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.