Wednesday, April 30, 2008

tradition, tradition

I've come to the conclusion that inside every Czech is a pagan waiting to be set free. My dad called me today, reminding me that it's time to burn the old witches, a tradition I have nearly forgotten about.

And tomorrow, my dad added, is May Day, which is the Day of Lovers, for the Czechs. My husband must kiss me under a flowering tree - preferrably a cherry tree - to make sure I "don't wither."

When I told Tim about this, he said: "Oh, I must have forgotten to do that last year." Funny, funny guy.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Jonah the Terrible

As I look back on my day today, I have this to say: "Lord, spare me from days like these!"

I can't even count the number of tantrums Jonah threw today. The triggers ranged from having his breakfast scone set in the "wrong" place to not wanting to go inside the house after playing outside. His tantrums, as you can imagine, tend to consist of screaming, crying, kicking, and hitting. Stating clearly that he will not get any attention from us until he stops crying and then ignoring him until he calms down seems to work the best, but it's not always how things go.

Most other parents I know say two-year-olds grow out of this phase, but let me tell you - it's no piece of cake. Jonah's fits make me feel angry, frustrated and helpless. I should be the one in control of the situation as a parent, but the reality is much different. I really don't believe in spanking although it's been suggested to me by a few people I know.

I think Tim and I just have to hold our own and ride out the storm. I just hope this phase ends soon, because - truth be told- the seas can get pretty rough these days.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

"Mom, you're not bacon"

The other day Jonah and I had a discussion about eating animals. I talked about how different types of meat (such as bacon and hamburger) come from different animals. I explained that I don't like to eat meat from cows and pigs. I thought Jonah would be confused or disturbed by the idea of eating meat that comes from the types of animals he likes so much, but all of it made sense to him and seemed perfectly natural. He said: "Daddy likes eating meat from pig." He was right. I asked Jonah if he liked eating pigs and cows. He said he did. It's true. Later he mused with a mischievous smile: "Mom, you're not bacon." True also.

Friday, April 25, 2008

things I don't look forward to

in the Czech Republic (and believe me, I speak from experience here):

- rude Czechs (of whom there are MANY)

- the bureaucracy of moving

- being offered meat, meat, and more meat everywhere I go (and being tempted by it)

- being put in the position of having to defend Americans and explain everything American (which happens often)

- the frenzy of consumerism, commercialism and capitalism enveloping more and more facets of Czech life & culture

- racist, sexist and xenophobic comments and jokes heard on nearly everyday basis

- having to pick my battles around when and how to challenge the above

- being openly criticized for being overweight (which has happened each of the last three time I last visited. Once by a stranger, once by a relative, and once by an acquaintance)

- the air pollution

things I look forward to

in the Czech Republic:

- family

- friends

- food ........ always my top three favorites anytime, anywhere

- not having a car

- walking more

- living in a denser city where many things (e.g. groceries) can be accessed by foot

- exploring the country's and continent's historical and natural places of interest (I haven't been to so many!)

- feeling energized by the change of lifestyle and environment

- meeting new and interesting people

- getting to know old friends better

If I think of more, I will add to this list.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

try this

Ecological Footprint Quiz

the irony of it

I just realized something. All these years that I've lived in the States, I've had a very foreign sounding last name. And now that I'm moving back to the motherland after having changed my last name to Tim's recently, I have a foreign sounding last name by Czech standards. That's because Czech last names have genders and my new last name is distinctly masculine without the -ová ending. How ironic is that?

two-tongue tot

For the first time today, Jonah asked me a perfectly formed question regarding vocabulary: "Mom, how do you say digger in Czech?"

I was blown away. I've known he gets the concept that there are two languages his mom speaks and that he is curious about language, but so far, he has asked for new vocabulary this way: "What does digger mean?" That meant he wanted to know the Czech equivalent for something, usually a concrete noun. But this whole new way of asking really surprised me.

The other interesting thing is that since I have increased the amount of Czech I speak to him, he has begun to incorporate Czech into his play. Yesterday he was playing with a little house with doors on it. He would open the door and look at the item behind the door, saying: "Dobry den" which means "Hello." I am hoping to keep on increasing the output so his Czech gets better quickly. It takes quite a bit of concentration for my little brain to not constantly revert to English when that is all that is around me 99% of the time. Baby steps.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

not again

The landlord was here again to work on some pipes. He did not fail to bring up what he considers to be the one item of utmost importance in the world - caulk. Of course he had to say the word caulk at least a half a dozen times loudly and clearly while staring at me with his beady robot eyes. I was digging my fingernails into the palms of my hands, trying hard to restrain myself from bursting into raucous laughter, when Jonah paused his percolating around the room and let out a loud fart into the pause between the landlord's caulk and drain story. I really thought I would lose it then. Next time I might. And if I do, what excuse should I have in store?

one-track mind

Now that I've gone public with our announcement about moving to Prague, I have given myself permission to obsess about the move and to let you in on the process. (Yippeee, you're probably saying to yourself through clenched teeth, eyeballs rolling like upside down pendulums.) Well, I do tend to latch on to an idea and then let it take over my brain, often until something else that's more exciting strikes my fancy. But this one is not just a passing fad. We're really doing it. Aaaahhh! (insert image of Edvard Munch's The Scream) now that the move is for real, thinking about it has become the focus of all my daydreaming and extracurricular projects.

Today, for instance, I spent some time researching Prague cafes with kids' corners. I am a frequent visitor of these with Jonah here in Portland. In fact, I take him to a coffee shop with a children's area full of toys and books, where one of my friends with or without a child awaits almost weekly. I didn't even know such cafes existed in the Czech Republic and somehow stumbled upon the first online, then googled the phenomenon and a whole list came up. Great.

Something else I've been thinking about has been signing Jonah up for preschool to give him a chance to socialize with other kids regularly and to learn Czech. Well, it turns out that the state-run schools have at least twice as many kids applying as there is room for since, like here, Baby Boomer's kids have been having kids lately. We may have to resort to one of the myriad of privately run schools, in which case we would be reaching pretty deep into our pocket. But considering we haven't yet spent a penny on daycare, we shouldn't complain.

To be continued.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

the sweetest message

Today I got back from the classroom to my desk and noticed there was a message on my phone. I dialed in and heard this:

Tim: "Go."
Jonah: "Mommy, you're my sweetheart."

Apparently they were eating dinner and Jonah said he wanted to call me and tell me something. How lovely is that?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

you tell me and I'll tell you

See if you can guess what city this is. Scroll down for the correct answer.

If you guessed Prague, my birth city, you're right. I took the picture when I was there last fall.

So, what does that have to do with anything, you may be wondering. Well, the story is that Tim and I decided to to head off into the wild blue yonder, you know, live a little, and planned something we have been talking about doing for years. We decided to move to Prague for a while - a year for now and then we'll see if we want to come back or stay longer. The move is scheduled for this coming August. Yes, that's four months from now.

These are our reasons for doing so:
- to have a chance to spend time with my relatives (grandmother and dad) and friends from whom I have lived apart for many years.
- to give Jonah (and Tim) an opportunity to learn Czech (because I've come to realize that it does take a village to raise a bilingual child)
- for a change of pace: you know, living in a European metropolis with higher density than Portland
- for the adventure of it
- because and while we can

I can't even tell you how excited (and anxious) I am. I have been fantasizing about this for a while. Those of you who know me well know that I tend to always have one foot out the door, in another place: always dreaming about living in other places or traveling. That's why it's so amazing that I have stayed put in the same city for so long - twelve years this month, to be exact.

As a child I moved so much that it's not until recently that I have lived in the same house for about three years. In fact, three years is the longest I have ever lived in the same building.

So, this will be an adventure. Because we don't own a house, we will be getting rid of tons of stuff and putting the rest in storage. One of the biggest challenges of moving will be finding a home for our two kitties whom I met as kittens and have known as my furry babies pretty much ever since I moved to Portland from the East coast.

I'm sure the move will flip Jonah's world upside down since where we live is what he has known his whole life. Also, he is at an age, Freud's anal stage, when he likes things just so (a temporary version of an obsessive-compulsive disorder), if only for the mere experiment of exerting his power over the world around him. This might be quite a challenge! But, I have been reteaching him the Czech he used to know as an 18-month old and hoping to keep pushing it a little more every day. So far, knock on wood, he hasn't yet shown any resistance. On the contrary, he has been asking me to teach him words. The advantage of this stage is that he does adjust quickly and that he can understand simple explanations. So, with enough preparation and with some direct involvement with packing, for example, the transition will hopefully not be too drastic.

Wanna see more pictures of Prague? Here are a couple more that I took in 2006 & 2007:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

river of heart stones

Just returned from a weekend in the Tatoosh Mountain range where Tim and I got married almost five years ago. This time we went there for a different reason: to spread Amalia's ashes in the river just feet from where our wedding ceremony took place under tall evergreens with a backdrop of a river valley and picturesque mountains.

The ceremony was really just a quiet meditation on Amalia's life. Just Tim and I, the flowing water, the surrounding valley and snow-capped peaks.

Everywhere I looked I seemed to find stones in the shape of a heart. I found one immediately after Tim and I got married as well.

I am so glad we picked a place filled with only good memories since Amalia's short life was filled with anxiety and fear, feelings that are hard to shake and separate from my memory of her.

I feared that the spreading of her ashes would hurt so unbearably that I dreaded the whole event. But it turned out to be sad, yet peaceful.

I thought of Tim's grandfather who died not too long ago. He was at our wedding. His children spread his ashes in a river as well and I thought that was such a beautiful way to honor a man who loved nature.

The thought of touching and holding Amalia's ashes in the palm of my hand hadn't occurred to me until Tim asked me. I was going to just pour the ashes straight out of the bag into the rushing stream. Of course it made sense to hold them before letting them go. Her ashes were coarse, white and beautiful, almost like a treasure from an ancient time like special fossils or precious remnants of a mysterious, yet important bygone civilization.

In the eight days that she was alive we didn't really get to know her. She was an infant, straddling two worlds: the one we know and the other world beyond. We never heard her voice as her vocal chords never made a sound. But she did open her eyes and gazed at us. Something I wrestle with is how much of who she was is ascribed to her by me because there was so little to go on from her side. Her presence and message, if there ever was one, was a true mystery and I am trying to tease out who she was separately from my own fears and demons that her death made me have to confront. Honestly, I am not sure if that is at all possible. But one thing I know is that now I have a nice memory associated with her: the moving river, still mountains, and silent heart-shaped stones.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

let's face it

My cheeky little monkey and I went to the children's museum yesterday. For those of you that aren't familiar with this establishment, it is important to note that there is nothing museum-like about the place. It's basically a big indoor playground, complete with a digging pit, wooden train set and track, a pretend doctor's office and grocery store - you get the drift.

This time we did our usual digging and ambulance driving, but we also ventured into a new-to-us section of the building where Jonah discovered a mock city bus to drive and... drum roll, please... face paint.

He went wild with the black face paint, giving himself black eyebrows -underneath his eyes and on his eyelids, mind you- and goatee. He then admired himself in the mirror, smiling and exclaiming: "I am my daddy." I instantly had a deja vu moment, reminded of how much time I spent in my parents' theater dressing rooms as a child, watching them put on makeup. To this day I love the smell of make up (though I practically wear none) and the focused expression of actors when they paint their faces.

I captured the experience with my little actor boy on camera in two parts below. When my dad sees it, I'm sure he will be convinced there is no turning back for Jonah. I can hear him now: "That boy is destined for the stage."

Sunday, April 06, 2008

tulips are for girls

This weekend Tim's cousin Peter was in town. We went out to eat together and, low and behold, I was served the most awful tasting sandwich in my going-out-to-eat history. It was a "pulled bbq chicken" sandwich. That's what I get for eating more than my weekly quota of poultry, I guess. The bbq sauce tasted like ketchup gone bad, propped up with some liquid smoke and sent out to the customers for its final round before its journey to the dump. Jonah liked the flavor. Maybe because it was corn-syrup sweet. Yum.

Today we ventured out to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival, which we discovered last year. We caught a clear hour when the rain clouds receded and the sun poked through, though the wind chilled us to the bone.

Since it has been quite cold here lately, half the tulips were still closed, so, shutter-happy, I made the most of the few varieties that were blooming.

Jonah didn't give a rat's ass about the tulips. He instantly dragged the whole group, dad's cousin et al, to the antique tractors that had wood fires going and were powered by steam. He also enjoyed the cow train pulled by a tractor, though Tim felt like a whale inside a tube of toothpaste riding in that thing with Jonah on his lap.

My favorite was the tent full of rescued parrots. I wanted to take one home, of course. I may be totally deluded, but my favorite one, it seemed, was eying me too. I told him I liked him and he squeezed his perch a little tighter and winked at me.

Photos here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

downtown where everything's waiting for you

Jonah and I took a little trip to the downtown library by bus today. We do this periodically.

Jonah likes to load up my big backpack with the books and CD's to return. As we wait for the bus just around the corner from our house, he watches and comments with great interest on the various vehicles going by: the noisy motorcycles carrying burly leather-clad lads; the shiny convertibles floating cheerful couples by, breeze ruffling the little hair left on their heads; the monster-like garbage trucks shaking the ground underneath; and, of course the awe-inspiring dump trucks, tankers, and big rigs spreading their magnificent fumes and heavy metal magic everywhere.

Today, Jonah got so excited he shrieked when the bus came into view, turning the corner and heading down the hill towards our stop. On the way downtown, we watched the bridges across the river go up to let a tugboat and barge through.

Downtown, as always, was a feast for the eyes: a fire engine, UPS trucks, bike messengers, delivery men, and construction.

Twice Jonah spotted a small fenced-in pit in the ground with a group of chaps in bright vests and hard hats huddling around it. Each time, he rushed me to the site, stopping just short of sticking his nose through the fence, belting out a cheerful "Hi guys!" as if these muscle men in fluorescent hues were his long-lost friends - this even before he got their attention. The dudes were totally charmed by the midget with a toothy smile. One even honked his digger horn at Jonah, the highlight of our day for sure.

Usually Jonah throws the library books in the slot and then we pick new ones to borrow and read a few together, but today the library was closed, which made Jonah sad. Instead we took a tram to a nearby bookstore to read books before stopping by dad's office and having lunch with him. Lunch with dad is usually the way our morning downtown ends. Then it's time to go home for a nap. Too bad I forgot to take my camera this time. Next time I have to document one of our downtown adventures to provide you with some visuals.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

and now a word from our budding film critic

Here is a short video I made of some of the dinosaurs we saw at the science museum the other day. When we watched it, Jonah remarked: "Jonah's blurry." That was, I must say, an accurate observation. Good critique of my bad technique.