Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Dinner

I was looking forward to Christmas. Don't get me wrong. I love watching the kids open their presents. I love getting together with the whole clan Christmas Eve. I love the traditional candlelit Jerusalem dinner we have in a tent the night before Christmas Eve. We eat chunks of cheese, fish, fruit and flat bread with our hands. The candlelight flickers as my husband tells the Christmas story from the perspective of a shepherd. These are all great things, but what I was REALLY looking forward to was Christmas dinner. More specifically, MY CHRISTMAS DINNER. I'd been planning it for weeks. I LOVE to cook ginormous meals for company. I don't just LOVE it, I Lu-huh-huh-huh-ve it. It makes my pulse race. I dream about it, and this dinner was the stuff of dreams indeed.

First, I brined my turkey. Never heard of doing that? I hadn't either until just before Thanksgiving on Pioneer Woman. She started it. For Thanksgiving, I bought some brine, and begged my mom to try it, and it was divine. This time, I made my own brine. As the turkey was baking, scents of apples, oranges and cloves wafted through the house. It completely changed the texture of the meat. Tender, juicy are some of the words that come to mind.
I made Pioneer Woman's dressing too. It's a mixture of cornbread and French bread. Yes, I made cornbread to make the dressing, weird, huh? The cool thing was, that I was able to use my fresh parsley, sage, rosemary, and well, bottled thyme. I don't grow thyme yet. But I felt waaayyy domestic, just snipping it and bringing it inside.
I also made rolls, green bean casserole, tossed salad, jello salad (except I forgot to tell the Muslims it had gelatin in it, which has pork, so they can't eat it. Big oops! I bet there were a few extras prayers said that night) My husband made the mashed potatoes, I made the gravy, and then to the desserts! I made pies, lots of them. I made pecan, pumpkin, and a cool new apple caramel one from, once again, Pioneer Woman. I also made two blueberry cobblers, her recipe too. I let my aunt bring only the few things I could bear not to make myself.
A few months ago, my parents broke the news that they would not be in town for Christmas. I'm happy to share them with my sis, so I had to go on the hunt for other victims. My Aunt and Uncle next door were perfect. They have tons of company in town! In all, we had 1 grandma, 1 neighbor, 7 natives to the house, 1 Saudi, 1 Egyptian, 1Chinese, 1 Kazakh, 1 Azerbaijani, 1 Thai, and 3 cousins and my aunt and uncle. We had Egyptian music blaring, little guys dancing, and people stuffing their faces."I'll just help myself to a little of this, no one's looking." When it was over, and we were stuffed to capacity, about half the food was still there.
That gave me some serious satisfaction. I had so much fun trying new recipes, and hosting so many people. When it was done, I skipped out the door for a movie with my other sis and cousins. I came back, and the dishes were done. These were some pretty serious dishes. Can it get any better than that? I think not.
I loved it. Can you tell?
I get a little over enthusiastic.
Someone grab the camera.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas pics

Christmas morning, before the kids got to come in......

The stockings were stuffed to overflowing.

Holy Mountain of Presents, Batman!

Thank You, Rashed!

Lovin' on Daddy

What's in the box? 50 pounds of LEGOS!

Push your finger in here, it makes a noise.

This boy's got a blade.

Chocolate Grin

An afternoon of bliss...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Some Thoughts on Christianity

I've had some thoughts brewing around in my heart that I want to share. I was blog hopping the other night, and came on a blog where some gals were discussing the religion we share. I was blown away by their anger. Talks that had inspired and challenged me, left them crying and swearing. I kept reading and reading, baffled at first, but then I began to understand. Behind the anger, was incredible hurt. These women were so injured, because they felt like they didn't fit into the 'mold' that was expected of them. I thought a lot about this 'perfect woman' mold, she even has a name. We know how many children she's supposed to have, all the things she's good at, and all the complicated details she's supposed to juggle.
I've thought a lot about Jesus Christ, and what he taught. He compared us to all the many parts of the body, each different, but essential. It's absurd to think that the being who created the almost infinite variety of flowers, and made us each so different, would expect us all to cram into the same mold. He doesn't. His church doesn't. We do that to each other. We come up with that all on our own.
I've asked myself: how do I feel when someone from church makes a decision I feel is wrong? How do I feel when I see someone with a talent I don't have? What do I think of someone that has way more money than I do, or way less? I'm ashamed to admit, that I withheld friendship from an amazing person for several years because she was so pretty, I felt plain next to her. Christian? I don't think so.
I was in the grocery store yesterday, and it was packed. One poor woman in a scooter was blocked, and was agitated enough to swear at the people in her way. I was filled with unholy glee because she goes to my church. I mentioned this to the woman wedged in the aisle beside me who replied "I guess that's why we have church, isn't it?" Ouch.
I've thought about how really and terrifyingly fragile we are. We're all brothers and sisters, and there's quite a bit of sibling rivalry. We desperately want to know that we're good enough, that we're loved. It's a sad reality of human nature that we can perceive someone else's weakness as somehow increasing our chances. The other side of the coin, is to assume that everyone else is enough; that we're the only one lacking. We can think that other people's strengths somehow negate ours. We assume that we're the only ones who depend on a friendly smile, a compliment on our haircut, or a squeeze on the arm as we pass in the hall.
I tell myself, that I shouldn't need other people's approval to know that I'm okay. I should just care how God sees me, and how does he see us?
We're his babies. We're as cute to him as our babies are to us, except he doesn't have to wipe our bums. We're still just babies. We make mistakes, just like our little ones do. It's cute when my baby tries a new word and doesn't get it right; when he comes running to me, arms outstretched, and biffs it at my feet. Our Father has compassion for us, and we're endlessly precious and cute to him. I'm convinced of that. And we're also- right now- in all our warty imperfection, ENOUGH.
This Christmas season, I'm going to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ by doing my best to become more like him. I'm going to try to remember each day that I'm precious, and you're precious; that there's room enough in heaven for all of us. Instead of seeking other's approval, I'm going to give it. Instead of seeking out the gals who are like me, I'm going to look for who needs a friend, or a smile. I'm going to remember that all those people who've had a harder life than me, that may not look like they have it all together, they're enough too. I'm going to spend more time loving others, instead of working so hard to dot every i and cross every t. That's real Christianity.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

My Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory

It's Saturday night, and I'm relaxing on the couch. I've been cooking all day, so my feet are propped up and I'm reading the paper. Suddenly, my littlest guy runs up to me, eyes alight with glee. "I got chock-it, Mommy! Chock-it poo poos!" I take a moment to digest what he just said. This boy is a woman when it comes to chocolate. He has a deep and abiding love for the stuff.

But, chocolate poo poos? I try to imagine what situation would cause him to equate what usually stays unseen in his diaper, to his great culinary passion. "Where?" I ask hesitantly. There are some questions one would just rather not know the answer to. "Come on, I show you!" he pulls at my hand, practically dragging me down the hall to his room. Sure enough, smeared all over the floor is the "chock-it". Apparently he'd been playing when he was hit with a bout of what my mom calls 'The Trots' and my dad calls 'Rocky Mountain Quick Step'. This was more than any diaper could hold. I hadn't noticed before, but it was all down his legs. I get him swabbed up while my #3 boy enthusiastically cleans up the floor. The littlest guy was just as pleased as he could be. "I TOLD you Mommy, I got Chock-it!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My Man Has a Plan

In the days following my emotional tsunami of a breakdown, my husband and I brainstormed for solutions. We figured that the boys needed to take more responsibility to get their stuff done. That would avoid the whole "Mom's going crazy, everyone hide in the closet" scenario that seemed to be happening during homework/instrument practice/chore/ dinner-making /get-the-house-ready-Dad-will-be-here-any-minute time. A lightbulb went on for my husband. At work, he is responsible for quantifying and evaluating almost every conceivable aspect of sales and customer service. He uses boards like this one, except he has four of them. He modified that program for one that would fit us.

Now introducing........... (drumroll) The Accountability Board!

Every evening before dinner, we gather around the board, and have 'accountability time'. The boys report their performance for the day. Green boxes mean they got the job done, red means they blew a chance for wealth beyond their wildest dreams. See, Daddy's generous. Way more generous than Mom. He's turned this program into a pretty good money-making scheme for those lucky boys.
The premise is this: you get a perfect score on one aspect of your responsibilities, and you get paid pretty well for it. You get paid for each category, so if you miss up to two squares in a week on any particular item, you still got some money. If you blow off any one category, it starts to cost you. If you get a perfect score on all five items, you get the brass ring: lots of cashola. We aren't counting on everyone striking it rich every payday, but come on, they have to earn their mission money somehow. This has singlehandedly solved my nagging problem. But, since they have other responsibilities, they aren't doing household chores anymore. Bum jugger for me on that one.
I've decided to ease up on my cleaning frenzy. You see before you my daily chores for my 'day off' in the week. The 'deep cleaning' day had about two more feet worth of chores. I've decided not to freak out if I don't get everything done. The world won't end if I skip spot-washing the couch for a week.
I also took some good advice, and did what before would have been unthinkable: I bought paper plates, and served food on them. And then I threw away the evidence. Several evenings a week, my husband won't be home for dinner, so he'll never see my shame. And I won't wake up to a messy kitchen because I was too spent to do the dishes, and my kids did a lousy job because they knew I was too tired to go and check on them.I also get to sneak out of the house twice a week to go take fitness classes while this sweet man gets the kids ready for school by himself. I come home when they're out the door, so we get time to talk, read the comics and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Here is a certain 6 year old, having a blast with leftover striping material when Daddy was making the board.
Some good things have come of this change. The boys get some good time with their Daddy in the morning; my bum is getting totally cute from all the exercise I'm getting. I've been spending much more time playing with my guys instead of avoiding them. I took them swimming last night, took dinner from the oven, slopped it onto (gulp) paper plates, then shuttled them off to bed. "Why do we have to go to bed at 7:30?" they asked, their pathetic eyes imploring me. "You know how you guys always want to sleep in? Well, this is sleeping in, only on the other side of the night!" The little ones agreed, looking a little confused, but the big boys just rolled their eyes and sauntered off to bed. They would just read as long as they felt like it.
So, my friends, this chicky-babe might just make it through this after all.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Dr. Mario Epiphany

Have you ever been watching an action movie, and you see the hero at a full sprint? He's just booking toward his objective. He's almost there- you see him in slow motion, you hear his breathing. When all of a sudden, from out of nowhere the villain grabs his ankle and trips him. He doesn't just stumble. He goes flying; head over heels, gun sailing, limbs flailing, until he finally skids to a stop flat on his face. That's me.
I've been booking along, making tons of progress in my life. I've been reading my scriptures, going to the temple, exercising regularly, keeping my house clean. I've been in serious danger of someone casting me in bronze and sticking me in an effectiveness museum. Then my husband's work schedule changed. I've been in a slow-motion wipeout ever since.
I won't divulge the details of the change, because some of you would just smirk and say to yourself "I totally handle more than that every day of my life!" It's enough to say that it's changed me from someone calmly contemplating the ocean, to a poor wretch struggling in a rip tide barely keeping their lips above the waves. The problem is, I should 'totally be able to handle it'. It's really not that bad. Tons more people really do deal with worse. That's what's making it so hard.
It'll be early evening, and my kids are all swarming me like killer bees. They all need something, and I'm desperate to get away. I don't have anything to give. I'll lock myself in my room and kneel and pray. "Send help now, now would be good!" I'll feel some peace, enough to refrain from violence or tears in front of the kids for the night, but I'll wake up with my shoulders in knots.
It's so ironic that some sort of answer would come through a twenty-year-old video game.
As most of you know, I have an on-going evening affair with Dr. Mario. We meet on my treadmill after the kids are in bed. A few nights ago, I was busting along at my usual pace. In the game, I'm up to level 15 out of 20 and on medium speed instead of slow. I'm losing. Over and over again. I don't give up though, I just keep trying. When I start to get frustrated, a little voice in my head says, "why don't you slow down? I do the unthinkable, and slow the treadmill down. I'm at a comfortable walking pace now, and what do you know? I start to win again. A little voice in my head says again, "why don't you slow down?" and I understand. My life's a lot harder now. That's not going to change. This isn't a temporary glitch; it's not going away. I need to slow down, and find a new pace. I need to not expect so much of myself. I need to show a little mercy to this poor gal who's trying so hard.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Heavenly Holiday Activities

Have you ever carefully planned and anticipated a family activity? You picture the laughs, the smiles, the glow of family togetherness....
See, I'm not a crafty mom. The very idea of sitting down to do a project with my kids raises my blood pressure, and I start to feel like a caged animal. This Christmas, I vowed to give my children more Christmas cheer than they've had in their whole lives. This was going to be the year when we bake cookies, sing carols, do (gulp) crafts, and generally make merry every day. I ripped off my sister's idea and made a paper chain and wrote a festive activity for each day. We've been working our way through holiday movies, candy-glass ornaments, gingerbread men, and finally last night, gingerbread houses.
I've bought every candy imaginable, even waffle cones for towers. I've really looked forward to this, but yesterday something happened that I couldn't have predicted: school was canceled. I had already exhausted my supply of patience by the time we began our grand project.
I was already tense when we sat down to start. The boys were so excited, they were literally bouncing on the benches. I remembered something I'd forgotten in the kitchen and turned to get up when...WHAM! I was blinded by pain. There was a huge blow to my nose, accompanied by a sound like a beetle getting stepped on. My little 6 year old had chosen that exact moment to loose himself from the bands of earth and rocket to the stars.
I'm not happy, clutching my face, sure that the blood will soon be flowing through my fingers. I let out a wail "WHY can't you guys just sit down like normal HUMANS!" At this point, the wretched child dashes from the table, runs to his room and slams the door. I'm not far behind him, flinging myself on my own bed. I chance a look at my face, and sure enough, there isn't even a mark. Maybe a slight swelling. I'm bitterly disappointed that I'm going through so much pain, and I have nothing to show for it. Alas, life's not fair. I'm feeling guilty, because it was an accident, and I should have kept my mouth shut, or at least kept my mouth nice. I hear the little disgraced one return to the table, so I join them too. We salvage the night, and manage to end up with some pretty impressive creations.

See, not even a mark. Just the red spot from where my stitch was a few weeks ago.

His ended up looking less like a house, and more like a trailer park after a tornado.

This is all that was left of the our oldest's creation. He's not much into architecture.

A sultan's palace, perhaps?

Here's the little bruiser. I'm not bitter, though.

And finally, the over-achiever of the family. And thankfully, the one with the coolest head.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Our First Movie

I've wanted to share D-Squad 2 for months, but I haven't known how to edit it. My husband did all the techie stuff, and the credits had the kids first and last names. Now, after hours and hours of frustration, vexation and toil, HERE IT IS! Shot with our point-and-shoot digital camera, with terrible sound quality, for your viewing pleasure.....
I now present
D-SQUAD 2 The Threat Continues

Monday, December 3, 2007

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Lit Lovin' Mom's Dream

"So young men build the future, wisely open-handed in peace, protected in war; so warriors earn their fame and wealth is shaped with a sword."
Beowulf, lines 22-25

I woke to the shrill sound of my alarm Wednesday, firm in my conviction that this was a day I belonged in bed. I scrunched my eyes shut tightly and tried to figure out a way to make that happen. Surely Lewis could wake the kids, feed, scripture and dress them; burden them with homework, instruments, backpacks and lunches. Get visual confirmation of clean and present socks and underwear, make sure the clothes they are wearing are not the ones they were wearing the day before....Sure... he could do all this before he left for work at....wait.....6:30? No go. There was no escaping it.
Sometimes, as a Mom, I feel like the earth would fall from its orbit if I don't get out of bed. Alas, the earth and all its inhabitants were safe for another day. I very reluctantly swung my feet onto my freezing wood floor, and went about my business. I found, to my delight, that everything went in my favor. I was too late getting up to make my husband a lunch, but there was still a forgotten lunch from yesterday in the fridge! SSHHHH! Don't tell him it was recycled!
As the kids ate their nutritious Rice Crispies, on impulse, I picked up my World Lit text from college. My oldest had been discussing Beowulf with me the night before. Yes, he read it when he was 10. He told me how much he had loved it. He was long gone to zero hour, but I opened Beowulf somewhere in the middle, and unbidden, started to read.
My boys didn't react at first, they're used to me doing unexpected things. After a moment or two, their ears pricked up in interest. Before long, their cereal bowls were snap, crackle and popping, abandoned at the table. My boys were crowded around me, eyes wide in wonder. I read about a shining hall, filled with warriors, a fearsome beast that kept terrorizing them; a brave Geat, who was stronger than any other living man: Beowulf.
The baby woke up sometime during our read, and was fretful, jostling around on my lap. Whenever his head blocked my view and I was interrupted, they howled in protest. "Send him to his room!" they cried. We spent about half an hour in a land of treasure, heroic deeds, and,... ahem, lakes boiling with the spilt blood of monsters. It was heaven. When it was time for the bus, they heaved a great sigh of contentment, and went out into the world. Yes indeed, it was a lit lovin' Mom's dream.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I am such a dork!

Last Monday, I had a sun spot on my face checked out. In the last few months, it had started to change, so I thought it was a good idea. They cut a small piece of it out to test, and gave me a stitch and a huge band aid to cover it up. It was no big deal, except for having a band aid on the side of my nose! I'm past the age when bandages of any sort are cool, let alone one a mere distracting inch from my eye. It's been 8 days, and the nurse said I could have the stitch out in 7-10 days. The problem is, I keep accidentally scratching or rubbing it. I begged my sweet husband to take it out last night, and he said to wait another day or so. That was a very good idea. I should have listened.
I have an unfortunate and embarrassing history of taking my health care into my own hands. Ask me sometime how I botched my Foley catheter induction.
Did you know it's not as easy as it sounds to take a stitch out of one's face? You have to use tweezers to pull the tail of it away from your skin. That's nauseating. Then you need to find scissors small enough to cut the thread without cutting you. That's even harder in my house. All our medical scissors have been hijacked by our boys to cut wood, foil, cables, that sort of thing. I ended up using fingernail clippers. I got a bit woozy pulling it away and clip, clip, clipping at my face. I ended up clipping a little bit of skin, but I made it through the stitch. Then was the ickiest part- pulling it out. Watching the snipped tail disappear under my skin, and emerge out the other side was, well, unforgettable. The area still looked pink and tender, but I was quite proud of my accomplishment. I went on with my day, and while I was doing the dishes, absentmindedly swiped at an itch on my face with my shoulder. Ouch! I was sure I'd pulled it back open. I dragged my feet on the way to the mirror. Whew! Still closed, but I decided I'd been a bit hasty with the whole stitch removal thing. Back on went the hated band aid. But the question is, how long do you think I can go without my husband noticing?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Welcome to my breakdown. Enjoy.

Rashed walked in through the kitchen yesterday and came upon a surprising scene. The kids are sitting down for dinner, looking up at me with startled eyes. I'm standing at the head of the table, wild-eyed and disheveled, practically shrieking at my #2 son. "Pray, just pray! I don't care HOW his arms are folded, just say the prayer!" Rashed gives me a slightly reproachful look. Now, I realize at this point, I'm out of my mind. I can tell I'm channeling the Queen of the Harpies, I just feel powerless to stop it. I do, however, have the presence of mind to know that screaming at someone to pray is absurd, so I do the only rational thing to do and send them all to their rooms. Again, there's a look from Rashed that says "You call yourself a mother?" I take a deep, calming breath. I take another one, because the first one doesn't work. Then, with a voice of forced calm, I call them back to the table. The little guys come, but the big ones don't hear. Gentle Rashed asks me quietly, "Should we call the big boys?" I can't remember exactly how I answered him, I was in a swirling vortex of stress and tension. It's all a blur to me now. So this morning, I'm asking myself, how did I get to such a place?

First of all, I'm suffering from a wicked case of jet lag. I'm exhausted. I also came home absolutely certain that NOW was the time for me to start waking up at 5am to exercise and read scriptures. Our clocks are fast, so it's like, 4:40. I also am in the middle of a cleaning mania where I, again, am certain that NOW is the time for my house to be spotless. I had grocery shopping, hours of parent-teacher conferences, and not only all my children home WAY early from school, but every child within a ten mile radius in my house. They were inside, or building huge structures out of garden tools, boulders and firewood in my front yard. And leaving the door wide open, AND tracking leaves onto my freshly swept floor, AND getting my couch pillows on the ground. Add to the mix that my husband was working late and wouldn't be home until the kids were in bed. And Thanksgiving is at my house tomorrow. And I had a screaming toddler who missed his nap, AND a reluctant viola player who was supposed to be practicing but was instead forcing me with that evil power of his to nag him about every note he played.

It was indeed a rough day. How did it end, you ask? Did I pull from my vast stores of experience, wisdom and patience a solution? Did this day end in love, acceptance and in a glow of family bliss?

No. I sent them all to bed at six, took a hot bath, all the while stuffing my face with chocolates from Germany.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Our Last Two Days

Once we got back to Warsaw, our schedule's were packed. My husband was teaching, and I was whisked about the countryside by my gracious and patient tour guides. On Thursday, we got to tour the home of Chopin, you know, the famous classical composer? It was so neat to walk the floor of his home, see hand-written birthday cards he wrote to his parents, all the while hearing his music played. We walked the beautiful grounds, and I could easily see how they would be an inspiration.
We went to the museum dedicated to the Warsaw Rising, where the citizens of Warsaw organized and fought off the Nazis. It almost worked, but they couldn't get enough outside help. I saw so many letters, photos and momentos belonging to these brave people. I wish things could have turned out differently for them, and I hope if the time comes for me to show that kind of courage, I'll be as up to it as they were. We went out for Kuba's favorite fast food- kebab. They have stands selling them everywhere. They have this huge amount of meat roasting on a spike. They keep shaving pieces off into a pita, with shredded cabbage and things, mix in a little special sauce, and voila' magic! It is really good, but I think my favorite is still the taco trucks we have here. You just can't beat the cilantro. Sorry, Kuba.
Then Anna took me to Wedel's, the most fantabulous chocolate shop in the world. I snagged a picture from the web, and a travel guide review:

Who could resist E. Wedel? The nationally famous chocolate company was founded in 1852. Now a part of Cadbury Schweppes, the traditions are carefully preserved...along with their beautiful building. Bombed during the war, of course the persistent Poles rebuilt the building. Wedel's recent renovations are exquisite, making the chocolate shop something you should not miss. You come here to drink hot chocolate at a little marble table in lush surroundings ... or to buy some of that absolutely amazing chocolate for a special gift...or when you just can't live another minute without a chocolate fix.
Wish I had the time to go back and linger at a window seat.
I had nice, thick hazelnut hot chocolate, and a taste of tiramasu. Ahhhhh.

The next morning, we were off to Wilanow, a palace belonging to the former kings of Poland. It was exquisite. My favorite part was the gallery of portraits. I LOVE looking into the faces of people who lived so long ago. Some of them were so skillfully done, you'd swear it was someone you just passed on the street. Kuba made a discovery about me during these museum excursions. I take just as long to get through one as his mom. Apparently, he and his dad are resigned to the fact that they'll be waiting hours for Anna after they're done with a museum. History and art are food for me, I just can't stand to leave any little fact or beautiful picture untasted.No cameras were allowed inside, but get a load of about half of the exterior! After the war, it became communist government property, and the family that used to live there is still around. They're trying to get it back, but with little chance of success.
We walked around the Old Town again, and this time I was in for a shock. Since I've been learning more about the city's history, something caught my eye that wouldn't have before. We were walking along a beautiful cobbled street, and I noticed that the wall beside me was unusually pitted. "Anna," I said, "These aren't bullet holes, are they?" She points to a sign, memorializing what had happened where I was standing.
She explained that this building had been a hospital, during the Warsaw Rising, and the Germans had taken 350 people from inside, and shot them against this wall. Now, there are plaques like this all over town. With 700,000 civilian casualties in this city alone, I'm beginning to get a whole different perspective on the magnitude of Sept. 11th.

As we walked briskly through a square (it was really cold) we saw a military procession. We just happened to be at the right place at the right time to see their new defense minister sworn in. It was neat to be able to see that.
By this time, we'd been walking for a while in the cold, and we needed a nice place to thaw. Anna really came to the rescue. She took us to the warmest, coziest, most hobbit-like teashop in the basement of an ancient building. We had the most fragrant fruit tea. The shop was lit with candles, with soft music playing, a young couple was playing a quiet game of scrabble a few tables away. My pictures don't do the feeling of this place justice, but here goes:

After this, there was just time to hit an art museum. By this time, poor selfless Kuba had been through more estrogen fueled activities than he could stand. He took some money and bailed on us, much to Anna's dismay. He was our interpreter! I assured her we'd be fine, and we were. There were marvelous exhibitions of altar art from the middle ages, fantastic altar carvings, pieta's, icons, and this incredible wood, leather and parchment manuscript from the 1500's.
Can you tell that the page to the left is a song? Sigh. There was more, a lot more, and we drank it in like nectar. It was beautiful. We picked up a very relieved Kuba, and we met the guys for an authentic Polish dinner. We talked, we laughed, we told funny stories about Kuba getting caught on the couch with....never mind.

They dropped us off at our hotel, and I tried to keep Lewis entertained while he packed. See, he's funny about the way things get packed, like I am about the way the dishwasher gets loaded. There's a right way to do things and a wrong way. Lewis holds the secrets to proper luggage packing, so I thrilled him with anecdotes about our day...until I fell asleep and he packed alone for another hour and a half. See why I didn't want to get in the way?
Kuba and his family picked us up and took us to the airport at the unholy hour of 4:45 in the morning, bless them. We said our goodbyes, and made plans to meet again soon. The men will see each other at a conference in February. Then Anna presented me with hand made truffles. Truffles! Can this woman get any nicer?

So now I'll skip to the end. We made it home, without our luggage, but at least we're here. Our children thrived under my parent's loving care, and I'm sure my parents are sleeping deeply and gratefully in their own beds tonight. I've been up for about 30 hours, and I'm feeling great, except that the world keeps tilting oddly to the side. I think it's finally time to call it a night.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

At long last- some pictures!

Okay, here is the door of a church in a little village about three hours down the Vistula called Kazamierz. I was blown away by the beauty and the antiquity of this cool door. Check out the threshold stones under my feet. How neat is that? Can you imagine how many centuries it would take to wear them down like that?

Here is the guard tower that was here before the town or even the church I just showed you. We got to climb up there and take in the view.

This village specializes in funky chicken bread. It tastes good too! I can't wait to try to make it myself, I think I'll make some for Thanksgiving.

This neat trunk was in the hotel lobby in Krakow. I loved the wooden wheels, and can you see the date on it? 1781.

This was a wall in the oldest synagogue in Krakow, and that's saying something. It's from somewhere around the 1300s. It's been restored, bu they kept some of the carved walls exposed.

This was the oldest Jewish cemetary in the city. It was so overgrown with moss and forlorn, with headstones leaning and toppling.

This was a little escape tunnel in a basement restaurant we ate at. This was in the seriously old part of the city, within the walls. When part of the city was under attack, the citizens would be able to get to each other's houses, and emerge where the fighting wasn't so hot so they could stretch their legs, forage for food, take a jog, walk the dog, you get the picture.

If you are ever offered Polish pancakes, and you are on a diet, run. Just run away. These will take away any self control you have. Mine were the sweet cheese ones. They tasted just as good at four the next morning.
This was the last chapel in the salt mine. See the shiny floor? Salt. The carvings in the walls? Salt too.
Is this quartz you ask? Nope, salt. It's hard to believe, I know, but I've licked it. It's true.

The chapel at the Wawel castle. This castle was really popular with conquering hordes. They just kept occupying it throughout history. Each particular horde left their mark. The Swedes made a parade ground for their troops, the German's left a hospital. Go figure.
This was the splendid view from our hotel room. I think it's the opera house.

Ah, this is Mary's church, where the heynal is played by the trumpeter of Krakow every hour of the day. There are legends about the courage of the trumpeter, warning the city of, you guessed it, oncoming hourdes. He got stuck with an arrow before he could finish, so the trumpeter stops his song early as a tribute.
One of the last remaining guard towers left. Isn't it splendid? Now, imagine what another forty would have looked like!

My favorite, the knight's outpost just outside the wall. Note the notched windows for defense. The ground I'm standing on must have seen a lot of action!

This is the oldest building of the university. It was built around the 1300s too. The caution tape is there because it's raining, and the drain dumps right there. Well, that's all for now, I hope you enjoyed these, I sure did.