen Has An Easter Epiphany

bunnies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

giant egg (1)