Friday, June 27, 2008

Last Week in Review: Aaron

This started happening, and locomotion was getting to be a little dangerous. [It's really too bad we live so far away from Hollywood because this boy should totally be getting paid for his acting skills. Besides his facial expressions, note his exclamations of surprise--if you can hear them above our laughing]

video

So he decided to try this instead.

video

And here's a bit more while he was still hyper after all the fun and attention. He's thrown in a few more of his spills, and on the last one you can hear him saying "uh oh" before he's even down. What a goofball.

video

Next week I'll plan to post a little of him walking for real. He's getting more and more brave.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Last Week in Review: Ewelina

Remember this girl? This is her last Tuesday.

Here she is last Friday, the last day of school with her best friends, Patrycia and Ania and then in her classroom with Aaron. Notice anything different?


*Side note: This was the end of her last year with her current teacher. In Poland a class has the same teacher for grades 1-3, then switches to a new one for grades 4-6, but the same kids stay together for the entire 6 years (!). Also, her class next year will be in a separate building from the one she's been in, so this really was like a mini graduation for her, which has absolutely nothing to do with the length of her hair.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I Never Cared for Popularity

I really never did. This is, of course, because I was never popular. And, as I say, I didn't care. Or I cared, but I didn't care for popularity, in the sense that I didn't like it. (What a smooth, transitional lead-in to my next paragraph.)

Our garage is a kind of clean, nice one (kind of). The floor is tiled- with ugly, public bathroom type tiles, but it's not cement or anything. The walls were recently painted and looked fresh and new until Greg's dad made an interesting design on one of them with his side-view mirror and tire while attempting to exit said garage. But still, it's not a creepy or dirty place. Or it wasn't.

A week or so ago, I noticed a large spider in it's web in one of the corners. I was considering getting rid of it, when I noticed a small centipede that had just become caught in the web. I watched the spider race out, numb the multi-appendaged creature and climb back into it's corner. About 5 minutes later I came back to find the centipede still in it's place, but it was now just the skeleton. Greg and I took a look at the spider and saw that it wasn't a scary or ugly spider, and it seemed to be rescuing us from some other yuckies, so we decided to keep it as a pet.

Well, I usually sweep the garage about every week or so, but I hadn't done it in 3 or 4 weeks when I started this morning. Um, apparently we weren't the only ones who saw the virtues of our pet spider. It appears he has a lot of friends. Or maybe we should call them followers, because they all seemed to follow him right into our garage. Here we have popularity again which, if you'll remember, I never cared for. Still don't. It seems our popular spider has set up a new little subdivision called "spiderland". Sweeping the garage this time wasn't just a matter of sweeping those tiles, but the broom was also pointed toward numerous webs in corners and on walls. I saw at least 4 spiders. One was stubby and stocky and red, one was super skinny and gray, and one was a regular black spider. I know that's only three, but I can't remember the other one so give me a break and stop keeping count of things like that.

I sort of like how diversified that little spider neighborhood was (until I destroyed most of the homes and possibly a few of the residents). Diversity is something I miss badly, living in small town Poland. It seems spiders don't have the same problem, and I was a little pleased that our pet spider (who we affectionately never named), while popular, did not limit his circle of friends to include only the unoffensive, dignified spiders like himself. He was an equal opportunity friend. I think I'm referring to him in past tense because I'm not really sure whether he survived the destruction or not.

So, if this spider friend of ours was a little more like myself, and didn't care so much for popularity, he could have had a nice, comfortable home and been left alone. Unfortunately he was/is popular and so he won't. Poor Mr. Spider has had to learn the hard way what I knew all along: popularity is dumb, pointless and can be dangerous. (and don't everyone start philosophizing that my mayhem in the garage is some sort of vicarious act against the popular kids in school, please).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What I Love About My Allergies

I never had allergies growing up. Even the first few years after we moved to Poland I didn't, but about 3 or 4 years ago I started being exceptionally sneezy and sniffy during certain times of the year, and after the first year or two, I realized maybe it was something. It was! The doctor called it "allergies".

I know most people who have them don't like allergies. Some people really actually hate them. I, on the other hand, hate them too. But instead of spending any more time wishing someone would put me out of my misery, I decided to compile a list of things I like about my allergies. Here it is:
  • I am finally able to impress highly educated professionals (How long have I been striving for that!). Nurses looking at the various bumps from the prick test on my arm: "Oh! That's about as big a reaction as I've ever seen!" or "Wow! You're allergic to EVERYthing!"
  • My dream of having an inhaler has come true. In elementary school I was always jealous of the kids who had those cool inhalers. Mine isn't as cool, since it's just a regular medicine inhaler and I only use it morning and night, and not off and on throughout the day when other kids are watching, but still.
  • I have an excuse whenever I don't want to do some outside activity.
  • I now see a bright side to having a regular cold. I know that it is not an everlasting plague and I'll be back to normal in about a week. How nice is that?
  • Having tissues covering the floors in our house is less of an annoyance and more of a convenience. When I feel I need one (about every three minutes), it's just: stoop, grab the nearest one and check for signs it has been used to wipe all over the floor. If no such signs are present, just blow the nose and throw away. No need to even walk to a box of tissues!
  • It is impossible to forget to take my nightly Zyrtec. My allergies alert me that it is time for the next dose by sending six warning sneezes, or six tissues worth of "snuff," as David calls it.
  • If I decided to, I know I could be in The Dumbest, I mean, The Guinness Book of World Records for the longest time spent in pre-sneeze mode. Or possibly for the sneeze that brings the least satisfaction/relief. I should really look this up and compare my records with the existing ones in the book, as I'm sure there are already records listed in such a category.
And now you know why I just looooove my allergies. Some people choose to complain. I, however, prefer to look for the positive (stop laughing, Greg--and anyone else who knows me at all).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

In My Book

I'm pretty sure I'm one of the very worst people in the world for forgetting a book after I've read it. I love that this allows me to read my favorite books over and over, and still be wondering what's going to happen in the end. Okay, I'm not that bad, but I definitely forget enough of them that it's very easy and enjoyable to reread.

A while ago I started rereading Poland by James Michener. I think I read it once before we came to Poland and once after we got here. So this would be my third time. It gives a great history and a real feel for what the Polish people have been through over the centuries. I don't particularly love his style of writing, as it's quite plain, but he's really great at the difficult task of representing so much history, and so many wars and not overloading too much, but making you care while teaching you something.

Reading it this time has been a lot less enjoyable than my previous readings. I only read a little here and there and every time I come back to it I feel like "okay, so which character is this? Wait a minute which castle are they rebuilding?--Ugh*. Can't remember. I'll look back into it and read more tomorrow." But the next day, I still don't feel like getting back into it. His language doesn't draw me in, so once I've lost a bit of the story, I just want to drop the whole thing. Which is what I finally did today. I realized that I just want to sit down and enjoy a book. So I pulled out one of my very favorites: Villette by Charlotte Brontë.

I got comfortable and started in. It took about 3-5 seconds for me to remember how much I love reading. For me it's like a good book gives me something, in nearly every sentence. It so happens that I enjoy the story in this book, too, but there are some authors that just make me want to read and read because of their style of writing. They could be writing about anything (almost) or nothing (like the wonderful Jerome K. Jerome--pointless anecdote after pointless anecdote) and I just want to read and read and drink in those words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters. They just make me feel like I've occupied my brain such a worthy and pleasurable way. I feel as I do after I've eaten an extraordinarily healthy dinner that tasted delicious. Perfectly satisfied in all ways.

Of course there are all sorts of other books that can make me want to read and read, but those would be the ones where I'm mostly interested in the story (and I don't read them often). Almost anything that was written after 1920 falls under this category. I know it's terribly shallow of me, but I find it hard to love the writing in a lot of newer novels. I don't believe I know what good writing even is these days. If a book is written in modern English, I often find myself just reading it for the story, and if it's a good story, I may feel like I ate a big brownie for dinner. Yum, that was good, but neither filling nor satisfying.

I suppose this is what comes of being stuck with Penguin Popular Classics (so cheap!) almost exclusively for 8 years. They're not all romantic novels, there's adventure, comedy, plays, suspense/detective, Gothic horror etc., but they are nearly all written in the Victorian period-or earlier (and therefore written in a lovelier English to my ears--or eyes) .

I would love to be in a book group and be forced to read all sorts of different books and then get to talk to a bunch of smart people who can help me see the brilliance of them. I wish I could enjoy reading non-fiction (apart from Dr. Spock and pregnancy related books). I wish I had free access to books outside my genre of choice in the form of a library that stocks more than 15 books in English located closer than two hours away. I wish I didn't feel so stuck like this and my mind could be opened a little.

Mostly, though, I want to settle back in and read some more Villette. I can't wait to find out what's going to happen to Lucy (again)!

*Note the spelling. See how progressive I am?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What Happens When You Mix Languages

At lunch we were eating a pear. I said, "This pear is soczysta." Evie replied, "Pewnie bardzo dobrze ją umyłaś."

(If you don't speak Polish: soczysta=juicy, czysta=clean Evie's reply can be translated, "You must have washed it very well.")

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rivers

This is me with a few of my siblings catching that night's dinner with these sticks that may or may not have had any sort of string attached, and almost certainly didn't have any sort of hook or bait on the end. I'm the dorkiest looking one.

Now my own family lives close to a river, too. This is how you get to it. (I'm so glad everything is less brownish now than it was in the old days.)

This is how the kids look once you're there.
Here I am AGAIN, just like in the first photo: by a river, with three cute children, still the dorkiest of the bunch. (Time hasn't changed ME much!)And it's not fair about Evie's glasses. I think they're darling in real life, but in every picture she looks like the poor kid in the nerd glasses. But what can you do?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What !?! You've Never Seen a House(ish) before?

I was surprised to find that some people didn't know what a house(ish) is, or couldn't quite picture it, even given its illustrative name. Also, I have some sisters that keep wanting pictures. So here are all the pictures you could never want of our house (which I should add we are only renting--the house, not the pictures. Those we own). I must say, though, that I really think NONE of them look like the house. It's weird. Oh, and also, the weather wasn't good for photography, which will be apparent, but I have to mention because I'm an apologizer.

This is the street we live on, ulica Kasztanowa (Chestnut Street). It's a very short street at the very far edge of town that is lined with townhouses. (front left is our driveway)

I suppose you could say that our house(ish) looks something like this:

But I think it looks a little more like this:
In the winter, when the grass is dead and the car is black with mud, if you were standing on the front balcony (off our bedroom) you might look down and see this:

I'm including this one because Su thinks Evie looks superimposed on here and that's funny:

If you walked inside the week after we moved in you might have seen this:

And NOW, the reason it's a house(ish). Our neighbors are stuck to us:


What does that make it? I don't think it's a duplex. I wouldn't call it a townhouse, either. That's why I call it a house(ish). What would YOU call it?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

No Alarms and No Surprises, PLEASE

We heard this song on the radio the other day and decided to make it our new theme song. I do like Radiohead, or at least whatever stuff of theirs I heard on the radio in High School, but I'm not such a fan of this particular song. You can hear from the tone of his voice that he really isn't up for any surprises. One of Greg's favorite Polish artists sings a cover of this which we both prefer. In case you care, the artist is Sojka, who sings mostly jazz. He's classy. (And I must have Greg help that Wikipedia article!)

Speaking of class, and in order to get to the point of this post, we were feeling a little upper class when we moved into this house(ish), because it has an alarm system. How perfect for us, the predictable weekend travelers, who speak English and are therefore obviously rich, with a house(ish) full of possessions that any Polish thief would ache to get his hands on. (note to any potential thieves reading this: we DO-travel/speak English, we DON'T-have interesting/valuable possessions, including and especially shelves).

The house(ish) is fitted with motion sensors directed at every window in the house, except those in two of the bathrooms (which is why we stopped storing our laptops and TV/DVD player in the bathroom). They are pretty sensitive and if you are sitting in a room, quiet and motionless, then raise your arm to scratch your nose, you hear a little "peek" from the sensor going off. At first it was a little weird, but now it sounds like security. Since Evie sleeps on the top bunk, and the sensor in their room is placed almost right in her ear, it woke her up every time she turned over in the night at first. Now, I think she hears nothing but security in the night.

Greg taught me how to deactivate the alarm when we return home from anywhere. He emphasized the precision with which it must be done. You've got code entering, button holding down, pausing until something appears on screen etc.


That warning about the whole precision thing "rang" true the first time I tried it. I got it wrong. That alarm is pretty loud! And there's a flashy bright light outside that informs any hearing impaired passersby that someone has, indeed, broken into the Pawlik's house(ish).

Don't worry, friends and neighbors, it was just me! After repeating that scenario two more times, I decided maybe it should be Greg's job to deactivate the alarm. But we did learn that it only takes about 2 minutes for the security guys to show up, so I mean, I actually did it for educational purposes (and of course, we all know that a one time experiment cannot bring scientific surety, hence the repetitions).

For nights when we are home, there is a remote that we can use to activate the alarm system in the lower two levels of the house while we sleep, with the privilege of turning over during the night, upstairs. In this way, we have been saved, in our sleep, by the alarm catching:

*dangerous, roaming balloons
*plastic bags, which we now know are not only evil for the environment
*hungry children, headed to the kitchen for some breakfast cereal
*a mother headed to the library to do her morning email check
*any spiders or flies that decide to take a seat on the sensor

Fortunately we can just call the security station place and tell them that it was just us (again). If only it were that easy to fall back to sleep after being aroused at 2am from the loud noise, then creeping all over the house carrying the first accessible heavy object just in case, this time, it wasn't a plastic bag. We're trying to decide if the threat of bad guys coming is more disturbing to us than the havoc that is caused by balloons and bags. (BTW, it's not as easy as it may sound to round up all the balloons in the house and lock them up in the bathroom every night before bed).

And now you know why it is that we have a song that neither of us love as our theme song. Okay, it's mostly just the refrain. We'll call it our theme refrain. Ooooo, the punner in me can't help adding that we'd like the alarm to take a hint from our theme refrain, and refrain from going off in the night unnecessarily.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

I'm dancing because I got my girl back today! Not really actually dancing, because I have this migraine coming and going yesterday and today, and I wouldn't want to upset it, but dancing inside.

While she was gone we had NO contact with her. They had our number so we could be contacted in case of an emergency, but other than that NO CONTACT. Evie said that they were told that they should write to their parents every day, but when we were packing and as we were finding the cutest stationary for her to take she said, "Mom, don't be surprised if I don't write to you, okay?" Thanks, Ev! Guess how many letters we got from her. That's right! Zero.

When they came back we were so relieved to find out that only 3 girls, of the 40 or so that went, became seriously ill while they were there. And only ONE had to have an operation right there in that foreign country. That was one of Evie's closest friends. She's still there in the hospital (her parents went down to be with her, of course). Evie, a very unpicky eater, said that the food was pretty terrible. I think the illness was some stomach issue. Hmmmm.

They had a dance, the highlight of which was supposed to be this enormous cake. The cake came the day after the dance. We bought her new shoes right before the trip and only ONE of them came back broken (we can have it fixed, though). She only left one pair of underpants and one sock there.

For some reason, before she left, I envisioned her with her friends all going into the bathroom at night to wash faces and brush teeth together. It was going to be so fun and slumber party-ish. Well, apparently nine year-olds aren't so into stuff like that. When she came home she told us that she had only brushed her teeth once the whole time. That's ONCE in almost SIX days! Yikes. She said that all the girls kept forgetting. She mentioned that her friend, Ewa, has this whitening toothpaste and she said it's amazing. Ewa brushed her teeth and showed her friends the difference even after one brushing and they were all struck dumb with the whiteness. Uh, I think it may possibly have had something to do with the fact that her teeth had 4 days worth of yellow plaque covering them before she brushed.

They went to a castle, a cave, an open air museum, went on lots of hikes, and went swimming a few times. She had TONS of fun.

She brought Greg a cute little key chain leather backpack, David a mini pack of cards, Aaron a little stuffed sheep, which he keeps mooing at and throwing across the room, and me a bracelet with little black and brown wooden beads, which I LOVE and plan on wearing until it falls apart.

The number of pounds I lost while she was gone exactly matches the number of letters we received from her. I don't think there is any correlation between those two things. Man, if there was, I would have made sure she wrote me three letters each day!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

To Spell or to Curse?

I think, generally speaking, that spell checker is a wonderful invention. It can keep us from looking even sillier than we really are, usually by showing us our typos, and occasionally by showing us our misspellings before anyone else catches a glimpse of them. For example, that word, occasionally. The only reason I spell it correctly now is because spell checker has pointed out to me about 5 different times that not EVERY letter in that word is doubled. (Yes, I used to spell it "ooccaassiioonnaallyy"). I appreciate this.

I do, however, have a bone to pick with spell checker. That is, that besides just giving the facts about what's spelled correctly and what's not, it also sometimes expresses opinions, which, in my opinion, is not in its job description. This may sound hypocritical of me, having an opinion against expressing an opinion, but it's not. See, I'm human, and am therefore entitled to my opinions. Spell checker, on the other hand, is a program, and is therefore, NOT.

Maybe it thinks it's "going the extra mile." But what it doesn't realize, is that that's all about the kindness of going with someone who is already on their way. What spell checker is actually doing is trying to force us to go another mile that we never had any intention of going anyway. (I believe it is possible to sometimes take your analogy so far that you don't really know what you're talking about in the end. Then, if you have readers who still don't know what you were talking about in the first place?--sorry!)

When I hit spell checker, I have an inordinate number of words highlighted yellow. A few of these are the previously mentioned typos or misspellings. Sometimes they are names or Polish words. But with some, when you click on the word to get S.C.'s suggestions, none of them match what you were trying to say. This can only mean one of two things; either
a) your spelling was so far off that the program couldn't figure out what in the world you meant, (in which case you may find its suggestions comical) or
b) it thinks, "you've made up yet ANOTHER stupid word." (in which case you may not)
It may not say this, but you can tell it's thinking it. You can see it in the tint of yellow. This, I do NOT appreciate.

Let me illustrate. Ug. How is Ug NOT a word? Don't tell me I'm supposed to write "ugh." Wouldn't that be pronounced "uf" as in tough or enough? I like ug, thank you. And braggy isn't a word? On what planet? Instead of "I'm so braggy" do I have to write "I'm such a braggart?" HI! I'm not British! (referring to the Britishness of the word braggart, not the bragginess of the British, of course) And which makes more sense: "It's a real problem that I'm such an apologizer." or "It's a real problem that I'm such a person who apologizes." ? BE SERIOUS.

Well, besides my appreciation for your help, spell checker, I also offer you yet another new word. It's IGNORFULNESS. That's what I feel full of when you poke fun at my word selection.

something funny: When I finished typing up this post and hit spell check, apart from my examples of words that have been pointed out to me before, ONLY the occasionallies were highlighted! Looks like I'm STILL doubling the wrong letters! Ha ha ha!

P.P.S. I just read a comment written somewhere by my dad where he wrote "ugh" and it TOTALLY didn't look all weird like it does every time I try to make myself write it like that. I may be converted on that one...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Alternate YOUniverse

I recently went back on Anne's blog to delete and rewrite a comment I had left on there. I thought it maybe sounded a little more critical than I meant it. I also thought I might have sounded a little braggy (MY kids ALWAYS eat their veggies! What's the matter with YOURS?) Since, by the time I returned to make the change, she had already responded to my message, and she already knows that I'm critical and braggy (she has for about 31 years) I decided to leave it anyway.

I keep kind of feeling like I'm writing too much stuff without giving the whole story (and you guys are all, "Oh, you give PLENTY of story, Lis!"). I think it's the apologizer in me. I have a hard time presenting things to anyone, be it food, lodging, a gift (I don't really do gifts anymore, to keep the apologizer in me at bay) , and now apparently posting on my blog, without giving a list of reasons why it's not as good as it should be or isn't as good as it may sound. It's like I can't let people just decide for themselves. Or not care for themselves. "Oh, these brownies really didn't turn out this time. I accidentally put in too much vanilla!" Heaven forBID anyone think that I NORMALLY make my brownies that vanilla-y!

That's one thing I love about blogging. You can create your own little YOUniverse. When posting about the trip to the zoo, you don't even have to mention the hour long fit the toddler threw which overshadowed most of the fun stuff. Just talk about the fun stuff, and suddenly, you realize, "Hey! That was a GREAT day!" Mention your preference for Indian food, using a few real Indian names of real Indian dishes, and everyone accidentally thinks you're an Indian food expert. Talk about how your baby has a fetish with wiping things (particularly the coffee table and the kitchen floor) and his mom must be a clean freak. Or the table and floor are so dirty that even the baby feels the need to do something about it.*

I love having my own little MEniverse. My real life is full to the brim of kids and taking care of kids and kid stuff (which I LOVE), but it's nice to have place where I'm not "mom" or even "honey." Just Lisa. Here I have occasional visits from the kids, but mostly it's Lisa's world. I can include any of the good I want and leave out as much of the bad as I can. Still, some of the not so lovely details WILL leak in. Details like how very, very often I yell at my kids. Or like how I use Baby Einstein as a babysitter or never stop eating baked goods. But besides minor leaks like that, I just love being able to dam back the rest of the negative, leaving just a nice, refreshing pool of the...um...let's say "real me."

*All incidents and characters are fictitious. If any example resembles reality it is coincidental.