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.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Easter Bunny

We don't celebrate Easter like everyone else. There's no Stations of the Cross for us or blessing our basket of food on Good Saturday or even Resurrection Mass on Easter Sunday. But there is time spent together, good food, and the Easter bunny.

It's the whole Santa Claus dilemma all over again, right? Nope, not here. Somehow my children completely believe that Saint Nicholas delivers presents to children all over the world on Christmas Eve, but think the idea of a "real" Easter bunny hiding treats in the yard is just plain ridiculous.

It was pretty difficult to get to the store to buy those treats without them, but we did it. As we walked in the store, Misiu told me that our neighbor from the village had called and asked us to buy her a rabbit. She couldn't find one in the village. The lady passing out flyers had just given me a coupon for the pet store, so I headed in that direction. "To eat," Misiu said. "A rabbit to eat." Oh.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday

My father-in-law was a quiet man. He was a handsome man as well. I can completely understand why my 15-year-old mother-in-law fell head-over-heels in love with him. So in love that at 16 she gave birth to their first child. Later that year they married. They went on to have two more children, 5 grandchildren, and 4 great grandchildren over their 54 years of marriage.

I learned Szczebrzeszyn from my father-in-law. It's his hometown. I knew Szczebrzeszyn before I had ever heard the tongue twister it's so famous for. Although my father-in-law taught me how to pronounce Szczebrzeszyn, it took me a bit longer to learn how to spell it. 

I learned who Violetta Villas was from my father-in-law. We were looking through an old photo album where we found a post card with a picture of Violetta Villas posing in a leopard-print bikini, of course with her trademark long, blonde locks of hair. My quiet and introspective father-in-law remarked that when he was younger he thought she was just about the sexiest thing going. I also learned that my father-in-law had a peculiar taste in women.

I called my father-in-law Ojciec although I'm not a fan of calling in-laws mother and father. Everybody called him Ojciec. Once when I was taking a nap on the couch, the mailman came in (!) and asked where Ojciec was. It was like his name.

My father-in-law was born 74 years ago on Good Friday. Today on Good Friday he was laid to rest.

Rest in peace Ojciec.