Saturday, June 20, 2015

Our kids don't have everything

Our kids don't have everything. By our choice.

I had pretty much everything as a child. I did grow up in America after all. My husband a child of PRL had adventures, not toys.

Years ago we bought a house about an hour outside of the city in a village of 500 people surrounded by farms and forests. A house is an overstatement. It was more likes a collection of bricks. No heating, no electricity, no water, no bathroom, but one hectare of land and peace and quiet all around. 

Now the house has new windows and a new roof. It has electricity and water and heating and its first ever indoor bathroom. Ameryka, po prostu. Our kids have a big room, shared, full of books and toys - it is true. They have less than what I had, and more than their father had. 

There will be no gaming systems, no iPad per kid, no television sets in their rooms, nothing like that. There will be family bike rides, their own personal flower beds (weeded out by Mom), worms, snakes, frogs, bug bites, swimming in the lake, and family barbecues - emphasis on experiences, instead of things.

I must admit it is often harder for us as parents to say no than for the kids to hear it, especially the parent who had less as a child. Yes, one Coca-cola won't kill them, but today it's a coke, tomorrow a candy bar, the next day a video game. It's a slippery slope ;)

If you know Polish, here is one parent's perspective on the "kids with everything " issue - from a parent who grew up with "nothing".,nasze-dzieci-maja-wszystko

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Half naked

Poland has a new President, well, President-Elect until he's actually sworn in. President-Elect Andrzej Duda won out over current President Bronisław Komorowski. Duda is strongly supported by the conservative right and won overwhelmingly in the eastern side of Poland. The east-west split in Poland falls along the lines of history with so-called Polska A of the west including territory acquired after WW2.* Polska A tends to be less conservative, less religious, and better off than Polska B. It follows that Polska B is less well-off, more conservative, and more religious. In some areas in the east, Duda received even 70% of the vote. Voter turnout hit about 50% if I remember correctly. There were 2 eastern areas where Komorowski won out. Those areas are Eastern Orthodox which goes to show how much of an impact religion had on the election results.

*Noted* First commenter below reminds that this division existed prior to WW2 as well.

Recently Duda was asked about the possibility of homosexuals working in his cabinet. His reply speaks for itself:

"I cannot imagine that I would ask employees how and with whom they live."

Good, good.

"But I also cannot imagine that some half-naked people would be parading around my office."

Duda, you should have stopped while you were ahead. So homosexual = half naked. Maybe if we are talking about a hot, gay club at 2 a.m. or at least that's what I've seen on TV. Maybe Duda has more experience with half-naked homosexuals than I do or perhaps we just watch the same TV programs.

Mayor of Słupsk, Robert Biedroń, when asked about Duda's comments, made an excellent point, "Duda should remember the he is president of a serious country. If he holds such a stereotype about gays, just imagine what he thinks about Jews, or Roma, or Germans or Russians. That's not an appropriate stance for a politician of this stature. He's not doing me any favors sitting at the table with me. I'm just as much a citizen as anybody else." I should mention here that Robert Biedroń is not only the Mayor of Słupsk, he is also homosexual.

It's supposed to hit 28*C today so I think there are plenty of people who'd like to be parading around half naked at work...including me!

Article in Polish,robert-biedron-nie-przystoi-by-prezydent-tak-wypowiadal-sie-o-gejach

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Get your Polish pottery fix here!

We had a great Saturday full of family and pottery. First, let's tackle the pottery part. We went to Bolesławiec, the Mecca of Polish pottery lovers, to get our yearly pottery fix. We bought a reasonable (not excessive) amount of pottery and snapped a lot of pictures. Trips to Bolesławiec are always great, but this time there was the added family bonus. I got to see my cousin after 20 years and meet her husband. They're currently living in Germany and are also pottery fans. It was only natural for us to meet up for some shopping. Bring on the zakupy!

It was hard to make a decision with so many beautiful pieces to choose from. Luckily, Lizzie and Rosie were on hand to help. At least we only had to pop our stuff in the car and go. My cousin will eventually have to pack it all up and get it all to their next home wherever that may be. That didn't deter my cousin in her shopping along with my comments of "Get it. You deserve it." I should get commission.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Easy peasy birthday party

Our baby Rosie is seven. I know everyone says it, but seriously, where'd the time go? Because Rosie spent her actual birthday at her Dziadek's funeral, we decided to invite a couple of friends over this weekend for a mini-party.

Yes, it is true that once upon a time after cleaning the apartment, Rosie ran to the kitchen to look for the birthday cake. You know because why else would we clean? There was no cake and no birthday that time, but we went all out this time - well, except the windows.

So how to have a quick and easy birthday party? We planned it at home, Saturday morning, 4 guests only, finger sandwiches, fruit, gellies, cake, ice cream, pitchers of fruit tea, paper plates and cups from Ikea, flowers instead of decorations. Easy peasy.

Plus we invited Miss Amanda from MaluMika to paint ceramics with the girls. Take a look.

Easy Peasy, happy birthday.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

No funerals, no vomit hands

We got a chance to spend the weekend together. No funerals.

Our weekend always starts the same with a drive from the city to the village. Occasionally we spot a deer or fox or wild pig on the way, but this weekend we spotted something much less rare - the overturned bike. When we spot a bike overturned on a dark and winding road, we of course stop to look for its owner. That's our do-goodery policy. This time it really looked like someone might have been hit by a car based on the position of the bike. Fortunately it turned out to be another case of falling drunk into a ditch. Based on previous experience with vomit hands, we decided not to make physical contact with that fellow. We called in backup from the nearby shop - some strong, young men who recognized our description of the poor fellow. He was dragged out of the ditch and returned home safely. It happens so often that I don't much feel like patting myself on the back anymore.

Saturday we went to a new, little juice bar called Malinea where we drank yummy fruit shakes and received a little present of fruit preserves. The kids had waffles with whipped cream - homemade whipped cream, not from the spray can.

I also made a practice cake for Lizzie's birthday party. She asked for a SpongeBob cake, and I wasn't sure if I could make something that resembled SpongeBob. This is my first attempt. Hopefully, it'll come out a little better on party day.

Here's my first attempt at rainbow gellies. Rosie's birthday has passed, but her party is next weekend. We've got one little Celiac guest, and I wanted to make something special just for her to eat. I hope she likes gellies.

The rest of the weekend I spent doing a boring translation about chemicals. I've still got 5 pages to go. It's so hard to sit at the computer when the sun is shining. I think I'll eat the last of the gellies.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Not what I was expecting

We spent last Easter in the US with my family. Rosie got her birthday cake on board the plane along with a card signed by the whole crew. She promptly vomited it all up, but the thought was very nice. We got to see lots of our friends, even more family, and our girls had a real "American-style" Easter egg hunt with lots of eggs and more importantly lots of other kids. I got to see my father for the last time, although I had no idea it would be the last time. I will remember that trip forever as one of the best in my life. I cannot believe how much has changed in the last year.

Unfortunately, this year we started from a funeral. The cemetery is in a quiet, wooded location. It's also just down the cobblestone road from the beautiful wooden church where my parents-in-law got married, and once at Christmas Eve mass when I thought I saw the Unibomber.
That's a story for another day.

We also visited some family members with their version of cobblestone as well.
modern cobblestone
Rosie turned 7 and celebrated with her Easter-themed birthday cake made by Mom ;)

I chickened out and bought little Mazurki.

Pickled eggs in waiting

Babki baked to perfection ;)

Pisanki decorated to perfection ;)

The Easter bunny didn't forget our girls.

It was bit wet out, but no snow so yay!

Pickled egg perfection :)

Honey-baked ham
And all the fixings
Rosie got this at the local Christmas ball factory.

Today we returned to work. The girls will go back to school tomorrow. Back to normal I guess, but a new normal, a normal I wasn't quite expecting.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Zombies are people, too.

We are not religious. Not religious may be putting it lightly. I don’t mean that we just go to church or temple for the big holidays. Our attendance is much less frequent than that, as in we only go to church when somebody dies. Well, lately we’ve been to quite a few funerals so maybe that is more frequent than less. We are so-called non-believers. We are non-smokers as well. I cannot think of any other cool “non” phrases to describe us. Being non-believers doesn’t mean that our children are ignorant of religion. I mean every day at their public school, the posters on the walls remind them not to worry that they don’t believe in God because God believes in them and that Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sins. They also got to know that unicorns are the symbol of “sexual freedom, homosexual sex, lesbian sex, and group sex, etc.” I cannot imagine what the “etc.” could possibly be, but perhaps the Religion teacher could explain it to me. Thanks Miss Nun/Catechism Teacher for introducing 8-year-olds to the phrase “group sex”. As you can see, our school understands the concept of religious freedom a little differently than we do.

As parents, we feel that it is our responsibility to share some important beliefs and holidays from the world’s most prevalent religions with our children. Around this time of year, we talk about Easter and Passover. Just a disclaimer here – I teach religious stories as legends or mythology. I just tell them that there is such a holiday - it has a place in that religion’s history and culture. I don’t justify or judge. I allow my children to react as they will. From these and other stories I ask the girls what conclusions they can draw or if there is a moral in the story.

Our kids call Passover “Jewish Easter”. No offense Jewish friends, it’s due to the timing, not the celebration. I have never celebrated Passover myself but some Jewish friends gave us the breakdown back in Catholic school. (Many Jewish children attended our private Catholic school when we were kids. They were encouraged to share their religion and holidays with the class.) When I explained the whole “passing over” part with the lamb’s blood and all of that, my kids asked, “So their kids were saved, but what about the other people’s kids?” Welcome to the Bible, dear children. Their next question was in amazement, “So people celebrate that?” They completely glazed over the end of slavery part and focused on the part where one family is passed over and their first born is safe, while the other family is not. It was a lot of information to take in, slavery, plagues, a just, but vengeful god. Their conclusion drawn from the Passover story was that you shouldn’t be happy about your neighbor’s misfortune. Not the most direct conclusion and directly in conflict with celebrating your own good fortune of being passed over, but a conclusion which I can support.

Easter is closer to home due to my early education in Catholic school. I haven’t celebrated a religious Easter in more than 20 years, but I’ve got the main story down. My children were most interested in the Resurrection. The Crucifixion part they took as a sign of the times “back then”. Lizzie claimed that resurrection was impossible. She also figured that Jesus could not have come back as a ghost because ghosts don’t exist and that he couldn’t have come back to life as that is not possible. Her analysis was that crucifixion, while horrendous, did not in fact kill Jesus and so he simply regained consciousness and did not come back from the dead. In between all her reasoning, she demanded that I check for sure on the computer that Jesus came back in body not in spirit. Rosie, upon hearing confirmation that Jesus had come back in body, declared that she knew what had happened. “Jesus was a zombie,” she said. I cannot argue with that because that is more in keeping with the original story than Lizzie’s version and was the way a (then) 5-year-old explained it to herself.

At 5 years old, I did not think like that. I did not ask questions at Catholic school. I listened, and I took everything at face value. I believed whole-heartedly in Jesus, the Resurrection, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. As I learned that Santa didn’t exist, I naturally questioned the rest of my beliefs. So what happens when kids ask a lot of questions in Catholic school in America in the early 80’s?

Well, of course we got the typical answers from our teachers, nuns and priests, that you have to believe. Don’t ask how it happened, just know and believe that it did happen. Ok, but what if we do not and cannot believe? Well, you are on a path, they told us, which in the end will lead to belief. Perhaps you are too young now to give yourself over to faith, but don’t worry one day you will believe. And if we never believe, we never have faith in any of what you have taught us? Your path may take you another way, you may not be a believer. You may find your faith in 5 years or 50 years or not all. And that was it. No screaming at us. No telling us that we would go to hell. Just an acknowledgment that not everyone has faith. That was one of the critical moments in my path, my path as an atheist, the acknowledgement that there was another path because until that moment my entire education in Catholic school had left me with a constant sense of guilt. I felt guilty for practically everything I did, had done, or would do in the future. I was even born a sinner according to the church a concept that I never accepted and until today reject, hence my dislike of christenings.

Unfortunately, my kids while sitting in the halls of their school do not have that luxury – the luxury to discover their own path without guilt. The face of Jesus looks down on them on each floor of their school telling them “You must repent. Your time is running out”, “You cannot afford a life without the Lord”, “You were born to serve Him”.

Happy Zombie Jesus Day.