Danger Zone-Stream of Consciousness Sunday

Today I’m joining my friend Jana in a little writing exercise. She’s giving me 5 minutes to write my heart out. I’m not allowed to edit the post, so please enjoy my word vomit in its purest form.

Today’s (totally optional) prompt:

What have you done recently or would like to do that’s outside your comfort zone?

What have I done outside my comfort zone? Oh, not much. Just moved to Poland. You know, the country. No biggie.

Huge biggie. Oh my God, so huge.

I cannot believe that I actually did it. I sit here three months away from returning to Texas, and I cannot grasp what I’ve done. I’ve lived so far away from my parents. I’ve spent many days alone with my kids. I’ve taken my husband to the ER. (We thought my kids were getting to see their first dead body, but it turns out it was just a drunk. Whee!) I’ve learned enough Polish to amaze my friends and confuse the locals. I’ve cooked with ingredients in foreign wrappings with no English to guide me.

Today, I was driving home from the grocery store and a though popped into my head. “I am so happy right now.” I felt a little silly, but then I felt proud. I’m in the dark times in Eastern Europe; we are dangerously close to the days where night falls at 5pm. But, instead of feeling blue, I’m feeling happy. I’m happy to be home from our Texas trip and back with Michael. I’m happy he cleaned the apartment and the car. (So happy. And lucky.)

I can’t believe I did it and that now this is my comfort zone. I can’t imagine what dangerous adventure I’ll take up next. Maybe I’ll cook in America too!

Gold Star For Cleaning

The other day, the fabulous Empress Alexandra from Good Day, Regular People posted a primer on making the most of common sense and a mother’s precious time alone. She gifts you with tips on conning showing your family how hard you work for them. Many of her tips involve ‘making’ dinner, so I can’t use them. My family knows better than to think I actually spent my day cooking. I mean, I blogged about that one time I made lasagna because it was such a huge deal. Anyway, today, I offer an extension of the Empress’s phenomenal lessons.

You know what I did today? I unpacked our suitcases. (Well, not did, am doing. I had to stop to write this awesome thought. And maybe surf the net. And then forget what I was doing before this.)

Why is it significant that I’m tackling this chore today? Well, we arrived home from Texas seven days ago. So, those suitcases have been crowding the dining room since then. Am I lazy? Maybe. But am I also a genius at getting recognized for my hard work? Yes. Yes, I am. And this brings us to the tips:

If it’s not messy, how do you know when it’s clean?

God bless you people that have a neat house at all times. You are awesome. But are you getting credit for your hard work? If your family never sees the horrible, how can they appreciate the beautiful? You know what gets you noticed? Turning a pig sty into a livable home. Sure, you have to let things pile up on counters and floors, and your socks will need extra bleach when you get around to washing them, but it’s worth it to get a big grin from the people who no longer have to navigate your family’s daily detritus.

The squeaky wheel gets the praise.

Email your spouse: “Hey, be careful when you get home, the floor may still be wet from mopping.” (If your job is weeks after the mess or done in a haphazard manner, he’s a fool to bring it up. On account of the emotional issues you have and what not.) What generally happens is a big ‘ol “Thank You!” from a person grateful he will not stick to the floors anymore.

Other possible email laments include:

“I tried to get my chores done, but the boys wouldn’t nap. I only got half my list done.” Half of how much? What chores? Don’t sweat it; there will only be praise not suspicion. (Just to be clear, I NEVER clean during nap. That’s me time.)

“Since the boys are back in school today and won’t be here to make a mess, I’m going to be able to clean the bathrooms.” Oh! That’s why she hasn’t cleaned! The boys are just making things dirty all the time. Why clean when it only lasts five minutes?

Make an impression.

Whatever you are doing when your spouse gets home is what he thinks you’ve been doing all day. I learned this lesson from my dad. My dad always wanted to know what we had done to be productive that day. Shouting your supposed accomplishments from the couch while watching TV didn’t promote confidence in your story.

The suitcases that will be gone any minute now. Please also note the vacuum. It will stay there until someone tells me, “Good job” for using it.

So, try not to be on the computer. (I know, it’s hard. That’s where the people are. The people who don’t whine when their banana has brown spots.) Leave the vacuum out. Water should be running somewhere. First load of laundry or fifth? Well, since clean clothes are always out waiting to be folded, no one will ever be able to tell how much was added today.

Your darling children can help with this as well. All day, whenever they ask you to play with them, say, “Sure sweetie, I just have to finish this chore.” Then, never show up. You can count on them coming back to remind you of your pledge to play. Answer with, “I’m sorry honey. I had one more chore I really needed to start.” They will for sure complain to Daddy that all Mommy did all day was chores. Thanks kids!

That’s it! It’s that easy to get daily gold stars for things you should be doing simply out of love and your fine sense of responsibility.

You’re welcome.

Full disclosure: I am not this messy or devious (though I am this needy for praise). I’ve exaggerated for humor. How exaggerated? Eh, let’s not get into such details.

My Babies Can’t Read

And I don’t think I really care.

This is fairly perplexing considering I have an English degree, am a teacher, and have no less than three electronic devices capable of letting me read whenever I want.  I bought the boys their own copies of all the Harry Potter books while I was still cooking them.  Also?  I fully intended to teach my kids to read since I stay at home with them and am qualified, nay, called, to get kids interested in words and their awesome power.

I wish my mommy, the English teacher, would teach me to read this thing.

The boys certainly love books and listening to their parents read to them.  They have also expressed a desire to learn read (In no small part because Little Bill did.  They really dig that cartoon kid.)  And I have great faith that learning to read is in their future since they are four.

I’m just not going to teach them at home.

I thought I’d be very intentional about teaching my boys things both academic and physical.  I remember carefully selecting toys to increase motor skills appropriate to their age and development when they were very little.  (In a world where ‘carefully select’ means ‘obsessively fret over’.  Dear God, we have too many toys that sharpen their grasping skills and not enough stackers!)

In order to teach the kids what they should be doing according to their age, I’d have to read some books on childhood development.  But it turns out I’m a bit too by-the-book to actually parent via books.  I cannot consult a how-to and have my subjects, two stubborn and wonderfully unique boys, not behave as they should.  It makes me feel like a failure.

And though the Your Baby Can Read commercials are fantastic, I prefer to buy only useless workout equipment from TV.

I’m now more of an accidental teacher when it comes to my own kids.  Oh, Jane’s 4 year-old can put on his own shirt?  Damn, I better try teaching mine that.  I work with them on it for a few days.  Then along comes a day where I need them dressed in under 467 hours, and I just do it myself.  But, I know they can if they are asked to.  By someone other than me.  They like me best when I do all the things.

As far as more academic endeavors, I’m going with the learning through play theory.  (And by learning through play I mean having them reenact the cartoons we just watched.)  Right now they love Legos.  They are also super into space and of course continue their lifelong obsession with cars and trucks.  They can rattle off many facts about big machines and are good at making up games and role-playing via Lego tragedies like all the wheels falling off all their cars.

You know what, Mom? We got this. Your help would just slow us down.

I love listening to them play.  I love the glee in their voices as they ‘save the fire’.  They wake up every day asking to play and demand it the minute we look like we aren’t busy.  They are four-year-old boys through and through.

There will be a day when mom has to supervise homework.  (And I’m pretty pissed that that day comes when they are in kindergarten.  Dear Rule Makers, No one needs homework at that age.  NO ONE.)  There will be a day when they sit more than they run.  There will be a day when they must ‘be serious’ and get down to work.

But right now is not that time.

My boys love to play and play with love.

Orrrrrr…..it could be that I just like them to play independently while I do chores or read or Twitter, and the ‘learning through play’ theory works nicely into my ultimate plan of actually sitting around eating bonbons.

TV Is Good For Kids

I know I have a TV addiction.  I’m finally okay with it.  I have spent my whole life loving TV, and, because of that, I consider myself somewhat of an expert.  Therefore, you can rest assured that the following advice is legit.

Most moms use TV to get a break or just to be able to load the dishwasher.  Lots of moms have great systems set up so that TV use is limited and monitored because they fear TV.  They don’t want mushy-brained slobs or aggressive jerks.  I’m here to squash your fears though.  Kids need to watch TV.  Not, it’s okay to let them watch–they need to watch.

Without it, they would never know how food is prepared in an average kitchen.  You know, from scratch and what-not.  How those stove thingys and mixer contraptions work.  My sons love their play kitchen!  Especially the microwave.  They use the oven for storage.  Their only hope for any real food prep knowledge is TV.  Thank God for the Food Network.

Why yes, I would love a bread sandwich. Do you have any ketchup?

Also, farms.  We don’t know any farmers nor have we ever seen a real, working farm, but my son Alex really wants to be a farmer when he grows up.  And clearly we need more TV for that to happen because he saw a McDonald’s sign in a field and declared it to be a nugget farm.

If you’ve ever seen Yo Gabba Gabba!, this paragraph is for you.  (If you haven’t or you do not know sarcasm when you read it, just skip this one.)  That show makes me want to smash the TV.  And when a show makes me want to kill my best friend, it’s all wrong.  But!  Think of how calm your children will be if anyone ever slips them some acid.  They’ll be all, “Wow!  I’ve totally seen these colors and heard these weird songs before!  Oh, my happy childhood!”

There are literally 100’s of educational resources on TV.  Think of a need your family has, and there is a TV show or even a whole network there to help you out.  And, seriously?  The chance to show how NOT to behave is even easier.  Just show them any show that I have on my DVR.  (Have I mentioned how awesome reality TV is?  It changed my whole life.)

So, my fellow moms or even my worried onlookers who are dying to judge and offer advice, just relax.  TV will not harm kids.  It will only make up for your short-comings (cooking, for me), fill in gaps your environment has (farms), or prepare them for real life (accidental drug use).  Go ahead, gather the family and watch a little TV together.  It will make you better people.