Saturday, February 25, 2012

For Your Convenience

While in California a few months ago I had the pleasure of holding Spencer up to a drinking fountain and letting him run the water over his tongue and down his chin.  I suppose every American mother has experienced teaching their children to drink from a drinking fountain.  It's so funny how difficult  something so simple can be.

And what's really funny is that NONE of my kids know how to do it.  This is crazy.  (Although Evie claims she pretty much got the hang of it during her month in New Jersey last summer.)

When I first met my in-laws, when they visited us 13 years ago in Provo, one of the things that shocked me was the fact that my 11 year-old Polish nephew had absolutely no idea how to drink from a drinking fountain.  I'd never met anyone that was out of diapers that didn't know how and it was hilarious watching him try.

Now here I am with four children of my own, all out of diapers, who are also fountain-drinking impaired.

If you've spent any time in Europe you probably understand why.  No drinking fountains.  The nearest one I know of is 9 hours away in Freiberg, Germany, at the temple (just one of the many things I love about going to the temple).

No, one must purchase water.  Always, always purchase water.  No free tap water in restaurants, no place to catch a quick sip in the mall.  NO FREE WATER.  I miss drinking fountains and their convenience.

But there's something over here that I love almost as much.  While in Łódź recently we drove through the streets at night and I saw these little bonfires placed randomly on the sidewalk.  I thought that was so weird.  Greg told me they are simply for pedestrians to warm themselves at.  "How cool!"  I thought (ironically).

Apparently during the time of martial law in Poland from 1981-1983 koksowniki were "invented" (?) mainly to keep the militia (during that time the police were referred to as militia) warm as they paced the streets making sure people were keeping curfew and other communism-imposed laws.

Fortunately the militia and the curfew and the communism have gone the way of ... other Polish-repressing bad things, but the coal bins?  They're still here.

And I'm glad, because while we were out at the optician and getting Spencer a passport we did a lot of walking.  It was well below zero (in both Fahrenheit and Celsius) and we froze.  I was shocked at how quickly this thawed us and how wonderful it felt.

Almost as shocked as I was when I first watched my nephew at a drinking fountain.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Person Who Took Me Out On Valentine's Day

While visiting my in-laws in Łódż a couple weekends ago, we decided to take advantage of the free babysitting (not that we ever pay for babysitting...) and go on an early Valentine's date.  

On the way to our destination Greg snacked on a bag of hazelnuts.  He's a lover of all nuts and has always eaten them.  Quite a lot.  As he drove and ate I asked, "Did you eat that whole bag!?!"  

It was really only 100grams (I think), but I could never eat that many nuts in one sitting.  He replied, "It was a small bag!" while tipping the last few nuts into his mouth."  

Within less than a minute his nose started running like crazy.  He had to pull over to take care of it.  He felt very weird and congested and couldn't believe how suddenly the feeling had come on.  Although he'd never experienced anything like it, we realized it must have been an allergic reaction.

I was a little worried it would get worse and suggested we go back home.  Or maybe to the emergency room.  He said he'd be fine and we continued to Manufaktura.  When we got there we bought a box of tissues and he took some essential oils and we headed to a neat little cafe and ate cake.

It was hard to talk about anything but his reaction.  Especially because I got in the car with a man that was approximately this dashing:

And then found myself sitting across the table from an alien man that was approximately this dashing.

Yikes!  Poor guy.  The swelling was gone by the next afternoon, but unfortunately he won't be eating nuts, probably ever again. Or seeds, as he learned when he ate bread with sunflower seed in it.  (or "shine seeds" as Aaron calls them).

After reading on the subject he learned that sometimes it is just a matter of the amount you eat.  You could eat, for example, 90 grams of nuts and be fine, but if you ate another 10 grams you might have the reaction.  He wishes he'd stopped eating when I asked about it (although I was only a little surprised, and didn't mean to criticize).  Seriously that last 5 nuts probably made all the difference.  He swears he'll start taking what I say into greater consideration.  :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Faith and Other Young Women Values

I loved the Young Women program.  I loved the beautiful, amazing women who were called to be my leaders.  I wanted exactly what they had: strong testimonies and handsome, loving husbands and children.  Because they had just what I was hoping to get, I listened to what they taught and watched what they did.  I admired them and I believed them.

I loved attending Sunday meetings.  I sat on the third floor of our chapel* during opening exercises at the huge table, made of a number of tables pushed together, and looked across at the Laurels on the other side.  I dreamed of the day I would be in high school and would be smart and dating and, hopefully, one-tenth as beautiful as those girls.

I loved it when my teacher brought a basket full of freshly baked muffins or cookies to class.  I loved the object lessons.  I loved when they spoke about the things that mattered most to them and I felt the spirit and was changed.

I loved our diverse group of girls.  I enjoyed it very much when the girl who was a year younger than me and had family problems came to church.  She wore black and looked down and covered her face with her platinum blonde hair.  If you ever caught a glimpse of her eyes, she was rolling them.  I considered it my unofficial calling to get her to smile.  I fellowshipped her the only way I knew how.  I was glad she took kindly to verbal irony.

I loved Wednesday activities.  I relished the chance to hang out with my friends on a school night.  I liked doing service projects and playing games.  I loved the hope that I'd see whichever-boy-it-was-I-had-a-crush-on-at-the-time playing basketball.  I loved the joint activities, especially the broom hockey in the cultural hall, despite the fact that I came home with bruised and bleeding shins from all the brooms that missed the "puck" (folded pair of socks) and bashed my legs instead.  To this day that is the only "sport" I've ever felt a deep love for.

I have a daughter.  She's twelve.  Apart from our family, there are five church members in our branch.  None of them are young women.  In our entire district (4 branches scattered across southern Poland) there are a total of 3 or 4 other young women.

Ewelina does not have what I had.  Honestly, she doesn't have anything close to it.  I realize we are all given different experiences and we can each grow from the situation we find ourselves in.  It's still really hard.  As long as 7 years ago or so I told people who asked that we would probably move back to the states by the time Evie was 12 so she could have the same character and testimony building opportunities that I had by attending Young Women.

But we're still here.  She has contact with the other girls in our district.  She is grateful, but it's not the same.  She wishes she had what she saw this summer, when she was visiting her cousins in New Jersey.  She misses what I had.  I hugged her tonight as she cried about it, holding back my own tears.

And I need to find a way to be to her what my leaders were to me.  But how!?!   How on earth can I BE THAT?  I need to be teaching her the lessons from the manual, but I should also be teaching my other three kids the lessons they should be learning in Primary.  It is too much and I am weak and lazy.

Ev and I just sat down and talked about Personal Progress.  I think she is excited.  It is a fantastic program and will give her much of what I had and teach her the things she needs to know.

I am grateful for a Father who knows what we need and is ready to bless us with it.  If we ask in faith, he will give it to us.  I hope he will, even after having written a blog post about how the most I can expect to be given doesn't seem like enough.   But I know that He can give whatever is required for Evie to develop a strong and sustaining testimony of the gospel.  And, what it comes down to is that that is the thing I'm really after.
*our chapel was previously a country club.  If you've watched God's Army you've seen it, when the missionaries are eating lunch on the terrace and the "Lamanite" calls down and preaches repentance to the inhabitants of Hollywood.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Healthy(er) Eaters

One of the things our family has changed this year is the amount of sugar we consume.  We've eliminated store-bought juice and other sweet drinks and we only have sweetened cereal one morning a week (Saturday, so I can sleep in), instead of almost every day as we did before.  This is because we continue to eat baked goods and occasionally a bit of candy and I want that to be our only(ish) sugar source.

Greg says our breakfasts should always contain fruit or vegetables so we've started having
  • carrot-fruit juice (fresh squeezed) or fresh orange juice
  • fruit smoothies
  • vegetable salads (think raw broccoli, tomatoes, radishes, pickles, pepper, onion, hard boiled eggs, cheese blitzed in a food processor mixed with a little mayo) Sounds gross, tastes...healthy.
  • fresh fruit salad mixed with yogurt
  • Grapefruit or pineapple or other good fruit everyone likes
along with our toast or eggs or oatmeal etc.

It's great.  I feel much better in the mornings now.  And it's kind of nice to actually make something for breakfast instead of defaulting to cereal, and for it to be something that will contribute to my kids' health (unlike syrupy pancakes, muffins, scones etc., which I'm only "allowed" to make on Wednesdays, to be eaten along with a vegetable/fruit side.)  

And one of the greatest bonuses of our new breakfast plan?  

Juice and smoothie mustaches.

Oil story: Last week Aaron was carrying a small folding chair and tripped, folding the chair and smashing his  hand in the frame. He wailed and screamed while I opened the chair up to remove it, smashing it worse in the process.  I ran and stuck his fingers under cold water and went to get the frozen peas.  He continued wailing and screaming through the whole process and after a minute I tossed the peas aside and grabbed my lavender oil and gently rubbed a drop on his fingers.  He stopped crying immediately.  I applied it again a little while later.  He had no bruising or swelling and no further pain.  I use lavender whenever I stub my toe badly or a child drops a magnet from upstairs and it lands on my foot (ouch!) or I hit my shin etc. (I'm a spazz) and it gives instant pain relief and I, an easy bruiser, never get bruises anymore.  LOVE lavender oil.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Because I haven't been baking as much lately (totally keeping my resolution!), I sometimes scrounge up something for the kids to have for "dessert".  One night a few weeks ago it was candy canes off the Christmas tree.  That night, after putting the kids to bed, I came down to the kitchen and saw Evie's lunch box sitting on the table, like this:

For some this might just look like a cute little note* from my daughter, but it was more than that to me!  It was  proof she'd been reading this book:

Not My Type by Melanie Jacobson

That's because this book is about a girl whose dad challenges her to write one thank you note a week (in hopes of working an attitude adjusting miracle), and she does.  And her name is Pepper Spicer, as Evie accidentally signed.  :)  It's a fun book; the second by author/blogger/friend) Melanie Jacobson.The first was The List, which I wrote about here.

And, since tomorrow is Valentine's Day, I'll do you a favor and tell you about a sale on her newest book, out next month!

Twitterpated is available for pre-order and TODAY AND TOMORROW you can get 25% off by entering the code: WKNDSALE.  That is a seriously great deal.  So get out your credit card and tell your husband he's getting you a great LDS chick-lit book for Valentine's Day.  I did.

And no, I haven't read the book yet, but I've read her other two and it's impossible that this one will not be awesome.
*Notice Evie's Polish writing and never-taken-a-spelling-test spelling.  The question mark after the "sencierley" isn't because she wasn't sure she was sincere, but because she knew she massacred the spelling.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mom According to Aaron

I love reading Evie and David's answers to these questions 3 1/2 years ago so much that I thought I'd do the interview with Aaron.  He's four.  And he's our first kid who talks like a kid (Evie and David weren't that interesting in terms of grammatical errors.)  He shows it off nicely in the interview.

What is something mom always says to you? "I was just tricking"

What makes mom happy?  To play ball with Aaron outside.

What makes mom sad?  That Aaron is grouchy--everybody is grouchy.

How does mom make you laugh?  That diaper cars come to us.  (he giggles) {(rolling my eyes) Uuummmm, okaaay, but what do I do to make you laugh?}You tell me funny stories.  And scary stories.

What was mom like as a child?  You were playing something.

How old is mom?  He kind of growed.  He's kind of old, but not very old.  {But how old am I?} You are 10.

How tall is mom?   Like seven-eight.  Right?

What is mom's favorite thing to do?  Play Candyland and play Leaping Lizards, and Play Pooh Bear.

What does mom do when you're not around?  When Spencer's grouchy you take care of him.

If mom becomes famous, what will it be for? Because they love you very much and we live here.

What is mom really good at?  Getting really strong things and heavy things.

What is mom not very good at?  Pick up the whole house with a finger.  Only Jesus can.

What is mom's job?  To wash dishes and to make things and to eat things.

What is mom's favorite food?  Eggs and zupa (soup) and broccoli

What makes you proud of mom?  That you look nice and that you are very, very happy.

If mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?  What are you talking Habout!?!  (Quoting Edna Mode. Not sure if he was asking what I was talking about or telling me I'm most like Enda...)

What do you and mom do together?  I help you make dinner and brownies and cake.

How are you and mom the same?  That we are happy and not grouchy.

How are you and mom different?  I don't know.

How do you know mom loves you?  Because I love you like you love me.  And you love me the most.  Because I look sweet.  

  • I am not quite as cheerful as he painted me, but I'd like to be!  
  • I'm not all that strong, either.  
  • I have a lower tolerance for the games he claimed are my "favorite thing to do" than most parents, I bet.
  • I'm not ten.  
  • And I'm not 78 tall.  Though I did kind of grow (from the time I was a kid and played something.)
  • I don't tell funny stories.  

But I do tell him that I was kidding or teasing or joking quite often (though rarely that "I was just tricking.")

And for sure if I'm ever famous it will surely be because we live here.

Also, if he had to state a way in which I'm not like Jesus, I'm delighted that not being able to lift a home with one finger is the first thing that came to mind.  :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Now THAT'S Hot

My standard of living just quadrupled.

No, we didn't get a major raise, buy a private jet or get a Target in Mielec.  What we did was got a new stove and oven.

Our old glass-ceramic range was mostly likely a prototype from the early nineties.  Or eighties.  If I wanted to boil water for pasta I would turn the burner on, go for a jog, come home, shower, apply my makeup and fix my hair and possibly trim my nails, at which point it had warmed up enough that it was time to pull out a pan and fill it with water.  It sort of freaked us out yesterday when we turned on a burner on the new range and felt like we were standing next to a bonfire within 2 seconds.  There will be a significant decrease in the need to plan the timing for the cooking of food around here.

Our old oven was from about the same era as the cooktop.  It was incapable of baking things evenly and refused to cook much from the bottom.  It did sort-of-okay with things like cookies and scones but ruined cakes and pizza and everything else.

This meant that for most baking I had to descend to the downstairs kitchen and use the (also ancient) stove down there.  It was only moderately better than the one upstairs and required climbing over the recycling to get to.  And once the upstairs oven broke, even cookies had to be baked down there.  Inconvenient.  Very. Especially for someone like me who bakes a lot and rarely uses a timer (baking seems so much less creative when you just pull the pan out at the ringing of a buzzer.)  At least I worked off all the cookies before I even ate them going up and down to check their progress.

But now?  Now, I can watch cookies bake from the comfort of my kitchen table if I so desire.  I have 10 heating options to choose from.  Our quite ugly kitchen looks about 6 times nicer. And the very BEST part is that the house will finally start smelling like whatever's for dinner.  Or dessert.  It was such a waste to have all the delicious food smells (and extra heat!) stuck down in the basement.  Winter will now be significantly cozier.

So, while I'm glad to have a back-up oven in case of an emergency, I'm even gladder for the downstairs oven to keep company below with other appliances we've never used.  You know, like the dishwasher.  And the built-in, commercial-grade deli meat/cheese slicer.

It kind of makes me wonder if appliances are like toys (according to Toy Story).  Will the downstairs oven pine for the days when it was of some use?  Will it taunt the other appliances with "at least she used to use me!"  Or will it comfort the poor dishwasher who cries over his rusted pipes, having never been appreciated.  Will it hate me for the things I've said about its friend the deli slicer?  The one that pops up out of a cupboard and scared our pants off the first time we saw it.  And which we have tried to forget about ever since?  But didn't because we had to make jokes about the fact that we have such a thing lurking in a cupboard of our home?  These are the question one (me) begins to ask when one (I) get a new oven.

We christened the oven with Annie's Chicken Pot Pie last night and chocolate chip muffins this morning.  I'm delighted.  When you spend a quarter of your life (or so) making food, a new stove and oven can definitely quadruple your standard of living.