Friday, December 4, 2009

Nathan's birthday

Now, for an even older event. Nathan had a birthday in November, too! We had all the traditional festivities, plus some bunny-shaped balloons.
For his sixth birthday (see the candles above -- 6 plus one to grow on), I gave Nathan tickets to the Pet Shop Boys concert last night. They're his favorite band, so it was quite serendipitous that they were coming into town at the right time. The show was great, lots of clever games with a bunch of white cubes on the stage. They projected movies onto the cubes, and arranged them in different configuration. Dancers threw them at each other during a song about a relationship gone wrong. They also wore cubes on their heads for much of the show. Quite cleverly, 2 of the 4 dancers/backup singers didn't show their faces until toward the end of the show. When revealed, they were twins with punk white-blond hair. They got a big cheer. The lead singer, Neil Tennant, sounded great. Seriously, I don't know how you can sound the same after so long. Their first hits were in '85 or '86, something like that. In fact, it was a great evening, with the downside of it being terribly cold! The arena is apparently a hockey arena, and wood was just thrown over the ice. Brrr. We were fine due to our winter gear, but I'd have worn warmer socks if I'd known!

E's first birthday

Yes, I'm a bit late posting. But, hey, I'm doing it now, right? Our busy little girl is a whole year old, and she had a lovely birthday party with the family. She was a bit sick at the time, so please ignore the red eyes. She's all better now.Cake! Mommy, Daddy, and the big sibs liked it. E did not. The icing made her fingers sticky, she tried to shake it off, and that was pretty much the end of it.
M and V helped with all the preparations. They were much more excited about the birthday party than E. I let them decorate her cake with a little help. Yes, that's a LOT of icing.
E's first experience with ribbon. We haven't put up the Christmas tree yet, or put out any presents, but I anticipate a lot of baby fun when we do.
This is probably the favorite toy, one of those classics. Animals pop up when you push the buttons or levers. The Tinky Winky in the background is pretty great too. He says stuff when you shake him, or even honks sometimes.
Bonus shot -- when traveling with the kids, I love to get candy/toy combinations. I visited the novelty candy section at ToysRUs this summer and found this gem -- the gummies glow! It was on clearance, possibly because no one else wants to eat something that glows, but I think it's pretty awesome. The tweezers have a red light that activates when you squeeze them, so they work with any clear gummy candy.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Let someone else pick

When Nathan and I were dating, we were both working full-time -- well, Nathan was working double-time or something like that, but normal full-time for him -- and we often had the same conversation on date night.

N: Where do you want to go for dinner?
M: I don't care. Where do you want to go?
N: I don't care either.
M: I don't want to decide. It's your turn to pick.
N: I don't want to decide either! Let's play paper-rock-scissors.
M: I don't even want to pick paper, rock or scissors.

I'm not sure about the paper-rock-scissors, but definitely not choosing the restaurant was the preferred option. I think we were so tired after a long week, that we just couldn't stand making one more decision. Not so much of a problem now; I've settled into the mom job, and I like to make ALL the decisions. Ha. That's only sort-of a joke.

But I have recently started a no-decision activity -- letting someone else pick my produce. There's a produce delivery service in town, and twice now I've bought a fruit box and vegetable box from them. I've also bought some things I actually chose myself ... the ready-to-eat haas avocados are worth using the service all by themselves. (If you have access to California avocados, be grateful.) Having someone else choose for me has actually been really good -- tonight we had eggplant parmesan, garlic bread and pomegranate for dinner. Not something I would normally throw together, but since I had to use up the eggplant, here you go. M got really excited about the pomegranate and talked all about how they are used in Jewish feasts. I think. He didn't have my full attention. Of course, I now have to use up the other 3 eggplants in the fridge. I left 2 weeks between orders, and all that was left in the fridge were 2 eggplants when the second shipment arrived. Hm. I'm thinking Indian food for the next eggplant dish ...

The picture is our favorite house in the neighborhood, at least when we have autumn colors. In an old house in Prague, all covered with vines ...

Monday, November 2, 2009


There is a neighborhood here, next to the American-style school, where many kids go for classic trick-or-treating. It seriously is just like my childhood, except with 10x as many children. Our biggest attention-getter this year was V, as Princess Leia. Star Wars was a popular theme, we saw several Darth Vaders and one other Leia. V also got to go to a friend's "fancy dress" birthday party (that means costume party). Very exciting. I chatted with her little friend's teenage sisters for a minute when I dropped her off. They questioned V about Star Wars and I was a little embarrassed about the depth of her knowledge. What's sad is that she doesn't even like Star Wars that much -- as she says, "I only like the movie with the Ewoks." She did love her costume.
M says that we made the baby Chewbacca because she chews on everything. Too true. She was a little bundle of joy on the trick-or-treating outing, as long as we held her. She didn't want to ride in the stroller, contrary to her normal preference. We even let her collect some Halloween candy. The loot was pretty amazing this year. The variety! Russian-labeled crumbly milk stuff, sour patch kids, 8-inch marshmallow sticks, lollipops, chocolate eyeballs, lots of hard candy no one likes, caramelized biscuits, snickers, soft fruity candy from many countries, and some plastic vampire teeth. M got points for offering to share his first piece of candy with his dad, since he heard that Daddy likes KitKats.
Daddy carved the pumpkins, and Mommy made the Halloween cookies. I roasted the pumpkin seeds this year for the first time, and they turned out OK. Not sure if I'll bother next time.
M is definitely going to get the most use out of his costume, as he wears it almost every day. He told me he was a mixed up Star Wars character. Dressed in Jedi costume, but carrying a red light saber (because the red one is the coolest we have). He's also going to get the longest enjoyment out of the candy. V's is nearly gone already, which partially explains why it took her 2 hours to go to sleep last night. She's been playing word games lately, making everything start with V or B. My favorites are Vommy (that's me) and Flabby (not sure how it morphed that much, but it got a good laugh so Daddy may use this for a while). Ha.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

what the kids said after school

Yesterday on the way to our swim club, I got an earful about Japan. M's been studying continents in school. This week they started Asia and his friend's parents came in to teach them about Japan. He told me about geography, population (Tokyo has as many people as the Czech Republic, did you know?), greetings, food, how to hold chopsticks. So that was yesterday. Very informative, and remarkably accurate. Today he started spouting off some Norwegian in the car, with a pretty great accent. "You are an airplane." "You are a pass gasser," or "You are a tooter."

Then at home, V gave me this line: "My tummy hurts because I ate too much healthy food." She's currently mad at me because I'm writing this -- she says it's not funny. It's apparently the only thing in life that's not funny, because she gets the giggles like crazy. A couple of friends were sitting with us at church on Sunday, helping out, and one was whispering to V, giving her a scarf to play with, etc. Every single thing we said made her giggle, which gave all of us a fit after a while. Some poor missionary was trying to slog through a talk in Czech at the time. We were rude (or wude if you speak V.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

more sewing

Here's E's new dress, and a glimpse of her chubby knees. (Matching leggings are the next project.) Drafted off of an existing garment, with small changes. It looks more like spring than fall, so good thing it's a bit big. I'm really excited about how my machine did with knit fabric -- not as good as a serger, but it has as many knit stitches as regular ones. I had fun checking out all the decorative ones. Do you see how tall E is getting? She kept changing the temp when I was cooking rice today. Danger!
The front looks more asian than I thought. The original I copied from doesn't, so maybe it's the crazy pattern. The best thing about the dress is that it requires no fasteners. I swear that snaps, buttons, and zippers can take more time than the whole rest of the garment.
The skirt on V I made from an idea online -- it just has strips of tulle slightly gathered and sewn on the outside. It satisfies her need for fancy, but I let her wear it outside. (Dress up clothes stay inside at our house. As do toys, with few exceptions. M's buddies brings piles of toys to school to play with during recess. I'm the mean mommy.)
She wanted to be a zebra, or at least that's what she told Daddy after the fact. Perhaps she was just being a squirt.

Monday, September 28, 2009


We've been playing Apples to Apples Kids the past couple of days. I do like the kid set -- I opted for that over the adult set because there are so many references in the adult set that kids don't get. On the other hand, I think the kid set simplified the vocabulary too much. Yes, V learned an adjective she didn't know, but she's 3. Fun factor is high for both my kids. M can play the game quite intelligently, and I also have fun seeing how his mind works. (Apples to Apples is a truly great game -- each player takes a turn being the judge and throwing down an adjective card. All the other players put in a noun-ish card. The judge picks one.) M was a judge with the word "big". I had thrown in "basement" thinking it surely wouldn't win, but it did. Because "football players" and "popsicles" can fit inside a basement. V just likes to joke around. She throws in something funny and picks something funny as well. E's stuffed animal Myrtle the Turtle is a pretty good player.

I had one of those moments today, when you're doing something and saying to yourself "I can't believe I'm doing this." Sadly, I wasn't jumping out of an airplane or singing for thousands of people. I was saying, "You have to put on underwear before you eat dinner." At the time of the comment, V was standing naked on a stool helping me cook dinner. My low expectations are what made me giggle. No black tie at our house.

sewing, swords

E gets very excited about fighting swords with her sibs. It's best when I'm holding her -- that way she can reach better.
Here's my first project using the Wild Ginger pattern making software. I adapted it after printing (the sleeve detail and the button placket in the back) so it's not all Wild Ginger. I like it a lot, except for the fit. That's not a problem with the software -- I just have to get used to their different ease settings and how much room kids need. The software is very clever, but I'm finding that I adapt it more than I expected. Not a point and click thing. I was also experimenting with bias tape and making buttonholes on my new machine ... I didn't show a picture of the flower buttons. V picked out the fabric, can you tell? I said corduroy, she said flowers.

Friday, September 25, 2009

proud moment

M had an "about me" page to fill in for homework a week or two ago. It included the typical info like his height and weight and favorite color ("all the colours"). And his favorite singer? The Beatles. OK, so they're a band, but still, I was pretty happy about it. Granted, he thinks Yellow Submarine is their greatest song, but he's 5. V is really into music lately and tells me what she likes about each song. We've been listening to some classics lately, the Beatles One album and Raffi's Baby Beluga. Eleanor Rigby is "the cool song", and I can't even describe what she says for Raffi's Oats and Beans and Barley Grow. Amazingly garbled. I have to be careful what they listen to, though -- V pays a lot of attention to the lyrics. I had on a Cake song today; the refrain is "Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell." Catchy song, very tongue-in-cheek and clever, but I can 100% predict a question about the go to hell part.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I wear my sunglasses

E is at such a fun age! She surprised me today by understanding exactly what sunglasses are -- she tried to put them on me and on herself. Totally glam.

Check below -- V and M usually feed themselves breakfast while I'm getting up or taking care of the baby. Today they opted for "Kangus", all over the couch and rug. The couch cover is currently in the wash, and the living room is clean thanks to my fabulous housekeeper. Seriously, she's great because she really loves her job. Cleaning my house makes her feel satisfied that she's really helped someone. We've had some cranky cleaners over the years, so a cheerful one's a blessing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


So I'm finally posting about the first day of school -- it's not quite as bad as you think, we've only been in school for 2 weeks now, unlike some American friends who've been at it for more than a month. So here are my cuties on V's first day, M's second day. They actually look alike to me in this photo, usually I don't see it. M is in Year 2 (first grade), and the work is really starting. He eats it up. Yesterday they talked about some Jewish holidays, so he got to try a bunch of special food. Then it was someone's birthday, so he got cake. His entire lunch came back home with us -- their food was more interesting than ours. All pretty smooth so far. We start swim club in a couple of weeks, so we'll see how that affects our schedule. The pool is not far away, but close to the building-a-new-tunnel zone, which is a traffic nightmare.
V is attending the nursery class 3 days a week. Before they started, each child had a home visit with their teachers. V was so excited on the day her teachers were coming that we had to make zucchini bread and draw pictures for them. Since she's staying full days, she needed a pillow and blanket for rest time. I happened to have some pillow stuffing around, so I whipped up a cute pillow with my lovely machine. (Bright yellow, hot pink with skulls, and a flower button/ribbon detail, all in 20 minutes.) V loves her pillow so much that she actually sleeps at school. The first day she didn't want to go to bed at home because she didn't have her pretty pillow. We'll add that to the list of why-I-can't-go-to-bed excuses. They include these classics: I need a drink, I have to go to the bathroom, it's too dark in my room, I need 3 books in my bed, no not those books, I need the big Pooh bear and the small Pooh bear, my legs are cold, I don't want these pants, I want to sleep in M's bed.

E is the belle at school. She smiles at everyone and shows off her 6 teeth. Her hair is redder than ever, and curly too. She loves to get into stuff she's not supposed to have (laptop, legos, markers) and is starting to understand simple phrases and baby signs. She slimmed down a bit because we had the stomach flu last week, but she's working hard to gain back the weight or grow or something. On Sunday she ate through 5 slices of watermelon, one handful of stars, 2 pieces of chicken, 4 crackers and a bottle of formula. That night she did not have a stomachache, but she did wake up hungry.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kid quotes

M, talking with his tongue hanging out of his mouth: Everything I say is funny!

V, the definitely 3-year-old: I don't understand the word "no". I only understand "yes".

E wishes she could talk. Baby signs coming soon. What will her favorite baby signs be? Food-related, I'm sure. She's actually not quite as food-oriented right now, because she's very interested in pulling up to standing and doing all kinds of perilous things. She always looks surprised when she falls down.

One more week until school! Our school keeps class groups together from year to year, so M is really looking forward to being back with his buddies all day. Just hope his best buds stay in Prague for a while. You never know with expat kids.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Legoland and why lego doesn't like girls

One last hurrah for the summer, a trip to Legoland! We had a great time and the car trip (4 hours each way) went very smoothly. Maybe our children are finally getting used to car travel ... The tuba was one of my favorite lego items on display. The musical instruments played if you stepped on the controls. Other favorites included gargoyles and crocodiles. We somehow ended up at the park on one of the hottest days of the year, so the water rides were great. The pirate boat, complete with water cannons both on the boat and the shore, was lovely. Infrared dryers available for a fee. Another cool thing was the bionicle ride. I actually hate bionicles, they're very nasty looking fighting things made by lego. Apparently they're supposed to be robots, because their ride was totally robotic. Nathan rode and we watched on the spectators platform. First, you get to plan your robot's routine from a set of moves. Then, you get to be thrown around by a big robotic arm.
OK, this is actually a picture from the park next to our hotel. We often comment on how unsafe playground toys are in Europe (and therefore often more fun) compared to the US. Litigation at work again. This is one of the most dangerous and coolest toys we've seen. It's somehow compelling, if you see it, you have to try it! Well, I didn't actually. But Nathan of course did.
Back to the park. Lots of rides were designed for 2 kids together. I liked the canoes (with dinosaur scenery) and the safari ride (with safari animals of course).
E likes Legoland, too!
The merchandise. My favorite part of the park was the factory where you could see legos being made and then buy separate bricks by weight. The kids each got a lego letter for free (glued together) and got to build their own lego people. My kids' choices were rather classic, I thought. V would have stayed all day trying on different bodies and heads. Taking apart lego people is one of her favorite activities. In the price-per-pound, we got pink bricks (I refuse to buy the Belleville horsey stuff, so this is the only way we're going to get them), wheels and axles, lego rafts and a dog, etc. You can buy by the brick online, but it was really fun to let the kids pick items in person. We also got a big boxed set for each kid. We've played with them all day. And here's where I rant about lego for girls. All I can figure is that they don't really want the girls' market? Or they don't have any girls working in the design department? Lego for girls really stinks, which is a shame because girls like legos, too. Duplo (lego for little kids) has great stuff that appeals to boys and girls, but the real lego stuff, not so much. I can think of so many ways they could make it more appealing ... *sigh*

Dear lego, how to sell to girls: cuter + more girl minifigures, better girl-friendly colors (step away from the gray), more shops and houses + fewer fire engines, castles with princesses and turrets not just fighting equipment, more animals, more furniture and food, most of all more pretty. V has spent much of the day decorating her lego items once they were put together. Her bus had a whole forest of items on top, flower handles on the doors, and a trash can riding inside. I had her minifigures put together for about 2 minutes before she had them dancing together. Such a girl, but luckily not a dress-up-like-a-princess-all-day-girl. One guess on what kind of a lego set M picked. It came with most of the key Star Wars characters, my favorite is Chewbacca.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

US trip round up

This is my favorite pic of the summer. Gotta love grandparents who aren't afraid to get silly. Note the hopscotch in the background -- when we got back here, someone had made a hopscotch that covered half a block of sidewalk. It went to 123 or so.

I put this in just so you can see the rolls. She's shot up a bit and thinned out slightly, but no one else can tell. Only Mommy Moo. (V calls me that. We all get to be Moos except for E, who is a calf.)
Most of my pictures from Knoebel's amusement park don't show the extent of the fun we were having. But I threw in a few anyway. What's great about the park: pay by ride, so it was way cheaper for us than Six Flags, etc.; old stuff that's well kept -- rides I've never seen before because they've got the only one left; beautiful drive to get there. And more. It was a huge hit with our kids, who love to ride rides. Here's V and Grandpa Bond on the carousel. I really loved the carousel because they still have the rings you can grab. It's a machine that feeds out small metal rings. The people on the outer horses can try to get a ring each time around. If you get the brass ring, you get a free ride in the park. (Hence the "brass ring" phrase.) I've never seen a carousel with one before and I don't know why -- it's fun! You're a fun park, let us have some fun!
First time having cotton candy! M also drove bumper cars, mini go-carts, rode a real roller coaster, we all went on a log ride ... great day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Zuby (ZOO-by) = teeth. A fun Czech word to say. We've had a lot of tooth action lately. M lost his first one today! Major excitement. He asked to go to bed several times, so anxious was he for the tooth fairy to come. Do Czechs have a tooth fairy? I kinda think they do, I must have asked about it at some point ... We had to call Daddy as soon as it stopped bleeding and M could talk on the phone. I think Daddy might be in Wales today. Or maybe central Spain. Let's hear it for international cell phones, I can always get him on the same number, hooray!
E's top teeth are finally coming in, so I've been trying to get pictures of the fangs before they disappear. She was very excited to have her portrait done, and cried when I put away the camera. E is definitely getting around these days and even trying to pull up to standing. She's much more interested in crawling over things than my other kids were (Mommy's legs are a favorite obstacle), which makes me a bit worried. I'd hate to have a climber, but there's nothing I can do about it. Her hair is also growing in at long last. Grammie called it correctly, it's curly, at least during these hot (ish), humid (ish) days.
Nathan and I had pretty much decided to cut bait in another year and head back to the US, which of course meant that his company would offer him a new position here just in time to foil our plans. Looks like we're planning to stay for another several years, although it's always somewhat tentative. In a spirit of commitment to Europe I asked if I could have a 220 voltage sewing machine, since I had so much fun with my mom's last month. Above you can see M with his new Jedi knight cape on, made on my new wonder machine. The cape also works for the Emperor or Darth Vader.
Oh, how much they like to mess with the machine, and how seldom they have the chance. I can't hold E and help them sew at the same time. But the baby's sleeping so well now that we're back and unjetlagged, so we actually get a long naptime break to do things like that. I bought a Pfaff, fully mechanical (the Select 4.0 if anyone's curious about details, let me know). I got this one for several reasons -- being a German make, it was actually cheaper here than it would be in the US, of course Pfaff is a lovely reliable brand, and it has some cool innovations. The best one is called IDF don't ask me what it stands for. Basically an integrated walking foot. You just pull down a lever, and the machine feeds from the top and bottom. It's really cool. So far I'm very pleased with my purchase, although I'll be happy when I get my English manual. I think they only translated a small portion into Czech, as the info I've got is scanty. At least I hope there's more in English ...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Crayola factory/Canal museum

V loves her Grammie. They spent lots of time together this trip, especially in the kitchen. They made sugar cookies, cupcakes, pancakes, muffins, waffles ... I ate them.
One of our big trips was to the Crayola factory and National Canal Museum (they share a building). The men in the family liked the canals best. It was a great space for kids -- they got to take their boats through a series of canals, learn how to make locks, and play on a riverboat.
One of my favorite parts of the museum was a mule -- you could get him fully ready to pull a boat and then undo everything. The whole place was very hands-on, learning through play. Grandpa Bond enjoyed the trains room and V loved the kitchen on the riverboat. M spent a long time making locks.
The Crayola factory had a more frantic feel. They had a mini factory and we watched crayons and markers being made. It was like watching that Mr. Rogers crayon segment in real life. Fun. Then they had tons of art activities. Clear walls that you could color on, fingerpainting, a ball-run area for small tots, sidewalk chalk, a glow-in-the-dark section. It was great fun, especially for V. I found the noise overwhelming after a while, but she could have stayed there all day.
My favorite play area was the magic clay stuff. That's the copyrighted term. At the factory they only had white dough, so you could use markers to make different colors. The dough is very lightweight and easy to mold and hardens after you play without baking. The very best part of the museum was the crayola store. So many items that you can't find elsewhere. Nathan thinks that the company should build "Crayola Experience" centers in major cities, recreating the crayola museum and shop. I think they'd do well :)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


More picture from NY -- the Manhattan Children's Museum. I love children's museums and really wish we had one in Prague. :( The rotating part of the museum was all about Greek and Roman legends. M ate this up, which I didn't quite expect, but I probably should have. Here he is inside the Trojan horse. Later we'll catch up with him on his journey home through perilous dangers.
Behind the fire engine was a station with laser guns you could use to make some fires go out. Those smart designers put this section right next to the shop/kitchen area, so I could watch both my big kids at the same time. At one point there were 3 3-year-old girls in the shop, and none of them wanted to leave. Around the corner was the baby area ...
Perfect for Miss E! There was a crawling obstacle course, an electronic peek-a-boo station (people sit on either side of a cloudy glass, if you put your hand on the control, it clears so you can see each other), a ball run, a mirror with a bar for standing babies.
This station had foam peanuts and a blower. Hold your hand on the control and the peanuts fly everywhere. So perfect for a baby who slaps everything to make it work, as noted by Grandpa Bond. Sometimes we call her BamBam. Chubber BamBam.
One whole floor was Dora and Diego themed. Lots of fun animal activities, including a 3-D puzzle the kids really liked. Here V's waking up in Dora's bed.
And here we catch up with M on his odyssey. The kids loved hiding under the sheep. Escaping the cyclops, of course. The kids also had the chance to dress up and sing karaoke (sirens) and walk a balance beam between Scylla and Charybdis. The museum also had an outdoor water area and a section about amusement parks. Good times for all.