A Tale of Squirrels and Pool Noodles

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While the world has been blowing up these past months, out here in our little house in the woods, things have remained as insane as they were prior to this current apocalypse with the added joy of some acts of aggression by Mother Nature’s little cherubs. During this spring’s hiatus of humanity, it seems all creatures great and small held some kind of gathering, a symposium, if you will. (No doubt it was spearheaded by the angry groundhog who’s taken up residence in my front lawn. It’s obvious by his waddle that he’s a vindictive diva.) Anyhooo, the outcome of the symposium seems to have been a directive for widespread assault on my home by Mother Nature’s SWAT unit starting with the squirrels.

Thanks to many years of urban living, I view squirrels as rats with fluffy tails so when we found out they had taken up residence in the un-finished apartment above our garage (What we first thought were raccoon squatters turned out to be an entire battalion of fuzzy-tailed rodents.) I was less than amused. Thankfully our garage is detached and a good 20 yards from our house but still, it was a situation that could not go unremedied.

My husband, the ninja Turk, set up a trap he found on-line and prepared for battle. His handy trap yielded its first capture about a month ago and while the captive was set free to likely burrow back into the above-garage apartment again, the furry bastard did manage to spread the peanut-butter the Turk had liberally used as bait, all over the second floor before he met his fate. Unfortunately, a few of his offspring fell victim to the Turk’s obstacle course of glue traps and it has been game on since.

Last week the weather finally warmed and it seemed the heat had sent the squatters in search of living quarters more conducive to the change in climate. The battle was toning down so I summonsed a fount of courage to gather my beach goodies from the warzone. (Because when it’s beach time, ain’t no damn fuzzy tailed rat keeping me away from my lounge chairs and noodles.) Within seconds of entering the premises, my nose was assaulted with the smell of death. Two steps further and I saw something any farm girl recognizes and immediately knows the sorce from whence it came… horse flies. They swarmed the windows on both levels of the top floor apartment. I haven’t been a farm girl in well over 30 years but I knew the combo before me meant something, somewhere was dead.

Thanks to my true crime addiction, I assumed a serial killer had snuck in and hidden a victim between the boxes of Thanksgiving linens and winter sheets, careful to leave no trace aside from the body. I did what any logical gal in that situation would do, grabbed my beach chairs, slung my noodles over my shoulder and got the hell out of there.  Then I immediatley passed the buck to my husband to deal with the stench.

“Honey – someone is dead in the garage.”

“Dead?” The Turk, shot me a wild glare. “You need stop watch that ID channel. It make you crazy.” The man knows me well.

“No seriously. I can smell it and there are flies.”

He slowly pulled himself away from nerding on his computer and rolled his eyes my way. “Fine. I go look.”

Anxiously I stood outside the big rollie-uppie garage door awaiting confirmation. Any second he was going to come out and say, “My beautiful, thin, brilliant wife who I am so lucky to have married all those years ago, you are correct. I have found the corpse of an evil, fuzzy tailed rodent upstairs. Your olfactory skills are beyond amazing. What a lucky man I am. Have you ever considered writing detective novels?”

Instead, he stomped down the stairs, threw up the rollie-uppy door and said. “You are crazy. No dead things there.” Before huffing back to his lair for further nerding.

Alas, a nose knows and this nose knew it would only take one or two more hot days for reality prevail. Three days later, The Turk dragged me away from making pizza dough in Tina to inspect. (What? I named my mixer Tina. Doesn’t everyone name those they depend on? What am I supposed to call her? Kitchenaid? Please.) He pointed to the upstairs windows whose screens were now bulging with massive horse flies desperate for escape. “WHAT IZ DIS?”

“I told you. Something’s dead in there. Read the flies man. That’s what we used to do on the farm.”

He cocked his head and squinted his eyes, “WHAT?”

“Flies come from decomposition. When somethings dead, maggots…”

“STOP!” He yelled. “You want me throw out before I even go inside? Why you know these things and why you have to tell me?” He didn’t wait for my likely, smart-assed answer before banishing the kids and I so he could commence a corpse hunt.

Tina and I were still kneading dough when Nugget burst into the kitchen, “Mom! You gotta thee thith, it thooooooo groth.”

It took the Turk mere minutes to find a deflated, decomposing fluffy-tailed rodent, frozen forever in a pose that said, “Oh crap.”

“Where was it?”

“Top floor in corner by beach stuff. He die under your beach chair and you miss him.”

“Hubba what?” Could I have really missed a decomposing tree rat hiding under my beach chair when I’d grabbed them just days prior? This was a new level of space cadetery, even for me.

Just to prove he was right, the Turk had me inspect the crime scene. Though he didn’t go as far as putting down a chalk-outline around the body as I would have done, he was 100% on the money. I’d grabbed three beach chairs, two noodles and a bag of sand toys right off the top of that dead tree rat and hadn’t even noticed. Quarantine has destroyed my mind.

The next day an angry squirrel stood on a branch outside our bedroom window, screaming at the Turk.

“He’s saying, you kill my father, prepare to die.”

Wide-eyed the Turk turned, “Seriously.”

“Yes dear. I speak fluent squirrel now in addition to Turkish and English.”

He simply shrugged, accepted my tale and left. Quarantine has killed his brain too.

This morning, there was a squirrel on the front deck peering inside the window, inches from the screen.

They really are coming for us but we’re just crazy enough to fight back.

An Eviction in My Lair

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

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

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

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

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

“Be careful. I think somebody living there.”

“Hubba wa?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes. I tell you that.”

“How long have you known?”

“Since before Christmas.”

“That’s 4 months ago!”

“Yes.”

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

“What guy?”

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

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

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

“No I get trap.”

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

“Yes. He just need relocation.”

“No. He needs to die.”

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

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

 

A Hard Earned Holiday Haze

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

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

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

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

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

“High.”

“What’s the number?”

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

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

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

“Um no. Try reading it again.”

“Is digital. I read it right. 82.”

“I’ll be home in 10.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Man of the Ear

ear“Are you really sure about this?” I asked Nugget one last time as we spun through the hospital’s revolving door for the third time. (Revolving doors never get old in our family.)

“Yeth. I am thure. I’m ready Mom.” The idea of letting a six-year-old make his own medical decisions seemed nuts but in the end, it’s his body. After spending the summer jumping through more hoops than a participant in the Westminster Dog Show, Nugget will be heading into surgery tomorrow to get an abutment implanted in his skull that will eventually hold his hearing aid and while he can’t wait, I’m ‘bout to lose my damn mind.

Six years ago this chunky Nugget came roaring in and while he was as big as a small toddler, weighing in only an ounce shy of 10 pounds, he had more issues to contend with than his thunder thighs. He had a kidney that didn’t quite work taking up his entire abdomen. He had a divot in his throat that we hoped had closed better on the inside than it had on the out and as a cherry on the top, he had one ear. The other spot was filled in with a tiny nub that kind of resembled a mini-ear but with no opening or inner workings. After failing the newborn hearing test and a few kidney scans we spent his first couple years splitting our time between children’s hospitals and doctors until we finally got the diagnosis that put it all together – Branchio-oto-renal syndrome. Branchio-the divot in his throat, oto- that missing ear and renal, the  hot mess kidney. With an official answer, we were on our way to getting a handle on things.

The first three years of his life were filled with procedures, surgeries, early interventionists, audiologists and a mother that played detective better than Cagney and Lacey combined. Eventually we hit a good groove and things became manageable. A speech impediment and anxiety issues are far easier to deal with than internal organ issues but there was still one surgery left and that one is happening tomorrow.

Because he doesn’t have an ear, there is no place to put the hearing aid and no tube to send the sound through so he wears a BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aid). He’s worn it on a headband up until now that holds the aid close to his bone and transmits soundwaves through his skull. But being the one-eared guy wearing a Bjorn Borg head-band all day as well as a transmitter around his neck connected to one around the teacher’s neck has taken a toll on his self-esteem. (And I thought being the chubby kid was rough!)

Last year a little asshead from a neighboring class did mock him but the perpetrator was quickly reported by the class narc and received a harsh punishment. I asked Nugget if he was upset about the incident, “Nah. It didn’t bother me because I didn’t hear him.” Note to the asshat, if you’re going to mock the one-eared guy, you’ll need to do it on the side he actually has an ear or your efforts are fruitless. This is a prime example of how Nugget handles all this. In his six years he’s gained more self-acceptance than most adults. Last week he came home from school with  a self-portrait complete with one ear, “Dats who I am Mom. I’m just keepin’ it real.” It worked for Van Gough, so why not Nugget?

Six is the magical age when a kid can break free of the headband and get an abutment implanted so the hearing aid just snaps on, streamlining the process and turning him into “a man” as Nugget explained. “When I get my BAHA implant, I’m going to be big, like a man. No more little kid.” He has been counting down to this manhood for years. This summer we got the approval and now it’s time. It’s all great for him but the thought of wheeling my baby into surgery one more time gives me more anxiety than the current political climate. And if I’m bad, my husband The Turk, AKA Captain Anxiety, is about to blow. 

“Baba is thrething me out Mom.” Nugget confided in me last night in bed.

“Right??!? He stresses me out too!” I confirmed.

“Can we leave him home?”

“Sorry Nugs but no. We can send him for coffee a lot though and if we take him he can drive and we can snuggle in the backseat.”

“Thounds good to me Mom.”

So send some good vibes our way for tomorrow, Nugget becomes a man, or at least his ear does and while that happens I’ll be twitching and pacing and The Turk will be getting coffee….again…and again.

 

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.

Mama Needs Her Air Conditioning Kids!

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When my husband, the Turk, and I first met I was addicted to freezing temperature AC like any good American. Why suffer with sweat rolling down my cleavage when climate control was at my fingertips as long as I was willing to fork over the dough for an outlandish electric bill? (Oh, and I was.) But months later when we moved to Turkey air conditioning was a far off dream. It was so far-off I would ask friends to describe the climate of their homes when we video-chatted and I could see they were not sweaty from the effort of merely sitting upright. I sat in a pool of sweat from April until October and learned to ignore the stench from my fellow commuters sharing my fate. Turkey’s heat sometimes reached over 115 degrees, but I hear purgatory is warm so I considered this a dress rehearsal.

In time, I learned how to adapt.  Like all the other good Turkish women in our building, I made dinner before 9AM to avoid heating up the house, spent evenings on the balcony; the only spot with the slightest air current and I learned that the 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM slot each day was best left for soap operas and trash TV. (And thanks to Netflix, I can still enjoy those trashy Turkish dramas in America.)

By the time we returned to America 3 years later, I had lost all ability to adapt to air conditioning. I was always freezing and the idea of taking a sweater with me to the food store in July was insane. We lived well with no AC, though we had few visitors because no one wanted to come to our house and sweat. It was a win/win.

Over the past ten years as we’ve gotten older and fatter our views shifted. By the time I was pregnant with Nugget, whose late summer due date had me swollen up like a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, my love of AC returned. When we bought our first home in Indiana, the Turk was the one who wanted to crank the air 24/7 since he was now accustomed to working in an office with arctic temperatures, (No one loves air conditioning like Midwesterners.)

House hunting in Massachusetts quickly revealed that New Englanders and Hoosiers do not share the same feelings regarding the necessity of air conditioning. Few houses we looked at had AC and I surmised that was because it was so much cooler that it wasn’t necessary. I held that thought until a month after we moved in last summer and our cute Colonial turned into a pizza oven. Immediately we understood why there was a stack of window air conditioners in our garage. The Turk put the units in, complaining the entire time about how ugly they were and how they blocked his view. He was also 100% sure they would bust our electric bill. He was wrong, and they were out again by late August.

As far as I was concerned, two months of window air conditioning units was totally reasonable but a few weeks ago the Turk came up with an “idea.” If you are married to an engineer you know these “ideas” come regularly and are usually either deadly or costly or both.

“I think we need install central air.”

I took a deep breath of the cool June breeze blowing through our bedroom window and lovingly said, “Did you hit your damn head?”

“It is easier than put in and take out the window AC every year.”

“Yes, and it is also ridiculous since we only need it for like 2 months.”

“But look how much easier is?” He could see that he was losing me so he tried his next “idea.”  “Ok you not like that, how about we put klima in the rooms.” Klima, (that’s what they’re called in Turkey but I have no idea what they’re called anywhere else.)are wall mounted climate control units with both heat and AC. We were too poor to have one in Turkey but my all my in-laws did. Klima’s are old hat in Turkey but new technology here and the mother-in-law suite above our garage came fully equipped with a klima in every room giving the Turk the idea he needed.

The Turk must not have seen my epic eye roll because he kept going, “We get them, then I put them in.”

“Wait, you think you can install and wire these things?”

The Turk retorted with his standard, “Yes, why not?”

These are the moments I face way too frequently, stunned into silence by the ridiculousness of my husband’s proclamations but desperate to stop him. “Why not? Seriously? You can do HVAC now? Somehow because you are an engineer with YouTube access you are an HVAC specialist? You are insane.”

It should seem like that was the end of the discussion but it wasn’t. He began pricing units, taking measurements and watching installation videos. I had to act fast. Thankfully, the heat kicked in before he had a chance to fully develop his plan.

“Honey, it’s going to get hot next week. We need to put the window units in.” I prompted. “Guess we’ll have to put the klima on the back burner.”

My request seemed to get lost in translation though because by Monday, the Turk was back at work and the window units were still in the garage. The temperature was climbing and the entire family had spent the previous night in a state of perpetual hot flash. Four units needed hauled out of the garage and up to the house, then schlepped up the stairs and hefted into windows. It was no easy job but Mama was hot. Thanks to perimenopause I’m hauling around an extra 15 pounds and hormones that are on a perpetual rollercoaster. This was not the time to mess around. While the Turk was at work, I sent my offspring to their kid-pool and took things into my own hands. Thirty gallons of sweat, chaffed under-boobs, extensive bilingual profanity and two hours later, I had achieved greatness. The house was a climate-controlled paradise and I had kept my husband out of the HVAC game for at least another year.

As a the mother of boys and wife of a Turk still working to rid himself of his old country, sexists ways, I love to destroy gender norms. Though I couldn’t stand up straight for two days and I had a roadmap of bruises up my thighs, it was worth it for my boys to see Mom taking things into my own hands. I knew my work had paid off when Number 1, Nugget and I ascended the stairs and were met with a blast of cold air. As he has learned to do now, my darling 5 year-old sang my song of greatness, “Sisters, are doin’ it for ‘demselves Mom!” Damn right little buddy!

A Baller He Is Not

 

vintage basketball ballers“Other way!!!! Run the other way!!” Screamed a gym full of parents and grandparents from the bleachers. Nugget, oblivious to the words coming at him because he won’t wear his hearing aid in a noisy gym, offered a smile and wave before he continued dribbling down the court to the opponents’ basket. Fortunately, he stopped short of shooting into their basket. Finding himself suddenly alone with no one guarding him, he decided to shoot at the nearest basket instead. Unfortunately, the basket he chose was the practice basket on the side of the gym. That did not deter the 5 year-old baller though. He took about five shots resulting in five air balls before finally losing the rebound to an unusually tall 7 year-old that had made his way down the court.  Nugget was proud of his possession and the bleachers shook with the bladder busting laughter often found at sporting events of the under 7 crowd. It was a win of a different sort.

Nugget had a similar showing during this past flag football season. During one play, his objective was to grab the handoff, pivot and take it the 10 remaining yards over the goal line. Excited by the opportunity to be the runner, Nugget took off, forgetting the part of the play when he needed to pivot. He tucked the ball under his arm and ran. He ran and ran and ran. Again, the sidelines full of parents tried to help him out “Other way! Not that way!” and again Nugget sans hearing aid assumed that was just a cheering section and offered a thank you wave. When it was clear he wasn’t going to stop, the fans changed course, “Run little guy! Run!!!” And that he did, all the way into the neighboring soccer field. 

Initially, I thought maybe his sporting difficulty was simply because he couldn’t hear. As a guy with one ear, it is hard to always catch the play when a team of kids is excitedly squeaking in the only ear you have. After the football run, my husband, The Turk, and I considered the idea that football might be a too much for Nugget because it required more hearing and concentration than my hard of hearing, attention deficit child could muster. We decided he’d have better luck at basketball because ultimately, the process was pretty basic. Dribble, run, shoot. We were wrong.

In addition to the dribbling drills, Nugget added some dance moves, spinning and swaying his way up the lane. When they practiced guarding, his moves took on a disco slant and during shooting, he struck a victory pose after every missed ball. During games he ran in circles waving his arms and usually panicked and forgot dribbling was a requirement if the ball landed in his hands. As I watched my flailing Nugget I was reminded of an adorable middle schooler I taught years ago. In addition to teaching Danny, I was also his tennis coach. Tennis and Danny were not a winning combo. In every doubles match I had to remind Danny that there was a time and place for tap dancing and it wasn’t on the tennis court. When not using his racquet as a dance prop, he used it to wage epic sword fights with an invisible nemesis and like my Nugget, he could spin and shimmy like a champ. Though coaching Danny was craz-inducing, I loved that boy and he turned into a fabulous man. (Word is he’s still dancing.) 

Remembering Danny did comfort me on Nugget´s future but still I was concerned with his immediate performance. His brother is a natural athlete, only hindered by his height. Number 1 has stood about a foot shorter than most players on both his football and basketball teams this year but he has still managed to kick butt. Nugget adores his brother and tries desperately to emulate him but his performance in the sports area is slowing showing that might not be possible. While Number 1 seemed to directly inherit the genes of his father and former professional athlete grandfather, Nugget appears to have inherited the genes of his mother, the benchwarmer. 

My career in sports looks like this______________________________nothing. I did spend one season on the girls tennis team back in 10th grade but spent most of that season on the bench. I was athletically challenged as a child. I had a minimal interest in football and I was rather skilled in 4-Square at Jefferson Elementary but that is about where I maxed out. As an adult I took up running and while I love it, I suck. I’m slow and wheezy and don’t have a lot more than a couple miles in me at my best. But watching Nugget’s sashay form while playing guard did give me hope. The kid does have solid dance skills and a flare for the dramatic like his mother. He has no interest in the artsy fartsy way of life yet, but in time he might find his way. 

I realized that playing sports was not my jam but I am damn good at sports momdom. No one is louder or more overprotective than this mom. I’m the first to take on a washed-up football coach twice my size if he is disrespecting one of my babies (true story and that fat bastard is still scared of me.) and if you bench my kid in favor of your talentless turd of a child just because you’re the coach, you will feel my wrath. Hopefully, like his mother, Nugget will someday find his place but for now, I think we might forgo soccer season and look into a modern dance class. From what I’ve seen on the basketball court, he might be a natural.

Thar She Blows!

thar she blows

Now that we have moved to a hotbed of biodiversity, I’ve determined my children will become outdoorsmen. What’s the point of living in New England if you can’t legitimately rock some L.L. Bean?

Lots of men garner their sportsman skills during boyhood from fathers and grandfathers who lead them on this journey but in our house that is not the case. Sure, when we lived in Turkey I witnessed their father, The Turk, join army friends to hunt wild boars and wow me with sea fishing skills but none of that seemed to make it across the US boarder with his new American passport. This summer, as the Turk hid indoors from mosquitos while the boys and I enjoyed our new wooded homestead, I realized if my little men were to become outdoorsmen, it was up to me.

I decided to started with fishing and while it was a great idea to “teach my men to fish so they could eat for a lifetime,” I wasn’t certain I had the knowledge to be the master baiter. (Hehehehehe. See what I did there? A dirty fishing pun. I’m twelve.) The last time I’d fished was when we lived in Turkey. From a dock in the Aegean, The Turk taught me to angle like the native fishermen using a reel but no rod, bait that looks like bamboo and exercising caution over certain catches. “You catch that one, he electrocute you and you die. Do not catch that one.” My beloved warned. That was my lone lesson and we did pretty well but none of that was going to help me as a freshwater fisherwoman.

Prior to that Aegean outing, my experience consisted of pond fishing in Iowa when my dad would bait the hook, remove the catch and often help his lone daughter cast the line. (Because her coordination was a bit slow to develop.) I was not what one might call a skilled angler. I needed a refresher course if I was going to teach my offspring the ways of the sportsman. Fortunately a family friend is retired nearby and was more than willing to be a surrogate grandpa helping me to hone (Scratch that, I mean, develop) my fishing skills. After a morning at his pond I was ready for a solo run.

We headed to the sporting goods store where I normally spend copious amounts of money on items for peewee football, so it was refreshing to give them my money in a new department. (When I’m eating dog food during my retirement, I will constantly remind my offspring that my 401K was spent on football gear.) After gathering the requisite equipment it was time to make it official and get a license. The keeper of the fish department issued my license but must have been looking at Number 1 when he filled in the “physical description” segment. According to my fishing license I’m a blue-eyed blonde weighing 120 pounds and while that’s flattering, I’m a green-eyed burnette and haven’t weighed 120 pounds since the 5th grade, but I’ll take it.

Our first excursion was a success likely because I’d spent several hours at home preparing the rods while cursing the process. A fat dude at a skeezy bait shop recommended a nearby dock and though his shop likely doubled as a mob front, he knew his quality fishing spots. (Likely because he needed occasional drop spots for his mob business involving cement shoes.) The boys reeled them in one after another.

One thing I didn’t take into account about leading my boys to sportmanship was the gross-out factor. When you take two kids fishing alone, you are in a constant swirl of wormy hands, tangled lines and slimy fish thrust in your face. It’s parental purgatory. Who actually enjoys the touch of slimy fish while freeing them from capture or the feel of worm guts under mildly manicured nails? Not I, but just like you can never let dogs see your fear, you can never let your sons see your gross-out factor. That simply provides them with an upper hand. (P.S. – having brothers is a huge asset to a gal grooming boys to become men.) As the fish came flying at my face followed by “Mom! I got one! Take it off and help me put on a new worm.” I muttered my mantra, “I’ve touched worse…I’ve touched worse.”

Nugget is down with fishing but his interest only lasts about 10 minutes then I spend the remainder of the outing untangling his line, (that he’s attached to everything from nearby trees to my thigh) plying him with snacks and trying to keep him from falling in. Last week while he was in summer school I had the luxury of taking only 1 kid fishing. Foolishly, I believed it would be relaxing like fishing appears to be on beer commercials. With his first cast he caught a tree and needed his pole restrung, then there was a broken reel and the fish that swallowed the hook. After averting disaster for 5 full minutes and swearing non-stop under my breath, I was ready to test the repaired line. Immediately I  hooked something Number 1 and I were certain was the freshwater brother of Moby Dick.

“Hold on Mom! It’s a big one!”

I tried to be cool but it was impossible. This was it. I had a big one. “It won’t reel! I can’t get it to work!” (I’m still working on my repair skills.) I was frantically spinning the handle while watching my pole bend like a scene from a National Geographic show about Amazonian monster fish. The pressure was palpable. Here I was, showing my son girl-power in action. His mother was about to reel in a big-ass fish!

“Don’t lose it Mom!” His excitement was building and he was jumping up and down a little too close to the edge. I did not want to face the choice of saving my child or reeling in my big–ass fish because I can’t guarantee I’d drop my pole. (Don’t judge, the kid can swim.)

Fortunately I didn’t have a Sophie’s Choice moment because my line snapped. I watched as my bobber, bait and line all took off across the water. Moments later a penis-like head popped up near the bobber. Because I am missing the parental edit button that prevents me from the deletion of potty words in front of my offspring, I yelled – “Screw you dickhead! You might have broken my line but you head looks like a penis!” As the words came out of my mouth I wished I was with my one-eared kid who only hears half of my profanity.

“Mom!” My judgmental ten-year-old exclaimed. But within seconds he reconsidered, “I mean you are right. His head does kind of look like a penis.”

So it wasn’t a big-ass fish. It was just a big-ass turtle but it was a nice teachable moment for my son to understand the importance of accurate trash talk. My sportsman development has a ways to go but I’m finding more joy than anticipated in the ride. Especially when the Turk opens his beer fridge and screams, “What the hell? Why there are worm in my fridge?”

 

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.

 

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.