Tuesday, February 26, 2008

spring weather

Yay! It feels like spring! I have no idea how long it will last, but the last couple of days have been fantastic. Sunny skies, warm weather ... we've been at the park playing with our sand toys. Of course, we still have jackets on, but not sixteen layers underneath, so we'll take it and be happy :) M enjoyed burying all our toys underneath the sand. Of course this resulted in the comic hunt for the missing toy. I told him that sometimes at the beach you can bury a person in the sand. He didn't even comment, just gave me a blank look and moved onto something else.

Nathan was talking about the great weather, "Wow, this just reminds you that the weather's really beautiful here for most of the year." My reply? "No, it's not." I do love it here, but not for the weather. It's not awful, but it's certainly not fantastic. Fantastic days? Yes, and we're grateful for them.

M came home singing "10 Little Indians" the other day after school, which was pretty cute because he can hold up the correct number of fingers through the whole thing. I had not taught him that song, because it seems so politically uncomfortable. But he likes it and uses it for everything around the house. Bears, peas, I don't know what's going to come up tomorrow.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

a new car!

Today M spent a little time on the website http://www.uptoten.com/, which has tons of free games and songs and stuff. Even better, the makers seem to be French Canadian, so you get the bonus of fun accents or everything in French if that floats your boat. But I digress. One little section has 2 characters playing in their cardboard cars. M now thinks I'm the coolest mom ever because I helped him make his own. It's not much -- just a big box, still proudly advertising a Canon printer, one flap cut to be a steering wheel, and 4 cardboard wheels taped on the sides. (2 are beautifully painted by M.) As soon as it was done, M drove to work at his factory where he makes cardboard cars and forklifts.

What I loved about this process is that V immediately understood what we were doing, ran to the same pile of cardboard boxes, grabbed her own and sat it in. M wanted lots of help to get his car the way he wanted it, but V just took care of it herself. She picked the smallest box of the group, an Amazon box so tiny that I still can't believe she was sitting in it. It bulged a bit. Once I adjusted it, she drove around in this miniature car and then sat down in it at random intervals, with her knees up to her chin. She visited her factory, where she makes small cars. ("Mom, she's copying me!") Thanks goodness the copying doesn't bother M yet. Only a matter of time.

Oh, and all this reminded me of the totally fabulous cardboard car my sisters and I made for little bro one time. It took ages to make and all of our red crayons. We didn't have red for years. But I think he liked the car?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

American products you miss

My dear N is headed to the US soon for work. As usual, this prompted a flurry of internet shopping on my computer. Last time we went to the states, our credit card company called my mother-in-law because of the shopping spree going on. "No, no, no one stole the card. Just a hmm little Christmas shopping." We also just got a couple of bags of groceries from some good friends who can shop at the PX.

Anyway, all this has prompted thoughts of what are uniquely American products. OR, what is more common, what things are so incredibly cheap in the US compared to other places. Here's what kind of food we buy: big jars of peanut butter, dill pickles, italian salad dressing, powdered sugar, CAKE MIX, marshmallows, picante sauce that doesn't have sugar in it, Jell-O, Reese's. For other items, we buy lots and lots of English language stuff -- books, books for the kids, movies, children's clothing, all of N's clothes, ELECTRONICS.

All our ex-pat friends seem to have a different food item they're always picking up -- I get cake mix and pie filling to make a *fantastic* chocolate-cherry cake from the Cake Mix Doctor. Another friend loves that frozen spinach dip, so she gets Knorr vegetable soup mix (they don't carry the right kind here), another gets Karo syrup, another splurges on imported root beer or Dr Pepper.

And just think of all the Czech women in the US! They must hate the lack of mid-ground flour. Dumplings just don't turn out right without it! And where's the gulash mix? You call THIS sauerkraut?!?

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I made the ratatouille tonight and here's how it went down:

Positives: It was much quicker to make than I thought, it tastes great (to the big people in the house) and it's very filling and nutritious.

Negatives: Mr. I-need-ratatouille of course wasn't as crazy about it as he thought (although he did eat it when prompted, even the big tomato bits and the onions) and little miss didn't like it. Not enough flavor, I guess. She eats spicy indian zucchini like nobody's business.

In other news, it's cold. We've had a mild winter, but this week has been pretty bitter. The power was off for a couple of hours one morning for some repairs. During that time, I got some milk out of the fridge and thought to myself, "Oh, better close the fridge up quick so the food doesn't spoil." That's Texas thinking there. Last time we had friends over for dinner, I chilled drinks on the balcony and they were COLD.

Kid quote
V: I'm Sleeping Building and you're Prince Full Up!

(in Disney, Sleeping Beauty's prince is called Philip, in case you're not up on that kind of stuff.)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone. We are delaying celebration here until Saturday morning, when the whole family will be together. My kids have spent 2 days making valentines, and the dining room table is covered with paper. M is a very demanding valentine-maker, spending much of his time telling me what to cut out for him (I cut out a bunch of small hearts for them to glue onto things). He enjoyed using the glue stick and writing indecipherable messages on some of the valentines. But I think he enjoyed bossing me around most of all. My favorite: the black valentine. I made the mistake of showing M the colors of paper we had left. Of course he picked black! V showed remarkable artistic talent. Her choices on where to glue hearts were very good and her valentines are some of the best ones. Unfortunately, with an attention span much shorter than her brother's, she finished making valentines and turned to pestering M, until I distracted her with another toy.

Valentine's day does exist somewhat in CZ, but it seems like every place I've been outside of the US, it is exclusively a grown-up people holiday. I guess romantic love is kind of the point, but valentines are so much fun for kids. Mail! Everyone loves to get mail. The street seller I got gingerbread valentines from laughed at me because I bought 3. He's like, "So, you have three sweethearts? Or maybe your sweetheart's just really hungry?" So, I'm going to buy 1 for my sweetheart and make my kids cry. Right.

My kids watched Ratatouille today and M insisted on making his own dinner (he put the beans in the tortilla himself) because he's a chef! He wanted to be the waiter, too, so he delivered our plates to us. And now I have to buy the stuff to make ratatouille. Our small chef insists, and since it's all vegetables, how can I resist? Hurray for kid shows that feature healthy food! Popeye, VeggieTales (disturbing, since you eat the characters. The Lord of the Rings VeggieTales spoof has forks for the orcs, lol.), Bugs Bunny, Curious George. Can't think of any more right now.

Monday, February 11, 2008

the best talk ever

M gave a talk in Primary at church yesterday. He "read" a scripture and gave a talk a couple of times last year, but I actually did all the talking, so I was absolutely amazed when he came out with "the best talk ever" yesterday, according to another little tike in our Primary. M wanted to tell the story from the Book of Mormon about Nephi getting the brass plates. The Friend magazine this month had some pictures that go along with the story, so that was serendipitous. We made puppets by mounting the pictures on cardstock and taping them to toilet paper rolls. M told the whole story himself with no prompting and made all his cute faces and voices. Isn't it great when our kids are so adorable! (I'm glad I got to feel all happy and proud during church, since M followed up his performance by having potty training issues all afternoon. Where did this come from?!?)

We went to the Freiberg, Germany temple on Saturday and made the trip there in a record 2 hours. Super-fast travel time partly due to the early hours (we were aiming to be in Freiberg at 7:30) and helped not a little by no border control. CZ is in Schengen now, although passport control at the airport won't go away until March, I think. The EU thing is very nice as a traveler, but we still have at least 10 currencies in our change bin. Better than 20.

V is making longer sentences now. "I want some of that apple on the table, please." N and I both did a double take when she came out with that one at dinner the other night. V is also busily practicing jumping. She makes it off the ground about 40% of the time. She even brought her stepstool into the living room to practice jumping off the stool. This desire was prompted by M's propensity to jump off of all the furniture.

M, jumping off the arm of the couch: Oo infinity and beyond!

V, jumping off the stool: To infiny and bewond!

No injuries yet.

V was singing her version of The Wheels on the Bus tonight. She likes to go through lots of different things, but doesn't have the patience to finish each verse. So it's quite abbreviated -- each item gets 2 or three repetitions and "all through the town" is usually left off, too. I asked her what the Mommies on the bus say and she said, "shh, shh". I asked her what the Daddies on the bus say and she said, "No. No Daddies on the bus. Daddies are in Portugal." Poor Daddy is so far away, he doesn't even get to be in the bus song.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

V's birthday

Our little girl turned 2! She's been telling everyone about her birthday lately. She's very good about introducing herself at the beginning of a conversation. It goes something like this:

V: My name is V.
Person: Yes! Your name is V.
V: Because it's my birthday.
Person: It's your birthday?! How old are you?
V: I'm 2. Because I have my cake, with fire.


She was adorable blowing out the candles. We had 3 candles, 2 for her age and one to grow on, and she blew each one out separately with a very delicate little-girl puff. And then the lady-like stuff ended when she grabbed a whole piece of cake so she could eat off the frosting. With sprinkles, of course.

After she opened her presents, V cracked us up trying to walk in dress up shoes, carry a purse and push her new doll stroller at the same time. M actually picked out the dress up shoes so that he could share them with V and then was very disappointed that they don't fit him. Not surprising, since he has the loooooongest feet ever. Both kids love the See N Say we gave V. I don't know where it is right now, but I'm betting it's in M's "hiding place" -- he has several hiding places in the house and they are also the black holes for everything he wants to keep for himself. Swords, empty paper towel rolls (sheaths), empty toilet paper rolls (armor for his wrists), hangers (bows), straws (arrows), toys, etc.

In other news this week, our downstairs neighbor (there are shops downstairs, not flats) complained that our kids were jumping while he had a patient in his shop. We had friends over so the moms could have a meeting and the kids were back in their room playing with bubblewrap. Too funny.

We're still working on the voucher program for good behavior and it's going a lot better now. M is learning to be independent and how to save, too. He just bought a dragon mask from IKEA for 15 vouchers. Because of vouchers, he now gets his own yogurt every morning and throws away the trash and puts the spoon in the sink. The best part is that he does all this before I get up. Hooray!