Tags: Children, Language, Milestones, Motherhood, Parenting, Speech, Talking, Toddlers, Words
the appropriate expression to use after someone gives you what you’ve nicely asked for.
the horizontal surface where dinner is served and eaten (or thrown on the floor).
Bun’s pronunciation of Giggles (well, his real name), as in “Mimi [see below] want Bita’s poot nacks [see below]!”
what you get if you eat a good dinner.
kissmas bree n.
pre-lit, green, cone-shaped things displayed in every store in America beginning October 1.
Bun’s name for himself, as in “No! Mimi do!” or “Dat Mimi’s truuuuuuuuuuck!”
milk, best served chilled, with chocolate syrup mixed in.
orny goose n.
Bun’s pronunciation of Lollipop (well, her real name). Cracks. Me. Up.
poot nacks n. pl.
fruit snacks, which I never, ever, ever give my children … snort.
What’s your little one saying these days? Do you drink orny goose or nook for breakfast? And do you have your kissmas bree decorated yet??
Tags: Expats, Family, Fatherhood, Fear, Illness, Language, Maramures, Motherhood, Parenting, Romania
The sun lasered through the white pear blossoms as I glopped sunscreen on three sets of ears. Bees sniffed out invisible spots of honey on the wooden breakfast table. The rooster next door cock-a-doodled at us through the fence.
An idyllic Monday morning. In an idyllic country inn. Except for the occasional quarrel over who got to make wishes on the wispy seeds of the next white dandelion.
And then he came rushing outside, the tall, dark-haired father carrying his tall, dark-haired daughter. She was limp and sweaty. Her flushed cheeks looked like too-ripe cherries. Her gangly little-girl-arms dangled strangely, like twigs broken from their tree.
He laid her on the wooden table and bent down to yell her name in her ear.
We all swarmed over, the guests, the kids, the innkeeper, her mother.
Her mother. Crying, slapping those too-red cheeks, screaming in vowel sounds instead of words, as if her brain couldn’t quite connect syllables.
Someone brought water. Someone else brought wet towels. Someone else, a blanket. Voices bounced off each other like pinballs.
I couldn’t understand anything being said. But I could feel the fear. The panic. The helplessness. As if it were my own. It was my own.
All the mothers, we felt our lungs lock up, refusing to accept air, forgetting how to rise and fall and breathe. We looked and looked away and looked again. We sent silent prayers into the ether.
We imagined our own daughters up on that table. Silent. Still. Wrong.
Minutes passed. Or seconds? The little girl opened her eyes. She reached out for her father. She started to cry, quietly, as if she could contain the confusion, the hurt, the embarrassment, in those perfect, tiny tears.
Her parents whisked her off to the shady porch swing in the cool back corner of the courtyard. They stroked her hair and made her drink water she needed but didn’t want. They rocked the swing, gently, gently, gently.
Her thyroid, someone whispered.
A blockage in her neck, said someone else.
Heatstroke, said another.
No one really knew. No one called a doctor.
Instead, we tried to give them privacy even as we brought offerings of umbrellas, orange juice, and barrettes.
We lingered. We held back.
And we pretended that scent in the wind was a mingled mix of rust and mud, and not sharp, pungent desperation.
Have you ever felt another parent’s fear? Ever wanted to help but not known how — or the words to ask? Ever offered refreshments because there was nothing else?
Tags: Birthday, Challenges, Children, Conversation, Culture Shock, Expats, Language, Perspectives, Romania, Small Talk
I’m at a place called Boom Party Club.
Pop music blares. The disco ball whirls. Preschoolers shimmy.
It’s a five-year-old’s birthday party in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
While two child-minders in princess dresses lead imaginary dragon hunts and make balloon swords, the parents — me, a French couple, and 7 or 8 Romanians — relax in the back room around platters of schnitzel de pui and salata de cartofi.
After pleasantries in English and a round of gin and tonics, conversation turns to the usual adult fare: the economy, traffic, chicken pox, and the upcoming class trip to the football stadium.
There’s talk of a helicopter ride over the field.
At least, I think so.
At some point I don’t quite notice, the Romanians switch back to their native tongue, leaving me and the French couple swirling our empty gin glasses and reaching for more meatballs.
I catch words I know: grădiniţă, maşină, varicelă.
I laugh when I’m supposed to.
I chime in with a da, da! every once in a while.
But, honestly, I haven’t got a clue.
And it’s more refreshing than the salt-rimmed frozen margarita with fresh lime juice I haven’t had in 10 months.
Instead of wracking my brain for something to say about the latest Greece bailout, I admire the beadwork on one mother’s purse. I slip pretzels to the two-year-old in pigtails winding her way through our feet. I take a long but inconspicuous look at the woman across the room who I’ve heard has a newborn at home. She’s wearing high heels and mascara. Her hair is freshly blow-dried. I marvel.
Then I realize the room is quiet. Everyone is looking at me. I blink.
“American schools?” one of the dads asks. “Are they worth what you pay?”
I have no idea if he’s talking about preschools or primary schools or massage schools. I pause and say “um, well, uh” a few times before coming up with something vaguely intelligent. Or at least something vague.
Eventually, the English words dissolve back into Romanian ones, and I resume parceling out pretzels to the pig-tailed toddler. I wonder how many grown-ups are sitting in uncomfortable folding chairs in San Francisco and Duluth and Tulsa right this very moment, double-dipping potato chips into ramekins of ranch dressing and talking about the state of education. Or how the soccer team is doing. Or the latest economic bailout.
When the child-minders beckon, we sing to the birthday girl. We eat strawberry cake and bop to catchy Romanian standards like De Zuia Ta.
Under the sparkly shine of the disco ball, I collect kids, shoes, and party favors. We say thank you. Mulţumesc! And goodbye. La revedere! The hostess and I cheek-kiss, as you do in Europe.
And we slip out the door of Boom Party Club, where cultures ricochet off one another like the children moshing inside to the thumping bass.
Tags: Babies, Children, Growing Up, Humor, Kids, Language, Milestones, Motherhood, Talking, Words
bath, or ball, or occasionally button; determine by context.
denotes an animal of any kind, usually a dog, sometimes a zebra, once a flamingo.
the only acceptable choice at meal time.
popcorn, to be eaten at snack time or fed to the dog.
an abbreviation for “Give me some of whatever it is you’re eating, and give it to me now”; usually accompanied by finger-pointing and feet-shuffling.
1. a vehicle of any kind, most often a truck. 2. sidewalk chalk, esp. when smeared on hands or pants.
the sweetest word in the English language; guaranteed to turn your heart into a puddle.
no; usually enunciated as a growl.
a pacifier; also known as “baby’s first addiction.”
waffle, the second most acceptable choice at meal time; see also “cookie.”
the sound a kitty cat makes; see also “beh.”
What’s your little one saying these days? Why is “no” such a powerful word for the toddler set? And do you like wawees??
Tags: Blogging, Challenges, Expats, Language, Life, Milestones, Parenting, Perspectives, Romania
Want to know what seven pillows, gunshots, and a remote control have in common?
I’ll give you a hint: They almost led to my undoing.
Tags: Children, Europe, Expats, Family, Humor, Kids, Language, Perspectives, Travel, Winter
13 days. 4 countries. 3 kids. 1 car. We did it.
All we lost was a pair of earmuffs, a hat, and a black crayon. And maybe a few shreds of sanity.
What we gained was an unforgettable international adventure that included buses, subways, trams, a horse-drawn carriage, a thermal bath, monkeys, seals, a giant Ferris wheel, ice skates, ketchup-flavored Cheetos, glue guns, castles, and butterflies.
And two shots of Slovakian moonshine.
Here’s what made the top 10.
Austria, Slovakia, Hungary: Kid Favorites
10. The longest, fastest escalators in the history of the industrialized world in the Budapest metro.
9. The baboon at Vienna’s Natural History Museum. And his colorful butt cheeks.
8. The big pile of dog poop in the square with the giant Christmas tree.
7. Any machine that involves inserting a coin and watching it get squashed into a souvenir, voilà!
6. Kinder eggs. (Seriously, the U.S. is missing out.)
5. McDonald’s. Anywhere.
4. Graffiti. Anywhere.
3. Elevator buttons. Anywhere.
2. Their first water slide. And bumper car. And can of pineapple soda.
1. The rotating, self-sanitizing toilet at our first hotel. (Hours of fun. Hours.)
Austria, Slovakia, Hungary: Grown-Up Favorites
10. Aforementioned Slovakian moonshine.
9. Kids who refuse to eat anything except single-serving packs of peanut butter. (More mushroom soup, sweet cabbage, schnitzel, and strudel for us!)
8. 38-degree-Celsius heated pools. Ahhhhhhhhhh.
7. Gone with the Wind. And Legends of the Fall. And The Lion King. In Slovakian.
6. Hotel balconies and windows with wide ledges … For dirty-diaper storage, of course.
5. Locals. Who speak English. And offer directions. And help lift strollers onto buses. And return dropped mittens. And offer gingerbread to cranky children.
4. The espresso-cappuccino-hot-chocolate machine at the hotel breakfast buffet. Refill? Yes, please.
3. Highways, glorious highways. Romania, take note.
2. Being quiet and still so the kids can fall asleep. Then accidentally falling asleep ourselves. Before 9. Three nights in a row.
1. The five of us. Together. No matter what country we’re in.
What did your children enjoy most about Christmas vacation? And you? And have you ever had a Kinder egg??
Tags: Challenges, Children, Emotions, Language, Motherhood, Parenting, Relationships, Romania, Tantrums, Toys
I just got out of timeout.
Me, the mommy. In timeout.
It’s just, well, I’d had it. My children refused to clean up their bajillion toys. Again.
They whined. They screeched. They stomped.
So I did, too. I also badgered. Belittled. Said unkind things.
Why can’t you … ? How many times … ? When will you … ?
I’m sure you can fill in those blanks.
I forgot that I’m the one with patience. That I’m the one who teaches them gratefulness and responsibility and manners. That I’m their example.
After, we read stories about Mr. Gronkle and Lowly Worm. We sang You Are My Sunshine and layered the blankets in just the right order. We talked about what had happened.
I sat on the edge of their bed and told them I was sorry and I was going to sit in timeout. Because I had been mean and impatient. And that’s not how we behave in this house.
It’s over now. Their room is clean.
But my conscience isn’t.
Have you ever thrown a parent tantrum? Ever put yourself in timeout? Ever wished you could take back your own words?
Tags: Children, Expats, Family, History, Holidays, Language, Perspectives, Photography, Romania, Travel
Burgers on the grill. Strawberry shortcake. An afternoon at the pool, then fireworks at the park.
Sound like the perfect way to spend Independence Day? Then you’ve never celebrated it like Romanians do. Their celebration falls on the first day of December, so it goes more like this …
Long underwear. Earmuffs. Mulled wine and steaming-hot nut bread. Traditional songs, dances, and costumes. The Red, Yellow, and Blue flying high.
And fireworks. Of course. (Some things are universal.)
And in the middle of it all? Us. Five Americans. A freezing, laughing, moving island in a sea of fur coats, high-heeled boots, secondhand smoke, and words like unirii and cozonac.
We ricocheted off piaţă benches and light-wrapped lampposts as we gawked at saxophones, violins, and their players gliding by in wool hats.
We eyed the half-assembled ice rink and the clusters of blue-jacketed poliţişti.
We watched the fireworks over warm Cokes and hot pizza.
We celebrated the independence of a country we don’t call home. Danced and clapped to patriotic songs we couldn’t understand. Toasted each other with “La mulţi ani!”
While Romania celebrated its independence, we realized our dependence.
On this beautiful country.
On these resilient people.
On this sometimes tragic, ultimately heartening history that we’re now a tiny part of.
Have you ever celebrated a holiday that’s not your own? Ever felt a connection to another country or culture? Ever had warm Coke??
Tags: Challenges, Children, Expats, Family, Food, Language, Milestones, Perspectives, Romania, Travel
Our five-month anniversary in this country came and went, and we didn’t even notice.
We were too busy …
Too busy scolding Lollipop and Giggles for pilfering Reese’s peanut-butter cups from our latest care package in the wee hours of the morning. Too busy stocking up on elusive bags of tortillas from the grocery store. Too busy planning a holiday getaway to Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest. (I know!!)
But now it’s Monday. The older kids are at grădiniţa. Fluffy Bunny Daddy is at lucru. The nanny is aici. I’m alone with my computer and have overdosed on TripAdvisor reviews. What better time to reflect on our five months?
We’ve had quite a few “firsts” since we’ve been here: first plate of pork fat, first celebrity neighbor, first surgery in a foreign country, first steps, first snowfall. My cell phone is chock full of numbers from friends who hail from countries like Sweden and Jordan and India. And when we eat out, we actually order the sparkling water. With no ice.
Who are we? The same family that crammed into the back two rows of a plane five months ago not realizing we were headed for a country with no Cheetos? Yes. And no.
We’re also a family that speaks another language. (Well, puţin.)
We line-dry our clothes and don’t really notice the scratchiness anymore.
We eat apples straight from the tree.
We delight over treasures like nutcrackers and crock pots when we find them in the grocery store.
We shrug our shoulders when two-way roads turn into one-ways overnight. (Asta e.)
We walk to the corner for fresh bread from the brutărie.
We order beer because it’s cheaper than a soda.
We park on the sidewalk, like everyone else.
We are grateful for homemade gifts like rose jam, currant juice, and gigantic jars of pickles.
We listen to the classic rock station that plays lots of Bon Jovi.
We know Celsius.
We don’t even blink when our pizza has corn on it.
We raise our glasses and say, “Noroc!”
But we still can’t figure out what to do with a head of cabbage. Good thing we’ve got seven months left to figure it out.
How do you adapt to new places? What would you miss most if you were away from your home for a while? And do you have any good cabbage recipes??
Tags: Blogging, Celebrity, Challenges, Expats, Halle Berry, Humor, Injury, Language, Poetry, Romania
Haiku Friday: An Open Letter to Halle Berry
Dear Halle, It’s me,
Stacia, from Romania.
I just heard the news.
You broke your foot in
Spain. And I’m here to tell you:
I know, girl, I know.
It hurts. You don’t know
what anyone is saying.
And you want your mom.
Here’s some advice, from
Someone who’s been right where you
Are not long ago.
Take the drugs. Don’t be
Tough and try to ride out the
Pain. Just take the drugs.
Hire someone to give
You daily pedicures. (Casts
Make your feet gnarly.)
When you can’t sleep, read.
Or sing songs or do puzzles.
Don’t lie there and think.
Make ’em serve tapas
Or something. Just enjoy Spain
Any way you can!
I won’t lie, healing
Is slow. Slow. You’ll hate your foot
Before it’s over.
You’ll hate the doctor,
Therapist, pharmacist, and
They get it. It hurts,
And you’re frustrated. Cry. Curse.
Throw things. Get it out.
Think of your little
Girl. When you can’t be strong for
You, be strong for her.
What’s your advice for Halle? What’s your favorite thing about Spain? And how do your kids help you find strength?