Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Last Shall Be First

Or maybe I should say: "[Our] Last Shall [Have His] First (birthday)" or "The Last Shall Be [One]".

Because Spencer's turning one year old.

I cannot believe it. I almost DO not believe it, but then I sometimes see this little boy in my house crawling around, babbling, and dumping olive oil all over the kitchen floor and I think, "Wait. Do newborns do this? Who is this child?" and, after some internal deliberation, I am forced to believe.

I guess it all makes sense when you actually total up all the minutes he's spent doing things. I mean, he spent:
314,521 minutes sleeping

and about that long hanging out in his carseat
115,306 minutes spending quality time with siblings

3,238 minutes disregarding clearly defined rules such as no fingers in the VCR
and no draining out all the drinking water
5,645 minutes having his cheeks squished, kissed, patted or wiped
40 minutes being mistaken for a doll
216,357 minutes figuring things out
like a mirror
or a glove
and 156,284 minutes shocking his mom with the blueness of his eyes and sweetness of his features

So I guess when you add that all up, and account for (a lot of) overlap you have a total of 525,600 minutes, which is. . . one year. And numbers don't lie. Or so I hear.

There is nothing I could say about this past year that wouldn't sound completely cliche. My heart can hardly hold the love I have for this boy or the joy I feel when I see the happiness he brings to his siblings.

I love how he drops what he's doing at the first sound of laughter so he can stare, smile and then squeal at the laugher. I love how he has just started to give hugs spontaneously. I love, love love the sound of his "da da da", the "d" sound of which I am completely unable to reproduce myself, and the way he sways back and forth at the knees and twists at the waist when he dances.

On his birthday we brought him along as we attended a Christmas party in the mission home, partly because it was his birthday and he deserved a party and partly because he is still nursing and I couldn't leave him with the other kids at their grandparent's house. This picture was taken by the mission president and shows Spencer's handsomeness rather well:
The next day we had a party at the grandparents' house where Greg's sister coached Spence in the blowing out of the candle.
So basically this is all pretty much just to say that after a year we've decided: We'll keep him.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Love My Neighbor? Check!

We're pretty isolated out here. Of course this is largely by choice, because I'm bad at making friends and very bad at making friends that don't speak my language or understand my culture. (Because I don't really try. Awful, I know.)

A couple of months ago we got word that a new American family was moving into our branch. The family itself wasn't actually new, but the fact of their being in Poland was. Happy news for sure, but even happier was finding out that they were moving closer to us than to Kraków!

I was super excited. Imagine having Americans close enough that we could actually visit each other!! I tried not to get too excited because, really, what if we totally hated each other? No, I didn't actually think that except, only sort of.

See, he's a volleyball player. He came here to play for the team in Rzeszów, one hour away from Mielec. And he played on the US team in the 2008 Olympics and won the gold. Awesome, huh? Super awesome. Except. . .

Greg and I are the least athletic people I know. I mean, Greg walks Nordically and I occasionally spend 7 minutes doing leg lifts and push-ups, but as far as sports? Um, no. We're much more the not-playing-watching-following-or-thinking-about-sports type. So I felt a little worried.

What if they came over and only ever wanted to talk about exercise and physical coordination? What if they only liked to play games that involved a ball? What if they only ever ate volleyball-performance-enhancing foods which I knew nothing about how to cook!?! THIS COULD BE AWFUL!!!

We hadn't met them even once when we invited them to our house for a Halloween party. He had a game that day so we watched it live on TV and then they came over. There was pizza. There were no games involving sports. There was just us (and hardly any decorations).

They were very, very nice. They ate pizza. She brought cookies. They talked about things like what it's like living in Poland, the church, motherhood. Regular things. And, when we asked, they told us a little about their life traveling for Ryan's volleyball career. And I understood and enjoyed every word (none of the technical how-to-play-volleyball talk I had feared) . And I also have no idea if you call it a career or what.

As a matter of fact, we had such a nice time talking that we didn't even do most of the non-sporty Halloween games we had planned for the kids. It was great. Their darling son, Max made my night when, after they had been here for maybe 15 minutes and we were eating pizza, he proclaimed, "This is the BEST HALLOWEEN PARTY EVER!!!" Yes, I realize that this is a four year-old (that probably can't even remember any other Halloweens) and that we had not yet actually started the party, but he was still my new best friend.

Then we had Thanksgiving together. Again, very nice. Our Aaron and their Max were robots. They were the kind of robots that tear apart playrooms, but then put them back together. Robot Max again had the quote of the night when he had finished his mint chocolate pie (another recipe from Chocolate Never Faileth!) and his dad asked, "Hey Max! What are you doing!?!" To which Max replied, "I'm just licking my plate." Sounds like a good Thanksgiving activity to me, even if his dad insisted he wasn't a dog. :)

Up next: a Feliz Navidad party at their place. Awesome. I'm so grateful these guys ended up here. It is so great to have people to spend the holidays with (not "the holidays" as in the holiday season but "the holidays" as in literally each holiday. :) and to get to know in general. We are loving it.
P.S. I exaggerated some of this post, but just the part about my fears, not the part about the gold medal. :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On Pornography (Again)

Another one of those posts that are for my personal record more than to share with the world at large.
A couple of months ago, at a random time on a random day I felt I should talk to Ev and Dave about pornography. We've talked about it before of course, but it seemed a good time to talk about it again.

I love having talks like this with my kids. These are the times when I can put into words some of the things that are not easily understood just by seeing an example. My kids know how we feel about pornography, nudity and immodesty (a subject I've gone into great detail about before here) and we obviously avoid it in all types of media, but for them to fully understand the why of it, we have to discuss.

I explained a little about avoiding pornography and how we should make decisions before we meet temptations so that we don't have to make an on-the-spot choice. If we already know that we're not going to look it'll be easier when a situation arises (and the spirit can help us keep resolutions we've already made).

While we talked I compared pornography to alcohol; the seeming harmlessness of it, it's addictive nature, the curiosity young people sometimes feel about it. We talked about how alcohol is bad for our bodies and can be physically dangerous in many ways, besides the possibility of losing a job or even breaking up a family. I compared this to how looking at pornography is bad for our spirits and repels the Holy Ghost (which we need in our lives).

I explained how Satan wants to do everything he can to keep people from following God's commandments and having happy families.

We had been talking for maybe 10 minutes or so; pretty long for this type of conversation, I felt. The kids threw things in now and again, mostly about alcohol and how their friends talk about it sometimes. Overall I felt like they were understanding what I wanted them to know. Then I said something and the reaction I got from David made me realize that, while he had heard what I was saying, he maybe didn't fully get it until that point.

I almost didn't want to say it because it made it sound like they might make such a choice, or that I was even throwing it out there as an option, but I said it anyway. "If I had to choose between you trying alcohol or looking at pornography I would rather you have alcohol," I said. David looked confused. He asked me to repeat. I did, and this time he was shocked.

Finally I found a way to really get the point across about how serious I think it is. I'm so glad he is so clear on how "taboo" alcohol is so he could really get the point about how important it is to avoid pornography. I hope that will stay with him.

I was very happy just a week or two later to hear President Packer's conference talk which, I felt, had a strong emphasis on pornography and how Satan uses it to damage, destroy and even prevent the building of families. I was so grateful to have a prophet's testimony borne so soon after I had shared my own on this important topic, the purpose of the commandment, blessings of keeping it and the miracle of the way back if it has been broken.

As a mother I really love helping the kids understand why they're supposed to do and not do certain things. I love that the gospel makes this so much easier. There's not a lot of "because God said so". Even when the world tries to make us think things are perfectly harmless, or even good which God says are not, it is easy to see past the world's view and through "eyes of faith" when the blessings that come from keeping commandments are so apparent.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Accidental Child Abuse and Fudge

For some odd reason I did something different today. Usually I think to myself daily that I sure wish I was the exercising type. Today, instead, I exercised.

Oh, I used to exercise every day. I spent about ten minutes doing a little workout I'd clipped out of a magazine that for sure would give you a flat tummy. I'm not dumb, though. I didn't expect a flat tummy. Didn't get one, either. But I did get a tiny sense of accomplishment every morning for a few years and off and on for a few more years after that.

I could tell it had been a long time since I'd done the routine this morning when there were little boy legs and baby heads and bums everywhere I needed my legs and arms to be. Small children used to know to give me a wide berth when they heard me chanting, "One, two, three. . ." (spoken aloud for purposes of educating young people in the vicinity in the numbers, their order and a practical way to use those numbers.)

If I don't start exercising more regularly Spencer may grow up thinking the proper way to count out your leg lifts and torso twists is more like this, "One. . . tw--excuse me!. . . two. . . three. . . oops, move your little bum sweetie!. . .four. . . five. . . six--oh! Sorry honey! Did I bop you on the head with my elbow?. . . " because he'll hear that a couple times a month and will never learn to get the heck out of the way.
So that was all way too many words to dedicate to exercise (see, I haven't quite got the exercise bug yet, even after doing it for seven minutes today). On to fudge.

I'll share with you the recipe I used for orange fudge. I have never had such smooth and delicious fudge. Never. I grew up on Christmas fudge that contained chocolate, sweetened condensed milk and marshmallows. I think. It was yummy, but only now do I realize that fudge can be both yummy and inferior.

Maybe it was a fluke. After all I DID mess things up a little. I only had cheap (Store brand. Ick.) chocolate of the milk variety and I was supposed to use two different kinds (milk and semi-sweet, I planned). I didn't have any sweetened condensed milk and had to make my own. I swapped out the vanilla or mint extract called for and replaced it with some orange flavoring.

It was delicious. Just like everything else I've made from my Chocolate Never Faileth cookbook. I've had the book for four weeks, one of which I was away from home, so I have made five* recipes out of it in three weeks. (plus three** more that I made before I got the book).

I'm only saying this for your benefit and not as an advertisement but you really ought to get this cookbook for everyone you know who loves chocolate and loves to bake and create. Even those who don't do a lot of baking/creating will love it. You really have to hold the book in your hands to see how lovely it is. It is beautiful inside and out. Just like you. That's why I think everyone should have one. I have spent hours and hours looking at it and reading all the quotes about chocolate and little stories about the creation of each recipe. Plus the recipes themselves. I am a reader of recipes (ingredients, instructions, all of it).

I love it. You should own one.

Here's how the fudge recipe goes (in my own words):

Quick and Easy (I'd call it Fabulous) Fudge
4 tbsp butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk (or one recipe of this)
2 cups of two different kinds of chocolate chips (or whatever you have on hand)
1 tsp vanilla or 1/2 tsp almond or mint extract (or orange)
1 c chopped nuts (I don't like them and left them out)

Butter an 8x8. Melt butter, stir in SCM. Stir in chips (or chopped bars), let them sit a minute and stir again until they are melted. Stir in extract and nuts. Mix well and pour into pan. Refrigerate for an hour (or two) until set. Cut and try not to eat the entire pan yourself. Seriously. Ugh. Do you think seven minutes of non-strenuous exercise works off an 8x8 pan of fudge?

Smooth and delicious. You should seriously make it. (And I should make it again with better ingredients and see if it turns out worse. It couldn't turn out better.)
*Quick and Easy Fudge
Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate Muffins
Chocoholic Lemon Bars
French Silk Pie
**Classic Chocolate Buttercream Icing
Sinful Chocolate Cupcakes

Perfect Chocolate Brownies

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Just Now

15 minutes ago:
I cut the kids each a piece of fudge (Chocolate orange fudge tastes like Christmas and I can't stop myself from eating it. Which is neither here nor there, but I said it anyway.). After she finished hers Evie asked if she could cut herself another (I was feeding Spencer). I said yes. She asked, "A sensible piece or what?" I looked over her shoulder at where she was holding the knife poised to cut and I said, "Yeah, that's a sensible piece." She replied, "So. . . bigger than that?"

20 seconds ago (as I typed that last paragraph):
David screams "SPENCER'S UPSTAIRS!!!" A minute ago he was down here with us and then suddenly he was upstairs in my bedroom. He "learned" (i.e. started trying, a few days shy of 11 months old. I tell you, my kids are not overly adventurous) to climb the stairs two days ago. We are vigilant (obviously. . .) about not letting him. Our stairs are terrifying: hard wood, foot-wide gaps between the rails (you can see in one of the pictures here), even all around the landing at the top. We need to do something about it. Like get a gate.

10 minutes ago:
Looking through David's books for homework I noticed they were all covered in crumbs. I helped him clean out that nasty backpack on Monday and today it's all full of crumbs and wadded papers again, so I very calmly and patiently (ahem) ask him what on earth happened. He replies, "It's not my fault, mom! I did not put ANY crumbs in there!"

Then I look through his English homework (they're learning how to tell time, or rather translate it "It's a quarter past two.") and see that probably 40% of the words he's written are misspelled. This is awful and much worse knowing that he was copying off the blackboard. As I point out some mistakes one by one, he says, every single time, over and over, "That's how my pani (teacher) wrote it!" He's such a punk.

This afternoon/evening:
Greg is gone. After getting home from driving back from Germany on Sunday, Greg decided to make a 4 hour round trip journey on Monday to visit a church leader who's having some life struggles. Today, Wednesday he is making a 6 hour round trip drive to a training meeting/fireside. Tomorrow he's agreed to participate in a discussion with investigators: 4 hour round trip drive. On Friday he drives 5 hours to Wrocław for a meeting and from there flies to Prague for an area meeting on Saturday. Sunday he conducts a training meeting back in Wrocław and Monday teaches a class on church history at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, before coming back home. (Hours given are just the drive, not including meetings.)

That's some driving/meeting/teaching/etc.ing. A good way to spend the week after spending a week at the temple.

Right this minute:
I quite love my family.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Homely Comparisons

I think I learn something every time I go to someone else's house. I know we say we're not supposed to compare ourselves to others, but I think life would be flat and silly (maybe even pointless?) if we didn't. We're all different. That's what makes the world interesting and allows us to learn and grow.

When I go to someone else's house, of course I notice differences between theirs and mine. (not including decor. Most everyone has better/nicer/newer decor than we do. I don't compare there.) I might make mental, often hardly conscious observations like this:

Man, clean (uncluttered) surfaces everywhere!
Eeek. I'm sticking to the back of this dining chair!
What a great idea for a chore chart!
Wow, they're really teaching responsibility the way they have their kids care for their pet!
I hope that stack of books doesn't fall off the piano onto anyone's head.
I have to ask for this recipe!

I learn about things I could improve in my own home. I also learn about things I am doing well. I am reminded that the little things I neglect and don't notice anymore will be noticed by visitors to my own home (hello, piles of papers on the stairs!). It's pretty easy not to judge because our strengths and weaknesses are different and it is easy to recognize that. It's also pretty easy not to get down on myself because I do have strengths, and can work on my weaknesses.

In every house I learn something about how I think my own home should be.

And then I visit the house in which I learn everything about how my home should be.

  • The people working there are happy, helpful and calm. They work and seem to care only for the smooth, proper functioning of the house and the joy of those who are inside. They stand, not preoccupied or absorbed with any distraction, but very open, always looking for ways to help anyone that may have problems or who even just may want to chat for a moment.
  • It is clean there. Very clean.
  • There is a schedule. It is followed and everyone goes about their business knowing what to expect. Things get done; people do those things willingly.
  • A spirit of service and love is felt everywhere.

I learn all of these things and do my best to make my own home a house of order, peace and love.

But more than what I learned through observation in that house, I learned through the spirit. I learned what I already know. What I have always known. What matters most to me. But somehow learning it again changes me.

I learn that my Father really, really loves me. I am his. That is amazing. He has big plans for me. I can be so much more than I have been. I have not been who I am. How did I forget who I am, even while I knew it?

How did I forget why on earth I'm here? Or rather why I'm here on Earth? I knew it. I did, and I was reminded and refocused over and over again, but even then, I didn't really get it all the way, I think.

In that house I learned how my home should be. And I learned how and what and who I should be. And why.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

In Heaven

I'm going to be in heaven this week.

What constitutes heaven?:

  • Greg is not working for a full week and I get to be with him most of the time.
  • I get a break from the three oldest kids for the week.
  • We're traveling. I love road trips.
  • We will spend the week in Germany.

Each of those things alone is a little bit (or a lottle bit) of heaven, but the thing that will make it most heavenly is that we will be in the temple for hours on end for days in a row.

Heaven, I tell you.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Different Over Here, But Also The Same

It is 1 am. We just got home.

We went to church, went straight to a temple recommend interview and then came straight home. And here we are at 1 am.

I had my interview with my branch president after church at 12 pm, then we drove to meet a member of the mission presidency on his way home from visiting a distant branch to have our second interview, which took place around 7:30 pm.

We had our interviews in his car.

We drove 9 hours today, instead of the 4 we would have driven if we'd only gone to church.

We made a large triangle instead of just boring lines going to and from church.

Life is interesting in Poland.

I had the privilege of giving my favorite answers to my favorite questions on the most important subjects to the Lord's representative.

I love saying yes.

(well, and no, but it's the yeses that make me teary. The nos are a formality.)

It's as awesome saying yes when you drive 5 hours out of your way to do it as it is when you wait for a half an hour in your own chapel.

It's as meaningful to hear those questions and say those yeses in a car as it is in an office.

This was a hallowed e'en.

I am going to bed.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Teaching Evie to Give Her Socks to the Janitor

Schools in Poland are set up differently than those in America. Rather than hanging your coat on a rack in your classroom, when you first enter the school there is an area with a group of cages, one for each class, in which you leave your coat. You also leave your shoes there.

Every day the kids change into "school shoes". They take this separate pair of shoes, which is usually canvas or some other light type of shoe, in a special bag (which can be bought to match your backpack), change near their class' "cloakroom" and leave their regular shoes in the bag, which they hang by their coat.

The janitor lady locks up the cages after the bell rings and opens it again before school lets out. (this means that if your kids are late they may have to run around looking for the janitor to have her open their door) Different classes let out at different times, and sometimes classes take trips outside and have to change shoes and put on coats etc. so occasionally the cages are open during classes.

This, of course, is all very strange to me. It's a pain in the neck in many ways. Of course it's a good idea in some respects. I mean, imagine walking down the hall at school and not going through all the slush people bring in during the winter. The problem is, it only takes one or two parents or teachers to walk down the hall in wet shoes and then all the kids' clean school shoes are muddy, too.

But whatever. That's how they do it here and I stopped complaining about it after Evie's second year in school (see how good I am, only complaining for two years about something I can't change!?!)

There is, however, another problem. Stuff gets stolen and lost very easily. David has "lost" a couple of nice sweaters, a pair of good new gloves and a pair of (cheap but new) school shoes over the course of 2 1/2 years. Ewelina? Well, she's "lost" a number of items of clothing and two pairs of shoes. Good shoes. Good, new shoes.

Sorry about this tangent, but I can't really stand girls' shoes these days. They are ugly, most of them. And the ugliest ones of all are those that I'm sure I would have died to have when I was Evie's age. Fashion and it's cycles.

Anyway, last year we bought Evie this (ugly) pair of shoes that she was just in love with. They were the most expensive pair we've ever bought her (we're cheap though, so they weren't that expensive). She wore them for a couple of weeks and then they disappeared. From the cloakroom. Into thin air.

She was somewhat devastated. It was cold enough that we just had her wear her winter boots, but when spring came again we finally got her a replacement pair. Shiny red low-tops that she also loved.

A week or two later and the red shoes disappeared, too. Nothing we have ever lost has ended up in the lost-and-found. Thin air, I tell you.

Yesterday after school Evie called Greg (who was getting ready to go pick her up; we don't rush and the kids sometimes wait an hour or so for us (him) to come. Again, every class has a different schedule so there are always some classes still going on and it's very normal for other kids to just be hanging around)

This time Evie didn't want to wait. She told Greg to come as fast as he could. Why? Because she had just seen the janitor wearing her old shoes (the first pair that went missing)!


Those were not a style of shoes a forty something cleaning lady would wear. Unless. . .

So, yeah.

Ev and her friend were looking at the shoes and whispering. When the janitor noticed them staring she left right away. A little later they saw her again and she was wearing the slippers she usually wears around the school.

What a range of emotions I feel about this. The shock and upset that I felt initially wore off pretty early on and is now mostly covered by pity and. . . regret? I just feel bad for her.

I sort of would like to approach the lady. Maybe I would say she could keep the shoes (obviously), but could we please have back the leg warmers that were in the bag with them, which Ewelina's aunt knitted specially for her?

Greg is planning on talking to the principal. I definitely understand this. They really shouldn't have a thief working on grounds. Especially not one with keys.

But I can't help thinking that maybe talking to her would be enough. I don't know. Maybe not, if she has a lucrative stall in the outside market where she sells like-new children's shoes and winter clothing.

Basically when it comes to the "justice" part of the whole thing I'm a little torn (let her keep taking other children's things? Probably not a good idea), but there is no question about the mercy aspect.

Evie was very upset when she got back from school. She really misses her shoes. She is very angry with the janitor. I talked to her about how understandable that is. Then I asked if she knows what Jesus said we should do in such situations. She didn't remember.

Well, it turns out he gave quite a similar example. I quoted that "if any man . . . take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also."

I suggested Evie take a pair of socks to school and offer it to the janitor.

She didn't think this was funny. Or poignant. Or anything other than a little annoying. But I think she's coming around. Sometimes forgiveness takes a little time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

'Tis a Gift

Head cold. Not a gift. But here are some things I've been thinking of lately.

One of my favorite things in the world is taking a baby out of his crib. Why are babies so sweet after they sleep? They're so warm and cuddly and happy. There is something about not having held the baby all night, or for the hours during their nap that makes it feel like someone is giving me a gift when finally get to I pick that little guy up. Heaven.
I always floss before bed and I'm ALWAYS very tired and I NEVER feel like doing it. Last night I went to floss my teeth and realized I'd already flossed earlier in the day so I didn't really have to floss again. It felt like someone was handing me a little package. I was very happy. I doubt if I would be any happier if someone knocked on the door and handed me $50. (I thought long and hard about an amount. More than 50 and I would have been happier than about not having to floss, but less than that, for sure not.)

Okay, I just read over the parenthesis in that last paragraph and am in love with the sense of it all. Not to mention the relevance. It is just so important (the whole flossing thing!) and I'm pleased to now publish it on my blog.

I have a head cold.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Aaron tells me that we can have a lesson* someday.

On a rainy morning I tell him we can't go the park to slide and he says, "On Sunday we can go, right mommy?"

When he suggest that grandma is coming over I say, "No, grandma can't come to see us today." He looks outside and says, "But look mom! It's a sunny day! Grandma can come to our house!!"

Here's what Aaron understands: There are some things we don't do on Sunday. There are some things we can only do on a sunny day. Some places we only go on Sunday and some activities we have to wait to do when it's sunny out. And many, many things that we can't do today we may be able to do someday.

Someday, Sunday, sunny day, it's all so confusing.

He'll get it straight Sunday.

*We started having nursery lessons at home each Sunday evening for Aaron, with Evie and David as helper classmates. They ALWAYS end up being laugh fests because, like many three year olds, Aaron is unable to focus or make comments related to the lesson. Or do "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" properly.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hypocritical Housewife

I think we have a pretty old-fashioned marriage in many ways. I do 99 % of the cooking, maybe 85 % of the cleaning and 100% of laundry* in our relationship. I regularly treat my kids to cookies and milk (of course I hardly touch the things myself. Ha!) I consider the home my domain and recognize it as largely my responsibility to create the proper atmosphere here. I don't feel at all offended at the concept of a distinction between woman's work and man's work. As a matter of fact, I occasionally tell Greg to leave the woman's work to me (like when he's doing a bad job of something).
*I'm including the kid's help with hanging laundry and doing chores in my percentage

I love this. I've chosen it and I really love it. I spent all my early life wanting to be a wife and mother. Wanting to care for my husband and our children.

This is why I can never watch Father of the Bride without being a little baffled by Annie's reaction to the gift her fiance gives her. A blender!?! What kind of message is he trying to send!?! I've always thought, "I'm so the opposite of her. I would have loved to get a kitchen appliance and been thrilled to be able to use it to create delicious food for my dearly beloved husband."

But it only takes thinking back a little for me to see my hypocrisy.

It was only a few days before our wedding. We got out of the car at the grocery store and held hands. It was December and freezing so he put our hands in his coat pocket. I could feel that the lining was torn and commented on it.

"I know! In just a few days you can sew it up for me!" he said, with the most charming and affectionate smile.

Based on all my previous thoughts about homemaking and wifely responsibilities and the honor it would be to fulfill them, I should have been as delighted as he seemed to be a the thought. But I wasn't. Not at all.

For some unknown reason I had this sudden rush of horror that he expected me to be some domestic goddess, doing anything and everything he wanted me to; that suddenly our relationship was going to change dramatically from the moment we said the proverbial "I do". (or the less proverbial, "yes". Or was it "I will"? It's been awhile. Note to self: do sealings during temple trip this November)

I'm sure he was as surprised by my reaction as I was. (I didn't quite know what my deal was either). But we made it through that trial and still said our proverbial "I do"s.

After we were married I assured him that, though I lacked skill or practice, I was very happy to sew his pocket for him, despite the fact that I had seemed rather repulsed by the idea only a few days before.

Still, he chose to sew it himself. And from that time till now, Greg does probably 95% of all sewing for our family.

Which makes me wonder if Annie ever ended up using that blender after all, or if maybe he didn't do all the blending from there on out.
This post inspired by Melanie's post today.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Best [Decorations] in Life are Free

I have often lamented (but successfully kept myself from dwelling on) the fact that the change of the seasons just isn't celebrated in the same way here that it is back home.

At this time of year I love when people talk (or write) about taking their children to pumpkin patches and cider mills. Who doesn't love pumpkin patches and cider mills? I know I do!

So I consider it rather (extremely) sad that none of my kids have ever been to either. The closest we have gotten is rummaging through a smallish box of misshapen, mostly pale peach colored pumpkins at the grocery store, which somehow feels less festive than strolling through a pumpkin patch.

When summer ends back home, you know it. (even if the weather is still scorching) Everywhere you go you find seasonal decoration. Brightly colored leaves hang from the ceiling in grocery stores, shops have harvesty window decorations and, of course the candy aisle reflects the changing seasons with fall colored packaging and Halloween candy.

In Poland you will find none of those things*. You are not hit with "It's fall!" in every store, office, library or school where you may be running errands. I miss being hit like that.

On the other hand, Poland does a pretty dang good job of decorating for fall. There may be no autumn ambiance indoors, but you feel it everywhere else. The air is crisp and mornings are often foggy (oh how I love foggy mornings!). The beautiful trees that I admire year round put on their most colorful apparel. Showers of leaves fall with every gust of wind and those leaves, horse chestnuts and acorns crunch underfoot everywhere you go.

I miss the human-enhanced sense of fall back home (which I know is accompanied by the beauty of what nature has to offer), but I also love the purity of the fall that is experienced here and find that it is enough.

Of course Halloween is a different story. Well, the same story, too, I guess. There are no Halloween decorations. There is no Halloween candy. There are no corn mazes or haunted houses.

But we do have these.

It takes a little time but admittedly very little effort (and no money) to have a collection of the best, most authentic Halloween decorations possible. Most of the time they are invisible, but go out in the darkening, chilly and misty evening and you will find them delightfully beaded with moisture and creepy as can be.

Also, I promise if I ever feel the urge to post any more pictures of fences I will start a separate fence blog on which to post them. (and I believe Erin asked what our fence looks like. Now you know. Boring, but pretty great for Halloween!) (and people keep asking if they're real. Yes, they are. Aren't spiders awesome?)

*at least not in our medium-small city

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Randomly Speaking

I had one of those heart stopping experiences recently. I was bringing a pizza from the downstairs oven (it's better than the one in the upstairs kitchen. What a weird house.) and before I got to the kitchen where Spencer had been playing I heard a loud thud. One of the chairs had fallen backward.

I rushed into the kitchen and Spencer was lying on his back with one arm under the chair. And he was doing the silent scream that only comes out vocally after awhile. His arm was fine, but after a minute or so we could see where the metal bar of the chair had landed on his head. Ugh. I hate that. Very, very much. He was crying hard, but cried even harder when I put a bag of frozen Brussels sprouts on the spot.

For the rest of the evening he had a goose egg of Tom and Jerry proportions but was okay. He slept fine, too. The next morning you could only see that there was a tiny bruise if you knew exactly where on his temple to look. Weird. But good-weird.
I bet you wish your blog could look like mine. We're under construction over here, obviously. "We" refers to my blog.
In order to dispel the potential notion some may get that I have a glamorous job (freelance writer does sound good, I admit) I thought about sharing what my articles would look like. But when I turn them over to my client and am paid, I lose all rights to them (no real tragedy, I assure you). I'm not saying I wrote those that I linked to, because I can't claim that. And frankly, I'm not sure I would want to. (Holy mistakes! And silly writing! That's what happens when you try to write 20 articles in 2 days from home.)

So anyway, not glamorous.

(edited out link to a site I wrote for)
Our friends who brought us to Poland are awesome people. Paweł was a Pole with an American wife at BYU. Same situation we were in. He got the job here and three months after he started he got Greg hired, too.

Once I traveled to an orphanage an hour away with Sheri, his wife, on one of her visits to her baby boy in the weeks before the adoption was finalized. That baby was so obviously hers.

Now they are back in the States. They have three children, all adopted. They have their share of stress and trials, for example Paweł is looking for a job, but they are happy, good people and have always been very generous and kind to us.

I could end the story there, but because they have been good to us I thought I would ask anyone with about 2 minutes who wants to do them a favor to do this. Their middle child is a darling girl, Jaylianna who is in the running (final round!) to model for a line of children's clothing. The voting is done by the number of people who "like" a photo on facebook. All you have to do is "like" the page of the clothing line and then go and "like" her picture.

If you are up for doing that kind of favor they have a blog to make it even easier. Just click on that link and follow the directions in the sidebar. Super easy. (if you decide to do it, thanks!)
I hope everyone is enjoying the feeling of fall as much as I am. It is excessively awesome. Way better than the feeling of falling (unintentionally) or, worse yet, hearing or seeing a dining chair fall on your baby's head.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

O That I Were A Poet

I am amazed, overwhelmed and awestruck with this life and the things it is full of. Of course there are the tricky things, and I spend far too much time thinking of, stressing over and moping about those, but there is no question that all that is far outweighed by the beauty.

There are times every day that I wish I were artistic. I feel art (beauty? love?) When my breath is taken away by a view of the clouds, the changing colors of fall, the shape of a tree; when my heart is ready to burst at something incredibly sweet and darling my three year old says, or the way my baby nestles his little nose in my neck, or how the older kids love and sacrifice for the younger ones; when a new season begins and you can just feel it all around. Those are the times I wish I were a poet.

I would love to be able to express the feelings that come from seeing, hearing and touching. I covet the painter who can capture the beauty he sees on canvas, or the poet who can put into words exactly what is inside him.

I can't do those things; I'm left just feeling. It's sometimes almost too much to bear. But in as much as being able to release the beauty felt inside through words or paint is a gift, the very ability to just feel is one of the greatest gifts I have been given.

I don't need to be an artist. I am surrounded by art. The Master Painter has already created the pictures that make me feel. His poetry is in the miraculous experiences I have every day. I will just feel, and be grateful.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What Chocolate and Charity Have in Common

Almost two years ago Annette Lyon* sent me a recipe for brownies which I made and loved. She knows her chocolate. To the point that she now has her own chocolate cookbook.

The book itself isn't chocolate, as I'm sure you probably thought, but it's filled with chocolate recipes. A couple of days ago she posted two of them on her blog. I made them today. They made big, beautiful cupcakes with rich chocolate frosting. Mmmmmm. I made Greg choose one and take a picture of it (in terrible lighting) and let him try to fix it however he liked. Here is the result.
Needless to say I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this cookbook. And I love its title: Chocolate Never Faileth. Amen!

(I think I'll go eat another.)
*This isn't the first of her books I've been enthused about. Remember this one? Loved it, and that one wasn't even about chocolate!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

You Might Be A Mother


...you argue with a three year old over whether or not his eyes are blue and then pull out your phone and take a picture, on the spot, to prove you're right. (then look on the computer and realize that the picture is lot more grainy than it was on your phone)

...while combing a girl's hair you ask if she knows why you came into the world. When she responds, without missing a beat, "To be our mom" you tear up a little and scold yourself for ever, ever complaining about this gig.

...you can't sit down to eat a sandwich for three minutes without being tugged at, pulled on and stared at with eyes that say "hold me, mommy!"
...you sometimes grab a nine year-old boy and sit him on your lap and talk to him, the whole time wondering how on earth he got to be SO BIG.

...you realize that nearly everything you write as your status update on facebook includes something certain kids have said or done. You want to stop boring people but you kind of can't.

...you laugh and cry both with and about the same kids pretty much every day.

...you love to read, write and talk about children and parenting, even with people you have never met before, on a regular basis.

Now, I'm not saying any of these criteria apply to me, I'm just saying that I'm pretty sure I'm a mother.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cold Turkey

I just scraped out a pumpkin and it's baking in the oven to be pureed (no canned stuff in Poland) and made into delicious fall food so, under the circumstances, just writing that title makes me think of delicious turkey and cranberry sandwiches on dinner rolls the day after Thanksgiving. But that's not the kind of cold turkey I'm talking about.

I'm talking about a muuuuuuuch less pleasant cold turkey, but one that brings significantly longer-lasting satisfaction. Tonight we're letting Spencer cry it out.

Now I know I probably-too-often get on my soapbox about sleep, but it's something I love and need. I know my kids need it, too and I want them to love it. That's why our philosophy and evening/night time routine is what it is. It works for us so we do it.

Spencer has been a good little sleeper. He was waking twice for feedings around 1 and 5 a.m. from the time he was six weeks old. Since he turned maybe two or three months old he only wakes around 5. Until recently.

Lately he wakes up at 10ish, 1ish, 3ish and 5ish. I end up feeding him two or three of those times. He is nine months old. He does not need to eat two or three times during the night. So instead of letting him outgrow his 5 a.m. feeding I'm sort of forced to force him to learn to fall back to sleep when he wakes at night. By force.

Just kidding. I'm just trying to make it sound as evil as possible for those reading who already think it is terrible and torturous. I want this to be a controversial post. I need to be much more controversial on this here blog of mine.

But I guess that's pretty much what it is (cry-it-out is force, not blog is controversial). Still, I've done it enough to know that it's a quick and easy thing that allows us both to get better quality sleep. And also that he won't think I don't love him because of it. I'm pretty sure jumping out of bed to nurse him whenever he called for nine months showed clearly enough that I love him. Letting him cry for two or three nights shouldn't overshadow that.

Still, it's sort of hard on me (us). So I'm asking for sympathetic vibes sent our direction tonight. And if you only have outrage, don't send those vibes, please (just leave them in a comment).

Anyway, I could go on (and on) about sleep and why we train our kids in that area etc. but instead I'll just leave you with an anecdote that illustrates how ingrained it all is in the heads of our children:

Aaron loves The Aristocats and watches it regularly. A lot happens in that movie, sad, happy, funny, crazy etc. Still, the one part of the show that moves Aaron more than any others is not any of these.

After the "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat" scene, Duchess tucks her kittens sweetly into bed. During this part Aaron starts getting noticeably worried. When mama cat walks away the kittens get up out of bed one by one. As soon as Marie, the first one, gets up Aaron starts calling to me, "Oh NO! Mommy! She can't get out of bed! She has to go night-night!" And watches the darling scene that follows with a look of disappointment directed at those kittens.

See? He knows we need sleep. (And he also loves to enforce rules.) And I'm pretty sure he knows I love him, even though I taught him to sleep through the night when he was Spencer's age.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fences Are Greener Over Here

One thing I love about Poland is how ecological people are. There's not so much of the "Save the World" craze, but people just do things that make sense.

This is especially true of the older generations, part of which surely has to do with having learned to conserve during the dark years of communism. Greg's parents still have baby food jars that they use as containers from when David was a baby. That's over eight years ago. The jars are fine, so why not use them? People bring their old plastic bags to the grocery store when they shop. Plastic bottles are made into spinning scarecrow thingies for gardens. The same clothes are worn around the house until they literally fall apart.

And packaging makes sense here. There is a lot of plastic, but it is thin. I am regularly outraged (though mildly) when I visit the states and see how things are packaged with plastic thick enough that it can only be meant to protect the food item from being repeatedly whacked with a hammer. Which could happen, of course, so maybe I shouldn't complain. . .

Reusing is economical and ecological, of course. Take, for example, fences in our neighborhood. There are all kinds of fences; wrought iron, chain-link, wood etc. but there are an alarming number of fences that look like these:



Can you guess what they are? Well I'll tell you.

Our town has what is now a huge "economic zone" of factories belonging to various companies that get some tax breaks or something. It is also where Greg works. On the map below you can see "the Zone". It's the white blob.

Here it is closer up.

Back in the day (the same "day" that caused people to become so conservative, conservatory and conservationalizing with their things) they made airplanes there. For the commies. Where's your nearest communist airplane factory? (In the factory Greg works they no longer make MiG fighter jets but now make these, which I personally would take over a fighter jet any day of the week. Especially Friday. Preferably this coming Friday.)

So around here there was a lot of metalwork going on. Airplane parts were cut out of large sheets of metal. What was left over was put in the scrap pile. Or. . . it wasn't. See where I'm going with this?

So those sheets of metal made for lovely, decorative and original fences. Sheets of all sizes were welded together, often with metal rings or circles to connect them. Stick them in a frame made of pipe, paint them white, green or brown and you have yourself a fence. A free one.

It's pretty crazy to walk down the street around here and realize that the pieces cut out from all those fences are lying in airplane graveyards all over the former communist block.

So yay for being ecological and hooray for being surrounded by history. It may be a dark history, but I still love how rich this country is in it and how much of that history surrounds me*.
*remember this?
Also, please note how lovely our town is, on the banks of a river and flanked by forest.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Some Teachers Just Need To Retire: A Rant

I know that teachers in Poland have different background and theories than those I grew up with. They don't seem to understand the basics of positive reinforcement and the self-fulfilling prophecy etc. I also remember that when David chose to go to a costume party in Kindergarten dressed as a bum (thought of it on his own) his teacher told him it was an ugly costume and she didn't like it (can't really blame her but she didn't have to say it in front of the class - or at all). So I really should not be surprised by his current teacher (that he has grades 1-3 with).

Last year before an evening costume party/dance the school was holding he agonized forever about what to go as. People would make fun of the "muscles" in his Spiderman costume, the Batman costume was too small etc. He came up with the idea of going as a spy. He dressed in a suit and made himself a badge to tuck into his shirt pocket and an ID card to flash from his wallet. He wore his "spy glasses" (with mirrors on the sides to see what's behind you) and I thought he took a motion detector or some other McDonald's spy toy we have kicking around.

But maybe he didn't because the next Monday he came home from school and told me that his teacher had told him that he didn't do a very good job with his costume. He should have made some gadgets or something to make it more interesting.

This year on one of the first days of school she had the kids write what their dream school would be like. One girl said that there would be a robot that would go around and if you got lost it would take you to your classroom. Cute, huh? Shows the little girl's fears and her solution for dealing with them.

The teacher didn't think so. She said, "That is a very strange idea. Why would you need someone to show you where your class is? Don't you know where it is!?! A better idea would be if you could fly to school. . . " and proceeded to explain how to use your imagination properly to create a TRULY interesting school.

A few days ago she asked David what his mom does for work. He told her that I write. She was intrigued and grilled him with questions. All he could tell her was that I write articles, send them to a man and he sends me money. When he couldn't explain better who the man was (name, please!) she said, "David! Don't you know anything about your own mother!?!"

The other day a girl needed a tissue and didn't have one. The teacher asked David if he had one he would give her. He didn't. She asked why not. He said because he doesn't have a stuffy nose. The teacher told him he has no culture, coming to class without tissues in his bag.

Other things she regularly says to students:

"Oh, that's an interesting haircut. I liked it better how it was before." Or she just says she doesn't like it.

"You wear your short sleeves over your long sleeves? Is that some kind of new style? Whatever!" and other comments on the clothes they wear.

"What is that!?! That's supposed to be a dog? That looks like a pig."

These are the only things I can remember right now, but David comes home from time to time and cries about how much he "hates" his teacher, usually when she's embarrassed him or a friend of his with her comments.

I just had to get that all off my chest. She's not always such a troll, and we have actually appreciated her sense of humor and hard work with the difficult class she's been dealing with for 2 full years already. But really, when you start resorting to insulting kids to get back at them for being hard to deal with I think it really is just time to retire. Even if you're only in your early forties. (and even if you praise my baking in front of all the other parents)(which is the main problem, praise and criticism all spoken loudly in front of everyone.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Defining "My People"

So, I miss my people. The people of mine who I miss the most-- sometimes more, sometimes a lot more and sometimes not quite so much more, but whom I always feel the lack of--are my family. Those people really belong to me and should live closer.

But there are other people I feel rather possessive of. Millions of them. I will explain.

As I put my carry-on in the overhead compartment of a plane that will cross the Atlantic to my Patria, I hear numerous loud conversations going on. This guy is telling his neighbor about a show he saw in Las Vegas, that lady is explaining to a man about a rude person she met while on vacation. Over there a man is laughing boisterously as he tells a story about a family member. It's a bit of an overload for me. I didn't really want or need to hear any of that. It almost seems rude to bombard strangers with personal stories, loudly told, and yet I sit down, listen, and smile broadly. I love these people. They are Americans.
As we unload our luggage in a hotel parking lot two young men come walking from the other end of the lot. When they are still quite far away I tell Ev, "those guys are Americans". I can tell because of how they look and. . . seem. They are casually dressed and seem happy and laid back. I cannot fully describe it. Soon we see they are coming toward us, and that they are former missionaries back in Poland for a visit. They are Americans.
Walking down the crowded streets of beautiful Krakow I come face to face with a woman and we do the side-to-side trying-to-get-out-of-each-other's-way dance. She makes eye contact, smiles and then we pass each other, without speaking a word. I lean to Greg and we say at the same time, "that was an American".
I meet people and within the first few sentences I speak to them I, out of habit, utilize verbal irony. They laugh, or smile or keep a straight face and respond with irony as well. They are Americans.
We've had mission presidents' wives from South Africa and then Denmark for the last six years. (I love and admire them both). But now we have a new one and after our first few minutes of conversation I feel like we've been friends for years. She is an American.
I get these people and they get me. That (obviously) makes them mine.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Prince and His, um, Horse

As a young teenager girl I dreamed of my Prince Charming. While I dreamed, this is the noble steed upon which my Knight in Shining Armor galloped:

He's in the passenger seat (it was his friend's car). I would like to say that I have no idea how he even got in there, because it sounds good, but the fact is, this is the exact same model (and color!) of car we drove for a few months while I was all the way pregnant with David, before we got a real car, so I know very well that it is possible to get in and out of one, even when you're Very Large.

It's pretty shocking how different the streets look today when compared with this picture ('91). Well, truthfully, you see the same number of pedestrians and kiosks, but now the streets are busy and full of new cars.

But what's really crazy is that they are also rather full of this same car. Still!

And I'm not sure when they started painting center lines on the streets, but they have them now. (and fine, they probably had them then, too, just not on some streets, such as the one pictured above. I'm glad, because it helps contribute to the sense that the street as wide as the Mississippi compared to this microscopic car)

Two jokes Greg tells about these cars:
1. What's the quietest car in the world? A Fiat Maluch (MAL-oo-h) because when you sit down in one your knees cover your ears.
2. This is the only Vatican endorsed car because, um, for reasons of chastity.

Even though this car looks like something we would have been required to build for our final project in my Beginning Auto class in high school, I love it. Partly because I have memories of my own in one (including trying not to go into labor one time while riding over an extremely bumpy road through the forest), but also because it's part of what got Greg where he is today. It was part of his journey. This picture was taken not too long after he was baptized, and the driver/friend was his branch president.

It's kind of funny that in a world where many people feel that it matters what gets you from A to B, this picture inspires so much more affection from me than if my knight had been driving a shiny BMW. Or riding a glossy-coated, black stallion.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Finding Treasure

School starts Wednesday so we decided to get out and do one last family activity.

It ended up being an adventure that involved lots of dark clouds, rocky terrain, , pitch black, cramped spaces, age-old fresh springs in hard-to-get-to basements, thunder, huge, open corridors with dusty red floors, sudden, cold drafts through enormous window openings, and a green, grassy courtyard.

We visited Krzyżtopór castle (an hour away!)and found treasure. There is a legend that treasure is buried somewhere beneath the castle, but we found it everywhere we looked. It was a family adventure that I really will treasure forever. (I reserve the right to be as cheesy as I choose on my personal blog, thankyouverykindly.)

Funny, too, because I'm usually the one who wants to head home as soon as it gets cold or wet, but I could not get enough of the weather. It created the greatest ambiance for castle ruin exploration.

The ruins date from the first half of the 17th century. I was super excited to visit it because this castle features prominently in James Michener's Poland. It has (had) 365 windows, 52 rooms, 12 ballrooms and four towers.

We didn't have flashlights, but next time we go we'll be sure each of the kids has their own. You need them to get through the dark cavernous passageways on the ground floor and below.
Plus, it's easier to see all the ghosts with a flashlight. Or without one. Hmmm.
My favorite spot was in the place shown below. There once hung huge portraits of family members in the openings. Not sure why I loved it so much but I could spend all day there. I just felt so small and it was beautiful.

Everywhere we went we could tell if other explorers (call them tourists if you're boring) spoke English by whether or not they chuckled or stifled a laugh. This was because everywhere we went Aaron repeated phrases such as:

"Mom, we kinda hafta go because daddy's walking now."
"Okay. We have to be really careful in here."
"Be careful. You can't run because you might go. . . and bump your head on a rock."
"It's kinda freaky!"
"Oh my gosh! I LOVE it in here!"
"It's like a ghost in there."

In the car on the way home he said, "You don't what, mom? I love you, but I want some toast." No, that has nothing to do with this post, but I thought it was funny. (He always says, "You don't what?" instead of "you know what?")

He also got tired of us pointing out all the cows, goats, tractors, storks, ponds etc. on the drive and eventually said, "I know mom! I can see EVERYTHING!" Well pardon me, Aaron!

I'm so glad we finally discovered this castle and that it is so close by! Now we can go there every other day.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

False Advertising

So people keep stopping by my blog from the Mormon Mommy Blogs website. Well, I'll tell you a story.

A long, long time ago I used to be one of the first to read TheOneTrueSue's blog posts, as she posted at unearthly hours which were only unearthly if you were on a certain side of the earth, which I wasn't.

One day she posted about a new thing she was trying. I clicked over and suddenly found myself the first to comment and request to be added to the - then very short - list of Mormon Mommy Bloggers. I was added in the humor category.

I had no idea what exactly this site was or what it would become. I was shocked the first time a perfect stranger, who had found me on MMB, commented on my blog.

Since that time I have met a lot of great people that way. Still, I have had repeated pangs of guilt about the category I'm placed under. I figured that, yeah, sometimes I write about something funny or what I write ends up coming out kinda funny. But I continue to feel a little bad.

I feel bad because, let's face it, everything I write isn't funny. Let's also face it, most of what I write isn't funny. This isn't exactly a "humor blog". It's just my blog, you know?

So anyway, I'm gonna move over to the International blogs because if there is one thing that can be said about my blog it's that it is international. And don't try to tell me it's not!
(just got my first two comments and forgot that of course you nice people will tell me I'm funny after this post! I really did not mean to ask for that.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Greg's Dieting Willpower is Strong Enough for Both of Us

I can't imagine going weeks upon weeks without bread of any sort, with no potatoes, no rice no PASTA!!! I should be able to though, since I've watched Greg do it for the past few weeks.

He's weird, is Greg. He's wanted to lose weight for awhile now and when we went to drop the kids off at his parents' house a few weeks ago he saw that his sister had lost weight. She told him about the Dukan diet and two days later he had bought the book. Another two days after that and he had turned his back on carbs in favor of protein, protein and more protein (alternating with days he could also eat vegetables).

So he's awesome, he's losing weight and I can't really believe he's doing so well. His also-dieting sister came to visit and when I made cranberry white chocolate scones (thanks, Kim!) she took a bite of one. Just a bite. And Greg didn't. He hasn't sampled any of the brownies, chocolate chip cookies, Boston Cream Pie, peanut butter brownies, blueberry muffins etc. I've made while he's been on this diet (I know I'm cruel, but I am not on a diet yet and I can't yet live without these things. Plus the kids and I eat them in the kitchen when Greg's not around and I bake everything in the downstairs kitchen so he doesn't smell it too much, either.).

That's another weird thing about him. He "doesn't get" why people go on a diet and then cheat. If you're going to diet, DIET, he says. If decide to do something, just do it. It's that all or nothing perspective that I respect so much about him. It is his major strength or a great contributor to many of his strengths, I think. (It's also the hardest thing to deal with in other ways, but that is another post for a never day.)

Making dinner is proving to be very time consuming these days. I'm not really the type to just switch right over to feeding the family on Greg's diet. It's heavy on dairy and fish and I'm doing low-dairy-nursing and I don't like fish. Still, I try to adapt our dinners for him. It means making most things twice.

For example on Sunday it was sweet and sour chicken. His chicken had to be marinated separately and breaded in only corn starch -- no flour, like ours was. It had to be "fried" without any oil. His sauce couldn't have regular sugar (or pineapple juice) in it and I am anti-sweetener, so the sauces had to be made separately, too.

When Greg came home in the evening and saw sauce and vegetables on the stove I could tell he needed it. He looked about dieted out and I could see the fear in his eyes that this was not a diet-friendly meal. He sat down in front of The Sound of Music with the kids and I brought him his riceless version of the dinner. He ate. He enjoyed.

Then he said something that very clearly illustrated his near desperation. He said, "If I hadn't been able to eat that dinner I would have broken my diet."


And I have to thank him for more than loving the skimpified versions of favorite meals I'm making for him. I also seem to have dropped almost three kilos since he started his diet. As I have not been eating any more healthy than before I can only attribute it to the strength of his dieting. He does it SO hardcore that even those around him are losing weight. Now there's a diet I can handle! (the kind that requires you to be around your dieting husband. Period.)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Obedience, Trust and What Makes a Mother Cry

I looked out the front window and saw a blonde, suntanned boy standing on the sidewalk shading his eyes while looking up at the stairs to a house that was being built but hadn't been worked on for months. He didn't look sad, upset or jealous. He was just looking.

I leaned my head to the side so I could see what he was looking at. On the stairs stood his three friends. They were talking and kicking rocks off the stairs, just hanging out. And the boy just stood.

He stood way out on the sidewalk because his parents had told him that constructions sites are not places to play, that they can be dangerous. They told him that someone owns those lots so you can't just explore there.

Watching this boy resist temptation and coolly do what he knew he should, even when it was hard and he thought no one was looking made me tear up. That boy was my David.

This same boy loves riding his bike with two of his friends. He wears a helmet, even though they don't, because his parents tell him to. He doesn't ride in the street because it's not safe. He rides on the sidewalk while his friends ride in the street.

He went away to stay with his grandparents for a week and a half. When he got home he found that his two bike riding friends had made friends in his absence with two other boys who also liked to ride bikes.

At first he was happy to meet the boys and become friends. On the first day, though, he realized that these boys also rode in the streets and that somehow this changed everything.

He had come to me a few times crying. He wanted his friends back. He could play with them but when they started riding bikes he simply could not keep up with them. He would just come home instead and try to be brave and not cry while being completely left out of his favorite activity with his best friends.

After a few days he told me about a plan he had to ask his two friends if he could ride bikes with them in the morning and they could ride with the new boys in the afternoon. I know this sounds like a good idea, but my heart was breaking a little for him. As I expected, his friends didn't agree.

David started talking to his dad about changing the bike riding rules. Dad was thinking about it. In the meantime the remaining two and a half weeks of summer were ticking by and David was spending a lot of time at home, left out. The main friend of the two would be returning to his home in Spain soon.

Last night before scriptures and prayer Greg had an announcement. He said that he had walked to a nearby store to pick up some vegetables (a job the kids usually do). While he was out he saw off in the distance David riding bikes with his friend. He rode on the sidewalk. When he came to a street he hopped off the bike and walked it across before getting back on the sidewalk while his friends sailed through the streets much more quickly.

There was no way David would ever have known that Greg or I would see him. Greg said that he was well convinced that he could trust David to do what he was asked. The new rule was that David could ride with his friends in the street, but has to watch very carefully for cars.

Of course I remembered back to the construction site story and got a little weepy.

I am so grateful for these moments in parenting when I realize that even though a child might drive me absolutely crazy sometimes he (or she) is a seriously awesome person with amazing strength of character. And how lucky I am to be allowed to watch them continue to learn and grow. And teach me.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Poor, Lonely Only Child

I have not poured apple juice for anyone but myself for a week. I have brushed only my own teeth. I have broken up exactly zero arguments and have not lost my temper once.
With each successive child after Ewelina I have felt tinges of guilt or hints of sadness that the poor second, third or fourth child never gets as much of my attention or has such a charmed life as the first did.

Now the oldest three have been at their grandparent's house for almost a week and instead of being grateful that Spencer can finally experience having me and Greg all to himself, I keep thinking how poor he is that he doesn't have all his built-in best friends who love him so much around.

We've been traveling like crazy during this week, but on the rare occasions Spencer wasn't strapped into his car seat he certainly showed that he can rise above only-child boredom by: cutting his first tooth, learning to clap and almost starting to crawl.

I guess technically you can learn to clap and cut a tooth while buckled into a car seat, but whatever.
The stairs have not been mopped for over a week* and the dust is building up. All the snacks I bought two weeks ago are still sitting in the cupboard. The silence is ringing in my ears and giving me a headache.

This has been extremely good for me in so many ways, but I am excited to have my noisy house, emptying cupboards and dust-free stairs back on Tuesday. And I admit I've spent some time staring at this picture this week.
*Ev and Dave mop (or dust, really) floors of the entire house every day.