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Scarred for life

I started this post back in December, and never got around to posting it. It has snowed here in Istanbul, which means I have had some uninterrupted alone time whilst the turkeys roll around and wrestle outdoors.  Since I started this blog  to document our lives with Ali and Omer, I will post it now even though it is past the season. Enjoy!

Ah, Christmas.  What a great time of year.  And so much more fun  if  you have little ones who believe in Santa.

Christmas in Turkey is satisfyingly  not without the festive spirit.  Santa, aka St. Nicholas, was from a town called Myra located just outside modern day Demre  in the south of Turkey.  So, it is appropriate to see Christmas trees, twinkly lights, and Santa’s mug splashed here and there in commercial areas.  St. Nick’s original locale is far from the winter wonderland we have come to know and love.  His digs are located in a hot, southern Californian-esque terrain that never gets snow and is  a stone’s throw from the Mediterranean. The story is that the jolly, rotund, fur and wool clad Santa is a 1930’s Coca-Cola creation. How the leap was made from warm, sunny orange country to  the chilly north pole remains a mystery to me.

Without a care in the world as to where he came from, Ali and Omer are full on into Santa this year .  There have been copious amounts of questions about how he  gets into our house without the aid of a chimney and how can he really know at all times if they have been naughty or nice.  To ensure that Santa would bring them exactly what they wanted for all of their good behavior, they wrote their own letter to Santa good and early into the Christmas season. Telling the boys I would take the letters to work and send them,  I quickly and carelessly tucked them away for later storage. Weeks of questions  ensued about how the letters get to the north pole (I send them with the regular mail); how long it will take (about a week); how will Santa know what I want for sure (because he will read your letter); etc., and me reassuring them that Santa got the letter without a doubt, don’t worry.  Fast forward to the Friday afternoon before Christmas to me sprawled, slug-like in a post-school, pre-workout  lie down when Ali bursts into my room anxiously yelling, “Mommy, bad news, we forgot to send the letters!” My brain frantically searched for an explanation as I kicked myself for not hiding the letters better.  “Well, I scanned them and then sent the letter in an e-mail.  Santa got them, don’t worry,” I nervously bluffed.  Skeptical, but temporarily satisfied, Ali meandered back downstairs to continue playing with his Legos.    Luckily, I had  a back-up plan.

I figured I needed to bring in the big guns to convince Ali that Santa had received his letter so who better then Santa himself to deliver the message? There is this cool online site where all you do is answer a questionnaire and upload a picture and within minutes you have a personalized video message from the man of the hour. One of the questions they ask is if the video is for a nice or naughty child. Naturally, I ticked “naughty”; I don’t call them the turkeys for just any old reason.  What I didn’t realize was that ticking naughty instead of nice would mean that the child in question would be left off the nice list.  Oops.  I didn’t think there would be a distinction (what was I thinking?). Proud of myself and relieved that I had found a solution to the letter crisis, I called Ali upstairs to watch his video. Full of eager anticipation, Ali watched the video with wonder and excitement gleaming in his eyes. Both to my and Ali’s shock and surprise,  towards the end of the message Santa told him he wasn’t on the nice list just yet. It was like watching the scene from A Christmas Story when Ralphie eagerly anticipates getting back his Christmas essay about the Red Rider bee bee gun he requested and at the bottom the teacher writes, “you’ll shoot your eye out.”  Looking deflated and worried, I realized that this  may have scarred him, and me, for life. Watch it here to see what I mean. Omer was also left off of the nice list, but for some reason, he wasn’t as bothered.

Anyway,when Santa told Ali that he still had time to make the list I saw the blood run back into his face and the light flicker back  into his eyes, so the crisis was averted.  Even though after a Christmas Eve gathering at our home they were amped up and running around before bed like banshees, Santa still pulled through and delivered the goods and it was a joyful and memorable Christmas all around.

Happy Holidays!

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Raising twins.  What an adventure this is.

When we unknowingly got into this,  in the first months of pregnancy I read all kinds of research about what it means to have twins.  There are quite a lot of interesting things that make twins special. For example, they can sometimes come up with their own language, they have been known read each other’s mind, they sometimes do the same thing at the same time, or they feel the pain of the other twin.  There are even stories of twins who were separated at birth who married women with the same name on the same day, work at the same type of job, have the same number of children and wore the same outfit when they finally did meet. That is all sweet and charming, but we haven’t seen anything of that sort.  The only “twin” thing our twins have is that people think they look alike.  The rest of the stuff is pretty much about who was born first, who gets to do this or that first, who got dressed the fastest, etc.  Pretty mundane stuff.  And then we had the white shoe incident.

Let me back up for a minute.  We are parents who put thought into the toys and clothes we buy for our boys.  We don’t want to dress them alike since they are two different people, so when we buy two of anything, they are always different. To be honest I don’t know how those parents of twins find the energy to organize a closet and drawers just so so that they can dress their kids the same. Anyway,  around two we noticed that somehow one of the two items became “the item” to have, and arguments, fighting, pulling and pushing would commence.  So then we tried to buy things of projected high interest in pairs of two.  Well that didn’t work either.  Either they wouldn’t give a toss about them, or they would find something minutely different about one of the items and then that toy/shirt/toothbrush/paper towel/raisin became the hot item. We quickly realized that the expression ” you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t” was probably coined by a parent of twins.

Back in the height of the Thomas the Train heyday, K. decided to buy two Thomas the Train tank engines, hoping this would keep the arguing and fighting to a minimum.  After all, Thomas was the beloved toy and having two toys that were exactly the same would prevent any fights.  Right? Right? Wrong. Somehow, the boys found some minuscule difference on the tank engines, a difference we never ever figured out, and then that Thomas with that difference became the hallowed toy.  I knew we were in over our heads in figuring the all this out when one night A. was in his new room (we separated them because each morning  their room looked like the Rolling Stones had partied there: another blog post) and at around 2 am he began to bellow, scaring the bejeezus out of me. He wanted his Thomas the Train engine.  In my sleepy stupor, I gave in and found the *#*#@ Thomas the Train after rifling through a pile of toys in the dark.  With relief I handed the boy the toy, instantly pacifying him.  Stumbling back to my room I heard a the rattling noise of tiny fingers hurriedly searching every inch of molded plastic wheels and windows. I could even picture it in my mind: the toy being turned to and fro in  little hands frantically searching for something, something on that toy.  Then the noise stopped and after a millisecond of impregnated silence, he howled, “it’s not my Thomas.”  I don’t even remember what happened next, I think my insanity sensors blocked it out, but I knew at that point I would never understand what qualities or criteria made things “cool” for my boys.

There are hundreds of other stories like this, but we have since learned coping skills to defuse the situations as they arise.  Well, that was until the white shoe incident that took place on a Monday’s gym day. It started Sunday morning with the question:

“Who is going to wear the white gym shoes tomorrow?”

“It is Ali’s turn”

“Oh, OK.”

Repeat 20 times with various answers like: “What did I say before? Why don’t you tell me? Didn’t we talk about this?”

The boys have two pairs of gym shoes, a grey pair and a (beloved) white pair.  As with Thomas the Train, we don’t know why the white pair are the cool pair.

Monday morning, the first conversation of the day was of course about the white gym shoes, only this time the emotions were amped up a bit because the P.E lesson was a mere few hours away.  Our morning rituals unraveled as Omer hassled the entire house into a cranky mood, playing every card, which included trying to convince me that the color palette of his gym uniform went  best with the white shoes, to trying to convince Ali that the grey shoes were cooler since they were bought in California. Defeated (or so I thought) Omer lay in silence on the floor  in the living room as the rest of us got ready for the day. As the boysleft the house, he was still grumbling about it but I sent them on their way with a smooch and a hug, the white shoes safely tucked away into Ali’s backpack. With a sigh of relief, I packed my own school bag.

And then I get this e-mail:

Hi Annie,

Ömer did not want to join the P.E. lesson this morning because he did not want to wear his grey sports shoes.  He was very upset, and crying that he wanted to wear the white sports shoes that were in Ali’s bag.  Ali said that it was his turn to wear the white shoes because Ömer wore them last week, but Ömer said that since he wore them last week it meant that he was supposed to have them every week.  

Thanks,

 Kreş Teachers

I had to laugh to myself at Omer’s stubborn, donkey-like nature, even though I was annoyed he was hassling his school with his white shoe obsession.  Thinking it was all said and done, I sent his wonderful, patient  teachers a thank you e-mail, promising I would talk to him later that evening.  About two hours later, I get this e-mail:

Hi Annie,

When we went to pick the kids up at the end of the P.E. lesson Ömer was participating, but we were surprised to see the white shoes on his feet.  We asked the kids what had happened, and they said that Ömer wore the grey ones for a few minutes and then started complaining that they hurt his feet, so then Ali surrendered the white ones and Ömer got his way and stopped whining.  (Didn’t this issue between the twins start way back in womb?)

We told Ömer that since he got to wear the white shoes for two weeks in a row, that it would only be fair if Ali got to wear them for the next two lessons.

Thanks for talking to them about this.

Kreş Teachers

So the passive laying-down-on-the-floor show in the morning was in fact a strategic-move planning session.  And it worked.

Last Monday morning we were stranded in an airport and missed the gym lesson, so we will see how it goes this upcoming Monday.

Wish us luck, I think we are going to need it for this and future endeavors.

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Man Wrestling

In the hustle and bustle of life, I sometimes forget that raising two boys even without the added wonkiness of twinness, is an experience in itself.  In the short five years that I have known these sweet little yahoos, I am struck every so often with the fact that a little boy interacts differently with the world than a little girl.  Double that times two, and you have the Ozsarac household (with one big boy).

In college while learning about all things I didn’t learn in high school, if you had told me that when I was 36 I would be saying “yes, boys and girls are different” I would have written you off as someone from the “old school” not enlightened by the new ways of the world.  But now that I am a mom of two little boys with ample opportunities to see little girls of the same or similar age in action, I realize that there are differences between the sexes.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that one is better over the other, or that boys and girls shouldn’t have the same opportunities or expectations in life, or that all of the sexism, oppression, abuse, and glass ceilings that exist in the world are OK. Nor do we have two little manly men out of touch with their feminine side.  What I am saying is that when I have an uninterrupted 30-minute conversation with a friend with her little girl coloring quietly at her side or eat dinner at another friend’s house with little girl in tow, and the mommy isn’t getting up every three minutes to keep her from wrestling, yelling, rolling around on the floor, or poking a fork into an electrical socket, it hits home that there is often a difference in the ways that males and females interact with their surroundings.

Coming to this realization has helped me be a better mom to two boys.  I no longer dream  that they will sit for more than 30 minutes doing something that requires fine motor skills or skillful social graces nor am I bummed when they don’t take any interest in the tea or cooking sets we buy them.  They prefer to run around outside, roll around in the dirt, play in the mud, kick things, and think the two words “chicken butt” are the height of humor.  Now in our neighborhood there are some very cool little girls who are out there right along with the boys, but instead of grass stained jeans, they wear pink tutus, sparkly pink shoes and purple rain coats.  And as it is with many adult relationships, the girls are large and in charge.

Even though I was raised with three brothers, “boy behavior” still catches me by surprise at times.  Here is a good example, while walking home from the kres one day this week, the boys were telling me about their day.  Still not decompressed from work, I was not making the connections between the weekly newsletter (cultural diversity is the theme of the week) and the boys’ story about eating rice with little “cubuks” or sticks (chop sticks) so while I was still trying to work that out  envisioning pretzels sprinkled into rice they asked me if they could do “man wrestling” when we got home. The conversation went something like this:

Man wrestling?”

“Yes, man wrestling.  You get into your underwear and wrestle”

Pregnant pause

“I think you should play outside, and we can discuss this later.”

Which they happily scurried off to do.  And  of the 350 things they did in 2o minutes, one  was to grab my jam jar of wild flowers from the picnic table and break it. Chastising myself for being a silly mother who didn’t realize that a jar of flowers  has an entirely different purpose to two little boys, but at the same time frustrated that they couldn’t keep their hands off if  it, I sent them inside.  When I walked  into the house, at the base of the stairs lay a crumpled pile of shoes and clothes.  Upon calling them, two skinny bodies  clad in teeny underwear with socks pulled up to their knees hustled down the stairs.

“What in the heck are you doing?”

And the answer?

“We are man wrestling!”

Then the penny dropped and I realized that they had learned about sumo wrestling at school and were taking a stab at this ancient wrestling practice. I of course found this to be hilarious, but I shook my head thinking that is the last thing I would have done at that age.   But that is the whole point, they are their own little beings with a different set of chromosomes, and even though they drive me bonkers sometimes, I love every little last dirt and booger crusted inch of them.

I just want them to keep the “man wrestling” confined to the great outdoors.

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A Love Poem

“Dancing in the Eye of the Moon”

by Annie Özsaraç

 

Beautiful baby boys

grown into little creatures

who question, play, laugh and giggle,

test the limits, scrape their knees.

 

Tiny little bird babies,

vulnerable with delicately tiny hands and feet

snuggled into the world of their crib,

now big boys,

vulnerable to the bigger world.

 

Fleshy little crawlers,

exploring through mouth and hand,

now tall  lean school-boys,

discovering

on wheels and quick-moving feet.

 

Perched atop wobbly walking legs,

fiercely clinging to parental protection,

now striding out the door, good-bye kisses

a second thought.

 

My baby boys,

still and always,

my precious little kittens.

 

Happy 5th Birthday to Ali and Ömer

March 16, 2011

Istanbul

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