Tuesday, December 30, 2008

the games we play

Lately, with winter vacation, a round of colds, forbidding weather and all, we've spent a whole lot of time inside, cooped up in our third-story apartment. And boy, does Jonah need a playmate!

Tim and I, the dutiful parents we are, have been taking turns indulging our son who would otherwise turn into a category 5 tropical storm.

Here are the roleplays Jonah has involved us in lately, listed for memory's sake:

• pirates and monsters
• fire boy and fire girl
• Eyeore and Christopher Robin
• cashier and shopper (usually the shopper walks away with free merchandise AND money from the cashier to boot)
• teacher and preschooler
• daddy/mommy and child
• cook and restaurant guest
• doctor (sometimes rather medieval in his style; fond of bloodletting, for instance) and broken leg person
• person who is afraid of bad guys and a guy who shines his flashlight at and hits the bad guys with swords (spoons, actually) and, in the end, saves the person who is afraid

the birds and the bees

I had no idea it would come so soon. Just the other day Jonah asked me how babies get inside moms' bellies; how babies are made. He didn't want just a simple explanation, trust me. I tried many versions, all true, but "clean." He kept asking for a more in-depth explanation until I had to get into the biology of it. I kept it simple, but finally, as if I at last gave him the answer he was looking for, he was satisfied enough to move onto the next activity. His tool bench, was it?

Days later I read what good old Dr. Spock et al have to say about preschoolers asking about where babies come from. I am proud to say that I think Dr. Spock would have approved of how I handled the situation.

I have vowed to myself that I will be better than my parents about teaching my child about sex. My parents never talked about sex, even when I tried to initiate the conversation as a child. They just let me stew in my own embarassment once I realized sex was apparently something embarassing to talk about. I learned everything I've ever wanted to know about sex from Woody Allen. Just kidding. It was from my peers in the neighborhood and in grammar school - not a very reliable source, to say the least.

Though Jonah has lately been curious about body parts, shapes, skin color, etc., I wouldn't have guessed "the birds and the bees" talk would come so early. Geez Louise.

Friday, December 26, 2008

he got it this time

Yes, it's true. Jonah got lots of great presents this Christmas, but what is worthy of mention is that he really got what Christmas is all about for the first time at this age (just a little over three).

We celebrated with my grandmother on Christmas Eve with a traditional meal of soup, fish, and potato salad. My baking skills are an embarassment, so good thing my grandmother did most of the baking. I tried the traditional Christmas bread (very similar to challah), but had to throw it away in the end. My grandmother's was so much tastier. Edible, actually, unlike mine. Fortunately, the only type of cookies I attempted were no-bake cookies, which turned out fabulous (one of the two types I made anyway).

My favorite presents were: clothing (which I don't treat myself to very often), a beaded necklace my mom made, and a music gift certificate from Tim. The gift I dread the most but that is the best for me is an exercise mat and weights. Believe it or not, I asked for it. You get what you ask for, as they say. To my own surprise, I actually used both today. Now if I can only keep up the good work...

Tim's favorite present was probably the GPS navigation screen the family got for the car from my dad. Tim loves the robot's female voice with a sensual and sofisticated British accent. He says the present is better than a therapist for our relationship. He is right since our most heated bickering usually takes place while trying to navigate in the car. Like my dad says, the worst thing is two drivers in one car.

Though Jonah was sick with the flu, he actually perked up in the evening. Well, who wouldn't with so much magic in the air and so many presents under the tree? Jonah's two favorite presents were a cash register with a shopping basket and cans, but the number one prize goes to a tool bench with a whole set of tools, nuts, and bolts, and the like. See for yourselves:

Monday, December 22, 2008

two days in the mountains

We spent the weekend in a winter wonderland in the mountains of northern Czech Republic where my childhood friend goes with her family. When we showed up, there was hardly any snow on the ground, but luckily for us, it snowed all night Friday and half of Saturday. On Sunday, the snow began to melt and after we left, the rain washed the rest of the snow away. So, we were very lucky to sled, hike and frolic in this:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

happy bolidays

first holiday special

Well, well, well. We just had another first. This time a first performance. Earlier this week, Jonah's school held a holiday party, complete with the traditional feature of a besídka, or Christmas performance, for the parents. As a kindergartener I too entertained my parents like a trained little monkey. Fortunately, Jonah's school didn't take the occasion too seriously and it turned out casual, albeit a bit chaotic at times.

The kids demonstrated some of their daily yoga routines and sang a few folk songs. The children who stay in the program all day (not Jonah, who leaves after lunch) also performed a Christmas play.

Surprisingly, Jonah was shy and wouldn't sing along with the kids. Following another mother's lead, I went up "on stage" and put Jonah in my lap. Once I did that, he joined in, which he normally does enthusiastically. In the four months that we have been here, Jonah has learned at least a dozen Czech folk songs, and he has been speaking more and more Czech, which he seems to enjoy.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

something in my throat

I was starting to feel like I was coming down with something. My throat was hurting. But I decided to go to my grammar school class reunion anyway. I only got to see those guys once before (which was last year) since finishing school with them twenty-one years ago. This time, we got together in a square, all done up for Christmas, lit up with little lights, bustling with an arts and crafts market and a couple of hundred of people in small groups, all bundled up in the near-freezing weather.

First things first. We ordered some hot drinks from one of the stands: mulled wine for some and not punch for others. We gossiped and laughed, while gathering in numbers. Next we stumbled to a nondescript pub with food that one of my classmates called cafeteria-like, which he said he had guessed just by reading the menu. Of course, the pub was already filled to the brim with smoke, which only got worse when others in our party lit up cigarettes. Mind you, smoky restaurants are just about the norm here. I have only found one non-smoking place in Prague, but about that later.

Well, three hours into the night, my throat was so sore that I decided to call it quits. I gathered everyone up for a group shot and plunged into the night to descend the escalators down into the tube that leads home.

By morning, my voice was completely gone. An anomaly for me. I had to cancel my English classes. The next day, my condition continued. I was hoping the laryngitis wasn't permanent, like Tim with a not-so-faint glimmer in his eye fleetingly remarked it could have been. Everyone was high-fiving my husband: "It must be so nice to have a silent wife!" Meanwhile, I was giving those very same people the finger in the pocket.

Now, three days later my voice is back. There, albeit raspy. So, we decided to take me to town for an outing -- since I was back to presentable -- to the only non-smoking restaurant we know.

The place would be great if the food was better. They have a large children's corner with toys that keep Jonah busy so Tim and I can actually talk grown-up style. Once, Tim found something suspect in his tomato soup. It turned out to be a rather large cluster of wood splinters, possibly chipped off a wooden spoon. We took a break from that place, but decided it was worth another try, which it was. But today was another story.

When I finished my soup, lo and behold, I had a funny feeling in my throat. Like something was stuck in the back of my mouth. I drank some water. I coughed. I went to the bathroom to gargle. Nothing. Finally, I looked inside my mouth. You wouldn't believe what I saw: a long splinter-like thing, lodged into my left tonsil like a cupid's arrow. What???

I tried to get at it with my finger, which only made me gag. Then I tried swishing more water around in my mouth to no avail. I panicked and got the whole family to follow me into the women's bathroom to answer this: "Do you see what I see?" Tim didn't seem too phased. He tried his luck with his finger. Much a do about nothing.

I even went as far as briskly walking up to the waiters, who all seemed to be on some sort of a permanent break behind the bar, grooving to the music and flipping through fashion magazines, hoping they'd have the magical tool I needed. I asked for tweezers, but only got blank stares as I obviously interrupted the staff cocktail party dangerously close to the cash register.

We had to hustle home, food in boxes. Though Jonah was concerned, he did look forward to the home surgery. At first, he was going to take the matter -- or should I say tweezers -- into his own hands, but I told him an adult would be much better suited for that task, assuring him that I felt no pain, but that the mouth and tonsils are delicate and one has to be precise. Daddy would do the job while Jonah shone his bright, cat-shaped flashlight from uncle and aunt in my mouth.

Daddy, who as a teen wanted to be a nurse, washed his hands like a doctor would, soaping them up diligently. He dislodged the sucker with one swift move of precision. Jonah got to shine into my mouth and to look at the intruder, which turned out to be nothing but a very long piece of some sort of a spice. Perhaps sage?

A friend of mine commented that all this throat business could mean something. She said: "Find a healer - and get some work done on your chakras!" Though this sounded a little odd at first, I did, just to see, look up the "throat chakra." And here is what I found: In ancient Indian medicine with a two-thousand year history of healing, Vishuddha, the Throat Chakra, governs communication and growth through self-expression. Emotionally it governs independence, mentally it governs fluent thought, and spiritually, it governs a sense of security.

It just so happens that all these issues are very pertinent in my life right now. Now I'll have to meditate on this deeper meaning. And all it started with was just a little something in my throat.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

a blast from the past

Do you remember the stories I shared with you about our last Portland landlord, the asexual, caulk-obsessed robot? Well, I realized I had taken a photo of one of his notes to us to prove that the issue of "hard" vs. "soft caulk" really did play a central role in his relationship to us, possibly his life. See for yourselves:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

the three of us

at a tram stop

Saturday, December 06, 2008

the devil was here

Mikuláš (St. Nicholas), anděl (angel) and čert (devil) showed up, ready to give the good children fruit and candy and the bad ones coal & potatoes, with the worst kids threatened with being taken to hell, a Czech tradition every 5th of December.

Jonah sure as hell didn't like the devil. He brought a whole bag full of weapons (spoons) just in case he had to ward off the evil. Before the event, he also spent some time practicing his "show" tune (one of the myriad of folk songs or poems each child is obligated to perform for Mikuláš), creating a contingency plan and psyching himself up: "I'll go to his (the devil's) house and I'll make farts, put in my pocket and throw at him."

I say: smart guys plan ahead for whatever situation could arise.

He sat on Mikuláš's lap to sing a song and say he's been a good boy all year. Jonah was brave and for that he was rewarded with a bag of goodies. It was almost like Christmas.

Jonah even recalled last year's Mikuláš event when I showed him this picture I took there. He said: "Mommy, did we buy pickles there?" Which we did. They were homemade by the devil himself, I swear.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

emotional IQ

Something that I'm proud of as a mother is that I've been encouraging Jonah in his natural sensitivity to emotions and that I've been raising him to show and talk about emotions openly. He is very loving and affectionate and able to describe and debrief on how or others are feeling -- quite an accomplishment at his young age, I think, though I don't have much comparison with other kids his age right now.

Jonah is very loving and affectionate with family members and he expresses himself clearly concerning matters of the heart.

Today I became frustrated with how often he changed his mind about which way he wanted to take home from school. When I raised my voice, he quickly tried to calm me: "Mom, don't act all crazy. Let me hug you and kiss you to make you feel better." Talk about diffusing tension instantly!

On a slightly different topic, I've read that at this age, pre-schoolers start experimenting with white lies. Today I witnessed just that. I was asking Jonah about his friends at school. He said he mostly likes to play alone (common for three-year-olds). But then, out of the blue he said: "I sometimes throw dirt behind boys' shirts." He looked at me for a reaction. When he saw my disapproving face, he changed his tune: "I was just making a joke." I then tried to engage him in talking about it, but he insisted it was really "nothing." Tricky, tricky guy.

he remembers

The other day, Jonah looked at the chandelier in our apartment. About the only consoling thing about this hideous brass ceiling fixture is that sometimes its shapes ignite Jonah's imagination.

Looking at the light, Jonah mentioned that it reminded him of people riding horses. He said: "There is a horse for mommy there, one for daddy, one for Jonah and one for mommy's baby."

I was touched that he included Amalia in the world he was imagining.

Yesterday on our way home from pre-school, we were talking about kids growing bigger. Jonah was excited about the idea of becoming a man some day. He asked me if "the baby" was going to grow bigger too, so we talked about Amalia again. My simple, yet truthful answer seemed to satisfy his curiosity.

What a sensitive little boy.

sister was here

My sister was here. What can I say? I love that girl. And so do Jonah and Tim.