Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Tough Conversation

Last week I had to have a tough conversation with Esmé.

Out of the blue, one day, she suddenly threw up all over. So we got her all cleaned up and bundled comfortably on the couch where she could watch movies and rest until she felt better.

Lately, she likes reminding us of things; for example, she likes to start eating dinner, then suddenly remind us, "Oh, we forgot prayer!" Or when she's going potty she'll be ready to be done then exclaim, "Oh! Forgot pee pee!" Or when we go to the store, "Oh! Forgot fruit snacks!"

So, on her sick day, she'd been resting all afternoon and into the night. Since we didn't want to upset her tummy again, we discreetly ate dinner without her while she watched her movie. I came back and handed her a cracker to eat.

She sat up and exclaimed, "Oh! I forgot eat dinner!"
That's when I had to respond, "Honey, your dinner is that cracker tonight."
She just looked at me for a minute then said, "Oh! Forgot dinner!"
I hesitated, "No, Esmé, you can't eat dinner. You can eat that cracker, though..."

It is a difficult thing to have to tell your child that dinner is a large, unsalted cracker tonight.

Poor Esmé!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Word about Penny

If I could sum up Penny in one word it would be this: Delicious.

I can't believe she'll be ONE this month! She is such a joy and makes us laugh so much!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


The rest of our second day in Poland was spent wandering through Krakow. It really is one of the most beautiful Old Towns in Europe. We bought souvenirs and chocolate, then found a nice place on the square to eat dinner. And after the morning we had, you better believe we ordered dessert!

We had planned to see a Chopin concert, but it was cancelled, so we spent the evening cuddled in bed watching the Oscars on my iphone. It was perfect.

Monday, March 4, 2013


Since I was young, I've felt deeply the importance of remembering the Holocaust. I've spent a long time reading about it, studying it; it is something that is important to me. Auschwitz was somewhere that I've always wanted to see--maybe 'wanted' is the wrong word--it is somewhere I felt I needed to see. Roo knows this, which is why he suggested we go to Poland. I couldn't believe he was up for it, but of course I felt like I should go and was happy he was willing to go as well.

It was our second day in Poland. We slept in, had a nice breakfast, then headed out. As we drove, I was somewhat surprised by the feelings churning in my head. I actually felt nervous. I felt antsy. I felt dread. On the plane, I had started reading a book called Alicia: My Story, one of the most heart-rending Holocaust memoirs I'd ever read. So I suppose my mind was fresh with the horrors of that time. I couldn't really talk as we passed through a series of sad, dilapidated towns that blended into black and white forests--the kind of forests where the terrible things I'd read about had happened.

My only other experience with visiting a concentration camp was when we went to Dachau in July. I guess that set my expectations. Dachau, though it had been a horrible place in its time, was now well-run by its current German administrators--it had an airy, modern visitors' center of glass and stone. The camp was quiet and not much remained besides rows of foundations. It was a bright day. I toured the place with a melancholy fascination. It had a feeling of long-removed sadness, like a memorial, like a cemetery. It was not a scary place. I was hoping to find something similar in Auschwitz, but the closer we came, the more I knew that would not be the case.

Auschwitz is actually made up of two separate camps; the first was more of a work camp, the inmates slept in multiple story brick barracks with doors and windows--where they had a minimal chance of survival--minimal, but still a chance. The second camp (Birkenau) was the place where people went to die--some immediately and some had to wait, but this place was not meant to allow for any survival. This was the place we came upon first.

 We drove along an ordinary road until suddenly this gate, this structure that represents horror was just there, on the side of the main road.

Normally, tourists visit Birkenau after seeing the first camp. And since we were there in the morning, and most tourists were at the first camp, this place was almost completely empty. There was no gleaming visitors' center encouraging tolerance, hope, and remembrance. There were no employees. There were no fancy audio guides and brochures. We just walked through an old gate into the place, as if we were the first people to come upon it in a long time. And if we had been, if we had no idea what this place was, we would have easily guessed from its very infrastructure that it was an evil place.

  First of all, it was huge. It was divided by a railway the cut through its center. Here was the unloading platform where one eerie rail car still stood, and on either side of the tracks, the camp stretched on and on. It would have taken hours to walk through it all. On one side were single-level, crumbling brick barracks whose doors were padlocked shut. On the other side were endless rows of dirty brick chimneys, the only remains of what were once wooded barracks--the kind you think of when you think about concentration camps. They stretched before us like some diabolical forest, still surrounded by high fences of barbed wire.

As we made our way around, not sure really where to go, I felt unable to process what I was seeing.  This place stood not like a memorial to remembrance and tolerance, but like a massive scar that would never fade. It was a terrible place, and I felt terrible looking at it.

At the very rear of the camp, where the railway ended stood a massive raised platform, recently constructed, where a dark monument stood along with plaques like headstones carved with a message in all the languages of those who perished there. It read that this place would stand as a cry of despair for the ages. A cry of despair was right. From that raised platform, you could see into the underground gas chambers, now roof-less and exposed. You could see the ruined crematoriums, evidence of the crimes the Nazis hastily tried to cover up, to destroy before the world figured out what was going on. I felt overcome here and wandered awhile, just crying.
 The walk out of the camp was long, it felt like miles. All I wanted to do was get out of there.  I couldn't feel detached historical fascination; I could only feel disgust and horror.

 We made our way over to the first Auschwitz camp, the work camp. Here were the tourists. They milled about in the dark, communist-feeling entry building, eating sandwiches and laughing. I geared up for more, and we started into the camp. After we walked outside, I found out we'd just left the building where prisoners were initially processed into the camp. I felt sick.  From there we were confronted by a series of atrocities as we toured the museum displays set up in the former barracks. None of this was new to me. I'd read and seen all of it before, many times. But being there was completely different. It was oppressive. The building that housed the plunder of the Nazis was the hardest. There were mountains of human hair, suitcases, shoes, toothbrushes, bowls and plates. They belonged to individuals who suffered so much.

By the time we made it to the camp jail basement, I couldn't handle anymore atrocities and I had to get out. I walked as fast as I could to get away, passing (of course) the gas chamber on our way out.

I just wanted to get away from there. I didn't even want to take pictures. It felt too ugly, like it wasn't good enough for pictures.

After we left, I wanted to forget the place. I didn't want to remember it. I didn't even want to talk about it. I left understanding how a place like this could make someone question whether God even exists.

It has taken a week or so, a week to get away from the shock of it, for me to process what I saw. I am very glad we went. I am thankful for the opportunity. I've felt more aware of the fact that it is simple things like love and kindness that keep the world from spinning out of control.

In the week since, I had to prepare a lesson on the Atonement for the girls at church. As I studied and read about it, I felt very aware of how unfathomable the amount of suffering Jesus Christ experienced was. I couldn't stop thinking about it--how much pain humans go through, and as a result, how much He also must have experienced. I don't understand fully what happens after we die or how things get sorted out, but I have to believe that God is a fair God, and that somehow, through the Atonement, all will be made right for everyone. Somehow. I need to believe that.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Romantic Post-Communism Getaway

Roo and I had the chance to get away together and we could go anywhere in Europe. We chose Poland. In February.

Yes, it was cold. And at times the atmosphere was very depressing, but overall it was a joy for us to have time together and discover a new place together. And it was even more of a joy for once to be the people on the plane WITHOUT children. In fact, flying without children felt like a morning at the spa. I sat and read a book and didn't get stressed out or mad at anyone once! It was wonderful.

Under a dirty white sky and dirty white snow, Poland was initially an array of dilapidated grey textures to me. The pall of communism still hung over almost everything, even the people, who seemed grim. Yet this thrilled me--I wasn't there to experience Western Europe or America or some sunny resort; I was there to experience something new.

Our first stop was the Wieliczka Salt Mine.  One of the oldest and deepest mines in Europe. The tour started with a trek down a million winding, wooden stairs and lasted for three hours in the mine.


Looking down the middle of the stairs on our way down. It was very, very deep. (We took an elevator back up...)

The mine was full of impressive sculptures carved from the salt.

This was an impressive and massive chapel (more like a cathedral) carved out of the rock deep in the mine. People are often married here.

Even the chandeliers are made of salt.
After miles of walking through the mine, we were exhausted. We drove into the city of Krakow, with its beautifully preserved Old Town, and found our hotel right on the square. It was so lovely. And nothing is a more welcome sight on a romantic getaway than a lovely hotel room... And after our second day in Poland (post to follow), to see something beautiful and lovely, even if it is the shape and color of a throw pillow, was vital.
Our hotel
Our pretty bedroom, which somewhat restored my faith in humanity after an emotionally exhausting day at Auschwitz.

We walked through the beautiful Old Town at night to eat some authentic Polish food.
And we snapped some blurry photos of the town square before scurrying back into our warm room.

Market stalls