Two Concerts

The Girl sang in her school’s talent show this morning. She sang “Dziś idę walczyć, Mamo!” which is a song about the Warsaw Uprising. She’s been practicing it for weeks. I’ve found myself humming it as I walk down the corridor at school. E sings snippets of it every now and then. K sings it as she’s working around the house. It’s infected our whole family, but what a wonderful infection.

After dinner, we got another concert, a performance of a music that’s thousands and thousands of years old, a music that both calms and excites.

The owls have nested in our neighbors’ backyard, and they came down for a visit today. The would sing and hoot, caterwaul and even almost purr. It was hypnotic.

 

First Communion

L’s First Communion was two years ago. So quickly have those two years melted away than I still find it somewhat surprising when I see L lining up for communion. It’s one of those milestones in life — your own and your children’s — that we all remember it.

The Boy still has three years to go. When he first lines up in the communion line, L will be at the tail end of her seventh-grade year.

Roses for the mothers

And at that point, I’ll likely be writing about how it’s incredible that it’s been five years since L’s First Communion.

Saturday of Work

In a lot of ways, today seemed like a typical May Saturday. Coffee, eggs, a chat with Babcia. The morning sun made the backyard glow. It all appeared typical.

But the weather — it’s Polish summer here. Today I don’t know that we ever broke into the sixties, and if we did, it was just barely. Add to it the chance of afternoon rain, and given one of my major chores of the day, the day scheduled itself. Morning work had to be the mowing.

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As I was cutting the edges before transitioning to the long, almost hypnotic straight lines, a bit of motion in the deep grass caught my eye: a fledgling was hunkered down in a patch of tall grass. I cycled back and forth, nearing the bird, and I noticed that mother was near, flying in when I was away, taking off again as I approached. I knew I’d have to move the bird, and I worried a bit about how that might impact the situation. Since I always wear gloves when mowing, thanks to eczema, I didn’t fear the old thought of transferring my scent to the bird and somehow making its mother reject it. I’m not even sure if that happens. I was just wondering whether the mother would find it if I moved it too far.

First I it near one of the round planters in the yard, but I knew I’d have to move it again when I neared the end of mowing. The second time, I moved it over to the corner of the house, to a patch of grass that I never manage to cut because I don’t have a working weed wacker. Each time, mother bird had no problem finding the baby.

Yet I knew it was doomed. The second time I relocated the baby, it fluttered out of my glove and plopped straight down: no chance of it flying back to its nest. And with two cats in the yard, I knew it was only a matter of time before one of them made a natural discovery. “Wouldn’t it just be better to put it out of it’s future misery?” I wondered. Yet how could I do it? I could think of no quick and painless, and besides, who was I to say that it didn’t stand a chance of survival.

Thankfully, the Girl was away at an amusement park with her school chorus. Had she been there, I would have had to fend her off and deal with her eventual frustrated sadness when I would have tried to convince her that, no, we couldn’t take it into the house and try to raise it ourselves. That would be a sure death sentence.

When I walked back to empty the grass catcher, though, I saw that the chick had disappeared. Where it had gone remained a mystery for the rest of the day. Mother bird still fluttered around here and there, but I couldn’t figure out where the bird was.

And as I type this, I find myself wondering if mother bird has nestled up to the chick for the night to protect it and comfort it. And I’m glad I’m not a bird parent facing that impossible situation.

Still More Playing

So I’ve gone all in — Lightroom all the way. I’ve been importing photos all evening, and in the process, I’ve learned a thing or two.

First, the number of photos was actually a little surprising. When it was all said and done, over seventy thousand photos over a span of eighteen years, with most of them being over the last thirteen years or so.

Second, the spread: most years, I was taking around three to four thousand pictures. In 2013, the number jumped up six thousand pictures. In 2014, it was just under ten thousand. And in 2015, I topped ten thousand pictures. Not sure why that change happened, but it’s stayed roughly in that range since then. In 2017, I’ve taken almost three and a half thousand pictures, so it seems to be down this year. Of course, we’re going to Poland this summer, so it will likely shoot back up.

Of course Lightroom is not just a photo organization tool, and so I’ve spent the evening playing with some of the old photos I imported.

Sometimes, I do very little, like al ittle darkening of spots.

Before

After

Sometimes, I like to try to give it an edgy feel.

Before

After

And every now and then, it’s been fun just to push everything to its limits: pump up the colors, the contrast, the clarity — everything.

Before

After

More Playing

I put it off as long as possible — that’s how I explain it to myself. But push came to shove, and I finally began playing with Lightroom. What a tool.

Before

After

I especially like the highlights on the trees to the left. I think I went a bit overboard with them, but the idea is good.

Working Saturday

So much to do on a Saturday. Backyard to mow, soil to “till” by hand with a shovel and rake,

grass to plant, floors to clean, lunch to prepare, flowers to plant,

wood to cut, shopping to complete, wings to season, cabbage to prepare,

fires to build, dinner to cook, children to clean, movie to watch, wine to drink,

photos to process, and post to write.

Random Fidget

The Girl apparently is anxious to get one — they’re all the rage at her school. Everyone’s got one, and they’re so fun.

It’s the same at our school — the now-ubiquitous fidget spinner. They’re marketed as aids for kids with attention issues and hyperactivity issues. Supposedly they’ll help these kids to focus by giving them a little outlet for their hyperactivity.

What ends up happening, though, is that the kids who have them become fixated on them. They’re just another in a long line of distractions that keep them from staying focused for more than a few moments. The kid in the front row who can’t keep his eyes on his work for more than two seconds now has to contend with this little gadget in his hand and, when he starts sharing it, who’s got it and when he can get it back.

A similar trend (in our school anyway) is the fight with the eternally-in earbuds.

“Take the earbuds out,” I tell a student.

“You tell me that every day,” he says.

Not only that, but I’ve referred the matter to the administrator a couple of times and he’s sat in ISS (probably with his earbuds in ) — but every day, there they are again.

What do these to things have in common? Simple: they’re symptoms of the current generation’s need to be constantly stimulated with something.

L is starting to develop those symptoms as well. She loves to have something playing on her little CD player at all times. She wants to read with it on, do homework with it on, color with it own, play on her tablet with it on. However, what she’s playing on it is somewhat different than what the kids walking down our hallways have blaring into their heads. (How much rap can you take before you go insane? How much misogynistic, materialistic machismo can you listen to before you realize how empty it is?) No, no music for the Girl: she’s always listening to a recorded book.

 

Rain

It’s been raining since Saturday night. It’s rained so much that our sump pump, installed well over a year ago and never actually in use, got a chance to kick in. Granted, that’s because there was a bit of water in the basin, though not enough to raise the float and trip the switch, and so I manually pulled the float and it hummed on.

I’d thought about it on and off today, wondering how it might work after so long of just sitting there. While doing our kitchen remodel, I added an outlet for the sump pump on its own dedicated breaker for extra security. The last thing I wanted was for it to happen to throw the breaker and flood the crawl space again.

When I got home from work, I knew the Boy would want only one thing: time in the puddles. Much to my surprise, he wanted first to take a bunch of random pictures with my phone.

He’s asked for a camera a couple of times, and this of course thrills K and me endlessly. I’d like to let him use one of our digital cameras, but unfortunately, they’re a bit on the too-expensive-to-let-a-kid-touch-without-immediate-adult-supervision side.

But some things are free and unbreakable, like puddles.

We first headed to our backyard theoretically to check on the level of water in the creek, but in reality, to explore for puddles.

I still don’t get what’s some much fun about splashing about in gum boots in dirty rain water. I’m sure at some point in my life I loved it too, but I watch E and think only one thing: “I’d hate to have my pants partially wet like that.”

We also headed over to the low point of the creek behind our neighbors’ house to see how it was flowing. It’s at this point that it first jumps the banks when it’s a real flash-flood-inducing deluge like it did a year and a half ago and three years ago and four years ago. By then it was already subsiding, though, and with the rain supposed to stop before the evening’s out, it looks like we won’t have to worry about a serious flood.

That didn’t keep us from checking the neighborhood to make sure, though. E armed himself with his plastic assault rifle and out we went, searching for puddles for him to walk through.

Toward the end of the adventure, he found a stick at the edge of a puddle and stomped on it to break it. Water went everywhere.

“We have to go in now,” I explained.

“Why?”

“Because I told you not to stomp in the water, and you just did. You disobeyed, and what’s more, you’re wet now.”

We began walking back up to the house, and he said, “That was a good idea.”

“No,” I corrected, “that was not a good idea.”

“No, I mean the idea I just thought of.”

“What was that?”

“I should have taken it out before I stomped it.”

“That was a good idea.”

Sunday Vignettes

One: Alone Together

The Boy wanted to get into the Girl’s room; the Girl wanted some “alone time,” which we all do from time to time. With the two of them, that conflict is a frequent occurrence. As parents, K and I must balance the two opposing factors:

  1. The Girl needs to learn that she can’t be by herself all the time. She needs to have a relationship with her brother.
  2. The Boy needs to learn that he can’t play with L all the time, that she needs some privacy.

I feel like we need to be keeping score of the whole thing: one time forcing L to let the Boy in her room; one time getting the Boy to understand that the Girl needs some privacy from time to time.

Two: Countering

The Boy was looking for his Bugatti (toy, of course).

“I last saw it on the counter downstairs,” I tell him.

He thumps his way downstairs, wanders around a while. Then I hear him ask K, “Mommy, what’s a counter?”

Three: Special Music

During the announcements at the close of Mass, Fr. Longenecker pointed out the fact that the text of the communion hymn dates from the twelfth century and the music from the sixteenth. At that moment, several thoughts that had been swirling randomly in Mass coalesced.

First, at one point, I was thinking about how different a Roman Catholic Mass is from the church services I attended in my youth. All the smells and the bells have no correlation with the staid services we had. And yet there was a certain similarity: each service was identical in its format just as each Mass is identical in its order of liturgy. I suppose that’s true of all churches.

Still, our church being Protestant (though its members then would have begged to differ most vociferously), liked to suggest that if it wasn’t in the Bible, we didn’t do it. I found myself in Mass briefly wondering about the liturgy (for lack of a better term) the church followed: it’s no where in the Bible. I believe the pastor would have suggested it’s one of the traditions mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2.15: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold to the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle.”

Thinking about it further, I remembered the little distinctives of our service. We had a short warm-up message called a sermonette. Google shows that other denominations use the sermonette format, but it’s certainly not a common feature. After the sermonette were announcements, followed by something called special music, then the sermon.

The special music was always some kind of choir performance or solo piano performance. Choral numbers were always selections from sacred music (but we had to be careful about that text!), but instrumental music was often some kind of classical composition. I choked down a laugh in Mass thinking about that, wondering if it was “special” music if it appeared every week.

Four: Divine Mercy

The first Sunday after Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday. Since this particular celebration began in Poland, it’s a pretty big thing for the Polish community. At our church, we have a newly-consecrated shrine to the Divine Mercy with relics of St. Faustina and St. Pope John Paul II.

Not bad for a little Catholic church in Greenville, SC, home of Bob Jones University — probably the most virulently anti-Catholic school in the States.