Saturday, September 27, 2014

Why are you staring at us?

Why are you staring at us? Why?

Is it because I wear those silly cowboy boots?
Is it because my son is wearing pink crocs ( "I like pink, mama!" "me too, Kacio!") and purple pants?
Is it because my daughter is wearing two different colored socks?

Such little things.

That can't be it because you just nudged the person standing next to you and now they're staring. It must be something else.

Is it because I am wearing my baby in a backpack carrier?
Is it because I'm speaking English to the children?
Is it because my husband is speaking Polish to the children?

Not everyday fare, for sure.

That can't be it because now you're not only both staring but you're whispering and shaking your head and...and... wait... scowling?

I just waved and smiled at you to let you know I can see you staring and scowling and shaking your head and whispering. But you didn't smile back at me. You just kept staring and scowling.

That's weird.

I sure wish I knew what was going on.

Until then I'll just assume the best. I'll assume that you stop and stare and scowl and whisper and not return smiles to ALL the people you pass by.

 I'll say a sincere prayer for you.
That you become a happier person.
A more joyful person.

A person that sees a happy family and smiles.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

random house stuff, other random stuff, book question

We signed the contract with the bank for the loan. That's good news. Only about a year after starting to apply and 2 year after buying the land. Some of us might be discouraged by the time it has taken us to get this far. Some of of us might like to recall certain conversations where certain people promised certain other people that we would not be living where we are right now for more than 2 years. And even then, those same people like to remind the others that they knew it all along, and it's ok because the "internal calculate for real life time" time line (versus the building contract time line aka OTHER PERSON'S time line) has the house finishing well into next fall (even though next summer has been talked about ad nauseam), one year from now, and anything before then will feel like a wonderful fairy tale dream. It all works out in the end you see.

You would think I'd be a bit more like !!!! and HEY, LISTEN TO THIS, and much more ohmygoshyouwon'tbelieveiti'msohappyyouwon'tbelieveit about the whole signing for the money thing but what you  don't know is that up until the day of the signing we were being told that there was a possibility that the bank wouldn't have the papers ready which would mean the offer would have expired (past 60 days from first offer) and we would have to START ALL OVER.

Insert this face...

So, rather than a big high five or excited calls to parents or romantic dinner to celebrate, Martin and I just let out the loudest sigh of relief heard 'round the world. Or, parking lot of the bank.

This is the parking lot where we signed other papers the week before. I can double park better than you can.

Anyway, it's done. We can now tell out builder to go crazy, don't stop for nothin' let us know when you need us...

So far...
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They are building the outside walls of the "parter"/0 level/first floor/main floor...whatever you call it in your country. It is, as it should be, very exciting.

On the weekends we have been living it up in town. We saw the 20th annual Dachshund parade (we went last year as well, twice in a row = family tradition). A Pole and American won best male and female dogs in the show. The girl dog was American. How apt.

our cousin playing the cymbals
another cousin, sister to the cymbal playing cousin, on the far right, playing the greatest instrument in the world, in sunglasses.
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Eating large cupcakes at Cupcake Corner after Mass which is just around the corner from our beloved St. Giles English language Mass. We have been going every weekend lately. Balm for the soul. (I appreciate Martin's willingness to let us go every weekend, when we can). Bad for the pocketbook...those cupcakes are 'spensive.

As Lina would say "the whole family!"

Oh yeah, and school started last week. That's a big one, but I don't have any photos of that. Martin is working really hard with the boys to get their Polish where it should be. They have passed all tests with flying colors but at the same time they just don't think in Polish, and that's what we want. I keep threatening to send them to school for a semester or two until it gets to be like second nature but Martin wants to try this first. We'll see...

That reminds me. Any good books for kids, in Polish, that you all would recommend? They like books that come in a series and they like adventure and "questing" books (whatever that means). They are currently reading the Redwall Series in English but we need more in Polish. Any suggestions?

Oh, and I got a hair cut. So that was fun.

Come back Friday for a riveting tale about my deep connection with Dr. Dre. The rapper. Yeah, that's right. Friday.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fun Photo Friday

I've been thinkin' about changin' up my hair. Been scoutin' the neighborhood for some inspiration...


Yeah, maybe you're right, he's probably the only one who can pull that off.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

I'm no Kelly Ripa - Sopot, Poland picture dump

When I was younger there was a show called "Live with Regis and Kathy Lee." One of these early morning talk shows, coffee talk where they discuss current events but nothing too serious. Kathy Lee was famous for her big fluffy hair, Laura Ashley dresses, complete with shoulder pads, and constantly talking about her children. I found her to be loud and obnoxious, but America liked her. They liked her so much that she now has her own show where she gets to drink wine in the middle of the day and be loud and obnoxious on purpose. She has found her calling. Good for her. (this is the most I have ever talked about this woman and now I will never again mention her). All of this is build up to say that sometime after, when she left the show, she was replaced by a little tiny blonde woman with incredibly toned arms and way too much energy named Kelly Ripa. Kelly Ripa is still, to this day, the female host on the morning show, though, sadly, Regis has left due to his being very very old. I used to watch this show occasionally during my earliest mom years. It fell right after Dinosaur train and smack dab in the middle of morning nap time. So I, with my basket of clean laundry, and cup of late morning coffee (American housewife perfection) would switch it on and listen to them chat. Kelly revealed one day that she often stays in hotels. She travels a lot so hotels are like a second home. She then revealed that she is so grossed out by the idea of other people sleeping in the beds in the rooms that she actually brings her own sheets/towels, comforter and pillows to the hotels where she stays, strips all the beds, and remakes them with her own. She can do this. She is a celebrity.

We happen to stay in a lot of different homes due to traveling. Notice I didn't say "hotels." Hotels are expensive, the rooms are too small for our ever growing family, and they lack privacy (re: thick walls so no one can hear the screaming).  So we decided after child #3 that we would only stay in homes. Home-away type homes. Flats rented out to couples, families, bachelor parties. These types of places. Waaaaay cheaper (like a whole week for the price of one night in a nice hotel ), and often allow us to "live" in some pretty great old flats with the crown molding and the tall ceilings, and the beautiful wooden floors. Aaaaaand....

...all the beds, furniture, silverware, bathroom, etc. that are used by all those other people that came before us. And there is no hotel staff coming behind all of them and sterilizing the room with their sprays and their industrial boiling water laundry systems and their little nice tags wrapped around the toilet that promises the toilet has been sterilized... NOTHING is sterilized in a home-away type house. NOTH. ING. It is a big time "hit or miss" type of situation in terms of cleanliness and "comes with". And this time it was a big miss.  It was a particularly not so great feeling coming from the stained couch, the not so well cleaned silverware in the drawer, and the lone roll of almost finished toilet paper that made me feel just a little put out that I was not a celebrity who had thought to bring her own sheets (or towels, washcloths, soap - which all definitely did not "come with"). Because I can see with my own eyes that those other things are dirty... but the sheets? No. telling. We are the healthier for it, right?  Other people's germs of the past are our immunities of the future? Ms. Ripa doesn't know what she's missing!

Flat 'quirkiness' aside, the trip was great. The weather was cool and windy at first and then warmed up more each day. And the drive, well, there was no vomiting, only a little crying, and only one instance of 3 year having to pee in a bottle (those return trip toll booth lines are a pain in the rear). I'd say it was quite a success. And it's a drive that takes you from the South of Poland to the very North, so you get to tour the whole country, sort of. Very cool. Everything you see pictured, we did. Rode on boats, toured battleships, saw fish, swam in the sea, ... I think the kids will remember it for some time to come.






















Thursday, August 28, 2014

noticing the normal part 2

After living here and then returning to the States I noticed the difference in what you are exposed to more than anything. On the streets, in the stores, at restaurants. America, the part I am from, is very... sterile, I guess you could say. Very clean, manicured. (In fact you pay money to an association, in your neighborhood, whose sole purpose is to make sure that everyone around you keeps their homes manicured and sterile).

 If someone is drinking, in public, in the middle of the day, the police are immediately called. Inebriation happens in your backyard, your living room, or at a bar. Never out in the open (at least not for long).

Old people. Older, like 10 years past retirement age, walking slowly, white hair. Where are these people in America?  I rarely saw them as I went about my daily life. I certainly wasn't rubbing elbows with them at the checkout line in Target.

People with physical or mental disabilities. Never. Ok, maybe every once in a while, in a group whose sole purpose is to take  people out for an outing and then back to the school or home where they spend most of their time.

It's almost as if, along with our lawns and our appearance, we have manicured who we encounter as we walk out our front door. How? I don't know. Societal pressure. Choice. Money. In a country that prides itself on being diverse and tolerant, America also likes it's special schools, it's special homes, and it's institutions. Visible difference or suffering makes people uncomfortable. A lot of people simply tuck it away or don't deal with it at all. It's easy to do that in America.

So when we had a friend visit us last summer, here in Krakow,  he asked us one evening as we were discussing his trip to Europe (including several countries)...

"Why are there so many "different" people?... have you guys noticed that?... so many people with disabilities, or really old, or looking kind of not all put together," ( he was trying to be does one discuss these things after all?).

Martin and I both kind of chuckled. He had noticed all the "not normal."

Part of raising my kids here is choosing to expose them to all of this I mentioned in my rant against those people in Kazimierz... this WORLD. See, what you get in American suburbs is exactly what American suburbs are serving up... normality. A pre-prescribed normality. An agreed upon normality. A uniformity. A uniformity that money can buy, and one that is increasingly manicured and detailed the more money you have. I grew up in this. Most of my friends grew up in this. Martin, at least in America, grew up in this. And to be able to live in  the American suburbs is the "American dream," white picket fence, and all that. Safety, good schools, neighbors who are similar to you in many ways. It's not very far to the soup kitchen for the homeless or the women's shelter for battered women, but you have to make the effort, you have to seek out the suffering, the different.

There's nothing wrong with that. I mean, nothing morally wrong with that. At least I don't think so. It's a very comforting, restful existence.  You have to be invited into people's homes to see them live. There are the differences, the struggles, the "not normal". But only if you're invited, if you're trusted. Rarely in public.

So sterile. So prepackaged. So predictable.

 Poland, perhaps I should say, Europe, is just so... raw. So real. So unpredictable.

 I like that. It's been good for me. To know that this is what life can be like, all the pretty and ugly, together. Being exposed to, on a daily basis, what I normally would have to seek out. I like that my kids get to see all kinds of people living out their lives. ALL kinds of people, not just the ones that are socially acceptable, even if that means they have to see things that are "unpleasant."

If you have always lived here you probably think I'm crazy to talk about this for so long. For sure, I'm talking about your backyard, and it has always looked like that, all of this is normal for you, regular, every day living in Krakow, Poland.

Little by little it is becoming so for me as well.  It's a good thing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

noticing the normal part 1

See, the thing is, there just ARE more people in your line of vision. Everywhere. More people. Because Europe builds up, not out. People here walk or ride public transportation. Lots of cars too, more every day, but still, bursting at the seams public transport. You see people. All kinds of people, every day. You see people eating and drinking while walking. You see people of all ages and sizes and races and genders (well, just the two really) licking ice cream cones.

This always makes me chuckle. Guys with shaved heads, muscle shirts, iphone to ear, licking an ice cream cone and walking to the bus stop. Imagine it for a second. There is no cool way to eat an ice cream. It's chuckle worthy.

What this means is that you are seeing people living. Not just people "at the store", or "at the mall," or "at the work place,"...but people in the middle of living their lives.

You see a lot. You hear a lot. You smell a lot. Some of it not so pleasant. Some of it not very pretty. All of it VERY human.

I once saw two men who had clearly just been fighting, drunk, make-up their fight for well over 30 minutes. Talking, hugging, and explaining. One of them was wearing nothing but boxer shorts.

 You see many more people with physical and mental disabilities. People with facial or physical dis-figuration. People who have clearly lived very hard lives, care worn and tired.  You see a lot of elderly people.  A lot of elderly people. Everywhere.

If you visit here you aren't going to notice these things as more than just quirks. You see people rifling through trash cans or men drinking on a bench at 10:30am on a Sunday morning and you are a little shocked but in that "oh, look at Europe" kind of way. You see  people who walk funny or look a little weather beaten and assume they must be poor. Or you simply don't see them at all because you're busy looking up at the pretty buildings or booking it to the recommended restaurant or your face is behind the camera. Because you're visiting, and that's what you came for. The fancy European stuff.

What happens when you live here is a bit different.

You start to notice all these people living, and then you notice the grungy stuff, and the not so pretty stuff. The broken stuff. Because now you live here and instead of noticing the pretty buildings, you start to notice the trash can rifling, and the drunken stumbling, and the graffiti. Except its not quirky, or other's home.

And then it seems as if that's all there is to see. Because you start to really notice it. Because it stands out. It's not "normal." Because after a while, after taking your face away from the camera and looking around, you start to look for the normal. The moms with strollers and dads with kids on shoulders. The ladies out for a coffee together and friends sharing a soda. At first you can't see it. You can't see the normal because there is so much "other." So. much. OTHER. So much that is not clean and neat and fits into, well, into a neat and clean store or restaurant or place of business...where you're used to encountering other people.

It's not cleaned up ship shape for public viewing. It's not polished. It's not predictable.

There are so many reactions I have had to this reality. Sometimes it's disgust. Warranted disgust. For some things are not appropriate or tolerable anywhere. Sometimes it's fatigue. Just tiring of trying to navigate the good, the bad, and the ugly, take in the good, pray for the bad, and hope the ugly goes out of style. But more often than that I have found myself just looking on (or away) with curiosity. It's not every day that you see a man riding a bike with nothing on but mesh underwear. Very intriguing.

Martin says that it's easy to not notice the normal, because when surrounded by so many people on a daily basis, every time you step out of the house, the not normal stands out. In a crowd of people you aren't going to notice all the regular people doing regular things like sitting and looking out the window on the tram, you're going to notice the girl who's brushing her teeth and texting at the same time (true story) standing directly in front of you.

No, you have to look for it. You have to make an effort to notice it, instead of the other. To refocus your eyes...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

speaking of things my children have seen that they could do without seeing

Oh, Finland, you ol' creepy country you.
Givin' Poland a run for it's money.

photo (8)
Thankfully they have that protective rope.