Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Martin: Hey, can you clear off the bench by the front door so people have a place to take their shoes on and off?
Me: Are we gonna' make people take their shoes off?
Martin: Sure, I mean, we can ask them nicely to remove their shoes. Right?
Me: Martin, I don't want to ask my grandmother to remove her shoes, it's awkward. How about, we can say something like "please feel free to remove your shoes if you want."
Martin: But what if people don't take their shoes off? Then they're walking all over the carpet and the floors with their shoes on. Besides, isn't it more comfortable to have your shoes off?
Me: Yeah, but I just don't think it's polite to make guests take their shoes off when they are here to celebrate a family event (Baptism) in their Church clothes, especially if they don't want to.
Martin: OK, ok. Fine, we'll ask them. Nobody *has* to take their shoes off.
Me: Thank you.
Aren't we civilized "discussers?" See how nicely we worked that out? How wonderfully considerate we were of listening to each others arguments and concerns and finally settling on a compromise? Yep, that's how it always goes. Always. (unless we're arguing about the best way to load the dishwasher... we are currently acting under a 'cease fire' agreement for that one...we'll see how long it lasts.)
It always goes like that, because I'm pretty sure, every time we have a party or reception at our house, we have that discussion... yep, every time.
Whether or not we will make people take off their shoes.
Isn't that silly?
But you know what, it's not so silly when you are trying to combine two cultures under one roof, and make everyone feel comfortable at the same time.
It was hard to get used to at first, it was not the way I was raised, and it is not a part of my culture.
But in Poland, that's what you do. You remove your shoes when you enter a home.
And I married a Pole, so that's what *we* do... for better or for worse.
I only ask that my 83 year old grandmother doesn't have to remove her shoes when she is at my house celebrating a Baptism or birthday and she is wearing her Sunday best.
So just remember, if you are planning on visiting me, break out that new pair of socks, without the holes in the heels, and take care to paint that pinky toe, because we're gonna' have to look at your feet and I'd like it to be as pleasant an experience as possible.
P.S. On a more practical note, as different as it may seem to require family to remove their shoes when they get home or come to visit...you never have to worry about where to find your shoes. They are never behind the bed, or under the kitchen table, or shoved in the deep recesses of a closet... nope, they are always right by whatever door you just entered. As a mother of four young ones, that is an 'always' that I can definitely live with.
Monday, May 30, 2011
Very soon after he signed up, he was name head engineer of the "Continental Army," the army that was established by the thirteen colonies to fight the American Revolutionary War. While he was in Pennsylvania, working with the Continental Army, he had a chance to read The Declaration of Independence.
Upon reading the Declaration of Independence, he was so moved, that he asked to meet Thomas Jefferson, the man who penned this document that he felt represented so much of what he believed.
He met Thomas Jefferson a few months later, and the two men quickly became the best of friends. Often spending much time together at Jefferson's home, Monticello, discussing philosophy, politics, and other common interests.
The young man was quite adept at his job as head engineer. His first task was the fortification of places such as Philadelphia, the banks of the Delaware River and several forts along the Canadian border.
Several of his ideas as head engineer were key in helping turn the tide of the war from British victory to the Americans. His work at Saratoga was indeed the real turning point of the Revolutionary War when a notable British General surrendered and just a few months later led to the alliance with France that led to the end of the war.
He was thereafter regarded as one the best engineers in American service. George Washington noticed him and gave him the task of fortifying the strongholds at West Point. It was his defenses at West Point that the infamous Benedict Arnold tried to pass to the British Army, without success. Soon after, he requested to help fight in the South of America, where he caught his first glimpse of slavery. An issue that he an Jefferson never agreed on.
This young man served seven years with the American Army, offering his expertise and loyalty to help defeat the British and establish American independence. After seven years he left America to help other countries fight for their own independence. He left a last will and testament with Thomas Jefferson as to what should be done with his land and assets in America when he died.
His will stated that all his assets, land, monies from the land, etc. should be divided up and used to buy freedom and education for as many slaves as possible, even Jefferson's own slaves. Although it was clearly stated what he wished, over time and many court proceedings, his last wishes were never carried out and not a single dollar or piece of land was used to better the life of even a single slave.
Thomas Jefferson called him "as pure a son of Liberty as I have ever known."
Napoleon Bonaparte called him "the hero of the North."
French Historian Jules Michelet called him, "the last knight."
Catherine the Great called him, " a beast."
His name was Tadeusz Kosciuszko. A Polish man, who fought for American Independence.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Kacio's Baptism (almost everyone)
My youngest brother Eli, my sister-in-law Kate and their 3 children- Emily, Leo and ? (#3 still baking!)
Babcia! -Martin's mother
Matthias/Maciej -our newest nephew/cousin
Grandma! -my mom
Doos - a good friend
Auntie T, Silly Uncle Kyle and Aidan.. and Tim! -my sister, brother in-law, godson, and my oldest adopted brother
Melanie -my midwife
Papa! -my dad
Demkowicz family a few years go ... including Gisela!
Dziadek! -Martin's dad
McConnell side of the family (my mom's brother and sister and their kids/my cousins. almost everyone)
Aunt Niki! Martin's sister
My adopted brothers and one of my adopted sisters- Tim, Augustine, Tom and Victoria
My aunts, my dad's sisters - Aunt Joan and Aunt Elizabeth
My Godmother! Aunt Joan
Uncle Freddie! - one of my younger brothers.
Great-grandma and Great Grandpa! (great grandpa not pictured unfortunately)- my dad's parents
Emily! -Our Goddaughter
Aunt Marynia and Uncle James (parents of Mathias)
Aidan! -My godson
No, they don't. And *that* will be the hardest part.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
1. Lots of questions. "WHY?" (general curiosity), "Do you speak Polish?" (I'm working on it folks, I'm working on it), "Is that what YOU want?" (a.k.a. Who in their right mind would choose to do this of their own free will?), or something like that. You know, regular, thought provoking questions, conversation starters, etc.
2. Statements. "Wow, what an adventure!" (why yes it is, thank you), "You will love it, just love it," (that's the plan), "How exciting and scary," (yes, to both of these), and usually there is one or two that simply say... "That is going to be so hard."
Why yes it is... Which is one of the reasons *I* am doing it.
When Martin and I talked about getting married I knew that this was part of the deal. I knew this was something he wanted to do. I could've balked then, I could have said "no way" and forced him to choose between me and Poland, I'm pretty confident he would have chosen me. But then again, he was pretty confident I wouldn't ask him to choose. And you know why? Because Martin knows me pretty well (15+ years!)
He knows me well enough to know that just because something is difficult, or scary, doesn't mean I'm not going to do it.
I am stubborn and I enjoy a good challenge. When someone says that what we are about to do is adventurous. I always respond with "yes it is." When they say that I am brave to attempt it, I always say, "Yes, I am." When they say, "wow, that's going to be really hard," I always say... "so what?" (ok, I don't say that to their faces because that would be rude, but I'm thinking it...)
And so it will be hard. And? What should I conclude from that statement? That it's going to be TOO hard? That it's not worth it? That when things are hard, and you have the option to opt out, that you should?
I'm sorry, but that just doesn't make sense. In fact, if I were to tell you what I really think, and I will... well, I would say, you are completely wrong.
My Bachelor degree was slow going, I got it, and I am proud, but it was hard. Choosing to marry, even when some people around me thought I was doing the wrong thing, was hard. Having 4 children in 5.5 years, being pregnant and/or nursing going on 6 years straight, has been hard.
All of these things, and more, have been really hard. And all of them have been worth it.
Because sometimes the harder something is, the more valuable it is.
Moving to Poland is going to be incredibly difficult.
It will be emotionally and physically draining.
It will take patience and fortitude.
It will take a rock solid foundation of faith and prayer.
It will take courage and determination.
It will take a sense of humor and a willingness to adapt.
And to date I have managed to muster all of these essentials to complete some incredibly challenging tasks in my life, often exceeding even my own expectations.
All I'm saying is...
Why in the world would *I* shy away from something as adventurous and exciting, and scary, and difficult, as moving my family to another country? It's just not my M.O.
Did I mention I gave birth to a 10.5lb baby without painkillers?
Well, I did.
And he was worth every ounce. I can't even imagine how glorious the next bit of "hard" will be.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Not just a piece of property or a lot in a subdivision, to build on, amongst all the other houses. Generally, this type of land or lot is already developed, has a nice square shape, has utilities, electricity, gas, etc.
No, I am talking about buying a piece of LAND.
You know the kind I mean... that has the word "acreage" somewhere near it, and "vistas/views", or "comes with a creek" or "forest nearby" or "sandy beaches just outside your door step..."
Yeah, the *adult* kind of property.
When I was younger, much younger, like 20 years younger (I know, you're thinking, "you were only a toddler then, how can you remember?" What can I say, I have a good memory), my parents would take us on "drives."
"Drives"- Sitting in the rear of a suburban, yelling at my brothers to quit kicking the back of my seat, complaining that my sister is breathing too loudly, while my parents drive us out to the middle of nowhere to look at a boring ol' piece of land.
Every weekend. Or so it seemed to me.
Oh, how quickly we become our parents.
Except this is the 21st century people! We have the internet! And Shiner Bock! And those fancy cables with the yellow, red, and white ends that you can hook up to your t.v. so that whatever is on your laptop shows up real big on your screen.
You can put in all your parameters: your price range, your favorite area, your "must-haves" and then the really smart internet people give you an entire list of properties that fit what you are looking for. Pictures, specs., contact info. if you are interested. It's great.
You never have to talk to a single human being trying to sell you something you don't want at a price you can't afford. And did I mention you get to drink beer the whole time? On all of our "drives" that we took with my parents I never once saw them enjoying a beer along the way. They were missing out, man. (and they were trying to stay legal. they are such squares.)
There are a few downsides to looking at land on the internet.
You don't get to know... well...the Truth.
You see this piece of land...
and this view...
Isn't it beautiful?
It is exactly what Martin and I want in our piece of property. A little more than an acre. Fairly flat, though on the top of a hill, surrounded by protected forests so no one can build around you. Only one other family living on the same street, and yet within walking distance from the local town center and only 20 min. from the center of Krakow. It has the most amazing drive up to the property, hilly and overhung with trees. Breathtaking. And the price was perfect. We were so close to making it ours.
But one thing stopped us. And it was something that could only have been discovered by seeing the property in person.
The drive up to the property was indeed beautiful, but the road to get there was not. It looked a little like this...
To be fair to us, we made it there in a little car, about the size of the smallest Scion they make, and later in Martin's Passat, but it wouldn't have passed the test. We would have been snowed in completely during the winter and an ambulance would have trouble getting there were there an emergency. Even then, Martin and I were willing to perhaps buy it for the future, we negotiated the price down even further. And then the real blow.
We weren't even allowed to build on it and perhaps not for 10 or more years. Even though it was technically a "buildable" property, the city would not give us permission because it was too dangerous for us to live there.
So, we didn't buy it. And it was a little sad. I love that property.
And I don't care what they say about "not falling in love with a piece of land." God doesn't make a place that speaks to your heart like that if He didn't want you to fall in love with it.
I know now why my parents took so many drives, and why my father made us walk every inch of the land he was thinking about buying. He also wanted to love the land, but he also wanted to make a wise decision.
So, we spend a lot of time on the internet, looking at land (and awesome, really cool flats downtown that we *could* afford...but that's not what we want Olivia, stop it...).
And Martin will travel in the Fall to look at a group or so and hopefully settle on something (without me!...but I trust him and he will send me a photo of every square inch) or we'll wait til we get there and choose. Patience, patience.
Because honestly, only truly insane people buy property off the internet, sight unseen.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Definition of Day-trippin': Every Saturday morning, you will hear any one of my children (at least the ones who can talk), ask me if it's "time for Day-tripper yet?"
"Day-tripper" is a show that takes its viewers on little visual tours through towns, parks, historical landmarks, etc. that are near enough to Austin, Texas (my hometown!) that you can travel there and back, in one day. Hence the name Day-tripper.
It's a fun show, educational, and often times very silly. Which is why the kids like it.
I like the idea...so I'm stealing it! Thanks Chet Garner!
I'm not going to post a whole lot of facts about each city I've visited around Krakow (our future home!), that's what Wikipedia is for. And I do suggest you read about some of these places, they are really interesting.
Here I am going to simply relay my impressions and experiences, you know, spice things up, keep the party going. (do you hear crickets? I hear crickets...)
Anyway. I chose Zakopane first for a couple reasons.
Number one, it's probably the furthest I would drive for a day trip, and even then, that's stretching it a little.
Here in Texas I think nothing of taking a day trip to Dallas, which is a 3 hour drive from Austin. The highway is fairly straight forward, some construction here and there, but otherwise, barring any accidents, its a straight shot. It's a great opportunity to have the kids strapped down so they can't destroy anything, while Martin and I discuss important topics like how many times fast you can say "belittle it a little," and why the heck people don't use their stinkin' blinkers. (use your blinker!!!! it saves lives!!!!!)
But, I dare say, the road to Zakopane from Krakow is one of the first things I recall and not in a good way. There is only ONE main road from Krakow to Zakopane and it is ALWAYS PACKED. (this is due to the locals not wanting a new huge road right thru their property, I get it, it's inconvenient, but I get it) So, take heed. It's quite a journey to do in one day, but it's possible, I've done it.
Number Two: I have a ridiculously awesome video I want to share taken in Zakopane and I can't wait to share it so I'm doing it today. If you jump ahead to get straight to the video you will not be disappointed, but I will, so just sit tight, practice that virtue of patience and we'll get there together.
Zakopane is a little resort town nestled at the foot of the Tatra mountains, the youngest Alpine mountains in the world (didn't that sound like it was straight out of a travel book? I'm awesome.) It's quaint, it's beautiful and it's authentic. There is a style of home in Zakopane that you will only find there. It was created by a man named Stanislaw Witkiewicz. It looks something like this...
If you get to Zakopane and you decide you want to stay the night there is always a room or two open in one of these types of houses, probably owned by a little old Polish woman who will treat you like family and you won't want to leave. But just driving through offers a beautiful view of some original architecture in a cozy mountain setting. (Rick Steve's, where's my contract?)
The mountains are indeed magnificent. They are always topped with snow and peer up over the horizon just as you are leaving Krakow. They only become more beautiful and formidable the closer you get. One particular peak that is a must to locate with your baby blues (or browns, they don't discriminate in Poland) is called "Giewont."
It's actually three peaks that together form the shape of a knight lying on his back. He has a steel cross protruding from his "mouth" that has been the destination of many pilgrimages over the years. The legend is that he is one of many sleeping knights who will awaken when Poland is in danger.
I sure wouldn't mess with him. (this is why I have never hiked up all the way to the top,I swear, He's just too scary... and there was bad weather that day, I could have fallen and gotten hurt, better to be safe down at the bottom)
There is one place I have hiked up to see. Twice in fact. (both times pregnant). Okay, so I hiked the last couple miles. Because the first few miles, the ones that go straight up, we took a horse and carriage ride. Awesome, right? Yeah. Why in the world would you pass that up so you could do what you do everyday and walk? Bo. ring. Yes, a horse carriage up, to a leisurely walk to a fresh water lake named "Morskie Oko" (The eye of the sea). It is set in a valley deep within several mountain peaks. Beautiful, and a popular destination for many hikers andtourists of every nationality. (It's great, so many languages in such a small space, all sharing the same experience.)
This photo is an artsy shot of me by the lake on our honeymoon in 2005. Hejjo was there as well, although we were the only ones who knew!
We were there with the kids on our last visit. We took the carriage up, hiked to the mountain cafe perched right at the edge, ordered some rich hot chocolate and ate some fresh muffins outside in the crisp air. It was really great....
Okay, it was sort of a disaster. It was almost freezing temps., and raining. The kids were not dressed properly, and Felix and Lina had to be carried the whole way, and I was 23 weeks pregnant with Kacio. We didn't have enough cash to pay for all of us to take the carriage down. So the kids and I went down without Martin and waited in the car with the heater turned up. It only took him about 15 minutes to get to us...he ran the whole way down. What a great guy!
But we made it, and Martin and I were pretty much laughing at the situation the whole time. I remember it fondly. These pictures are worth a thousand words in opposite- world- of-family- misery but in my mind it was a great little outing. (and can you believe, we didn't get one picture of all of us in front of the lake? It was so cold, and the kids were so miserable, we just forgot...)
before the "hike" begins
they all fell asleep on me on the ride down.
Zakopane has become much more touristy in the last few years, compared to my first visit in 2000. It's not quite as much fun to deal with all of the traffic, the people, and the cost as it once was. (not that it was ever really *fun*, but it was worth it) We probably will not be returning for a while. But if you ever get a chance, you should check it out.
At least as a day- trip.
Okay, here is the amazing video I promised. This is BEFORE she broke down and refused to walk anymore. BEFORE she was soaking wet, and BEFORE we had even walked half a mile (where she started crying and was soaking wet). Sporting her cheap, huge, rain poncho. Could she be any more awesome? I don't think so.
P.S. this photo was taken on our honeymoon. We actually went on this "ride." (one of those 3d roller coaster like pods experiences) We chose #1. Anything that contains the word combination "cosmic super express" is not to be missed. And we were not disappointed... And we have never forgotten it ...
I also think #10 would have been interesting. It can get pretty out of hand out there in the universe... amongst the stars...you never know when you're gonna need a "sherif."
And #6 just scares me.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
It's all about perspective
I woke up this morning
my head in a vice
my throat stuck with needles
my feet wrapped in ice.
What's for breakfast?"
Please feed us."
Eggs and toast? Pancakes?
Oh, who am I kidding?
"Here's some leftover doughnuts
and some water for drinking."
My neck is so stiff
my joints are all aching
my temperature is rising
with every step I am taking.
"What's to do?"
They are asking.
Play with us"
The park? A museum?
Arts and crafts can be fun.
Oh, who am I kidding?
"Here, Thomas is on."
The chills start to creep in
my eyelids are drooping
I have to lay down
I'm too tired for sitting
"What's for lunch "
They are asking.
"Please feed us."
Ham and cheese? Macaroni?
Oh, who am I kidding?
"Grab the Goldfish, the cheddar,
open it up and start eating."
I can't swallow, can't eat
no appetite in sight
My teeth are all gluey
my tongue fat and tight
"What can we do now?"
They are asking.
"Our show is just over,
How 'bout we watch another?"
It's bad for their eyes.
Their brains will go numb.
Oh, who am I kidding?
"Here, put this movie on."
The dishes are piling up
out of control
The laundry is starting
to cover the floor
"What's for dinner"
"Please feed us."
Fried chicken and veg? A casserole?
Oh, who am I kidding.
"Which cereal you want?"
"Can you get your own bowl?"
I can barely lift the toothbrushes
"No book reading alright?"
say prayers , lights out
"I love you goodnight."
"What's the matter mommy?"
They are asking.
"Are you sick?"
"Please tell us."
With a smirk and a nod I ask,
"how could you tell?"
Then they all say together
"We've never had it so well."
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Friday, May 20, 2011
Do you see this?
Makowiec, Poppy Seed Roll-
Poppy-seed cake known also as a poppy seed loaf is a traditional Polish dessert - a yeast cake stuffed with a minced poppy. Some raisins, almonds or walnuts are the most typical additions. Baked cake is decorated with icing and (usually) orange peel.
and this... Krowki-
Krowki (plural; Krowka singular), literally 'little cows', are Polish fudge, semi-soft milk toffee candies. It is one of the most common Polish confectioneries, sold worldwide Wikipedia
and this... Piernik, Gingerbread -In Poland, piernik is sold in a form of a big piece of a cake, or as a package of small cookies usually covered with chocolate and filled with fruit preserves, nut mass or marzipan.
this... Sernik, Cheescake (fairly different from American cheescake)
The best known is a cheesecake baked in the oven and made on a layer of a crumbly cake although there are also cheesecakes prepared without baking. In most cases raisins, fruits, a crumble topping or chocolate sauce are typical additions.
Here comes the confession...
I don't like it.
I don't like any of it. Not one bit.
And there are so many more I don't like. So many.
(hanging my head in shame)
I should be disowned by my Polish family.
I should apologize for the offensive words I have just typed.
I should be scourging my taste buds as punishment.
I'm sorry. I know they all look delicious. I am sure they are lots of people's "favorite foods in the whole world." I'm sure there are contests out there where any one of them has won for Best-tasting -thing-ever-created- by -human-hands.
I just don't like most Polish desserts. I never have. Every Christmas my sister-in-laws bake rigorously for 2-3 days making delicious cookies and cakes and pies. I don't eat them. I have never had one of Marynia's lemon bars. Never touched one of the cookies with the jam in the middle. I will eat a bit of the poppy seed cake because I don't want to be rude, and I stealthily slide the candies to Martin when no one is looking.Marzipan makes me want to lose my lunch just thinking about it, and there is one candy, my mother-in-law's favorite (I think), that I take one bite of and generally throw the rest away (I've only done this once I swear) . (Przepraszam Mamo, please don't hate me!)
There are a couple I really do like.
Paczki, Polish doughnuts- especially the ones filled with ROSE jam. It tastes like the smell of roses. Really, really good.
and ... Polish Apple Strudel. My mother-in-law makes some excellent strudel, one for every person basically, every Christmas, and Martin and I savor each and every bite.
Now, a lot of you are thinking, "alright crazy lady, this did NOT deserve its own post." But you are so wrong. I can't even begin to tell you how wrong you are.
Polish cooking is delicious, the traditional foods are some of my favorites.
But the desserts couldn't be more different.
And there are desserts at EVERY MEAL.
Unlike America, where everyone politely passes up dessert because they are "watching their waistline" , so much so that dessert is often left out of meals here as a rule,(which incidentally, as a culture,our waistline STILL tends to be one of the biggest on the planet which leads me to the deduction that we should all just eat the dang dessert because it's not making a bit of difference to skip it!), Poles offer and serve dessert, and pretty much stand over you until you choose something, after every meal.
Is this my passive aggressive way of telling my Polish family not to be surprised(or offended) when I say "no thank you" to the dessert cart?
You're darn tootin' it is.
The last time we visited Poland I was craving an American dessert. Something simple. No nuts, no fruit, no candies, no fillings, no creme, no cheese. Just simple, chocolate cake, a brownie, a chocolate chip cookie. Something that reminded me of home. And we stumbled, quite literally, upon this place...
...and I walked in and got myself the biggest, freshest brownie they had. It was delicious.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Only in 'merica can you find a store that sells "convenient" store items and diamonds (wholesale!) in the same place.
This post is dedicated Robin Latiolais, because I know, that had you been with me, you would have insisted that we enter and ask the man to show us his finest diamonds and his freshest doughnuts.