I Shall Rule From My She-Fort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An Eviction in My Lair

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

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

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

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

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

“Be careful. I think somebody living there.”

“Hubba wa?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes. I tell you that.”

“How long have you known?”

“Since before Christmas.”

“That’s 4 months ago!”

“Yes.”

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

“What guy?”

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

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

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

“No I get trap.”

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

“Yes. He just need relocation.”

“No. He needs to die.”

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

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

 

I Shall Be The Quarantine Queen

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Stay home. Avoid people. Socially distance yourself. Spend copious time in stretch fabrics and fuzzy slippers. Order in and have groceries delivered. I HAVE BEEN TRAINING FOR THIS FOR MY WHOLE LIFE. I shall be the Queen of Quarantine.

We’re in a weirdo space right now. It kind of feels like being stuck in Jello. Every morning we get up and brace for the damage report and every night we lay in bed waiting for the anxiety to fade.  But over here in our little 1400 square feet of heaven, we’ve got it under control.

On the first floor, I’ve spent the past week busily stress baking and then following that up with stress eating said baked goods. Cakes, pies, brownies, an obscene array of cookies and today I moved on to breads. If the carbs were not enough, there have been soups from lentil to tomato and dinners including such classics as lasagna and falafel, and mousakka and makarna. (PS – there is no better time to be a vegetarian family than when all you crazy carnivores are storming the meat department pre-quarantine. Ain’t nobody whipping tofu off the shelf or grabbin’ soy crumbles from my basket. We are livin’ the dream. ICYMI – here’s how I fooled my family into the veg life. ) I literally cannot stop. Any good shrink would say this excessive kitchen self-flagellation is my attempt to show love and protection to the men who live here but I don’t know…maybe I’m also a fat girl that loves to cook because she loves to eat.

The second floor remains a tween hidey-hole providing a hotbed of entertainment for Number 1. Normally he’s not a video game kind of kid but with nothing to do and crappy weather, well, any port in a storm. My history dork found a series of games he loves and from what I hear coming down the stairs, so far he has slayed some bastard in the Egyptian Pyramids, ridden his horse in a loincloth around a digitalized version of our old town in Turkey and taken down the Empire and a gazillion Storm Troopers before driving Le Mans.

The basement is housing an exasperated Turk who traded a cushy office in Boston for a corner of the basement where he hunches over his computer like a troll under a bridge desperate to finish work. For the first several days, Nugget’s sword fights and basketball games occurring above his head would send the Turk into a rage causing him to bound up the stairs with his trademark, “WHAT IZ DIS???” To which his charming youngest son would reply, “Baba chill.” I do feel for the guy though, between work and a graduate class he’s got a lot to accomplish under his bridge. We’re hopeful we might see him before the end of the quarantine.

Nugget transcends all three floors like only a spastic, ADHD 6 -year-old with an overactive imagination much like his crazy mother’s, can.  In the past week he has been the following, in full costume, LeBron James in the Cleveland days, Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett, Yoda, Iron Man, Captain America, Chewbacca, Fletcher Cox of the Philadelphia Eagles and Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos, The Flash, Darth Vader, a Storm Trooper and Gordon Hayward of the Celtics. I’m sure he’s had more personalities that I’m forgetting too. After donning full regalia for each of his characters, he runs from floor to floor, chasing bad guys, shooting baskets or holding the line while carrying on full conversations in distinct voices. Could it be a sign of early-onset crazy? Sure, but it is too damn funny to stop.

In between the lunacy we’re also working on school, (because it sucks to have a mom who’s a teacher during times like these) drawing tons, reading loads and watching Britbox on the telly. I’m a big fan of the low gore, high dialogue murders found on British television. They remind me of Turkish television but I don’t have to exhaust my brain by translating the whole show only to have the murder solved before I get the entire story translated. The kids are on the Britbox train too. Number 1 loves when I flip on a show and tell him how he and I watched the show religiously back in Turkey. (Because we had 1 channel in English and it was BBC). Nugget is more of a murder man. Boba Fett and I watched an entire murder mystery yesterday on the sofa and he called the perp long before I did. He’s like a 3 foot Jessica Fletcher.

We also hit up a few concerts during the past week too. The Dropkick Murphys put on a stunning show in my living room, and though none of us looked as good as we did when I used to go see them live in the late 90’s, we’re still punk. I also forced my children to sit through the Indigo Girls and Wilco live streams while I regaled them with tales of when their mother was cool and waved lighters at their concerts. (They were painfully unimpressed.)

 We’ve also had quality fire pits, soccer matches and even a relay that nearly killed my aged ass. Fortunately, our beaches are still open and free of idiotic 20 somethings whooping it up. Is it because our beaches are 35 degrees and rocky? Regardless, our beach time has been paramount leaving Nugget to ask, “How do you even thurvive a quaranthine without a beach?”

So at the risk of being too Mary Sunshine in this moment, this smothering mother, with introvert tendencies, that loves a good excuse for kitchen time is finding the bright side in this cray. Stay safe, stay healthy and stay home and wash yo damn hands!

 

Squishy Warrior Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hi Ho Hi Ho, Back To Work I Go..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Word is…Biscuit

 

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

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

“How did you do?” He prodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Physicist. Sheldon Cooper is a physicist.”

“P-y-s-i-c-i-s-t-s” He answered.

“Nope. Forgot the h.”

“Ugh!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m sorry. That is incorrect.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Saying what?” I asked.

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

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

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

 

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.

Winter Break In The Hot Zone

hazmat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mom, I don’t feel so good.”

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

“Mom, it’s not always about poop!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

More Drama Than You Can Shake A Snake At

snake charmer 2 (1).jpg

Batman and Robin. Starsky and Hutch. Cagney and Lacey. While the Turk and I are more Bert and Ernie than the afore mentioned crime fighting duos, when it comes down to it, our partnership puts them all to shame. After dipping our toes into the speed and fury of the Boston housing market on our first relocation visit, we determined our best choice was  to send in a lone Turk to make a stealth buy. Many wives would fear this but Bert and I have rolled this way before.

The housing market was a see-it-buy-it situation, no time for thinking. The Turk, being a former military commando, (I found it hilarious at first too but it’s true.) was ideal for the job. He was going to fly out and buy us a house in Massachusetts while I simultaneously sold ours in Indiana. Impossible? Perhaps, but three days later, he gallantly returned having slapped a sold sign on a new home in Massachusetts while I did the same on our old one. We bought and sold on the same day, in two different states- step aside dynamic duos.

According to Zillow.com, the new house looked good but it was hard to figure out it’s geography. The Turk’s explanation didn’t help much. “It has very long driveway. There are trees. You see water from deck. You will like.”

My first glimpse was at closing. He was right. There were trees. There was a driveway that will likely leave us housebound for the entirety of snow season but in the off-season it provides nice cardio getting the mail. The water view is actually a cranberry bog, one of hundreds in our new hometown.

For a girl born in the middle of Iowa cornfields, the thought of living in cranberry country was both exotic and exciting. What could be more New England than sitting in an Adirondack chair, looking through the fall foliage at a flooded bog mid-harvest? Far more majestic than a dusty cornfield with a massive combine roaring through.

Unfortunately, that charm soon faded when we learned that with bogs come frogs – which is cool – but with frogs come snakes – which is not cool. At all.

Our first snake showed up hours after we closed on the home. Walking out the front door, Nugget’s Batman hi-top clad foot was about to land on the front step when I spied a   slimy bastard right in his path. With one swift mom-grab I swept Nugget to safety.

“What is dis? The Turk exclaimed as he ran into us. “What are you doing?” He hadn’t yet spied the enemy.

Having spent the past couple years teaching science, a career with a high ratio of snake views, I calmly pointed out the creepy son of a bitch swirling around the front step.

“God!!!!!!! What the hell??!!?!???!” He screamed before running inside and slamming the door. It took a few minutes before he remembered his sons and I were still in snake territory and needed the door opened for sanctuary.

The Turk’s squeal sent the  snake in search of refuge under the deck allowing us to make a break for it.

“God! I not know there are snakes here. I wouldn’t buy this house if I know there are snakes.”

“That’s a bit dramatic dear.” I countered. I was obnoxiously stoic until the anaconda attacks began to come daily. Even a science teacher desensitized to the horror, can’t take that crap.

The pinnacle was the snake that fought back. The boys and I had arrived home from yet another day at the beach, (After the past years of exile in land-locked Indiana there can never be too much time spent frolicking in the lapping waves.) and Number 1 nearly stepped on the hostile reptile sunning himself on the step.

“Mom! We got another!” He screamed.

Experienced snake shoo-ers by now,  we began screaming and clapping which usually causes the perpetrator to slither away in terror. Not this one though. He just rolled his lid-less eyes and was like, “Whatevs woman.” We took it up a notch by throwing pebbles in his general area. Again, nothing. Finally I decided I was going in for the kill with a rock to the head. Unfortunately I’m not athletically skilled so I missed and that’s when the evil serpent decided to fight back. The previously innocuous anaconda reared up like he was some kind of king cobra and jabbed at both Number 1 and I. Nugget, who is terrified of snakes, was half a mile down the driveway screaming in terror.

“We’ve got a psycho one here Mom.” Number 1 noted. “I can handle this.” Number 1 (who thankfully is more athletic than his mother) drew back with a rock and was about to launch when the snake bid a hasty retreat. Standing guard like a short Rambo, rock still in hand, he screamed at Nugget and I, “Go! Go! Go!” While waving us towards the door. Number 1 backed through the door last, muttering, “Game on sucker.”

Once inside, a battle plan was made. I could no longer allow my family to be tormented by the constant fear that a reptilian tyrant was hiding in every nook of our homestead. I considered negotiations with the snake people. Maybe start with threats of sanctions to get them to agree to peace talks. But before I could send off my first declaration, a glance out the window revealed my nemesis had returned and was preparing to slither up the door itself. The damn snake was holding us hostage!

Realizing this was a life and death situation I made immediate contact with the Turk, safely tucked away in his downtown office. In case things went south, I needed him to understand what had gone down. It was important he know the full story when the media arrived.

I texted: Snake holding us hostage -Help us – Send pizza.

To which he responded: *thumbs up*

The boys and I were on our own here.

Full disclosure, my first thought was “We have to burn this mother down. I don’t care if we just took out a new mortgage. No sane adjustor would call ‘insurance fraud’ on a house infested with snakes.” But instead I turned to Google.

As is so often the case, the great and wise Google held the answer- Snake-B-Gone. (I also had the choices of Shoo Snake, Snake-Away and Snake-Out, all real products!) Though it sounds like a product the Coyote purchased from the ACME company in the classic cartoon, it was legit. A few clicks later we located the goods in a hardware store two towns over and the boys and I were off.

As instructed on the container, I sprinkled liberally over the infested area. The powdery substance had a delicious cinnamon smell, causing Nugget to remark, “Dis smells like Chrissmas.” I had doubts about the power of any deterrent that smelled like a beloved holiday, but I hoped for the best. Just to be safe, I trashed talked while I sprinkled.

“Can you smell that slimy bastards? That’s the smell of your demise. It’s over. You are done.” Number 1 tried to point out snakes don’t have ears but I retorted that Nugget only has 1 and it doesn’t prevent him from knowing when he’s in big trouble.

It’s been 3 weeks and we’ve had only 1 new sighting, which was quickly met with more Snake-B-Gone and heightened trash talk. Personally, I think the trash talk has more power than the chemical but what evs. I do fear the coming fall. Rumor has it that the snake intensity picks up when they flood the blogs for harvest so if you never hear from me again, know I’m likely being held hostage by a nest of hostile snakes seeking retribution.

If that happens, send Snake-be-Gone!

 

Hotel Horror: Free Breakfast Does Not Trump A Hairy Shower

hotel

If you’ve been following along (And I know you have been because our life has been a wreck lately and you all have gaper delay.) the past few months have been a special brand of relocation hell. The day school ended we loaded up and began the process of moving all of our worldly possessions from suburban Indianapolis to the Boston area, 957 miles away.

Having made it through the gruesome process of loading the moving van (read all about it here if you missed it) it was time to pack up the Hyundai like the Klampets heading to Beverly Hills.

957 miles in a car with two children, one spouse and a cat, provide a gal with lots of time to ponder. It’s not a journey I’d recommend so to save you the anguish, here are a few things I learned during those 957 miles:

  • Fitted with a ridiculously ugly car topper procured from a retiree on Craig’s List, one can fit an obscene amount of crap into a 10-year-old Santa Fe, including a box of things the packers missed and an Instant Pot in case one wants to cook in a hotel. (What was I thinking? Who even does this?)
  • Regardless of how much one researches about the best way to travel with a domesticated feline, if said feline decides he will be free-range on an inter-state journey, he will be free-range.
  • A Turk with road rage can intimidate even a psychotic truck driver in an 18- wheeler. (While simultaneously terrifying all passengers in the car to tears.)
  • When near the Canadian border, one can pick up a radio station broadcasting completely in Turkish. (Though full disclosure, it did stir up a little PTSD from my years in Turkey.)

And most importantly,

  • If a relocation agent says, “I’ve not seen the property but it checks all the requirements,” proceed with caution.

After two days of driving we arrived at our temporary housing ready for much deserved sleep. From the peeling paint and cigarette butts ushering us to the door like a trashy Vegas wedding aisle, we knew doom was looming. Relocations with the Turk’s company never take the discount route so the outward appearance of the dwelling was a big ‘ol red flag.

This “extended stay suite” might have better been labeled a “prolonged misfortune hell-hole.” Though the Turk became hostile the second the door swung open, exhaustion allowed me to look past the ceiling light hanging by a frayed wire, burned foil lining the stove burners with charred food remnants still in tact and the fist-sized hole in the “sitting room” where a television likely once hung. I was displeased but willing to give it a shot…until…I found a colossal pube in the in the shower before we even put our bags down.

Now I can risk death by electrocution by no-longer recessed, recessed lighting. I can put up a solid battle against salmonella on a dirty cook top, but showering with a stray pube from a freakin’ interloper? Ah hells no.

Immediately the Turk had me on the phone trying to sweet talk the good woman at a nearby Hampton into saving our pube-fearing souls. Alas, they were booked up but upon hearing my tale of woe (and of course, I included the ownerless pube for effect) she was able to book us early the next day in a “family suite.” Just what a “family suite” consisted of was yet to be determined and our skepticism was running high but we had no choice. We slept with one eye open, avoided the shower and awaited our new accommodations.

The Hampton family suite was exactly what we needed, a kitchenette with a microwave, mini-fridge and sink, 2 sleeping areas and as requested by Nugget, a hot tub (and pool)one floor away. (No one’s sure why Nugget loves a hot tub since he never gets in but Nugget is an anomaly.) Upon arrival I conducted an immediate ‘pube check’ and after coming up empty I gave the all clear for the team to unpack and commence wrecking havoc on our new temporary home.

We arrived in our new digs on Monday and our truck was expected to arrive Friday. After signing our lives away during the closing mid-week, I threw myself into the horrific process of sanitizing a home following ownership by some less-than-tidy dog owners. (FYI – trying to clean carpet that reeks of dog only makes it more oderifirus than one might imagine. Thankfully, 1-800-EMPIRE really does have next-day service.) I cleaned dog hair from every surface including the depths of the freezer but thankfully, no pubes.

Certain our truck was arriving on time, I strong-armed the Turk into painting the entire upstairs, inclusive of the rainbow stripes in Number One’s bedroom. (I’m love me the Pride flag in every form but for some reason my 10 year-old son doesn’t share my feeling. What evs kid.) I love my family dearly but at that point we were 6 days into sharing a hotel room and the depths of my love were being significantly tested. I was going to be ready when that moving van pulled in. 

Friday came and went with no word from the moving company. When Saturday turned out the same, I did the walk of shame to the stoner who took the weekend shift at our hotel’s front desk.

“Yeah, I’m going to need to extend our stay…again.”

“Whoa. No truck?”

“Nope.”

“Harsh yo. Any word?”

“Nope.”

“I’ll extend you until Tuesday. Positive vibes right?”

I made my best attempt at a smile for the stoner before schlepping 2 kids to the pool alone for the 7th time because the Turk has cootie fears regarding public pools. The man is a water engineer so he probably knows things but still… he sucks.

When Sunday passed with no attempt to schedule an arrival time from the moving company I began to break. Wine, chocolate and even those little happy pills my doctor gave me for the move were no longer quelling the hostility welling within. No woman deserves to share one room with her entire family for 8 days with no end in sight. Never.

Stress insomnia took over as I listened to 3 snoring Turks. I fumed as I pulled out a new book I’d purchased weeks prior. It was the tale of a mother gone mad, who had thrown her kids from a bridge before plotting to kill her husband. I made it through one chapter before determining this tome might best be left for later.

At breakfast, two hours later, the message finally came. Our moving van had arrived. However, it was stuck at the bottom of our narrow, winding and tree-lined driveway. It wasn’t ideal but at least I was getting sprung from hotel hell before I threw anybody off the bridge to Cape Cod. Thanks Universe. I look a little chunky in prison orange.