Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Here and there

You know the old phrase, If you can't beat 'em, put everything in safe containers and just let her have at it? That old phrase? Well, we have had mixed success with Lily and her no-nos. There are some things she's actually really good about and others? Well, others just seem to elude her. Most of the time it's like she truly doesn't realize it's a no-no despite the 8,000,000 times we've told her. I've tried raising my voice, making a serious face, swatting her little tush, even slapping her hand and she just looks at me with those doe eyes. So, yeah. That's what happened this morning. I emptied the whole cupboard of all teas, coffees and snack foods and put them in the cupboard where she's allowed to play. Hm. What are ya gonna do?

Lily loves to play Legos but looks like this most of the time. Until I help her put them together.

She spotted a dog on a balcony. She could not look more like my dad here.

I love the fields this time of year. You can see for miiiiiles.

We saw Da-da and he told us to wait a second...

And then returned like this (best viewed large : )
We visited Babka and Dedko and here's what Tomáš did.

Ok, so actually he gave a front-yard concert for his adoring fans.

Hope you're enjoying the sunshine as much as we have been! Yesterday I was feeding Bug some yogurt while on the square in our town and it was so windy it blew the yogurt right off her spoon! 
YOU have a nice Thursday!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Gimme gimme!

If I believed in karma, I'd say it was probably payback time to all the parents of screaming kids I made snap judgements about, immediately labeling them as spoiled. Lily has reached that age when she is testing limits and using her skills to get what she wants. And by skills I mean god-awful screech backed by one powerful set of lungs. And let me tell you, it works. The grocery store is the worst. We make our way through the aisles and she thinks every single thing I pick up is the be-all and end-all and she must have it in her grasp like NOW! And when I do give in just to get her to stop screeching, her next step is to chew through, bite into or chew the label off of everything possible. Then it gets really interesting when we're in line and she's screeching for other people's groceries. Not pretty. It makes it pretty difficult to keep the low profile I try so hard to maintain.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Boring Breastfeeding Post

*Warning: This post contains imagery that may be disturbing to some readers. Reader discretion is advised.

Yesterday was the first day in Lily's life that she didn't have breast milk. It was definitely harder on me than it was on her. Breastfeeding was a journey for me. I wanted so desperately to breastfeed since, of course, it is the very best thing for babies. But from the very beginning there were struggles. I honestly don't know how these things are not more commonly talked about when they are, apparently, very common. I went into it thinking breastfeeding is natural, and somehow in that thinking equated it with breastfeeding being easy. I knew it was a commitment, don't get me wrong. But I never, ever expected it to be as hard as it was for me. It started out with an incorrect latch that tore me open from here to next Tuesday. And because I was feeding about every two to three hours, the wound was repeatedly torn open and never allowed to heal. Every feeding was excruciating agony. Tomáš had to hold my legs while I started the feed, as I screamed in pain and thrashed around the bed.   I remember him asking, ''How come I've never seen this in any movies or anything?'' And it's true. Have you? I tried everything to help matters. Nothing worked. Well-meaning friends told me to use lanolin, but that only helps with soreness, not wounds. I tried gentian violet, despite its disturbing qualities, I tried leaving it alone, I tried wet-wound healing, I tried dry-wound healing, I tried saltwater, I tried sunlight and you know what finally worked? Stopping breastfeeding. It took six-and-a-half weeks to heal. I remember to the day. At five weeks Lily and I ended up in the hospital. I had low milk supply and didn't know it. She cried so much and so hard I got worried and took her in. She had cried herself hoarse. Turns out she was just hungry. I started exclusively pumping and the doctor put her on formula. And that little girl started making up for lost time. She was eating every 2.5 hours around the clock. You could set your watch by it. I would give her what meager little supply I had and then supplement with the formula. Once the ideal of breastfeeding was gone I set my sights on pumping. We bought a good electric pump and I set to work. I know this all sounds so ridiculous to some, but I wanted so badly for her to have the best that I was willing to do anything for it. And it cost me. Dearly. A good friend sent me some fenugreek herb, which helps increase supply and I'll never be able to thank her enough for what she did for me and for Lily. It helped a lot. I started pumping around the clock. Every single time Bug would eat I would pump, and then some. I would go to bed at nine and wake up at 12, three and six. I would be up in the night for an hour at a time, usually longer. I didn't sleep for ten months. Then it started to show. I started losing my memory. I don't honestly know if lack of sleep was the reason, but it sure couldn't have helped. Lily's feeding had changed a little so she'd eat about 9:30 or 10, so that meant I was going to bed at 9 and then being woken a half an hour or an hour later. I started researching interrupted sleep and I found that the first four or so hours of sleep at night are the most important. That is when we have our most regenerative sleep. So finally I made Tomáš start helping with some of the feedings. I stopped pumping through the night, but still pumped seven times during the day. I told you it cost me. But I can honestly say it was worth it. I went from being able to give Lily about 1/7 bottles a day of my own milk to 7/7 for weeks at a time. Sometimes it would dip and I'd have to give her some formula, but in general my hard work paid off. She is a big, strong girl. Bug has only been sick one time in 17 plus months (aside from a runny nose last week). But there were so many crazy emotional rollercoasters I took rides on that I'd just like to thank Tomáš and my mom and friends who were so supportive through it all. You know who you are. And to fellow future mommies, I hope I didn't scare you away from breastfeeding, I just wanted you to have some warning that it will probably not be a cakewalk, but it's worth sticking to it. (Eww, sticking). And that brings us to my breastfeeding puns; These are things I've actually said over the last 17 months:
This sucks.
I've been pumping around the clock, do you know how draining that is?
Pumping really takes a lot out of you.
and lastly...I actually cried over spilt (breast)milk. : ) 

*Normal posts to follow, I promise ; )

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy days...Not to be confused with Happy Days

I've had a really nice last couple of days, starting with this
I got this idea to make a snack of apple chunks with candied walnuts and bleu cheese and boy howdy (!) it did not disappoint.
Then Tomáš got off work early, like he usually does on Fridays, and when he came home he did something so wonderfully him, something that no one else would ever do, that I was reminded that things like this make marriage great. I had made mashed potatoes and he put a big spoonful into his mouth and then followed it with a ''chaser'' of Vegeta, and upon seeing my shock and disgust he flipped on the radio and began dancing not unlike  this to this song. And the timing was so perfect, because it was right when they sang, ''Don't bring me doooown, Bruce!'' and I just laughed so hard. It felt good.
Then we took Bug for a walk out here. The weather was beautiful, really our first warm day of the year, and I was just so ready for it. 

Then last night I went out (by myself!) and met a friend for dinner and it just felt so great. She was a real encouragement to me and told me some things I really needed to hear. We talked about spiritual deserts and what real love looks like and lots of other things.
And today we had record-setting temperatures and no wind (unlike yesterday) so after Lily's nap, in which she slept like this

we set out again. I know, I know. This is not news. Everyone takes walks. But we actually don't very often as a family. It's usually one or the other of us with Bug, so I'm always happy when it's the three of us. Especially on such a day. And especially when I get to put this coat on Lily after over a year of waiting. I really do have a pretty wonderful life.
P.S. Happy Birthday to my little leprechaun brother. Love you, pinch pinch.  
Coat courtesy of Auntie Rachael


Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Lily turned 17 this morning. 17 months. And in the last year she has changed in more ways than she will probably ever change in one year for the rest of her life. She has gone from: not walking to walking, not talking to talking, not having (much) hair to having (some) hair, and so on and so forth. Her changes are very visible and very noticeable, but today I was reflecting on how I've changed in the last year. I tend to be pretty hard on myself when it comes to acknowledging personal growth. I suppose that's probably true for most everyone. But as I think back to those early months, there's one overriding word that hangs like a dark cloud over that whole time, and that word is fear. I don't even like writing those words because I don't want to remember it that way. I don't want to have been so scared. But I was. With a paralyzing fear. There were just so many unknowns, so many uncertainties, she was so little and I had so little faith in myself. Everything meant something. Every little decision seemed critical, the what ifs overwhelming. Thankfully it wasn't always like that; there was plenty of joy and adoration and pure enjoyment in having her, but there were also times when I felt very alone and was gripped by fear. But now, now most of it is gone. I've learned to trust myself more as a mom. I have grown. I've become more at home in being a parent, and I have God and Lily to thank for that. She has more than proven herself strong. How can I fear when she is so fearless? (which is a topic for a whole other post). Words are utterly inadequate to describe how I feel about her so I'll just say I wish you all could meet her because you would be completely captured by her too.
Lily a year ago

Lily today

How have you changed this last year?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Happy Mug

We all have them. Those little things, rituals, we do throughout the day that bring us little bits of happiness. Some seem silly to an onlooker. Some are universal in their appeal. I'm pretty sure you all can relate to drinking a [enter hot beverage of choice] from a favorite mug. I say favorite with reservations, because looong have I called my big, blue, blue whale, man mug from the Seattle Aquarium my favorite. I mean, I have loved that thing for years. Seeing those electric eels on the trip when we got the mugs is one of my earliest memories. I say mugs, but sadly Whale's beige, other-sea-creature-that-I-forget-just-now brother met an untimely demise, smashing to pieces after falling inches off a death-defying coffee table, almost certainly at my hand. Since high school I said that blue mug was going to be my something blue on my wedding day until I found out those things were supposed to be things you could wear while walking down the aisle. As Tomáš would say, shooooooooot. But back to the other mug at hand. Every time the word favorite even whispers across the lips of my mind as I'm rooting through the cupboard in a hopeful search, I feel a little like I'm betraying my blue mug. But just look at it. All of my favorite colors in one place, perfectly divided into happy polka dots lined up on white porcelain, which is written, as with most products here in Europe, in six languages on the bottom. When I worked as a diet clerk at a hospital in Missoula, there was one little old lady who used to call up repeatedly and ask for a porcelain cup to drink her coffee from instead of the plastic ones routinely sent with food trays. And can I just say, I feel your pain, little lady. I mean, drinking hot beverages from plastic mugs is not unlike mild torture. Drinking from paper disposables is bad enough, but it has its place. Walking down Higgins Avenue, to be exact, while one of the following is going on: farmers market, Homecoming day parade or a late,warm summer night. If I have a mug obsession, I come by it honestly. My mom is to cute mugs as Imelda Marcos is to shoes. And I completely understand her. My mom, that is, not Imelda Marcos. Mugs are dangerous because they are inexpensive and worse, they are practical. But they practically fill up her house faster than you can say Goodwill run. I also used to have a dish problem. Between my penchant for second-handing, uncanny knack for finding the most adorable eat-ware in any given place and my obsession with going to Butte, Montana, I ended up with, well, Imelda Marcos' closet. And these sorts of collections know only one cure. To move somewhere where you can't take it with you. Tomáš didn't believe me when I said I could feel the difference between drinking from porcelain and drinking from regular ceramic mugs, and now I kind of wish he still didn't. Recently I've noticed my polka dot mug spending a little less time in the cupboard and a little more time in his grasp. Shooooooooot.  

Can't you just feel the smoothness?

What does your favorite mug look like?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Read-y or not

Are y'all with me when I say there is nothing better than a toddler coming to you and shoving a book into your hands, and when you sit down, plopping into your lap, cozying in to be read to? I will never, ever tire of it. I have, however, already tired of that VERY hungry caterpillar and how those dogs GO. They go. But what's so wonderful about it is that Lily has not tired of it. Nor has she tired of even simpler books, which just makes me love her all the more. She watches with great interest while I read those real edge-of-your-seaters, Fuzzy Bear Gets Dressed and other nailbiters like Toys and Colors. I couldn't be more thrilled with her love of books. I really hope I can encourage her natural interest and curiosity through creativity, and foster her imagination. I want to be an active parent and not give in to the oh-so-tempting lesser ''activities'' like television and movies. I know it's not realistic that she will never watch them, and there are some great cartoons and shows out there, but I don't want it to be routine. I say this only because I have tended to take the easy road in much of my life, and I do not want to do this with Lily. I want the absolute best for her. More reading and creating and make-believing and only occasional sitting-in-front-of-a-box. We'll see. I know it's easier said than done. Hope you had a great weekend!
Love this face

This book was a gift from our friend Sylvia

She loves it. When she sees it she squeals, ''baaaaaaaaaaby!''

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Little bit o' salt

Now here's some honest advertising. After the ''dirtiest election in Slovak history,'' (the U.S.'s as well?) isn't it refreshing to see something just laid bare? A product that says, ''here I am; salty. And if the word salted isn't enough for you, here, we'll put a giant picture of a salt shaker right on top of me. And if that still isn't enough, let's add the nutrition information loud and proud, big and on the front. 33% of your daily recommended allowance for sodium. Thirty three. A third.'' (Yes, that was a direct quote from the bag of pretzels). That's what I like in a junk food. Honesty. Pardon the silliness, but this kind of cracked me up. And after months of having to put up with (read: begrudgingly tolerate passively listening while Tomáš watched/listened with interest) bickering, arguing, interrupting, cheating, lying, trying-to-get-ahead politicians, I needed a little laugh. Besides, where else are you gonna find a pretzel/election analogy?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bilingual Baby

Watching Lily learn language as a bi-lingual baby has been absolutely fascinating. When she was born and I started thinking more concretely about what it would be like, I assumed she would learn English first and kind of fill in with Slovak later since I am with her 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Interestingly enough, her Slovak is by far stronger in her speech than English. As I think about it now, I think the only English words she even says are Da-da and baby. She also says Mama, but that's the same in Slovak. But I've come to find out that she understands an incredible lot in both languages. I started asking questions that required a response, and she knew an amazing amount. When I listen to her practice speaking, she does something very fascinating, which is play around with Slovak sounds on all kinds of different words. Slavic languages have a lot of words ending in -k, -ka, -ky or -ko and she'll make up all these words and then add on those endings. My favorite example of this was that very early on she started saying bee (actually beeeeeeeeeeee) to mean food.  None of us can figure out where on earth she got it because there's nothing remotely close in English or Slovak, but I knew that when she said it, it meant ''I want a pretzel.'' : ) Then she took even that ''word'' and started saying beek. Adorable. She even does it with her English words (because of course she doesn't know to differentiate yet). She'll say babyk or Mamik or Dadka, which is just so cool for a lover of languages like myself. Her Babka, Tomáš' mom, watches her for a few hours a week while I teach English in our flat and she has taught her so much, and here's why; She talks constantly to her, that's one thing, but also she asks questions or gives commands that require a response. This sounds obvious, but I'm telling you I had to learn this. It's kind of not natural. I tried to talk to Lily a lot (which was also not very natural for me), but mostly I just told her what I was doing or what something was called etc. Then the kicker was when Babka told Lily to flutter her eyelashes at her (zažmurkaj) and she did it! I was flabbergasted. Ok, ok, some of you are seasoned parents who know all about these things, but it's not like children were completely foreign to me; I did a lot of babysitting in my day and my mom once had a daycare, but still. It is an art, and I'm thankful to Babka for (inadvertantly) teaching me how to be a better communicator with children. Now I can tell Bug to: go get a book, find her ball, flutter her eyelashes at me!, shut the door, put her food in her mouth, go into the bathroom, get her Legos, baby, Mrs.Giraffe, and on and on. It's so satisfying to understand and be understood. Both for her and for us. I'm super excited for her to start speaking more English words, but in the meantime I'm just enjoying the learning process.
Here's what's been happening in our neck of the woods:
We woke up to this a little while ago

Lily, reflecting


Tomáš and I love this hip little shirt, courtesy of our friend Eva

And this happened this morning

Maybe the best picture of the year

Smiley eyes

Happy Weekending


Wednesday, March 7, 2012


The past couple of times I've taken Lily out for a walk, her attire has seemed noticeably out of place. Her thick, ear-flapped hat and fur-lined parka screamed arctic winter when all around us everything sang of spring. Spring is Slovakia's loveliest season without question. It comes early and it comes in strong. In Montana, spring is a tease, and more often than not trickles in, intermingled with still plenty of snow and cold and for the most part, flowers are few and far-between until halfway through the season. (There are freak, global warming exceptions, of course, but I am talking about the Montana of my youth). But in the mildness of this climate, flowers come early and in plenty. And so yesterday we set out in search of a thinner hat. The Tesco bargain rack did not disappoint. The pickins, as they say, were slim, but as it turns out the pickins were just what we needed. I grabbed the first pink hat I saw and probably made an audible sound of disgust when I saw Hannah Montana staring back at me. So I grabbed the only other girly one and although it never would have been my first choice, I decided that Animal was pretty stinkin' cool. And kind of perfect for our little monkey. Plus, it cost one Euro and five cents. And the purple one with the bow was also on clearance, and I think it's clear why I bought that one. As I scrolled through recent photos, I realized that Lily actually wears a lot of headware. She asks to have it put on, which is surprising since most babies don't like hats. She runs to us to have us put it on and then runs to her mirror (her makeup table ; ) to admire herself.
How she spends most of her stroller rides now; arched backwards to look at me
Sky so blue I had to take a picture