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.