Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blonde Man

This here, my friends, is Blonde Man. I don't know where he came from originally, but he cropped up from our long-lost childhood maybe 15 years ago. I remember my younger brother's reaction when we found him, ''Oooooh, Blonde Man! I used to chew on his head.'' And for some reason beyond all sense or purpose, he and I started hiding him for each other to find. Cody was still in high school so he'd leave the house before I got up, which meant I always had a two-inch surprise waiting for me. Blonde Man showed up in coffee cups, hanging one-handed from hanging planters, and my most memorable, taped to the inside of the telephone receiver. For the past I-don't-know-how-many years he has found his home here, in my coin purse. I keep him there because he reminds me of my brother, despite the strange looks I get from grocery store checkers. I'm a sentimental SUCKER and won't part with the darndest things if they remind me of someone I love. Wanna know what I keep because of you? Just ask me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hidden Valley

Last Saturday
End of March (Photo courtesy of my Aunt Susan)
Also Susan's photo
This post is mostly for my family, because I promised I'd show them just how beautiful this place is once everything turns green. We took this walk (it's right on the edge of our neighborhood) together when they were here, and then Tomáš and I took Monkey there last Saturday. We had thoughts of trying to do a loop that ends up at this reservoir, but I was worried it would take longer than the one-and-a-half hour we had before Lily's feeding time. Tomáš tried out the baby carrier that my mom sent, and Lily loved it. It was so warm out that I put Bug in what Tomáš called her ''1920s swimming costume.'' It was really her first time being exposed to direct sunlight, and I admit I was nervous. I put a little bit of sunscreen on her and just kept checking her. We started out with a little sun hat and had to switch when the wind picked up (I come prepared : ). This walk has very special meaning to me. I call it Hidden Valley because it reminds me of the Hidden Valley Ranch commercials from my childhood. These pictures really don't do it justice. It is breathtaking. But the reason it is special to me is because I really felt like God gave me this place. One day in Spring of 2008, a few months after I'd moved here, I was feeling kind of depressed. That morning I read a devotion about how God knows perfectly how to refresh you, just what you need. Then I felt this urging to take a walk in a certain direction. I had to travel to teach that day and there was this strong resistence, like ''Don't go for a walk, relax and enjoy your time before work at home, etc.'' But something in me pushed through, I headed out for that walk and when I came around this little turn I was filled with joy. It was stunning. It is the only place I've found here where I feel like I can truly get alone. Sometimes I really miss the solitude that Montana offers, and this walk has surprisingly little foot traffic. Just enough to make me feel safe. I like to run up past those buildings in the first picture, to a tiny village called Prusy, where Tomáš' grandma was born. I wish these pictures showed its true beauty. Those fields look like they're glowing when the sun shines on them. I guess you'll just have to come and see for yourself ; )

Friday, April 22, 2011

Big Friday

Please forgive the nail polish
Trying out this sitting up thing
The beginning of the end
Happy Good Friday, everyone. Or as it's called in Slovakia, Big Friday. I, for one, had a very lovely day. Bug took two hefty naps, allowing for both Tomáš and I to get some extra much-needed Zs this morning. Also, I'm just always glad to have him home on a weekday. It was one of those days where I just felt like I got a lot accomplished, even if ''a lot'' is relative. Having a baby kind of plummets expectations for productivity. (Can plummet be a transitive verb?) Anyhoo, it just felt nice and relaxed somehow, and we topped it off with a walk to get ice cream and go to the church. Notice how I phrased that, ''go to the church'' as opposed to ''go to church,'' (isn't English tricky?) What I mean is, Tomáš played worship for the Big Friday service tonight, which started at Lily's bedtime (5 p.m.), so we went there at 4:30 so he could set up. I had hoped to see some people, but no one came early except for our pastor, (whom I was glad to see, don't get me wrong : ) and Lily sent me scurrying frantically home with the ardor of a mother with screaming baby in-stroller. But before that happened, we got to enjoy some gorrrrrgeous weather, some beauuuutiful trees and some deeeelicious pistachio ice cream. Besides, as Lily was laughing at my efforts to get her to sleep, (and by ''efforts'' I mean sitting in the living room) I got to read a little Philip Yancey and reflect on what Jesus did for us all those years ago on a night like this. Happy Good Friday, everyone.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I like how these pictures with Tomáš turned out. They kind of look studio-like. Lily was a tad bit chilly that morning so I threw on some socks over her cable-knit tights. Highly fashionable. Poor little girl gets some very silly combinations sometimes for practical purposes. Also pictured here is her most photogenic of toys : ) It's a teddy bear my aunt Susan sewed for her and brought with when they came. Doesn't he look great on camera? Also, Dedko Milan came to visit. I really hate Lily watching any kind of TV but this was a pretty sweet sight. Don't you agree? Then two nights ago in the middle of the night we heard an ear-splittingly loud sound and had no idea what it could have been. Turns out the tire on Lily's stroller blew to smitherines. Is that spelled right? I mean, can you imagine? Three in the morning and an innertube bursts in your completely quiet flat. Scary. So that's why the baby carrier pics. I was trying to find a way to take her outside since the stroller was out of commission. She seemed to like it after the initial confusion wore off. Much more than she did at, say, three months old. And then lastly is just a picture of Lily in an Easter-appropriate onesie that I knew would be worn for the last time, so I wanted to grab a quick picture of her in it. Besides, isn't she just irresistible in those stripey tights?  
Caught some nice light that morning

''What a big bird!'' Tomáš. ''That's Big Bird,'' Me. ''Scary,'' Tomáš.
Hands-free device

Hoppy Easter, everyone

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Czechoslovak Superstar

Ok, let's get one thing straight right here and now; I am not an American Idol fan. I don't know that I've ever even seen a whole episode. But when you live in a country as small as Slovakia, with not a lot of television or movie production, the Czechoslovak version is pretty fun to follow, especially when you have an interesting cast of characters. Tomáš and I were both keeping our fingers crossed (well, holding our thumbs, actually, as Slovaks do) for this American boy, Noah, whose family are missionaries with the Brotherhood Church in the Czech Republic. But sadly (and I really mean sadly; the hostess of the show cried and it was evident that people really loved him) he was voted off, so now I'm holding my thumbs for Czech reggae boy Michal Šeps. You really have to see him to believe him. My mom really loved him too. Reggae is probably the last kind of music I'd choose to listen to, but this guy has so much heart and lack of inhibition, he's really enjoyable to watch. Stick with it at least until you hear him play his mouth trumpet. : ) After one performance, one of the judges started to say something about his poor English and he jumped in and said something like, ''Oh, I don't care about English,'' which I thought was such a bold move, considering they easily could have slammed him for it, but instead it seemed to endear him to them like it did me. And speaking of endearing, his version of Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World (vhat a vonderfool vorld : ) brought tears to my eyes. Sure, there are stronger singers in this competition, but for me heart trumps all. I'm excited to see what happens tomorrow night.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Half a year, ya hear?

     Gosh. I just deleted the whole post that I'd been working on here and there all day long. I had written about some of the difficulties we'd been through as new parents, but all day I just felt sick about even recounting those events. So I decided to scrap it and just jump to the good part. Bug turned 6 months today, and aside from Tomáš being in Piešťany for a work conference overnight, we had a pretty good birthday. It seems we've finally gotten into somewhat of a groove. I'm learning to read Lily's signals and, let's face it, I'm just blessed with an extremely good sleeper.
     But here's what I want to write about. When Lily was three-and-a-half months old, Rachael came from China for a visit. I had been telling her about something I'd read in Donald Miller's book, To Own a Dragon, where Miller's friend and mentor, John MacMurray is talking about his kids. He says this, ''I don't even think of the kids as my own kids...I mean they are our kids and all, but really they belong to God. Terri and I had sex, but that's it. I don't know how to make a human being. God makes a human being." And I had heard the first part of this sentiment lots of times before, but it was the second part that struck me. God makes a human being. So, one afternoon while trying in vain to put Lily down for a nap, she developed something like a cross between a hiccup and a burp. It kept happening regularly like a hiccup but was deep. She cried so hard she exhausted herself, but whenever she'd just about fall asleep, this hiccup would come back and she'd cry till she was purple in the face. Finally I got her to sleep by putting her in her carseat and rocking her, but she still did that little sigh thing that babies do after crying too hard...for hours. I knew it was normal for babies to do that for a while after falling asleep, but hours? And for an experienced parent this would probably be nothing, and compared to worse possibilities this would obviously be nothing too. But still, I was worried. When you are as sleep-deprived as I was, everything seems like the end of the world. We tried to watch an episode of Community, but my head was clearly elsewhere, so at one point Rach just looked at me and said, ''she's not yours anyway, right?'' And in that moment, I'm telling you, I was set free. Somehow, the truth of these words had not penetrated my understanding when I'd told them to her, but when she said them to me, God's freedom came flooding in. We are called to do our very best to take care of our kids. And I was doing that. But beyond that, death is out of our hands. And despite what it seems like, that is a very good thing. At least if you believe, like I do, that there is something, Someone infinitely better waiting for us on the other side, and He's the one calling the shots. And that ''all things work together for good to those who love God.'' Romans 8:28
     So even though fear still rears its ugly, well, entire body, now I am better equipped to fight it. And it is a fight. But it doesn't grip me the way it did in the beginning.          

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

missing links

this, this, this and this were missing from my last post.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Grandma, Auntie-Grandma and Auntie-Who's-Really-A-Second-Cousin-Or-Something come to visit

Three weeks ago my mom and aunt Susan were on their way here from Budapest. It was my mom's first time meeting her only grandbaby and we were beyond excited. Four days later my cousin, who lives in St.Petersburg, Russia, joined us. The vast majority of our time was spent either chatting, talking, visiting, conversing or gabbing, but there were a few blogworthy moments:
1.Lily laughed her first real laugh at my mom playing peek-a-boo. And I got it on video.

2.We went to to the lovely town of Trenčín, where above the square you'll find this amazing castle. Tomáš told me there wouldn't be any people there but I thought he was exaggerating. It was like a ghost town on this Saturday morning because ever since this eyesore has been built, no one goes to the old square. Just makes a gal sad. On the up side, though, I had a hot chocolate. And not the drinkable kind of hot chocolate. The eatable kind. The edible kind. The kind you eat with a spoon. The kind with real whipped cream so thick it's almost like butter. But in a good way. I had the horká čokoláda, the bitter chocolate. I also had a Viennese coffee.  My mom had a turkish coffee. My aunt had a cappuccino.  And my cousin had a gyro baguette. It was a cute little café that specialized in hot chocolate. And baguette sandwiches, apparently. Then before catching the train home we all went and had a Czechoslovak specialty...Kofola on tap. It was great. It was also the first time Tomáš had watched Lily on his own, and he did so great with her now we know he can handle watching her while I go to the aforementioned eyesore in search of some decent clothes. A coat, jacket, pants, shirts, shoes? I need it all. I think I must be about the only wife in the world whose husband is pushing her to go clothes shopping. But back to the point at hand...

3. We got to see the magnolia trees in bloom. I had never seen a tree like this until I moved here and I was absolutely blown away by it. I didn't know what it was at the time, I just told my mom it was almost like an orchid tree. The blooms were so huge. She's a florist and loves flowers, so I kept telling her I wanted her to see it, and started calling it ''her tree.'' And ever since I got pregnant and she started planning her trip here, that was one of the things we had been looking forward to. I had hoped it would be in bloom when she was here, but wasn't sure it would be. It literally (almost) fully bloomed the last day they were here. What a sweet surprise.
4. We got manicures. Somehow or other it got mentioned that manicures were really cheap here, so my mom wanted to get one. It's something we'd never gotten to do together, so on their last day here we took our chance and all four of us had our nails done. My mom got lilies on hers (awww). It was just such a sweet, girly time together. We laughed at the nasty nail designs in the book (airbrushed turquoise leopard print, anyone?) and James got her hair cut. And styled. To the hilt. I was so glad we got to go.
And I'm so glad they all got to come. They all got to meet Lily. Susan got to see her daughter, whom she'd not seen in almost two years.  I got to see my mom. They all got to know Tomáš a little better. And although the leaving was terrible, and the flat felt so empty after they were gone, I will treasure this time.

mother(in the)hood

Hello cyberspace,

I've been tossing around the possibility of starting to blog again for a while now, but my reason for doing so (to write about being a mom) seemed a little cliché. (Oh wow, I found the accented e on our keyboard : ). As my friend Keir would say, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a [blog about motherhood], but I guess my reason for wanting to do so is not so bad. I miss writing and I miss the interaction with friends/readers. Besides, it's at least a little more of a worthwhile creative endeavor than the alternative. I've wanted to deep six my Wastebook account for a long time now because I know it's one giant, well, waste, but know it's the best way to find students (and blog readers, winky smile ; )and for them to find me. So if you'll indulge me, I'd like to try my hand at blogging again about life here in this little country with one little angel and one not-so-little angel.