Wednesday, October 29, 2014


*I started this post a long time ago, and just now came back to it and finished it up.  

  Lately I have been struggling a lot with what the right way to discipline Lily is. Sometimes she is so good about not doing no-nos, for instance she never even goes close to the stove or iron when I'm ironing, but there are some things that are just too tempting to forgo like CDs, DVDs, deodorant and cologne, anything on top of the bookshelf, whatever that might be. And as she continues to repeatedly disobey I feel increasingly frustrated and sometimes choose to explode at her in the hopes that a bigger negative reaction will achieve the desired result. It isn't working. And again and again the cycle repeats of her looking at me with a look of betrayal, sometimes tears sometimes not and then me hating myself for it. There is so much demanded of us as parents, especially stay-at-home-parents (in my opinion) because it's just need upon need upon need upon need all day every day. And of course that's not to say there isn't joy in it and without a doubt I wouldn't trade it for anything, but it is hard. My mother-in-law is a perfectionist who runs a perfect household. Not only perfectly clean with perfectly cooked meals at all times, but perfectly frugal in every way. She holds this standard for me too, but I do not hold this standard for myself. I think women who have perfect houses...let me put this delicately...are robots. (hehe that made me chuckle a little bit). I honestly don't know how they do it when they also have kids. I'm telling you I am forever doing something, whether laundry, dishes, diapers, picking up, shopping, taking the girls out, cooking and I promise you it is all I can do to do this much. My caveat to that statement is that yes, I do prioritize a cup of coffee a day and some me-time if the girls happen to nap at the same time. My coffee is never drunk warm, much less hot. My meals are never eaten in one sitting. I get precious little time with Tomáš. And the worst part is that I know this won't last forever. I say ''worst'' because I don't want to wish it away, even though it's hard. I never, ever, ever want my girls to grow up faster. And so I try to remember this. Occasionally I am proud of my reaction when things are at their hardest. When Lily is impossibly frustrating. One evening something happened that has helped me a lot. She was running around doing something or other that she ought not to have been doing and I asked myself a question, What is love? In other words, how can I respond lovingly? And I remembered I had the faultless answer in a nice little list, memorized since early childhood and the first thing on the list is this, Love. is. patient. It stopped me in my tracks. And it struck me that I had never stopped to wonder why that is first. Or think about whether or not chronology is important. But I think it is important. I guess all aspects of love are difficult, that's what makes it meaningful, important, imperative. But given my track record, I think patience might be one of the hardest. When I think about Jesus on the cross, perhaps the most amazing thing to me about what He did is that in His perfection, amidst all the accusations, He never once defended Himself.  Katie Davis says that nothing gets us much closer to the heart of God than injustice. I think this is profoundly true. Love seems to mean the most when it is wholly and utterly undeserved. I can attest to this in my own life, for the times I've felt His love most keenly were when I had been a complete jackass and still He was faithful. When I've desperately needed money and lost faith in Him and still He pulled through with exactly what I needed. When I've been so embarrassingly selfish, deserving nothing less than a good spanking, and still He graciously shows me the error of my ways. And maybe worst of all, when I've projected human characteristics onto Him, believing He asks me to give because that's the sort of person He wants (one willing to sacrifice), and He, in ways I cannot explain, shows me that no, it's because He loves me desperately and knows what's best for me, what would bring me joy. He's so patient with us. It's no mistake that He calls us His children. And often when Rosy is trying to zip up her coat herself or put the keys into the door, and it's all I can do not to grab everything and do it myself, I really try to see it from a higher perspective. How unceasingly patient God is with me when I, full of pride, insist on clumsily and ineptly doing things myself, rather than asking Him who knows all things for help. And it softens me. It helps me have patience with her. As far as disciplining our girls, I still feel pretty lost. Confused, even. But if my disciplining hand can come out of love rather than impatience, I suspect I am much more likely to get the desired result.    

Heading to pre-school, My Little Pony #1

My little pony #2

Kitty and the bee

Gorgeous moons lately. Too bad our camera doesn't capture it. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Big Four (Times Three)

     One of Lily's doctors scheduled an appointment on her birthday, so we decided to make a day of it. By that I mean we took her to Hoplaland in one of the malls in the nearby city of Trenčín. On our way there we happened upon a little play area they had set up, advertising for a handful of businesses. A shoe store where you could make a purse with a little piece of leather and color a picture of a shoe, a dairy where you could put together a giant puzzle and pretend to make yogurt, but by far Lily's favorite was a drug store where you could pretend to be a sales clerk, with a real working (and beeping) cash register and empty products. She could scan the items and hit a button on the screen and the drawer, filled with fake Euros, popped open. She could have played there all day. When we arrived at Hoplaland, (on a Tuesday morning) not surprisingly, there were only a couple of kids there, and only one of them was even sort of old enough to play with Lily. All the kids left within about 45 minutes and it was crickets around there the rest of the time. So Tomáš and I took turns climbing through Hoplaland on our hands and knees, jumping on the trampoline (me), playing in the ball pit (him), and going down the slide. It was a double-decker and it was so fun! When we left Hoplaland, Tomáš spotted a Slovak celebrity, Branko Radivojevič (a member of the National Hockey Team) (is that capitalized?). Not certain it was him, he said ''if I could hear his voice I'd know for sure.'' He has an uncanny ability to be able to recognize voices (and song intros) within nanoseconds. It's like a photographic memory, except with sound. A phonographic memory, if you will (credit for that joke goes to my friend Rachael, who said it about herself many, many years ago. I wouldn't have remembered it, but I have it written down in a quote book. And speaking of her, she wins the prize for making me laugh the most this week. Well...can I just...Can I copy and paste some excerpts from our Skype conversation?)

 Rachael: I'm thinking pizza and Murder She Wrote this evening. Care to join me??
 jessica: oh...OH how i wish i could!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 jessica: that sounds soooooo niiiiiiiiiice
 Rachael: That Jessica Fletcher is such a busy body!
 jessica: hahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahaha
 Rachael: Skype you when I'm home? I can give up the MSW for an evening with you if you've got time. Not the pizza though. I'm still getting pizza.
 jessica: hahhahaha
 Rachael: I'll keep it on if you have time you can ring me. It's just me and Jessica tonight. One or the other.... Or both.
 jessica: hahahaha ok 
 jessica: miss you (both) so much
 jessica: seriously, msw sounds sooooo nice :)
 jessica: haha
 Rachael: Id never seen it before. I remember it coming on and changing the channel as a kid.
 jessica: hahahahahhahaha
 jessica: hilarious
 jessica: my mom loved it
 jessica: she and cody still watch marathons
Rachael: The whole thing is on netflix now! I've been having my own little marathon.  I have the board game in America and it's surprisingly fun. Wish I had it here. I want to have a MSW party and game night.
 Rachael: Come as your favorite female  50 something super sleuth (in the game everyone is Jessica fletcher) and we could watch a few episodes and have some kind of (clean) drinking game centered around when ever we see Jessica jogging.
 Rachael: Double points if she has a towel around her neck. Half a point for some other form of exercise.
 jessica: oh my WORD stop making me laugh!!!!! i have to work!!!!!!!!!
 jessica: hahahaha
Oh. Some guy just hit on her. Take a shot!

 Rachael: It makes me want to text Cody.
 Rachael: Maybe we could roll dice to see what episode to watch.
 Rachael: Okay I'll stop again.
 Rachael: Is "you've got pretty good wind for an old broad." A come on?these are the kind of questions I want answered.
 jessica: oh my word you are making me laugh so much
 jessica: !!!
 Rachael: Has Angela Lansbury ever NOT been a grandma??? Also I hope the party is amazing!
 Rachael: You'd think people would stop inviting her out.). 

Ok, now back to the birthday...
Next came the food court, and then the ice cream cone. Then it was back home to her sister.
     On Saturday, we threw her a kids' party. It sounded maybe a little pitiful that only two friends were invited, but with one little brother and Rosy added to the mix, there was plenty enough chaos to constitute a good party. I settled on doing a polka dot theme, just because having a theme helps me tie things all together. Polka dots were relatively accessible in terms of decorations/cups and plates and I think they're super cute. (Not just cute. Super cute). We had all round food, a round banner, round-ish balloons, round sticker prizes for the games etc. etc. I wanted a polka-dot cake, but believe it or not, our grocery store doesn't carry food coloring and I didn't want to use chocolate, so it ended up a little plain jane. But sometimes plain jane is good. This cake, I'm told, was good, but very sweet. ''It must be an American recipe.'' It was indeed. I will be halving the sugar content next time. If not thirding it, haha. But the kids had a good time, I think. We played a game my mom made up for my birthday when I was little. You kneel on a chair and put a clothes pin in your mouth and try to drop it into a wide-mouth jar. Then we played one where one kid is blindfolded and they use a wooden spoon to feel another person and try to guess who it is. I gave it a try and failed miserably. To be fair, though, Tomáš did kneel down to kid size. Who has hair that thick? Aaanyhoo, a fun time was had by all, I do believe, and to me that makes a party a success. Lily will be having Birthday Party Part III in November when we have a combined family party for her and Rosy. 


Birthday morning. I brought some second-hand store presents from MT,

and I saved the stick-on earrings from Grandma for this special occasion. 
Tomáš says this is a Slovak sales clerk 
and I say this is an American sales clerk (checker). 

Little Dude, Markus

(It was so fun!)

(Viennese) coffee break
For Rosy
Mr.Bean strangling his teddy bear

Trying to juggle

Rosy kept blowing out the candles : )

Happy four years, my little Bug.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fitting In and Standing Out

     Sometimes, no, a lot of times I walk through my day and notice things about Slovakia that I just really love. They are things that probably no one else in this country notices or appreciates (ok, maybe the handful of foreigners do) because they grew up here. But I didn't. I'm not talking about the gorgeous rolling green hills or the craggy mountain ranges or the picturesque old buildings and squares. Those are things everyone can appreciate if they have half an eye open. But let's take for instance these bricks. We have a tendency in the US to just pave over everything, but these bricks are very typical here for parking lots. I've always liked the looks of them, and I just now realized it's a nice (and practical) way to keep a little extra green around. And a little extra CO2, to boot, in places where there are lots of cars. But the thing that caught my eye on the way to see Miss Tatiana, my hairdresser and friend (whom, by the way, you can add her to the things I love about Slovakia), was how each little rectangle had different kinds of plants in it. They looked like thousands of tiny terrariums (terraria?) and it just made me really happy. Or take for instance the half pound of walnuts I got for free this morning while waiting for my friend. Rosy was playing in a rock pile and the wind was blowing and they just kept falling all around us. Never in my life had I ever gotten to gather walnuts back home. Maybe I just never took the time to notice them, but here there are plum trees, cherry trees, apricot trees and walnut trees in public areas, and now and again you see people collecting their fruit. Today it was me. 
     Sometimes I walk through my day, though, and notice things about Slovakia that I don't love so much. In this instance I'm not talking about political corruption or lack of handicap access, outdated medical care or stiff-necked ways of thinking, although I don't love those things so much either. I'm talking about feeling like an outsider. Sometimes things happen and I go to my room and just cry because I realize that I will probably never fit in here. Things have gotten better, I have started to learn the culture. Funny that you actually have to learn a culture just like you have to learn a language. And in my experience, learning the culture was almost harder. For example, Slovaks are huge on their greetings. Children are taught to greet adults at a very young age. As soon as they can talk. And just about every day I hear mothers, prodding their children to say good day to whomever they met on the street, usually in an exasperated manner. ''What? Don't you have a tongue?'' (direct translation) they often ask, as the child hides behind their leg, shyly looking at the ground. I feel very torn about this whole thing with our kids. On the one hand, I absolutely hate the idea of forcing kids (or myself) to greet people because it's expected of them. I also hate people greeting me because it's expected of them. There's a girl in our building, and every time she says good day to me I almost feel a little sick because I can see in her face that it's a purely perfunctory act. And if I'm honest, there are some people I greet perfunctorily because I know it's expected of me. When I first moved here I got burned a couple of times because I didn't say good day out loud to some people. I had no idea I was expected to greet my in-laws' neighbors or my friend's mother-in-law, but some people got very offended that I just smiled at them. Conversely, I've gotten some very strange looks when I said good day to some people I'm not ''supposed'' to greet. There are these ''rules'' to whom you're supposed to greet and I did not know those rules. I'm supposed to greet everyone who lives in our building and anyone I run into in our building. I should greet anyone someone I'm with greets, whether I know them or not. I should greet people in waiting rooms, doctors, nurses, anyone working when I enter a shop, everyone I meet in a small village, the bus driver, service people, anyone who is already in a room I enter, but not always. You see my conundrum? It has brought me to tears many a time. But back to our kids. Part of me wants to just let them be and not bother at all with this whole greeting thing. Lily, for example, has never greeted anyone she was ''supposed'' to greet that I know of except family. Not for lack of (our) trying. She just won't. And part of me thinks you go girl. (Hahahahaha. I wish I actually thought those words. That would be funny). It's like when someone gives your kid something and your kid doesn't say thank you, so you ask what do you say? And they still won't say thank you, so you speak more firmly and pretty soon it's like SAY THANK YOU, GOSHDARNIT!! which totally defeats the purpose and the giver is uncomfortable and you are embarrassed and it's just awkward for everyone involved, but at the same time you want your kid to be polite and learn to say please and thank you. Same with greeting. I don't want my girls to feel the way I felt when someone gets wind that they're a non-greeter. I don't want people to think them rude, because they're not rude. And I'm not rude. But a part of me thinks yeah. Buck the system, Lily. You don't have to greet anyone you don't want to greet. Greeting is a voluntary act. Now Rosy? She's a natural greeter. Last week she walked right up to a 70-year-old man and said, čau.  He looked twice to see if she'd said what he thought she'd said before answering, čau. She greets passersby from our balcony, hunched over old women, drunks, mommies, you name it. I think you get where I'm coming from, do you not?
     So, the other night Lily had a get-together at her pre-school. All the kids and families were invited to return to the school in the evening with a jack-o-lantern to carry around the neighborhood, and then there was to be some food and music etc. afterwards. I ended up making not one, but two jack-o-lanterns because on the first one I made a hole in the bottom for ease of candle place-age, not realizing that Lily was supposed to carry the pumpkin. That one was a cat. On the second one I made girly flowers, but it was all flopsy topsy-heavy because of the type of pumpkin. We arrived and as I started looking around, all of the kids had either battery-operated little pumpkins or just tiny, uncarved pumpkins and suddenly I felt like a prize idiot. Once again I found myself in a situation where I seemed to be the only one who didn't get the (imaginary) memo. Thank goodness Tomáš didn't bawl me out for it, or it might have crushed me. I'm not sure why it upsets me so much. Maybe because I try so darn hard, just to have it flop and feel like a fool. Like the time I spent hours making a butterfly mask for Lily's carneval celebration because I didn't want her to look like every other box princess in the class, only to arrive the morning of, wishing she looked like every other princess instead of having to wear my silly mask. But maybe this is the crux of the whole thing. I can't have both. In other words, I can't fit in and stand out at the same time. Maybe that's it. I'm ok with standing out when it's me who chooses to. But when it's out of my control, that's what upsets me. But how do I make my peace with it? Our girls, like it or not, are going to be different from their classmates. They are not going to have fish and potato salad for Christmas dinner (except at Babka's), they will probably (regrettably) correct their teachers in English, they will have homemade cakes on their birthdays, and much to Tomáš' chagrin, they will wear clothes that did not come together on the same hanger. I guess it's a matter of just swallowing it all. Enjoying the moments when you're up and swallowing the bitter (and embarrassing) when you're down. Because really, that's life, isn't it? 
     We ended up having a pretty nice time at the fall celebration. Lily was excited that they gave out free cotton candy and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I had a good chuckle when while traditional Slovak folk songs were playing, the director of Lily's school (dressed as Mother Autumn or some such thing) called to the DJ for some Madonna dance music. And the lanterns were cool. And they didn't burn down the school. That was a plus. In what ways do you walk the tightrope of fitting in and standing out? Liking and not liking the place you live?      

A Snail and the Moon

     Last Friday morning I took Rosy out for a nature walk in the hopes of finding some elderberries. You can make a delicious syrup out of them with just raw honey, filtered water and the berries. It's supposed to be fantastic for flu, coughs, many other illnesses and building up immunity and it's packed with vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately I just missed the boat. From what friends tell me, they berried (my word) in September. But never fear, our trip was not all for naught. Naught in the least, wah wah wah. We saw lots and lots of ladybugs, snails of all sizes, from great big to teeny-tiny, a caterpillar, a hawk and...a FOX!!! I was so excited, and a little scared. (I couldn't remember if they were dangerous or not). It was hopping across the field, heading into the woods we were heading into. But before you think I mistook a rabbit for a fox, it wasn't exactly hopping, but kind of scampering. That's actually what first caught my attention. The way it moved was different than other animals I'd seen. I did actually think it was a bunny at first. Then I saw the long tail. I had only seen one fox before in my life, and that was at the top of the Great Divide, crossing the highway in front of us. I tried to take a picture (of this fox on Friday), but I superzoomed it and while trying to keep my eyes on it, got a nice picture of the sky. Ah well. Some things are better left unphotographed, am I right? Anyway, the takeaway from this little trip (aside from seeing all those creatures) was two-fold. I spotted several rosehip bushes, which Lily and I returned to twice and took our fill, and Rosy began to love to look for snails in all her books. (Snails and hedgehogs, althought not very common in American children's books, are very common characters in Slovak kids' books). So now Rosy's two favorite words are moon and slimák. She enthusiastically looks for the moon every night, and falls asleep looking at a book with a moon in it. I think there is a birthday party theme in here somewhere.

Autumn rubies