I Don’t Understand (Stream of Consciousness Sunday)

I’m once again linking up to my friend Jana’s blog. Our task? Set a timer and write for five minutes without editing or censoring. Our topic? I don’t understand…

I don’t understand how I have two little boys all of a sudden. I mean, I know how I got kids. It’s a timeless tale of doctors and stirrups and no shame. But what I mean is that I don’t understand how my babies are now big kids.

This weekend they started T-ball. My sons can now hold a bat. In fact, they own bats and regulation t-balls. We spent the whole afternoon after practice getting geared up. Thank God they didn’t have to buy cups.

These boys also have super hero sheets and a real Star Wars love. They can roam the playground with me at a greater distance. I still hover, but it’s with less anxiety and stress.

Friday night we had dinner with our group of friends and their kids. We set the kids at one table, and we grown-ups took the other. We are finally getting to the point where the kids can play, and we can actually have a conversation or play cards with few interruptions.

But still, I don’t really understand how this happened. It boggles the mind.

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Honey, I’m Home

I was mesmerized by the massive gray clouds, and I realized I could see miles of them. It wasn’t just over our city like in Poland; it stretched well into the next county. And I thought it was beautiful. Seeing for miles and miles was a treat. I could see where I had been and where I was going; I felt like I had my compass reset.

Our adventure in Poland is over, and we are home in Texas. I’ve been giddy about it since we landed, and I kissed the ground at DFW.

And lo, the glory of Texas shone all around her booted toes.

And lo, the glory of Texas shone all around her booted feet.

Our first dinner in America? Sonic corn dogs and cheeseburgers. Or, as I like to call them, ‘Merica Meats. We’ve had my mother’s homemade tacos and chili con queso. We’ve had bagels and Lucky Charms. I’ve even already had my parents over for dinner in our new apartment. It’s a culinary wonder, and we are eating it all. I still need a nice steak, but I think I’ve hit most of my food cravings including 12 pounds of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

I’ve been running. The boys have played in numerous parks without jackets or gloves or frostbite. We’ve seen the sun pretty much every day as is needed by my soul.

Even the dentist is fun here.

Even the dentist is fun here.

And oh how I’ve been talking. My blog title has once again been proven true. I’ve talked to friends and strangers. If you speak English and are in earshot, I will speak to you. Excuse me kind Target worker, where are the Ziploc baggies? Did you know the plastic baggies in Poland are useless and come in weird sizes and aren’t always at the grocery store and that their idea of cling wrap would make my mother weep?

Of course I’ve been talking the most with my family and friends. We’ve had our first friend group gathering, and I tried my hardest to slow my motor down. Luckily, the boys needed my help dealing with a crowd of kids and grown-ups we hadn’t hung with in a while.

Friend gatherings involve food and fun.

Friend gatherings involve food and mess.

On Friday I met my friend Christine for a drink after work. (I’d worked two days. I deserved it.) Poor, poor Christine. She didn’t know it, but she was my first outlet for real gabbing and laughing without watching my kids or my foul mouth. We talked about approximately 439 topics, with most of the words coming back to how the topic affected me. I was loud and happy. I was hoarse by the time I left. She kindly said we should do it every week, but I’m sure she went home and prayed I’d be out of words next time.

My tutoring job started last week. I’m working with seventh grade students getting them ready for their state test in reading and writing. I go two days a week, doing writing one day and reading the other. I was so happy about it I actually planned my lessons before I got to school, a new personal achievement. I even packed my lunch and had my clothes ready. And boy did those girls in my first class get the best me ever. I’ve got many friends at the school, so I’m feeling right at home.

I’m also really feeling my teacher soul jump for joy. When we lived in Poland, the owner of the boys’ school and my friend Zosia both made comments about how obvious it was that I was a teacher. They felt my personality and the way I talked to my kids (in public) suggested educator. I took that as a huge compliment. Then, at our gab fest Friday, Chris and I talked about my looking for a full-time teaching job next school year. I told her I had also considered just working retail or something so I could be free of grading and school-bureaucracy nonsense. She said, “No, you love teaching. You’re good at it.” Pump my ego up a little more with props from a fellow educator.

So, my Twitter presence has diminished, and I’m behind in my computer time-wasting, but, we’re settled in our apartment and happy as pigs in Texas mud. Soon I hope to be back to writing regularly and keeping up with the people in my computer. It may be annoying because I’m so peppy, but you’ll get used to it.

And finally, I leave you with things I’m loving about America:

garbage disposal, washer and dryer with large capacity, not having to haul my toiletries all over the house for a shower nor find my clothes in the closet in the kitchen, English-written & spoken, variety at the grocery store, Target.

How To Raise A Little Geek

In case you missed my 256 announcements yesterday, I’m guest writing on Quirk Books in their Raising Quirk Community. I’d love for you to go over and take a look and maybe leave a comment.

How NOT To Prepare Young Children For Big Changes

Scene: The family station wagon, 9:15(ish)am, sunny fall day in Poland

Adorable Child One: “Mommy? Can we paint our room when we move to Texas?”

Hot Mommy: “Sure. I mean, well, actually, the worker guys who build our house will paint the whole thing.”

Adorable Child Two: (trembling lip, teary eyes) “Daddy said we could paint it ourselves with brushes and pick out the color and everything.”

HM: (cursing Daddy in her mind) “Well, sure, we can do that. We’ll let the workers do the whole house and then paint your room just before we move furniture in.”

ACT: “And we can do it too? Not just you?”

HM: “Sure. That won’t be a disaster at all.”

ACO: “When we move to Texas, we’ll stay with Nana and Grandpa at first.”

HM: (excited to steer the Texas talk to less messy endeavors) “Yes! We will. We’ll stay there for a couple of weeks and then move into an apartment. While we are in our apartment, we will have a new house built. The new house will be super close to your big boy school where you will go to kindergarten. It’s a lot different than your school now; it’s not a Montessori.”

ACO: “At school, the teachers don’t tell us stuff, they let us do it ourselves.”

HM: (stunned that her boys have so easily grasped the ideals of Montessori) “Yeah, well, public school won’t be like that. There will be more time doing what everyone else does. You’ll have to do all the activities, not just the ones you like. But you’ll meet lots of new friends too.”

ACT: “But I like my Poland friends.”

HM: (startled but not deterred from selling the Texas life) “Well, we still have 77 days with them. Well, not that many actually, because you won’t go to school the last couple of weeks before we leave. You’ll need new friends since we won’t have any way to keep in touch with your Poland friends.”

Silence.

HM: “Anyway, along with your new school, Mommy will have a job! I’ll be teaching again, so I’ll be in school too! Mommy hasn’t had a full-time job since you were born.”

ACO: “And Nana and Grandpa will watch us.”

HM: “Maybe. But you’ll be at school the same days and times as Mommy is at work, so they may just pick you up and bring you to my school. Or you may stay at school until I get you. You’ll be in school 5 days then. It’s the whole week, so it’s more days then now. Plus the days are longer. But that’s not until next August, so I wouldn’t worry about it now.”

Silence.

HM: “Here we are at school! Why are you looking so serious? Well, have a fun day and relax!”

The End.

Mommy, be still while I check your vitals. It appears you’ve got talking-without-stopping-and-thinking-itis.

Where In The World Is @TalkIsPrimary

When I was in junior high, my friend Jennifer used to ask me to change my first name to Carmen. Then I would be Carmen Karmann (That’s my spiffy maiden name. Hi Mom and Dad!). I could have a show called Where In The World Is Carmen Karmann? (Based on Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? Obviously.)

Why am I telling you this? I don’t know. Sometimes I just have to do what the hamster in my brain wants so no one gets hurt.

It’s posible the hamster was trying to lead in to me explaining my absence from my blog. It has been a few weeks since I’ve written, and I know you have been missing me and my words. And by you, I mean my mom and three friends who sometimes swing by.

With the end of our Poland tour fast approaching, my anxiety is ramping up. I’m constantly looking at things in our apartment and wondering how it’s getting back to Texas. Don’t even get me started on my fears about selling our car. I travelled to Texas to get some emotional fuel from my home state and my parents. I caught up with my teacher people and let them know I’d be looking for a job for next fall. I was also fortunate enough to travel to Georgia for my first blogging conference, the Aiming Low NonConference.

I first flew to Louisiana to meet up with my friend Lindsay. It was actually our first time meeting in person, and I was advised to not go in the basement or turn my back on her in the dark. (My mom is so trusting of the people in the computer.) There was a big hug and immediate banter. It was a chick love-connection. Her son B also gave me the thumbs up after I showed him my awesome b-ball skillz. (Please note I only impress on a 1 foot rim.)

Lindsay loaded up on prescription drugs for her aching wisdom teeth and drove us out of town on Thursday morning. It took us seven hours and zero conversation breaks to make it to Pine Mountain, Georgia. It seems fall had erupted there. The trees were turning, and the weather was dreamy. We became especially excited as we entered the Callaway Resorts property. Suddenly I imagined myself with a glass of fine wine (So, not from a box.) in the hot tub soothing my old lady travellin’ bones. I had this image in my brain:

Why yes, I would like a pool boy to bring me some cheese with my wine.

But then the southern ladies at the registration desk kindly asked us to get off the property. It seems we were at the resort, not the location of our conference. And suddenly I was a Sugerbaker sister with a fine Georgia accent mocking our mistake. We assumed we were being gently, like only a southern woman can do, told to eff off and head over to the tents.

That was not the case. The Mountain Creek Inn at Callaway Gardens was equally fabulous.

We did a lot of good thinking out here.

We checked in, and headed to our room to freshen up. For Lindsay that meant putting on make-up and a clean shirt. For me that meant making sure my ball cap was on straight.  Then, the big moment arrived; we went to our first conference function, a meet and greet in the ballroom. I have to admit I was nervous even though I told Lindsay that I was not. See, I felt like she needed me to be tough.

So I was. I walked in like I was supposed to be there. Then I needed to buy a beer.

I introduced myself to Vikki who I knew from the Twitters and her blog. She hugged me and told me Happy Birthday. (Did I not mention my birthday? 39. Ugh.) Then we met the Empress, Julia Roberts (the cool one), and Faiqa. Then we meet Anissa Mayhew, the lady responsible for Noncon. Everyone made us feel welcome and included. By the end of the evening we were joking with our waitress, who we named Cassie, and eating pizza in front of the debate. I met Anne and found a kindred smart-girl spirit. I met a Suzanne who was not my mom and Susan who felt left out when I didn’t put her name here because I’m so tired from traveling! There was Nichole who is writing a novel with me next month. I met the Animated Woman and her suave British husband who loves Dolly Parton’s music. (Turns out lots of NonCon attendees love that lady.)

And then the weekend just rolled along. We fit in and felt at home. We added our sister Jana and took on the world. I learned about Instagram. (Have you heard of it? Oh. Like a year ago? I see.) I learned about how to make my blog more professional thanks to Heather Solos. My new friend Amyriah was cheered on in her quest to grow her blog. More and more people became friends, like lovely Lizz Porter and my other tall girls-Sarah, Jasmine, Katherine Stone (who has changed so many lives), and Dresden. The awesome Kymberli gave great hugs and kept reminding us how much we belonged.

Lindsay and I after we won our boots from Country Outfitter. Jana won too because we are an awesome trio of awesome. When I won, I screamed and jumped up and down and made a scene. In front of the whole conference and The Pioneer Woman. So that happened.

The conference was set up as a roundtable system. The sessions involved leaders starting the discussion, and then the people sitting at the table all joined in. We added our thoughts and asked questions of each other. This led to meeting MORE people. Seriously, I cannot name all my new friends. I do have to mention Maddie and her awesome hobbies of quilting and sex-toy reviews. Also, Leila from Don’t Speak Whinese gave me stickers and a positive attitude. Oh! And I met Cecily and Tracey in Suburbia. (This could go on for a while. Someone please stop me.)

And, I did not monopolize any of the conversations with my constant talking. I don’t think.

Did I also mention these ladies and gentlemen (Hi Neil and DJ and Peter and JC’s Huz!) acted as my advisory board? We came up with a plan to expand my blog and ramp up my involvement in my passions of writing and teaching. My new homeschooling friends, like Melinda, who also had a birthday at the conference, offered to answer my questions and give me all of their knowledge because the plan involves me offering curriculum and lectures to homeschoolers. I’m not going to go into all the details here, but just know it’s a great idea that fit right in with my strengths of writing and teaching.

In other words, they helped me change my life.

But the truth is I’m scared that I’m not smart enough to pull this new idea off and make it work. I’m a good teacher, and I know the writing process, but can I create curriculum and get some customers and new readers? Can I follow through and not get hung up on shiny stuff like the TV and solitaire on my phone?

Will my new friends stay with me through it? I hope so.

The In-Law Holiday Survival Guide

The was my very first ever guest post. It appeared on The Curvy Girl Guide.

Ok, what I’m about to tell you needs to be kept hush-hush.  Because if my in-laws hear this, I may be attacked.  Again. Also, this stuff is pretty life-changing, and I’m only telling you because I like you.  Don’t tell the others.

I married a fabulous man.  My boys and I are his top priority, and he loves us very much.  But, his parents are… challenging.

They are divorced, not only from each other, but from two, three or four other people.  They are both currently remarried, and, as an added bonus, hate each other with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns.  We don’t mingle with both of them at the same time.  That means holidays are a fun time if you enjoy juggling the schedules of two of the world’s biggest egomaniacs.  Oh, and my family needs to get some time too.  It’s enough to make a girl up her meds.

Don’t have access to your psychiatrist just now?  That’s okay.  Let me help you get through these holidays sans chemicals.

Holiday Sanity Saver Tip #1: Limit The Alcohol, Yours and Theirs

A little wine keeps me from being so tense I make diamonds in my butt (Wine isn’t a chemical, right?).  The second glass or more?  I babble like it’s my job.  And my volume hits 11.  It is probably amusing to watch, but it does nothing to make dealing with giant personalities easier.  It may be tempting to loosen up the whole damn group, but trust me, this never ends well.  My friend who works in the medical examiner’s office can confirm this.

Holiday Sanity Saver Tip #2: Listen Like A Child

So, your kid only hears every third word or so.  We know this because they hear, “Jump on the couch,” when you really say, “Please don’t jump on the couch ever.”  It works out well for them, and it can help you, too!  Does your MIL tend to drone on and on about how you’re doing everything wrong?  Only half pay attention to that, and it won’t bother you.  You’ll hear, “Clean house, healthy food,” instead of, “I know working and being a mom is a good excuse to not have a clean house, but…Also, I think your kids may eat more if you serve them healthy food.”  Go to your mental happy place instead of your actual very sad and annoying one.

Holiday Sanity Saver Tip #3: Man, The Kids Sure Do Need Me In The Other Room…

This one may give your family more ammo, but, what do you care?  You’ll be in another room.  If you have a babe who is still taking the boob juice, God bless you and your ready-made excuse to get to another room.  Don’t despair if your kids are too old for that; older kids can be useful too.  Surely your kid enjoys having a book read to them in quiet?  Or maybe a very important school project you’d love to supervise.  Even the fake kind will work.

Holiday Sanity Saver Tip #4: Lean On Your Spouse

My husband and I have very knowing glances that take the edge off.  (Think Jim looking into the camera after Michael Scott says something Michael Scott-like on The Office.)  In our brief moments alone, we release all the pent-up snark and giggle.  We also know each other’s biggest triggers, and work hard to either prevent the gun from going off, or taking the bullet if we can.  For example, my husband cannot stand the way a certain family member asks him 547 questions about crap he could not care less about, like landscaping.  I see him reaching his limit and jump in with fake interest and random approving words about plant spacing.  This is when you have to help each other.  I can’t imagine getting through it any other way.

Listen, holidays are supposed to be fun.  We all know there are a million ways to make them not so much.  Spending time with people who challenge your very faith in human beings is certainly not great, but it’s only awful if you let it be.  It seems odd to do so, but sometimes you have to work to be happy.

StephanieCurvy Girl Guide Contributor, Stephanie Ross, is a SAHM of twin 4 year-old boys.  A former middle school English teacher, she loves to tell people what they are doing wrong when it comes to writing and other basic forms of communication.  In an odd twist, she also loves the crappiest reality TV she can find.  (Lookin’ at you Real Housewives of Atlanta.)  Her husband’s job has the family living in Poland until 2013, not that anyone is counting down.  She stinks at taking care of her children’s nutritional needs, but is sure it will all work out fine in the end because at least they love books.  You can find Stephanie on her blog, Talking is My Primary Function, as well as on twitter!

The Five Stages of Family Vacationing

This article appeared on Aiming Low, which, like visiting Disney, was a dream come true.

My husband, twin four-year-old sons, and I just returned from Disneyland Paris, and I’m happy to report we are still married and still claiming the children.

All families who visit Disneyland are contractually obligated to take a picture like this.

Though this was not our first family vacation, I was still rocked by the stress of it. I foolishly believed we had finally figured out how to enjoy vacation time as a family and would be creating wonderful memories whilst also mocking the other parents who were doing it wrong. Unfortunately, I had forgotten the Five Stages of Family Vacationing that we all must go through, novices and experts alike.

Stage One: Happy, Happy! Joy, Joy!

Your bags are packed! The sun is shining! Your children wake up with a smile! This is when you believe you are about to have a great time and maybe even reduce stress.

This is going to be so fun!

Stage Two: Tired, But Still Optimistic

You arrive at your destination. Maybe there were some hiccups to the travel process, evidenced by the poopy underpants you are carrying in a baggie in your purse, but you know a quick rest will set you on the right track. Possibly a child gets ill. That’s okay though; they will be better with a little dinner and some hotel bed jumping. It’s possible the crabby feelings and maybe some food strikes last into your first full day. But it’s okay! You have time to adjust.

Stage Three: What Have We Done?

You realize you are raising ungrateful, screaming lunatics who are pleased only when Mommy and Daddy are yell-whispering threats. Suddenly the children are scared of animatronic figures and fake rain. All the pizza places are closed though that’s the meal you’ve promised. In short, this has all gone to pot, and you vow to never vacation as a family again.

Exhibit A: Child will eat none of that food in front of him nor will he be seated in this restaurant due to evil Disney characters lurking all around.

Stage Four: Parents, Banded Together in Defeat

We eventually gave up on seeing Paris and just toured the twins’ favorite Disney sites. We started to laugh at the remarkable tantrums erupting all around us. One father literally just had a seat as his daughter flailed on the concrete. At this stage, you forget about what you wanted to do and just make the best of what you are doing. And you use sarcasm to cope. So much sarcasm.

The closest we came to the Eiffel Tower.

Stage Five: Where To Next?

You arrive home safe and sound with a pocket full of new experiences (like having a hotel doctor come to your room at 3am) and happy memories. Your kids hoot and holler as you pull souvenirs out of suitcases. Then your husband sends you a link to Legoland in Florida saying it looks fun.  You promise yourself the next vacation will be the easiest one yet.