Friday, September 28, 2012


I read somewhere that humans are not fully alive unless we are creating
 I believe that is true. 

 I didn't write for many years because I thought I had nothing to say.
  I didn't sew anymore because clothes are too quickly outgrown. 
 And I didn't do needlework anymore because I didn't think I had time. 
 Only in retrospect do I realize how important creativity is to my mental well-being and how much of me was lying dormant during those years.  But I look back and realize my creativity came out by helping and encouraging my children to be creative.  These photos are just a few examples.  I have so many more examples, but these make my point and make me smile.  

 I hope my children will always find outlets for the use of their imaginations. 

A group Lego project in 2001.

Carolyn's Harry Potter sculptures on display at the library in 2001. 
 She created all the characters before the movies came out.

Andrea, the driveway artist in 1995.

Joe's artwork on display at an exhibit in 2006. 
 He won 2nd place for this self-portrait.

Peter's house of cards in 2001

Monica's train comes through the kitchen in 2007.

Monday, September 24, 2012

What I've Learned... from carrying newspapers

A few years ago my two sons and daughter shared two newspaper routes for the summer.  They did it again the next summer and then kept it through the school year.  As it turned out, that winter was one of the snowiest we can remember.  I wrote this list when we were done with the routes.

What I've Learned...
from carrying newspapers
by Janet Sobczykⓒ

  • Be careful walking through yards before dawn or you'll end up with a nasty surprise, like spider webs across your face or dog doo on your shoes.
  • Enjoy each season as it comes.  There are more good weather days than bad ones, so look for the beauty in each season.
  • Walk through sprinklers on a summer day, but avoid icy stairs in the winter.
  • Even "friendly" dogs can be scary when they're protecting their yard.
  • Many people would never think of tipping the news carrier unless they (or their children) had carried.
  • A dollar tip from a grateful, little old lady is worth way more than a dollar.
  • News print can stain.
  • Manual labor earns an honest wage, but it may be a pittance.
  • Having a partner makes the work a lot easier, which can be said about most things in life.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

About my photos

I just wanted to explain something about the photos in my blogs. 

Most of the poems are written long before I have an idea about a picture to go with them.  So, my first priority is to share the writing.  In some cases I can imagine the perfect photo for a piece, but just haven't found it yet.  For example, I know I have some cute photos of Monica crawling, which will be ideal for "Conquering the Stairs,"  posted on 9-16.  When I do find them, I can go back and add one.  

Also, I hadn't figured out how to insert photos when I started the blog in June, so recently I went back and added a few (ex: the clown and ringmaster photo for "Motherhood is a Circus" on 6-26 and two for "The Grass is Always Greener Across the Street" on 7-19-12.)   

The quality of the photos is purely amateur with a simple camera.  Many of them are getting pretty old.  But some are recent shots or taken to help visually place the poems in context.  I try to keep my blog uncluttered, with a lot of white space, but I think the photos add a necessary visual appeal, and I enjoy them.

I will continue to add photos for old posts whenever I can.  Feel free to scroll through quickly for any you might have missed.  :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What I've Learned... from an exchange student

All of the anti-American sentiment in the news makes me think of the two exchange students we have hosted.  I wonder what they think of the news and what they say to others about Americans.  I know I enjoyed getting to know these young adults venturing into another land.  I learned so much from them and I hope they learned from us, too.

I compiled this list just after our first student left and I was feeling her absence so keenly.  I didn't want to forget what I had learned from her or noticed about her.  I gave her a copy of it then, and I hope she won't mind my sharing this now.

If you ever have a chance to host a student, please do!  I know several families who have, and continue to do so.   I think opening our homes and hearts to exchange students helps them see us as we are instead of as we seem on screen.  Honestly, I don't think we come across well in movies so full of violence, soap operas and reality shows so full of immorality, and Youtube videos that can be just plain stupid.  It makes me sad that the media can't see the harm that is done in the name of entertainment.

 At the airport picking up our first exchange student -  summer 2008.

What I've Learned...
from an exchange student 
by Janet Sobczyk, 2009ⓒ

  • To see things through a newcomer's eyes.
  • That we Americans need to take better care of ourselves. 
  • To eat fruit at the end of a meal instead of dessert. 
  • To eat healthier snacks and smaller portions. 
  • That one bite of chocolate can be enough for some people.
  • That we can be too focused on work.
  • That Americans over-decorate.
  • That our grocery stores are too big and the choices can be overwhelming.
  • That the American school system is unfair (because some other countries have free public education all the way through college.)
  • That teenagers from other countries are still teenagers, even if they seem more mature.
  • That scarves are a warm, pretty accessory which can be worn around the house.
  • That a six-month house guest can become so much like family.
  • That airports are not just exciting places to begin a trip; they can be sad places to say good-bye. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What I've Learned... about first-graders

I have been compiling a series of short lists about the things I've learned from the different jobs or experiences I've had.  This one is about working as a para in a first-grade classroom, which is what I've been doing for the last 3 years.  

The apple basket photo is a close-up of a picture in my home (by Mark Stuart).

What I've Learned... about first-graders 
byJanet Sobczyk 2012 ⓒ

  • They arrive as kindergarteners and leave as almost-second-graders.  Big changes in one year!
  • They argue over crayons and markers.  Daily.
  • They tattle incessantly.
  • They are heart-broken when someone tattles on them.
  • They pick scabs, lose teeth, and get skinned knees, so they'll need Band-aids and ice packs and tissues and hugs.
  • They get tired and hungry and frustrated.
  • They have great achievements and great failures.  Often moments apart.
  • They need to learn to tie their shoes, which takes time and patience.  Once mastered, they will want to help others who haven't learned yet.
  • Those who haven't learned to tie shoes can come up with elaborate ways to twist and knot and tuck the laces into shoes so they look tied.
  • Those who aren't creative with laces don't notice when their shoes are untied.
  • They love stickers and smiles and high fives.
  • They love to be helpers and first in line.
  • They love school and their teachers and will give their artwork freely as gifts.
  • They make teachers smile and laugh and feel needed.
  • They can also make teachers thank God when it's Friday.     

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Adventurous Snail

 This is a good back-to-school poem because it takes place mostly while I (as a child) am away at school during the day.  It seemed unbelievable to me at the time, and still does, but it is true.  However, as the snail aged, his journeys became less frequent and he stayed a lot closer to the bowl. 

The Adventurous Snail   by Janet Sobczyk, 2012ⓒ

A goldfish bowl
Needs a good snail
To keep it clean.

I picked a big one
A big, round black one
To live with my fish.

It liked to crawl
Up the glass side
And o’er the top

It didn’t stop there
To admire the view
It kept on going!

Down the glass side
On the table
But where to next?

It didn’t turn back
My silly black snail
Just kept on going.

Down the steep wood
To the carpet
But where to next?

The vast carpet loomed
Like a yellow sea
But snail wasn’t scared.

He slowly crawled
Inch by long inch
And kept going.

Across the big room
He found my new bed
And climbed up the post.

School was over
So I came home
And found my snail.

He must have been sad
To be found that way
And then carried back.

Back to his bowl
So small and cold
What to do now?

Wait until morning
‘til I go to school
Then set out again.

Yes, he did this
Day after day
A new journey.

To the big dresser
To the windowsill
To the wicker chair.

To the closet
To the toy box
To ev’rywhere!

He liked adventure
The thrill of the climb
The marvelous views.

The room’s so big
He must have thought
It was the world.

And when I got home
I never quite knew
Where I’d find him next.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

It's Better to Give And to Receive

This poem naturally follows after the "Phases of Love" poem because it also portrays stages of life.

It’s Better to Give And to Receive
By Janet Sobczyk, 2011ⓒ

Monica's birthday 2007

Most children
get used to receiving a lot.
They are happy to receive
time and love
food and shelter
gifts of toys.
They need to learn to share,
 take turns, and to lose a game
with their friends and family.
So parents teach them how to give.
Most parents
get used to giving a lot.
They are happy to give
their time
their money
their talents
to their families and neighbors,
schools and communities.
They give until
it becomes hard to receive.

have given their all.
They may see their
savings dwindle
energy sag
memory fade.
Then they need help
from family and neighbors,
AARP and Medicare.
So life reminds them how to receive.

Jana, Grandma, and Monica - Christmas 2008

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Phases of Love

   I wrote this poem after taking a class on Human Growth and Development.  It was interesting to read in the textbook about so many stages in life that I'd already lived through, to see the stage my parents were in, and to look ahead at the stages in my future.

The obvious time to post this poem would be Valentine's Day, but I chose now because my two sisters and I all have wedding anniversaries in September.  Happy September anniversaries everyone!  

This artwork was done by Carolyn when she was in grade school.  I loved it so much I framed it and hand it every February when I decorate for Valentine's Day.
 Phases of Love      By Janet Sobczyk, 2011ⓒ

Two people fell in love.
He loved her laugh, her beauty,
and skills with cooking.
She loved his eyes, his calmness,
and sense of humor.

They talked about marriage,
about their dreams, and children.
They shopped for two rings,
made announcements, set a date;
plans fell into place.

The big day soon arrived.
He was happy, she just glowed.
She walked down the aisle,
wowed the big crowd, they said vows,
then he kissed the bride.

Their honeymoon was grand.
They flew away, for a week,
to walk on the beach,
hold hands and kiss, and relax,
loving every night.

Next they bought a house,
did some painting, laid carpet.
They filled it with stuff,
good cooking smells, and laughter.
It was what they’d dreamed.

Soon a baby arrived,
to change their lives, forever.
With smiles and gurgles,
frequent feedings, sleepless nights,
and all those diapers.

Baby worked hard to crawl,
and then to walk, next to run.
Toddlers turn into
children and then, teenagers,
each phase a challenge. 

Life got much busier.
 Car pools and school, and more kids,
time flew by so fast.
With stressful jobs, lots of bills,
aging parents, too.

Their worries and cares grew.
Tensions emerged, pulled apart
by their hectic lives.
How well could they, or would they,
keep their love alive?
Don’t be a statistic,
stay together, for the kids,
was their decision.
Ride out the storm, and then hope,
for much better days.

The nest became empty.
How could kids leave?  It’s too soon.
Now what will they do?
Renew old ties, use the time
for themselves again.

They tried some new hobbies.
Joined a card club, went dancing,
 found new restaurants.
Planned vacations, took pictures,
enjoyed the grand-kids.

The golden years flew by.
Old age set in, sickness too.
“’Til death do us part”
wasn’t so long, after all.
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