Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Preschool Christmas Play

This Monday was the preschool Christmas event, with carol singing and a Christmas play. K rocked it as Maruška in the fairy tale "O dvanácti měsíčkách".

When she told us last month that she would be playing Maruška, we didn't know what the play would be but we figured that a named character was probably relatively important. Turns out Maruška is the main character.


I always played roles like "Wall", "Villager", "Third Tree From Left" at five years old K has already surpassed my greatest theatrical achievements. :-p

We wondered if we had understood correctly - was K really playing the lead? With lines? Maybe it was a different play. Would she perform in front of people or would she freeze up? We were highly curious to see how it all turned out.

And as it turned out...she really did have a main role, lines and all, and she did great. Her teachers said that she worked really hard (she can be shy so it was a stretch for her) and made great strides in emoting (walking sadly, etc.).

We were extremely proud of her, and she was proud of herself but she was also a little embarrassed by all the attention.

In the second part the children sang Christmas carols, most of which they practiced in music class beforehand. Everyone sang all the songs, but each child sang into the microphone for one verse so they could be heard above the others. It was pretty funny since three to five year olds are not so known for their melodic singing. I also enjoyed the different levels of knowing the words - some sang all the words, most sang some and mumbled some, and one clearly didn't know any of the words at all but got her chance to shine anyway!

At the end we sang Narodil se Kristus Pan (Christ the Lord is Born - interestingly, this is a highly secular country but all the carols are religious) all together, then snacked on Christmas cookies and mulled wine. I'm pretty sure an American preschool Christmas party wouldn't have mulled wine. Or open flames...I found the open flame torches dotted around the garden kind of entertaining, if a bit alarming every time one of the little ones got too close. I saw one boy trying to set a big piece of wood on fire. He was fortunately unsuccessful. I kind of love the relaxed, somewhat cavalier attitude.

As we walked home, K commented, "Já jsem moc neznala tu poslední písničku, tu jsme nikdy nezpívali." (I didn't really know that last song, we never sang that before.) When we asked which one she meant, she explained...

"Narodil se Christmas Pan."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Primitive and Sophisticated Languages

Okay, you know how people are always telling you that their language is more sophisticated than English, because English is so primitive? Primitive is, of course, defined as not having a complex case system. The truly bewildering set of verb tenses doesn't seem to count.

What, people never tell you that?

We clearly move in different circles.

This is what you say:

"You know, supposedly on a historical level languages are actually getting simpler over if you think about it, that really means that English is more highly evolved."

Then watch the reaction.

I bring this up because the Slovak pulled this on me the other day, just trying to get a rise out of me. Sometimes that man will say anything!

The Slovak was just being silly, but the first time I had this conversation, with someone else several years ago, the person was totally not joking and totally did not like this idea. She also didn't like when I mentioned that to a native English speaker, it sounds "primitive" and caveman-like to speak without definite and indefinite articles (Slavic languages, at least the ones I'm familiar with, don't have them). It's all about perspective.

Whether the premise that languages are getting simpler over time is actually true is debatable, but it doesn't really matter. You have to fight pseudo-science with pseudo-science!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Kristova léta

Where I live there is a concept called "Kristova léta" - the years of Christ, referring to the age 33. I think it's supposed to be a time of reflecting on your life and what you have accomplished, given that by age 33 Christ had achieved, like, a lot more than you. I'm not aware of a similar idea in the USA as referring to a time in a person's life, but I remember hearing about it here years ago and thinking...well that's a long time off.

Today is my 33rd birthday. I feel like there should be a snappy punchline to that, but there isn't really. I have a family I love and work I enjoy. Both are going quite well. :)

I was going to bake myself a birthday cake, but with everything going on this week it just wasn't going to happen. I hope to get out a batch of gingerbread tomorrow at least. This December has been so brutal that we've barely done anything for Christmas yet.

The good news is M is on the mend, so things might start getting back to normal.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Television and Language Learning

My daughter is watching a Slovak children's DVD right now. It's by a popular pair of children's performers who also put out CDs and do concerts and such.

It's got very catchy songs that K hums to herself and sings along with when the DVD is on. Today she is even repeating phrases they say in Slovak and asking me about words she doesn't understand. She is in high learning mode.

I hate it.

Sigh. I'm telling myself I'm getting "good mommy" points just for allowing it to be on.

I don't hate the learning! I love the fact that it's in Slovak and she's trying to absorb as much as possible.

I just hate the show itself. I wouldn't mind the garish costumes and bad acting, but I really dislike the preachy tone. The songs are about things like washing your hands and not hitting, or in my (least) favorite sequence, there is a song about how picking your nose and biting your fingernails is an ugly habit and will make you sick, immediately followed by a song where the two nose-picking, fingernail-biting offenders instantly come down with a fever, realize that they brought it on themselves, and the protagonists dispense highly questionable medical advice.

Specifically I find the suggestion that "every good mommy knows that when you cough you have to run to the doctor right away" (really, those are the lyrics). Some of the other verses (all starting "every good mommy knows") were also pretty, shall we say, culturally bound. I understand that, but when I first heard the song I couldn't help thinking - my child is already enough of a hypochondriac, she thinks one cough means she's sick, she doesn't need encouragement!

For some reason the heavy-handed moralizing and condescending tone bothers me, even though it doesn't bother my child. Which is why I'm not saying anything about it to her.

So I bite my tongue and remind myself of one of our parenting successes so far: our daughter has never seen Barney or Elmo and refers to Sponge Bob as "that hicky (yucky) show". She asks us to change the channel or turn the TV off every time it comes on.

That's good enough for now.

Monday, December 10, 2012

More Doctors in a Second Language

You wouldn't have guessed it looking at his chubby nine and a half pound cheeks when he was born, but Baby M is the more fragile of our two children.

He already had bronchitis earlier this year, and now he has it again. This time, though, it isn't going away. The doctor prescribed antibiotics (why, for bronchitis, I don't know, but I'm not a doctor so I follow orders), which were effective the first time but not this time.

So yesterday we finished a course of antibiotics that had absolutely no effect. Last Friday I took him for a checkup since he was getting worse rather than better and the pediatrician was concerned, so she sent me to the hospital. So far we have been to the hospital Friday, Saturday, twice Sunday, and this morning.

Of the various things they gave us we are currently using an inhaler several times a day and a nebulizer once or twice a day since Saturday (hence the multiple visits). Fortunately it is within walking distance.

We managed to convince the doctor we are trustworthy and capable of handling this at home, because at one point he was considering having M admitted. I'm not sure if M actually sounded better at this morning's check-up or if today's doctor (new one) was just bored of us, but she told us that although M is still not doing well, we should go to our regular pediatrician in two days.

I think he is doing better. A little. But he's still a sick boy. And after a week of K being sick and a week of M being even more sick, my reserves are nearly tapped out.

Things still keep going wrong, though. I won't go into the long, boring list, but it isn't pretty. It hasn't been a season of peace and calm so far, I fear. Maybe things will start looking up soon.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Czech St. Nicholas

Today is St. Nicholas Day, which means that children woke up this morning to find he left them a treat in the night.

In this country, at least, it also means that yesterday (on the Eve) you could see groups of adults and teenagers in costumes wandering around handing out candy to children. It's kind of like Halloween and Christmas all in one!

In the Czech Republic and Slovakia Mikuláš (Nicholas) is traditionally celebrated on the fifth of December, when Mikuláš, anděl a čert (St. Nicholas dressed as a bishop, accompanied by an angel and a devil) visit children, ask if they have been good during the year, threaten to put them in the devil's bag and take them off to hell (if they haven't behaved), and ask them to recite a poem or sing a song (if they have) and hand out chocolate.

A lot of the time the children's dad will dress up as Mikuláš, or else a friend or neighbor, or there are children's events planned for the 5th as well, I think.

K's preschool got a visit from Mikuláš and his entourage yesterday morning. Her teacher said K was brave and wasn't afraid of the devil. The children sang a song and got their packages of sweets, which included a few peanuts and a potato. I liked the potato.

On the way home from school we ran into one of those wandering Mikuláš groups, with two čerti this time. But in the dark (it was a ballet day, so we were later than normal) and without her friends around, K's courage deserted her! She hid her face in my leg and refused to say a word.

They asked her to say a poem, sing a song, at least tell us your name, child...but she couldn't do any more than nod when they asked if she is nice to her baby brother. When they were asking her name, I said in her ear, "Go on, tell them 'I'm K'." She didn't, but then one of them said, "Oh, this is K, Mikuláš."

After a few minutes I got her to sing a song for them if I sang along, so we sang together and they gave her and M each a piece of chocolate.

As we walked home, she asked, "How did they know my name???"
I told her, "Maybe they're magic! ...Or maybe they heard me say your name, remember?"

And then this morning she woke up to find Mikuláš had left her some treats at home, too. The Slovak and I exchanged our Mikuláš goodies last night. Because you're never too old for chocolate.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Having Babies and Making Glossaries

I have spent my blogging time yesterday and today writing up information and a Czech-English L&D glossary for a friend who is about to have a baby here in the Czech Republic. I am thinking I should expand (or condense? I tend to be very thorough) it and publish it here as "The English Speaker's Guide to Giving Birth in the Czech Republic".

My sample size is not large (my own two babies plus comparing notes with friends), but I think I still managed to cover some ground in the area of what to expect, what not to expect, and preemptively explaining some potentially mysterious things that no one will explain to you because they assume you already know. Like why they may only give you day-old bread. Also the word for "dilated", because "how far dilated am I" is usually the lifeline you're hanging your every hope on.

Having written all that up I have been in flashback all yesterday and today to my two very different experiences with my own two children.

I also made a Facebook page for this blog, but I haven't figured out how to make a button or whatever else you're supposed to do with it. For now you can see it here:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Planning for the Future, Preschool Version

"Mommy, I'm going to get married to M at school."
"Does M want to get married to you?"
"Um, I don't know, I'll ask him tomorrow."

Like many women girls, K is in love with the idea of weddings and the groom is of secondary importance.

The next day K told me that yes, M definitely wants to marry her, they will have the wedding now while they are still students but wait to have babies until they are grown-ups.

K's teacher told me about the wedding, too - apparently they have it all planned out - and said M is just as eager to marry K as K is to marry him.

The Slovak didn't take the news very well. He is used to K wanting to marry HIM and isn't ready for any other boys to take her heart.

Apo: (SK) "But K, I thought you want to marry me?"
K: (CZ) "I did, but you said you have Mommy so I found someone else."

Then yesterday she poured salt on the wound by talking about how all the boys at school want to kiss her.

Poor man. He can't take much more of this. I can't say I much liked the idea, either!


But then K had an issue last night where it turned out she is upset about getting older - she is afraid of getting old and dying and wants to stay how she is. We had a bit of a chat about the nature of life, time and fear of the unknown and I felt a tiny bit reassured that she is not rushing headlong into adulthood quite yet.

But soon enough.

Friday, November 23, 2012

5th birthday Interview and Story Time

Tomorrow is my daughter's fifth birthday. I tried to convince her to just turn four again, but she is determined to move on to five.

Yesterday I did the following interview with her, in which she demonstrated that she either doesn't know what "favorite" means or doesn't know what her favorite things are, because most of the answers are wrong (i.e. what she had for lunch that day at school, not her favorite lunch). I will share it anyway.

1. What is your favorite color? pink
2. What is your favorite toy? My little ponies
3. What is your favorite fruit? Tomatoes. Strawberries and boruvky [blueberries]. Apples.
4. What is your favorite tv show? charlie and lola
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Rybicku, maso, ryze a mrkvicku [what they served yesterday at lunch]
6. What is your favorite outfit? My pink dress and beautiful shoes what are red
7. What is your favorite game? The one [new best friend friend] gave me for my birthday
8. What is your favorite snack? Bananas and jahody [strawberries]
9. What is your favorite animal? frogs
10. What is your favorite song? Katyusha
11. What is your favorite book? The Gruffalo, o zviratech [books about animals]
12. Who is your best friend? [new friend and Russian friend from school
13. What is your favorite thing to do at home? Watching TV but not all the time. Going to school.
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? If somebody will pretend to be a policajtka [policewoman] and try to catch me
15. What is your favorite drink? Apple juice.

16. What is your favorite holiday? Halloween and Mikuláš.
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? giraffe
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? yogurt
19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? cake
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? I didn’t decide yet

Also, in the last several months I have been giving K the opportunity to tell me a story and I write it down for her. She loves doing this and will rattle off several in one go. Her stories make almost no sense, and she seems to feel like they ALL have to be about pigs and/or wolves and/or the forest.

Here are a few of the stories she has told me:

Pinkie Pie went in the forest. She was so happy because she heard apples and candy. And then she went home and found a big dragon and it couldn’t scare her because it was too scared. So she went home then and she found a big dog and it was so big that no one could ride on it and so she went home and she found a big, big, giant man. And that’s the end. – 23.7.2012

(note how Pinkie Pie goes home about five times in this story)

Once upon a time there was three pigs. The mommy and apo went on a walk outside with the babies. They went on a walk with their apo and mommy. Then the three little pigs went out for a walk on their own. Their grandmama went with them because they were really scared because they were still babies and because they were still little and they didn’t even know how to walk, so that’s why their grandmother went with them. And then they looked on the clock and then they went home again and that’s the end. 2.9.12

Once upon a time there was five pigs. And they lived in the forest. And they went to a walk in the big bad wolf forest. So the big bad wolf ate the pigs. But the pigs wasn’t scared because the pigs was so, so brave because the pigs had a sword together. And that is the end. 15.10.12

(I really did leave a bunch of pig-wolf stories out. There were more.)

Once upon a time there was a pig and three wolves. And there was one wolf who wanted to eat the pig. But she didn’t eat him. But when the other wolf, second wolf, said "I want to put that pig into my tummy!" So he said, "I am a bandooda" (that’s the wolf’s name). And that’s the end of the story. Oh, and I still wanted to say the pig is alive and Baby M is the pig. It was just a mask and the three wolves was K, mommy, and apo. Three wolves and one pig named M. End of the story. 19.11.2012

(I like how this story comes with an interpretation at the end)

Once upon a time there was a žralok [shark] and a sklenička [drinking glass]. Sklenička wasn’t a socha [statue]! It had legs, arms, and it had eyes. And it had a nose and it had a mouth. And the žralok ate the skleničku but he was sick so he couldn’t ate her the skleničku. He said, "I don’t want to eat that" and he pokakat [poop] on his eyes. And he said "I don’t know what’s my name I forgot what’s my name! Spoon, spoon, what’s your name? I don’t remember what’s my name," said the žralok. And then they went to a big moře [sea]. There it was hot and warm and there wasn’t even rybičky [fish]. But there was only whales, only žraloky, and the žraloky ate the whales, and the whales ate the žraloky. And that’s the end. 20.11.2012

(In which we prove that poop is funny to all preschoolers in all languages. Also I tried to record exactly what K said, so this is a fairly good representation of how she speaks. This story has a lot more Czech in it, I think because Apo was home and listening while K was telling it. You have to adapt your style to your audience. She doesn't mix so much most of the time.)


All of which is to say - happy birthday, K! You are one silly girl.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Multilingual Birthday Party

This weekend we celebrated K's fifth birthday with her first party with friends. We have considered it before, but this was the first time we really did it.

We invited three friends from school to come to our house on Saturday afternoon for a couple of hours. I ordered a small cake from a bakery since one of the girls has a gluten-free diet and I don't have the things to bake gluten-free.

Other than eating cake and singing happy birthday the girls just played in K's room the whole time - and all thought it was the best party ever. Take that, big fancy parties. :) We spent about 350 kc (less than $20) on the cake and somewhat less than that on other snacks.

One of the moms left her daughter with us and came back at the end to pick her up, but the other two moms stayed. One stayed because her daughter wouldn't let her leave (she is a little younger than the others and doesn't speak Czech well) and I'm actually friends with the other.

It's a good thing the Slovak was here, too, because the first mom is Hungarian (we invited the little Hungarian girl) and speaks decent English but minimal Czech, and the second mom is Czech and speaks no Hungarian and an unknown amount (but not a lot) of English.

This meant there was a lot of me talking to the Czech mom in Czech while the Slovak talked to the Hungarian mom in Hungarian (he is a man of many talents). Then I would talk to the Hungarian mom for a bit in English or we would all have a simple English conversation. It was a challenge to balance things but I think we managed all right.

I actually originally invited K's Russian friend, who does now speak Czech just like K, but her parents don't speak it as well (they can make themselves understood but with a strong Russian accent and limited vocabulary). She had something already scheduled for that day so couldn't come, but the language situation would have been even more fun if she had.

K made welcome/thank you cards for her guests before the party. She was jittery and excited waiting for the girls to come, and I asked her if her tummy felt funny like there were butterflies flying around inside it. She said, "YES! There are! Real ones!" I told her that people often feel that way when they are excited and nervous about something.

She still managed to be a good hostess, though, despite her nerves. By the time the last guest left, they were having so much fun they kept begging for just five more minutes with the Legos. I asked her later which birthday gift she liked best, and she said they were all great.

The two Czech moms and I agreed (separately) to set up playdates in the near future. I've met one of them in the park and for ice cream and such during the summer but we may meet at one of our apartments over the winter. I haven't met with the other mom outside of school before but she is nice, we often chat at school, and the girls really hit it off recently. She said her daughter would like to invite K over to play one afternoon after school. Not bad for a language that (to my knowledge) doesn't have a word for "playdate". :)

So it seems the day was a success. This next Saturday is K's actual birthday, and we will have company from out of town to help us celebrate again. I'm planning to make a cake and we'll give her the rest of her presents (she got two small ones from us on the day of the party).

Assuming we don't convince her by then to skip her birthday and just stay four for another year. Four has been a good age.

Friday, November 16, 2012


This week's lack of posts has been brought to you by Work. I got slammed on Tuesday and have been slinging off translations left and right since then.

I just submitted the final one but will not have time for a nap before picking up the girl child from preschool. Maybe I'll go pick up a chai latte and vanilla steamer for us instead.

Yes, our daughter has her own coffee* order. Recently she even got her own thermos cup to drink it from (we both have our own and decided she could use a small one).

* No actual coffee in it, just like mine, but it's from a coffee shop so we call it coffee.

Anyway, work. It's been crazy. I don't even try to get anything done in the afternoons any more, because it takes five hours to get one hour of work done with both children home. Morning and after-bedtime work is better for the family but worse for me due to lost sleep and no free time. I can be awfully efficient with limited working hours, though, I have to say.

I will still be happy to switch to days in a couple of years when I can.

This afternoon and evening I can get reacquainted with things like dishes, showers, tidying up, and reading something other than reference sites. Maybe even a BOOK!

Unless I take another assignment before the end of the day, of course. :)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Small Children and Historical Perspective

I took the children for a short walk downtown on Friday and we walked a slightly different way than usual, so I was pointing out some things K doesn't see regularly.

We walked up the center of Wenceslas Square and talked about the man in the statue, Svatý Václav (the square is named after him). I explained that he was a kníže (prince or duke, an independent ruler but less than a king) who lived a long time ago, ruled over this country and people now remember him as a protector (patron saint).

K wanted to know where he lived. I considered the fact that I don't technically know anything except that he died in Stará Boleslav, but went with the most likely answer, that he moved around some but was probably based in Prague.

Then she wanted to know why he is riding a horse. I said because that's how he got around, because before people had cars they traveled from place to place on horses, and that they didn't have cars at that time because he lived over a thousand years ago.

Then she wanted to know if he is still alive and was disappointed when I said no, because she wanted to meet him. I stressed that he lived one - thousand - years - ago, which is a very long time.

As we talked we passed by the memorial for Jan Palach (right in front of the statue) and she pointed out the flowers laid out, asking if that was for someone who died. I said yes, that is for a person called Jan Palach, he also died, which was very sad but happened a long time ago. K nodded her acceptance.

As that last sentence left my mouth, I realized that for my daughter, 935 and 1969 are essentially the same era. As is 2005. Anything before 2007, the year she was born, is ancient history and impossibly long ago. Children have no sense of historical perspective!

We have had many discussions lately about if certain people are alive or not (historical figures mainly) and how people used to do things before they had __. For instance, we just finished reading Little House in the Big Woods, which involves both concepts.

K finds the idea that people haven't always had access to the things we have now to be mind-boggling. I can understand that, because as a child I had the same problem. The difference between 1979 and 2007, however, is that I couldn't imagine a world without refrigerators. She can't imagine a world without cell phones. She sees a world with no DVDs to be just as distant as a world without cars.

Today, this line of thought led her to ask me, "Before people had bags, did they have to carry their snacks in a box?" I said bags have been around for a very long time, at least as long as boxes.

She has also asked me things like,

"Did Dedo [grandfather] have a mommy? Oh, I know, Babka [grandmother]."
"He did have a mommy, but it wasn't your Babka, it was Apo's Babka."
"Oh! Have I met her?"
"No, you never met her, and neither did I, because she died when Apo was very young."
"Because she was born a very long time ago."
"When you were a little girl?"
(mildly offended) "No, your great-grandmother was not born when I was a little girl. It was much longer ago than that."

I know these things are really hard to grasp when you have no frame of reference and your concept of a "lifetime" is five years. I really enjoy watching as K grapples with ideas bigger than she is, though, and I love the conversations you can have with a nearly five year old.

Even if she does apparently think I was born in 1907.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Lantern Parades and Pumpkin Carving

This week we had a jack-o-lantern carving and lantern parading day at K's preschool. I thought the combination was interesting (Halloween is not very widespread here).

The lantern parade (lampionový průvod) is a tradition in this part of the world, though nobody can tell me why exactly other than it was mandatory-participation under the socialist regime. This is a good description of the German version, which is probably similar to what the Czech one was before it was co-opted for the glory of the Red Army. Now, however, it is just for fun.

The Slovak couldn't take off work for the afternoon, so Baby M and I headed out to school by ourselves, armed with a pumpkin and a knife. When we got to school, however, I discovered we were in fact armed with just a pumpkin. The knife must have fallen out along the way!

M was gracious enough to be unusually content sitting by himself in the stroller so I could borrow a knife and help carve K's pumpkin.

K of course left me to do the scooping and carving because she wanted to roast an apple. Then she wanted me to roast her apple for her, too (I didn't), presumably WHILE carving and looking over my shoulder praying her brother wouldn't decide he'd had enough with waiting patiently.

The pumpkin turned out kind of wonky looking, but for never having done it before and having the shortest amount of time possible for actual carving, I considered not cutting off any of my fingers to be a rousing success.

Then it started to rain so we all huddled under the cover available.

Then it stopped raining, they handed out paper lanterns with tea candles in them, which K obviously wanted me to hold for her (I didn't), so we could set out on the walk.

The teachers had set all the jack-o-lanterns along the path so we could pass by and admire them. At the end of the path the children gathered around in a circle with tea candles in the middle and sang a few songs about autumn. Also Boleslav, Boleslav.

K was in her element as she is one of her school's star singers (according to her teacher), which may have to do with an actual sense of pitch or may simply indicate that she sings nice and loud. When the teacher said in the middle of one song, "Sing louder, kids, I can't hear you!" they all perked up and K and her friend were very nearly shouting.

(K does, in fact, have a good sense of pitch and I believe she will have a good singing voice when she is older, but especially in groups she seems to believe volume is key. Maybe because they're always being told to sing out, I don't know. It was sweet, though.)

About that time Baby M decided he had truly had enough and started making his feelings known from (and about) the stroller.

Then we headed back to school, picking up our pumpkin on the way, said goodbye to our friends, and headed home in the dark. I was watching the path the whole way, wondering if someone had found and hurt themself/others with my lost knife.

Along the way we stopped for a pastry and met Apo, who was just coming from work. He carried the thoroughly-fed-up M on his shoulders and I pushed the way-too-tired K in the stroller.

We stopped at the Chinese take-out place, which also serves fried cheese and french fries (a typical Czech meal). We always order it (along with actual Chinese food) and laugh that our children will probably think smažák is a traditional Chinese dish. In fact that's just the only restaurant around that does take-out.

As we walked the last stretch home, we filled Apo in on what he had missed.

Me: "...and then we did the lampionový průchod." (lantern parade)
Apo, looking at me like I'm dumb: "Průvod."
Me: "Seriously? I may have said průchod earlier today. I hope nobody heard me."
Apo: (laughing at me)
K: "Mami, co je průchod?" (what's a průchod?)
Me: "PRŮVOD, člověče, copak to nevíš???" (it's PRŮVOD, man, everybody knows that!)
Apo: (still laughing at me)

Just to show that I still make dumb mistakes once in a while :)

Then we went home, where I found my lost knife in the entryway. It must have fallen out right after I put it in my bag.

It was fun, but I think I've had enough lanterns until next year!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Big Kid Skills: learning to whistle, learning to knit, learning to read

I've spent this morning brainstorming birthday/Christmas/knitting ideas for my soon to be five year old.

Birthday and Christmas because, well, they're coming up. Knitting because this weekend K asked me if she could please learn to do that thing with the needle thing where you make things, which I determined to be either knitting, crocheting or sewing based on her hand gestures.

I was already thinking of getting her a children's knitting kit, actually, but then I would also have to get her a person who knows how to knit in order to teach her. I like the idea of knitting but am not very, ah, coordinated. I also have my doubts as to how well she would handle the needles. She is currently learning to tie her shoes but hasn't mastered it. (Though she has only had shoes with laces for a week or so.)

Then I had the inspiration of finger knitting! No needles and a relatively fast payoff, right? I remember doing it as a child and making endless chains. If and when she masters that we can look into something more involved.

Is that a good idea?

Is there anything else in this area that would be suitable for a five year old with an unskilled parent?

I'm also considering getting a learn-to-read book (we have some workbooks but they are more about individual letters or doing mazes and other tasks) or some other kindergarten materials. This is still a problem, but I hope that in the next year it will be easier to find a few minutes here and there for some English learning activities.

Is THAT a good idea? Does anyone have a recommended book/curriculum or should I not even use a formal curriculum and just continue freestyling and/or letting K learn to read on her own?

Anything else I should buy while I have the chance?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Naughty Doesn't Begin to Describe It

Yesterday my daughter misbehaved enough that she got sent to her room. This was her version of events when the Slovak got home:

"Apo, já jsem dneska trošičku zlobila a mamka byla cross tak jsem šla do mojej izby ale teď se už ukľudnila"

(Apo, I was a tiny bit naughty today and mommy was cross so I went to my room to play and then she calmed down again...)

First of all, how's that for a trilingual sentence?

Second, both the Slovak and I had to turn away so K wouldn't see us laughing.

Third, which part is best? "a tiny bit naughty", "Mommy calmed down" or the claim of voluntarily going to her room?

Fourth, I think the clear lesson here is that everything depends on your point of view. From K's perspective this was a perfectly valid representation of events.


K enjoys helping out around the house, but of course only on her own terms. She recently requested to help put the groceries away by saying, "Můžu je dát pryč?"

Literal translation from English "put - away". Not what she intended to say, though.


I have noticed several times that K has mixed up the words "lend" and "borrow". This is a typical Czech mistake (půjčit v. půjčit si, so the distinction is hard to remember when learning English), so it is mildly grating to hear coming from a native English speaker (even if a child).

Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so, because this week K was telling me how a friend "borrowed" her a toy when the Slovak stepped in to tell her no, it has to be "lend", and explained the difference.

At least she doesn't say "willage". I definitely couldn't live with that!

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Reading Family

Our apartment is decorated in bookshelves. We have slowed down in book buying over the past few years because with young children around we - at least I - have had less time to read and the books were about to overrun us anyway (also because we bought Kindles...), but one look at our home makes it clear that the people here are some serious book lovers.

Sometimes I have wondered, over the past few years, if our children will inherit our love of books since we don't read much when they are around. I do a lot of reading on the computer, because it is easier for me to handle while holding a baby or napping toddler, but of course a child can't tell the difference between that and working, or facebooking.

I am not sure where, but I remember reading once that children need to see their parents reading - not just reading to the children, but reading for themselves - in order to develop their own love of reading. I'm not sure if that's true, but it is true that my mother read when I was little but not when my younger siblings were little (I was an only child for several years, so she had more time) and I am the only one who reads books now.

With that in mind, and because I was tired of having gone from 50+ books a year to none, I started making a conscious effort to read actual, paper books when K was about two. It still seems to be mostly after bedtime, of course, but once in a while I manage to pull out my book while K is awake. I only make it through a few books a year now, but I have a small part of myself back.

Reading to the little ones, though, is more difficult. Baby M has a shelf for his board books, which he mainly likes to flip through and then scatter around the room. But it is K's books that give me twinges of conscience.

I have gone through phases during her life of reading to her a lot and not reading to her much at all. Sometimes she simply lost interest for a while. But especially in the last year I have hardly been able to read to her at all!

It is one of the most difficult things about having a second baby, not being able to devote enough time to the first one. M is the Chillest Baby Ever and can entertain himself indefinitely with minimum input from me, but the instant I pull out a book to read to K or a workbook to do with her he is ALL OVER us. He will not sit and read with us (because he is one), he will not play on his own or be distracted by a toy I give him. He will jump up and down on us until we put the offending items away.

The obvious answer is to read to her during his naptime, but the boy has a sixth sense that tells him when I am paying attention to his sister even when he is sleeping. He wakes up within three minutes. With K it was tea - making myself a hot cup of tea was a surefire way to ensure K would wake up at any time, day or night, and demand my attention until my tea had gone cold. With M I can have tea but I can't read to his sister.

I have had a little success with reading board books to both children at once, but of course a one-year-old's attention span is not great and they are not exactly on K's level. I am looking forward to when M is older and I can read to them both properly. That's a long time for K to wait, though!

So K's bookshelf has not been touched as much as I would like over the last year. Apo and I take turns reading to her at bedtime, when it is one-on-one, and recently we started reading chapter books together as a family. I read and Apo holds M so he can't climb up and knock the book out of my hands.

First we read Little House in the Big Woods, which was an exciting moment for me since I loved Laura Ingalls when I was little and have been looking forward to introducing it to my daughter for years. The Slovak was skeptical at first, since he wasn't familiar with the books, but after a few chapters he was secretly looking forward to our nightly reading and by the end he was actively sucked in and wanting to know more.

Once we finished that we moved on to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. It is a little over K's comprehension level, but she has seen the first few movies and really likes Harry Potter, so she was set on reading that next once she found out there are BOOKS about Harry Potter as well. The first chapter was a little rough - in hindsight I should have skipped it - since there is a lot of hinting and grown-ups talking about things that aren't fully explained until later. Booooring.

Once we got to the part with Harry in it, though, things pick up. Last night we read chapter 3, where all the mysterious letters start coming to the house. Usually I split chapters over two sessions, but this time K begged me to keep reading: "I want to know what happens next!!"

At that, the Slovak and I shared a look over the top of K's head. She got it.

She was feeling the thrill of a good story, the need to know what happens next. As passionate readers ourselves, we both felt the thrill of passing something on to our child, something we pray will accompany her through her childhood and her whole life.

Friday, October 26, 2012


I have been enjoying watching as my children's relationship develops. My son loves anything his sister does, even if it involves being a bit too rough with him. It makes it hard to intervene and stop her:

"K, don't do that to your brother."
"But he likes it!"
(M grins like crazy)
"That may be so, but you are still not allowed to poke your brother/take his toys away/turn him upside down. -I- don't like it."

(We determined that he actually does enjoy being poked in the belly with a pirate sword. He does it to himself and giggles.)

She defends him against perceived injustice:

(in SK) "M, stop that!"
(in SK) "Apo, leave him alone, he isn't doing anything! He's just sitting there. Making messes."

She is proud of his accomplishments:

"He said 'ale' [but]! Like a ľud!"

Ľud is from ľudia, which means "people" in Slovak. The word for person is "človek", but K assumes it is a normal plural so she says ľud. Like "peep" from "people" I guess. It makes us laugh, anyway.

In the way of many young girls, she has also decided to marry her brother in case her plans to marry Apo fall through.

All of this doesn't mean she is without reservation regarding her brother, though. She remains clear that she really wanted a sister:

"Mommy, I don't want this baby. I mean, we can KEEP this baby, but I want another one too, a girl one."
"What if we had another baby and it turned out to be a boy, too?"
"Mommyyyy! (with a 'you're being silly' expression) That would never happen!"

A year on, though, I think the Slovak and I can say that M was the perfect addition to our family and we wouldn't trade him for a little sister. In her heart of hearts, neither would K.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cultural Differences in the Doctor's Office

Going to the doctor in a foreign country. In our family this is usually my job, which is tricky sometimes because of our contrasting standards for an illness or injury requiring medical attention. For me it has to be an extremely high fever or severed limb and even then I'd rather give it another 24 hours and go in the morning if it doesn't clear up overnight. The Slovak, however, was raised by wolves somewhat hypochondriac parents and while he is pretty reasonable about his own health, it is natural to worry more about your children so he has a tendency to panic at the first sign of illness. It doesn't help that if his parents witness a single sneeze, they yell at us for getting the children sick. So I can understand that it makes him a bit jumpy.

I've had to take both children to the doctor this fall more often than usual, between routine checkups (the first year babies have a lot, plus K is about to have her 5-year visit) and assorted minor illnesses. Since we've now all had bronchitis (baby too) we've been a bit more careful with coughs and colds, since bronchitis is not fun. Over the weekend K was complaining of lower abdominal pain so I took her in Monday morning to make sure it wasn't an infection.

I am always a bit frustrated at the doctor's office because while I have a decent grasp of basic (regular person) medical Czech I can never remember the proper medical terms off the top of my head so I am never sure I've precisely described the problem in the way I would have in English. "I am a LEGAL translator," I always want to say, "I don't do medicine!" But I get the point across.

After feeling K's belly and taking a urine sample the pediatrician's main advice to me was to make sure she doesn't sit on a cold floor.

And that's where the cultural issues come into play.

Sitting on cold floor or concrete = infection is a very common piece of folk wisdom in this part of the world. I hadn't heard it before coming here, but I believe it may be somewhat of a tradition where I am from, too (anyone else heard of this?). I do not, however, believe that it is founded in evidence-based medicine. Unless it is and I just missed it, which is possible.

I don't mind the doctor telling me that, but it just serves as a reminder how deeply entrenched we all are in our own cultures (and generations - I think it depends on the age of the doctor as well as country of origin or medical training). I think medicine (causes of disease, treatments, germ theory, etc.) is probably the area in which I feel most foreign and most American, because I was just raised differently and it seems to be more deeply ingrained in me than, say, wearing shoes indoors or talking really loudly (two classic American behaviors).

There are a lot of other Czech medical beliefs that were new to me when I moved here. I can't remember them all off-hand, but a few include:

Drinking cold drinks gives you a sore throat. Iced drinks are basically just asking for it. I have been requested to put orange juice in the microwave to warm it up before serving. After it had been sitting on the counter for half an hour since I knew cold = bad.

Eating cherries and drinking water (together) will have you tied to the bathroom for the next several hours.

Combining certain types of food will have the same effect. The list seems to vary depending on who's talking.

When you have a cold you should wear a scarf around your neck. Because I guess your neck is cold? I'm not clear on the reasoning on this one.

Eating warm desserts will make you sick. The first time I brought my new husband cookies fresh from the oven (the preferred way to eat them in my country, or at least my family) he thought I was trying to poison him.

My mother-in-law does not allow fans or air conditioning to be blowing, even in the car in 40 C (very hot) weather, because they cause ear infections. Heat stroke, though, doesn't seem to concern her.

Walking around with an exposed lower back will give you a kidney infection.

Walking on a cold floor, or any floor, without sandals will make you sick.

When I moved to this country, I only knew "draft" (in the sense of cold air) from 19th-century novels. I had no idea it was a thing that people still talked/worried about, but it totally is.

And that's not even getting into the very specific ideas about raising children. I don't do dětský čaj or balení na široko (tea for babies and a special way of wrapping small babies to restrict their movement in order to prevent hip problems, more or less), which raises some eyebrows but my children seem to be managing without somehow.

I guess going to the doctor, when I can't get out of it entirely, may always be a reminder to me that I'm not in Kansas any more. On the other hand, a few months ago I woke up with a sore back after sleeping next to an open window, and my first thought was "...draft!"

So maybe I'll get on board with some of the above list someday, after all!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Happy birthday, Baby M!

We've just had a weekend visit from the grandparents (my in-laws), who came to Prague to celebrate Baby M's first birthday with us.

He had a chocolate cupcake to devour and a big sister to help him open his presents. The clear favorite was the rocking zebra (a rocking horse shaped like a zebra), which both children enjoy playing with. It is too small for K, of course, but as a new and somewhat fun toy meant for someone else she instantly realized it was all she had ever wanted in life...

I think it has increased M's worth in her eyes, having something that she really wants to play with. He is kind enough to let her ride, too, but I have to remind her that it goes both ways: it's not ok to play with his toys and make him stay away from hers. It was touch and go for a little bit but overall I think she handled the "it's someone else's birthday and not mine" issue fairly well. I hope next year will be even better since it won't be the first one.

I wondered up to the day of his birthday (Thursday) if M would take off walking, but it seems he has joined the ranks of us slackers, walking after a year. I walked at 14 months and the Slovak at 16 months, so we were pretty surprised when K was up and running around at 10 months. M will take one or two steps at a time sometimes but otherwise he refuses to walk or stand without holding on to something.

He hasn't said any first words yet, but he can sort of do a few signs and recognizes several signs and words. He's generally exhibiting signs of intelligence (problem-solving, understanding instructions, that sort of thing) that we didn't really see in his sister at 12 months. She was a good 14 months old and still looking at us like we were speaking Martian, no matter how common the word. (Meaning not even a flicker of recognition even at basic words referring to things like milk.)

M has not been a very talkative (babbling) baby so far, but in recent weeks this seems to be changing. He is getting better with his tongue, can blow raspberries and stick it out all the way, and is making a greater number of sounds. He was born with a tongue tie so this was a bit of a concern.

His pediatrician diagnosed him at 6 days old and recommended we have it snipped at one year, but I consulted with the doctors at the hospital where he was born and they said it is better to do it right away, so we did. I think it was the right decision and it improved his nursing right away, but I still wonder if there will be any leftover effects on his speech. This is why I'm glad to see him stick out his little tongue and master new sounds, because it is really pretty recent.

Sometimes I feel like he understands Apo better than me, or at least as well as me - he definitely understands "pitie", for example, but I haven't noticed him react to "drink" particularly in English. And sometimes he responds better to "nie" than "no", but that could be a discipline problem as much as anything else of course. :-D

He is an incredibly good-natured baby - excuse me, one-year-old boy - who puts himself down for naps when he's tired and who will eat anything you give him.

I can't wait to see how he grows up.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Bits from the last week

My husband is really into college football, which is kind of funny since he was born in Husak's Czechoslovakia and all. Or mainly it's funny because I, the American in the relationship, am completely indifferent to American football of any kind. So when ESPN shows the Texas-OU game I am not the one decked out in Sooners gear and explaining the rules of football to our daughter. The Slovak has that covered.

I went out for a couple of hours last Saturday and came home to a husband and both children with OU shirts and hats and the Slovak had taught K the OU fight song.

A couple of days ago she spontaneously started singing this: "I'm Sooner born, I'm Sooner bred, and when I die I'll be Sooner dead. Wakahoma...Wakahoma...OKU."

I'm not sure if it's a failure to teach/learn the lyrics properly or a geography failure, but something definitely went wrong there...


Earlier this week I had occasion to explain to K the importance of respect for the elderly (she said something disrespectful to someone without intending to). I explained that we should speak respectfully to everybody and not to say things that could hurt their feelings or give the impression we're laughing at them, and that we should be particularly sensitive and respectful toward older people.

I wasn't sure what K made of that message, but a few days later she told me the following:

"I love you up to the moon, Mommy. But do you know who I love most? Babka and Dedo (grandparents). Because they're old and we have to love old people."

Not exactly what I told her, but...close enough!


In a couple of hours my in-laws will be arriving for the weekend to be here for Baby M's birthday celebration. He turned one yesterday!

Now I just have to wrap his presents and bake his cake. And put a board on his head to keep him from growing any more.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Two Years and Ready to Move On

The beginning of this month marks two years that we have been living in Prague again.

The move has been great for our language, because I'm not sure K would have started using actual Slovak sentences if we had stayed in an English environment (she was pretty young at the time, but she could only say individual words in CZ/SK). As it is she now speaks fluent Czech, understands Slovak perfectly and is able to have a normal relationship with her father and grandparents in their native language.

On a language level I'd say the move has been a complete success, because we've also maintained English (so far) without much effort. It's a lot easier having English as a minority language when the children spend more time with me.

There are a few other ways in which living here again has simplified our lives, but in a lot of other ways it is more difficult than it was in UK. When we lived in Prague before, it was as singles and then as a married couple without children. We moved to UK when K was less than 6 months old, so we never really experienced life in Prague with children.

Some of the differences seem kind of superficial (more things to do with children, playgroups, availability of certain services like LoveFilm, better shopping, better customer service), but they kind of add up when you take them as a whole.

And the one that's currently making my life difficult: availability of childcare for under-3s. In UK (and other places) you have the option of nursery (daycare) or childminders (home daycare) for pretty much any age. In the Czech Republic školka (preschool/nursery) starts at 3 and good luck finding a jesle (for younger children) - there are very few.

I don't want to put my children in full-time care, far from it, but a few hours a week for the younger one would give me time to work and time to think. Time that I don't have at present.

Three-year maternity leave is (really) great, but I would so appreciate some systemic support for those of us who can't take it for whatever reason. It's all very well for a person living in their home town to say there should be no need to leave a one year old with anyone but a relative! If I COULD call my mother or sister or mother-in-law, believe me, I WOULD!

Essentially my only option is to hire someone privately for in-home babysitting. I have been resisting this idea (logistic difficulties mainly) but I think the time may be coming unless something changes.

That's not the only thing that's got me feeling tired and worn, but it's one of them.

The Slovak had a quite difficult time adjusting to being back here - reverse culture shock. I can't remember if I blogged about it then, but it lasted quite a while. It was easier for me since as a foreigner, I had already had to get used to life here once, so I knew I could do it again.

He has been wanting to move away again pretty much since we got back, but I thought we just needed to give it time and maybe it would get better. That's why the two-year anniversary feels kind of significant, because now we have given it a chance. And it hasn't really gotten better. Some parts have, of course, but not enough.

One thing is that between being pregnant, having a baby and actually having paid work to do during the day I don't have the time to find and attend a playgroup that will be expensive and on the other side of Prague anyway. If I weren't working and had been less physically tied down for the past two years I might have found us something, but it would have taken more effort than I could give.

Our Prague friends have mostly moved away over the years and while our real friends live in this region (Central Europe), none are in this city. After a while we start looking around and wondering what actually holds us here, and the answers aren't very compelling.

We would really like to convince several of our friends from surrounding countries to pick a place for us to all move together, because that would be awesome. (Seriously, guys, let's make it happen!) Actually, if that place ended up being Prague I think it would make life in Prague start looking a lot more attractive. Isolation is a big part of the problem.

We go through waves of mildly wanting to move and REALLY wanting to move, but we're pretty much both in the same place now, I think. We don't see ourselves here in ten years. We don't really see ourselves here in three years, in fact.

I think that coming back was the right thing to do, because it gave K a strong grasp on Czech that we can build on in future years and it crystallized our thinking on whether we want to live here long-term or not. It would be good if we could hold out a few more years here so that M will have the same strong foundation K has had, but it may or may not work out that way.

I do love this country and there are definite positives to living here, but I can't deny some things are difficult here, and I am kind of ready for something easy. Which really just means a different set of challenges.

But I'd like to take my children to see the lambing. I'd like to take them to a toystore without fearing the staff will shout at them. I'd like some local friends. I'd like to be able to order in. And I could really, really do with a childminder a couple of times a week.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Conversations about Work

Like any child, K is very interested in work but doesn't know exactly what it is. She just knows that she wants to do it when she grows up. I've noticed that as a concrete thinker, like most children probably, she thinks of it more as a specific location than an activity.

"Girls CAN go to work, Mommy, because I saw girls in Apo's work."
"Of course girls can go to work, sweetie, in fact most women go to work."
"But why do you not go to work?"
"You mean why don't I go to work in an office? I used to work in an office, actually, before you were born."
"But why don't you go any more?"
"If I went to an office to work every day, who would take care of you and Baby M?"
"I would take care of him. I would grow up really fast and then I could change his diaper."
"But then who would take care of YOU?"
"Apo! He could stay home and you could go to work."

Rejected! It's ok. Apo is her hero right now.

I let that part slide and we moved on to a discussion of what "translation" means. Before this she knew that I work on my computer and sometimes write e-mails or take calls from clients, but she didn't know what my work actually entails.

I explained that translation is a special kind of job that not everyone can do, because you have to speak more than one language very well and use your "think", as she calls it, to take things in one language and write the same ideas in another. I also explained that "interpreting" is another job where you do the same thing for people who are talking out loud - what she does sometimes for people who don't speak both Czech and English, grown-ups get paid for that. She was impressed. "Yes! That's what I want to do!"

Recently I asked her:

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
"A worker."
"What kind of worker?"
"You know, whatever Apo does, so I can work in his office with him."

She means it, too - when we visited his office she saw an empty desk and insisted that they save it for her when she grows up and starts working there. She was very upset at the idea that a number of people might go through the hiring process and sit in that chair before she is old enough to take her spot. She wants THAT desk.

She goes back and forth between that and wanting to stay home, carry her babies (all named Zoe) in a wrap, drink coffee and work on her computer. I think it's clear who her two role models are.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Slovak of My Dreams

The Slovak alternately complains about being mentioned and then about not being mentioned on my blog. I forget which it was yesterday, but it came up.

He gives me a really hard time a gentle nudge to write more when I am on a blog break. He has mentioned a few times how I refer to him as "the Slovak" but his only suggestions for more appropriate nicknames are "the Stud" and "Krull the Warrior King". I compromised on "the Slovak of my dreams", usually shortened to "the Slovak"...

He loves reading my blog and other writing, as hinted above. He is my biggest fan.

He was extremely patient and supportive when I was learning Czech. When we got married I didn't speak all that well but he would do "Czech conversations" with me and tell me how great I was doing. Over time, my Czech has improved and his warm-fuzzy comments have decreased in inverse proportion. He now claims I speak crappy Czech any time I make a slight mistake. He does this because, as he says, "you can handle it now". I take this as the compliment it is.

He started keeping a notebook when we met of all the English words I used that he didn't know. I think I've been good for his vocabulary.

He tells me and the children how much he loved us and where to find the necessary paperwork for after he dies, every time he runs a temperature.

He speaks Slovak, English, Czech, Hungarian, French, Russian and Spanish, in decreasing order of fluency. The last two are not very fluent but he would be offended if I left them off.

He will also be offended when he sees how low I ranked his Czech in the fluency list. Look at it this way - his English is JUST THAT GOOD. (And his ř is not)

He never refers to taking care of his own children as "babysitting".

He loves books and history and sometimes says things like this:

"I am the pater familius."
"Pater familias."
"Whatever. Oh you of lesser importance."
"But greater intelligence."
"Yeah, but lesser importance."

And later:

"Do you love me?"
"Surely I am bound to obey you as my pater familias without regard to my personal feelings."
"Good point, also have to love me."

Or this Facebook exchange from when our son was born:

Me: "I've now done my duty as a 14th century wife and given you an heir, my lord husband. Can I have the estates you promised to endow upon me now?"
Him: "For certes I shall endow the estates upon you, as long as I shall receive the dowry promised at the time of our plight troth."

I always refer to my husband as "my lord husband" in private. I also defer to him on all important life decisions.

Well, I have the highest respect for him, at any rate, and he shows his respect for me as well. Marriage can't work without it, man.

He jumped on board wholeheartedly with raising our children bilingually. He held the Slovak standard (as only Slovak speaker in our life) for two and half years in England.

He coped with me being K's favorite parent for quite a while (intense mommy phase when we moved back to Prague) and is now reaping the rewards: she is going through a major Apo phase at the moment. He is eating it up.

He is really smart (I will not say he is smarter than me, I will not do it...) and wickedly funny.

He is always complimentary of my cooking - every time I introduce a new dish: "HOW IS IT POSSIBLE that we have been married __ years and you're just now cooking this for me?" Although sometimes it comes out more like this:

him: "Wow, I can't remember the last time -- I mean, this is one of the best meals you've made."
me: "YOU CAN'T REMEMBER the last time I cooked something this good??"
him, backpedaling: "I meant it was delicious!"

He stands up for me to anyone from a stranger on the street to his own mother if necessary.

He talks me down off the ledge when I need it. I do the same for him when it's his turn.

He prides himself on taking good care of his children and hates when people take a knowing look at K's mismatched outfit (when she was two or so; we let her pick out her own clothes from early on) and say, "Ahhh, Daddy must have dressed you today."

He is the best partner and co-parent I can imagine.

He will try to play it cool but secretly love this post to bits.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Conversations and Czechoanglicisms, continued

These are a few conversations from late last year (October-November) that really made me laugh again today.

Matúš, about looking for a doll-with-hair for K's birthday: " ťažké nájsť bábiku, čo nevyzerá ako šliapka..." (it's hard to find a doll that doesn't look like a šliapka = hooker)
K, overhearing: "Apo, čo je to šliapka?" (Apo, what's a šliapka?)
Matúš, thinking fast: "No, vieš tie sandálky, čo si dávaš na nohy? To sú šliapky." (Um, you know the sandals you wear on your feet? Those are šliapky = flip-flops)
Me: "HAHAHAHA, good save!"

Ahh, words with double meanings. And children who suddenly hear a lot more than you realize...


"Nepushej můj kočárek nohou!" (don't push my baby stroller with your foot!)
"K, musíš povedať netlač alebo don't push. Nesmieš povedať nepushej, lebo to nie je ani slovensky, ani anglicky." (K, you have to say [Slovak word] or [English word], because what you said isn't Slovak or English)
"Ale já musím, protože Ty pushuješ." (But I have to say it, because you are pushing [same made-up word again])

She totally still does this, too.


Apo: "To sú také červené bobuľe..." (Those are these little red bobuľe = berries)
K: "Já nejsem blbá!" (I'm not blbá = stupid!)
Apo: "To som nehovoril, hovorím bobuľe." (I didn't say that, I said berries)
K: "Já nejsem blbá!" (I'm not stupid!)
Me: "Apo didn't say blbá, he said bobuľe."
A couple of moms walking past us with strollers: "hehehehehehe"
Apo: "Ale keď to hovoríš furt dokola, ľudia si začnú myslieť, že si." (But if you keep saying it over and over, people will start to think you are.)


And one more old one:

"Chooch, K." (Scoot)
"Apo doesn't tell me chooch."
"What does he tell you?"
"He doesn't tell me chooch slovensky." (he does, in fact)
"How does he say chooch in Slovak then?"
"Můvej" (move-ej)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Connection Between Babywearing and Multilingualism

Wait for it, it's there!

I'm not a person who likes to draw a lot of attention typically. In the last five years I have learned that pregnant women and/or people with babies get a lot of stares. I choose to believe they are mostly positive (except for those clearly wondering if anyone in the history of pregnancy has ever had a belly as big as yours). People just look over at you, and usually smile a bit, because babies are cute and all.

Having a baby with you is a great way to strike up a conversation with a stranger, whether you want to or not. In my experience, however, there are a few things guaranteed to get you even MORE noticed.

One of them is babywearing, which I discovered when my son was born last year and I didn't use a stroller for the first five months (have been switching between wrap and stroller since then, so we still wrap regularly). I don't know how it is in other places, but in this part of the world babywearing is very much "alternative". There are specialized Czech websites and babywearing groups, but it is not mainstream and based on the reactions of most people I saw, I may have been the first babywearing mama they had ever seen.

I can't count the number of people who came up to me and asked about my wrap, where I got it, how comfortable it is, how does it work, how wonderful for the baby to be so close to me, how they wish they had had something similar with their own children... And of course for every person who actually approached us there were several more who just looked but stayed back. So often I have noticed someone nudge a companion and gesture my direction, or overheard a comment not meant for my ears but clearly referring to my baby and me.

And the thing is, I may not seek to be the center of attention, but I don't mind being different.

I remember wondering one day why it didn't bother me more to be stared at with the wrap, when it dawned on me - I'm already used to being stared at! Not to the same extent, but being out and about with the family often draws some curious glances. For a clue as to why, take a look at our family language diagram on the sidebar, and consider that when we are together ALL those colored lines come to life, often at the same time!

Of course I am hardly the first person speaking a foreign language that people will have seen in their lives, far from it. People speaking a foreign language are a common sight on the streets of Prague. People speaking two or three languages at once, though...that is still worth a second look.

I have often noticed someone paying close attention to our conversation and suddenly realized they were trying to figure us out - what languages we are speaking, who is speaking what language, who is the native speaker and who the foreigner.

Even people who know us have sometimes commented that it's strange to hear a conversation in more than one language. It's not that we switch back and forth much, but if more than two people are involved in the conversation then there is a certain amount of overlap as I make an English addition to the Slovak conversation going on between Apo and K, or Apo does the same in Slovak when K and I are speaking English, then you add in side conversations between parents in either language, and I can imagine that a bystander would be left wondering who's on first. Especially one who understands only on side of the conversation.

And of course there's the inevitable conversation when we first meet someone - what language do you speak with your children? With each other? Bilingual, that's so great, or don't you think it will confuse them... Reactions of course mixed, I choose to focus on the positive. The point is it draws attention, people notice us.

Babywearing and multilingualism are not the only essential things that make our family different, but they are the two most obvious. In both cases I have found that I can filter out any negative feedback and accept the stares, because in the end I don't mind being different if necessary.

I have wondered before if it takes a certain personality type to do something so different from most people, or if experience being different in one way gives us strength to be confident in our decisions in another area as well. In other words, maybe I babywear and raise my children with a minority language because I am that sort of person, or maybe I can withstand the public attention of babywearing because I have experience being different by speaking another language in public with my children.

Either way, that is the connection I see: both are countercultural choices that get you noticed and it takes a certain strength to face that extra attention, I think.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Child Interpreters and Foreign Languages in Preschool

I recently learned that K serves as an interpreter when her preschool teachers can't understand the external English teacher who comes in twice a week. Apparently (one teacher told me today) they ask K and she explains what he said.

Part of me wonders if this is expecting too much of a four year old and the other part wonders if we could negotiate a break on tuition for K's language services.

I am impressed that she can do this, actually, since it is one thing to be bilingual and another thing to facilitate communication between two other people. It's a different cognitive process.

It does go slightly against my no child interpreters rule (I don't think it's right to put a child in that position if it can be helped at all), but this isn't serious or frequent. I know she can handle it, and I am proud of her for being helpful.

We had this conversation as K and another girl sat at the table working puzzles. The little girl pointed to the animals in the puzzles she was doing and named each one in Czech.

The teacher said, "Yes, that's right, and I bet K could tell us how you say that in English."

K, obligingly: "Horse. Cow. Chicken."
Teacher: "Isn't it 'cock'? (to me) Isn't slepice 'cock'?"
Me: "No, I believe it's 'hen', but we usually just say 'chicken' for everything."

An extra level of multilingualness was added by the fact that the little girl naming the animals in Czech - is Chinese. Like K, she's a Czech-born foreigner and is perfecting her Czech in preschool.

Life is fun sometimes.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Really, I can't be helpful ALL the time

At two months shy of five years old, my daughter is pretty good at speaking correctly, but she does still sometimes have trouble with irregular forms. At times like that I have to choose between letting it go and offering her the correct form. Sometimes, though, I do this instead:

K: ...mouses.
Apo (in Slovak): Actually in English it's one 'mouse', but two or more 'mice'. It's irregular.
Me (in English): Yeah, and it's one 'house' and lots of 'hice'.
Apo (shaking head, to K): Houses.
Me: And one 'louse' and lots of 'lice'. Ooh, and one 'rouse' and lots of 'rice'.
Apo (to me): Wait, really?

Ha! I got him.


This week K had her first ballet lesson. She loves dancing, pink, princesses and anything girly, so she was PUMPED. A day or two before, the Slovak told me she prayed at bedtime "...aby na mě nic neskočilo, abych nebyla nemocná a mohla jít na balet." (so that nothing jumps on me so I won't be sick and can go to ballet) After a minute he realized she meant "aby na mě nic nelezlo" (climbing, not jumping), from něco na mě leze (I'm coming down with something).

You probably have to speak Czech to find that very funny...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Just One of the Kids

I asked K if they're still having English class at her school this year, and she said yes, in fact she helps teach it. I know she doesn't usually attend the class, so I wondered about this (entirely made up, part made up?) until I realized she was confusing "English class" (with native English teacher) and singing songs as a class in English with the regular teacher. I guess she feels that knowing all the songs makes her a co-teacher.

She has also told me that we have to stop talking a couple of times as we stand at the school door waiting to go in -

"We have to stop talking now.
"We do?"
You can't speak English to me in there."
"Oh, really? Why not?"
"Because...they don't understand English."
"I see. Tak můžeme mluvit česky."
(visible relief from K)

Although oddly she has no problem speaking some English with me when I come to pick her up or once we are inside. It seems like a reminder to herself as much as to me: time to change gears.

K's teachers have reported that she is much more assertive (but not too assertive - I asked) than in the past, that she is physically and emotionally well balanced, bounced back from the birth of her baby brother last year, and generally doing well in school.

A lot of this comes down to her increased comfort and confidence in Czech. Before, the language barrier meant she held back and kept her head low, but now it is essentially gone and her real personality can show.

I'm very pleased. What a change from this!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Adventures in reading

I've mentioned before that the four year old has been slowly learning to read. I say slowly because her interest comes and goes and I almost never initiate anything - I will provide the knowledge when asked but I don't want to push her to be an early reader.

K knows most of the letters and their sounds and is starting to grasp the concept of sounding things out. Sometimes this leads to amusing (for me) and amazing (for her) conversations like this one from July:

"Mommy, you know what heart starts with? S."
"What does heart start with? Hhhhhhhhhheart. H."
"No, but srdíčko."
"Right, srdíčko starts with S, but heart starts with H."
"But it's the same."
"It means the same, but in English heart starts with H, and in Czech srdíčko starts with S. Sometimes a word starts with one sound in one language and another sound in another language."
K: Mind. Officially. Blown.

Or this: "Mommy, you know what starts with P? 'Puter. ... And S starts with ponožka." [sock]

We also pay attention to environmental print, which is kind of challenging since a lot of it is in Czech (I'm focusing on English for now) and a lot is company names (advertisements) and other things she wouldn't understand. You do find a good deal of English out and about, though, such as on the bus:

"K, do you see that word over the door there, the one that begins with S? Can you read what it says?"
"Sopka." [volcano]
"Wait, it says STOP."

I realized some time after making note of that exchange that she was probably trying to say "stopka" (borrowed from English obviously, I think they covered this one in school). It's not as hard to tell what language she's speaking these days as it used to be, but she still trips us up from time to time.

One thing I've noticed as we slowly work towards real reading is that K seems to "get" new concepts when she's ready for them, not after a certain amount of exposure. Just like with learning to talk in the first place, no matter how many times I said BALL while holding the ball, she did not have a clue what I wanted from her. She didn't get the correspondence between letters and their sounds (bee makes b sound, em makes m sound) until she was ready. I guess there's some cognitive switch and before it flips there's really not much point hitting the flash cards!

Or maybe my daughter is just stubborn, who knows... In any case, that's part of why I try to follow her lead. It has worked well so far, so I'm sure it will work with reading, too.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Conversations and Czechoanglicisms

We try to use environmental print in our slow meander towards reading, which sometimes leads to K sounding out things like this: "M-A-T-T-O-N-I. Flavored water."


More adventures in geography:

(looking at maps)
Me: And this one is called Poland.
K: Who lives there? ...I know! Polar bears.
Me: No, polar bears don't live in Poland. Though now that you mention it that does kind of make sense, doesn't it?


K also comes up with some creative new words sometimes. The Slovak likes "zavřátko" (closer thingy) and "začínátko" (starter thingy) so much that he uses them himself.

She also persistently says "Co je to na?" (word for word: what - is - this - for) instead of "na co to je". She has similar language interference going in the other direction, but this sentence is particularly common.


And some untranslateable grammar humor to finish off:

Apo malému: Ty si malá potvorka...
K: On není potvorka, Apo, on je kluk. On je potvor.
Apo: No, logicky vzato asi máš pravdu.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Want to Go There! Just Kidding Edition

So today's post was supposed to be about our long weekend in sunny Venice - our first vacation in two years. Family visits don't count. We do love to travel, so we were all pumped.

Everything was set, bags packed, excitement at a peak, prepped K looking at pictures of Venice and informing her that she already knows one word of Italian: čau/ciao, flying out Friday at noon, when...K woke up in the middle of the night with a stomach bug. Poor child had never actually thrown up in her life (even as a baby, she spit up a total of 3-5 times ever), so I had to explain what was happening and that it is a normal phenomenon. She also wanted to know how to say "throw up" in both Czech and English.

I took her to the doctor early Friday morning but it was pretty clear - no flying for us. The doctor said a three-day bug is going around at the moment and she'd probably be fine by Monday. So we let the airplane take off without us. Sigh.

The Slovak took Baby M out for a walk late Friday morning while I took care of sick K. She was very pathetic - still not convinced she wasn't dying. (On the way to the doctor's earlier I realized she thought we were going to the hospital for in-patient care.) She took a long nap and woke up after noon, when we were waving goodbye to our Venice-bound airplane.

When the plane took off, she was still sick. We definitely couldn't have traveled. And yet, like magic, when the plane landed an hour later K was JUST FINE. Looks like it was a 12 hour bug, just long enough to keep us home. Weep. She spent the rest of the weekend running around perky while the Slovak and I came down with bad colds and tried to pretend we were in Italy.

The bad news is we lost the price of the plane tickets (no changes). The good news is we didn't have to pay for the accommodation, so it could have been a lot worse, right? The other bad news is, obviously, we didn't go to Venice.

And now I suspect we never will! You see, six years ago we also had purchased plane tickets to Venice for the weekend. A week or two before the trip they canceled the flight (the only Prague-Venice flight) so we ended up going to Budapest instead. We've been looking forward to trying again ever since then. Now, though, we're kind of nervous as to what might happen to us next time we try to go. Maybe Venice just doesn't want us!

I think we are going to travel everywhere else in Europe and never, ever see Venice except for in pictures. I can live with that. As it stands now, though...I still really need a vacation. In fact, our bags are still packed. We may still be in denial.

Someone take me somewhere fun!

Monday, September 17, 2012

English culture through song and rhyme

One thing I have really enjoyed doing with K in the last year is learning (remembering) old songs and nursery rhymes.

The Slovak has always sung her a lot of SK folk songs, since he knows more of them than classic children's songs. We did learn a lot of SK children's songs from CDs, though, and K learns even more CZ ones at school.

She would come home singing a fragment of a song and want me to finish it with her, not accepting "I don't know the rest of that song" as an answer. For instance, I knew the first line of "Skákal pes" but not the rest, so I couldn't help her get past that first line. She did not understand that there could be a song I don't know. After a while I had the (belated) good idea of looking it up online, and found it straight away of course. The look on her face when I started singing the whole song - awed. "HOW DID YOU DO THAT??" she wanted to know. Internet access + ability to read = superpower.

I always get kind of a kick out of a Slovak-American kid singing "Já jsem muzikant a přicházím k vám z české země" or "Okolo Hradce" or other very Czech songs. The first one is a call and response song that involves pretending to play on various instruments (drum, piano, violin), though the Slovak and I have improved it by adding verses like "na ukulele", "na zadek" and "na nervy".

For a long time K's going-to-bed song was "V hlbokej doline", every night, all five verses. The Slovak started singing it to her when she was very small and eventually she didn't want anything but that. I always thought it was a funny choice for a lullaby as it is really not for children. I also wondered how many Americans (or, indeed, Slovaks) there are out there who sing "V hlbokej doline" to their child every night. She made me laugh once when I asked what the song is about (to see if she knew) and she answered, "um, a doll" - it does mention "panenka" but in reference to the maiden in this case, not a doll.

The Slovak also taught K a song in eastern dialect called "Dža volky". It is very fun to sing because it gets progressively faster on each repetition. K can go longer than I can, and the Slovak can go longest of all. She once requested that song by calling it "the song with those wolves", which took me a minute to process because the song is actually about oxen (volky) while wolves is vlky (vlci). But she really thought she was singing a song about wolves hitched up to a wagon, I guess. (haha)

Between school and the Slovak's rich repertoire of SK (and the occasional Russian) songs, K knows a whole bunch of CZ and SK songs. Whether she understands all the words is obviously a different story. At some point, though, I realized that we hadn't really moved beyond "Twinkle Twinkle" and "Wind the Bobbin Up" in English. And of course I couldn't allow that to continue...

I started refreshing myself on all the nursery rhymes I could remember and teaching them to K. She has a good memory and enjoys reciting them for whoever will listen.

Just like in Slovak, she doesn't always understand all the words or concepts, but it is a good vocabulary enhancer. She can never remember that Jack and Jill "fetched a pail of water" - usually it is something like "went up the hill to get a package of little water". I tried to explain about wells and pails and indoor plumbing but I think packages of bottled water from the store is still more familiar to her!

She also started asking me to sing her "one of YOUR songs Mommy, a NEW song" several months ago, so I sang her every bedtime-appropriate song I could think of and then some. I often couldn't remember the words so had to look them up during the day so I'd have something new to sing at night. I was debating what kind of songs to claim as "my" songs - songs from musicals? Movies? Radiohead didn't seem very appropriate somehow.

I decided to take the opportunity of introducing some English folk songs, along with the occasional spiritual or other song (Over the Rainbow, Sarah McLachlan's Ice Cream). Pretty much anything I think might have some cultural or historical value or just that she will enjoy. We do several every night at bedtime. K's favorites are I Gave My Love a Cherry, Danny Boy, Greensleeves, The Water Is Wide, Wayfaring Stranger, Early One Morning, Black Black Black, He's Gone Away...

She makes up her own songs as she's playing during the day and I love hearing how they include "parsley, sage, rosemary and time" or other lines or melodic influences from these traditional songs. Pretty much if I notice that all her songs start to be about her lost love and sung in a minor key I'll know my work here is done.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Conversations with my daughter, part ??

From August:

K: Mommy, how do you say forever in Czech?
Me: What do you want to say?
K: I just want to say 'how do you say forever in Czech'.
Matus (in SK): Because there are a lot of ways to say that in Czech depending on what you want to say exactly [we both list several words or phrases that mean 'forever'] Me: that's why I was asking what you want to say.
K: I really didn't want to say anything exactly, I just wanted to say 'how do you say forever in Czech'.

Poor child. She asks for a simple translation and can't get a straight answer. That's what comes of having a translator as a mother, I suppose. Context!


"Mommy, can I watch My Little Pony? Say no-or-yes."
"But I want to watch ponies!"
"You told me to say no."
"I told you to say no or yes."
"Yeah, and I chose no."
"OK. (thinks for a minute) Mommy, can I watch ponies? Say yes."

I choose to believe that me being deliberately difficult is encouraging my daughter to develop reasoning skills. Being funny is just a by-product.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

About That Baby

At nearly eleven months, baby M is just starting to indicate he may understand a few words and signs. He can sign "milk" and "more" (sometimes, when he feels like it) and seems to recognize "food" and "drink".

Now that he is responding to the first few signs we have started using more, like "Apo" and "Mommy". This time around, of course, we also need a sign for "sister"! The ASL sign requires too much dexterity I thought so we decided to make up our own. K wanted to know what her sign is. I suggested a one-hand-clapping to indicate spanking, but she didn't like that idea. Then Apo suggested patting the chest over the heart and it was settled.

K had to be reminded of a few of the signs (remembered some), but she is now very helpful in using them with M. She is a very solicitous big sister, when she isn't taking his toys away or telling him off for taking hers. She speaks to him in both English and Czech, but most often English (babies speak English natively, she feels).

I find myself using more of a mix of English and Czech with M than I did with K at his age, mainly because our environment (including the home, since K uses it) has a lot more Czech in it. It's still predominantly English from me, though, just interspersed with a bit of Czech when Czechs are around.

M can also wave, clap, blow raspberries and stick out his tongue (along with other, non-communication-related things, obviously). The last is a bit of a relief as he was born with a tongue tie. The other day he waved after hearing me say "hi" (I didn't wave), showing he recognizes the word by itself, too. He also seems to understand no/nie.

All of this is a slight improvement on communicating with K, who didn't start using any signs or understanding any words until after she was a year old. In general he is faster at some things and slower at others than she was, which makes sense since they are different people.

We're curious to see how his language balance and preferences will compare with his sister's, given the different dynamics in the family and surroundings now. Interested to see what happens next!

Monday, September 10, 2012


At the end of this month it will be two years since we moved back to Prague. It's gone pretty well, but not so perfectly that we're not open to the idea of a change.

K is four (and a half, she would want me to add) and fluent in Czech. She has trouble with a few sounds and she's still working the kinks out of her grammar, but a lot of children her age do the same. She loves her school and has become very Czech in some funny ways. She mixes Slovak into her Czech a lot and does not distinguish between the two very well, but I imagine that will come with time and continued exposure. The languages are really so similar that it would take a great deal of linguistic sophistication to draw the line between the two clearly.

M is ten months and the chillest baby ever. He is not yet walking, but that doesn't stop him from getting into everything in reach. He is a champion climber. He is starting to babble (ba, da) and can wave, clap, use a bit of baby signing and seems to recognize a few words but it's hard to tell. I feel like at this age K was making more sounds but understanding less, but we'll just have to wait and see what the next year brings as far as actual speech development for him.

I am confronting the classic problem of balancing two children and working from home and finding that anything else (blogging, playdates, housework...) tends to go by the wayside. The good news is I have enough business to work full time if I chose, but the bad news is I really can't until M is big enough to go to preschool. I'm really missing England and its nurseries right about now (before three years old you have to make private arrangements here, and I don't really want to hire a nanny). I wouldn't want to put him in full time, but two mornings a week or so would give me some time to work - and think - in peace. I think I'm getting grumpier in my old age. (Insert the Slovak nodding emphatically here.)

I need to let loose of the idea that each post has to be a production, because I would probably have time for mini-posts. I am active on Facebook, after all. :) But I always feel like if I don't have time to cover everything that has happened since my last post then I might as well not write at all, so the more time passes the harder it is to write.

It's not that we aren't still bilingual, though - in fact, things have been pretty peaceful on that front. K has a great command of Czech, occasionally uses a word I don't know, frequently comes home singing songs I don't know, and has developed a fascination with Hungarian in the last week so now knows several words in Hungarian. A girl from Hungary started at her preschool and K wants to talk to her, even more when she found out that the Slovak actually knows that language. So now she can say szia, igen, nem and koszi. (Pardon the spelling.) So we may be embarking on another language mini-adventure.

We have also recently started reading Little House in the Big Woods (first chapter book) and I'm building up K's repertoire of nursery rhymes and folk songs in English, since she knows a bunch in Czech and Slovak. She has a great memory for lyrics and the beginnings of an ear for music.

The Slovak is also doing fine - he had a hard time adjusting to living here again (reverse culture shock, his first experience with it) and still gets worked up about things once in a while, but in general he likes his job and likes talking to his daughter in his native language (um, more or less). I'm sure he will also be delighted to see this post, because he frequently hassles me about when I'm going to write again. And yet he seems oddly unwilling to do a guest post; he prefers me to do the work so he can read it. :)

So here you go, sweetie.

Monday, March 19, 2012

visit to family and other things

So we went to Arkansas for a week and K came back with a northern accent. Whatever you call the way the asparagus kid from Veggie Tales talks. Or Kai-Lan, as I recall. I'm going to assume it came from one of those sources rather than being a direct result of the visit, although it did come on very suddenly, in the airport as we left. It's wearing off a little now, but for a while there it was very distinct and if K accidentally said something in her "normal" accent, she quickly corrected herself. Obviously an affectation then, but a quite random and amusing one.

Though I will say she sounds noticeably more American now even discounting the newly discovered accent. I think that WAS a result of the visit.


This was the first chance the family had to meet Baby M. He was a rousing success.

K really enjoyed showing off her little brother, and her dance moves, and her ability to jump on one foot.

I had to bite the NIP in USA bullet (first visit with K was when she was older, so it was easy enough to avoid it), and nobody spontaneously combusted, so that was encouraging. People in the South are either becoming more tolerant or less observant, it seems!

It was also the first visit where K cried when we left - I think it's the first time she really understood what was going on and how long we go between visits. She had a hard time saying goodbye and cried a few times over the next day or two once we got home, too.


At one point during our visit I overheard K ask her cousin of the same age, "You speak English, right? Do you speak Czech and Slovak, too?" Her cousin didn't respond in the slightest, obviously had no clue what K was on about.


Baby M turned 5 months yesterday. The day before that, the Slovak was holding him in his lap while eating a banana, and M grabbed the banana and stuffed it in his mouth. We were PLANNING to wait a full six months before introducing solids (with K we had a ceremonial first bite of food on her half-birthday, which she obviously immediately spit out), but in the spirit of baby-led weaning I decided to go with it. That, and the boy wasn't going to willingly let go. Also as of this weekend he can sit up without support. He's been busy.


Also while in Arkansas I found that my children, while comfortable navigating public transportation in any European city you might suggest, are not at all adapted for hopping in and out of the car all day as one does in America. They both complained STRENUOUSLY about the long car rides, anything over 15 minutes being met with a "But that's SO LONG!" from K. No wonder - we use our car once or twice a week in Prague and only for 15 minute trips most of the time. M missed traveling in his comfy wrap and K missed being able to walk everywhere. Fortunately February/March in Arkansas is acceptable walking weather, so we did walk more than normal, but only a bit more: America is simply not built for pedestrians! But everyone knows that, anyway.


And now we're all fighting colds, all but the baby, that is. He is too busy munching on apples and bananas to bother being unwell. I'm ready for everyone to be healthy so we can get out and enjoy the spring!


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