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.


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