Friday, May 30, 2008


phone ears = headphones
Thomas made his own birdie costume. Brainstormed, designed, and fashioned totally solo.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Food for Thought

Was directed here by another blogger. Interesting because I clearly remember the youngest female faculty member on staff one year telling me she was handed a notepad in order to take minutes at a faculty meeting by the male chair at the time, no discussion, no vote on who would do it each week, it was just assumed that she would do it. Not an obvious thing, but one of many things that create a much larger problem. The biggest problem was that I didn't recognize it as a problem until she explained it to me, and pointed out there was no reason for her to be chosen over the other male and older staff. The men never took minutes. And there it is in a small study done recently, academic women feel more responsible for administrative duties, and have less time to focus in their fields and less time to advance careers and create & nurture families.

Interesting little tidbit on Czech Maternity and Parental Leave Benefits. Key facts, Parents can both be paid to take a leave of absence from work to care for a newborn & it is the employer's responsibility to give them job stability when they return. Women are paid for 3 years to take care of a child full time instead of work outside of the home, however children may be enrolled in nursery school 5 days per week. Parental benefits are provided for parents regardless of income.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Why I can't read the news

This morning Chad updated me on 2 key events in the news he felt were benign enough to mention to me at 6 A. M. Our neighbors know that "I cannot listen to the news in the #@% morning!" I have problems with the news, and while I feel it is important to try to keep up with what is going on in the world for many extremely important reasons, I cannot read the mainstream news. It's very important to understand your fellow man, where your politics/votes are going, and how to treat the current environment so we can sustain a livable earth for many generations to come. However, reading the daily news does none of those things for me. Instead I get depressed, and angry. I start to dislike the people around me. Thoreau said all news is gossip. I don't actively avoid the news, I just don't seek it out & somehow things seep in & the world keeps turning. I'm not an activist. I'm not good at it. I'm good at making my art. I hope to be a good mother. These are very important things for me to share. If I do my best at them the world will benefit, and things will change. Chad doesn't agree with my point of view on this. That's okay, but here is why it's better for him to read the news and not me right now:
At 6 A. M. Chad announced this bit about a successful Mars landing, and you know what my first thought was? "Go Team Alpha Wolf Squadron, " Why? Because we watched Shrek 3 last night, see below

Donkey: Alright people, let's do this thing. Go Team Dynamite!
Pinocchio: But I thought we agreed we'd go by the name Team Super-cool.
Gingerbread Man: As I recall, it was Team Awesome.
Wolf: I voted for Team Alpha Wolf Squadron.
Donkey: Alright, alright, alright. From henceforth, we're all to be known as Team Alpha Super Awesome Cool Dynamite Wolf Squadron.

and while I love scientists, admire the heck out of astronauts, and feel Nasa should be supported my brain says what? Our country's financial sheet, unemployment rate, real estate, dollar are all at ridiculous levels, and the war? Our environment? It struck me that only a Donkey, a wooden puppet, a wolf, and a gingerbread man would solve all of those problems by exploring Mars at a rate of 2 gazillion dollars a day. Successful landing? Sweet, now there will be a resort for the last two remaining people living on Earth after it's environmental apocalypse. Enter visions of two really attractive people stranded in bomb shelters trying to seek each other out for a romantic kiss while dodging radioactive living dead and driving Mad Max like vehicles. Maybe I should avoid movies as well as the news. I didn't share this with Chad, lest the neighbors be sleeping.

At 6:01 A. M. Chad announced this tidbit about Bush supporting the largest marine conservation project in history, and do you want to know what my first thought was? A picture of George Bush's fat face grinning during a farewell speech while he holds up the last living plankton found in his sanctuary in a snow globe, commemorating his environmental record. Hopefully it will be a bullet proof snow globe, because a lot of people are angry with him. I'm not the violent sort, but that weird kid in my science class in high school who used to brag about all of the illegal weapons and explosive material he had under his bed is seems more interesting as the years go by. I don't think I ever got his number, because he scared me, but if I did see him today I might ask him to coffee with his militia friends. Probably decaf.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I Almost Forgot...

You can't just have mango. It must be Mango-Tango when you live with us.

This just in...another trophy for Mother of the Year over here. I cleaned under our beds this morning. In the process of doing so I found the letter q part of our alphabet puzzle. Locating this has sent me into fits, you can't say the animal alphabet without q for quail! As I was dusting it off, and smiling with Virgo like satisfaction, Thank you MOM, I noticed Thomas was smacking his lips.
"What do you have in your mouth?"
Thomas crunches, swallows, and blinks inquisitively.
"No, Thomas, really, what are you eating?"
Silence. I look for crumbs around his mouth and teeth and find light orange. Hmmmm. What could he have found under our bed that color? I desperately look around for possible old snack plates we've overlooked in the last day or so. Nothing. I realize the futility of my line of questioning. Then...
"A Fishy, Mommy."
I ask in a very high pitched yet quiet and nice tone, "Where did you find the fishy?"
"On the bed."
Yuck, oh yuck, I think, an old fish cracker not on the bed under it, prepositions kid. When was the last time we ate fish crackers near the bed? Oh no, yuck, just yuck. How many dust bunnies did I just sweep up? Ew. Then he moves across the room and picks up a brand new bag of goldfish crackers, courtesy of his Nana, left by the computer on a bed we use as a desk, by an insanely sleep deprived and hungry pregnant woman living in our flat.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Where did this child come from?

Today was a wonderful day. The weather is still cold gray, people are still burning coal, and we still had a great day. Thomas woke up asking to go to Hawaii. I explained that we would have to make a long trip on an airplane that wouldn't put us in Hawaii until tomorrow, even though I would love to be in Hawaii today. He replied, "We just need to find our fly-boat, Mommy (courtesy the Wonder Pets)." Instead, we boarded a bus to Novy Bor for bread, milk, and produce. The big thing about Novy Bor is our routine. He's used to getting strolled a couple of km's, stopping at the bakery for a treat, multiple trips to food stores, then a trip to the park or the cafe with a "Pooh House" (that would be a Winnie the Pooh plastic playhouse, Chad's reaction to that request the first time he heard it was hilarious). When our trips don't follow that routine, Thomas is highly bothered. Today, he never requested a trip to the park or bakery across town, even after Mommy had to drag him back and forth across a km of highway to find a restroom for the tiniest pregnant bladder EVER. He never complained, even when the 1st place was closed. We walked to a different grocery store and he was totally fine riding in the cart the entire time. Then we walked back to the bus stop. He hugged me and asked for kissies 3 times on the walk. We saw a worm, several beetles, and a whole snail party. Thomas found a huge stick. When we got back to Senov we played at our local library with all sorts of new toys. Then we came home and made nachos, "That's MA-CHIOS, Mommy." I laid a vitamin next to his plate, and told him he could have it when he finished eating. 2 seconds later it was gone, and I asked "Where did the vitamin go?"
"It's in Tommy's pipe, Mommy."
"Your what, giggle? (panic, could he have shoved it in the bathroom drain in 2 seconds?)"
"IN MY PIPE, RIGHT HERE (pointing to chest). We have pipes in our mouths and bodies, Mommy."
Of course, why didn't I know that?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


A friend just informed Chad & I that we talk about money too much, particularly not having enough. He said we need to focus on what we do have, and maybe more will come our way. Noted. He's probably right. I read The Secret, I know.

Seems the only thing I can do between 3 A.M. and 5 A.M. is either agonize over advice like this & its implications, worry about being a mother, or read. I'm completely unable to get my fingers to do anything detailed or creative & clumsy housework at that hour creates ridiculous amounts of noise in our silent apartment building, Domov Mladeze. My reading is limited to the laptop-THANK YOU INTERNET- because I fly through books, but the internet has an endless amount of good writers contributing on a daily basis, and I'm ever so grateful. One of these writers contributed to a column asking people to write about things they were they were denying themselves. I read it last night and while a looming recession was mentioned as a reason to start eliminating excess from our lives, the contributers mainly focused on eliminating things from their diets. There were a few abstract surprises, but overall I was disappointed.

Our experience in a rather economically depressed area has forced us to eliminate a lot from our daily lives. I miss the freedom our vehicles provided. I miss milk that won't last 3 years on a shelf. I miss showers that cover my entire body in a steamy rainstorm. I miss so many THINGS, but it feels good to know we don't need everything we thought we needed before this experience. We've heard a lot of news regarding the rising costs of everything in the states such as gas & food, and the dropping of wages and investments like real-estate. People warn us that we will be surprised at what we'll return to in a month.

This isn't a highly visited site, but I think it would be really neat and maybe inspiring to list something you are denying yourself in the spirit of economy, environmental or social empathy, or just because...

It's quick and easy to comment anonymously, that way you don't have to log on.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lucky Girls

Yesterday was another beautiful day in Kamenicky Senov, the sun was shining, birds were singing, people were tending their gardens in their underwear, and there wasn't much coal smoke in the air. I was feeling a little emotional, and it's hard to tell whether it was due to the fact that I'm just a girl (translation: pregnant raging hormones). We've recently been the recipients of some major generosity. Our families have send wonderful care packages, Chad's mother's partner received a lung transplant, the people who furnished our flat & provided us with a substantial amount of cookware including a microwave told us to leave it in place for the school, and as always our friends in Kamenice have kept us playing. Yesterday was also a baby shower my mom was going to have to attend alone, and I had been invited and obviously the commute was out. Some things are just brutal to go to alone; weddings, funerals, workplace parties, and baby showers. I was sad for my mom since her friends were all busy, but Annie joined her & I got all choked up. Again. I can't wait to give her a big hug.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


"Thomas, are you finished with your milk?" Hidden question insinuated here, "Can we brush teeth and read stories NOW?"
"Do you see the milk right here, Mommy?" he points to the milk in his cup and turns to me, "There's still this much milk in here, Mommy. When there's milk in Tommy's cup, it's not all done, Mommy."


For real, sun & shorts are here.

Little Slugger

This is probably the only time in our lives when I will be able to post the contents of Thomas's underwear drawer on the internet without irreparably damaging our relationship. He's never really shown much interest in this drawer since he's not to keen on dressing himself. There's interest and skill, but really he doesn't care when I present him with choices of what to wear-something the parenting books says helps toddlers develop a sense of their own power, decision making abilities, and freedom. I think this is less of a power issue & more of a "I'm a boy & I just don't care very much, unless I feel like wearing blue today, Mother, you just don't understand," issue. Sometimes he likes putting his own pants on & sometimes he likes dancing naked. Well, doesn't everyone? So imagine my surprise when I opened his drawer this morning and found these things in his underwear drawer. His friend Madelaine came over yesterday afternoon, and I remember them opening the drawer, but didn't really see what was going on and kind of warned them to stay out of the drawers since fingers could get pinched. They recognized them as pretty much off limits and moved on. I believe he stashed all of his prized possessions-of the moment-in there since you just can't have your girlfriend playing with your favorite pirate eye patch or blue mitten.

Monday, May 12, 2008


"Tommy want a swimming circle." Thinks for a moment, then decides to elaborate since I obviously don't understand the gravity of his situation. "Tommy needs a swimming circle to put WATER IN and go SWIMMING IN."

Friday, May 9, 2008

Eh? I Can't Here Ya!

I posted pictures of Peter Rath leaving Kamenicky Senov with his wheelbarrow on Monday. We haven't heard any details about his long walk yet, but when we do I will post. Recently, we were with a friend who tactfully reminded us to keep our voices down while walking through the small villages here, and recounted the experience of hearing two young loud American girls riled up about something in his flat across a highway & thought they were awful. WELL, he had a point, I was being loud & Chad has a strong voice, BUT we were excited. Why you ask? I haven't recounted much about getting our visas in the blog. We had a lot of expensive difficulty obtaining visas for Thomas and I, in time to remain legal. Our friends here politely listened, but did little more than nod since the Statue of Liberty no longer holds a torch. Flipping the bird to all foreigners takes so much effort. BUT when faced with another US citizen we were excited to relate all of the work we went through to remain here as a family, & warn him about the new rules regarding US citizens who plan to visit Europe for more than 90 days within a 6 month period.

Prior to the end of December US passport holders could visit non-Schengen parts of Europe for 90 days without a visa, cross a border, get a dated stamp from border control, return to the original non-Schengen site, and continue a visa free stay using this method of travel indefinitely. These travelers are not allowed to work or use state resources, etc. Thomas & I were traveling outside of the Czech Republic enough to stay legally without a passport, but in December it joined the Schengen Area. We read misleading information in the Prague Post, and had no regular access to the internet, but looked it up when we had an opportunity and misunderstood the rules. In January the Schengen website updated it's information to clearly explain the new rules. We were going to be illegal in 3 months, if we couldn't obtain a visa. Chad started calling around & was overwhelmed with conflicting information from all sources, and even made a trip to Prague to listen to the state department explain the new rules incorrectly, and answer questions with misleading information. He worked on this around the clock, when he should have been making artwork. We made several overnight trips to Prague in order to obtain, certify, and translate documents. Only some of these expensive documents were eventually used in our application. We finally made a trip to the Czech consulate in Vienna (we had to apply for visas at a consulate outside of the country & heard Vienna was the speediest). Peter Rath generously put us up in a hotel in Vienna and spent the evening with us at the drop of a hat. The next morning the consulate almost denied us the application because my insurance card was paper, not official plastic & was obtained over the internet. After spending $500 on the policy, dragging a toddler through Prague overnight travel, we weren't leaving without at least applying. Chad was really nice. It worked. We were allowed to apply, and told to bring new proof of insurance when the visas were ready. Then we were told we had the wrong documents translated. Chad was nice again. We took the train back to Prague & Chad stayed to have the appropriate document translated and expedited to Vienna. Thomas and I took another train back to Kamenicky Senov alone at night.

Fast Forward to March, we were running out of time & heard nothing from the embassy. Chad made more phone calls. Luckily someone important cared and knew someone else important that could make calls on our behalf. The next day the foreign police visited the school, asking for Thomas and I. We were at the baby center that day, in the next town over. I still don't know what they were checking on. I would like to think they were verifying our residence in a school owned building, not preparing to deport us or question us in a closet. We then received word that our visas were ready, just bring proof that we were insured until the end of June. Why would I buy a policy for the entire month of June, when I have a plane ticket flying us out of here in the middle of June? Why would I need a visa for the middle to end of June? There was a clerical error. Chad notified the consulate & you know what they did? Cancelled our application, and started a new one. Our application that took 3 months to process (only because someone lit a fire under someone else) was in the process of being cancelled. Thomas and I had 3 legal days left to obtain visas. Chad immediately contacted the consulate & the insurance company, late on a Friday afternoon. We called a friend who rushed over & took our documents to fax. We sweated that weekend.

Monday we were informed that it was okay, the cancellation letter had been retrieved and we could find out if our visas were ready after 3 PM that afternoon. Chad started calling at 3PM, and at 3:30PM he reached someone who said we could pick up our visas the next morning before the consulate IN VIENNA closed at 10:30AM, and we were reminded that our stay would expire on Wednesday (meaning after that we would have to apply and receive visas for Austria in order to pick up our visas for the Czech Rebublic, but we wouldn't be legal in the Czech Republic so the consulate probably wouldn't let us apply anyhow). We managed to gather together every possible document we could imagine needing, clothes, snacks, dvd player, and child and board a 4PM bus to Novy Bor, where we caught a 5PM train to Prague. We landed in Prague by 8:30PM on foot, stood in line forever to get 5AM train tickets (it's a 5 hour train ride to Vienna). We then secured a hotel room, searched for groceries to feed our child on the train ride the next morning, and then found a restaurant. We made it back to the hotel around midnight. We kicked ourselves for getting a room for 3.5 hours of sleep & tried to sleep.

The next morning we were delighted (as delighted as one gets on little sleep in the middle of travel) that our tickets were 700Kc cheaper than the first time we purchased train tickets to Vienna. The conductor told us we didn't have seats indicated on the tickets, but he had a perfect private car for women and children. We had a room we could try to sleep in. Thomas and Chad slept wonderfully. We got off the train, and ran to the metro. We got on the wrong car, "thank you kind and misinformed stranger," hit construction, finally reached our stop, and ran (through a huge park filled with toys, poor Thomas)to the embassy. We got there at 10:26AM. There was no one at our window. Chad got loud. Other people made comments. We were loud Americans & a woman appeared at the window. She looked at me. She looked back at the clock. I continued trying to catch my breath & sent fireballs out of my eyes in the nicest possible way. She took our passports, and we had to wait. 15 or so loooooong minutes later we had visas.

We were legal. We took our sweet patient boy to the park for an hour, returned to the train station, boarded the train and remembered to breathe as it took off. BUT we were informed we were in the wrong class and had to move. Ooops, we didn't pay for first class, and didn't know there was a difference but they had a problem filling all those empty seats with just US so we were escorted to similar seats in another car. Just as Thomas was drifting off to sleep we were told we didn't have seats on this train, and would have to pay. WHAT? 500Kc please. WHAT? Chad tried to figure it out & maybe he had run out of patience, but he held back pretty well & paid. Later we were informed by a bemused business man, that we were on a speedy train & that we weren't being cheated, this was normal, but the ticket agent in Prague screwed up & should have charged us when Chad requested the specific train we were on. ARGH. We arrived in Prague and took a bus back to Senov, even though I had resolved to never ever ride one on that journey after the Christmas vomit express with my parents. The next train back wasn't leaving for several hours & we were exhausted. So we took a bus through a blizzard back to Novy Bor. 2 hours later we exited the bus in Novy Bor and waited 30 minutes in the windy cold snow to board the SAME bus with the SAME driver to drive us back to Senov. It was at this point in the story our friend told me to pipe down.

All my life I've been told to speak up, and if Chad hadn't spoken up for us at the embassy we might not be here right now. I was embarrassed on Sunday, but on Tuesday we visited some friends from London (they are Czech natives). We didn't know where they were staying in Senov. We were told to follow a road toward a town, and look for a yellow building & a garden around the side. And you know how we found them? I heard LOUD English being spoken. A voice that drifted down an alley across a road in-between houses full of supposed annoyed Czechs beckoned us to our friends. We had a lovely time feeding & petting baby rabbits & playing out the end of a lovely afternoon. We will miss them and I will miss their loud English.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Do You Know What Sniglets Are & Other Ramblings

Thomas has come up with some really cool words, and I'm sorry if this is just another one of those things only the parents love, but I really have to document these in some way, since he's already invented and abandoned several that I've forgotten.

Motorbikal, you know a motor+bike=motorcycle

Dinie-horses, we told him that tyrannosaurus rex was related to chickens and his once perfectly clear "dinosaurs," turned into diny-farm animals.

With the threat of snow and complete exhausting nausea gone (knock on wood or fake wood or something, anything, please don't make me live through either of those again), we had a lovely time over the holiday weekend. Rain visited often and cancelled our fairy tale hike, and shortened our puppet show on Friday. Luckily it lifted before we left and a jazz band played & Thomas danced & ate lots of ice cream & met new friends from London. We had lunch with a friend on Thursday (a friend with very nice children & lots of toys). She explained that May Day was mostly just another day off for people, an opportunity to spend time with family & friends that marks the beginning of the warmer weather, so that explains the barbecues. She said the kissing & Love day stuff was related to May Day, but not real popular, and she knew nothing of the pagan rituals. I did receive a text message from another friend wishing me a happy Beltane, and wishes that all of the faeries would be free. AND for some odd reason my search just now for information regarding ‘Čarodějnice’ – an annual witch-burning festival, turned up a wealth of information describing exactly what I had been looking for last week. It described the dying tradition of a big town bonfire where everyone roasted sausage & downed lots of beer while children played, some dressed as witches. I don't know what was wrong with Google last week...Anyway back to our wonderful lunch on May Day. Lunch is the main meal in the Czech Republic. It is almost unheard of not to eat soup before the main lunch course, and salad is usually not included. However many dishes are served with a small garnish of cabbage (and yes Czech people know cabbage, the sauerkraut here tastes nothing like what I don't eat in the states), tomato, and cucumber. Literally translated, this is referred to as the plate painting, do not call it salad! Our friend really spoiled us. Thomas loves soup, and she served a cream of potato & mushroom soup. Then she served baked rice, tempeh & radish goulash, and broccoli, and we had barley coffee (it was good, really) and a homemade pudding topped cake. It was a wonderful array of vegetarian foods that tasted good. Nothing was fried or dipped or topped with mayonnaise or tarter sauce. We went home stuffed & exhausted from playing.

Then a good friend, Chad's mentor from the states, Charlie Parriott, came to visit. The holiday weekend offset his business plans, and it was wonderful of him to come play with Thomas & us. We know him from our first days in Seattle, & we miss him & his family a lot. Saturday, the guys helped mow grass & build fire at Peter Rath's atelier. Peter Rath is retiring from his glass atelier and handing it over to a new generation. To commemorate the retirement he has prepared a wheelbarrow (with GPS) full of glass that he is at this moment walking to Vienna. From Senov. He's wearing sneakers. He's over 65, at least. His foot path with the wheelbarrow of glass follows the historical route taken to transport glass from the center of glass making, Kamenicky Senov, to the money-I mean where the companies sold it, Vienna. The best way to transport it with minimal breakage, was by wheelbarrow. Guess foam peanuts weren't en vogue during the horse and carriage days. Today was his send-off. At 10AM we watched him bounce his wheelbarrow jauntily up the hill behind the school, and I swear he clicked his heals. Peter has been very gracious to Chad, Thomas, and I. It was difficult to see him go, especially after having such a wonderful weekend and saying goodbye to Charlie yesterday. The sun was out in full force and we enjoyed a 10+ kilometer walk DOWN the side road of our mountain filled with prairies, farms, and gorgeous views, to a town called Polevsko, for lunch, and then to Novy Bor for his send off, our groceries, and a bus back UP the mountain.

Oh, and I have to balance out all of my complaints with this compliment to Czech cuisine. Czech people know their strawberries. Every strawberry thing I've tried here (including frozen strawberries) has been filled with ripe and real strawberries. There is a bottled juice sold in every public establishment here that is as thick as a full on strawberry smoothie, no bananas. It's sweet, but it has that distinct strawberry flavor, nothing like hot pink kool aide & often I'm afraid that I will choke on a chunk of strawberry when drinking it because it is so authentic.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

We attended our town's Witches Burning Night, čarodějnice or Valpuržina noc in Czech, celebration this evening. Women & children dressed as witches, played games set up by the fire department, and the whole town barbecued over a bonfire (burnt with a scare-crow witch atop) in the square. There was also a contest for the best witch costumes. Later, I believe there were thousands of little private bonfires and parties. Schools were out early, and will be closed for the rest of the week. I'm posting if only to share what I've pieced together about the series of holidays that seems to commence beginning with April 30. May Day marks many things here, and luckily the celebrations seem to revolve around the children. It is a state holiday, once a mandatory celebration under communism, referred to as Labour Day, meant to rally support for the political party it outlawed May Day parades and more traditional celebrations of the coming of Spring. After the fall of communism here, participation in the holiday changed meaning for many people, and it seems more pagan rituals re-emerged as a symbol of protest against the former state mandated celebrations. Other things I've found describe a Love Day where people often gather and kiss a certain statue in Prague. NO ONE in my village has mentioned anything about any of that to us. I think holidays are wildly different, and I use wild for a reason, in our remote area. I've found so much conflicting information regarding this time of year, that I will have to just go on what we experience, rather than Wikipedia (novel approach). We have some really nice people around us all celebrating & inviting us to their traditional parties & events. This morning I will attend a Fairy tale hike with Thomas, tomorrow we will attend a huge children's affair with our friends in Kamenice, in the evening there will be a jazz concert & Chad will help them barbecue, Saturday we will attend a traditional barbecue garden party for this time of year thrown by Peter Rath to also celebrate the beginning of his foot journey to Vienna from Kamenicky Senov with a wheelbarrow filled with glass. The only thing I know to be prepared for is to costume Thomas, um yeah right for 5 seconds, and barbecue. There is, of course, lots of beer and holiday specific sausages involved in these celebrations. I bought 3 packages of tofu yesterday, mixed up some hummus, but sadly I'm running out of the jar of peanut butter I scored last week ALREADY. Chad totally thinks we're having a girl. At least the nausea has become somewhat more manageable!