Thursday, December 29, 2011

Slovak-American Christmas in Prague

We went totally low-key this year. We stayed home, no visits to or from in-laws, so we just picked a few holidayish things we wanted to do and focused on them.

As always, we had Slovak Christmas on the 24th and American Christmas on the 25th, though we dialed down the cooking on the 25th from a full Christmas dinner to a more modest Christmas brunch. Less time cooking, more time playing with toys!

Earlier in the month we experimented with making pomanders out of clementines and spices, and K enjoyed it so much that I think we'll make it a holiday tradition. We made three separate batches and gave them away as gifts. We also made sausage balls and baked gingerbread twice and I think we'll make one last batch of each for New Year's. We listened to and sang Christmas music and K managed to learn Jingle Bells as her first (English) Christmas carol.

We also went to her preschool Christmas performance where the children sang (Czech) Christmas carols they'd been practicing since mid-November. Since K spent a few weeks singing "sanáčku, panáčku" [not at all the right words] I'm thinking it was a good idea they started early, since this was most of the children's first year to be learning the carols properly!

The baby was pretty much along for the ride this Christmas - as he is for most things. I'm pretty sure K helping to open his presents and stocking won't fly in future years! Also, next year we probably won't be able to wrap up a few toys and clothes we already had for him...he did get a couple of new things though. And K has hardly taken off her purple princess dress since she opened it on Christmas Eve.

A very successful Christmas! And without driving ourselves crazy with overly ambitious plans.

Birthday and language update

K's birthday was on Thanksgiving this year. We took the day off school and work (I think we're going to try to do this every year - it would be a nice tradition) to spend the day together.

For the birthday fun thing we decided to go with the horse-drawn carriage ride around downtown. We didn't tell K what the surprise was until we were standing right in front of the horses, and she loved the anticipation as well as the carriage ride itself. The rides are 20 minutes long around the center of Prague and she spent the whole time feeling like a princess. I showed her how to do the royal wave. Lots of people turned to look at us, some tourists even taking pictures (because of the carriage, of course) and K wanted to know why. She accepted my answer of "Because it's your birthday" without question or surprise.

After we were done we went home, opened presents, at some point I made a cake, and in the late afternoon we went over to a friend's house for Thanksgiving dinner. I took the cake and everybody sang K happy birthday. K's main present was a gold necklace from her grandparents. They have been wanting to give her a gold necklace since she was a newborn, but this was the first year that we allowed it. A chain around a baby's neck has never struck me as extremely safe, but four is a bit more reasonable age. K does love her beautiful necklace.

We did not invite any school friends over, which is good because we were actually all sick earlier that week and just barely recovered by her birthday. They did do a birthday celebration at school, including a cake, meaning there was no point in me bringing cupcakes as I'd planned. Overall I think K's birthday hit the right note of festive, low-key and fun.

It's hard to give an update on K's language progress because she's at that stage (which probably most of us know well...) where improvement is more subtle even though her knowledge and vocabulary are expanding all the time. She has trouble with some sounds in Czech - just like in English, actually - but most people understand her with no trouble and she can express pretty much whatever she wants. Her conversations with Apo are getting more complex (of course, this is as much due to age as anything else) and she has to resort to English less and less often. She still cracks us up sometimes with her language borrowing, though.

I'm noticing more Czech phrasings translated into English now, like "I have a truth" instead of "I'm right." Occasionally I notice that K knows something in Czech that she doesn't know in English, and I casually catch her up to speed. Sometimes she asks me herself how to say something. It seems to be working pretty well so far. K definitely adheres to the Apo-Slovak, Mama-English model, easily switching back and forth depending on who she's speaking to and sometimes translating what's just been said. English is still the sibling language but her dolls speak English and Czech both.

A speech therapist came to the preschool a few weeks ago and told me afterwards that she couldn't get anything out of K so couldn't make an evaluation. She wasn't really clear on whether K didn't say anything or she didn't understand what K said, but I know K has a tendency to clam up in front of strangers or get all shy and whisper, so I am imagining it was that. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if K found this particular speech therapist scary - I would have at that age.

I find it hard to be concerned at all, though, because I find the idea of speech therapy for four year olds a bit, um, premature. I think most children have trouble with a few of the harder sounds and almost all grow out of it by early elementary. Czechs are traditionally much more hard core about wanting kids to master all the sounds BEFORE entering first grade. I can't really get too excited about it.

Even without a professional evaluation (which wouldn't take our circumstances into account anyway), I feel confident saying K's Czech is pretty impressive for only starting to speak it a year ago and her English is by and large indistinguishable from her American peers. Except for a few Britishisms and Czechisms here and there, of course.

Oh, and...I think K's going to be an early reader. She knows most of the alphabet and insists on stopping to read (name the letters) of any writing we pass outside, like the posters at the bus stop. She can read our names most of the time and the other day she wrote her name correctly without needing me to tell her which letters come next. It still needs a bit of practice, but she is self-motivated and determined to learn! I think by her next birthday she might be reading for real.


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