What’s in a name?

Photo courtesy of Lubos Houska/Pixabay
Photo courtesy of Lubos Houska/Pixabay

There is no doubt that the Czech Republic is a beautiful country. Not only is it rich with architectural treasures and natural wonders, it also has a very colorful culture.   One of these interesting cultural practices is the observance of a name day.

In Czech culture, the calendar has a set of names.  This means that every Czech person’s name is based on the calendar.  If you are Czech, forget about naming your child “Northwest”  or “Vector Ion,” if you do not want to go through the trouble of obtaining a permit and paying a fine.    Parents wanting to name their child differently would need a special permission from a Czech authority to be able to do so.

Having one’s name derived from the calendar also means that each person has a name day.  So everyday in  Czech is somebody’s name day.  It is kind of a big deal.  The name day is celebrated like a birthday.  You wish the person a happy name day and give him or her a little present like a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates.

Two weeks ago, we celebrated my daughter’s name day.  For our family, it is pretty much the last name day celebration for this year.  In as much as I would like to observe all the cultural festivities in Czech, I’m glad we’re done celebrating name days.  It is a celebration that I always forget.  Perhaps because I don’t have one.

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It’s twice the fun!

One of the things that I love most about the holiday season is attending and organizing parties and events.  Yesterday, my kids got to attend 2 significant cultural events:  A Filipino one and a Czech one.  Our day started off by attending a Filipino party in Prague. It was an event organized by the Filipino community and was open to all Filipinos in the Czech Republic and their families.

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It was a typical Filipino party with lots of food, a load of entertainment and attended by a bunch of loud, happy people.  My husband, who is not used to huge parties, used to shy away from these events.  But after several years of being with me, he now enjoys it immensely.  Even my children love these parties.  And what’s not to love?  There’s always lots of candies and a friend to play with.

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But as much as we wanted to stay the whole night for this year’s Christmas party, we also cannot afford to miss another event that was awaiting us back home .

It was the eve of the feast of St. Nicholas (Svaty Mikuláš).    They got to be visited by 3 interesting characters:  a devil, an angel and Mikuláš.

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My Jakub is at an age where he is still very impressionable, so he excitedly recited a rhyme and even sang a  song for our guests.  Michaela on the otherhand, is now at the stage where she likes to imitate her older brother.  Not to be outdone, she also recited some nursery rhymes that we always do together.

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At the end of the visit, the kids got a bag of goodies and some candies from the angel.  That’s their prize for being good the whole year!

With all the events my kids got to attend yesterday, I’m sure I’m not the only one who loves December.  And because we are a bi-cultural household, it’s always twice the fun!

Helloween, your typical halloween with a Czech twist

A month ago, I got a flier from our mailbox regarding a “helloween” celebration in our community.  I was excited and curious at the same time, since it sounded like a typical western halloween celebration, save for the fact that it wasn’t going to be celebrated on Oct 31, but a couple of days earlier.  Whatever the reason for calling it so and picking out the date, it was one event that I was glad my family participated in.

As I have mentioned in previous entries, we live in a small community just outside of the city and close to the woods.   Aside from its idyllic location, what I love most about this place is the atmosphere and the friendliness of our neighbors.  We are the only multi-cultural household in this area, but that didn’t seem to make a difference in how we are treated by our neighbors.

Now back to the “helloween” celebration.

The event was held in one of the unoccupied vacant lots.  Everyone brought their own food to share.  I managed to whip up some chocolate cupcakes sans the halloween design.  But who cares, it’s edible, right.

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There was also hot red wine for those who were chilly.  This is a typical autumn and winter drink here in Czech.  I remember when we used to go skiing in California, my ex-boyfriend (now husband) is always left with the task of making this drink  for the group.

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And of course, halloween-themed treats …  In my opinion, this is the best of them all.

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The event started with pumpkin-carving where kids eagerly carved their own pumpkins with the help of their parents.

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Then there were games for everyone to participate in.  My Michaela was way too young to participate in any of these, but she was all happy watching it.

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When darkness crept in, we lighted the pumpkins and displayed them in a single line on the side of the street.

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Here is my son proudly posing with the pumpkin that him and his father carved.

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We were blessed with perfect weather that day.  It was not too hot nor was it too cold.  And there was no rain!

The event was culminated with a short walk in the woods with the young kids.  That means us because both our children fall into the young and gullible category.  It was like going into a haunted house except that it was open-air.  The organizers prepared a short trail where the older kids and some parents dressed up as ghosts, monsters, and whatever “i-will-scare-your-wits-off ” costume you can think of and tried to scare the younger ones.  At the very end, a pumpkin full of candies awaited the braver ones.  Fortunately, none of our kids got scared.  But it was a very interesting walk for them — and for us.

There was no “trick or treat.”  But I didn’t miss it that much.  Because  I’ve never really been to a “trick or treat.”  I was already way too old for it when I moved to the States.   Back in the Philippines where I grew up, the practice was not customary.   It is the same over here in the Czech Republic.  Even though adults and children love to dress up and scare each other during halloween, they haven’t gotten around the practice of doing a “trick or treat.”  Albeit, there is a street in Prague where the “trick or treat” is being practiced.  But it is where most American expats live, and they have managed to keep the tradition alive.

Anyhow, my little community’s helloween celebration was enough for me.  I’m glad that my children got to experience this western tradition with a Czech twist.

So how was your halloween?

A Fun Weekend in Vienna

This may not sound very normal to some, but we love travelling with our parents.  On a recent trip to Vienna, we decided to take them along.  This time, since all of us are already familiar with the historical sights, we decided to make it a fun trip involving food and taking the kids to an amusement park.

After having a hearty lunch at Mikulov, we drove to Vienna to get some coffee and a taste of the classic pork knee.

Vienna is famous for its cafes, so it was no wonder that they were all packed when we got there.  Luckily, we found the Gutenberg, a quaint restaurant tucked along a small street in Vienna’s shopping district.  The coffee was good, and so was the sacher torte that I had with it.  And it was too late before I realized that I should have taken a picture.

But anyhow, I think the picture I took from this place was more precious than the food – my children, in such a tender moment.

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We then proceeded to Prater Amusement park, where my son enjoyed the bumper cars with his father.

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And because he was too young to drive his own bump car, he begged to go on more rides where it was totally ok for him to take the wheel.

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Still, that wasn’t enough.  He is crazy about fire trucks, so here he is driving his own.

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The day will never be complete if we don’t get to taste the Viennese pork knee.  So we proceeded to the Schweizerhaus (Swiss house) and beer garden  to grab a mouthful and down it all off with a good glass(es) of beer.

The roasted pork knee is probably one of the unhealthiest food in this planet, but it tastes so good!  It reminded me of a typical Filipino dish, crispy pata.

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Yes, that was my portion.    So now you know why I am still fat.

 

Got Whipped?

I did.  It was Easter this past weekend.

In keeping up with Easter tradition here in Czech, the females in my family were whipped by the males.  It doesn’t matter what age, gender is all that matters.

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Here, my sister-in-law got whipped by her own son.

Even my very young daughter got her share of whipping too.

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Luckily, her Tata kept a watchful eye and held her close for comfort.

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And yes, it may sound way too weird, but the rationale behind the whipping actually makes a lot of sense.

It is done to ward off bad spirits and ensure good health all throughout the year, for the person whipped .   More about this practice can be found in my previous post here.

Meanwhile, when we got home, it was time to eat the choco Easter bunny that Jakub got from our Swiss friends.

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At first, he was a bit hesitant to eat it as he had been attached to it after waiting too long for this moment.

Here he is giving it one last kiss.

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But in the end, his love for chocolate still prevailed.

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Crunch!  Off went the bunny’s tail.

And of course, he wasn’t the only one devouring this tasty treat.  His chocoholic mama “helped him out.”

No wonder somebody escaped from her play gym.

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Anyhow, I hope you had a great Easter weekend!

Babies Bonding

These past few weeks, I consider myself lucky to  have been visited by good friends.  On my last entry, I mentioned about the Swiss family that visited us.  This past week, our good friends from Innsbruck came by for a visit.

My friend Melba, with her daughter Nat, came and stayed with us for a couple of days.  Nat and Michaela were born a few months apart.  It was the first time they met.

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It was fun seeing the girls bonding with Jakub.

It was also interesting to see them talking to each other in their own little world.

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We got them identical bows, and placed them together in a mat for a photo shoot.

But it was a little bit difficult to get them to stay still and look at the camera.  Something else is always more interesting.

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Until finally….

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…Bam!  We eventually managed to get the coveted shot.

But more than anything else, the visit was more valuable for the mommies.  It was very therapeutic for Melba and I to talk about our experiences in raising kids in a multicultural household, adjusting to life in a foreign land, and most especially about adjusting to life as a stay-at-home mom.

We never got the chance to visit a lot of places due to the weather and to the children’s moods, but I had a great time just chatting with Melba and seeing our kids playing together.

At the end of their visit, Nat’s dad and her grandma picked them up.  Obviously, they have been missed.

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Luckily, we managed to get a group shot before they left.

I wish we were closer so a visit like this can be done more often.  But I can’t complain.  At least we get to see each other almost every year.

 

A Swiss-Filipino Family Came to Town

I didn’t realize that it’s almost been a month since my last post.  Life has been going at full speed and I hardly have time to pen down my thoughts.

Anyhow, we had some guests from Switzerland last week.  It was my friend Mayette, her Swiss husband Thomas, and their very cute daughter, Thomara.

I’ve known Mayette since my university days, and we recently reconnected after knowing that both of us are married to Europeans.

After a long trip to and from Sweden, they decided to swing by Czech Republic.  Jakub had a blast when he got an early Easter bunny, with nothing but the best chocolate – Lindt.

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Their daughter Thomara is only a month older than Michaela, so they are technically batchmates.    It was funny getting the two babies to meet.

Looking eye to eye, they look like they couldn’t believe there’s actually another person the same size as them.

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We finally got them to look at the camera, but were unable to goad them in eliciting a smile.

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There was a little bit of movement, as they got curious about the other.

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But after putting them in the car, they both went down easily.

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My little boy on the other hand, acted like an older brother.

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He was happy to look after the girls while their parents were busy taking pictures.

And here he is happily posing for a photo with our guests.

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We brought them to Kutna Hora and to Prague, but three days was not enough to see everything.

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They did say they were going to come back and we are really looking forward to that.  Otherwise, we will have to visit them in Switzerland.

 

 

A Walk in the Woods

The weather has been slowly getting better in our side of the world, so I took my kids out yesterday for a walk in the woods.  Why the woods?  Well, you might as well say that I am slowly becoming Czech.  The malls are not as appealing as the woods anymore.

Anyway, here are a few pictures I was able to snap.

My little boy is growing so fast, and he really enjoys his new role of being a “big” brother.  While I was busy looking for things to photograph, he took over and pushed the stroller of his baby sister.

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Tired of doing it the regular way, he is experimenting with other ways on how to move it.

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At this point, I took over for fear that he may accidentally flip the stroller with his sister inside.  Instead, I asked him to lead the way.

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He obliged and even told me:  “Don’t worry, mom.  I will protect you and Michaela.”

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The end of the trail is the entrance to the city center through this bridge.

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There was nobody during that time.  It is still winter, afterall.

But we did see a fisherman on the river.   He was fishing while Jakub was feeding the ducks and swans.

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A new set of exercise bars were also built in a little space by the river.  I think they finished it last year, but I didn’t see it because I was too lazy to walk towards this side of town when I was still pregnant with my daughter.

When the temperatures finally go up, I think I would like to use one of these bars for fitness.

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But for now, I’ll just enjoy short walks with my kids.

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Despite the cold, it was a very nice walk.  Definitely another day well spent.

How are you coping up with winter in your side of the world?

My Pretty Girl is Pretty Fat

Perhaps the biggest advantage of being a stay-at-home mom is that you get the see your children grow up.  I am experiencing it now.

My little girl is growing up fast.  At 3 months, she is now 6+ kg.   They say that breastfed babies are less heavier than their formula-fed counterparts, but this one is quite the contrary.  She is heavier than her brother when they were both at the same age.  Just for comparison, here are photos of them in the same outfit.

This was Jakub at 3 months.

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And now this is Michaela.

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Being a second child, she gets to inherit her brother’s hand-me-downs.  I hate throwing away such good stuff, so I am making her wear Jakub’s old outfits.  Although, I bought a couple of headbands to give it a little feminine touch.

Even though she is heavier, she is still within the ideal range, so I’m not so worried about setting her up for obesity.  I’m pretty sure that when she is able to run, she will be as active as her brother and will easily lose all those baby fats.

Jakub was pretty chubby when he was a baby too.  But now he is very lean because he’s getting taller.  I actually wanted him to gain a little bit more weight, but can’t really complain because he is very healthy.

Here’s both of them now.

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Anyhow, I am happy to have this chance to stay home with them.  I will never trade it for anything else in the world.

Back from Hibernation

After a very long absence, I am now back from hibernation. Not a lot of exciting adventures lately, as we have been confined at home. I’ve had my own share of motherhood challenges, but everything is ok now. Things are slowly getting back to normal. My new “normal,” that is.

Winter is relatively mild on this side of the globe compared to what the people in the US East Coast is now experiencing. Temperatures are sub zero during night time but has been consistently positive during the day. We’ve had a little snow but it is now slowly melting.

So what’s new? Well, for one. My daughter is now 3 months old and at a stage where her schedule is more predictable. She is getting more and more curious about the world around her and somehow seems to communicate through babbling.

Here is a quick photo I snapped of both my kids.

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I am also starting to standardize our daily routine.  It is very difficult to manage a household with two very young children.  Although I am very happy that my eldest is at a stage where he is completely independent and even helps me out.  He is the  one opening doors for me when all three of us are out and about for our daily walk in our neighborhood.  I haven’t been in contact with the general public since winter set in.  It is pretty tough.

I couldn’t just go to a Starbucks shop and get a good cup of coffee these days.  Well, there is no Starbucks in this town.

Anyhow, we managed to bring Starbucks home — coffee beans straight from the Starbucks shop in Prague.

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It is the perfect pair for these shortbread cookies which we got as a gift from a friend.

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We also managed to get a taste of California through this bottle of Chardonnay from Tesco.

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There is nothing special about this wine, but it is the perfect pair for fish or pasta on these cold winter nights.  Reminiscing our life in California gives me a warm feeling inside.

If the forecast is right, it should get warmer towards the end of this month.  Once it does, we will be on travelling mode again.  I am anxiously awaiting the new adventures that lie ahead.

Happy New Year to all of you!