Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Triumph; Defined (or: Don't Mess with Greg or it Will Cost You Millions!--this one suggested by the man himself:)

If you don't know about Greg's sense of, and quest for, justice, then that probably means you have never met him. He stands up for the cause of justice all the time. Not just for himself, but for society in general. Like a good wife, I always stand behind him. Sometimes, like a bad wife, I stand way behind him in hopes that no one will know we're together. But almost always I agree with and support him.

A few months ago we were on our way from Katowice to Krakow to go to an important, church related dinner. There is a toll freeway running between these cities that makes it faster to get there (it takes about an hour). You pay about 3 dollars when you get on and 3 dollars when you get off. This particular day there was TONS of construction. There's always construction and the traffic is directed to the other side of the freeway now and again so that it becomes a much slower moving 2 lane highway, which makes us mad that we have to pay for it. But THIS time traffic was crawling at a snail's pace. It took us about 2 HOURS to get across that freeway. It was two hours full of us not believing it. We were listening to the radio and lots of people called in to tell what a scandal it was, the traffic on that stretch of "free"way (and how they were going to miss a wedding or their daughter's birthday party because of it). Greg called in as well and encouraged other drivers to refuse to pay at the exit gate.

When we got the exit gate I was astonished to see people giving MONEY to these thieves (THEY should have been bringing out baked goods and apologizing to all the exasperated drivers)! Greg parked our car at the gate (there are lots of gates) and refused to pay. They wouldn't let us through, of course, so Greg asked to speak to a manager or something. The security that is always there came and talked to Greg for awhile. We were there holding up traffic with people having to try to get out of line behind us etc. for about a half an hour. Some people yelled at us to pay the stupid money and let everyone through. Some people got out of their cars (like Greg) to talk to Greg and the security guards and give them a piece of their minds--agreeing with Greg. Because causing a ruckus was not our only goal, we continued to refuse to pay. That meant that the police would have to come and get Greg's information, since, if he went through without paying he would be breaking the law and he would have to go to court. None of Greg's sympathizers agreed to take out their IDs. In the end they just paid and went through. (I felt like telling everyone--since everyone coming up to that gate was angry about the condition on that freeway--that the freeway owners were making idiots of us all! It seemed that if instead of demanding money of us, they asked us to get up on our cars and jump up and down like monkeys people would do it, just to finally be through).

Just our luck that there happened to be a newspaper reporter going through around this time. He paid, got through the gate, parked somewhere on the other side and came back with his notebook to get some information for an article that he would write. It was an online article about Greg's rebellion and there was a survey along with it, "are drivers justified in not paying the toll" 3500 people answered and 96% of them thought Greg was in the right (I bet if they'd been there they would've paid anyway!).

So the freeway company sued Greg for not paying (all this for 3 dollars!) and Greg filed a counter suit (of course) which was in process until...

Yesterday that same reporter called to tell us that the freeway company was being fined by the government and that they were required to lower the toll until the freeway is actually running as it should with no construction.

Today, we read the article about it and find out that when the local government of Krakow heard about about Greg's rebellion they sued the company. It has been charged with the crime of demanding payment from customers (when they were not providing the service people were expected to pay for)!! They have been fined 1.3 million zlotys (besides having to lower the toll)! This is a direct result of my amazing husband standing up for the cause of justice!

And we made it to our dinner a little late, but VERY hungry!
You may not be able to read the articles but they have pictures of the freeway and exit gates--none of Greg, though.

Sleepy Baby

So it's not my fault that he's the cutest falling asleep baby ever. It's also not my fault that he was wearing the ugliest pajamas ever on this occasion. You just can't plan for stuff like this. Greg only sped up the the video. He didn't doctor it to make Aaron's feet wiggle after each time he straightens up. That's our baby's natural talent you see there. Music by They Might Be Giants

Monday, April 28, 2008

Caught Me!

I've been tagged. I just wasn't fast enough to get away. I really hope Anne's motives for tagging me were not to contrast our "where were you 10 years ago" and rub it in.

What were you doing a decade ago?

I was a newlywed! (here's the rubbing it in part: Anne was in Korea toward the end of her mission, and her sister was a newlywed; therefore, her sister didn't wait for her to come back from her mission so she could attend the wedding...) We were living in Orem in a nice little studio apartment. Greg was still going to school and working at the MTC. I was working for the Pettys as a "mother's helper." The twins were about 8 months old. My life was like a dream. Then I started taking Accutane...(dum dum, DUM!)(or should that be: dumb, dumb, DUMB!?)

5 things on my "to do" list:

Oh! It's right before bed, so this is easy:

  1. publish this post
  2. brush teeth/wash face
  3. undress (because, really. Who wears pajamas?)
  4. read/pray
  5. sleep
But during any given day my list would be MUCH more exciting, like this:
  1. shower and get ready for the day (this is embarrassing, but when I make a real to-do list, when I have lots of stuff to get done, I actually list this, but everything separate, i.e. shower, fix hair, make-up, so I can cross off more stuff)
  2. clean kitchen(Monday), or bathrooms (Tuesday), or vacuum (Mon, Wed., Friday. but usually only happens twice a week. Sometimes once.), or thoroughly clean living room (Thursday) etc.
  3. wash, hang, fold laundry (every day 1-2 loads--think European size washing machine, American size family-sort of)
  4. deal with kids (feed, help with homework, read to/with, scream at etc.)
  5. Get dinner going
Enlightening, isn't it?

5 places I've lived:
  1. Orem, Utah
  2. Burbank, California
  3. Rexburg, Idaho
  4. Provo, Utah
  5. Mielec, Poland
That's really all!

5 (I mean 6) jobs I've had:
  1. phone surveyor
  2. mother's helper (Austins)
  3. Rick's college library cleaner
  4. Nanny
  5. Head Start assistant teacher
  6. mother's helper (Pettys)
It seems silly to only put five if I could put six and have all the jobs I ever had listed.

5 things people don't know about me:
  1. I sucked my thumb until I was 5 or 6 and I was unstoppable until my dentist custom made a retainer that put spikes on the roof of my mouth and made it impossible. To this day the roof of my mouth is higher than normal, and my thumb won't fit in the indention there, but I bet if I took David's (6 year-old son) thumb and pushed it on the roof of my mouth it would fit like a glove.
  2. I have always LOVED to sing, never been very good at it, and lately shock myself more and more often to hear that I'm off key.
  3. I used to be really good with kids.
  4. I was an extra in one episode of The Wonder Years where you can see me dancing like a dork (but you can't see that Fred Savage stepped on my foot about 17 times).
  5. I made Lech Walesa laugh once.
I don't believe in tagging anyone who's not related to me, and they've already been tagged, but if you read this and want to be tagged I would LOVE to read your answers to these questions!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Just This Once

I so was not going to blog about food. I'm a semi-serious food blog reader and I have no intention to try and make this one of those (see some links on the sidebar). But we also ate one of our favorite dinners tonight and it's so (fairly)easy and so (very)delicious that it almost seems rude not to share it.

It's definitely not a meatless dinner, but I would call it a "less meat" dinner. It's from a cookbook my Dad and his wife gave me, which I love. These days I don't look at the recipe, but I fell in love with it when I did, so I'll just copy it out of the book.

The first time I remember having spaghetti carbonara was in the restaurant of one of the hotels we were staying in. It was wonderful. After that I kept ordering it whenever I saw it on a menu. Occasionally it was okay, but sometimes it was very bland and once it took a few hours for all the fat that coagulated on the roof of my mouth to go away. I stopped ordering it after that. Then I found this recipe and I make it at least once a month now. The whole family loves it.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

3 large eggs
1 1/2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (3/4 cup)
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. bacon (8 slices) chopped fine
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine (I always use chicken broth)
3/4 pound spaghetti

Start your water boiling, add 1 T of salt and cook the pasta according to package directions (looking at the original recipe now, I'm a little surprised, because I always use closer to 1/2 lb. of pasta! No wonder the sauce is so good and rich...). You should work on the next 2 steps while you are waiting for the water to boil/pasta to cook so that the pasta will finish at the right time.

Wisk the eggs and cheeses together ( I use any mix of whatever hard cheese I have around) and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon and olive oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium heat until the bacon is crisp, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until it is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic for the last 30 seconds or so. Remove from heat.

Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water then drain the spaghetti. Dump it straight on the bacon and garlic in the frying pan (which should still be very warm, but not hot enough to scramble the eggs) and then dump the egg and cheese mixture on top of the hot pasta. Toss around to cook the eggs (hopefully they won't scramble, it should be a creamy looking sauce). If necessary add some of the pasta water to loosen the sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.

Okay, so it doesn't sound as simple as it seems when you're making it. The actual recipe says to have a bowl warming in the oven to toss everything together, but that seems silly to me.

For dessert we had our favorite chocolate chip cookies. It's my go to CCC recipe, and I do "go to" it at least a few times a month. They're made with oil, but somehow still have this delicious buttery flavor. Plus they're lovely. I would post a picture but you can see lots of pictures if you follow the link at the bottom of the page under Foods I Loved. That recipe got either 5 stars or none (almost) some people thought they tasted like oil. That is such a tragedy. My sister tried this recipe and didn't like it either! So you've been warned. But lots of people really DO like them. For example, us. We love 'em. I always add a little less oil and omit the almond extract. I also beat and beat and beat the eggs with the sugar and oil.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Best Policy (or What It Takes To Get Ahead)

Tesco (supermarket/mini Wal-mart type store) runs a yearly contest to see which schools can collect the most points. They are then rewarded with new equipment for the school. I'm not exactly sure how it works, but that's the general idea. When you buy something at Tesco, with your receipt you are given a little card on which the cashier has handwritten the amount you paid. That's how many points will be given to the school who turns that card in. Every day in Ewelina's class kids bring in any of the cards their parents have given them. She is always excited after we do our shopping to see how many points they will get, and says that she has the record for the card with the highest number (since we shop American style, i.e. once a week and buying more stuff than we need).

I'll start by saying that we love Evie's teacher. She's cute. She's funny. She's playful. She teases the kids (this is important to our family). We like her. BUT...
Last week Evie told Greg that her teacher had instructed the children to change numbers on their cards before handing them in. 1s should be changed to 4s and 3s to 8s.................I couldn't believe it. I was shocked. I was horrified. I was outraged. This woman, whose students admire and respect her, was TEACHING them to be dishonest. INSTRUCTING them to be deceitful. This was especially hard for me because I feel like all forms of cheating in this country are not really considered such a terrible thing. Greg remembers when stealing was almost a good thing, if it would hurt the system. It was a form of rebellion against the communist regime. I think this is the root of many of the forms of corruption that are still so universal in Poland (bribery is the biggie that comes to mind right away) I know that for the older generations this is normal, but I also was hoping that it was changing, now that things in Poland are so different than they were.

Greg handled the situation well. We try not to be too weird or annoying since Evie already doesn't attend the religion classes, and the entire class schedule has had to be reorganized for her and she's the only semi-foreigner in her class etc. Greg talked to the teacher about it. She argued that she knows for a fact that schools who have won big in the past cheated in this way. She said she is hurt that her school doesn't have the same equipment as other schools, even though they might actually get the highest number of actual points. Greg is awesome and convinced her that he (and hopefully lots of other parents) would rather have their kids come out of elementary school as good kids who understand ethics, than have them work on a nice computer at school and not understand the difference between right and wrong. In the end she told him that she agreed, but she knew that the two of them weren't "going to change the world". The next day she apologized to her kids in class and explained things to them. (Evie had been the only kid in class who had expressed doubts about changing the numbers)

This makes me ashamed of the time that David opened the car door and bumped the car we were parked next to, leaving a mark on the door. I planned to have my friend that we were visiting help me write a note in Polish to the car owner that we were sorry and to contact us if he felt so inclined. My friend and her mother tried to talk me out of that. They KNEW (as I did) that most likely the person would charge us for all sorts of damage that wasn't there. They were shocked that I would even consider leaving a note. My friends mother even said that if I left a note, she would contact a news station and tell them about it. They love talking about how, even in our day, some people are honest. It's a sensational thing here. If someone's lost wallet is returned, you will likely hear about it on the news (I'm making it sound worse than it is, but not much). After our visit I went down and took a look at the car and realized that there was just a very small paint mark from our car. I thought we had chipped their paint. So after lots of debate, I decided not to leave a note. I hate myself for that. Not because I think I did the wrong thing, but because I think I came across the wrong way, fighting for the cause of honesty so vocally and then doing exactly what they had told me that "everyone" would do.

This is way too long, but I wanted to give more examples, like how everyone in one of Greg's English classes thought that the person who was at fault when a couple's marriage broke up was a friend of theirs who knew that the husband was cheating and let the wife know. He was the bad guy. There was not a second of consideration that it could be the fault of the cheater. They were a happy couple until she found out, and she wouldn't have if it hadn't been for this stupid guy who told her. His fault. Yikes.

What kind of a "best policy" causes some schools to use outdated equipment, causes some people to (potentially) pay for something they didn't do, and breaks up marriages? Hmmm. I think it's the one that Shall Set Us Free--in the end.