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.


Polish Word Wednesday 7

A weekly service where I teach you some Polish.*

zimno–[zheemnoh];adverb, cold

Example Sentence: Mi zimno. Zimno mi. (I’m cold. Get me out of here.)

Notes: A related word is zima. In Polish zima means winter; in American English it means, “Hey high school girls, wanna party?”

And now, for your viewing pleasure, a video:

What words or phrases are you dying to see me explain? Let me know, and you just may see your word in my words next week.

*Be advised that I know less Polish than just about everyone. Please do not use my lessons to actually speak Polish.

The Elf On The Shelf Is A Marketing Miracle

I’m not sure of the name of the award they give marketing campaigns. If it were my job to name it, I’d call it the Mind Control Medal. Anyway, whatever that award is should be given to the evil geniuses behind the holiday ‘tradition’ of Elf on the Shelf. This ‘tradition’ is very loosely based on Scandinavian folklore, but mostly it was a cute story that we now have to make a thing- a Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter party of creative splendor and what-not.

My first issue with this lies in the obvious. They look way too much like clowns. I swear to you they are watching you and waiting for you to drop your guard.

Another problem lies in my own ineptitude/laziness. For example, the year the boys were born, Michael went out and bought a lovely pre-lit tree. I made it more festive by putting all the Christmas cards we received on it as opposed to ornaments. I bought the boys stockings for the sole purpose of taking their picture in them since they were only a month old. By the time I got around to this, they were too big, and I kind of shook them in like a pillow in a pillowcase before remembering not to shake the babies and then freaking out.

This behavior is weird considering my mother is Mrs. Claus. When I was little, Christmas was everywhere in my house. If it was stationary, it had a nutcracker, santa figure, or plaid ribbon on it. We had stockings on our bedroom doors because having them over the mantel wasn’t enough. I have a lot to live up to, so I don’t need an extra tradition, thank-you-very-much.

Look, I even hung lights in the boys' room. What? It's fine.

Look, I even hung lights in the boys’ room. What? It’s fine.

I’m also not big on the intent of the Elf on the Shelf. I think it does two things. One, it provides whimsy and excitement to the days leading up to Christmas. I’m sorry, are we saying before someone invented this smiling spy cleverly disguised as an elf that the month of December was boring? Cookies, parties, decorating, school break was not enough? The last thing I need is something else for my kids to get rabid over. I have one son that can smell the chocolate from his Advent calendar through a door and another with a wish list he devised in August and has carefully monitored ever since. I need no more fun please. Isn’t Christmas too hectic and stressful already? Now we need to add art director to Santa’s minion to our plate? No thanks. When I want my kids to experience daily bursts of creativity, I turn on the TV; there is a new Christmas-themed Dora every day.

The elf’s second purpose, as far as I can tell, is to scare kids straight so they can earn the toys their parents bought on Black Friday and therefore cannot return due to the fine print on the receipt. In other words, he’s blackmail. He’s blackmail that has to be named and given a back-story. My blackmail is a little less complicated. “Do what I’m asking, or I will be the crabbiest mommy on the block.”

I see the Elf on the Shelf as another being I’d have to be responsible for. Sure, it would be great to have at least one thing in my house that bent to my every wish, but it’s still too much trouble. He also has an end date for responsibility. You only have to watch over him for like 25 days. With real kids there is no end. Ever.

An added bonus is the Elf on the Shelf is yet another thing we can use to be mean and hateful to each other. Oh, you don’t have an Elf on the Shelf who does creative things like build marshmallow snowmen in the pantry? Do you even love your kids? Or, the flip side, Oh, you lie to your kids about an elf spying on them? I guess you don’t have any better ways to teach your children to behave. How sad for you. Parents even got to curse out a Good Morning America host for revealing the Elf’s true puppet masters. Thanks a lot Lara Spencer; you ruined my magical fucking holidays.

No Elf on the Shelf here, but can I scare you with some Angry Birds on a dresser?

No Elf on the Shelf here, but can I tempt you with some Angry Birds on a dresser?

I love the holidays, and I love making my kids happy. I don’t need a creepy elf in my house for that. However, in honor of the power to make me think I do, I give to you, dear marketing minds behind the Elf on the Shelf, my Mind Control Medal and an insincere Merry Christmas.

Who’s The Boss?

This morning the boys were playing Worker Man. This involves ‘fixing’ and ‘remodeling’ rooms  and furniture in the apartment. They really just like to saw stuff with their many plastic saws, though the black one is coveted for some reason. So, Jack was sitting at his little craft table in the kitchen while I loaded the dishwasher. He was drawing up ‘plans’ for the fixing project. (Seriously, it was cute as hell. They really understand how to be marketable TV contractors.) Alex was in their room pretending to be the homeowner calling for help. He did the ‘ring, ring’ noise to indicate he was ready to begin.

Jack, without pausing or looking up, said to me, “Can you answer that?”

And you know what? I did. Because when Jack tells you to do something, you do it.

Yep, that’s Jack using a pacifier outside of bed at age 3. He kept that paci until he decided he was done with it. Also? How cute are little kids in big boots?

He’s a bit, um, bossy. That is such a nasty word for leader, but it fits at times. He likes telling people what to do. He likes to be in control and for things to be his way. What that really means is he is genetically driven to love routine and bring his vision to life come hell or brother with other ideas. I expect nothing less considering his mom, me, was born with a clipboard and a manager’s voice. (Gwen, now is the time for you to tell the story of me allegedly telling you how to open yogurt.) And my husband Michael isn’t exactly one to let others decide how he is going to do things.

I see Jack’s inherent sure-mindedness, and I know one very important thing we must do as parents is take our children’s natural tendencies and help make them strengths. Is your kid stubborn? Sure, it’s annoying when that means they will not be wearing the shirt you had picked out for them which is also the only clean one, but how great will it be when they don’t succumb to peer pressure because they are standing their ground? Jack is a leader, but he is also a cheerleader. This kid wants everyone to be happy and to know they are doing well. “Mommy, you’re building that Lego car just great!” “It’ll be okay, Alex, Daddy can help us figure out the game.” He immediately shifts into helper mode when I’m frazzled and Alex is on the verge of losing it too. He takes charge and tries to get us back to peace with his reassuring phrases and cheery outlook.

I love my kids just the way they are, and I want to make them better, stronger, faster. No, wait, that’s not right. I want to help them be happy and successful. Yes, that’s it. I want them to be 100% true to themselves while also making the most of what God has given them.

And for Jack, that means molding him into a brave leader who takes care of his charges. I know he has it in him. He already has some useful managerial skills; he can dismiss an idea without saying it’s stupid. He says, “Sure, sure,” and then goes on saying the way he wants it done. Sure, sure is code for “Um, no, that’s not gonna happen”.

It’s a start.

Polish Word WednesMonday 5

A weekly service where I teach you some Polish.*

chleb–[hlehbnoun; bread, one of the four food groups along with cheese, ketchup, and salt

Example Sentence: Stephanie was so desperate for bread she practiced saying chelb until she was blue in the face.

Notes: When we were preparing to move to Poland, I read a guide book to get a little background. I may have skimmed some sections, and I sometimes only remember part of a fact but share it anyway. And that’s how I talked my parents into buying this cheese which I told them was traditional bread from the mountain region of Poland. It was not good. It seems you are supposed to fry it and serve it with a sauce.

Tell me that brown stuff doesn’t look like bread.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, a video:

What words or phrases are you dying to see me explain? Let me know, and you just may see your word in my words next week.

*Be advised that I know less Polish than just about everyone. Please do not use my lessons to actually speak Polish.

Five Minute Brain Dump

Please enjoy the following random thoughts brought on by Twitter trash talk and my good friend Vikki.


It turns out that you guys are the worst writing bosses ever.

No one is asking me if I’m on pace to finish NaNoWrMo. Which I’m not. At all. Even a little bit.

I have an intro and chapter one done. And I haven’t even gotten to where we actually move to Poland. This memoir/travel memoir may be 6000 pages. But I’ll never know since I am not being bullied and shamed into writing every day.

That’s right. I need some tough love people. I am too easily overtaken by Angry Birds and Twitter to be trusted to write on my own. I know this; you know this. Why aren’t you helping me?

Listen, if you don’t get me back in gear, I may be forced to rely on an old trick all the great writers of yore (It’s a time long ago.). That trick?

Drinking and heroin.

So, it’s up to you my friends. Are you going to crack the whip or watch me drink in the day?

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.”


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.”


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.