Dec 29, 2009

Their Legacy

12/29/2009 — cori

I recently had the opportunity to visit my Grandparents in Connecticut for my Grandfather's 90th birthday. I've never lived close to them, yet we've maintained a wonderful relationship all my life. They are both Polish, therefore I grew up calling them the Polish words for Grandma (Bapchie) and Grandpa (Jadziu). As I was traveling to visit them, giddy with excitement, I was thinking of all the things I've learned from them. This is just a small list of things I can actually remember and verbalize - some lessons go straight to the heart and are harder to put in words.

1. Contentment - They've lived almost all of their 63 married years in the same town and the same house. They actually bought the house with a loan from my Bapchie's Dad after they had been married a little over a year. The house was in disrepair, but my do-it-yourself Jadziu fixed it all up beautifully. It might have 800-1000 square feet, maybe a tad more if you count the cellar. I think my Bapchie has had the same stove for 40 years. They'd rather fix things than buy new ones. I once asked her if she ever wanted to move. She said she'd thought about it and asked Jadziu once and he said, "Why do we need to move? We have everything we need right here." It really is that simple. They take care of everything they have. They do not have an entitlement attitude. They worked super hard for everything they had.

2. Generosity - Everything they have, whether a little or a lot, was freely given. They were generous with their time, money, food, house, vegetables from their garden, skills, and love. I always thought my Grandparents were so rich because they were always giving, giving, giving. I know now that it had nothing to do with money but their hearts

3. Serving - My Bapchie loves to serve. She's served my Jadziu his entire life - getting up early to make his breakfast everyday; taking care of him now as he's in advanced stages of dementia; making a favorite dessert or food because she knows someone is coming over who loves that. When I was little, I always heard her humming as she was working and asked her why, she replied, "I hum when I'm happy." Me too. I find myself doing the same thing. My Bapchie makes serving look fun and effortless. I loved dusting her shelves because she let me put all her knick-knacks back however I wanted - for a mini, future, decorator that was huge!

4. Imagination/Humor - My Jadziu has an extremely quick wit. I, on the other hand come up with a good response 20 minutes too late. I did not inherit this gene. My Jadziu would always tuck us in at night with a story. And they were real stories too, using us in them as main characters which always grabs a kid's attention. The best part is, they would continue night to night. I remember once passing a large concrete looking chimney, almost as tall as a silo. It looked odd in the field all alone. My Dad asked him what it could have been used for. Without hesitation he replied, "That is the Santa Training School". Brilliant.

5. Good Work Ethic - Life wasn't easy for either of my Grandparents. They weren't born privileged. They worked in the tabacco fields until they either got married or went to the War. My Jadziu even had to quit school in the 8th grade to stay home and work and help the family. This seemed very common during this time frame in history. But he never complained about it. He made the most of his situation. He continued reading and learning. I think he's read every National Geographic ever written. He's a very smart man even without a higher education. He was in the War in the Pacific Rim for 4 years. My Bapchie worked very hard and opened her own beauty salon while in her 40's. She retired 3 different times. Even though my Jadziu is blind, he still (up until just recently when his physical condition just couldn't allow it) insisted on snow blowing his own driveway, mowing his own lawn and putting out his trash every week.

Gavin, Bennett and Chloe: I'm so glad you had the chance to meet and know you're Great-Bapchie and Great-Jadziu. I want you to know that you will learn something - good or bad - from every relationship you have in this life. Choose to look for the good. You'll learn things from your Grandparents that you don't learn from your parents. Cherish and be thankful for each type of relationship. Seize the day my friends, seize the day.

Dec 27, 2009

White Christmas

12/27/2009 — cori
Just so we never forget....Dallas, TX actually had snow on Christmas Eve which gave us a beautiful white, crisp, cold Christmas morning...the stuff Christmas songs are made of. The best part about Texas weather is, we were outside playing basketball the day before in 72 degree weather.
We even did some make-shift sledding thanks to Aunt Sveta's ingenious idea of a laundry basket, some rope and Chuck's leg power.

Dec 23, 2009

I Amaze My Children

12/23/2009 — cori
....well, at least Gavin.

It doesn't take much, I found out. All you have to do is be able to make homemade applesauce. Seriously.

Chloe was watching "Sid the Science Kid" one day and they made applesauce. And since they did it - we had to. Chloe already knows the recipe since she watched the cartoon - so, no problems there. We're set to go with a cartoon recipe. (I sneaked a peak at recipes.com without her prior knowledge so I'd have a little edge on stuff like temperature, amounts and cooking times that the cartoon failed to take into account.)

So we joyfully peeled, cored, cut and chopped lots of apples and then voila - it became applesauce. When we unveiled the finished product one night after dinner for dessert, Gavin almost came undone. "You MADE this mom???"

"Well, yes. Chloe and I did it together."

"I had no idea people could make applesauce."

"Oh you poor thing. How do you think it gets in those little plastic containers in the store?"

Gavin, now too busy to answer due to over-exaggerating every bite. (Think "Bob" in "What About Bob" while eating dinner with the Dr. and his family at their lake house.)

Since I discovered this new, highly sought after skill (of making applesauce), Gavin wanted to see it done in person and actually help me so he could too, one day, impress others. So tonight, the boys and I duplicated my earlier applesauce cooking technique with Chloe from a few days ago. We were rock stars. We cut and peeled like nobody's business.

The applesauce did it's thing on the stove and then came the 'Most Impressive Part'. It was now time for me to take the potato masher and smoosh the cooked apples. Gavin again, was beside himself. This is an honest-to-goodness direct quote, "Wow! Wait till I get back to school and tell all my friends that my mom can make homemade applesauce! They're going to think that is so cool!"

I'm sure they will honey, I'm sure they will. I know these skills might impress the previously homeschooled crowd, but I'm not so sure they will impress the public school crowd. But you know, whatever... it's worth a shot. Being that we previously homeschooled, they just might have us in the same social scene as the "Little House on the Prairie" bunch and would actually be surprised if we didn't make our own applesauce.

I don't know what Gavin is more excited about tonight on this eve of Christmas Eve...Santa coming or getting to eat homemade applesauce.

Dec 22, 2009

Random Mail

12/22/2009 — cori
What stay-at-home mom doesn't live for mail time?!?

I love when mail comes...the hope that you might get a random card in the mail for no reason at all. Such pie-in-the-sky thinking sometimes saves my sanity during a long, monotonous day. Like people even send cards anymore when it's not your birthday or Christmas. But just the same...I love racing out to the mail box as soon as I see the mail truck pass by.

Once Chuck started working from home, this created a bit of tension between us. His office has the perfect view to our mailbox. I'm normally upstairs without of view of the beloved post box, thus, at a disadvantage of knowing the exact moment the mailman has shoved new and interesting things for me to read in my very own box. Chuck apparently had no clue how much this time of day means to me. I even caught him walking out to the mailbox on one occasion and asked him, "What do you think you're doing? This is my time, buddy. Back away from the mail box!" So now...he seems to find it quite amusing to pretend to race to the mailbox when he sees me making my daily b-line for it. What is funny to some, is not to others. I do not find his shenanigans humorous.

I love random mail. Maybe I'll get a catalog that I can read. Maybe I can peruse the sales at the local grocery store. Maybe I'll put a bill on Chuck's desk. The possibilities are endless and that is what I love so much. The randomness, never-knowing-what-to-expect about the mail.

Take for instance the letter I received one day about 7 years ago. I remember this exactly because I have NEVER received such a letter before. And no...I didn't win a huge sum of money. It didn't even have a return address. But it did have beautiful penmanship. My curiosity was peeked. Only old people write in cursive any more, so I deduced that that this must be from someone elderly that I knew. That narrowed the field tremendously.

Once I was satisfied with my deductions and analyzations of the envelope, I anxiously ripped it open. To my utter astonishment I find an article clipped out of a paper. It was cut with such precision. The name of the paper was trimmed off the bottom. I had no way of tracing this to a location. But that same neat, cursive handwriting was on the top of the article. It read, "Corrie, I thought you could use this."

Do you know what the random, elderly person who didn't spell my name correctly thought I could use? An article on how to loose weight!!! The crazy thing is, I had just dropped at least 30 pounds right after I had Bennett. I was back to my pre-wedding weight.

I was bewildered. I was laughing. I was crying. Who in their right mind sends someone an article on how to loose weight...and doesn't sign their name?! This person was very smart for wanting to stay anonymous! Then I thought, maybe this is someone playing a joke on me. To be so lucky. To this day, I still have no clue who sent me that article. That is also why I am a little more reserved when going thru my stack of mail. I shy away from things without return addresses. I still love the actual mail checking routine - but you know....there might just be a weight loss article with your name on it and are you really ready to read that?

Think about it.

Dec 12, 2009

Parenting Help

12/12/2009 — cori
Every now and then we need a little extra help as parents. Sometimes our disciplining strategies become old and out-dated or stop working all together. Often people reach out to the parenting section of the local bookstore to find the latest book to offer advice. Well....we kinda did that too.

We LOVE books. My kids will stop whatever they're doing and come running if I ask them, "Hey guys, want me to read to you?" We all enter the magical new world together. We also love to listen to books on cd while traveling in the car. It can be a 5 minute jaunt to the store or a 5 hour road trip. Our favorite, hands down is, Hank The Cowdog.

John Erickson is a genius, hilarious author. The books are funny, quick-witted and well written. But the audio tapes, read by the author, are even better. I can't tell you how many quotes have wriggled their way into our daily lives as a result of these books.

One such quote has actually helped us in our parenting endeavors. You have to understand the characters to really appreciate the quote. Hank is 'the Head of Ranch Security', a dog who takes himself and life way too seriously. Drover is smarter than he looks but talks in circles. Pete is the manipulative, sly, barn cat always ready to make a fool out of Hank.

I'm sure you're wondering, how in the world could any rational person receive parenting advice from such a motley crew of characters? And that would be a legitimate question. Inspiration comes from many sources and if God can use a childrens' book series to help me with my children when it comes to speaking the language they understand best...then I'm all for it!

Hank is always onto Drover for doing things he doesn't like and always threatens him with, "Drover, your behavior is unacceptable and despicable and this is going in my report." This is not an exact quote as I don't have a tape recorder for a memory as my children seem to -but its close enough to get the jist.

So...I have found this little quote helpful when needing to diffuse a situation that might get too heated, say...a back seat argument, a whiney-hiney, or a back-talker. I then pull out from the depths of my memory the advice I learned from Hank and address the child 'in the wrong' with, "Young lady/gentleman, your behavior is unacceptable and despicable and this will definitely be going into my report!" I of course use all the mock seriousness I can muster. This disarms the child and we all end up in stitches of laughter. Like I have a report I turn in at the end of each day for each child - that thought alone cracks me up!

I also enjoy "glaring icepicks and bayonets" at them when they misbehave...or at least telling them that's what I'm doing. Good use of facial expressions goes a long way.

Another 'Hankism' that has made its way into our family is a life quote Hank lives by. One day, Gavin and I were having a serious conversation. I reminded him of how we do things in this family, you know 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. Unbeknownst to me, Gavin had already deemed a Hank quote as our 'family motto' and replied, "Ya Mom, I know our family motto," and remember, this was going on in a moment of real seriousness, "do unto others...but don't take trash from the cat." Perfect timing Gavin. Whatever was the problem was - was no longer. Another hard time was laid to rest via the humor of our beloved Hank.

Dec 7, 2009

Cheating or Life Help?

12/07/2009 — cori
So...I'm on the plane flying home to my family yesterday all by my self. No little people to help - what's a mom to do? I decide to 'look normal' and pull out the complimentary magazine resting in the pocket on the seat in front of me. After skimming thru the incredibly boring articles I suddenly notice a Sudoku puzzle that needed me.

Of course I chose the puzzle labeled 'easier'. There is no test here. I have nothing to prove. This is all just for fun...right? So then, of course, because I guess I don't reason like the average Einstein, I'm having a little difficulty in making this puzzle work out right. I thought this was the easy one. Even the subheading to the puzzle said, "No math required; simple logic". Obviously I'm lacking in the 'simple logic' department cuz I'm thinking I needed a little math at that moment.

Then suddenly, after being stuck for more than 5 minutes, I notice in extremely fine print, "answers on page 110". Yay!! I'll just take a little peak at this one teeny, tiny section and then I should be able to figure the rest out, I think to myself. But as I start to turn the page, I suddenly realize that there are people sitting VERY close all around me. What if they saw me turning to the answers page? What if they thought I couldn't handle the 'easy' sudoku? What if they think I'm a cheater? Why do I care so much what all these strangers are thinking?

This conversation in my head with myself lasted WAY TOO LONG. This was obviously a momentous, moral hurdle I needed to overcome and needed to give it some serious thought. Thankfully I was alone and my thoughts were able to battle back and forth uninterrupted - which for me is a luxury. Then to make matters worse, I'm sitting there with a stupid grin on my face. Then I start to feel the need to explain my sudden humor to those around me cuz it's not like I'm the kind of person to sit there smiling and laughing for no reason. I wouldn't want all these passengers thinking I have mental issues (which obviously I do if I'm giving this stupid thought process this much attention).

At last, I come to peace with my decision. Yes...I will cheat...who cares what everyone is thinking. This is not school. This is life. And sometimes in life you need a little extra help. And if they didn't want me to look at the answers, they wouldn't have even told me in 8 point font that there was a place to find them. Aren't we all looking for answers in life? I knew this post could end up being used for some greater purpose other than a showcase for my crazy mental state. There is obviously a bigger picture here.

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