Switzerland in Czech

This is a long overdue  post.  Been busy with other things lately that I haven’t found the time to pen down my thoughts.

Anyhow, I mentioned in a previous post about Decin, one of the beautiful places that we visited this past summer.  It was actually a side trip for our actual destination – Czech Switzerland.

Before we got here, I initially thought that Czech is a boring place since it’s too far away from the sea, and it is relatively small.  But after living here for 3 years now, its diverse topography really impressed me a lot.  What do you know, they actually have miniatures of famous countries all within this small state.

Czech Switzerland is the youngest among CZ’s national parks.  The Elbe river, which separates Czech and Germany splits the park as well.  Hence, it is both called Czech Switzerland and Saxon Switzerland.  It’s romantic name can be credited to Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff, two Swiss painters and teacher that the Dresden Academy in the mid-18th century.  As they were travelling to places close to the Elbe, their painting gained popularity and became the basis for the promotion of the beauties of nature.

Since my daughter is still too young to do any serious hikes, we were only able to visit the parts with easy trails.

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This was the landscape that greeted us on our way to our hotel in Tisa.

We did a short hike on paved road, and everyone enjoyed it immensely.

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Although there was a time when our little man had a temper tantrum.

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But there’s nothing that can’t be fixed by a small joke, a hug and a kiss.  And he’s a happy trooper again.

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The walk was all worthwhile after we saw the view that awaited us.

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Out here you can see the key cities in the region.  Even Mr. Grumpy enjoyed the sight.

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The area that we visited is just a tip of the iceberg.  There are still far more beautiful sights in this national park.  But I’m glad we were able to visit the place, so then we can come back for more.

If you would like to know more about Czech Switzerland, you can visit their site here.

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Our Star is Born

After all the waiting and anticipation, our little star is finally born. This explains my absence during the past two weeks, as I am still adjusting to my new role as a mother of two.
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Unlike my first birthing experience, this one was a little bit stress-free.  I knew what was going to happen and was prepared for the worst.

My little Michaela was born via scheduled c-section.  I checked in at the hospital a day before the actual surgery.  All the monitoring and preparations were done a day before.     I am also very lucky to have good friends who worked at the hospital and were very helpful with the preparations.  The moral support and reassurances made a lot of difference in the whole experience.

I couldn’t help but shed off tears when I heard her first cry.  This was an experience that I never had with Jakub.  Back when I had him, I had general anesthesia and was completely knocked out.  This time, the surgery took a little more than 45mins.  The anesthesiologist and my husband talked to me through the whole process and that alone helped a lot.

Afterwhich, I was transferred to the ICU for a day to aid in recovery.

The actual surgery was completely painless except for some sensations of pressure here and there.  However, the recovery was painful.  I had to ask the nurse for pain reliever shots and just slept it off.

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I am not sure if it is common practice here in Czech, but it seemed like breastfeeding is almost a given.    While in the ICU, my daughter was brought to me twice and I was encouraged to breastfeed.  I was too weak to do anything fruitful, so all those attempts were unsuccessful.   The nurses were understanding and they continued to encourage me to always give it a try.

The next day, I was asked to stand and take a shower.  I was then transferred to a regular room where I had my daughter room in with me.  As with the previous attempts, there was again the push to breastfeed.  The nurses never even broached the topic of feeding formula to my newborn.  It was as if every mother is expected to breastfeed.  And so I did.  And guess what?  It all paid off.  I am proud to say that my daughter was completely breastfed from the day she was born.   Again, another experience that I never had with Jakub.

There were only 2 things that I didn’t like about this experience:  1) the hospital parking arrangements and; 2) the cleanliness of the bathrooms.    The Kolin hospital probably has one of the worst parking arrangements that I’ve seen here in CZ.  There is no designated parking for patients (people park on the streets) and only 3 parking spaces for newborn pick-ups.

Another con is the cleanliness of the bathrooms in the hospital.  The building is quite old and has seen better days.  Although some parts have already undergone some extensive renovation, others have remained old and untouched.  Perhaps one aspect that I really didn’t like was the way the bathrooms were kept.  There were a few traces of mold on the tiles and shower curtains.  I may be overacting, but I thought it should have been better.  Bathroom cleanliness is one of my pet peeves.

However, despite these 2 technical negatives, I was quite satisfied with the service that I was accorded.  I’ve heard horror stories about impolite nurses at this hospital, but I didn’t meet a single nurse who was rude to me.  The doctors themselves were also very competent and professional.    These made a whole lot of difference in the whole experience and somehow made those technical negatives better.

Right now, we are already back home and I am slowly trying to get to know my daughter.  Jakub is very excited in his new role as a big brother and I am lucky to have my husband and mother-in-law stay with me for 3 weeks until I regain my strength back.  I’ve had a series of sleepless nights but otherwise happy to be home and spend time with my new daughter and loved ones.

Baby M’s Nursery

This past weekend, I finally finished decorating my daughter’s nursery.

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I didn’t really do anything monumental, just made use of the little bedroom that is hers.

Most of the stuff here are old ones from Jakub.  I just played with the colors a little bit to add a feminine touch.

We initially had a blue sofa bed in this room and back then I thought of keeping it.  But realistically, it doesn’t really serve the purpose because I have decided to room with her in her first few months of life.  With the feeding and diaper changes, being in the same room is just very convenient.

So off went the sofa bed, and we replaced it with Jakub’s old bed.

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I accessorized the wall with decorative stickers, after deciding not to re-paint it.

On the other side of the room, I placed a small, simple changing table and decorated the bare walls with some of her dresses.

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I’m glad I was able to find a border sticker that was pink with neon green accents.  It somehow connected with the color of the closet which was my initial worry.

Anyway, I’m quite happy with the room now and I hope she will be too.

The Art of Waiting

I only have one week left before I get to meet my daughter. Somehow, it seems like such a long wait. I am quite excited and nervous at the same time. To keep me occupied, I have busied myself arranging and re-arranging both of my children’s rooms. My nursery is still unfinished at this point since I am still missing one more detail.

Anyway, here are pictures of my son’s bedroom now.

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I didn’t want to do any painting so I decorated the bare walls with decorative stickers instead.

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The windows currently have automatic electronic blinds, but somehow I feel like it may need some curtains.  But the thing is, this house is passive and we need to absorb the light from the sun as much as possible, so I am still re-thinking it.

Anyhow, I’ve also been trying to eat healthily these days since I am really HUGE now.  I’ve already gained 15kg (33lbs), and for someone who’s short, that is not good.

Anyway, I found this all-natural juice from my neighborhood store and I’m loving it now.

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With one more week to go, I hope I don’t gain any more weight. Otherwise,  I may be running like crazy after my daughter is born just to shed off all the weight I’ve gained.

 

 

 

My Growing Belly….and Family

I am now on my 35th week of pregnancy and as anxious as ever to give birth.  Albeit, life had never been more hectic lately.  I had been keeping myself busy with arranging my children’s bedrooms and making checklist after checklist of all the things we would need for the baby while at the same time checking my toddler’s needs.    One tricky thing about raising children is that they grow very fast – literally.  With the changing season, I have to constantly check that my son has adequate and appropriate clothing for the day’s weather.  Last season’s pants are now too short, and although he didn’t gain much horizontally, some of his shirts are also getting shorter.  I know that I will not be able to do a lot of shopping when the baby arrives, so I have now stocked up on some fall and winter clothing.  Plus, I made sure that all his vaccinations and doctor and dentist check-ups are up-to-date, and made an effort to schedule some of these appointments ahead of time so I will not have to worry about it when I have another child to take care of.  As you may notice, I am a freak when it comes to organizing things.  I believe that in order to be successful in anything, adequate preparation has to be done and that means everything has to be well-organized.

I have also been reading about how to help older siblings cope with the arrival of a new member of the family.  It is said that since all the attention will now be focused on the baby, it is important for parents to be mindful of the older child.   My husband and I have already talked about it and we have decided to involve Jakub in everything that has to do with his sister — from helping out with diaper changes to being on the lookout for hazards that may be harmful to the baby.  Almost everyday, I remind him that he is going to be a big brother soon and I am happy to note that he exhibits a certain sense of pride in his new role.

Anyway,  we had a maternity photo session last week to document the anticipation of our little one’s arrival.  I am sharing with you some of my favorite shots.

Photo:  Jan Strnad
Photo by: Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

It is normally difficult to get a toddler’s full attention in this type of activity, but my little boy was surprisingly enjoying it.  He was willing to oblige to every pose and was always excited to check out his own image in the camera after a shot was taken.

Here’s one of my favorite photos.  The big brother communicating with his baby sister.

Photo:  Jan Strnad
Photo by: Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

She is already loved.

Photo: Jan Strnad
Photo by : Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

My growing belly….and family.

Photo:  Jan Strnad
Photo by: Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

We still have about a month to go before we finally meet her.  I feel SO HUGE that it seems like there’s no more room left for growing.  This is the longest month ever.  Although I am suffering from all the discomfort that pregnancy brings, I am happily looking forward to finally hold my little girl in my arms.

New Baby, New Hairstyle

I have been contemplating about chopping my locks. With the impending birth of my little one, I just know that I wouldn’t have enough time to take care of everything, including my hair. Staying at home and caring for kids look easy, but it is honestly the hardest job I ever had.

So yeah, I want to cut my hair and leave it at a length that’s easier to maintain.  Plus, it’s all just going to fall off anyway.  I remember that a few months after I’ve had Jakub, my hair just started falling off.  I almost went bald.  Ok, that’s an exaggeration.  But as you can see in this picture, I did have a bald spot.

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It is one of the downsides of having a baby.   As if the weight gain, sleepless nights, and lack of energy is not enough.

A few of the mom friends that I know over here had really short haircuts after they had their babies.    It must be another unique Czech practice, I think.  Or maybe I just started noticing it now since I am in the company of moms.    Most of them had pixie hairstyles.   But they can very well pull it off since they have the face to match it.  Czech women are pretty.

As for me, maybe I’ll just stick to something like this.

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I’ve never really looked good in short hairstyles, but it has to be done.

For all  you moms out there, did you have to cut your hair after having your baby(ies)?

Pregnancy classes and Childbirth

As my due date comes to a close, we are now preparing the important details for the arrival of our little princess.  One of the most important things to consider is the birthing place.  Out here in CZ, everyone is covered by a national health insurance.  Although it is a good thing, one of the downsides is that there are really a few choices when it comes to healthcare.

Since we are from a little town, there is only one major hospital in this area.  There are a couple of hospitals in Prague, but it is a 45min drive from us.  So, without even considering other options, I decided to enlist at the Kolin hospital.  After all, the current Czech president, Milos Zeman, was born here.  It can’t be that bad, right?

So last week, we went on a hospital tour.  The tour itself only lasted 15mins, but there was a  2 hour class before it.  My husband came with me, so he translated some important parts of the class.

And then we got this….

prenatal box

A box full of goodies for expectant mothers.

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It is not as great as the Finnish baby boxes, but at least it is something.

The class was in Czech and so was the tour.  Even though I didn’t fully understand everything, I was thankful that we enlisted for it.   It just eliminates the hassle of trying to find places and people on labor day itself.

When I was pregnant with Jakub, I remember attending all sorts of classes.  I was a first-time mother back then and didn’t know anything.  I had a pregnancy yoga class, a lamaze class, a general childbirth class and a detailed hospital tour.  When labor day came, I had prepared for everything.  I even had a detailed birth plan  where I wanted everything to be natural – with no epidural, and the anticipation of breastfeeding my baby right after he is born.  But on the day itself, none of it went as planned.  Needless to say,  I had an emergency c-section, was unable to breastfeed my baby on the first few hours of his life and he had to stay at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for a few days.

It’s a good thing to know a thing or two about childbirth and all the birthing techniques, but in the end it is really up to the child on how he/she chooses to be born.  This time I know better.  The only class that I ever attended was the one that came with this hospital tour.  I will just go with the baby’s wishes and let nature take its course.  As they say, “prepare for the best and expect the worst.”

Just Another Day in this Mama’s Life

We only have 2 months left before another member of our family is here.  Since this is already my third trimester, I have been feeling very sluggish lately and cannot seem to get myself off the couch.  I feel bad for Jakub because this is the time when he is most active and really wants some interaction.  But who can blame me, with a burgeoning belly like mine, laziness is an expected side effect.  All I can do now is do some educational things with him as we are stuck at home.

For now, this is the book that Jakub and I are currently reading.  It’s a great introductory book about the existence of different ethnicities.  This early on, I intend to make him realize that the world is full of different people, and it’s ok to be different.  In our area, we are the only multi-cultural household, so I think it is best for him to understand this at the onset.

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One of the challenges of living in CZ is finding a good English book.  Of course, most bookstores do sell English books but the selection is very limited.  There could be a wider selection in the bookstores in Prague, but since it is 45mins away from us, travelling all the way there is such a hassle in my present condition.  Luckily, I found this great website with the widest selection of books even offering free shipping.  The items are reasonably priced and delivered on time.

If you live in an area where high quality english books are hard to find, it is worth checking out.  To go to their website, please click here.

Anyway, to keep myself occupied, I recently busied myself with “nesting.”  We have finished cleaning up our new arrival’s future room and I did some minor decorations.  I’ll post some pictures as soon as it is finished.  I also organized some of our picture albums and was surprised to realize how well I’ve documented the growth of my children from conception to birth.  As an example, here are 2 ultrasound pics of both my children at the same stages.

Jakub at 21 weeks
Jakub at 21 weeks
Jakub's sister at 21 weeks
Jakub’s sister at 21 weeks

 

Based on these ultrasound pics, it looks like both of them will have similar features.  They all look like me.  The excitement is mounting.  We’ll see.

Have a great week!

A Day in Munich, Germany

This past weekend, my family and I went on a road trip to 2 neighboring countries in Europe.  Our main goal was to visit dear friends in Innsbruck, Austria but since we were passing by the German state of Bavaria, we decided to make a stop  at the Bavarian capital of  Munich.  And I’m glad we did.

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Munich is the third largest city in Germany and one of the most popular expat hubs due to the big industries that are based there.

Since we only had a day to see the city, we decided to just walk around Munich’s Old Town where most of the popular sights can be found.

We got a hotel that was 3 km away from the old town so we decided to try out Munich’s public transport system.  It saved us a lot of money and it was a very easy ride.  The maps were easy to understand, the directions were well-marked and the trains were clean and efficient.

The metro had a station right at the heart of Marienplatz (Marien Square) , so it was a very convenient ride.

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Perhaps the most notable landmark in the square is the New Town Hall of Munich.  Its architecture is quite impressive.

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I wanted to get a posterity shot in front of the building, but my son was starting to get bored.  So this is the best shot we got.

Right in front of the town hall is the Marian column.

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Other buildings surrounding the square were more modern and commercialized.  As we walked a couple of blocks into one of its narrow streets, we found ourselves facing the Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady, the city’s largest church.

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It was very grand and awesomely huge that I couldn’t take a full photo of it without having to stand at an elevated distance.  Anyhow, I managed to capture a few shots of the interior as it was surprisingly allowed.

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Normally, climbing on top of the church’s twin towers would have been allowed.  It is said that from those towers one can see a breathtaking view of Munich’s cityscape and the Bavarian Alps.  However, during our time there, it was undergoing some major renovation and was closed.

Anyway, we continued our walk to the Viktualienmarkt, another famous landmark.  It is the site of Munich’s daily farmer’s market.

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The colorful booths at the market offered a great variety of fresh and regional food.  We couldn’t just be there and not partake in these delicious offerings.    So we stopped for lunch at a seafood place.  I had a shrimp ciabatta sandwich while my husband had a fish sandwich.  Jakub on the otherhand had a fish fillet with potato wedges.  We also had some fresh olives from a nearby stall and were quite happy with our meals.  Everything was so delish.

After having enough fuel for the remainder of the day, we again set off for a walk passing through the Munich Opera house….

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…. and several other historical and modern buildings.

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Our final stop for the day was at the Munich Hofgarten.

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It was a great day for chasing pigeons while I  took a rest under the shaded trees.

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Munich is a beautiful city with a good blend of modern and traditional architecture.  If given the chance, I would like to spend a lot more time in this beautiful city some time.

But I was more excited for what lay ahead as we headed out to the Austrian alps.

The Nursery Project

I’m not yet done with decorating the whole house and here I am already thinking about decorating the nursery.  It’s too early for “nesting,” I know.  But I don’t want to wait till I’m huge as a whale to start doing what I can still do now that I’m relatively strong.

I am thinking of transforming this space…..

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….into this.

                                         Modern Kids by Seattle Interior Designers & Decorators Tewes Design
Minus the chair and the floor, this design makes use of what we already have now.  It seems very easy but the more I focus on the details, the harder it seems.  I am also a bit distracted with these other design ideas that I really find very interesting.
If only I had a bigger room, this is the kind of nursery I would like to have.
                                                      Modern Bedroom by Miami Artists and Artisans Lullaby Wall Decor
I love the color combination and  the simplicity of the room.  I think that the modern design fits very well with our modern house.
This next design is very luxurious, and I like it a lot.  I think it screams:  “I’m a princess!”
I just love the warmth of this room.  But  I’m one who likes to have a lot of light – natural light.  So this will not work.
                                     Traditional Bedroom by New Orleans Interior Designers & Decorators Nelson Wilson Interiors
This other one is very feminine.  The color combination, lace and ruffles says it all.  But with the pink overload,  I think it  will make my boys cringe.  My husband already told me not to overdo pink.  He says he only likes one type of pink — Pink Floyd.
                                       Bedroom by Spanish Fork Architects & Designers Joe Carrick Design – Custom Home Design
This next design may fit our modern house, but the color combination will not.  I’m not really a big fan of brown.  I like the warm cozy feeling that I get from this room though.
                                                 Modern Kids by Calgary Interior Designers & Decorators Wendinteriors
So, what do you think?  Am I making the right choice with the green bedroom for a baby girl?   Which one is your favorite?