Saturday, December 10, 2011

Foot-in-Mouth disease

Jakub: "Daddy, you have a big tummy."
Pavel, jokingly: "No, I have a small tummy.  Mommy has a big tummy." [Waits a beat, then]: "No, no, no, no.  Mommy doesn't have a big tummy, she never has a big tummy.  Never say that."

I have to say, he's getting quicker. This time, it only took him a couple of seconds to realize his folly.  A few years ago, I would have had to point it out to him.  At this rate, he may actually learn to think BEFORE he speaks by the time we're 90.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Easy Halloween "stained glass window" craft for kids

I know, it's a shocker, I'm actually posting a crafting entry.  And this time it's not a joke entry, like my last one.  I am hopelessly inept at anything I embark upon, so the fact that I am able to do this means it truly is easy.  We've done this multiple times for multiple holidays, simply switch out the tissue paper color and you're set.

Orange and white colored tissue paper
Black and green construction paper
Clear contact paper

I was too lazy to actually document the steps, but you'll figure it out.  Just cut out the contact paper in the shape of your choice (we did ghosts and pumpkins), and put it sticky-side up on the table. Then place the eyes and mouth (cut from the black construction paper), pumpkin stem (if you're doing the pumpkins) and then lay down the tissue paper.  It's okay if it overlaps or hangs over the edges.  When you've covered your creation to your satisfaction, simply lay another piece of contact paper over it and cut out your shape.  Here are ours:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Back seat translator

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about walking the fine line of languages.  More specifically, how to best support my boys' learning of both English and Czech.  It seems like it's an endless pendulum swing.  When I notice one language being dominant, I try to speak more of the other, and then find myself reversing the process.  Lately, Jakub has been choosing to express himself more and more in English, so occasionally I will encourage him to translate things into Czech.  For example, today were discussing the horse lubber grasshopper we caught yesterday.  Jakub was very excited about it and was able to take it to school with him and share it with his class, and after school we released it back into the desert.  Since the conversation was mainly in English I decided to encourage him to express himself in Czech.

Me: "Jakub, how do you say 'grasshopper' in Czech?"
Jakub: "I don't know."
[I know from personal experience that when you learn two languages seperately, sometimes it helps to think in the language first before you try to translate a word or phrase, so I asked the same question in Czech]
Me: "Jak se říká "grasshopper" česky?"
Matěj: "Kobika!"

Now, it just so happens that "grasshopper" in Czech is "kobilka," however, much of what Matěj says these days sounds alike, like "hasiči" (firefighters) and "čepici" (hat), and, a more recent and illuminating realization "hrát" (to play) and "had" (snake--I was wondering why he claimed he saw snakes everywhere).  Most of the time, the only way I can figure out what he's saying is by the context, which leaves me wondering if, the the conversation above, he knew a) how to say grasshopper in Czech, and b) what I meant by asking how to say it in Czech.  But for now, I am just going to pretend my child is a genius, until proven otherwise. ;)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Doomed from the start

I hate baking.  No, hate is not an overly strong word.  You would too, if you had my experience.  I have two essential factors working against me.  One: I possess a strong non-talent for baking.  Or let's say anti-talent, since non-talent would simply imply neutrality, when what I really mean to express is the negative quality of my non-talent.  Part of it is my own fault, since I often don't have all or the exact ingredients a recipe calls for, but stupidly decide to forge ahead anyway.  However, the other part of my anti-talent is an aura that surrounds my person that mysteriously alters the outcome of any recipe I attempt, even if I follow it to the letter.

The second essential factor working against me is the vortex of doom in which my oven exists (I suspect a similar phenomenon at work with my microwave, but we can discuss that later).  I swear, no matter what temperature I set the damn thing at, it takes me at least 50% longer to bake absolutely anything.  I'm pretty sure that, despite the many numeric values on the dial, it only has two temperature settings: "mildly warm" and "the pits of hell."  I even bought an oven thermometer to verify this fact, but because I was too cheap to shell out $20 or more for a fancy one, I picked one up at my local grocery store for about $5, which crusted over and turned black after one use, rendering it unreadable.  Perhaps therein lies my problem: I am unwilling to buy quality materials for the endeavor, so I may be doomed from the start.  But, honestly, with my track record, can you blame me?  I'd much rather spend less money on my failures than waste good money on a lost cause.

So why do I keep trying?  That is a very good question.  After each spectacular failure, I vow to never bake again.  Until I find yet another delicious recipe online that claims to be idiot-proof.  Let's examine today's recipe Crusty Baguettes Made in 30 Minutes.  Yummy home made french bread in half an hour (perfect of a weekday dinner!), and only four ingredients.  It sounded absolutely perfect to me.  I may have even done a secret inner dance of joy.  Even a moron could get this one right!

I suppose my internal alarm should have gone off when I saw that the list of ingredients called for 3-4 cups of flour.  It seems to me that whoever wrote this recipe could have paid a little more attention to what goes in the darn thing, right?  OK, so a more likely scenario is that the recipe assumes you are not a total dimwit, as an experienced baker would know when they have achieve the desired consistency of dough.  Now, technically, I am an experienced baker, because I have baked many things, many times, but that doesn't mean I did them well, which, it turns out, is a bit of a snag.  But I decided to venture forth anyway.  Since the dough seemed too sticky after three cups of flour, I went ahead and dumped the last cup (in half-cup increments, as the recipe specified) into my Kitchen Aid mixer and hoped for the best.

The dough looked absolutely beautiful, awakening a flutter of hope in my breast.  At this point I should also mention that I was under added pressure because the boys were starting to get restless, asking for dinner in three-minute intervals, so there was a bit of a time crunch as well, but I thought, what the hell, it's only going to bake for 15 minutes, 18 tops, and we'll be fine.  So, like the recipe said, I put the bread in the oven, threw the ice in the bottom of the oven and shut the door satisfactorily, vowing not to open it until the 15 minutes was up, as specified.  And, 15 minutes later, I open the oven and voilà!  The bread looked exactly like it did when I put it in.  A few colorful phrases ran through my mind as I turned the oven dial up another 25 degrees and set the timer for an additional five minutes.  Five minutes later, I check on the bread, and in some places it had started to turn a vague beige-y color.  So at this point, for fear of being eaten alive by my offspring in lieu of their evening meal, I turn the damn thing to "broil" hoping that the result might be at least tolerably edible.  Well, guess what?  It turned out great!  Great, that is, if your house was being attacked by vicious marauders and you needed to club someone to death.  The loaves had the general consistency of a brick.  For a brief moment I thought about clubbing my computer into teeny, tiny micro components, but my forward motion was halted by my toddler attempting to scale my person out of sheer hunger.  In all fairness, however, it tasted OK, so rather than seeing this as a complete loss, I'm just going to pretend and say I was baking pretzels.  My carb-loading children scarfed it down, anyway.

So, let this be a message to all of you out there, writing "easy" recipes all willy-nilly.  If you really want to see if it's idiot-proof, send it to me.  I'll gladly show you a whole new way to ruin it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I still love you....

The other day, after a particularly challenging morning parenting-wise (read: my children were creating new and fantastic ways of trying to either give me a massive coronary attack or drive me completely insane), I realized that I had been doing a lot of disciplining and admonishing as of late--for good reason--and decided to take a step back to gain some perspective.  Sometimes it's hard, when it's been months (or in my case, years) since your last good sleep, and you're stuck in the day-to-day drudgery, to remind yourself of all the positive and wonderful things that also accompany parenting.   So when Jakub woke from his afternoon nap, I decided to have some "time in" with him (as Dr. Harvey Karp would call it), and we snuggled in bed together to talk about happy things.  Long ago, I invented a game we play when I tell him how much I love him, it usually goes like this:

Me: "Hey, Jakub, do you want to know something?"
Jakub: "Yes."
Me: "I love you so much."

Now, he knows exactly what I'm going to say every time, but I take it as a sign of contentment that he decides to play along.  But on this particular day I decided to vary the game.

Me: "Do you want to know something?"
Jakub, already smiling: "Yes."
Me: "I love you so very much.  And do you want to know something else?"
Jakub: "Yes."
Me: "No matter what you do, no matter how frustrated I get when you do something you're not supposed to, I still love you."

When I said this, his eyes lit up, his smile radiating even brighter, and it occurred to me that perhaps he thought that whenever I was angry with something he said or did, that I didn't love him at that point in time, and this made my heart ache; just the notion that he might think I don't love him more than I can ever say made me sad.  Upon reflection, I guess I can see where he might get such an idea, since, from what he tells me about his school day, if one child doesn't want to play with another on a particular day, they "are not their friend," but the very next day they may be best friends again.  Perhaps that idea of permanence of affection hasn't quite dawned on them yet.  So I was glad to set the record straight....for a while, anyway....because a few days later, after three time-outs, several toy confiscations and a possible threat to never go to the park again, Jakub turned to me and pronounced happily, "Mommy, it's OK if I misbehave.  I still love you."  And I still love you.  *sigh*  And will forever and ever, until my very last breath.....but I'm not telling him that quite yet...... ;)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dream job

We all know that children sometimes say the darndest (and oddest) things, and often when I hear Jakub's proclamations, I wonder how much of these things he says at school, and whether or not I will be receiving a call from CPS.  Well, today was another entertaining ride home from school.  As always, I was trying to engage Jakub in conversation about his day--which unfortunately is usually met with either surly grunts or vehement assertions that they did absolutely nothing all day--but today he was unusually talkative.  Somehow, we got onto the subject of when he grows up:

Me: "Jakub, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
Jakub, enthusiastically: "I'm going to drink beer!"
Me, trying to hold back my laugh: "But what are you going to do for work?"
Jakub: "I'm going to go to work."
Me: "But what are you going to do at work?"
Jakub: "I'm going to make money."

OK, sounds like a plan.  Drink beer and make money.  If he ever finds a way to make that work, we'll be in for quite a windfall.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I know, it's been a while since the last post, and I've been feeling the pressure.  I've had one topic in mind, but frankly, it would take too much brainpower, and I don't have any to spare at the moment, so I will just relay Jakub's discovery today.

Jakub excitedly, examining his nipples in the mirror: "Mommy!  I have milk!"
Me: "No, honey, you don't have milk."
Jakub: "But I have nipples like you."
Me: "Well, yes, you do, but boys and daddies don't make milk, only mommies make milk."
Jakub, insistent: "But I will grow and mine will be as big as yours and then I'll have milk!"
Me, throwing in the towel: "Well, we'll see when you're bigger..."

And yes, this is being filed carefully away in the "Blackmail for Disobedient Teenagers" folder.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hungry herbivore

Everyone knows that children have very fertile imaginations.  One minute Jakub is blasting off in a rocket ship and the next he's a firefighter off to the rescue.  Lately, his characters of choice have been dinosaurs, and he begs me daily to play his favorite dinosaur song.  This evening, when the boys were playing in the back yard and Jakub proclaimed "Mommy, I'm going to eat leaves," you'll perhaps forgive me for absentmindedly answering "Uh-huh, that's really interesting, honey."  He had a mulberry leaf halfway to his mouth before I realized he wasn't just playing make-believe and I was forced to spring my weary bones into action.  Now, I'm pretty sure mulberry leaves aren't poisonous, but we do have two large oleander bushes in our yard--which are extremely poisonous--and I didn't want him to get in the habit of plucking leaves off of random plants and eating them.  So, Jakub got a very serious lecture on how we can't just eat anything we come across, that some things will make us very, very sick and that the only leaves he's allowed to eat are the ones in our refrigerator.  I realize that the last statement might lead to some complicated explanations later, but decided to cross that bridge when we come to it.  Fortunately, Jakub seemed to sense the urgency of my message, and when I asked if he understood what I was saying, he nodded gravely and said, "Yes, mommy," but as he was walking away, he added, "I'm just going to eat grass now."  *sigh*  Parenting would be a lot easier if I had an advanced law degree.  If your argument has too many loopholes, you're going to run into trouble.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Super Simple Dried Apple Bits

This is a super easy recipe that's great to do with your kids.

*Note: this recipe works best if you live in a hot, arid climate.  Or hell.*


1 small apple (I used Gala)


1) Chop apple into small, bite-sized pieces

2) Place into a small container (a snack cup works best)

3) Give container, opened, to your young child as you strap them into their car seat for morning errands

4) Watch in your rear view mirror as your child eats one apple bit and then joyfully flings the remainder of the container about the car in various directions

5) Pull any errant pieces from your hair and/or from behind the collar of your shirt

6) Go about your day as usual, since you don't have the time to clean out your car at this moment

7) At 9:00 p.m., when your kids are finally asleep, go into your car and scavenge for dried apple bits.  For best results, make sure your hair is properly disheveled and you have several mysterious stains on your clothing that probably won't come out.

8) Brush off any Cheerio crumbs/dog hair/dirt/lint

9) Enjoy.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Oh, the things you hear....

...when you eavesdrop on your child:

Jakub, to himself: "And this goes in the butt...And this goes in the butt...And THIS goes in the butt...Hmm, this isn't fitting in the butt..."

Perhaps Playskool should reconsider the placement of the storage compartment on Mr. Potato Head...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Why I should be employed by the CIA

I'm thinking of joining the CIA.  No, not as a spy--let's face it, the mere sight of a gun would probably make me wet myself--but as a CIA operative trainer.  I believe that I, like most mothers out there, am uniquely qualified for this job (yes, I realize that by saying "most mothers out there" I've negated the whole "unique" thing, but I just like saying "uniquely qualified," it's fun).  The following is a list of my qualifications:

1) Lightning-quick reflexes - honed mostly by snatching various objects and children in mid-flight.

2) Record sprint times - I believe I may have broken the sound barrier last year, when I heard a small, excited voice emanating from Jakub's room, "Hey, green poo."  (On this particular occasion, "poo" turned out to mean "Pooh" in the form of Whinnie the Pooh on a green toothbrush, but you can never be too sure with these things...)

3) Diplomatic negotiation - hey, you try convincing a headstrong toddler (or two) to hand over desirable forbidden objects such as fragile wine glasses or razor-sharp steak knives stolen from the dishwasher.

4) Savage defensive/offensive maneuvers - I call the "momma bear mode."  I actually have retractable claws that spring from my knuckles when my children are in danger.  I'm kind of a female Wolverine, only ever so slightly less hairy.

5) Multilingual skills - in addition to Czech and English, I also apparently speak Swahili and Gibberish.

6) Advanced cryptology - to you, it's a nondescript scribble.  To me, it's an airplane with a monkey wearing a sweater.

and, last, but certainly not least:

7) Ever prepared for any situation - What? You need a tissue? A wipe? Disinfectant? A stick of gum? Food to tide you over until the next meal?  A flashlight?  A toy airplane/car/tractor/construction vehicle?  A first aid kit? A left-handed fingerless glove?  Yup, all in my purse, plus much, much more.

So, if you see me acting secretive in the not-too-distant future, you may well know the reason why.  I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.

Trouble in the Einstein household?

Jakub's imagination is very fertile.  He enjoys pretend play, which always involves animated conversations with his imaginary friends.  Today's playmates were the characters of Disney's Little Einsteins: brother and sister Leo and Annie, and their friends Quincy and June.

Jakub, as Annie: "Leo, you're my brother."
Jakub, as Leo, doubtful: "Are you sure, Annie?"

It appears Leo is having doubts about Annie's paternity.  Maybe he came across a romantic phone message from a mysterious man on his mother's voicemail.  Or perhaps he has become suspicious of the fact that while he has clearly superior musical skills as a conductor, Annie's musical abilities are mediocre at best, with her often out-of-tune singing and questionable vocal qualities.  Who knows, but Mrs. Einstein might want to seek out a good divorce attorney...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Smell me

If you didn't already know from previous posts, you most likely know from personal experience that my wonderful husband is occasionally, shall we say, challenged in the communication department, and often only an individual blessed with a strong aura of extra sensory perception is able to detect the actual subject of his message.  His deficit has improved marginally over the years, but every once in a while, he comes up with some gems, like the one he relayed to me this weekend:

Pavel enjoys a particular Ethiopian restaurant near his office, though often no one wants to accompany him because of the fact that eating there results in the diner wearing what they eat.  Not literally (unless, like me, you happen to fall into the category of those with coordination issues), but your clothes soak up the aroma of the spices in the food they serve, which are delightful if you're eating, not so much if you're in a meeting trying to focus on the recent budgetary crisis.  However, last week Pavel finally had the chance to eat there again, fully knowing the effects the food will have on his wardrobe.  Upon returning to his office, he decided to test his theory on his employees at the front desk (who shall remain anonymous, for the sake of preserving their dignity):

Pavel: "Smell me and tell me what I ate."
Employee, with an aghast look on her face: "What?"
Pavel: "C'mon, smell my sleeve."
Employee, embarrassed: "Oh, I thought you farted and wanted me to smell it!"
[After this response, Pavel decided not to press the issue...]

Seriously, though, what would you do if your boss came up to you and said "Smell me and tell me what I ate?"  Well, now you have to opportunity to envision what it might be like to work with my husband, and maybe you may even have a small glimpse into the life of someone living with a communicationally-challenged individual.  I wonder if there is a support group...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Double take

I realize this blog entry is more for me than for anyone else, but I figured since blogs are just glorified diaries with an audience,however meagre (in my case), I'd allow myself this opportunity to vent--not that it'd be the first time, anyway.

This story involves laundry and my love/hate relationship with it.  Wait, did I say love/hate?  I meant hate/hate.  Like pretty much anything house- and parenting- related, laundry never stays done.  No matter how many loads of laundry you do, there is always clothing or linens that are in the process of becoming dirty.  And don't even get me started on children's clothes.  Not only do stains mysteriously appear seconds after I've just clothed one of my sons, but one load of children's laundry includes three times the amount of clothing of a load of other laundry, and I do at least three times as many loads of children's laundry.  So...does anyone have a calculator?...well, let's just say that equals a lot of laundry. 

Sometimes, in order to maximize the amount of laundry going in the wash, I will strip myself and anyone unfortunate enough to be in my direct vicinty down to the essentials and throw it all in, simply for the satisfaction that, for a brief flash of time, all of the laundry in the house will be clean.  For this reason, I take satisfaction in putting away clothes that my children have outgrown simply because it won't be getting dirty again (for the sake of today's argument, let's ignore the equally strong feelings of nostalgia and sadness that also accompany this task as I realize how quickly my boys are growing up). 

I have been collecting this outgrown clothing in bins in the boys' closets because Jakub's will be inherited by his brother, and Matěj's will, in turn, go to his cousin.  However, some of my bins have remained at my parents' house (who have dragged boys' clothing across two continents for four years now, some items more than once), and I had been accumulating Matěj's old clothing in a neat, though precariously leaning tower on the floor of his closet.  Well, I've been trying to keep if neat, because for some inexpicable reason, Jakub has decided to create a game called "How Many Times Can I Knock Over/Strew the Clothing All Over the Floor Before Mommy Has a Massive Stroke?"  I've only actually caught him in there once, but every few days I will open the closet doors to see that the clothing bandit has struck again.  So, I was grateful when my mom brought over a 40-gallon bin into which I could finally tuck the clothing away and be done with this whole rigmarole.  I spent a good thirty minutes carefully folding all of the little items of clothing, exhaling wistfully every now and again, for good measure, and heaved a huge sigh of relief when I snapped the lid shut.

 So you can imagine my confusion when I opened the closet door today to see this:

Such is the state of my mind these days that it took me a few seconds to register what I was seeing.  Worried I was going mad, I checked the bin:

Now, I know there was only one culprit that could have been capable of this enterprise and let me just say that Jakub was saved by two things: 1) he wasn't home at the moment of my discovery, and 2) the mental picture of him taking the clothes out of the bin and carefully placing them back into the closet was only slightly more endearing than it was infuriating.  But, seriously, I really wish I had been there to witness the execution of this task and to ask out why, on this green earth, he did it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The giant hamster wheel of life

Epiphanies can come at any moment.  Mine came today on a trip to buy dog food at Petsmart.  As usual, it took me twenty minutes to do what most people do in twenty seconds.  My problem is that I want a quality product but am too cheap to spend $20 on four pounds of dog food, so I end up waffling back and forth, putting bags of dog food in my cart only to put it back three minutes later and grab another one.  Not that this is even remotely interesting.  It was even less interesting to Matěj's 18 month-old attention span, which he made clear with increasingly louder protests.  As I usually do, I took him over to the bird/small rodent section for some entertainment.  Normally the rodents are so fast asleep that I worry if they are alive at all, but today there were several using the hamster wheel in the mouse cage.  Well, specifically, two mice were using the hamster wheel in its proper manner while another clung on for dear life as it was being spun around and around at breakneck speed.  The problem this mouse faced was that there was no other option but to dig its tiny little claws in and hope for the best.  No option for exit, lest it be hurled unceremoniously into the air, no time for philosophizing on the meaning of life, only time to concentrate on hanging on for dear life.  And that's when it hit me.  That is me.  I am that mouse, gripping the spokes of the giant hamster wheel of life, being propelled by forces beyond my control (my children).  Each day a lesson in survival, no time for pontificating (not that anyone within earshot would care), being flung through life on sheer perpetual motion.  Life with kids never stops.  Your job is never done.  You move from one challenge to the next; there are no vacations, weekends, holidays from parenting.  It is a constant state of vigilance, worrying, and yes, a lot of the time, stress.  But, then I thought to myself, carnival rides aren't so different from that hamster wheel.  Being spun around can also be fun, if you allow yourself to release and enjoy the ride.  Yes, your job as a parent is never done, but this also means you're constantly growing, constantly evolving, constantly working on becoming a better person, even if sometimes you fall short.  Yes, you do move from one challenge to the next, but you also move from one joy to the next.  Your every vacation, weekend, holiday enhanced by seeing life's joys as if for the first time again, through your child's eyes.  As for the constant state of vigilance, worrying and stress, well, that's par for the course.  When you love someone as much as you love a child, you should expect nothing less, but it makes those moments of joys all the more sweet. 

Now, if someone could please remind me of this noble, enlightened state of mind tomorrow when I'm cleaning food dumped all over the floor for the umpteenth time while watching my other child draw on the tile with permanent marker....

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


No matter what anyone tells you, parenting is all about trial-and-error.  You can read all the books you want, ask doctors and friends all the questions you want, and even have past experience with children, but, when all is said and done, nothing is ever surefire when kids are involved.  We're all just making it up as we go.  Winging it.  Improvising.  Flying by the seat of our pants.  Anyone who says differently is either lying or in denial. 

Well, maybe not completely.  We all start out with ideals: things we want and things we don't want for our children.  Some of us *ahem* maybe created a wonderful utopia in our heads in which we envision our extremely well-behaved pre-school children sitting quietly at their miniature table, perhaps wearing a button-down shirt with a sweater vest and some penny loafers, writing profound works of literature or scribbling away at an extremely important, as-yet unsolved math theorem, or, dare I say, composing a breathtaking opera for their mommy to sing.....?  In reality, however--and I do mean this quite literally, since I'm actually watching one of my offspring do this very thing--they are sitting at this exact same miniature table, having just appeared from a seemingly clandestine meal of dried play-doh from underneath said table, attempting to draw on themselves with three different highlighters simultaneously.  The fact is, you cannot control how your child acts or reacts to any situation, nor can you determine their personality beforehand.  They will simply be who they are, and the only thing you can do is gently direct them in a preferred direction, not dissimilar from navigating a small rowboat in a wild, untamed river with a single paddle as your only tool. 

One thing you do have control of, however, is how YOU react to the challenges you face daily as a parent.  You draw from your own childhood experiences as well as from friends and family around you.  One rule I have devised as a result is that I try never to lie to my children.  Sometimes it may seem easier to tell a little white lie to your child to avoid a sticky situation (and I am not denying the fact that sometimes this may be necessary) but my experience with a rather unfortunate childhood haircut has lead me to try to be as truthful as I can with my boys. 

This applies to difficult subjects as well.  One such subject has arisen a few times with the death of fish from our aquarium.  One day, when Jakub was about three years old, noticed that one of our fish had, um, shall we say, "passed its expiration date," and said, "Look mommy, the fish is sleeping on its back."  In my blundering naivete, I thought I would make this a learning opportunity about the cycle of life and death and proceeded to tell him that it wasn't sleeping, but, in fact, dead.  I explained that it wasn't going to get any better, and that we need to remove it from the aquarium.  We made a big ceremony about taking it into the bathroom and flushing down the toilet, waving bye-bye, saying a few good words about the fish, and all the rest.  Jakub didn't seem to care one way or another about the experience, which was a shame because I had all sorts of insightful answers for any questions he might have about the subject, so I thought nothing more about it. 

Soon, however, I noticed he was having potty accidents, and would only use his stand-alone potty, which I hated because what goes in must come out, and I'm a little freaky about germs.  When I asked him why, he said it was because he was afraid of the fish.  For about a week I became increasingly more exasperated until I finally made the connection to the dead fish we flushed the previous week.  Thankfully, he was perfectly happy to use the toilet again, once I explained that when you flush the toilet, whatever is in there goes away forever (an important lesson, since it applies not only to things that normally go in the toilet as well as dead fish, but also to various things you might not want to flush down the toilet, such as, say, various cosmetics, for example).  However, it is quite obvious that my wonderfully devised teaching moment, as well as the poignant ceremony, was unequivocally a bust.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Night visitor

I don't know if all moms respond this way, or just the high-strung ones like me, but the slightest child-related rustle over the monitor or otherwise during the night acts like an electric jolt to my system that instantaneously peels my eyes open.  My brain usually lags several seconds behind, which often results in a bizarre half awake/half asleep state, kind of like a digital photo slide show in which one picture fades into the next, except in this instance, it's my dreams fading into reality, which is often more than a little confusing for my sluggish grey matter.  Nowadays, these lurches into reality are a result of Matěj's frequent night wakings, but last night, I heard a rustle and a whispered "Mommy?"  I bolted upright in bed, ready to spring into action when I saw Jakub's small silhuette in shadow at the entrance to our bedroom. 

Me: "What is it honey?"
Jakub: "Mommy, I want to sleep in your bed with you."

I hauled my tired bones out of bed and walked to Jakub, explaining to him that there wasn't enough room in our bed.  I know from experience that if I gave in even this one time, bedtime would become a battle of epic proportions (threatening to wake Matěj)  every day for several weeks to come.  I wanted nothing more than to cuddle with my little boy, but those of you who know me know that sleep has been a challenge in our house ever since Jakub was born almost four years ago, and it has become a bit of a pet obsession of mine.  The fact is that nobody would have gotten any sleep, what with Lumberjack Joe sawing logs all night on one end of the bed, and with Matěj's baby monitor broadcasting his screams into the night on the other.  But when I got to Jakub, I noticed that he was clutching his favorite Krtek pillow from aunt Lída, ready to snuggle with mommy and daddy in bed.  Reluctantly, I lead a disappointed, protesting Jakub back to bed, tucked him in with his tykelight and twilight turtle (as you can see, we've invested a desperate amount of money into gadgets in the hope that our children might sleep better), and promised him that for his nap the next day he can sleep in my bed.  But sometimes it's the little things that get to you, and I kept replaying the image of his little form hugging his pillow at the foot of our bed, which made my heart ache, knowing that all too soon he will go from wanting to snuggle with mommy to wanting to be dropped off three blocks from school so his friends won't see him with his hopelessly uncool mom.  I lay awake last night, willing myself not to rush back to Jakub's room, scoop him up in my arms and bring him back to bed with me, just so we could share that intimate bond between mother and child a little while longer.  Maybe I'm being too uptight, or maybe it all seems selfish for me to guard my sleep so fiercely, but it really isn't. The more I sleep, the more I have to give to my children the next day. More energy, more enthusiasm, and, perhaps most important, more patience.  I have learned that I need to take care of myself so that I can take care of my children.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I am...

I am an entertainer
I am a chauffer
I am a cook
I am a consoler
I am a mess cleaner-upper
I am a tushie wiper
I am an encyclopedia
I am a boo-boo kisser
I am a middle-of-the night soother
I am a laundry service
I am a food source
I am a maid
I am an organizer
I am a detective ("Why is the floor blue?"  Followed by, "OK, why is there blue toothpaste on the floor?")
I am a planner
I am a railway engineer
I am a play fort architect
I am a sand landscape artist
I am a play-doh sculpture artist, available for commissions
I am a craft designer
I am a personal shopper
I am a silly song singer
I am a crazy dancer
I am a meanie (Sorry, you can't wear your shoes in the bath no matter how much you scream)
I am a softie
I am a referee
I am a mediator
I am a judge and jury
I am a cheerleader
I am a coach
I am a defender
I am mother, hear me roar

Sing a song

Jakub loves to sing to himself.  Most of the time, he makes up songs about random things like rain, shoes, grass, books, and pretty much anything that enters his consciousness.  These songs usually involve an aimless melody, wandering subject matter, and a disproportionate amount of falsetto singing.  He was singing one such song this morning when I remembered an incident from this past Christmas:

One of the houses in my parents' neighborhood went all out with their twinkle light decorations.  Every single inch of their roughly half-acre front yard was covered in tiny, glittering lights.  The crowning glory of the entire display was a giant, twelve-foot tall candle, complete with simulated flickering flame, on the roof of their house.  As you can imagine, this was a source of great fascination for my children, and whenever we had time, we deviated from our normal route home to gaze at the spectacle.  One night, Jakub decided to grace us with yet another song:

Jakub: "Giant candle....giant, giant candle........candle on the roof!"
Me: "That's so beautiful, Jakub.  Why don't you sing a song about mommy?"
Jakub: "No I'm done singing."
Me, with injured ego: "You don't want to sing a nice song about mommy?"
Jakub: "No."
Then, a few minutes later:
Jakub, singing: "Underwear, under, under, under, underwear....UNDERWEAR!!!" [finishing with great fanfare.]

Nice to know that in the giant totem pole of life, I occupy a lower position than smelly undergarments.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Zero to sixty in .002 seconds

I love my husband very much.  He is my childhood sweetheart, which means we've been together for more than half of our lives.  We have so many memories, good and bad, though the good have always outnumbered the bad, and I am lucky to have such a wonderful man in my life.  Occasionally, however, I feel the need to throttle him.  Take Saturday night, for instance.  We were both exhausted to the bone because Matěj had, for the previous week, decided to wake every day at 4:15 a.m.   On this fateful night, I was just drifting off into a fitful sleep after being awakened a mere half hour after my own bedtime by Matěj crying through the baby monitor, when Pavel pounds me in the back:

Pavel, frantic: "Oh my god, oh my god!!  He's not breathing!  Rusty's not breathing!!"
Me, in a confused terror, freaking out not only about our dog having died, but also about the fact that I have a deathly phobia of, well, dead things: "What?!!??!!"
Pavel, calmly: "Oh, never mind."  [Apparently, Rusty wasn't responding quickly enough to Pavel's prodding, but then sleepily raised his head in acknowledgement.]

Now, I don't know about you, but when my heart is forced to zoom from zero to sixty in .002 seconds, I am not able to instantly sink back into a peaceful slumber.  My mind had launched into a maddening buzz, full of dark thoughts while the rest of the house snored away quietly.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

X-ray vision

This may surprise you, but I have x-ray vision.  It may also surprise you that I have psychic powers.  It came as a surprise to Jakub this morning as well. 

Jakub had just walked into the room first thing in the morning:

Me: "Good morning, honey."
Jakub: "Ergh"
Me: "Are you wearing underwear?" (he has been refusing to wear underwear lately when he dresses himself in the morning)
Jakub, grabbing his backside with baffled expression: "But you can't see!"
Me: "Yes, I can.  You're not wearing underwear."
Jakub: "But today's Saturday, there's no school."
Me: "So if there's no school, you don't have to wear underwear?"
Jakub: "Yes."

Hey, at 5:30 a.m., that seemed like sound enough logic to me.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lost in translation #2

I am a whimp.  I am physically unable to pluck my own eyebrows without crying like my 16-month-old when he gets his vaccinations, therefore, I opt to get them waxed.  Probably less often than I should, a point that became very clear to me after looking at photos from my birthday this week of myself resembling someone from the Pleistocene era.  I end up going once every few months to the same place because a) it's cheap, b) she does a good job, and c) the lady is nice.   However, there are two reasons I always hesitate to go. The first is the fact that ripping hair by the roots hurts (and also kind of grosses me out).  The second is that the lady has a very thick accent, resulting in the fact that I understand probably only every third word shes speaks, thus making the rusty wheels in my brains creak into overdrive, leaving me exhausted after the ten seemingly endless minutes I spend with her.  Today, it became clear that there are other hurdles as well.  I'm ashamed to admit I don't know her name, but she never introduced herself and doesn't have a card, so I'll use that as my excuse, and, for the purposes of this blog, she will be known as "Eyebrow Wax Lady."

Eyebrow Wax Lady, in her barely understandable thick accent: "So you want jut eyebrow, or something else? Lip?"
Me, suddenly doubting myself: "Uh, how much is lip waxing?"
Eyebrow Wax Lady: "Five dollar.  Only three dollar for you."
Me: "OK, sure."
Eyebrow Wax Lady: "Good, your lip really hairy."

Things didn't get much better from that point on.  She started a monologue that, from what I could decipher, was a diatribe about all the chemicals China puts in everything.  I think she mentioned something about silicone eggs and injecting decaying chicken meat with something to make it look fresh.  Aside from the fact that I wasn't entirely certain that this was true, I would have been perfectly content to lay there and utter indistinct "uh-huhs," simply because I didn't want to reveal the fact that I had only a foggy idea of the topic of conversation by remarking something completely idiotic.  However, she apparently wanted my participation.

Eyebrow Wax Lady: "You know the omyics in China?"
Me: "The what?"
Eyebrow Wax Lady: "The omyics in China."
Me: "Excuse me?"
Eyebrow Wax Lady: "You know, the omyics in China few year ago."
Me, feeling too awkward to ask again: "No, I've never heard of it."
Eyebrow Wax Lady: "You know, the omyics where all people around world come to play sport."
Me, sheepish: "Oh, the Olympics, yes."

And then I think she said something about the Chinese government shooting chemicals into the air so that it wouldn't rain, but I can't be entirely certain.  I decided on a new tactic.  I decided to be proactive and start my own line of conversation.

Me: "Well, did you hear about the scandal with the baby formula in China?"
Eyebrow Wax Lady: "Oh, yes, it awful.  Eating babies very bad."

I thought perhaps I hadn't heard her correctly.

Eyebrow Wax Lady: "Yes, I eat lot of things, but eating human is bad."

At that point I decided to cut my losses and go back to noncommital "uh-huhs" and "ohs."  I wonder if tonight Eyebrow Wax Lady is writing a blog entry about a weird hairy girl who has never heard of the Olympics and thinks the Chinese are cannibals.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Things handed to me by my children...

  1. rock
  2. stick
  3. leaf
  4. flower
  5. uncapped marker, after having been applied to walls, floors, and/or self
  6. partially masticated food
  7. remote control, after programming the daily recording of the Mexican telenovela "Atrévete a Soñar" AND adjusting the color settings so that everything looks like a bad sci-fi movie about aliens
  8. pond scum
  9. the world's largest booger, acquired on a playground
  10. dried dog poop
  11. bug, alive
  12. bug, dead
  13. carving knife, stolen from dishwasher left inadvertently open
  14. super glue
  15. unpaid-for merchandise, after exiting the store
  16. already-chewed gum off the sidewalk
  17. a stranger's wallet
  18. cuticle scissors
  19. caustic cleaning supplies, after having circumvented the "baby-proof" latches
  20. art projects created from pages of my dissertation and/or unpaid bills
What I have learned:
From numbers 6, 9-12, and 16, I have learned not to blindly offer my hand after hearing "Here, mommy."
From numbers 5, 7, 13-14, and 18-19, I have learned to hone my quick reflexes.
From numbers 15 and 17, I have learned the art of apologizing profusely.
From numbers 1-5, and even 20, I have learned to cherish every token of love my boys give me.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Beauty Mark

The love a parent has for their child is immeasurable.  You may think you know love before you've had a child, and most of us do know true love before children, but there is something about being the protector of a fragile, vulnerable little being that makes your heart feel like it's not possible for you to love anything more.  When Jakub was born, my universe suddenly had a new center.  I just couldn't imagine anything more beautiful than him.  I know, mothers are programmed to feel that way, and it's a good thing, too, because along with all the beautiful things about being a mother and a parent, children will test you in ways you have never been tested before.  But no matter what kind of day I had or how frustrated I got with the challenges, if asked whether or not I would want my child to be different, I'd unequivocally say, "No."  Of course, when Jakub is sitting in time-out number five, laughing at me just to push my buttons, and it's only 9:00 a.m., I wish he would be a little more cooperative, but, when you get right down to the heart of things, I wouldn't want to change his spirit in any way.  In my eyes, he is simply perfect in his imperfection.  I absolutely love his Czech accent in English (and secretly never want it to fade).  I absolutely love that he still sometimes uses the feminine tense when referring to himself in Czech because that's what he hears from me.  I absolutely love that he is inquisitive, questioning, and imaginitive.  And to me, he was the most beautiful person on the planet. 

When I was pregnant with Matěj, I was worried about so many things.  I was worried that Jakub wouldn't love his brother.  I was worried that he would feel displaced by him.  Thankfully, these worries were baseless, because from the very first moment, Jakub adored his little brother.  This is not to say that they don't occasionally act like a pack of wild dogs fighting for alpha status--and let me add that Matěj can dish it out just as well as his big brother--but when push comes to shove, or should I say after push comes to shove and they make up, they do actually enjoy being together and are always happy to see one another. 

However, another thing I worried about even more than sibling rivalry was if there was enough room in my heart for another child.  It was already exploding with love for one child, and it seemed like it wasn't possible for me to love another as much as I loved our first.  I worried about this until November 8, 2009, 8:14 p.m., which is, not coincidentally, the moment Matěj was born.  You would think that an organ swelling to twice its original size would be painful, but in the case of the heart, it is euphoric.  I suddenly realized that my love for my children is truly infinite, and felt a little silly for worrying so much about it.  He was, just like his brother, perfect in every single way.  Another sun had entered my universe, and this one just as bright as the first. 

Then, a couple of weeks after he was born, we noticed a small red mark on his right cheek, directly under his eye.  For a while, we thought Jakub had accidentally poked him--he was always bringing him toys, many of which had various sharp protuberances--and because we were at that time also consumed with Matěj's emergency surgery to repair a double inguinal hernia, we didn't think much about it, until his two-month checkup, when the doctor told us it was a birthmark called a strawberry hemangioma.  At first, I thought it looked cute, like a little bird, which was fitting since I had been calling Matěj my "little quail" because he was born almost bald, except for a little tuft of hair resembling the topknot of the Gambel's Quail that roam our desert.  And then I started researching strawberry hemangiomas.  The doctor had warned us that it could get quite large, but I thought he must surely be exaggerating, until I googled the pictures.  Some of these birthmarks can grow so large, they cover most of the face and can even prove to be health risks if the growth threatens the eyes, nose, or mouth.  I won't post any of the pictures here, because it breaks my heart to see them.  It completely devastated me that this could be the fate of my little boy.  Not because I would love him any less, or that he would be any less beautiful to me, but because I know that the rest of the world is not so kind.  This point was driven home when my mother-in-law said to me, "He would be so cute except, well, you know, it's a shame about the birth mark...."  I cried for days, visions of those worst-case-scenario pictures I had found on the internet burning a hole through my brain, thinking about how cruel other children will be to him if his were to get so large.  The fact that most hemangiomas disappear by the time the child begins school was little comfort in light of the fact that if it were to grow unusually large, it would leave an area of saggy skin in its wake.

With Jakub, I enjoyed sending his picture in to photo contests for children's clothing lines, just for kicks, thinking if he actually won, it would be nice to show off how cute my child is to the rest of the world, and get free clothes to boot, but now, every time I saw notices on websites for children's photos, it just made me sad that no matter how beautiful I thought he was, Matěj would never win, because of the blazing red mark on his cheek.  Which is why one particular meeting of our book club will forever stand out in my mind.  I had taken Matěj as a baby along, simply because it was easier to have him with me if he should get hungry.  One of the members of the club is a really wonderful woman who is known to be very outspoken, "this-is-what-I-think-and-you-can-take-it-or-leave-it" personality type.  She always has interesting things to say, and is pretty funny too, but on this occasion, she almost made me cry.  As most people do with newborns, she was looking at Matěj and said, "Wow, he is so beautiful!" but it wasn't one of those generic "Oh, your baby is cute" statements.  She went on, "He's just has the most perfect features, so perfectly proportioned.  He's just so incredibly beautiful!"  At that moment I realized how much the birthmark was weighing on my mind, because I started to tear up (and later cried in my car), that someone else saw what I saw in my perfect little boy. 

It is almost sixteen months after the discovery of what I feared would become a major issue in Matěj's life, and I am happy to say that things couldn't have turned out better.  I am incredibly thankful that our doctor referred us to an excellent pediatric dermatologist, whose philosophy was to be proactive about the management of strawberry hemangiomas, so he prescribed a series of cortisone injection and laser treatments which essentially stopped the growth, and brought down the swelling of the area underneath completely.  When out an about, people still often ask, "Oh, no, what happened to him?" to which I politely reply that it's a birthmark, and I find that it doesn't bother me at all.  Occasionally, I'll also encounter someone who will relay a story about their child's (or their own, in one case) hemangioma, which I found especially encouraging at the beginning, when we weren't sure which way it was going to go.  Lately, I've noticed that the color has faded considerably as well, and now that it's clear that we are out of the woods, I find myself getting a little sentimental.  I have grown used to seeing the little bird like a rosy glow on his cheek when he smiles, and I know one day, when it's gone, I will miss it.  It is a part of him, a part of his charm, and part of what makes him so beautiful to me.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lost in Translation

From the back seat of the car:

Matěj: "Mabayamaba."
Jakub: "No, you can't go there, it's too far."
Matěj: "Babayamaba."
Jakub: "No, I said it's too far."
Matěj: "Nayayama."
Jakub: "We can fly there. You can go, and mommy can go, and daddy can go, and Jindříšek will be there and so will Aunt Katka."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Subtlty is in the eye of the beholder

My dear and wonderful husband has a lot great qualities.  He is smart, kind, friendly, has a great sense of humor, and likes to help others, to name a few.  However, sometimes he operates on a completely different wavelength than "normal" people.  Think radio, AM vs. FM.  He thinks he's being abundantly clear explaining some concept or antoher, but in reality leaves the other person completly mystified.  The problem mostly lies in the fact that his explanations will typically start on on step 6, rather than step 1 (or, in his mind, step -3,024) because he assumes everyone else knows what he knows.  The other part of the problem is that he has no patience for people who don't know what he knows, so he gives up and just finishes the task himself.

One memorable example of this occurred when he was trying to teach his parents how to use a computer several years ago.  I should have known this was a bad idea from the start because a) Pavel is a technophile and loves all things computer, and b) his parents were/are completely computer illiterate.  I can't remember all of the details, but I do remember walking by the room hearing something along the lines of "Click the red X, click the red X. No, the red X. CLICK THE RED X, DAMMIT!"  They emerged hours later looking like they all needed a stiff drink.

As Pavel's wife, I have learned to live with this aspect of his personality, having been forced to learn the art of mind-reading, and if the situation involves other people, know that I must sometimes translate for others, if necessary.  However, I can 't say I'm batting 1000 just yet.  Case-in-point: Valentine's Day 2011.  I should probably preface by saying that for years and years (and years and years) I'd been subjected to the "Valentine's Day is bullshit invented by flower/chocolate/lingerie/jewelery companies to rake in the dough" diatribe leading up to the holiday, and while I can't say V-Day was always a complete nonevent in our house, it usually manifested in Pavel buying a bouquet of flowers and/or making a nice dinner, but only grudgingly.  Nothing to sneeze at, I know, but combined with the fact that our children had not let us sleep more than six or so fractured hours a night for weeks straight, I wasn't expecting anything out of the ordinary this year.

The day began like any other, with a crying baby at 5:15 a.m. and a whiny preschooler shortly thereafter, but since I had been up multiple times that night with Matěj, Pavel let me sleep in.  We were all severely sleep deprived and every single one of us was grumpy, making for a slightly surly breakfast mood, ending the morning rituals with a fight with an increasingly independent 3.5 year old who insisted on wearing two different shoes to school that day.  I finally got into the shower at around 9:00 a.m., where I was surprised to see the letter "F" written in one of Jakub's bathtub markers on the shower tile.  In my exhausted delirium, I at first wondered how Jakub could reach so high, but then realized that he probably can't actually write the letter F, and even if he could, it wouldn't be that neat.  My second thought was if I was in the right house because I couldn't imagine what would possess Pavel to write an "F," or anything else, for that matter, on the shower wall, not to mention the fact that I didn't realize that he had actually registered the fact that we owned bathtub markers in the first place.  My THIRD thought--going back to the grumpy mood the past several days--was that Pavel had started to write the f-bomb out of frustration, but then decided against it.  However, hearing a loud bang from outside the shower curtain and deducing Matěj had flung the cellphone I gave him to keep him occupied clear across the bathroom put the thought of "F" out of my mind entirely.

Nothing more of interest happened until about a half hour later, when I got a text message from Pavel that said, and I quote, "Pavel."  Some people would have been bewildered by this, but I knew that when Pavel doesn't know what to write in the "Subject:" heading of an email, he writes "Pavel," and just assumed it was a cellphone email gone awry.  Not long after this I was checking my email and saw that Pavel had posted something on my wall, so I hurriedly clicked to open the email, expecting some sort of proclamation of love or link to a romantic song only to find, and I quote (again), "vd."

Now, some of you may wonder why I didn't realize there was something afoot, but when you've got a toddler fussing and climbing up your leg all morning while you're trying to clear the table, load the dishwasher, wash dishes, clean up, get dressed, in addition to one dog barking to come in, the other barking to go out, etc., etc., I just didn't string these events together until Pavel called me:

Pavel: "So, did you get it?"
Me (thinking): What the hell are you talking about?
Me (speaking): "What?"
Pavel: "Your Valentine's present."
Me (thinking): What the hell are you talking about?
Me (speaking): "What?"
Pavel: "Did you get the hints?"
Me: "What hints?"
Pavel: "I left you some hints."
Me: "You mean the text message and the facebook post?"
Pavel: "Yes, and one more."
Me (uncertain): "You mean the F in the shower?  What kind of hints are they?"
Pavel: "I don't know, you figure it out and call me later."
[Naturally I had no idea what "F," "Pavel," and "vd" are supposed to mean on their own, or together and, thankfully, I didn't make the connection that "vd" also stands for "venereal disease," or this Valentine's Day could have taken a nasty turn.]
Me (wracking my brain furiously): "Wait, F could mean F drive on the computer, but do we even have an F drive on the computer?"
Pavel: "I don't know, try it."

The ONLY, and I truly mean the SOLE reason I was able to figure out what the hell it all meant was because, for a few nights previous, I could hear Pavel playing Bruno Mars' "Just the Way You Are," over and over on the computer, and I knew that it wasn't one of his favorites, but it was one of mine.  So after this huge stab in the dark, it turned out that the clues, put together were, F:Pavel/vd (which, it turns out, was supposed to stand for Valentine's Day, not venereal disease), folders on the computer, which contained:

{Sorry, I had trouble embedding it, so you'll have to click on the link}

I'm glad I was finally able to tune my radio to his wavelength. :)

A different kind of lightning

Jakub: "Hey mommy, I want the Lightning the Queen yogurt!"
Me: "OK, but it's Lightening McQueen."
Jakub (repeating): "Lightning the Queen."
Me: "Lightning MC Queen."
Jakub: "Lightning the Queen."
Me (enunciating as clearly as possible): "Lightning. MC. Queen."
Jakub (trying oh so very hard): "Lightning. THE. Queen."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Not-so-pleasant surprises

As any parent will tell you, one of the hazards of having children is finding food and/or drinks in various stages of decay in unexpected places.  Or at least that is my experience.  Unless you strap your child down any time they are eating or drinking, this is an unavoidable fact.  Let me set the scene.  I am gazing adoringly at my irresistibly cute offspring holding a snack cup full of cheerios.  I blink.  There stands my child, sans snack cup.  I search high and low, upending everything in my house that can be upended, emptying everything in my house that can be emptied, but no snack cup.  It will later appear under a pillow on the couch, half of its contents spilled and ground into the cushion, for good measure.

The most common places these various food/drink object disappear to in my household are: between couch cushions, under the couch, in the laundry hamper, in the recycle bin, and anywhere in each of the boys' rooms.  I won't even start about the car, that would take too long, but it gives me comfort that if I should ever run out of gas on a lonely stretch of highway, there are a good two or three meals that can be scavenged from numerous crevices that would tide me over until help arrives.

Actually, I consider myself thankful that the worst I've ever come across was a week-old sippy cup of milk under the couch.  I am thankful because this sippy cup was leak proof, and although I debated whether to wash it (and thus be forced to actually open it), or just throw it in the garbage, at least I didn't have to clean the carpet.  Today, however, I feared I wouldn't be as lucky.  Matej has recently insisted the only way he will eat a banana is if I peel it and give it to him whole so he can feed himself, which is what I did this morning.  I was clearing off the breakfast table, and he was hovering around me, happily munching on his banana, until I turned my back to load the dishwasher.  I finished literally seconds later, only to see him exiting his room, banana nowhere to be seen.  I searched high and low, and for once I actually hoped one of the dogs had eaten it.  The longer I searched, the more frantic I became, images of the moldy slime the banana would undoubtedly soon become burned into my brain.  However, it seemed to have disappeared without a trace.  Because I have the attention span of a fruit fly, I didn't give it a second thought until bath time.  Jakub was in time out (perhaps I will elaborate on this in a future post), and said suddenly, "Mommy!  A banana!"  Now, those of you familiar with the imagination of a preschooler will forgive me for absentmindedly saying "Hmm, how interesting," as I went about getting Matej into his pyjamas.  However, somewhere deep inside my brain, where some of the synapses are still functioning, I made the connection. 
Disaster averted.  No moldy slime.  This time, anyway.

Monday, February 7, 2011

His father's son

Since Pavel is away at a conference and we had leftover french rolls that I had forgotten to put away last night had gotten a little hard, I decided to make žemlovka, a bread pudding type dish with apples and cinnamon for dinner.  Warm, appley, cinnamony goodness, soft and gooey on the inside, toasted on the outside, sprinkled with vanilla confectioner's sugar.  What's not to love?

Jakub: "What is this, mommy?"
Me: "Žemlovka."
Jakub: "Where's the meat?"

I think a hearty caveman grunt is in order here.  Good to know those Slavic genes flow strongly through my offspring's blood.

Friday, February 4, 2011


First of all, an important, earth-shattering announcement.  This may actually have the ability to change the course of human history, so pay attention: I have decided to dispense with the generic numbered titles, which seemed like a good idea when I began, but now just annoy me.  I generally cringe when I have to read/listen to/look at anything I have created, and having to cringe at the same thing over and over again has become more than I can bear.  So there you have it.  I apologize if this makes you go about your day fearing my feeble attempts at creating witty titles for my already mind-numbing posts, but such is life.

Today's post is about a single word that evokes dread in the hearts and minds of parents of preschoolers everywhere: "why."  Jakub has been going through the "why" phase for the past couple of months, though it has felt like an eternity.  Fortunately it has begun to taper off, but there were days when everything I said to him prompted the question "Why?" 

Me: "OK, it's time for bed."
Jakub: "Why?"
Me: "Because it's getting dark."
Jakub: "Why?"
Me: "Because the sun is going down."
Jakub: "Why?
Me: Because the Earth is turning."
Jakub: "Why?"
Me (unable to remember what forces revolve the Earth): "Because."
Jakub: "Why because?"
Me: "Because that's what the Earth does."
Jakub: "Why?"
Me: "I don't know, honey."
[Silence for a few blissful moments]
Jakub: "Why?"


Me: "Jakub, let's put on your jacket."
Jakub: "Why?"
Me: "Because it's cold outside."
Jakub: "Why?"
Me: "Because it's winter."
This is where things get dicey, because in Czech, "cold" and "winter" are the same word, "zima," so even though I was prepared to explain how the orientation of the earth to the sun changes from summer to winter, we got stuck on what, to Jakub, sounded like "It's cold because it's cold."

I have tried various ways to curtail the endless questioning, especially when I'm too tired to think straight, but have had only limited success.  On a few occasions, when Jakub wanted to know, for example, why a particular car was red, I said we'd have to ask the driver, which of course elicited the response: "Mommy, stop the car!!  Let's ask the man!!"  The latest attempt involved trying to turn the tables, which has been the most successful strategy thus far, but certainly not foolproof:

During a discussion about volcanoes:
Jakub: "Why does the air make the hot lava cool?"
Me: "Why do you think it makes it cool?"
Jakub: "No, mommy, I'M asking YOU."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Monkey Maxims #8

This morning the Mona Lisa was on TV as a part of a news segment, and as soon as J saw it, he exclaimed:

"Hey, mommy!  Look, Mona Lisa!"

I was so proud of my smart boy and thought that maybe the hundreds of dollars we fork over every month for his preschool are truly beginning to pay off.  Then, he said:

"And the silly sock is there with pizza and a banana and a little fish and they have to close the door so Big Jet won't get them."

Well, at least I know he's making the most of his favorite television program.  Thanks, "Little Einsteins."  I think.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Monkey Maxims #7

As we were driving in the car yesterday, "Like a G6" came on the radio:

"Poppin' bottles in the ice like a blizzard
When we drink we get it right gettin' slizzard..."

Which is where I changed the station because not only is it not exactly appropriate for my three-year-old sponge's vocabulary, but I also find it incredibly annoying.  This was, however, met with vehement protests from the back seat:

J: "No, mommy, put it back!  I like the lizard song!"

Thankfully, even better than "The Lizard Song" is "Marshmallow Farm" by the really great children's band Recess Monkey (thanks to our Seattle friends M & S for that!), so disaster was avoided.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Monkeying Around #1

Often when we are to embark on a trip (and by "trip," I mean something even as simple as going to the mall), P asks me what time we need to leave the house.  This may seem like a simple question.  If you need to be somewhere at a specific time, you would simply calculate how long it takes to get there, and subtract that number from the preferred arrival time, right?  Wrong.  Not if you have children.  In my 3.5 years of motherhood, I have learned that, even if things seem to going smoothly, it is always necessary to tack on a minimum of ten minutes to the estimated travel time to accommodate any unforeseen circumstances.  This amount of time may be augmented according to various factors, such as whether or not both children are coming (add additional five minutes), duration of the trip (add ten minutes to gather necessary child-related gear), and, among others, whether or not I care about their appearance (add additional ten minutes for a minimum of one complete wardrobe change per child).  Let me provide an example by relaying this morning's events:

J: "Mommy, can I take my green marker to school?"
Me: "No, please leave the marker here.  The markers are for coloring at home."
(silence from my dear offspring)
Me: "OK, are you ready to go?"
J: "Yes."
And when I turn around this is what I see:
What this picture doesn't capture are the additional green decorations on his hands.  Lovely.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dog Tricks #2

In the last post about Rusty, I described him as quirky, but did I mention he's also a ninja?  Or perhaps has  has mastered the skill of teleportation, at least as far as thwarting our efforts to keep him off the bed is concerned.  Rusty has the ability to appear to be resting peacefully under the couch, but when I go into the bedroom and sit on the bed, I am forced to spring back up again when I realize I've sat on him.  He is also blessed with superhuman--or shall I say supercanine--stealth speed as he has the ability to make it from his dog bed on the floor to curled up underneath the covers in the amount of time it takes me to get up and turn off the light.  And then he'll look up at me, mustering his most pathetic look, wagging his tail and acting like he's been there all night.  I must admit his tactics are working.  Lately, we've been allowing him to sleep in bed with us because whichever genius engineered the heating/cooling system in our house made it so that almost no air makes it to the master bedroom, so in the winter it's usually only a few degrees warmer in our bedroom than it is outside, and I worry that in the morning all we'll find is a little dachshund icicle on the floor (I was going to try and be original and combine the words "Rusty" and "icicle," but came up with "Rusticle," and that wasn't quite the image I was looking for).

Our little hotdog friend's abilities don't end there.  Despite the fact that is a mere tenth of my body weight and just about that amount of body mass, he has the ability to use every ounce of it to the fullest.  I often wake up at night only to find that I have been relegated to what amounts to about twelve square inches of bedspace while Rusty enjoys prime real estate in the middle of the bed.  And getting that prime real estate back is no mean feat.  If ever Míša is in the way, all it takes is a gentle nudge, and she politely makes room.  Fighting with Rusty for space reminds me of the wrestling matches my sister and I occasionally had over a spot on the couch.  It takes all of my strength to move him an inch, and as soon as I release pressure to get my wind back, he slithers back into place.  OK, my sister didn't slither, but you get the idea.  Later I get up for a drink of water, and come back to the bed, and there he is, cemented to the center of my half of the bed and it starts all over again.  But he's pretty darn cute doing it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Monkey Maxims #6

My lovely brood can't take credit for this one, as it is courtesy of my adorable four-year-old nephew.  My sister was telling her husband about the conversation I had explaining P's doctor's checkup to J, which my nephew (also J) overheard:

J: "Are they going to put the blood in there?"
My sister: "Where?"
J: "In his butt."

And the obsession with bodily functions, butts, and other appendages begins....

I'm an Idiot #1

I am forgetful.  Most people know this.  Many have been a victim of it.  Particularly my mom.  She really hated the word "Oops!" accompanied by a surprised and fearful expression on my face minutes before leaving for school on a weekday morning.  This fateful combination often resulted in, for example, situations involving her having to drive me across town to Sabino Canyon (because I forgot we were supposed to be at school an hour early to board the bus for a field trip), then being forced to drive around Sabino Canyon  looking for my classmates in a golf cart with a strange old man missing several teeth and with questionable personal hygiene habits accompanied by his three mange-infested canine accomplices, and then having to drive twenty awkward minutes all the way back to her car with them by herself.  Alas, family members can't claim to be the sole unhappy victims.  The few remaining friends I have know this, have accepted it, and still love me despite this fact.  I have worked hard in my 31-year existence to remedy this fault, but despite my best efforts, it can't be eradicated completely.  I think it might be in my genetic code. 

Sadly, my faults don't end there.  I am also hopelessly disorganized.  The combination of my forgetfulness and my disorganization can be fantastically frustrating, and often results in me losing things--fault #3, if you're counting.  This is where we get to the subject of this post.  In the past four days, I have lost the one remaining car key (the other having met its fate many months ago), the dogs' collars (not completely my fault), and my cell phone, all in the comfort of my own home.  The car key and dogs' collars incidents both happened (on separate days, thankfully, or I'd be writing this from a mental hospital) (fault #4: overuse of parentheses) as I was to leave the house to pick up J from school, where we get fined something like $5 for every minute we're late in picking them up.  My phone, on the other hand, was missing all yesterday afternoon, and I shamefully admit that I felt completely naked without it.  What if someone needed me?  What if I needed someone?  I'm sure you'll be relieved to learn that life went on around me even without my input, and, upon reflection, it seems a little ridiculous to accept the norm that anyone can contact me, or I them, at any moment.

Anyway, we now have two dogs named Misha because I have yet to find Rusty's collar, but I did find both of Míša's.  Why does Míša have two collars, you ask?  Because two days after I bought her a new collar ($7.99), made a new ID tag at the local pet store ($11.99), and ordered a new license from the animal control center ($10.50), I found her old one, attached to a toy car, nestled comfortably in J's ride-on tractor.  At least that one wasn't my fault.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Monkey Maxims #5

Well, just as promised, more language mayhem on the preschooler front.  This morning when J asked who was going to take him to school today, I said that I was.  Normally P takes him, but I explained to him that daddy has to go to the doctor for a checkup. 

J: "Is daddy sick?"
Me: "No, daddy's just going so the doctor can look at him and see if he is healthy."
J: "The doctor is going to look at his butt?"
Me: "No, he's not going to look at daddy's butt.  The doctor going to take some blood to look at it."
J: "Daddy's bleeding?"
Me: "No, they're just going to take a small amount to look at."
J: "Oh, OK."

I subscribe to the belief that children should be told the truth as much as possible, but, as is evident from this conversation, sometimes less is more.  I still have no idea where he got the notion of the doctor looking at daddy's butt since we've never discussed proctology before, but who knows what J talks about with his friends at school.....

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Monkey Maxims #4

From first words from the mouths of babes to the fantastical stories woven by toddlers and preschoolers, experiencing your child's attempts at language is an eternal spring of amusement.  I would say this is even doubly so for parents of bilingual children, because two languages = twice the fun.  One thing I did not expect with J was the fact that he would have a foreign accent in English, even though he is learning it from native (or pretty much native) speakers.  I suppose Czech can be considered his "first" language, because it is what we speak at home and it's what he hears a majority of the time, so it is no surprise he is far more fluent in Czech than in English.  But let me tell you that there is nothing cuter than hearing a three-year-old speak English with a Czech accent.  I'm assuming that since I don't have an accent in English, nor do any of my other friends or relatives who learned English at a young age, his will eventually disappear, but for now we can rejoice in the mirth this causes.

Perhaps the following examples cannot be attributed to J's accent in English, perhaps they are just one of those mispronunciations that can be attributed to learning a language in general, but they're pretty darn funny any way you see it (or at least I think so):

About a year ago, J built a masterwork of Lego Duplo, and was scooting it across the table saying "My fireshit!  My fireshit!"  After asking him to repeat what he was saying and numerous more attempts at edification, he insisted that "My fireshit!" was the correct  pronunciation.  When someone becomes a mom, they also inherit an uncanny ability to be able to decipher what to others may sound like complete babble, but I had to admit defeat in this case.  It wasn't until later when I was relaying the story to P that he enlightened me.  Apparently, "Fireshit" is the correct pronunciation for "Pirate Ship" in J-language.

These mispronunciations are becoming more rare as J gets older (fear not, there are many more oppotunities for language mayhem on the preschooler front!), but just a few days ago, I witnessed J running through the house saying "Let's get a tumor."  I was unable to get clarification on this one, so I'm offering a prize to the first person to decipher this code.  And by "prize," I mean that you'll feel really cool if you figure it out.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Monkey Maxims #3

This post will be familiar to all of you who read my Facebook updates, but I've had a request by my good friend Allison for a reprise.  I should probably begin by explaining that J has had an ongoing fascination with everything I keep on my nightstand, such as chapstick, various hair accoutrements, deodorant (hey, it gets hot here in the summer), kleenex, among other seemingly uninteresting objects.  I'll often find one or more of these objects in strange places or missing altogether, or I'll see J attempting to be inconspicuous about having greased up the entire lower portion of his face with chapstick.  However, perhaps the most tempting item for my three year old monkey is my lavender aromatherapy spray.  He has gotten into trouble countless times for spraying himself as well as other inanimate (and animate) objects with it, so he knows it's off limits.  One day, I came upon J sitting on the bed, holding the lavender spray in his hand:

J: "Look mommy, I'm not spraying it."
Me: "Thank you, honey, I'm glad."
J (quietly, as an afterthought): "I only spray it when I'm by myself."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Monkey Maxims #2

Here's another oldie but goodie from about a year ago when we were potty training J.

On another marathon potty session, J on his potty chair, me sitting on the floor across from him:

J (gesturing to potty chair): "Mommy sit here?"
Me: "No, honey, it's too small for mommy."
J (patting my leg consolingly): "Mommy too big, like airplane."

Kids certainly keep you humble.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Foot-in-Mouth Disease

Those of you who know me have most likely heard this story, but it's so good it bears repeating.

I was pretty uncomfortable during the end of my pregnancy with J, due the fact that it was 2,000 degrees for the last few months of it, no kidding.  OK, kidding just a little, but not much.  Plus, my joints ached so much I could barely walk, so I was eternally grateful that our family friends allowed me to use their pool at my pleasure, and I spent at least an hour a day marinating in it.  Well, on one of these occasions, my husband, P joined me:

Me: "Wow, I feel so great, I feel so light in the water."
P (completely serious): "Isn't that why they say hippopotamuses spend 95% of their lives in the water?"

I don't know what's funnier, the fact that those words actually passed his lips, or the fact that he didn't actually intend it as a joke.  You can't make this stuff up.

Dog Tricks #1

Well, we're off to a searing start.  Two posts in five days, woo hoo!  I've decided to create entries in themes, and, for those of you who need the obvious to be stated, "Dog Tricks" involves the various shenanigans of our children of the canine species.

Rusty, the dachshund, is the newest member of our family.  Despite the opinion that many of my family members hold that shelter dogs are "damaged goods," I knew I wanted to adopt a dog, and we found our little guy at a small rescue organization that consists of one very devoted woman and truckload of wiener dogs.  Think crazy cat lady, but with dogs.  And not so crazy.  Actually she's quite delightful and it's wonderful to see someone so devoted to the well being of animals.  But I digress.  From the moment we brought him home, it was like Rusty had always been here, like he belonged with us.  Do not be fooled by the noble pose in the photo to the right.  Rusty is just as much of a fruitcake as the rest of us. 

In getting to know the personality of a new family member, there are many things you learn about a dog that has had history with other owners, and it can often be entertaining (and/or exasperating) discovering his various quirks.  Number one: Rusty has a fetish for dryer balls.  No matter what other new, dog-appropriate ball or toy was introduced to him, there was only one object of his desire, dryer balls.  If he was ever so lucky as to abscond with one of them, he would disappear under the couch to administer his loving affections (those of you with minds in the gutter, not THOSE affections).  After about a week, I gave up on trying to keep him from taking them, and he was in seventh heaven, carrying them around with him all day long: around the house, outside in the yard, back inside, back outside, back inside, to bed with him, etc.  Sadly, neither of the heavenly objects were not made to endure his  ardent attentions, and have since been reduced to small blue nubs that I now have to pry from M's fingers and mouth.  However, Rusty has not given up hope, and every time I do laundry, he stands steadfastly by the dryer door, most likely thinking it is a shrine of unlimited dryer balls.

Monkey Maxims #1

Early morning, I'm sitting in a still partially-dark room nursing M when J walks in, still in his pyjamas, and asks sternly:
"Mommy, why aren't you cooking?!"

Thursday, January 6, 2011

First post

OK, now that I've got you hooked by the title of my first ever post, let me explain the purpose of this blog.  Before I begin, however, let me also state my disclaimer: to the hapless souls that have stumbled upon this blog: first of all, I apologize for tormenting you with yet another site that discusses the daily trials and tribulations that are a matter of course in the life of a parent.  However, if you do find at least some things herein mildly interesting or entertaining, let me introduce myself as a mom of two spirited (read: impish) but absolutely loveable boys, owner of our first baby, a Parson Russell Terrier, our fourth baby, a dachshund, and wife of one loving, and occassionally lovingly infuriating, husband.

This whole blog thing is actually an experiment on my part, because I have no idea whether or not I'm actually going to be updating on a regular basis.  This is a huge commitment, you know, keeping their friends and relatives up to date with our activities.  I mean, I'd hate to get your hopes up with my first few scintillating posts, and then crush your hearts by not keeping up.  But, I've had many requests on Facebook by friends to start a blog of my childrens' adventures (and misadventures) either because these friends particularly enjoy hearing these stories, or because they secretly hope that if I start posting them somewhere else, I'll stop annoying them on FB.  So, here goes nothing!