Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Like Halloween, Only at Christmas

I come from a culture in which  people spread Christmas cheer by gathering in groups and going door to door on a cold and frosty evening to sing Christmas carols, usually in harmony.  Sometimes they even bring treats for the inhabitants of the homes who's doors they knock on.

As a lover of singing and spreading Christmas cheer I have always enjoyed Christmas caroling. And, really, as a lover of donuts and hot apple cider after caroling I have always enjoyed Christmas caroling.

I have missed it in the years we've lived here.  Christmas caroling is, um, different in Poland.  And by different I mean that it's basically the opposite of what it is in the States.  Beginning with the fact that it is done after Christmas instead of before.

Young or teenage boys dress up as shepherds or wise men (and we once had a grim reaper?) and knock on doors after Christmas.  When the door is opened they begin singing.  Badly.  And in most cases very badly.  It is hard not to laugh, but a blast of icy air is usually freezing your face stiff before the laughing comes (when it's just a pleasant smile), assisting you in your efforts to be kind..

Although these young carolers don't come bearing any Christmas goodies  there IS an element of giving involved.  Those being sung to are expected to cough up something valuable to give to each of the (usually 3-5) boys.  Money, of course, is the most acceptable but we've given treats before, too.  That was only because we didn't have any coal on hand.  At our house "gifts" are only ever handed over after Greg has given the boys a proper  teasing and made them all giggle (if they're elementary aged) or slug each other in the arms (if they're a little older).  Usually something about how bad their singing was, or remarks about their costumes (the grim reaper that one year really got an earful!).

They take their loot and are off to terrorize the next neighbor.  It's really very festive.

Who'll bet I reach crabby old-ladihood before Melanie?  Who bets I'm already there?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Not Very Merry Story (but with a happy ending)

The flight to London, though delayed by an hour, was quite good, right up until the landing, at which point Spencer vomited all over both of us.  A lot.  This was the first time he has ever thrown up and, luckily for us, happened to coincide with the first flight for which I have ever forgotten to include a change of clothes for all travelers in my carry on (usually done in case of delayed baggage).  

We had the distinkt pleasure of running through one of the busiest (and hugest!) airports in the world looking like I had just drunk a Big Gulp and then peed my pants and smelling like I had just climbed out of a dumpster full of rotten everything, while racing to catch our connecting flight.  It was 2am California time and Spencer was in no mood to run alongside me so I had the other privilege of carrying him in one arm while dragging my carryon with the other, stopping every few minutes to switch arms, and then, after awhile, every 10 seconds or so because my arms were done and let me know by offering me approximately zero strength.

When we finally arrived at our gate I was sticky, sweaty, sleepy, smelly and physically exhausted--in its true sense, not just the "very tired" we often mean when we use the word-- only to find that the plane (departing at 12:15) had already departed (before 12:10), even though they knew to expect us.  The heavily made-up woman who gave me this news told me to head back to the ticket counter where I should make new flight plans, whereupon I said, "You're kidding.", dropped into the nearest seat and began to cry. So, after a minor breakdown (I've always loved me a good cry in public) we went all the way back to the customer service desk and waited in line to make new plans.  Our new flight would leave six hours later.  Six glorious hours of hanging out with a cranky, sleepy toddler in, again, one of the busiest airports, trying to keep as far as possible away from anything with a sense of smell. 

We did meet another family in the exact same situation (minus the throw up and the single parent and the sleepy toddler -- well, mostly they were on our previous flight and missed the connection to Warsaw, too) who helped us out and walked with us part of the way (and their five year old only mentioned our smell like twice).  Also, Spencer wasn't at all sick, it had just been a motion/air pressure thing.  Trust me, I counted every blessing I could.

In our last flight (2 1/2 hours) I requested seats situated as far as possible from other passengers, but learned that the flight was booked.  I prepared to apologize profusely for the odor to everyone who glanced in our general direction.  As it happened, nobody did.  And even the young lady sitting right next to us didn't say anything and I just hope she heard me when I hurriedly mentioned and apologized for it half under my breath early on in the flight.

But what joy to finally arrive in Warsaw!  Only one of our two checked bags didn't show up, and seeing Greg, Evie, David and Aaron was pure bliss.  

I can't imagine anything making me happier than I was to see them, but I have to say, putting on clean clothes was a really close second.

For the reconrd, this was the least offensive vomit I have ever smelled.  But it was still stomach contents and wasn't very fantastic.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Two Happy Years

Two years ago today our family was given the best early Christmas present ever.  We will never be the same and are so grateful for all the joy Spencer has brought into our home.

This isn't our home, but it is our family after a long day of District Conference, which is kind of the same thing.
 The following picture shows how Spencer approaches the world

With a smile that says, "I bet we could be friends, you and me!"  With an implied "especially if you like to follow me around wherever I go and do just as I say!"

In airports he waved and gave a cheery, "Hello!" to every single person we passed.  While we waited he counted people's feet (one guy had 5, apparently) and pointed out every person who was using a cell phone.

The most exciting thing he experienced in America was seeing cars.  We would drive while he gazed out the window for long periods of time and then he would suddenly proclaim, pointing with great excitement, "AUTO!!"  A car!  He spotted a car!!  That's another thing about him.  He can find a car where you'd least expect to, like on the freeway in southern California, or in a parking lot.  And he told us every time he did (fortunately he seemed to miss most of them and just randomly caught one here or there).  Which is probably why his super cute cousin once gave him a bossy little push and said, "Don't say 'auto' anymore!!"  (I was glad someone was brave enough to finally say it!)

William has the shiniest red hair and he and Spence looked so cute bouncing around the park together, while Spencer pointed out all the cars in the distant parking lot.

I'm so glad I got to share him with my family.  And that he saved about 95% of his fits for the last two days (and even then it could have been worse).  He was a sweet little traveling cousin/nephew/grandson and even the events of the way home couldn't turn me against him!!  :)  (Just kidding.  And that story really is coming...)

And the best part of coming home was his reunion with his best friend.

Aaron and Spence
We all love our boy and are so grateful that he IS ours!  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Home Sweet Home Away from Home Sweet Home

What a vacation!  Spencer and I bounced around from Micah's to Dad's to Anne's, to Jon's to Ben's then back to Anne's and then Dad's in the space of 2 1/2 weeks in California.  I realized a lot of things while we were there.

I realized/learned/decided:
  • that I love America as much as, or maybe even more than I remembered.  
  • that I love my brothers and sisters very, very much and am grateful that they married such awesome people and gave birth to such lovely (seriously gorgeous), intelligent and fun children.
  • that family gossip will never affect me much again.  I feel like I "get" everyone in the family.  And love each of them a ton*.  Oh, I already said that. (*that's 2,000 pounds of love each.)
  • how people can live without cooking.  This has always been a mystery to me.
  • that minute rice bears virtually no resemblance to actual rice.
  • that it was a very, very good idea to take Spencer with me.  
  • how different every family is.  I loved spending time in so many different homes.  
  • that I am not a good conversationalist, but decided it's okay because silences were never awkward.
  • that I am lucky to have the parents I do.
  • that I have it in me to forgive a sister for having a cupboard full of bags of chocolate, vanilla and peanut butter chips which have EXPIRED.  It took me about a week, but behold, I did forgive.
  • that, as a guest, I am terrible at helping with dinner prep/cleaning.  This bothered me, but not enough for me to overcome my insecurity and get my rear up and give it a try.
  • (or rather confirmed) that for me, sitting around at home with people I love is usually as fun or enjoyable as going out to do something with them, and often it's more enjoyable.
  • more about what kind of person I want to become from being with so many people I admire.
  • that everybody makes stupid mistakes or bad choices that cause crisis in their lives.  And that it's okay to just learn from them and move on.  And that it helps to get sympathy from those around you.
  • that arms do not actually fall off from carrying a toddler for long periods of time.  Even if you keep expecting them to.  And pretty much wish they would.

Plus a billion other things that kind of made me a little bit of a new person.

And the fact that I would go through what it took to get us home all over again* -- twice, even, if necessary! -- says everything about the trip.  It really was one of the best experiences of my life.  And I'm still happy to be back home.  Home away from home.  Together with my family, away from my family.  Actually, those last four words are the not-so-happy part ...
*story to come

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Judging vs. Being Judgmental (in which I probably come across as judgmental)

I just came away from a post about what is wrong with our society, which made me remember that I've been wanting to write this post for a long time.

One of my fears is of being perceived as judgmental.  Scratch that.  I don't care too terribly much how I'm perceived, my fear is of being actually judgmental.  It is hard.  Especially because I judge.  Oh, how I judge.  I judge that lying is wrong 99.9% of the time.  I judge that breaking the commandments is wrong, no matter what a person's excuses.  Including if they don't know about the commandment condemning it.  If God says something is wrong, I just think he's right, every time.

Does that mean that everyone who doesn't keep every commandment is guilty?  I don't believe so.  I certainly hope not!  And does it mean that people who break important commandments are always bad people?  Don't be stupid (you dummy!).  Of course it doesn't.

Let's take Ethan Frome for example.  He allowed himself to fall in love with a woman who was not his wife.  It is heartbreaking to read.  He has a story.  Do I think he was bad?  No.  Do I think he was wrong?  Absolutely.  Would I have acted better under his exact circumstances?  I can't say.  Most likely not.  It doesn't change the fact that some things are wrong.

Judging (righteously), I think, is knowing the difference between right and wrong.  It is the ability to draw a (usually) clear line between what is good and what is bad.  The good kind of judging refers ALWAYS to to a behavior or choice or action.

If I say that dressing immodestly is wrong, I am judging immodesty.  If I see someone dressed immodestly, I can think that it is wrong to dress that way.  I think this is a good thing to think, and what is expected of us.  (not to go around thinking about every choice everyone makes, but knowing in our minds and hearts which things are good and which aren't).

But what is not expected of us, and what is as wrong (or wronger!) than the immodesty itself, is if I think, "Ick.  She's nasty.  What a ----", or place a value on her personal worth in any other way.  It's being judgemental.  It is wrong.  I do my best to keep from allowing myself to shift from seeing "wrong/bad behavior" to "a person who is wrong/bad".  Of course this is quite simple if I just remember that everyone has a story--reasons behind why they do what they do or think how they think.  I have absolutely no authority to judge anothers' motives.  And I'm glad.  What a responsibility!

But unfortunately judging a behavior is almost always taken in our day for being judgmental.  To claim that something is a "bad" thing is to be INTOLERANT.  Suddenly it is taken to mean that I personally will not stand for it.  I just will not tolerate others' wrong choices.  And, clearly, that I have an aversion to the person who commits such acts or even those who disagree with me about the choice.

It used to be a matter of moral right and wrong but all those lines have become so blurred that the only real "wrong" seems to be when you point out that there actually is a black and a white.  But there is.  And saying that everything is gray makes the world as useful as static on a TV screen.  Separate the black and white and you can see moving pictures and scenes that offer value to the observer.  Something can be understood.

I think there is some good in being able to say "It's your thing, do what you want."  But I think that if that's all we ever say, there is something wrong. Especially if we consider there to be some sort of inherent rightness in another person's choices, simply because they made them.  This is how it seems we are being taught to feel.

A phrase I hear a lot is "living your truth."  Thanks for that one, Satan.  The world loves it!!  Doing what you want--what makes you "happy"--regardless of your creators opinion and instruction.  It's a new truth.  Create your own truth, and live by it.  This has somehow become the new mark of goodness.  "She's living her truth."  Well, good for her.  Except that truth is something that IS, and if your "truth" contradicts it, it's known as a lie.

I believe that God does have an opinion.  And that he's always right.  I think that judging that what He says is true, without casting judgment on the motives of those who don't follow him (often unwittingly!), is a good thing.  An example:

My mother-in-law smokes.  As a Mormon I believe that God doesn't want us to smoke.  It is wrong.  I believe that she is doing something that is wrong.  I am not judging her.  I am judging the action.  I have no idea on earth as to whether or not she is guilty.  My brain tells me that she is only as guilty as her religion teaches her she is (?).  Mostly, though, it doesn't matter.  She can do whatever she wants and I have no problem with it at all (except, of course, that I don't want her actions to cause her to die too soon, please.).  But if I say that I believe it is wrong, black like the color I wish her lungs weren't, please don't tell me that it's actually as gray as the smoke she is exhaling.  (okay, maybe that line is a bit much...)

I think it would be nice if we could just live in a world where we allowed each other to make choices and didn't think too much about it, and certainly weren't asked to state our opinion about it.  But we live in a time when I think it is becoming increasingly important from time to time for us to stand with God, even outside of our own homes, and to share what we believe he expects of us, even when it comes across as being judgmental.  And it is not easy.  I just wish I could go on watching the scenes on the screen without having to explain what kept me staring for so long to someone who sees nothing but static on the same screen.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I'll Miss Him

I'm going to miss Aaron for the two (happy!) weeks I'll be visiting family in California.  I'll miss the usual everyday conversations, like these that took place this morning:

Aaron called to me from the other room.  Not just a "Mom!" but a "You know what, mommy? Blah blah blah blah blah blah..."  I told him I couldn't hear him and asked him to come into the kitchen.

He said, "What?"  And I repeated that if he wanted to talk to me he'd have to come to the kitchen, where I was.

He said, "I thought you have to come here."

I said, "No, if I want to talk to you, I have to go to where you are, but if you want to talk to me, you have to come to me."

He replied, disappionted, "Well, that's not awesome."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"Mommy, does bad guys go potty?"  


* * * * * * * * * * * *
After prayer Aaron scolded Spencer for not having closed his eyes.  I explained that he's still little so it's okay if he doesn't always close his eyes because he doesn't really know how.  Aaron countered with, "But mommy, you know what?  When Spencer goes night-night he knows how, so he knows how for prayer, too."

Oh!  That's right!  Spencer does know how to close his eyes!  The things I've been letting him get away with...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Just Write: My Life is Just Right

We're all in the living room.  Frank Sinatra is playing.  When Greg first turned it on I wasn't sure if it was Harry Connick or Frank.  I checked and it's Frank.  He sounds like Christmas to me.

Some yummy smelling oil is diffusing.  Greg is sitting on an exercise ball rocking back and forth to the music with both Aaron and Spencer on his lap.  I don't know how he's doing that, but I'll bet it's good exercise.

Evie is making Christmas presents for her cousins.  I will take them to California when I go in two weeks for Thanksgiving.  David is drawing -- cars, of course -- with glitter glue paint.

Everyone is talking in low voices and it feels like Family.  It feels like Home.

I'm getting up now to make something warm and yummy and good to balance out the too-much-sweets-from-our-Halloween-party last night.  But I promised Aaron I'd play one game of Candyland with him first.

I love my life.

I wrote about this moment to join in with Heather's Just Write free writing exercise.  You can join in or read Just Write posts from other bloggers by following that link.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Better Food, Cleaner Dishes and No Spiders

We sort of have this thing about appliances around here.  Way back at the very dawning of this blog I wrote a post about our hunt for, and purchase of, a washing machine.  It tells the tale of our complete ignorance and relative incompetence when it comes to making an educated purchase of such contraptions.

But it's not the issue of having to choose one that keeps us from buying a dishwasher or microwave.  Money isn't the problem, either (because we have bags of money in the basement waiting for us to decide what to spend it on)  (don't tell the neighbors).  No, we are just prejudiced against these appliances.

I don't like food out of the microwave.  As a little girl my best friend had a microwave WAY before the rest of the world did and we would stick a piece of Wonder bread in there and relish each bite of the steaming, rubbery, food-like substance that came out 15 seconds later.  But I seem to have outgrown rubbery food and become a disliker of slimy cheese.

I like my cheese crispy.  I like my hot-dogs browned (and un-exploded).  I like my frozen dinners -- I don't like my frozen dinners.  Everything a microwave can do, a stove-top or oven can do better, in my opinion (except soften butter).  So we haven't had a microwave for 11 years.

Greg is strongly averse to dishwashers.  "They don't work well", he says.  "They're not worth the trouble" he says.  And I take his word for it about not being worth the trouble because he's something of an expert, since he washes about !% of the dirty dishes around here.  So, we don't have a dishwasher (actually we do in the downstairs kitchen but we've never used it).

We also don't have a drier, but that's more for reasons of nobody-in-Europe-has-a-drier.  Plus 11 years of not using one has made me a little afraid of them (although I miss them dearly at the same time).

In conclusion, the other morning Evie came into my room and told me there was a spider.  I stepped out of my bedroom and found this waiting to jump down on the next person who dared descend the stairs below him:

For comparison, the light underneath is about as long as my humerus.  (I always give measurements in bone lengths)  (especially while talking about spider size around Halloween)  This guy was definitely bigger than my patella.  (glad he never got anywhere near my patella, though, let me tell you!)

It was no problem though, because Greg came out and sucked him up with the vacuum.  Because we HAVE a vacuum.  We are, in fact, firm believers in the vacuum cleaner.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Hardest Thing

I'm currently in the middle of a week spent with my in-laws (mom, dad and sister).  I love them dearly and they are good people.  It's hard for me to be with them, though, without aching to live in a place where my own parents could be an influence on my children, at least a few times a year (or even once a year!).

My in-laws smother the kids with kisses and affectionate talk in altered tones.  They are always ready to help the older kids with homework and play the little "games" I don't have patience for over and over and over with the little ones that the kids giggle and giggle and giggle about ("Oh no!  Where did Aaron go!?!" x 500).  They take the kids for long, long walks and feed them lots and lots of food.  I'm so grateful for all of this (...almost always).

With my dad they would have a very different experience.  He would get down on the floor with them and play and wrestle.  He would show them things and... well, the fact of the matter is that I don't know exactly what he would do because it's been so many years that it makes me cry to think of it (almost 4) (excuse me while I wipe my eyes and blow my nose).  His wife would ask the kids questions and be infinitely interested and plan craft projects and make yummy food for and maybe with them.

 My mom would read them book after book after book.  She would point out interesting things and teach them words and concepts. She would teach and teach and the kids would feel her love for her God and His plan and her Savior and His sacrifice every single day.  She would always give them something interesting to do.  She would reprimand them when they needed it.  She would sit back and watch them interact with each other.  And she would laugh.

The things Greg's parents do, my parents would do very little of (or in more moderation).  The things my parents would do, Greg's parents do very little of..

I am so, so grateful my kids have loving grandparents living close enough that we see them many times a year.  But it's hard to express how difficult it is for me to have my kids growing up largely without their other grandparents.  It's probably the hardest thing about living here, not to mention what usually REALLY gets me: all the things my kids do and say and ARE that my parents can't experience.

And don't even get me started on aunts and uncles and cousins.  They see their Polish cousin (yes, without an "s" on the end) on Easter and Christmas.  He's 23.  They pretty much never get to see their (soon to be) sixteen other cousins, who are ages 13 and under and some of the cutest, smartest little people in the world.

I just had to unload.  I know it could be worse (My parents are still alive!  And I get along with all my siblings!  And many Americans don't get to see their family often, either! etc.) but sometimes one needs to throw oneself a pity party.  Sorry if I got confetti in your hair.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Have Another Question (#2)

What are your thoughts on/experience with the marriage rule of never going to bed mad?

My answer:

If I had followed that rule I would have probably been awake since sometime in the early months of our marriage.  When it's late I seem to lose all sense of... everything, and am likely to become a bundle of resentment and/or despair with little willpower to put toward seeing reason/forgiving/admitting I'm wrong/getting the heck over it.  Plus, we're not the best communicators.  So I/we go to bed mad.

By the time I wake up I have a fresh new, or rather, an 8 hour-old, sense of resentment and/or despair over the injustice that is my marriage but by then, or sometime that day I get sick of  talking to Greg only when necessary and in as robotic a tone as I can muster (so mature!), so I stop it and everything goes back to normal (within a day or two)  i.e. I start thinking he's one of the best people in the world.

I can't wait until we're perfect and Greg and I are finally decent communicators and he finally understands that I'm always in the right.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Have a Question # 1

I actually have a few questions that I would love to hear your thoughts on if you have the desire to share.  I'll post them over the next few days and answer them myself in my post.  Today's question:

What is your cleaning MUST?  In other words, what are you good at keeping clean or tidy because it's almost a pet peeve for it to be dirty or unorganized?

I'm asking this question because once when I was visiting my sister, while she cooked dinner and we chatted I took a cloth and started wiping down the cupboard doors.  I think I asked if I could first.  She thought I was weird, but I was just standing there talking to her, doing nothing, so why not wipe down the doors?  I don't think I offended her (a la "I can't stand to look at these doors for another second!" which is not what I was thinking at all).  I hope not, because I regularly wipe mine down, so I was just doing what I would have done at home.  She thought it might be one of my MUSTS, but it's not.  She then told me about a friend of hers who can't stand to have the splashboard behind the sink dirty.  This is why I started thinking about this and wonder what your "issues" are with cleaning.

My answer:

I like my car to be tidy.  No wrappers, toys or random items of clothing.  Everything is taken out after every weekend trip and it is maintained during the week.  I also care more than Greg about it being washed (exterior) so I've made it my job.

In the house Greg dislikes dust so I (or Greg) vacuum regularly and the kids dust mop all floors every evening.  We also like clean walls so our kids are discouraged from touching the walls (punishable by a beating) (just kidding), and I do spot-wiping regularly.

One thing I wish I was better at is keeping up with clutter, especially in the kitchen and on the stairs.

Now, please tell me yours, if you have one!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Kids Can Be Such a Pain

When I realized I'd left three pillows for the boys and a blanket for Spencer at home, I knew our weekend in Katowice was going to be interesting.

Then, when I realized I'd left the pacifiers at home I knew it'd be a nightmare.

Nothing like sleeping six people in a hotel room, three of them pillowless, with a baby that's up crying all night.  I was excited.

After 15 minutes of changing positions in bed he fell asleep.

I was awake all night worrying about how he was going to keep crying and nobody was going to get any sleep, making going to church the next day a royal pain.

That's how I know that Spencer whimpered for a second or two twice during the night, 'cause if I'd been asleep like everyone else in the room I wouldn't even have noticed.

How long to do I have to be a mother to learn  not to dread things like this?  Because I'm as often pleasantly surprised as I am right in my fears.

But, really, why settle in and fall asleep when you can stay up fretting over something that might happen, that surely WILL happen, that will ruin your night and your day?  In my defense, though, I was also trying to keep him covered and warm during the night by laying my Sunday skirt back over him every time he moved...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Feel the Top of Your Head to Find Out If You're Me

If you have some of the same issues as me (which you don't) or you are me (which you're most likely not) then I recommend you stay out of my attic.  Strange things have been known to happen when people like me go up there.

For example, if you do go up, the same crossbeam that you duck under to get to the toddler clothes will be right there in the SAME PLACE when you carry those clothes out, ducking not quite as low as you did on the way in.  Freaky. 

Also, if you go up again a couple of days later, the exact same crossbeam, for some indeterminable reason, will STILL BE IN THAT VERY SAME PLACE.  Only a psychic could foresee something like that.  Seriously.  Attics freak. me. out.

They also give me scabs on my scalp that don't go away for two weeks.  Which is nothing compared to the feeling of standing alone, laden with bags of clothes in a dim and dusty room, head throbbing, feeling a deep sense of embarrassment.  Is it even possible to feel embarrassed when you're the only one around?

It is if you have some of the same issues as me (which you don't) or you are me (which, lucky for you--and your head--you're most likely not).

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Almost Wordless Wednesday

First I need to thank every person who commented on my last post.  I appreciate your thoughts so much.  They helped me realize how much I really want to soften the edges of this rough stone that I am.  Thanks for your (unanticipated) help.  Really good stuff for me.

This morning I gave Spence the last of the sponge cake cookies* (biszkopty):

A few minutes later this is what I found sitting on the couch:
* aka pointless cookies.  Because, really?  No fat?

Monday, September 12, 2011

"Modern", Huh?

I quite like the site Modern Mormon Men.  I've read some inspiring posts and some thought provoking posts and some funny posts.  But I have to say, I've read a number of disturbing posts, too.

I don't call it wrong.  The site is meant to have contriubtors on various levels of spirituatlity and activity in the church and with a broad array of backgrounds and opinions.  But it's hard for me to read sometimes.  I just went back to see if one contributor had responded to my late-coming comment on his post.  He hadn't but a fellow commenter had.  However, instead of clearing things up for me, it made things harder for me to understand.

The original post is entitled On Reluctant Patriarchy where "Abraham" tells of his journey from thinking he understood the scriptures and knew all the answers, to the moment of his enlightenment, which leads him down a path that makes him happy but turns his wife into a self-repressing sexist that he wishes he could liberate.  At least that's the general idea.

My original comment went like this:

"In regards to the women and the priesthood and/or more "power" within the church, I am always very curious how more liberal people view this. Is it something that God is just behind the times on, or is it something that he is anxiously pestering the prophet to change, but the prophet is too conservative to listen or does God just want us to forget revelation and take a vote a la the Nicean Council (but, again, the prophet is unwilling to relinquish his power)? How does that work, the whole, "'The church'is wrong on this major doctrinal issue" thing?"

Followed by this:

"(That's a real question, not just a sass. I do respect other's opinions, and I just want to understand the thinking behind this particular type of opinion.)" 

The response I read today goes like this:


I think the church has been wrong before. Blacks and the priesthood and polygamy are what I think of. Blacks couldn't have the priesthood until 1978 because the church was "behind on the times." As for polygamy, the church had to give it up so it could become a state. I don't think God would command women to love live a life of jealousy and lonliness in polygamous marriages. At least, not the God I know. He(or she) loves women too you know."

I responded:


I am absolutely sure that the god that you know (espcially if it's a woman!) did NOT command women to live the law of polygamy. Also, the God
I know did not command women to live a life of jealousy and lonliness. Because, WHOA.

So it sounds like your answer to my question is that "the church" is wrong on this one, yet again. I guess my question in WHERE IS GOD in all this? And if your god is a woman, and you believe she is the god of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints then she must be very, very disappointed in the direction things have been going. And also, sorely disappointed that Joseph Smith saw her and then told everyone she was a man and made everyone call her Father for all these years.

I'm sorry, this is just so sad to me. YOUR FATHER LOVES YOU. Find out whether this is His church and whether or not He leads it. And stop calling him a woman until you see him yourself. False doctrine of the most damaging kind.

Reading over that again, I can see that it isn't as loving as I think I meant it.  I'm just sad for that modern "Mormon" man.

I kind of feel like the term "Modern"these days is too often synonymous with "dysfunctional" or "confused".

I don't know.  I guess the obvious answer for me is that this is a person sliding down the chute of apostacy, and there is no way that I can understand where he is coming from.  But I just wish he could have helped me to understand some of the people I know who also hold what I would call "modern" views on some church doctrines or policy.  I really want to understand those things better, even if I don't agree with the views.

I am a conservative and I believe that the church is actually lead by a real-life prophet who actually knows what God wants.  But I still wish I could better understand the thinking behind those who don't exactly agree with me.  Chances are, though, that I will never feel like I get a satisfactory answer.  I hope it's not just because I am too proud or self-righteous.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Letting Us Know

During my second semester at Ricks there was a new guy in my FHE group. He was a surfer from California and we had the instant Californian-in-Rexburg connection. He went out with a few girls, but he and I became good friends and started dating. We got along really well and had a ton of fun together.

He was majoring in Marine Biology. No, not at Ricks College. He'd left his other school to come to Ricks for one semester. Just one. You know, the Semester In Idaho all aspiring marine biologists take time out for.

He said he just knew he had to come. He knew that it was important for him. I didn't know exactly what it all meant. I'm sure at some point I hoped it had something (or everything) to do with me. I was, after all, an 18 year old girl in her first romantic relationship.

He had left a girlfriend at home, presumably with the understanding that their relationship was on hold for a few months. This, of course, was a little awkward for me, but it was his deal.

We only dated for a couple of months but started to get kind of serious. Just at the deciding point things suddenly started tapering off. By the time the school year ended, we said our goodbyes without ever having talked about what kind of goodbye it was to be.

Maybe a month later, during summer vacation in California, my very supportive friends drove with me down to his neck of the woods to attend a huge singles dance. I met him there. We hugged and had a dance. It was the closure I needed. I also met the girl he'd been dating and we exchanged sincere smiles anytime we caught each other's eye.

He and I never kept in touch after that. Just the other night, though, I found him on facebook*. I looked through his public photos and got a vague idea of what his life is like now. He's just as I remember him. In his family pictures I see him, his two sons and the girl I'd met at the dance.

This made me so happy. Like, totally-brightened-my-day happy. Not having found him, but having found out that he married her.

I thought back on that semester. It was an adventurous one. We had a lot of experiences that I can't forget, like the time he left to go home in the middle of Sacrament meeting because he wasn't feeling well, only to pass out in the hallway and end up in the ER for the 4th time in his few months there. And like the discussion we had late one night on a trip with a bunch of friends to a cabin in the mountains. I remember that when I wanted , and probably meant, to say something along the lines of "I'm madly in love with you!" I said something completely different.

The reason I'm writing this all out is because looking back, all the events of that semester make so much sense to me. Besides all the things I learned and the ways I grew, I was kind of witnessing, or even being part of one of the most important decisions of his life. That cold, winter semester really was important for that California kid, and seeing the picture of his family just confirmed for me that our Father does and will help us know what is right for us, so we don't have to wonder in the future, if we will just remember.

I love these confirmations. I've had loads of them come to me through the scriptures, through something someone says or the words to the song that's on the radio just when I start the car**. Most recently a confirmation came in the form of a rainbow. Literally. (which, of course makes a very important experience sound a little silly, but whatev.)

Taking a trip down memory lane was nice, but the nicest was being reminded of how much our Father loves his children and how willing he is to guide us in our lives. I'm so glad he guided me to where I am today and for all the little confirmations he's given me on my way down the road to this place. Not just Poland, but where I am in my life, the things I've achieved, the people who surround me and the experiences I am having. When things are hard, it only takes looking back and remembering, and His peace fills in the gaps of imperfection in circumstance or character that might otherwise allow doubts or fear to creep in. I'm so thankful for the happiness that fills my life because of it.
* I sent him a quick hello and hope that he doesn't think it was creepy and stalkerish. It wasn't. Especially since I've been on facebook for 4 years and only just now looked him up. I'm okay, right?
* Greg doesn't subscribe to the songs in the car thing, but I think it's only because he doesn't pay attention to words and therefore has never had the experience hearing the very sentence he needs to hear from a song.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

So They All Rolled Over And One Fell Out

The first day of school was approaching and we had done precious little to make summer vacation fun for the boys (Evie's was the best of her life, of course) so I decided to pitch the tent in the backyard.

We have two 4-man tents that connect with a little tunnel. Perfect. A tent for me, Greg and Spencer, and one for David, Aaron and Ev. The kids "helped" me set them up and after spending only about one hour and 45 trips in and out of the house, we each had a place set up to sleep (which is the only thing I wanted to do after that ordeal).

We had a party, laughed hysterically and ate candy. We joked about where the starburst that got lost among the bedding would wind up in the morning. With stomachs aching from giggling and sugar overdose, we settled in for the night.

I knew from the beginning that it might be tricky with Spencer. At 20 months old he really just needs a crib. But he was excited about sleeping in the tent and drifted to sleep after only crawling away (usually to the kids' tent) 2 or 3 times.

Before bed I told the kids to make sure they were comfortable and to please, please wake me up if they got cold during the night. (remember, I'm a sleep nazi, meaning I fight for quality sleep for everyone. :)

At about 2:30 am Evie crawls into our tent and says she needs another blanket. I get up and spread one over her. I crawl further in and make sure the boys are warm, feeling in the dark under their blankets to make sure their legs feel toasty. They're cuddled close together and I check one leg, Aaron's, I think. It's warm but there is another leg outside of the blankets. It's a little cold, but not too bad, and I can tell I can't get the leg out from under the blanket and tucked away without a lot of effort and possibly waking kids up, so I leave David to cover himself up when he needs to and go back to my bed, revelling in the thought of spending another 10 minutes finding a position that doesn't KILL my hips.

But first I peek over at Spence. I can make out that there's no head on his pillow and his blanket is pushed down. I don't see him. He must have gotten turned around. I pat around. I don't feel him. Huh. I lift his blanket, and feel around the corner of the tent. He's not there. What on Earth?

I check all around my "bed". Oh! He must have ended up with Greg. Maybe he was fussing and Greg took him? (fussing that wakes Greg and not me? Yeah, right). He's not there. He's nowhere. Greg wakes up from me feeling around him and I tell him the deal and crawl into the other tent to search there. I do a thorough search. He's not there.

A tiny bit of panic starts up as I keep searching, but then I laugh. A tent is a place you can lose a Starburst, but not a child. Still, flashes of scenes from news coverage of children taken from under their parent's noses in the night flash through my mind.

But no way. I'm shocked that Spence could even have moved in the night without me waking to make sure he stayed covered, so the thought of someone unzipping the tent without waking me? Impossible.

The ONLY other possibility is if he was atomized and taken through the wall of the tent. While this could certainly have happened, I feel that we are (almost, but) not quite white trash interesting enough to be singled out by alien life forms for investigation.

Just as I'm assuring myself that it couldn't have been an intergalactic kidnapping Evie whispers, "Here he is!" I go rushing into her tent and she's pointing to the boys. But I already checked there.

I get closer and feel around a little and then I can just make out that Spencer is lying there in between and on top of David and Aaron. He's lying out straight, flat on his stomach (and on Dave and Aaron's arms and legs) with his face under Aaron's pillow. He is fast asleep, just like his brothers.

What a relief. And I couldn't have hoped to find him in a better place. I tucked Spence back in his own bed and made sure everyone was covered one last time before turning to my own bed, where it took 45 minutes, not 10, to get comfortable, but I had plenty to think of after that mini adventure and its happy ending.

Like, for example, that the not-warm leg I'd felt belonged to Spencer, not David, and I couldn't tell the difference. And also, that occasionally a mom's idea of quality sleep: in your own bed with proper covering and a parent nearby to keep an eye on you, might differ greatly from a baby's idea: to sleep squeezed on top of two brothers with no covering at all. Quality. It's so relative.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Broken Gage

I'm not sure how (or if) it happens, but I think some people's cuteness gage gets a little wonky when it comes to their own children. For example, lately I think everything Aaron (4) says or does is so cute. Then I think, if I told someone about it, would they think it was cute too? And the answer is usually "probably not". The result of these reflections is that I am sitting down to write out the cute things he's said in the last day or two for anyone interested to roll their eyes at.

While playing Gold Miner on my phone (he's very adept at it and it's fun to watch) as he collects the gold nuggets he asks me, "Are those muffins or cookies?" ~Clearly they must be something delicious if Miner Joe is willing to risk his life to get them, right?

Lately he often answers my questions or requests by saying, "Yes, my dear" or "of course, my dear". I adore it.

While showing how much we loved each other (à la Guess How Much I Love You?) I finally told Aaron that I love him all the way around the world. He asked me to show him so I spread my arms as far as I could and said, "Like that, except all the way around the world". Aaron looked from me to Greg and said, "Daddy can do it for you because he has the biggest elbows." ~If you have really big elbows you can reach your arms around the world. Just so you know. Long arms will not do the trick.

He always wears his hat so he can just barely see from under it as seen above, but I guess that's better than how he's been known to wear hats.

He uses "I hope" and "I think" interchangeably, meaning that he often says things like, "I hope there's gonna be a monster in the bathroom!"

This afternoon I gave the kids some pretzels, turned on cartoons and sat next to them on the couch. After a minute Aaron turned to me and asked, "Why are you not taking a shower?" Clearly I've never sent Aaron the message that the TV is a babysitter. Or that the afternoon is a fine time to take your morning shower (although this was at 4 pm and I rarely take them that late. And today I happened to shower way back at 9:30).

See the shirt Spence is wearing above? It's a notebook page that says: To do list: Be Awesome like MOM! While Evie was in America she bought it for him. It was a gift for Spencer , but I was even more delighted with it (minus the only wanting him to wear it around the house and hoping nobody thinks I bought it for my own kid thing) (Also, Aaron loves it too because it's yellow and everything that is yellow belongs to him automatically. He still lets Spencer wear it, though.)

So isn't that sweet that Ev bought that? As if she loves me. You would never guess that a few weeks before she had been so excited to see the back of me for a month.

All joking aside, I totally love this picture of our final farewell

And now that she's back home I get both yelled at and congratulated on the same quality. This morning she almost started crying during a moment of frustration when she shouted, "Mom! You said you wouldn't DO that!" "Do what!?!" "Make us laugh when we're mad*!" Then later while we chatted and made a pie she complimented me on my sense of humor and said, "Seriously, I love it so much."


Sheesh. I can't win.
*(I have a hard time not teasing, even when I've promised not to. Oops.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Getting My Point: A Cross?

Spencer just loves this toy:

He could play with it for...minutes on end (i.e. forever, in toddler time). With my background in early childhood ed I can sit there for as many minutes as he does doing my parallel play and self talk (or whatever those things were called. No longer comfortable with the ECE lingo).

This toy is excellent for teaching. You've got colors, shapes, matching, fine motor, filling and dumping; what more does a toddler need?

Well, this toddler's mother needs something more. Take a look at those shapes. We have a triangle, square, circle, star and a... a... well, I have no idea what that other one is. Is that an x? A cross? A t? What on earth do I teach my child that is!?!

Why THAT? When did the rectangle cease to be one of the Very Basic Shapes. Even one of the slightly more obscure shapes would have been better, like an oval or a crescent (less sophisticated parents would be free to call it a moon) or an OCTAGON, for pete's sake. With an octagon at least you can find something else with the same shape and show for comparison, "Octagon--octagon!!" With THAT thing you can't even figure out what it is, much less find anything to compare it to.

I could go on and on, but I don't want anyone to think that my frustration lies in the fact that one of the few subjects in life that I feel fairly confident and comfortable with, shapes, has become yet another subject about which I cannot converse intelligently. Even with my toddler.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Size Doesn't Matter

I remember the Sunday after Evie was born. That morning I had just finished nursing her and, looking at the clock, saw that sacrament meeting must be starting in a few minutes for some ward in our church buiding a few houses down. I realized that I could probably "run" over, just to take the sacrament.

Leaving Ewelina home with Greg I waddled slowly to the chapel, entered and took a seat in the very back row. During the ward business a little girl, maybe 5 years old, in a white dress with a white ribbon in her hair skipped down the aisle to sit with her family. She was darling. But she made me cry.

One day Ewelina would be big like that: my tiny little Evie who I fed all day long and cuddled and breathed in and couldn't stop staring at. She wouldn't always be this helpless, dependent little itty-bitty person for whom my heart almost bursted with love. She would get bigger. She would be so different. Everything was going to change.

Back at home I told Greg about my sadness. He declared that he couldn't wait for her to grow up! He wanted to do things with our kids, teach them things and go on adventures. That seemed so weird to me. Didn't he want to hold them in his arms and have them sleeping on his chest, breathing their sweet baby breath forever and ever?

Fast forward almost 12 years and here I am. No Evie in the house for the month. I miss her. David went home with babcia and dziadek this morning (they'd been staying with us, along with Greg's sister, for almost 2 weeks). I cried my eyes out when David left.

So now I kind of feel like, what's the point? Why bother making a dinner that my big kids won't enjoy? What fun is there in watching a movie in the evening? What is lunch without the conversation I'm used to? And who on earth am I going to fight with to get them to do their jobs!?!

Answers I have come up with (in order): There is no point. Don't bother. No fun. Not a very good lunch, and no fighting at all.

So I seem to have come full circle. Oh, I love my little ones, no question about that! There is every reason to read stories, go for walks, tickle, watch videos, eat snacks and make scary monster noises while running around with my arms up all frighteningly. And I will. I love those things. But I sure have come to love all the things connected with the big kids that I once dreaded to have. I would even say that I still love them AS MUCH (maybe even MORE THAN) I did when they were a week old. Never would have thought it possible.

I'm sure learning a lot this summer. One thing being that hearts do not burst from being over-filled with love. I'm quite grateful for that.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Whine and Hot Drinks

Organization is required, I'm finding, to do life well. Or even medium-well. This is really too bad for me. (I think I'm currently doing it closer to rare.)

After a fun but hot day out exploring castle ruins with our guests, all our sweaty bodies flooded into the shelter of our home. My in-laws raced to the kitchen to put the kettle on for coffee and tea. What could be more refreshing, I ask you?

Tomorrow I'm sending my daughter across the ocean.

There are about 1,000 emails I want or need to write and almost as many blog posts that I want to read. At this point, though, I'm just hoping I make it through the week without having a stroke.

Life is exciting and I'm anxious to see where it takes me. Oh, I wish it was that easy; just sit back and watch life take you somewhere. Why do I have to be so heavily involved in it all? Can't I just sit down now and again, and watch myself go? SO TIRING.

Hopefully, once there's less going on and I'm not going so crazy and am able to keep my life a little better cooked, it will eventually steer me back to the computer. At least for a few minutes a day...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

So Awesome

Yesterday Greg and I proved our awesomeness to a perfect stranger. This is not an uncommon occurrence for us. When you're awesome it's kind of hard to hide it. It WILL come out. Sometimes it's from strangers and sometimes it's just with your family. For example when, while weeding in the back yard, you suspect your 4 year old of purposefully stomping on a bug and explain, "Oh, honey! We should not kill things that Heavenly Father made!", then turn back around and continue ripping weeds out of the earth.

Yes, you just can't hide awesomeness. In this case, we couldn't keep it from the doctor who was checking out Aaron's leg. For a few weeks our boy was complaining about his leg and limping (even avoiding standing for almost whole days at a time) and the pediatrician sent us to a specialist in the hour-distant Rzeszów.

So we went. At the office, while I undressed Aaron, the doctor started getting some basic background information. (translated from Polish)

Dr: What's his name?

us: Aaron Pawlik

Dr: Date of birth?

Greg: Uuuum, the fourth..... right, Lisa?

me: No, the eighth.

Greg: That's right, the eighth of September.

me: No, ...... (pause while I think of the name of the month in Polish and put it in the right case kwiecien=April, kwietnia= of April*) April.

Greg: Yes, the eighth of April.

Dr: What year?

us: (looking at each other for a good 3-4 seconds) ...

me: ...four years ago.

Dr: Okay, so 2007.

us: That's right.

Dr: And... how many kids do you have?

Yeah, good question doctor. Especially considering Greg gave Evie's day of birth and David's month. Sure the doctor followed that question up with others about our kids that made it look like he was getting potential genetic type information that might help in making a diagnosis, but I'm pretty sure he was just trying to figure out what our deal was.

Fortunately, after a stressful hour of worrying that it might be something serious, x-rays revealed that it's probably not. So, thankfully it looks like Aaron won't have worrisome leg problems for the near future. Unfortunately, he will probably have to deal with parental lameness problems for the rest of his life. Wish there was a cure for that one, poor boy.

*I'm not kidding when I say I still am not sure about the all the names of the month in Polish.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

When a Home Ceases to Exist

Last weekend we went to one of our favorite cities, and one that just won for "Capital of Culture" in Europe for 2016.

Wrocław (VROTS-waf) lies in the south-western region of Poland on the Odra river. It's a beautiful city, and we love it for, well, for the awesome branch it has with some of our favorite Poles, but also for the neat German architecture, lots of brick in beautiful designs and tiled roofs with a different shape than in other parts of Poland.

On Saturday we attended a branch picnic at a member's house in a very small town over an hour outside of Wrocław. Afterwards, we started heading toward the freeway back to the city but weren't sure which way to go. We saw an old lady raking leaves near the street and stopped to ask for help. The woman was confident and friendly and smiled after pointing us in the right direction.

She spoke with an accent. Looking in her face, I listened to her Polish and was sure that she wasn't a Pole. This woman was away from home.

As we drove, Greg and I talked to the kids about this region of the country, how it had been part of Germany, but was granted to Poland after the war. The Germans who had lived here all their lives moved out and Poles came and took over their houses. It's a heavy thing to ponder.

David declared that it was unfair. Greg countered explained that the Germans started the war, caused widespread destruction and death and then lost. This was part of the result of those choices and actions. I added that much of the land that had belonged to Poland on the east was turned over to Russia. As a matter of fact, many of the Poles that were displaced from the east were sent here to the south-west to resettle.

I wondered where this woman we talked to was from. With her face fresh in my mind, I thought about what her life may have been. She was born in a stable country and maybe had a happy, normal childhood. Things started to change as she approached adolescence. The war was a dangerous, tumultuous time, full of fear and uncertainty. And then everything changed.

Was she a German who had stayed behind when everyone else left? Was this place she lived actually her original home, but now in a different country? Had she suddenly found herself in a foreign land, even while inhabiting the home of her childhood?

Or maybe the accent wasn't German at all. Maybe it was a Polish accent specific to the east. Maybe she was born in Lwów and moved to this place when Russia took that part of Poland over after the war. Maybe she really was far from home; a home she can't visit without hearing an unknown language spoken and meeting faces of a people who are not her own.

These are hard things for me to think about. I have moved to a foreign country and find myself among strangers, but I have done it by choice. And they are not strangers. They are my children's people, although they will never really be mine.

I can't imagine the pain and sorrow of leaving your home and knowing it will cease to exist as it was. That everything has changed. Or of staying in your home and watching the world change outside its walls. That your country is broken and will never be exactly what it used to be.

But those things have happened. They will happen. And the people affected will maybe one day smile at a car full of strangers while giving them directions, in their second language, to Wrocław, and not the Breslau they used to visit as a child.

People are strong and adaptable. Still, it all makes me look forward to a day when there will be ONE Kingdom. And no wars.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Getting What She Deserves and Growing Up

You know how you sometimes send your eleven year old daughter off on a bus full of people you don't know to Hungary for six days?

Yeah, I knew you'd understand when I told you what I did this morning.

Every year our elementary school sends the kids at the top of each class (who have straight A's or better) for a week-long trip pretty much for free. Evie's been working super hard this year to earn the right and she did it (she also won $125 in gift certificates from the mayor)! She's the only girl in her class eligible for the trip, so she had to arrange with girls (she barely knows) from other classes that she can hang with them for the week. But she's excited and I think she'll have a blast.

And all of this only a few months after I decided that we will be a "no sleepover" family. So, yeah. It is a bit of a weird situation, but after a ton of pondering, long conversations with Ev and some prayer, I feel quite good about it.

Then she'll come back home for a couple of weeks before getting on a plane by herself to cross the Atlantic and visit her cousins. My sister, Su, and brother-in-law (Tom) bought her a ticket and she's going to spend a MONTH with them. Away from us. Away from ME! How we will all survive (including my sister), I'm not sure. But I'm so excited for her.

I think this will be the Summer Evie Grew Up. I mean, she's already quite mature for her age, but after this, we'll pretty much consider her an adult, I think.

And mostly I really think she deserves to have all these experiences she's been dreaming of. I just need to figure out how to deserve my sister's generosity and bravery. (did I mention Evie's ELEVEN, and, while she's very helpful and sweet, smart and fun, she's also ELEVEN. The drama has definitely begun with her. But Su has a 12 year old daughter, so I think she has a clue what she's in for.)

I have a feeling Evie starting junior high this fall might not seem like such a huge step afterall.