Saturday, August 30, 2008

He's Got My Back

If the title of this post is conjuring up images in your head of Greg rescuing me from a crowd of dangerous men in whose vicinity I was practicing my new found eyelash fluttering skills which were only meant to be seen by Greg, across the table of our white clothed, candlelit table in the expensive Viennese restaurant in which we were dining, when they approached our table to flirt back in their own crude way, then please, close you're eyes and imagine away (and add in all sorts of heroic acts and clever retorts by my dearly beloved, 'cause he really is chivalrous like that) and join us back here at this post when you're ready for a change of subject, as that never actually happened and is not what this post is about.
please insert three to four periods in the proceeding paragraph if you don't approve of my marathon run-on sentence.
While I'm sure that would make for a much more engrossing post, it is not the tale I have to tell. MY tale is about the second most captivating thing I could write about: health issues! Now that I've got your attention, let's begin.

Just after Greg and I were married, I was feeling so independent and grown up, running my own household, having someone to "take care of," finding a job to help get my husband through the rest of school etc. While the rest of me was busy with all these adult, responsible activities, my skin was still acting like that of a teenager. I found this to be rude and irritating. I think it should have put forth more of an effort to act mature instead of undermining my adulthood. I had always wanted to go on Accutane and come out with beautiful, amazing skin, but I hadn't had the opportunity. It seemed to me like it was now or never, since you can't be on Accutane if there's any possibility that you may become pregnant. So I saw a dermatologist who agreed that I could begin the six month round (or was it three? It felt like six.) of taking the medication.

Accutane almost immediately cleared up my skin. It also made it so I didn't need to wash my hair every day, for the first time in my life (or at least since I was twelve, before which time my hair was only washed during my weekly bath/shower when my sister and I would shower together and pretend we were under a waterfall and the floral shower curtain was the wildflower covered mountain). But that wasn't all it did for me. It also ruined my back. I started having back pain early on while taking the medication and it continued to get worse and worse. I found I was unable to keep up with all my responsibilities as a mother's helper, but the family I worked for were super nice and relieved me of the dish washing which was my main back breaker, and didn't mind me laying around in between bouts of playing with/feeding the twins. I assumed my back would feel better once I finished my medication. It sort of did.

But mostly it didn't. Since then I have had recurring spells of back pain. Weeks where I could not do some of the very basics of housekeeping. Anything that required you to work with something in front of you i.e. dish washing, laundry hanging and vacuuming. I could only choose one of those things to do each day. It should have been an awesome excuse not to clean, but it was really just a pain, in every sense of the word. In short I'm slightly crippled. Unfortunately I'm afraid I probably will be forever. Oh, I have gone for months without any problems at all, but I have also had entire months where I couldn't sleep past 4 am because the pain was so bad. (aren't you enjoying this Tour of Lisa's Health Issues? FUN!)

Now for the part where Greg's got my back. Our backyard when we moved in was a wasteland of thick weeds. Greg spent days out pulling those weeds. When it was about half finished we decided to hire a neighborhood kid to finish it for us, because Greg's back wasn't handling it all that well. Fast forward a month to where he starts to mention once in a while that his back really hurts (he never mentions if anything hurts). A week later he's walking like an old man in the morning. Another week and he's walking like an old man all the time. Do you think I cried the next week when I saw him coming up the front stairs with a cane in his hand? Maybe a little.

When he started having problems walking in a position that didn't make him look like a caveman, he went to the doctor. He had some x-rays and even confessed to me that he was worried it might be something serious. Fortunately it doesn't look like anything serious. It's just that now he can't sit down or stand up in under 3 minutes and to get into laying position might take 5, with LOTS of pain, and I can't watch him attempt it because a) he doesn't want me to (duh) and b) it doesn't make me feel all happy and sunshiny. He has been waking up 2 or 3 times a night to get up (5 minute process) and walk around to get his back into sleepable position again.

We've figured out that he has sciatica (it goes all the way down his leg at this point). Apparently it's very likely that it will go away within a few months. He's trying to get lots of exercise, has some funky laser and magnetic therapy, and gets plenty of rest as well (although I still have to force him to let me do things sometimes). The other day I was carrying the groceries upstairs from the car and he was very apologetic that I had to do all the manly duties, besides my regular wifely duties. I told him I didn't mind, and he said, "I now pronounce you man and wife."

I meant to post this on Thursday, but posted about the award instead, and I'm so glad I did, because Greg's back is definitely improving! He hardly uses the cane at all! The last 2 nights he's only been waking up once a night for his little walk. I'm so glad to see that he is feeling so much better! I hope to have a real man as man of the house someday soon!

Now that he's not walking like a Neanderthal anymore, I'm hoping I can get him to stop dragging me around by my hair*.
*He has never actually dragged me around by my hair. I just have a hard time ending my posts sometimes and this time it just seemed right to end it with a lamer-than-usual joke.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

An Award! or I Can't Believe I Just Spent 19 Hours Making Links for This Post. I Hate Making Links.

I've been given an award!! A blog award! Becky from On top of the world (or at least really far north) has awarded me THIS:

Photobucket

The first time I ever heard of a blog award was when I read this post by Sue at navel gazing at it's finest. I'm not sure if it was a result of the influence of that post on my infant blogger mind, but I feel almost exactly the same way as she does about them. She also happens to be the one that introduced me and Becky to each other. Well, sort of anyway. She's the one who started up Mormon Mommy Blogs , which is how we found each other. And she's super funny. You should read the "this post" link about the blog awards, and then possibly find yourself reading through a bunch of her other stuff.

Ooops, I keep going on about Sue. What I meant to say is that it's an honor to receive this award, mostly because it was given to me by someone I didn't even know a month ago. And not so much because each person who receives it gives it to as many people as they want. I've decided to share the love with a few blogs I love. I actually love LOADS of blogs, but I'm going to choose some of the first that come to mind as blogs that I'm always excited when they come up on my Google Reader:

H.I.P. (hope is power)- Sarah is one of the people that I became harder and faster friends with than anyone ever. That's 'cause she's awesome. You can see it in her writing. And that she's super intelligent and funny.

Into the Woods- I'm not linkin' because it's a private blog, which is a shame because it's SO awesome. The Woods are just some of my favorite people ever. They're kind, funny, beautiful/handsome (kids too) and just the kind of people you want to have as friends. And their blog is a great reflection of them.

Keepin' Up with the Joneses and Draper Kids - My sisters Anne and Su, and their great blogs about their wonderful families/amazing, smart SUPER cute kids. (And they're the ones who got me into blogging.)

And we'll throw in a couple of people I only just met:

Alison Wonderland -Who is an aspiring writer with real talent (I think). And she seems nice, too. And I really love her blog layout. Sorry if that last one's a shallow reason to give an award, but there it is.

none of your beezwax - Who is just hilarious, and is capable of writing posts even longer than mine that are actually funny all the way through.

Let's leave it at that. Thanks again, Becky! And for those of you whom I've awarded, I promise you will not have bad luck or anything if you don't pass the award on or display the picture prominently on your blog, but you can. Just so you know. (I'm going to put mine at the very bottom of my blog, just so people won't think I'm bragging or anything).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tell Me Tuesday

How fun is it to come up with my own weekly post ideas! I don't think I'll ever do a Wordless Wednesday or a Soap Opera Sunday etc., because I'm just way too individual for that (or possibly because I don't really know how to search for pictures on the web very efficiently--you may have noticed I haven't posted any pictures from the Internet since my original attempt with the washing machines-- and am not creative enough to type up an interesting soap opera etc.)

Today I would like to address what, to me, is a very important bloggy topic: Blogger comment format. Full page or pop-up?

I know we're not talking public school/private school or mini van/SUV, but this IS an issue that affects me every day. At first I just thought there was only the full page option, and hated it when I would start typing up a comment and realized that I wasn't sure if my response addressed exactly what was said in the post, or only my interpretation of it, or I wanted to quote the post directly, and then I had to go back and make sure I wasn't getting it wrong.
I was so happy when I discovered that there was the option of having your comment page in a pop-up window, so people can refer back to your post while typing up their comment, if necessary. I also like that you can continue to listen to a song on someone's playlist without interruption.

Then there are the cons. I'm a major blog hopper. I love to check out new blogs. When you're in a pop-up comment box, you can't click on the link to a fellow commenter's blog. Or you can, but you can only view it in that tiny box, with no option to open it up. This is annoying. This is very annoying. The only way I know around it is to click on the post title and scroll down past the post itself to the comments listed below and follow the links from there. But that's an extra step or two. I hate extra steps or two.

So I'm asking YOUR opinion. Do you prefer the pop-up comment boxes or the full page? Why? I'm putting it as a poll in my sidebar, if you wouldn't mind voting. And if you have any insights, please leave them in the comments.

Today's post is about a poll, Thursday's will be about a Pole. I'll try to figure out something for Saturday about a pull. . .

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I Want to Be a Princess

A few years ago Greg and I were watching some old black and white movie on TCM about this lady who was very homely, backwards and repressed and for some reason ends up on a cruise and meets a guy and is somehow transformed into this beautiful, wonderful lady. That is seriously all I can remember about the movie, except for one strong impression I had while watching it.

After the lady came back from her cruise she had a party. She wore a simple but beautiful, floor length, full skirted black dress (which means it could have been charcoal or indigo or emerald or burgundy etc.) that swooshed like a fairy tail as she glided to the door to let in her guests. Her hair was pulled up in a lovely bunch at the back of her head, revealing her smooth, powdered face with it's soft, feminine features. Her voice was like a song. She smiled so kindly upon all her guests and made certain that they all felt comfortable. And as she made her way around the room, the pleasing rustle of her dress could be heard. Oh yeah, I already mentioned the swooshy dress.

For days after watching this movie I kept thinking about how lovely and feminine this woman was, and how feminine women in general were in those days. I started realizing how much I wish that I could be more like that. I suppose, to be realistic, I couldn't really wear dresses like that around our house. If I did, rather than that soothing woosh, you would be more likely to hear tearing as it snagged on the antennae of some remote control car, or swearing* when the baby yanked on it or wiped his salty, oily, crackery hands on it (the swearing wouldn't be coming from the baby. Or the dress). Our house is a great size for us and I love it, but it's not a palace and doesn't have rooms large enough that they can be glided across all gracefully like in that movie. So the dress and its accompanying sounds/motions are out.

We all know that there will be NO pulling of hair into lovely bunches for me for at least a few years. And my face is what it is. My kids love to comment on how very looooong and thin my face is, and I myself am aware of the crook at the bridge of my nose. Not exactly soft features, but they're the ones I came with so I won't fret over how they're keeping me from being my self proclaimed ideal. Let's move on to the things I CAN (or should be able to) change.

I can smile. I can smile and flutter my eyelashes a little bit more than is actually needed for the moistening of my eyeballs. I think if I don't exaggerate this too much it might actually look natural, like I really am just kind of lovely like that. I'm not quite sure what to do about the voice. Mine doesn't naturally sound like a song, or the babbling of a brook or whatever it's supposed to, despite David's flattery on that mom tag. I wonder if I could just speak in a slightly higher pitch. I might sound a bit more like Cinderella that way.

On to the really difficult part: personality. Now, before I start, so everyone knows, I like me. I think I'm fine. Still, I think I come across a bit more abrasive than I'd like. There are people I know who are the embodiment of kindness. You can always count on them to say something that makes the people around them feel comfortable and happy with themselves at the same time that they feel this person's kindness and grace. I love this. It's how I would like to be. Unfortunately, there's this little thing called sarcasm. Sarcasm just does NOT make girls seem ladylike. Unfortunately sarcasm and I seem to have been stuck together with some mystery super glue because I am unable to break away from it. And actually, now that I'm typing this, I think that is the main thing that I kind of wish I could swap. Sarcasm for sweetness. Unfortunately, I don't think I can. But I guess I can try to smooth down the rough edges of my sense of humor**.

I recognize that in our day it may be considered a bit sexist to talk about women's femininity and about how we are "the gentler sex," but I personally think that it's a good thing, and I would like to be gentler, if I could. I loved Evie's Primary teacher at church who would use the word "ladylike" when talking about how the girls were (or weren't) sitting or behaving. I loved it and started using the word myself, with her. Around this time 2 year-old David started running around the house calling, "Lady-Lite! Lady-Lite!" all the time.

This also reminds me of my mother's approach with her granddaughters. She has discussed with them the idea that God is our king (think Kingdom of God). We also know that we are His children. Daughter's of kings are princesses. That makes us all what? Princesses! Little girls like princesses. They want to be princesses. They know that princesses behave like ladies and it's a great motivator to young girls to remind them to "be like a princess." It's even greater when they realize that they actually ARE princesses and that our Father has taught us how to do it, with the help of a Prince.

So this is the kind of princess I want to be. The kind that is good, kind and true, who tries to follow the King's wishes and be gracious and loving and sweet to others. I also wouldn't mind being the kind that is pretty and graceful and has a swooshy dress (in charcoal, indigo, emerald or burgundy).

*I put this only for dramatic emphasis. I never swear. Okay, I might swear, but only if the dinner was burning, the phone was ringing, I had a headache and then the baby started tugging on my fancy dress with his yucky hands.
** I remember when I was talking with an important Church authority after a meeting and I said something totally sarcastic like, "Oh you're very something-don't remember what- I'm sure that's a real problem for you!" or something like that. Both he and his wife who was standing nearby laughed and were very kind about it, but I was slightly embarrassed right after I said it, and VERY embarrassed when I thought about it later on. I mean they totally understood that I was kidding, and they fully understood my sense of humor (we had spent some time with them previously) but to some people you just don't make remarks like that. Fortunately they have the kindness and sweetness that I lack and didn't show any surprise, but just made me feel like I was so funny.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Where Do You Keep YOUR Friends?

We used to live in an apartment complex that covered about the amount of ground that two houses would cover, and there were 45 apartments in it (it was 12 stories high). This should have been a haven of children with which our children could be children. Unfortunately there were only a few children in our building of the appropriate age, and our children weren't all that interested in being children with them (we're kind of glad).

Then we moved into this house. One of the first things I didn't like about this place was that it's so spread out around here. There would certainly be even less socialization with neighbors here than in the apartment, if that was possible. If the kids managed to find some other kids their age, we would probably have to walk with them a few blocks anytime they wanted to get together. For the first few wintry months here, though, we were kind of just an island to ourselves.

Then came Summer, and with it friends! LOTS of friends. As in Evie and David have friends coming out of their ears. First it was one boy just down the street. Then they met the grandchildren (2 boys) of the neighbors who live behind us. Then our neighbors in the house that's stuck to us moved in, and they have a boy, too. Then Evie met some (3) girls at the park and they started hanging out and walking around the neighborhood together, a cute little gang of pink and sparkly, pony-tailed chatterboxes. (I asked Evie what they do when they're together and she says, "we mostly just talk." It's a weird day when your kid "mostly just talks" to their friends. Am I really old enough to have kids that age?) Then we met our right-across-the-street neighbors who have a boy and a girl, each 2 years older than their Pawlik counterpart. It seems none of them mind the age disparity and currently these are the friends the kids spend most of their time with. As in, they met about a week ago and have stopped coming home for lunch and have already asked if they can have a sleepover, etc. Unfortunately these guys will be moving back to Spain for the school year in 3 weeks! :(

At dinner the kids were talking about one friend. Greg asked how old he was. They said he was nine. I said, "Wait, I thought you said he was ten?" I loved Evie's explanation. She said, "Well, first he was ten, then he was ten and a half, and now he's nine." Love that. Another of the kid's friends likes to brag about all the awesome grown up stuff he does. He tells them things like how his dad gives him a little beer every day* (he's eight--or so he says...). Or how when no one else is home he smokes. Greg overheard one of these bragging sessions one day and appreciated David's response.
Friend: I just drank 5 cans of Pespi.
David: (half interrupting and saying it all strung together) Yeah. Uh, huh. Wow. Oh really? I don't believe you. Uh huh. That's great.

Whereas I, being away from it all as I am, keep most of my friends in my computer, my kids apparently keep theirs in their heads because why else would they be coming out of their ears? I tried to tell them that friends don't belong in their heads, and couldn't they see that they weren't staying in there very well. Apparently they didn't listen because the friends just keep coming and coming. And not the kind that people usually keep in their heads (imaginary ones). Although, I guess you could say who knows how much of them is real and how much of them really is imaginary (i.e. age, drinking habits, etc.)
*This is, of course possible. I remember a family that I nannied for. The father was a wine connoisseur and would let their barely two year old daughter repeatedly dip her finger in his wine at dinner every night. The mom protested and rolled her eyes just about every single time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Have Your Cake and Eat It Tuesday

I don't consider myself a major fan of cake. It doesn't really fall under the category of hard core, like most of the treats I prefer. I do like it sometimes, though. And if they didn't generally require so much work to prepare and top, I'm sure I'd make them more often.

Well, today I'll share with you a cake I love. The recipe came to me through my roommate Andrea, who made all sorts of delicious treats back in the day and still does, only now she makes sure they have ingredients that are unavailable in Poland and makes them, photographs them and then blogs about them. I'm not sure why I still consider her a friend. Oh yes, the recipes I acquired from her that I CAN make in Poland, like this one!

So this treat is cleverly named: Banana Cake! Ooooh, I'm sure you've never heard of anything like that, or baked it many times, either. But this is different! I'm SURE it's different! I've never seen this cake anywhere else. Okay, probably the main thing that sets this one apart is the topping. Somehow the cake and the topping are just a winning combination (I first typed winning conversation because Evie was talking to me while I type this. Evie, out. Brain, ON. There.)

There are so many reasons why people need to make this cake. It's so much healthier than a pan of brownies (or at least it has less fat, anyway). It's as easy to make as a batch of cookies. It's another way, make that a better way, to use up those black bananas. But mostly, it's just so delicious. Okay, for those of you who aren't me (that's probably most of you) and don't like things hyper sweet, you may consider this to be a little on the sweet side, especially with the topping, but just consider it a dessert, and don't eat it like we did; for dessert last night, for breakfast this morning (it has bananas), and another little piece after lunch.
Banana Cake
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup mashed bananas
2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Now for the tricky part. Mix it all together (I do it about the same way you do with cookies, mix wet, then add dry) and pour it in a greased 9 by 13" pan. Now mix together:
2 cups chocolate chips
(give or take, depending on if you're me or you)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup nuts-or more (I always use chopped or slivered almonds, but that's only because I can't stand walnuts and peanuts just don't sound like the thing, here)
Sprinkle this topping nice and evenly over the cake batter and put it in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes or so.
Or, alternately you can misread the instructions and check on it after 25 minutes and be very confused at how jiggly it still is in the middle, and then get back on the computer while it finishes baking, forget about it, and finally remember and take it out of the oven about 5 minutes after the nick of time. If this happens to you, don't worry. That brown on the edges and bottom of the pan is like some heavenly carmelization. This cake is delicious any way you eat it but I like it best warm. MMMMMMMmmmmmmMMMMMmm
mmmMMMMM

And if you're me (gosh, ARE YOU ME already? I'm really getting so confused) and you made it after dinner last night, you should have about this m
uch left after lunch today.


Monday, August 18, 2008

From Russia, With Love (or Lisa's Propaganda Part II)

Okay, so I made a mistake and didn't type up this second half while it was fresh in my head. At this moment I don't really care about Russia or any of the things I meant to write, but I'm going to make myself write them (or at least something like them) anyway.

After communism fell Russia became a little jealous of all the siblings that had disowned him. (I know Russia should technically be a girl but how can a girl also be a Big Brother?--And actually, if Nikita is a boy's name in Russian, let's allow Russia to be as well). People in Russia were sad and felt that their glory days were gone. While communism was said to be over, there were still plenty of "former" communists in the government. I think these are the guys that are causing the problems.

I will sum this up by saying that it is no surprise that many of the journalists who set out to expose some of Russian government's corruption have died under "mysterious" circumstances. People in these parts of the world (and actually, I believe all parts of the world) have very little doubt as to who has been behind these murders. The government denies any wrongdoing (really?) but we somehow don't believe them.

Russia has tried (don't remember if it was successful) to create a gasline that would go through Poland and to make sure that Poles would have no access to this gas. They have strongly opposed the proposed American missile defense shield to be set up in Poland. Russia grows more disgruntled with every western movement his neighbors make. It makes some really grown up moves, too, like electronic attacks on servers such as those it used against Georgia in the days following it's invasion.

Now, in Georgia, Russian separatists get out of hand. The Georgian government is forced to come crack down on these separatists. Russia claims this constitutes genocide. Doing what it takes to prevent terrorists from trying to take over part of your country is not genocide. Even if some of them die. Even if they are all from one country. Our dear Russia enters in all it's military beauty to keep Georgia from being such meanies to it's fellow Russians who were, after all, only causing problems because they want independence.

Within seconds of hearing the news (or at least we heard both news items at once) of Russia's invasion of Georgia, Poland's President announces Poland's solidarity with Georgia. Most former soviet block countries follow closely behind. How could they jump to such quick conclusions? Why can't they just trust that the Russian's were trying to help solve a problem? Essentially, it comes down to the fact that Russia simply cannot be trusted. Putin gives me the creeps. Everyone knows that the new Russian president is actually just a new face and name for Putin, as his time was up, but his agenda wasn't completed. The Russian ambassador to the UN calls the appearance of 5, count 'em 5 presidents of former soviet block countries at a rally in Georgia's capital "rhetoric" and suggests that Georgia "put and end to the rhetoric and get back to serious business." Yes, because it's nothing really all that serious that one of the world superpowers, who doesn't like anyone, thinks it's okay to try and take over one of it's neighbors.

It's pretty scary to think about all the things that could happen, seeing Russia's behavior and knowing it's history. I've read on some forums things like World War III, Cold War II, the possibility of Russia and China joining forces etc. None of it sounds very good to me. I hope things will settle down nicely. It was so kind of Russia to agree to the ceasefire. Even kinder of them to stay in the region to help "keep the peace." They're so thoughtful like that.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

From Russia, With Love (or Lisa's Propaganda Part I)

I think many Europeans see American's as fast food eating, diet coke drinking, television watching, arrogant people, who don't know geography, care very little for world affairs, and think they know and do everything better than other countries (the very countries that they know so little about). I used to really resent these stereotypes, until I started realizing that, actually, many of those things are true.

The thing that still kind of gets me though, is the allegations of arrogance and ignorance. I think the reason for this is that I know that I have at least a tinge of both of those things (and probably lots of tinges). However, my husband is European and also very globally aware, and I live in Europe, and these two things have combined to help me be just a bit less ignorant than I might be, were I left to figure stuff out on my own. I'd like to share some thoughts with you, although I realize that my ideas are almost certainly tinted, and maybe even colored, by the place I live and the people who live here--but I still think they're at least mostly correct (I guess it would be pretty stupid to hold an opinion that you didn't think was correct...).

I am sure Russian people are nice. I've known some, and I've known a number of people who have lived in Russia, and I have nothing (or very little, barring their ignorance--okay, I'm the pot, they're the kettle-but I'm talking about a specific kind of ignorance) against Russian people. It's "The Russians" I have a bit of a problem with. I suppose "The Russians" would refer to the government/system. I'm neither educated (on this subject) nor eloquent enough to say just what I mean, but let's just place all the blame on Putin. Kidding! Sort of.

So the Russians have always been pretty powerful. They've always liked to be powerful (unlike all those other countries who prefer to have zero influence). They've also always been different. The West has headed in one direction (westward?) while they. . . haven't. I'm speaking generally here. I know there are all kinds of advances there and that their major cities are as large and modern as any the world has to offer. I also know that there are very few such major cities, and that outside of those cities, life is . . . not nearly so "westernized."

The Russian Empire (according to Wikipedia) was the second largest contiguous (whatever that means) empire in the History Of Empires. People who live in areas that were trampled on during the war can tell you that if they had to choose to have their town overrun by German soldiers or Russian, they would take German for sure, because of the ruthlessness and brutality of the Russian soldiers to civilians. From a broader perspective, I found a very interesting article that I think paints a portrait of Soviet wrongdoing really well. It also describes the very "ignorance" (and what it can lead to) that I referred to previously when I was being a hypocrite. It's not very long and you can see by the list of "Crimes of Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union" that a great deal of their crimes were committed against Poles.

I don't think Russia wanted to be seen as the parent of the countries it "adopted," so let's just call it a sibling. Unfortunately they weren't a very kind Big Brother, if you catch my meaning. One evidence of this is that virtually no former communist block country is on friendly terms with Russia. For example, if you speak Russian in this country, while many people will understand you (Russian was taught in schools during communism) they are highly unlikely to let on that they do, and quite a bit more likely to show varying degrees of annoyance.

So Russia was a rather selfish, domineering, and abusive brother. It was also a big liar. I love some of the propaganda videos the Soviet Communists entertained their younger siblings with. I'll sum them up by saying that anything bad that happened in those countries (right down to a plague of potato bugs) was obviously the fault of the mean, evil Americans (or at least the West in general). Of course conversely, all the good and beauty found in those countries could be traced directly back to that affectionate elder brother.

We all know that communism fell. That's great and it has meant wonderful things for former Eastern Block countries. However, changes in Russia have come much more slowly, and it has continued it's mean-older-brotherly ways.

**I never cease to amaze myself. Here's a subject I don't actually know a lot about, and yet, I can ramble on about it for long enough that I feel I should break it up into two posts. So for those of you who come here seeking Pictures of Pawlik Progeny etc., you can skip the next post, with my apologies. . .**

For People Who Care

Or mostly for my kids (and myself) who love to come on my blog and watch whatever videos are posted here, especially our favorites, like this one. I think in this one I was pregnant with Aaron but didn't know it until about a week after we got home from the trip. So he was there with us, he was just too small to see. Oh, and he was a little hidden anyway, I guess.

In this one Greg has used another song from the same album as the one with Aaron singing at 7 months. I know it's a strange genre (Polish folk punk?) but we love it and the footage really brings back the feel of that awesome (only three day!) vacation. So I'm posting it here. It's about a haunted forest (ooooooo!). Cousins might like it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Learning About "the Mormons" on You Tube

Greg has recently taken to viewing and replying to all manner of interesting "information" he is finding on you tube. He is having some great mini-discussions and is really enjoying it. This morning he told me that he's corresponding via email with some people* he met on youtube. He shows me some of the videos he watches. Sometimes I get a little too upset about them, but I'm now at a point where I can tell if something will bother me, and I don't watch it. This means that I can pretty safely sort through some of these videos and get an idea of how people view "mormonism." Comments that people leave to these videos are often even more insightful.

Now, I don't mean to advocate the perusal of these types of videos (for example, don't click on any of the suggested "related" videos that show up after you view the one I'm posting), most especially because your time could be far better spent sitting twiddling your thumbs, or staring out the window at your lawn. And once you get reading those comments, it's hard to stop. But I DO have one that I'd like to share. I like it because it reminds me of the first year after we moved from Utah to California and kids would ask me, if I was a mormon why was I eating potato chips, or tell me that mormons weren't allowed to paint their fingernails, etc. Oh, and because it's funny.



After watching so many lies/half truths/distortions spread on the Internet about my religion, it was kind of refreshing to listen (again) to Hugh Nibley's How to Write an Anti-Mormon Book. I totally recommend it for people who like Hugh Nibley, funny stuff (particularly satire) and who like to listen to talks/lectures. We're fans of all three so it's great for us. It's also available on you tube, but it's in like 68 (4?) parts, and there's no video to go with it, just a picture. But it's funny, if you take it for what it's meant to be.

*One of whom has taken a liking to Greg and has determined to prove to him that the mormon religion is false. Greg's been without people to hold frequent discussions like this with for a while, so he's happy to be at it again. I think it's an EXCELLENT way for some people to find some direction in their scripture study, etc. and to really come to a good understanding of why they believe what they do. Plus you can gain all kinds of interesting knowledge and have lots of testimony strengthening experiences. For some people, these kind of discussions are probably better avoided, but Greg's using it as one of his ways of Joining Internet Conversation about the Church as encouraged by Elder Ballard.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Broken Promise; or Never Say Never

I distinctly remember sitting with my sister in the living room of our trailer in Orem talking to my dad about fashion. Actually, my memory isn't all that distinct because there's every possibility that it might have been in our house two states (and at least as many years) away. But anyway, we were in some living room somewhere, and we were talking about fashion. I think we had been looking at pictures from the olden days, read: when we were even younger than our 12ish years. We had been teasing dad about how ridiculously he had dressed back then. Those bell bottoms! How silly were those!

They were pointless. If you wanted your pants loose, you should wear them loose. If you preferred them tight, by all means, wear them tight. But to have them fitted from the knee up and then have 5 pounds of extra material flapping at your ankles was just ridiculous. And ugly as sin. We railed him on this for quite a while. He did the best he could to explain that fashions come and go and that they actually were cool and that one day we would understand. He even went so far as to bet us that WE would find ourselves wearing them one day. We laughed. We laughed hard.

When we had finally stopped rolling on the floor and wiped the tears from our eyes we saw that he was actually serious. It was as if he hadn't heard what we were saying at all, and therefore still thought that we really would wear them some day. To prove to our father how very, very serious we were, we each swore (most likely "on a stack of holy bibles"as all oaths were sworn back then) that we would never, no never, stoop so low. I can still picture the kind, but very slightly smug upturn on the corners of dad's mouth.

I'm sure I don't have to explain what happened probably very nearly exactly as many years later as he had said it would. The title of this post tells that part of the tale. To my credit, I resisted for a long time. When I watched people walking down the street and heard the "ding" and the "dong" of their jeans, I felt a bit scornful. I wasn't fooled by the new name "flares". Those were BELL BOTTOMS, plain and simple, and they were ridiculous. Eventually, of course, they became so darling in a "why didn't I see it before" sort of a way. I started wearing them a few years before they went out of fashion again.

Why do we always tease the youth about their naiveness? This is something THEY understand. As soon as you're "supposed" to be wearing skinny pants, they start wearing skinny pants. THEY don't care about how ridiculous they are, or how unnaturally short they make their legs look. THEY don't mind continuing to pull up the extra 10 inches of material over their heels and bunch it around their ankles after they've already zipped and buttoned them at the top. If bell bottoms had come back in fashion a week after we had made our promise to dad, I would probably have been wearing them before the month was out. As an adult, however, I resist.

I am still wondering, do we have to wear skinny pants? Will they be like the flares of yester-or, in my case, this-year? Can't there be some alternate style chosen that will always look classy to people of all ages, for those of us who can't be suckered into wearing the trendy ones? As it is, I am feeling like it's about time for me to go and get myself a pair of skinny pants. Partly because all my old flared ones are falling to pieces, and partly because I don't want to still have pairs and pairs of new-ish skinny pants right about the time they start going out of style. **sigh**

So, advise me. Do YOU wear skinny pants? Can we get away with NEVER wearing them? Do you still wish your flares were in fashion? ARE they still in fashion on the other side of the world? (If so, we may move up our date for returning to permanent residence in the States).

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Just My Type

I love typing! It's fun (or it's still fun, just like driving a car is still fun to me). In Poland people don't know how to type. I'm sure this is a gross generalization, and probably in the upcoming generations more people are learning, but generally speaking, in this country things are kept on paper (not printer paper, I'm talking paper and pen paper).

Of course there ARE computers. Lots of them. In fact you often see them on the news when they mention some government department and show a lady behind a desk pecking away with both her pointer fingers, often reaching over with her right hand to hit an "e". They actually get to be pretty quick at it, and it's fun to watch. It isn't, however, very efficient. And I think this country could be significantly more productive if people learned to type (this is probably an oversimplification, and of course many people own personal computers these days, as well). The problem is, they don't offer typing courses in school.

I took beginning typing in 9th grade. Mr. Shaw was a tall, loud, slightly obnoxious man with wild, curly black hair. We used typewriters (!). He would shout, " A! S! D! F! A! S! D! F!" and we would all feel awesome punching in the right buttons, as displayed on our grayish sheet of recycled type paper, without even looking at our hands. Maybe he wasn't all that loud in real life, but he was in a room full of typewriters, and typewriters that were being used, so he HAD to yell. He spent all day yelling and probably went home and yelled at his family (without realizing it, I mean).

It was kind of hard to think about the letters sometimes though, because Mark Janji was in that class. And I could see him from where I sat. What a dream. He was tall, very thin, very tan, with light hazel (I think) eyes and dark wavy hair that he styled perfectly each day with the help of a half a tube of gel. And he had braces, and made them look amazing. I think I convinced some of the girls sitting around me to help me throw crumpled up used paper at him every day as a means of flirtation. How irresistible was I! He was neither smart, nor funny, nor especially nice, but he was something to behold. (what was I thinking?) So you can see why my earliest memories of typing are great ones. And it carried over when, the next semester, I took a word processing class (using real computers!) and still loved typing, even though Mark was not in that class.

I've mentioned before that I'm not the fastest of typers. I think I type 40-45 wpm. That little test in my sidebar ignores the law of averages. Of course I can type 72 words when it's for only one minute, typing some really basic words and I can try over and over. But my modest 40wpm is all I need, really. There's no real sense of urgency in getting blog posts typed up, or race to get emails written, and that's all I'm using it for.

This summer Evie has decided to start a blog. She would take her own pictures and dictate the text to me and I would do the typing. Then I realized that she should learn to type on her own. I found a great little On-line typing course (FREE!!), although I don't think it does enough repetition. It could be improved by a Mr. Shaw-like voice shouting out the whole, "A! S! D! F!" (or at least some more repetition of letters for practice on screen). My kids are just going over each level and stage more than once. And it may not come with a built in Mark Janji to bring in that added element of fun (or at least handsomeness), but it does have singing octopi and dancing sheep, which is all the motivation my kids need (actually, Evie turns the volume all the way down while she practices) It's better than a computer game to them! Great!

When David would read to me in the past, it usually went something like this: "Are you crazy question mark Don't eat the leaves exclamation point" Since he began this typing program, and has become more aware, it goes something like this "Are space you space crazy question mark Don't space eat space the space leaves exclamation point." Clown.

I told a friend of mine about this typing course and she's really excited to try it out. She told me she types one-handed and is interested in learning how to really type. That's great! I hope more people will learn and it will become a norm here, like it is in dear America. And then everything will improve*. It will be this huge upward growth thing and eventually they'll start selling things like chocolate chips, peanut butter cups, and cooking spray and have clean enough water that they can make drinking fountains available everywhere. And I will finally feel completely comfortable in Poland. So now we come to my real reason for wanting people to be able to type faster.

*Although the Polish economy is doing wonderfully at this point. And If this closing paragraph makes me sound like an arrogant or ignorant American, that's probably only because I kind of am, sometimes, fight as I will against it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Overheards

I was feeling unwell today. The vision in my right eye went cloudy for a few minutes (!?). After that I was dizzy off and on throughout the day. We had been planning to go to a little animal park nearby and I told David that I wasn't sure if I'd be going with them since I thought it might be better if I didn't walk around too much. Then I said,
"Actually, maybe it's because I haven't been getting enough exercise."
David replied in a feigned weak and weary voice, "Maybe it's because you haven't been getting enough chocolate."

At dinner we were talking about a serious dilemma that David currently has: he doesn't have enough money to buy himself any toys. I explained that we would give him money if he did some extra chores around the house. Greg suggested that he could pull weeds from between the paving stones in the front. David's reply? "Oh, I can't. . . my back."

Then he came up with his own: "I know, Mom. Every time I'm really nice and I read to you really well then you can give me one zloty." I was all, "Ha ha, very funny." Since one of his summer responsibilities is to read to me for about a half an hour every day anyway. His sister piped in, "David! You should be paying MOM for that. You waste her time every day!"

Yes Ev, that's a good half hour I could be on the computer! Oh, the lengths I go for my children.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Maybe They're For His Gizzard?

My kids have never been very big stick-everything-in their-mouth-ers. From the time they start to be mobile we discourage it for the most part and, for the most part, it works. None of my kids have ever tried to eat dirt or lotion or books . Unlike some babies, the number one thing that goes into their mouth is food. With a pacifier coming in second.

Part of the reason for this is that I'm a freak about dirt. Not necessarily just regular dirt, but anything that might be messy or make somebody look dirty. I learned that I was a freak about it when I was at a fast food place with someone who may or may not have been related to me, possibly as a female sibling, or not. One of my nieces was biting into a hamburger and I could see that a big-ol', ketchup covered pickle was about to fall out the end of it onto her shirt. I instinctively called out, "Tyra! Watch out!" or something. This caused my si--this person I'm referring to -- to ask me at what point I became such a freak about dirt/messes. But then, HER boys do stuff like this at the breakfast table. :)

Thus far Aaron has followed in the steps of his siblings. If he gets crumbs or anything sticky on his hands, he holds them out and open kind of waiting for the moment they will be cleaned. If his hands touch the ground outside when he's walking and loses his balance, he brushes them off the best he can and then continues walking on with his hands out and palm up until he forgets that they got dirty (3-4 seconds). I am grateful that he has this awareness.

Unfortunately, however, he has recently veered from his siblings in terms of what goes into his mouth. He rarely EVER put anything in his mouth from maybe 6 months right up until 15 months except for cell phones, which don't count, since people of all ages have a hard time resisting their delicious, electronic zing. This week however, we have seen him snacking on such tasty morsels as rocks, hair clasps (the kind with pokey claws-Mmmm!), Uno cards and balls of various sizes (I started typing "various shapes and sizes", duh; and we don't even own a football). He never actually ingests any of these objects, he just kind of puts them a little way into his mouth and sucks on or licks them a little; just to get some of the goodness off of them.

Rocks are his favorite. We've got PLENTY of rocks in our house. Evie and David used to collect rocks. A few were selected because they were pretty, but most of them were chosen because they were rocks. They use them when they're playing with cars or Polly Pocket or they make designs with them on the floor. There's a strange* thing about stuff that my kids play with. Whenever it comes time to clean things up, always (or usually; maybe sometimes) a few of those toys manage to sneak away to be found, vacuumed up, stepped on or sucked on at a later date. With rocks, lately it's mostly been the later.

We're working to fix this "problem" and already he glances up at us whenever we're around and he's got something half way to his mouth. This is evidence that he is at the first step, Recognizing that You Have a Problem. We'll see how we do from here. I captured an example of this on video. I had Greg crop it (or whatever the term is) for me and then, by the time we transferred it to my computer, it had been completely transformed without my permission. Greg has a hard time abstaining from performing his video magic on stuff. Oh well. At least now you can see at exactly what point Aaron realizes that he really can't suck on that toothpaste (since mom was watching).

video

And I tried three times to upload the documentation of how Aaron got into this bathroom, but it quit uploading when it was 7/8ths of the way done each time (that's about 4-5 hours of trying--UGH!--why, oh why can't BYU let people watch you tube videos!!! I WILL get it uploaded and post it ASAP.

*I'm sure you're all thinking, "That's NEVER happened at OUR house!"

Saturday, August 2, 2008

He Dances, Too!

Here's Greg's latest creation. I'm finding I can't control which of his videos shows up in my sidebar. Oh well. In this one, Aaron is proving that singing isn't his ONLY talent! He dances to "LMNO" by They Might Be Giants. The video was shot the first day he started shaking his bum, and he wouldn't do it much once the camera was on, of course. So this isn't his real bum shaking dance, as it is new to him here, and he thinks it's funny, and involves more of his body. I'm still hoping to get some video of his real bum shaking, although he does it less and less often these days. Now he's more about the shoulder shrugging and arm waving.



And just in case you missed it while it was in the side bar, this one's for anyone who hasn't had their fill yet of our balcony, or for people who might want to show it to their kids for educational purposes, as it's a documentary.