Friday, August 26, 2005

This morning, when I ran to the door to buzz in our babysitter, I jangled. “Coins?” asked Caroline, as I swooped to pick her up, football style, using her ribs as a hand hold and my right hip as a saddle, trying to get to the door before the second buzzer sounded and C started crying (she suffers doorbell intolerance).

We’re getting ready for a party tonight, and I’m cleaning all flat surfaces, picking up spare change and pocketing it as I move from one room to another. You can tell we’ve been traveling, because I’ve got danish koruna, euros, and swiss francs in three pockets and a varied cache – polish zloty, slovak crowns, the random british pence - in the last. We’ve been visiting the fringes of the euro zone, mostly, so we don’t appreciate the euro as much as I thought we would, back in 2002 when going to the grocery store in France meant a lesson from the cashier in the new coinage (this ees the euro 1, this ees the euro 2, this ees a penny, silly no?).

I like the multi-currencies though, when they aren’t weighing me down. Later, when I sort them to store, I'll admire their quaintly ugly faces (coin design, death by committee), remember the sweat of figuring each out while fumbling to pay, and try to calculate the number of coffees they could buy if we were back, traveling again.

But standing there, holding Caroline with one hand, pulling up my sagging blue jeans with the other, I think only about the relative weight of the things we value. “Coins indeed,” I say, and give Caroline my favorite – the silver danish koruna tooled with hearts around the edges, and a donut hole in the middle.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


Cleaning the kitchen, I heard a loud silence in our bedroom today. I peeked in to find Caroline having a tea party. One hand held our green chipped mug, the other, a plastic spoon. She was stirring her brew. Then I looked again and realized that 5 tea bags draped their labels over the mug's side. 5 of our favorite, red packaged, Twinings English Breakfast tea bags, the kind we buy in bulk when we find it, because mostly we don't.

"Tea!" she said, and held it out for my inspection.

What could I say? A daughter after my own heart. "Tea" I agreed, and sat down to pretend sip out of a plastic sugar bowl.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Without distractions, where would we be,
......shocked by consciousness' chasm.

I get stuck there, sometimes
......standing in the shower, wondering why -
caught within the layers of perception.

My skin turns cold beneath the scalding water
......I reach out and turn up the radio.

Monday, August 15, 2005

There's grody and then there's grody (or, dinner conversation with a two year old)

Remember to chew and swallow. No more bites until you’ve finished that mouthful.
Head nod, then C carefully extracts chewed up pork from her mouth and places it delicately on plate.

Oh grody! Don’t do that! You’ve got to swallow your food, not spit it out. Please please just eat small bites. Look, watch mommy.
I eat my tomatoes, C eats her tomatoes

Yum, that’s the way, use your fork and eat the tomatoes. One-at-a-time.
C clears her plate, except for the pork lump.
“Yum” says C.

Super, are you finished now?
C shakes her head no and picks up chewed pork.
“Grody” she adds.
C pops pork into mouth.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 - tak”

Caroline is counting everything she can find, from bricks on the wall to pieces of breadstick she’s partially eaten and then thoughtfully scattered across the carpet. She often counts the same thing twice, but she always gets to 10, now that she can. And then she says “tak.”

Czech dictionaries define tak as “so” or “thus.” Many people use it as a way of opening a sentence, or changing conversational gears and introducing something new. Our babysitter says tak when she finishes setting something straight for example, or succeeds in brushing Caroline's hair, and when she says it you know that she is happy with her results. C has picked up the habit too and it tickles me to hear her summon up a satisfied “tak” at the end of a counting game, or when a block fits well within her design of a Lego chair for dollies. It sounds so adult somehow, so careful, such an alien impulse in someone attracted to order as a means of demonstrating, yet again, the second law of thermodynamics.

Monday, August 01, 2005

We’re going to Denmark this week – a new country for us, even a new part of Europe. I’m looking forward to it with an anticipation that seems to have forgotten that two year olds and traveling don’t quite meet rapturously.

After a quick round of “If-I-Will-U,” Will legged it through Saturday’s heat wave to Luxor books, down on Vaclavske Namesti, for a copy of the Lonely Planet’s Copenhagen guide. It’s the 2005 edition, newly redesigned and surprisingly readable. I spent Caroline’s nap greedily consuming it, sticky noting museums, restaurants, areas of town that we could see. By nap’s end, the book bristled like an origami porcupine, and what had seemed an amorphous trip - something happening in a few days, too much stuff to get done before we leave to think about sort of thing – suddenly became exciting and real.

I tried to remember the last time I’d really relied on a guidebook and realized it had been years ago, just before we moved to Europe. In the month between quitting my job and moving over, we bought every book we could find on the Czech Republic and Prague and poured over them as if they were magical tablets, holding the key to getting by in a foreign country. In the end they didn’t really answer our questions about how to live here, but they kept us busy for those weeks and, when we arrived, were the first books on our shelves - totems of all the books we’d left behind.

This weekend’s reading was more light hearted. I’m not worried about figuring out how to live somewhere, just how to pleasantly fill five days. I know, in general, what to do when traveling - what to look for when you land in an airport, how to use a metro, how to convert korunas to krone. All the basics set aside, I can concentrate on creating a fantasy schedule where we see everything and the weather is perfect, and then a real one, taking into account time, a toddler and a weather forecast that seems to indicate rain for seven days straight. Fun stuff, this day dreaming, and I almost understand a friend who traveled to Venice and spent her first day sitting in a hotel room pouring over the Venice Dorling Kindersly guide book because the pictures were so good. But not quite.