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.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

[Not] For Your Viewing Pleasure

Warning! Vanity (or lack thereof) post! And possibly TMI! Proceed with caution!

Who decided they were farmer's tans? Can't we all just agree to call them people-who-wear-shirts' tans? Or something?

Or nothing? Is the reason we have a name for that kind of tan at all to distinguish those of us who have one from those who have an even tan all over? Because I personally think there should be a name for the all-over kinds of tans, as if they're the funny kind to have. Maybe, like, nudist tans. Or something.

So anyway, I don't spend a lot of time in (or out of) a bathing suit. And I don't pay to have my skin color changed artificially with or without one, either. So, naturally, I have tan lines. And, really, they're not especially becoming when I do wear something that covers less skin. But I'm kind of okay with that.

And when I do decide to wear a swimsuit, It's not necessarily going to be all that pretty, either. Not just because of the tan lines, but because I don't quite look "pretty". As a matter of fact, in recent weeks my weight has inexplicably been fluctuating about 2-4 pounds. When I don't have the extra few pounds I feel almost thinish (by my own, liberal standard, which still doesn't qualify for "pretty in a swimsuit" by any stretch), but on the days that those dear pounds decide to come back for a visit, I become much-less-than thin. They are the exact 2-4 pounds that trigger the ballooning effect that my, we'll just say "lower torso/hip area" suffers from. And I'm still going to put on a swimsuit. And I'm kind of okay with that.

And I have mentioned the veins on my leg. I had planned to never wear shorts again for the rest of my life. But now I realize I was being a bit over dramatic. When it's hot, covering your legs makes no sense no matter how much you don't really want to show them off. Capris are what I go for. And if anyone looks, they will see those lovely green and purple lines, and I apologize for that. But I'm kind of okay with it.

Because, really, I'm not putting on a show. I'm just kind of living, you know? And I know that some people are putting on a show (like the girl I saw today who had put a little too much glowing bronzing cream on her very pushed up, largely exposed, overly tanned breasts). And that's okay. Well, preferably with a little less cleavage, though. But wanting to look good is a good thing. Heck, even I want to look good! But I'm sort of okay with just living the life I love and not worrying too much about how I look while I'm doing it. You know?

I guess "kind of" are the key words... Maybe next year I'll be SO okay with it, I won't even write an entire post about it!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Froglets as a Compromise (continued from previous post)

So after we got back from the hospital we had a family council and decided that the rest of us would stay home and Greg would go alone to Katowice. As a "compromise" Greg said he'd take us for a half hour trip to the pond near his work before he left. So while he dug his things out from among all of our things and repacked them into a smaller suitcase I freaked the kids out with x-rays of my foot and then told them to pile in the car.

Spence waited patiently, asking me to please come and buckle him in.
Then we all got in and drove to the pond. When we got out of the car the ground was covered with what looked like flies hovering near the ground. A closer look revealed that they were tiny frogs that we had to walk very slowly to avoid crunching on. It was so neat watching the little wave of frogs hopping out of our path. Then we walked through the forest to the pond.
Evie went off on her own for a minute
but it didn't take long for Aaron to start worrying about her and go to find out if she was okay.
He was also watching out for Spencer and told him over and over, "No-no, Spence. You can't go in the water. It's too cold." (but actually there were a few swimmers just getting out when we got there)
Before heading back to the car we checked to make sure we all still had feet*. Fortunately we did. Mine are the ones with the toes exposed and the pinkie toe on the left is the one I stubbed. To you it probably looks fine (or disgusting if you're a foot hater), but to me it is ugly and deformed compared to the pinkie toe on the other foot, which I consider to be so darling in comparison.
Then we went back to the car
and played with the frogs for a minute.
Yes, that's a frog in her hand. See?

And in daddy's even bigger hand?
I seriously could not get over how cute they were. And there were tons of them. Maybe this is what everyone sees who goes near a pond the right few days every spring? Anyway, DARLING.

And then I was refreshed and ready for doing a weekend alone.
*How does one explain or justify a picture of feet?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bent Out of Shape

One thing that bugs Greg about me is that I do way to much rushing and bustling. I far too frequently operate on "urgent" when it's not really necessary, and sometimes actually makes things worse.

"Move more slowly!" he'll say. "We really need to learn to calm down around here" he'll say.

I can't take the stairs less than two at a time. While cooking I work my way through all the bodies in the kitchen like a professional race car driver weaving through and past the competition. When my in-laws are visiting, whenever I enter a room they kind of automatically move to the edges/flatten themselves against the walls to let me whoosh past. And I wish that was more of an exaggeration than it is. I just move fast, especially when we're working on a time frame.

On Thursday morning I knew, as I breezed past Greg standing in the doorway to the kitchen, that he wouldn't like my rushing, but I had to grab the kids' lunches so they could get going and wouldn't be late for school. Heaven knows those 3 or 4 seconds I saved by running around could be the 3 or 4 seconds that made all the difference! Before Greg had a chance to get bent out of shape about my rate of motion, my toe did. Get bent out of shape, that is.

I stubbed it on the door frame. Really, really hard. And it hurt. Really, really badly. And I thought, Greg is so right. I really do need to calm down and move more slowly/carefully.

And he stood there while I wailed and cried (yes, I pretty much did. Baby.) and nary an "I told you so" escaped his lips.

As a punishment (well, natural consequence, really), instead of going to breakfast for our usual Saturday morning date, we only had time to go to the ER to see if they could fix my toe, which I'd only realized was looking extra crooked on Friday night. Then, even though I had us all completely packed and ready for our weekend trip (for church), it was too late for us to make it to the hotel before bedtime (a recipe for a disastrous hotel stay, especially with napping in the car), so Greg went on his own and I stayed home with the kids. But it wasn't all bad. Since we were all bummed we wouldn't get to go, Greg took us for a little 1/2 hour adventure before he left, and that was totally worth everything. More on that later.

And my toe is totally fine. Crooked and swollen, but apparently the crookedness is from the last time I stubbed it a few years ago. When I was rushing around to save another 3 or 4 seconds during some other life threatening crisis, no doubt.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I was hungry and, in a brave attempt to keep myself from reaching for something more delicious and fattening, I opened a pack of dried apricots to snack on. They were overly dry. Tough, in fact. Still, I did my best to enjoy them myself and put a bite of one in Spencer's mouth, sure he'd think it was like candy.

For the next hour he hummed all his songs and mumbled all his "words" and before we went out on our walk, I took the same piece of apricot out of his mouth. It was completely reconstituted.

On our walk we passed a number of thoroughly dried frogs on the sidewalk.

You know how after the rain you see dried worms everywhere? It's like that where we live, but with these cute little frogs. We have some living in our backyard (not the dried up ones) and we do our best to keep them watered and happy so we don't find them one day, flat and crispy, in our garage as we have in years past.

As we continued down the street we came to a scattered pile of unused matches on the sidewalk. I stopped and thought for a second. It's been very hot, dry and windy and these matches seemed like an accident waiting to happen. I started to rub them one-by-one into the ground with my flip flops to wear off all the phosphorus (looked it up). As I did it, I explained to Aaron that one of the matches could light and start a fire. Or some kids could come and take them and start a fire.

Aaron knew that kids don't play with matches so I had to explain that some kids do dangerous and bad things like play with matches. I told him that if a fire starts in your house it could spread and all your toys can burn, your clothes and your bed. You would have no place to sleep etc.

Aaron listened carefully and was thoughtful for a minute after I ended my lecture. Then suddenly he looked up at me with worry in his eyes and said, "And Spencer's toys! Spencer's toys could get burned and he wouldn't have anything to play with!!" He was very disturbed. Probably for his whole childhood he will never play with matches for fear that Spencer's toys might get burned.

Tough apricots, dead frogs, and fire hazards.

And one frazzled lady.

I've been feeling kind of dried out lately, too, in case you couldn't tell from the past couple of posts. Not enough healthy food and exercise, not enough planning and meditating and taking meaningful time for myself to feel put together, and not enough time drinking the Living Water.

I am working on rehydrating myself, but it would kind of be nice if someone could just stick me in their mouth, go about their business for awhile and spit me out, a new and improved Lisa.

No, that wouldn't be nice, I guess. Not literally. I'll just work on it myself, one snack, morning walk, and scripture session at a time so I don't end up as unpalatable as the apricots, as unbecoming as the frogs, and as fear inducing (or explosive) to good children as the matches.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hidden Treasures

I'd like to "find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures". There's just something so appealing about that promise.

So I'm going to finally try to follow the Word of Wisdom, or its spirit. Moderation in all things. Or, not really. Moderation in some things and abstinence in others. So, for me, this is about complete forbearance. Adapted to the capacity of the weakest of all saints. (that's me)

In order to find that wisdom and those hidden treasures, I am going to reveal some hidden treasures of my own with my family:

The caramels are on the baking chocolate shelf,
the Oreos are in the school snack box and
the chocolate covered orange sticks are in the fridge.

I'm not gonna eat them anymore. Neither snack on them throughout the day when I should be eating fruit or yogurt, nor sneak nibbles here and there while making dinner. Or every time I enter the kitchen.

Because I desire wisdom.

And to stop this steady approach to the weight I told myself I wouldn't ever reach again. "No zeros before the decimal," I said. (We're a half a kilo away. Or maybe a whole kilo now, thanks to Fast Sunday.)

But mostly for the wisdom. That's a better treasure than having the figure I want. And I'm seriously NOT being sarcastic. But between keeping (my interpretation of one aspect of) the Word of Wisdom, Fast Sundays and the promise quoted at the beginning of the post, I'm going to be incredibly attractive in both mind AND body.

I can't wait.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Quickly! Turn Me Upside Down!

It doesn't happen very often, but some days I just spend a lot of time thinking about the things I can't stand about myself. And

1. I think about how poor I am because I get so tired of bathing children and doing the entire Before Bed Routine at the end of the day when I'm already all mothered out, and my husband almost never does it.

2. I listen to Aaron stomp his feet and declare that he "doesn't like the stupid (insert noun)". He makes angry faces and sometimes screams and is a total grouch. Then he has to stand facing the wall because he said one (or more) of his favorite bad words (hate, stupid and shut up).

3. Evie and David bicker and annoy each other and seem to have absolutely no positive feelings for each other. Even after the long discussion we had on Saturday about how we're all playing on the same team and should be encouraging and supporting each other, which they seemed to totally understand and agree with.

4. Spencer wiggles and giggles and generally makes changing his diaper an extremely frustrating minute and a half, no matter how seriously I tell him to stop or even if I get mad.

Then I think about

1. How I'm terrified of being a nagging wife so I rarely ask Greg to do the things that we seem to have established (non-verbally) are my responsibilities. (and there are a hundred other reasons why it's not his fault). Instead I just sit around feeling sorry for myself and my terrible lot in life.

2. How often Aaron sees me get frustrated or annoyed with something small when I should really just fix it and move on.

3. How often I forget to be positive and encouraging to my kids when trying to help them overcome their little faults, but come across as critical or annoyed instead.

4. The few times in a row that I tickled and played with Spencer just before or after changing a diaper, even though I knew I would pay for it later when he wanted to play before/during/after every diaper change.

And I realize that I've created all these monsters. And I think even more about how I sick I am of me.

Then we get out of the house and when we cross a street I help Aaron walk his bike and he says, "I can do it, but thanks, mom, for helping me." And when we pass a little store he asks if we can go get an ice cream. When I say no he says, "But you only have to buy it for one guy: for me!" And I smile.

And my phone rings and Greg says he has a question for me, "Tell me what you think about this: When the kids come home from school we go for a picnic. Just you and me."

And I think that's a great idea. And I think I'm going to pull out my scriptures*, for goodness sake, and start being more like the person I want to be instead of thinking about how different I am from her. I'm gonna smile this frown away.
*A very real key to my happiness and one that I forget about waaaaay too often and just read a quick chapter before bed instead of actually studying.