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.

 

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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.

Get That Fat Kid Off My Baby!

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The night before any big game is the perfect breeding ground for a serious case of the jitters. Last Friday in our house, the jitters didn’t just pop-by to visit, but they settled in at the dinner table, somewhere between the tuna melts and green beans.

“I’m really worried about tomorrow. Coach said those guys are really big,” lamented Number 1 Son.

“Big? How big can they be?” I countered. “This is a 4th grade league. I doubt that 4th graders from the next town over are really that much bigger.”

“But Mom…”

“Don’t be a wuss. Get in there and take ‘em down and don’t come home until your pants are covered in grass stains.”(Though I’m a suburban mother, my inner spirit seems to have become that of a washed up high school football star.)

Because my husband, the Turk, occasionally carries the sanity in our union, he quickly chimed in and overrode my input, “If guy is too big you just hit his pads and run away. Got it? Run away so he not crush you. You can beat him. He will be slow because he is fat so just run away. You don’t want fat guy fall on top of you. Ok?” As if the Turk’s instruction was not enough, he punctuated it with a reenactment in the middle of the kitchen floor using 4 year-old Nugget as a visual aid.

“Run away?” I scoffed. “Yo, this isn’t your futbol where you fake a booboo when you need a rest. This is American football where we fight like the violent, obese people we are.”

“It is better he look like wimp than get crush by fat Hoosier.” -Quote, The Turk.

The Turk did have a point, Hoosiers – the government mandated term for the native people of Indiana- are not a small people. (For reals, I have 6th graders that tower over me and while I’m no giant, I wear really big shoes.) However, I’d seen all the teams in our burb’s 4th grade division and with the exception of a couple 5 footers, they were all regular sized 4th graders. We also have a 95-pound ball carrier weight limit, (I was well aware of this because my offspring and I held our collective breath at weigh-in hoping that with pads, he’d clear it. Like is mother, he’s short but he’s solid.) and 98% of the league had cleared it.

“Relax, Coach was probably just trying to psyche you guys up.” I assured him.

The Turk chimed in with another tip from his runt playbook. “But if your mom is wrong, remember, you are Turk and do what I say. Hit, run away, then jump on at end like you there whole time.” His father added.

At 7:30 Saturday morning, after our ritual 20 minutes of searching for cleats, struggling into pads and the ‘protect your goods’ check about all things manly, we were ready for his pregame drop-off.

While Number 1 and his team of 4-foot bobble-heads warmed up, the rest of us had time to grab a coffee before the coin-toss. After struggling 6 miles across wet grass like a Sherpa with chairs hanging off my back and a screaming Nugget, hostile about spending another day doing something for his brother, hanging from my front, I was ready to plop down and enjoy a little Saturday morning football magic. It was then that the Turk pointed out we were on the wrong field.

“This cannot be his game.” He said.

“Of course it is. We’re the red guys and there he is.” I gestured toward the cutest lineman in the universe…(known to the rest of the crowd as white-helmet-bobble-head-number-14)

The Turk countered with his own point toward the middle of the field where the coin toss was on. “If this our game, who those men?” On one side of the ref were two white-helmet-bobble-heads in red jerseys appropriately 4’ 6ish and scrawny, but counter to them were two man-sized players in orange jerseys who may or may not have been able to vote in the last election.

“WHAT ARE THOSE?” I screamed. “WE’RE PLAYING GROWN-ASS MEN!”

A mom behind me chimed in, “Right????!?!! If they’re 4th graders I’m 25.” Nice one girl.

I glanced down the sidelines to see that the two jolly orange giants mid-field were not anomalies. Their entire line-up was comprised of so-called 4th graders who could likely slap on a fake mustache and stop off at any watering-hole for a post-game highball.

“Oh hells no.” I yelled, “This cannot happen. This cannot be legal.” I stammered but before I could rush the field and throw a very un-football hissy fit, the whistle blew and the David V. Goliath Saturday saga had begun.

The Turk and I scanned the field and high-fived when we found our kid. Two parents have never been more excited to see their kid warming the bench. Our hopes were soon dashed as the starting offensive line took the team, and there in the path of calamity was my baby, Number 14.

My little lineman, being one of only two on his team over the 90 pound mark, was assigned the task of covering a kid that could best be described as the 9 year-old embodiment of Jabba the Hutt. Baby Jabba, we would soon learn, already had a nickname. Ten feet away from me, a family of larger beings cheered and screamed for their son/my son’s nemesis – Sugar Foot. “Come on Sugar Foot! Hold that line!!!!” the mother yelled and before struggling into a 3-point stance across from my son, Baby Jabba waved and possibly blew a kiss. My first-born was up against a fat man named Sugar Foot and all I could do was pray Sugar Foot didn’t fall on him.

Play after play Number 1 Son faced off with Sugar Foot and, after realizing early on that simple physics would prevent him from stopping an object twice his size, my son decided to take his father’s advice. He gave Sugar Foot the old hit and run, but made sure to jump on top of any available body pile to make it look good.

Meanwhile on the sidelines I chanted my mantra – “Fat man don’t fall on my baby, fat man don’t fall on my baby.” It was like a crime scene and the Turk didn’t make it through. He gave up early on, “I cannot watch.” and left under the guise of taking Nugget for a walk. “Call me from emergency room.” I, however could not look away. A good football mom never leaves the a death match unfolding before her because he might have to run on the field and pull a fat kid off her baby.

In the end, the fat guys were too slow and we beat a team twice our size. Except for a few bruises, Number 1 walked away unscathed physically. Nugget, however, saw an opportunity. Everytime he finds his brother in a vulnerable position, I hear him scream “HERE COME SUGA FOOT!!!!” before enacting a full body slam. Well played kid, well played.

 

Only A Fool Would Underestimate A Football Mom

vintage footballers

Last football season, a large man (and I mean Midwestern large which tends to be a bit larger than average large) somewhere near the precipice of mid-life was hunkered down in a three-point stance while a team of 60 pounders surrounded him, preparing for their first football practice in pads. Moving from flag to tackle football is a rite of passage here in Middle America and this man was certainly doing his part to make the ritual both exciting and intimidating. As I looked on, still a flag football mom then, I was in awe of the length of time that fat man spent in the prone, starting position. I was more impressed that he was able to remain in the stance as he gave loud and clear instruction to his PeeWee charges.

It wasn’t until he dismissed them to run a lap and simultaneously summonsed the other coach for aid, that I realized the fat man was still in the three-point stance because he couldn’t get out of the three-point stance. His knees had locked, his back had seized and he no longer had the strength to pull his own girth back up to standing. Aided by another large, knock kneed former baller, the coach gimped to standing before the PeeWee’s made it around one lap wearing more pads than their own body weight.

A solid smart-assed commentary ran through my head as I looked on, hitting on highlights like “old jocks are pathetic,” and ending on something about “trying to relive some long ago glory days through a nine-year-old son.” I’m pretty harsh in my head. (I’m pretty harsh with the words that come out of my mouth too but it’s worse in my head. Just remember that.)

A lot changes in a year and now, as a full-on tackle football mom, I need to issue an apology to the fat man stuck in the three-point stance. (In my head because it would seem really weird to find him now and apologize and god knows I don’t want to look any more crazy than I already am.) Because I have now realized that I, a 45-year-old mother- am totally and completely living her football glory vicariously through a nine-year-old son.

It hit me during sign-ups but really came on full-force during equipment hand out. I think it was the smell of the stinky pads that triggered something or maybe it was teaching my son how to pull off a helmet without removing an ear (unlike his brother, this son has 2 ears so it’s a bit more tricky.). Maybe it was showing him how to lace up the shoulder pads or how to take off both pads and jersey in one shot, but regardless, in the past week I have been transported back to my days on the gridiron and the love of the game that was instilled there.

Ok, I didn’t really have days on the gridiron but only because back in the dark ages girls weren’t allowed on organized football teams. It wasn’t like now when a few sassy little broads with fight are allowed on the field where they kick serious butt. (Go you little broads go!) No, 30+ years ago, girls like me were stuck strutting their stuff in backyard games with brothers and neighbor boys. But that was better than nothing.

Much like my own nine-year old son, I too was a stocky little scrapper perfectly built for a spot on the line. Thanks to copious hand-me-downs from cousins and brothers, I had a Lynn Swann jersey, football pants with sub-substandard pads and a helmet missing key protective elements (Which, if fully researched would probably explain a lot about my current memory issues.). On hot, late summer afternoons my brothers and I, with the occasional addition of a few cousins or friends, suited up and played some of the best damn football that backyard had ever seen.

It hasn’t been hard to instill a love of football in my boys, though the Turk is still working on understanding a sport he’d never really seen until adulthood. He doesn’t get the excitement but he tries. He’s even learned to throw a spiral during our countless backyard games of catch with Number One. (Though mine is still far superior. I’ve got a serious rep on the playground at school for my mad skills as well.)

Because of the Turk’s newness on the football scene, most training and background knowledge falls to me. (Left up to his father, the poor kid would still be stuck in his helmet.) And in a very, very traditional Midwestern town, I am usually the lone mother taking care of football business (and pushing her way through a bunch of old jock fathers.) After equipment pick-up last week, shopping for cleats and pants and all the accouterments that go with PeeWee ball, I asked Number One if he was ok being the guy who did all his football stuff with his mom. In his infinite wisdom he said, “Of course! You’re a football mom and football moms know way more than those old guys.” Right answer kid.

Last year NFL head coach and certified moron Bruce Arians blamed mothers for the decline of football enrollment. “We feel like this is our sport. It’s being attacked…It’s the best game that’s ever been f—— invented, and we got to make sure that moms get the message, because that’s who’s afraid of our game right now. It’s not dads, it’s moms.”

Oh Bruce. You freakin’ dumbass. You clearly don’t know many football moms because we could take down your stupid ass with a shoulder hit before you even had time to brace. No man in his right mind would mess with an old football mom, especially football moms who live vicariously through their sons because chauvinist pigs like you, dear Bruce, wouldn’t let us on the field.

So as summer here in middle America begins to wind down (because we go back to school ridiculously early) and football practices get put on the calendar, our house is alive again with the joy of football. And this football mom is loosening up her throwing arm because sometimes it’s perfectly fine to live out the dreams you weren’t allowed to live in real life through a very excited child.

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Hang on Toto – Dorothy’s Gotta Grab Her Purse

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For a mama bear like myself, being unable to physically get to my children is enough to require a Valium drip chased with a Quaalude cocktail. I attribute this to having begun my parenting journey in a nation where mall greeters dress in fatigues and Uzis rather than the smiling geriatrics to which Americans are accustomed. Thanks to eternal unrest, Turkey’s mama bears roar a little louder and they trained me well. Add to this my recent year-long tour as translator for my apraxic/hard of hearing Nugget and boom – this mother is a hot mess control freak. Given that background, you can only imagine what happened when the Wicked Witch of Indiana decided to throw a few tornados at me last week.

At the end of a very trying Thursday that had been filled with scientific concepts leaving my students with deer-in-headlights gazes, I was not elated to be greeted by a black sky at carpool. Frantically, I shoved kid after kid into their parents’ cars, fearful that the rapidly darkening skies were about to drench my ass. As I offered my final “see you tomorrow” coupled with a yo-mama-gets-to-deal-with-you-now wave, the first drop fell.

Cockily, I patted myself on the back for beating Mother Nature and proceeded to tie up the end of my day. As I packed my bags to head home (because no matter how hard I try I can’t help but look like a Talbot’s-togged Sherpa as I parade into and out of school each-day) a text from Number One’s school shot across my phone.

            Due to weather conditions, students are sheltering in place and will not be released until tornado threat has passed

Hubba whaaaaa? There was no mention of a tornado on my check of the morning weather. Nor was there any little tornado symbol on my Weather Ap. What kind of madness was that hag Mother Nature up to?

I looked at my phone – I looked at the door. Back to my phone, back to the door. Do I make a break for it? Could I outrun a tornado? Yes, of course I could. My babies need me! It’s a 25-minute drive home, likely into the path of the twister but an old Hyundai can outrun a whirling feat of nature right? I just got new tires. Seemed logical.

Before I could grasp the stupidity behind my reasoning, the sirens on my side of town blared. Crap.

Within minutes I was hunkered down in a hermetically sealed room with 30 high school students who’d not yet been dismissed for the day. Hunkering down in a room, sans air movement, with a group of teenagers at the end of a hot August day, is like winning the B.O. lotto. The funk of that room will live in my nostrils…FOREVER.

I tried to remain calm but we were facing natural disaster and my babies were all the way across town, one at home with Grandma (And napping soundly through it all. Sometimes, hearing loss is a blessing.) and the other huddled in a broom closet, butt to butt with 25 classmates (Also, like me, feeling the funk.) The problem was, Number One Son has ridiculous storm anxiety – like hiding in the closet, shaking uncontrollably anxiety. My mind was tourmented with the thought of my normally chill son in the midst of a horrific panic attack while I was stuck listening to a sixteen-year-old repeatedly recount his unprecedented success hunting Ommpaloompas, or Hoochi-Koochis or whatever the hell those damn Pokeman things are called.

As any modern mother would do, I began frantically texting. First to the Turk.

Me: Did you get the message from Number One’s school? I’m stuck at my school. There is a warning here too.

            The Turk: Yes

Me: Yes? WTH? I might be dying in a tornado and that’s all you can say.

            The Turk: Yes

Me: Seriously?

            The Turk: …

Me: Hello??????

The Turk: I in mailroom. Can’t reach phone.

Me: Wha huh? Is there a tornado downtown too?

The Turk: Yes.

Me: Oh. My bad. Sorry. Love you. Don’t die.

            The Turk: Ok.

The incident started at 3:20 and was set to end at 3:45. No problem right? But then it was extended until 4:00, then 4:15. When the threat looked real, the line of parents waiting outside in the pick-up line had to be brought into our stanky survival zone. With them, they brought dogs, siblings, a newborn and a cleaning crew. The scent, “eau de adolescent funk,” quickly added notes of canine breath, dirty diaper and chain smoker. I seized my asthmatic card, sliding to the 2” crack in the door and sticking my nose into it.

As the countdown to 4:00 commenced, the sirens blared again and the warning extended to 4:45. This was my breaking point. I ran all possible scenarios through my head. I’d been following the radar on the Ommpalooma hunter’s phone (that kid had magnificent service, likely the reason for his great hunting success) and saw there was a small break in the tornado zones. If I hit every round-a-bout just right…nah, I couldn’t risk it. Plus did I have some responsibility to these stinky people I was hunkered down with? My phone chimed.

            The Turk: I’m out! Going home.

 Me: Be careful! There are new warnings on our side of town.

            The Turk: Tornados not hurt me. I am Turk!

Me: Um, honey, that’s not how it works.

At 4:45 there was a break in the warnings and I decided to flee. Five minutes later another alarm came along with another warning from Number One’s school –

“A new tornado warning has been issued until 5:20. Students have been evacuated from busses and are sheltering in the buildings.”

The sirens blared around me but like Batman in the Batmobile, this mom in her Santa Fe drove on. It was exhilarating, if not stupid, to be driving into potential disaster, but I had to get to my boys. I took comfort in the knowledge that if stranded, I could survive for days on the discarded french fries and granola bar remnants in the back seat.

 Me: I’m on my way. If I go missing, I was on 116th street.

            The Turk: I at his school.

Me: Inside?

            The Turk: No. Parking lot.

Me: Are you safe?

            The Turk: Of course. I am Turk. Tornado not get me.

*sigh* (someday I’ll need to explain the science of tornados to him, someday.)

By 5:30 we were all home together, recounting the horrors our noses faced in each of our respective safety zones. As the Turk and I enjoyed a well-deserved beer, we hoped our children didn’t inherit our stubbornness and poor judgment…but those chances are not strong.

Do You Know Who You Look Like? Yes, Yes I Do.

Private schools have a fascination with camping. Taking large groups of young humans, fluent in the art of whining into the wilderness to sleep for a day or two is a task I’ve faced at all but one of my six private school employers. The one school that didn’t camp was in Turkey and they were trying to get parents to sign on to the madness just about the time I went on maternity leave. Schools claim it instills independence, survival skills and most of all, teacher/student bonding (which it does) but in all honesty, I’m pretty sure it’s about the money. If I could pay someone to take my kids camping so I didn’t have to, I’d write that tuition check so fast I’d leave skid marks with my Bic.

My new school is no different and our camping trip was this week, just a few days into the new year. Thanks to my advanced age, years of teaching experience and the fact that I had  Nugget and Number One Son at home, I was off the hook on the sleep-over end. (To quote a coworker when I asked if he’d be camping he simply replied, “There comes an age when one no longer has to do that kind of crap.” Amen my brother. Thankfully, I’ve finally reached that age.) Instead, I led a carpool line to the campsite (and then a ½ mile right past it) the next morning, bright eyed and coffee-filled.

If you’ve never headed into the wilderness alone with a pack of 20 middle schoolers, I’d recommend it. While it often feels like something akin to herding cats, it is entertainment like no other. If you’ve never headed into the wilderness with a pack of kids who bring with them a variety of issues ranging from anxiety to Autism Spectrum Disorder, I’d  recommend it even more highly. Watching them tip-toe out of their comfort zones and try things they were adamantly opposed to at the mere mention –like kickball- but somehow decided to try eventually, evokes a self-confidence like no other and is a sight to behold.

About thirty minutes into our teacher/student bonding adventure involving a steep hill, lots of rocks in shoes and ending in a creek, one of my homeroom kids put her arm around me and said, “Mrs. O, you know who you look like?”

I hate when people say that. I have one of those faces that have caused people to say that my entire life. While it might be flattering to some to be told they resemble a famous figure, for me, it’s always the same – I’m always a dead-ringer for the C-List chubby, brunette du jour. I’ve been Ricki Lake and Thora Birch. I was even once the fat one from Wilson Phillips when I mistakenly dyed my hair red. (Thankfully that was after her first gastric bypass.) I’ve been Delta Burke during her rotund days at the end of Designing Women and most often, Ann Wilson. Who? You know, the brunette sister from Heart that got fat in the 90’s. (“What about love? Don’t you want someone to care about you? What about loooo-ve, don’t let it slip away.” Thank you Jesus, for the 80’s.)

That question – do you know who you look like- never ends well for me. (No offense Ann Wilson. You were always my favorite sister and I totally thought it was BS in the 90’s when they hid you behind curtains in every video after you chubbed out.) But looking into the eyes of this thirteen year old who had no clue there was even a band named Heart and likely was not hip to Designing Women, I was a bit curious. Who, in the name of God, do I look like now?

“I don’t know, who do I look like?”

“You look exactly like the lady from Ghostbusters. The new one. My mom and I have been talking about this since we met you.”

Of course I knew who she was talking about. There is only one chubby brunette in the new Ghostbusters but I can never resist the urge to mess with someone. “Oh, you mean Leslie Jones, right? The tall, hot black lady.”

This poor kid, who actually does look a lot like a thirteen-year-old Leslie Jones with coke-bottle glasses, looked at me like I’d lost my damn mind. Deadpan, she said, “No Mrs. O, you are way too short to look like Leslie Jones.” Riiiight…

Since I’m growing accustomed to the fact that I often need to tell my students when it’s a joke, I let her off the hook. “I’m just messin’ with ya. I know I look like the chubby one.”

Still confused, she said, “No. The one with big glasses and hair like yours.” In her eyes, the chub was secondary.

That evening at home, I Googled the cast of Ghostbusters and with little surprise, I do look a lot like Melissa McCarthy in the new Ghostbusters, same nerdy glasses, same messy up do and pretty close to the same thunder thighs.

Years ago when someone pointed out my resemblance to a famous member of the celebrity chub club, I’d immediately sink into a rabbit hole of self-loathing, followed by a crash diet. The fact that no matter how much weight I lost the world still saw me as a chub was devastating. But now? Hells no.

Now I’m too old and too damn busy for that crap. I’ve had these thunder thighs for 44 years and I’m learning to accept them. (Sorry Nugget, they’re genetic but I think they’ll work out better for a boy.) This body, in all it’s extra glory, has been good to me and I now try to do the same in return. I’m proud to look like Melissa McCarthy. She’s awesome. (Though Nugget is madly in love with Leslie Jones.) 

As we hiked back up the big hill to the campground, my student said, “And the other reason you remind me of the Ghostbusters lady is because she’s tough and you are too Mrs. O.”

Damn right kid. Mrs. O ain’t afraid of no ghosts.

ghostbusters.jpg

Back To School Blows

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – transitions suck. I’m a routine gal and since the acorn rarely falls far from the tree, my kids are too. For the past year we’ve been in a groove that eventually worked well for us. But now, the times, they are a changin’. While sucking it up and accepting it would be the mature thing to do, maturity has never really been my jam.

This week we moved from our stable, mom’s-got-everything-covered-even-if-it-drives-her-batcrap-crazy life, back into mom’s-going-to-work-every-man-for-himself life. It’s been a year so it may take some time to transition properly. On top of that, the kids are back in school too and anyone who has traversed that trail knows the impending suckage there. (Is it a cry for help if I order cheap wine by the case at this point? What would Betty Ford do?)

Number 1 is in third grade and while we’ve been at this school thing for some time now, third grade is that year when they go from cuddly little sweethearts into smelly big boys. Thanks to his Turk genes, Number 1 has had back hair since birth so he’s already pretty manly, but having finally hit a growth spurt (one that now leaves him only a foot shorter than his friends rather than 2 feet shorter) he just seems big suddenly.

Nugget, now a mature, yet still surly, three year old, started his tour of duty on the Island of Misfit Toys…aka…Developmental Preschool. He’ll spend his mornings singing and signing, playing and partying all while bonding with other kids that struggle like him. To combat his anxiety, we had three visits to his classroom prior to the first day so I assumed we were all prepared for this. Nugget was but Mom was not.

Sitting in my own teacher training the day before Nugget’s start, I had a weird feeling of loss. Due to all his health issues last year, I could probably count on one hand the times Nugget and I have been apart. He’s been kind of like an extra appendage, sometimes helpful and often not, but something I’d grown accustomed to having. As the speaker – who was speaking on the difficult journey of special needs parents (oh the irony)- continued on, the connections were too much and the flood-gates opened. Those flood-gates remained open for the next 24 hours.

Looking at my Nugget and how big he suddenly seemed brought me to tears. Carrying his supplies in to Meet The Teacher Night brought me to tears. Laying out his clothes, wiping his butt, pretty much anything, brought me to tears. I wasn’t expecting this at all.

It all boiled down to this. My baby is now a kid and there is no going back. When kids start school time fast-forwards at an obscene pace. The years move faster, the kids change faster and their maturity grows (Sometimes, I mean, I’ve taught middle school for years so I’ve got a special understanding of the hard-fought battle with maturity.). As a family, you become part of a larger school community that links you to your community in a very different way. After all, you are now the recipient of tax payer dollars and you have a voice in the stupidity of school district decisions. (Even if they ignore your calls and delete your emails …not that I’d know how that feels…I mean, that happened to a friend…)

Once kids start school, every day goes into overdrive as you try to squeeze every second out of it between work, school, practices, homework and everything else. Everyone is running around like headless chickens and life is based around waiting for the next break.

“We can go to pool again over Labor Day weekend.”

“We’ll do something fun on Fall Break.”

“You can sleep in over Christmas Break.”

And before you know, you’ve “waited away” an entire year. It sucks.

This is the part where I’m supposed to impart wisdom and share my resolution to be in the moment or my resolve to live a purposeful life as I put work to the side when I’m with my kids and just enjoy the ride. Ah hells no. I mean come on, who really does that? Who? I’ll tell you. No one. Ain’t nobody got time for that. That’s just the crap you read on parenting blogs.

No, this year I will stock up on wine, try to remember to look at my daily calendar on occasion (before I miss appointments and those bastards charge me anyway). I will strive to make sure everyone has a lunch packed (because even when I was home last year I might or might not have forgotten a couple) and clean underwear. (Though I cannot promise Number One will be wearing them. He’s embraced the natural life and seems unwilling to go back.) Ultimately, I will put my head down and run into this everybody-is-in-school-now life, like a runty running back pushing through a defensive line (it is football season after all), while hoping like hell to come out alive on the other side.

To quote the greats, “Cover me Bree, I’m goin’ in.”

backtoschool

I Said, Stop Growing Up! Now!

Version 3

Parenthood has an uncanny way of making one painfully aware of the speed at which life travels while simultaneously pointing out the snail’s pace required by some developmental processes. In other words, one minute you’re like, “How in the hell did you outgrow the pants I bought two weeks ago?” while in the next breath you’re uttering, “Sweet Jesus child, are you ever going to wipe your own butt?” It’s a balance.

Thanks to his special needs and health issues, I’ve spent the past year oooing and ahhhing over Nugget’s developmental strides like him finally saying “Om!” (Mom) while we prepare for Developmental Preschool. Nugget’s strides don’t make me feel old; they make me feel elated. But Number One Son, on the other hand, his made recent developments that make me feel like screaming “NO! Stop! SOMEBODY SLOW THIS CRAP DOWN!”

A week from now Number One is starting 3rd grade and while it’s not as traumatic as that almighty kindergarten start that haunts a mother for months prior, it’s still a reminder of how freakin’ fast this whole childhood thing goes. (And, if you’re old like me, how much closer you are to the end. Ew.)

To further confirm my suspicion that Number One Son was growing up way faster than I am prepared for, we had a week of events to prove it. It started with a sleepover invite.

“We’d like Richard’s best buds to come for a sleep over to celebrate his birthday!”

Richard? When did they become best buds? Why don’t I know they are best buds? What is this secrecy?

I did my best Nancy Drewing and was met with, “Duh Mom, he was at my birthday party and we played basketball every day at lunch.” Clearly in the world of mini-men, that is all it takes to catapult one into BFF status. (Just another way life is easier for the male species.) But the real issue is, why did he withhold this information from his beloved Smother?

I’m not a sleepover fan. They make me nervous and kick my doom and gloom anxiety into overdrive. Because of this, to date; we’ve had one…just one, sleepover…and we knew those people pretty well and I was still nervous. We did meet Richard’s father and Richard’s dog when they dropped him off at Number One’s B-day, and while he seemed like a nice enough guy with a seemingly well-behaved K-9, I had some reservations. In hindsight, I probably should not have shared those reservations with the kid though.

“I don’t know Number One, I don’t think you can stay over. We don’t know these people.”

“Mom, it will be fine. They’re nice.”

“You don’t know that. What if they have a gun in the house? Or worse, what if they have an entire semi-automatic arsenal and shooting range in their basement. This is Indiana, you know.”

“You always say that Mom. I’m sure they don’t.”

“You say that now but you won’t be saying that when you come home with a hand shot off.”

*massive 8 year old eyeroll* “MOM!”

“Ok, then what if they are Trump supporters? You know, you are a half-breed and those Trumpagogs don’t take kindly to one-half of your people. This is Indiana, you know.”

“There was only one kid in our class who liked Trump and it wasn’t Richard. I choose smart friends Mom.” (Right on Number One.)

“Well, it’s a rough time for Turks right now and maybe these people are undercover operatives working for Erdogan planning to take you hostage under the suspicion of being a Gulenist, and they will then extradite you back to your birth place where you will be subjected to life in prison with no chance of a fair trail. Did you ever think of that?”

“Was that even English Mom? You watch too much Turkish news.”

Eventually, I put the discussion on hold with the whole, “Let’s see what Baba says.” Knowing the Turk’s overprotective tendencies, I figured I was safe. But no. Instead he told Number One – “Maybe. We think about it.”

Nooooo! Why ya gotta do me like that Turk?

After putting the kid off as long as we could, my crazy won the Turk over and we said “no” as a united force. (I’m pretty sure it was the Turkish operative thing.) We did compromise and let him stay at the party until 9:00 and Number One, who is a rabid homebody, was secretly ok with it in the end.

But then there was the girl. There is an awesome little broad who was in Number One’s class last year and happens to live across the neighborhood. Every so often she pops over on her scooter and wants to play. But she doesn’t want to play dumb stuff, she wants to have water gun battles, or shoot hoops or play Star Wars. She’s the kind of girl who gets hurt and lets the blood run without a tear shed, because she damn sure isn’t going to get left behind. She’s badass and this week she popped by.

Normally, Number One plays for 5 minutes and gives the brush off, but not this time. This time he was enthralled and when she started breaking out obscure Star Wars facts, I saw him blush. BLUSH! Aw hells no kid. I mean, big picture –- yes, this is the exact kind of girl I will be choosing for him as a life partner in 20 years so I guess it’s good to see he’s on the right path…but now? Really? No. Just no. There will be no love interests at age 8.

I do love that badass little chick but I’m not above starting a smear campaign to keep my little boys hanging on to the apron strings. My Beverly Goldberg hand is strong and I intend to keep my little pookies all mine for as long as possible…at least until they’re old enough to hold lucrative employment. Then I’ll charge rent but my boys can stay as long as they like! (Apologies to my future daughters-in-law but these boys are mama’s boys for the long haul.)

Terrible Twos? Ah Hells No, Now It’s The Tyrannical Threes!

birthday drama

I’m relatively certain that the individual who coined the phrase, “terrible twos” did so before his or her child turned three. There is not a parent on Earth that would honestly agree that a two-year-old tyrant is worse than a three-year-old tyrant. Ok, maybe that Duggar woman would disagree but after passing 82 children through her lady parts, it’s understandable that her sanity might be compromised.

My darling Nugget’s birthday was this week and, as usual, the date marking my successfully delivering offspring into this world makes me a bit emotional. On both of their birthdays I can’t help get little weepy as I recount those glory years, when they were cuddly and smelled like…well…babies or dwelling on life when they were tiny bundles of love that wore what I put on them and didn’t sass me or argue about every damn thing! (Previously I would have said before they could talk but in the past year Nugget has proved that one can sass and argue just as effectively in sign language so there goes that thought.)

Amid all the mushy melancholy and buttercream frosting, I had a thought. Maybe since the Nugget had such a rough go as a two-year old, what with the whole deaf thing, the apraxia thing, the bum kidney thing, and on and on…maybe the universe will give me a break and we will waltz through three like a pair of washed-up musicians on Dancing With The Stars. I mean, after the past year, don’t I deserve it?

I have good reason to fear three. My darling, kind and loving Number One Son was literally Satan on Earth when he was three. The sweet child I’d doted on since birthing him in a crazy Turkish hospital morphed into a pocket-sized Attila the Hunn the moment he blew out those three candles. Add in his adult-sized vocabulary, stubborn Turk genes and hot temper (No really, by 4 we were seriously considering anger management classes for him.) and I often doubted that kid would see 4.

Yet somehow, like childbirth, I’d blocked that horror out, until the Nugget’s big 0-3 started to draw near. As an incident over the shade of an ice pop blew into a throw-down last week leaving a sobbing Nugget clutching me, signing Why is Baba so mad? Why did Baba make me cry? and the Turk screaming Turkish profanity followed by “What the hell is wrong with him?” It grew apparent, 3 was coming to take my Nugget as well. But being the Positive Pollyanna that I am, I tried to lay out my rational as to why three would be better with Nugget than with Number 1 for the Turk. (While I took the brunt of the horror on round one, he was not left unharmed and we both suffer from Post Traumatic Turkish Toddler issues. And since Nugget is a major Baba’s boy, it’s not looking good for the Turk on this round.)

“Maybe since he’s got a few delays, the whole three thing will be delayed too and   we’ll get it in spurts instead of all at once.”

“No. You are crazy. He is crazy. This will be very bad.”

“Maybe since he had such a rough year and he’s made such huge strides this year   will be a breeze. It’s karma.”

“No. This will be bad. I see if I can travel more for work this year.”

“Maybe since we’re really old now, it won’t bother us as much.”

“No. Now I just get piss faster.”

The signs started to show around 2.5 but it was too soon so I wrote it off. But as the sass via sign started, I worried. When he began to sigh, “Uggggg Ooooooooom! (Aw Mom!)” while rolling his eyes and storming off, I saw the tidal wave beginning to form. Then, this week when he handed me a poop-filled diaper, leaving a trail of poop on my freshly (like mere hours earlier freshly) cleaned, white carpet, and began to explain that he was uncomfortable and needed a shower “Ow!” (Now!), it was clear there would be no delays. 3 had arrived like a freight train and no one would be spared.

But as I cuddled a chubby little birthday boy who somehow appeared in my bed in the middle of the night, I got a little weepy thinking about how much has changed for him in the past year and how much he’s accomplished. Last summer he was lethargic and miserable with a kidney that just wasn’t working and now he’s an unstoppable ball of fire. Last summer he was so angry because he couldn’t hear or communicate and now he gladly wears his hearing aid and communicates in both ASL and spoken English (though he’s still only using vowels, he knows what he’s saying even if the rest of us don’t.) Last summer we didn’t really understand all that was going on with Nugget or even what BOR Syndrome was and now we’re a veritable font of knowledge on the subject and have made great strides at getting him on track.

So even though 3 pretty much sucks and we’ll be in for quite a year, I gladly take it. Especially if it means that my baby is finally catching up. (Full disclosure: I could not have chosen a better time to go back to work.) Good luck Developmental Preschool. You’re going to need it with this one!