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.