Thursday, October 28, 2010

how many things can break in one weekend?

So I've had a few trips to the doctor and minor surgical procedure this week and a lot of frustration about my health. At one point in the doctor's office, discussing what's not right, my eyes welled up with tears. She thought I was upset about my physical well-being, and I was, but that wasn't the half of it.

This weekend was ridiculous. While my body was getting worse our house fell apart around us.

It started with the water heater - lately it had become less and less reliable. This past week it got so bad I lost track of how many times I had to push the stupid button to try to trigger the water heater to kick in - I know I reached 28 and then hit it a few more times that day... On Friday a repair man came to replace the broken shower pole - he also let me know there was a leak in the shower and asked me not to bathe and he'd be back on Tuesday. I said - not happening.

Then on Saturday the regular heat stopped working - and it's been below freezing. It became as sporadic as the water heater.

Sunday the electricity started to freak out. Fuses blew and wouldn't reset. I spent a great deal of time before figuring out the washing machine was broken and affecting the electricity. If the machine was one, or if you turned it on, the fuse would blow. I had clothes in the machine half way through the cycle.

So - Monday started with - a broken water heater, a broken heating system, a leaking shower, faulty electricity and a broken washing machine - which was immediately followed by an emergency trip to the doctor and then the surgeon. Yes, it was overwhelming. No, I didn't explain all that to my doctor. And now - all household issues have been fixed. It took a few days but they're done. I'm just waiting for my body to get on the same page.

Monday, October 25, 2010

another day with doctors

The damn steroids that I need to breathe have reduced my immunity. Now I have a secondary infection, completely unrelated to my lungs… it shouldn’t have happened but it did because, as I’ve been warned today, I can catch anything/everything right now. Spent the morning first at the doctor’s office, then with a surgeon.

Tomorrow will start with blood work – they’re concerned that I do in fact seem to be catching everything - it's not just an abstract possibility it's happening - and it happens whether I'm on steroids or not.. I can’t keep up this ongoing cycle of antibiotics (I've had my 3rd round prescribed today in less than a month)… it’s killing my body (at least that’s how I feel at the moment). Tomorrow after the blood work I'll go back to the doctor and then back to the surgeon. I am so tired. Emotionally, mentally, physically. I am so tired right now.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I don't understand the doctor system here or why everyone I know gets weird illnesses and infections at, what to me is, an alarming rate. I do know that I'm one of those people who do, though, and it's really impacting the quality of my life.

The multitude of steriods I have to take for my lungs has weakened my immune system and now I have a secondary infection, again. This keeps happening - I get sick - a cold in my lungs - then asthma and bronchitis, and as I start to get better a predatory condition sets in. As I get better from that then the asthma/bronchial thing sets in again. I'm a little concerned as this isn't a good pattern. I happen to catch colds, it's nothing new, I have and do - but here it's taken to a whole other level and it's more than just a cold... and it's starting to feel relentless.

How can I boost my immune system? I'm eating wholesome homemade meals, taking vitamins, started swimming again (when I'm well enough), don't smoke, etc. I don't understand either what I'm doing wrong or what I'm not doing right, but I really need something to change. I hate feeling rundown and tired... and I'm easily overwhelmed with the thought of doctors, hospitals and medication. I would really appreciate some advice - either little things I can do or which doctor/hospital I should consult.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

shower series

I just walked past the bathroom and the Kid called out - the door was open so I turned to her but she wasn't in the little 2 feet of floor space... no, she was fully dressed, in her slippers, holding a desk lamp and her camera taking pictures of water drops in the bathroom. The Kid's shower series will be (primarily) the water drop images she'll be editing this week - I think she has a study of the new shower pole and soap dish combo as well as a loofa or two... don't forget to ask her for them.

The Kid's luck getting lost

The Kid had a meeting yesterday with the family of a little girl I used to teach - they contacted me aw while ago asking if I was available for private lessons for the family. I'm not, so I referred heras a teacher for their daughter and another woman for the parents. Yesterday she went to their home for the first time.

Apparently she got lost (don't stress out, it happens frequently, even to natives, it's just part of finding your way).

While she was lost she had interactions with a non-English speaking Czech woman, an English speaking Czech woman, and in between those two a French speaking Czech man... my American daughter and the French man didn't have a shared language and where both asking for something from the other. He approached her and asked about a dog that had recently passed by without an owner, indicating that he had one - she thought he was looking for his lost dog. She was turning in circles trying to read the map and the street names on the corner. He couldn't help her with directions and he wasn't looking for his dog. He was telling her had a dog. He was asking her for money for "food, home, park" the three English words she could identifyin addition to the dog. I guess they stood there for a bit talking to each other in mismatched tongues before they figured out the other couldn't offer anything of benefit to their individual situations and so individually went on their way.

She kept laughing while telling me this - and was actually proud of the first Czech interaction as she requested her directions so perfectly the woman didn't realize she didn't speak Czech... until she couldn't fully follow her answer. Not that the journey would have been easier if she did understand the answer as I don't think she knows how to read a map.


little amendment - she wanted me to clarify a few things... She fully understood the direction the Czech woman gave her. The need for further directions stemmed from the fact that the directions the woman gave her were wrong. Also, she knows how to read a map. I can't attest to the first, but the second I planning on having her prove in the next month or two when we head out of town for a long weekend.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

october 21

It's started snowing. Apparently winter was a little anxious to get here. Last year was the coldest on record in decades (centuries possibly). This year it's supposed to be even colder. It sure wasn't snowing at this time last year! I think we need to reevaluate our wardrobes. Again.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

my final parent-teacher conference

This is the very last parent-teacher conference of my parenting adventure. Way to end it on a high note, Kid!

Every teacher was full of accolades - the only negative thing they had to say was that she'd been sick and missed class... and then they elaborated to say that it's not just a hassle having her turn in work late or miss a lecture but that she's a very vocal member of the classroom and has a unique view she's not afraid to assert and so her presence is extremely valuable.

It's always nice to hear other people appreciate your child and offer up a different perspective. I happen to think she's pretty cool, most people I know think the same thing. Actually, side note, somehow we both managed to be invited to the same Halloween party, separately, this year. Usually, it's like hey, you come and she can come too - or she should come and bring her Mom if she wants... but this year it was directed at each of us, separately.

Anyway, back to today - one of her teacher's commented that she's got an ability to assert her views, back them up with startling insight, then listen to divergent views and either absorb a bit or address why they don't impact her opinion. I'm relaying this because, as he mentioned, it's not every adult that knows how to truly listen and he was impressed... and so am I.

I'm not too fond of these "last ever" milestones. I enjoy being a Mom. I'll still be a Mom, but it'll be a different phase. I don't know for sure which country he Kid'll be in next year - not too sure which country I'll be in, although I think it's fairly safe to assume it'll be this one - and even though in most respects she's an adult right now, I'm not too comfortable when I think about the upcoming changes, and not really having as involved a role in her life as I have... which is funny, actually, as I'm not "overly" involved parent right now - I've raised a kid I trust and respect and who has an ingrained sense of responsibility (regarding homework, not housework) and she is pretty free to do what she wants when and how - she's not given me reason to doubt her honesty or question her freedom or level of autonomy, rather she continues to earn my trust and respect. I do occasionally say "no" or veto an idea or point out other issues that may impact her ideas, but not too often. I don't arrange her schedule or dictate her plans, I'm not a fussy Mom, always in her space, rummaging through her things, questioning her friends... so losing the few "Mom" things I do have isn't easy. Marking off these last ever parenting events with my one and only isn't all that much fun. I'm happy for her, she's growing up and has become and will continue to become this amazingly awesome talented beautiful being, but it's making me a little sad inside, going through these final phases.

Maybe I should get a dog and start puppy school so I have some sort of continue parenting experience I can participate in.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

baking - banana bread and beyond

Last week I really wanted banana bread and I had a bunch of old bananas so I made some. We ate it all. I was supposed to go to a pot-luck and I had more bananas so I made more - I didn't go and so we ate that too.

I haven't made banana bread in many, many years but I love it. I'd forgotten how quick and easy it is.

This weekend I wanted more. But something a little different. I don't know why but lately my tastebuds have been craving something rather elusive - I don't know what I want but there's something out there that, in theory, will fill the mouthwatering craving I'm experiencing.

So, we experimented. Yesterday we started with the basic banana bread recipe (Joy of Cooking - see below) and then, instead of nuts, added some grated orange peel and cranberries. That was pretty good. After that I made regular banana bread too.

Last night we walked down the street to hear a friend play some music and brought part of each loaf for the friend who was meeting us there. So, today one loaf was gone when we woke and the other was gone shortly thereafter as it was our breakfast.

This evening I experimented some more - sweet potato bread. It's fresh out of the oven, butter-melting warm and rather tasty.

Here's how I made it:

Start with the same Joy of Cooking banana bread recipe but scratch the banana, instead you need one soft-baked sweet potato. You'll also need some cinnamon and brown sugar. I left out the nuts but the next time I might try it with some pecans.

When making the flour mixture I added about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. It's a rough estimate as I had about 1/8 teaspoon but then threw in a few more shakes right before adding it to the butter mixture.

When creating the butter mixture I added about 1/8 cup of brown sugar. I also increased the butter by a little bit, something I tend to do anyway but you don't have to. The exact amount of butter is really hard for me to determine as it's not sold in American style cubes with the marker on the paper indicating tablespoons and 1/4 cup - it's in grams so lately I've had to literally measure it all out... it's time consuming, difficult if the butter is hard, and wasteful as so much sticks to the measuring unit so I've made some rough estimates. Pretty soon I'll get a scale and do the conversion - that should make it a little easier. You're most likely using the American system or have a scale. (I really should have a scale already but I cook stuff so rarely I really haven't need one yet... I'll get there.)

Instead of banana, add in one cup of smooshy sweet potato. For us, that was one sweet potato but obviously it will depend on the size of your potato. I had three on hand.

Bake as normal but make sure you check it at about 50 minutes. Again, I'm using a Celsius oven and it doesn't have a clear marker for the converted temperature so it's not exact, but I found that just under 170C for 50 minutes is perfect... if you've got a Fahrenheit oven then no worries, just follow the directions.

Let it cool a bit, dump it out of the pan, cut off a chunk and take a bite. Hopefully it'll taste as good as ours - if not, blame it on me... maybe I forgot something :)

Joy of Cooking

1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
5 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup mashed, very ripe bananas (2)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 6-cup loaf pan. (I don't have a 6-cup loaf pan, I have no idea what size it is, but it's not the same as my American bread loaf pan... just use a bread loaf and don't worry about it.)

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until lightened in color and texture, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the flour mixture until blended and the consistency of brown sugar. Gradually beat in the two eggs. Fold in the banana and walnuts (if using) until just combined.

Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold and allow to cool completely on the rack.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

a ray of light and hopefully a future with a peaceful shower

I've been feeling a little overwhelmed lately by (see below) and today while talking about the repairs about to take place in our flat I had a breakthrough. Actually, a revelation. Let me start at the beginning...

Our water heater doesn't like working. Sometimes we have hot water, sometimes we don't. Quite often we have to restart the pilot light - sometimes a few times before it actually takes. I've figured out that you can decrease the number of attempts you need to get it to "take" if you have the water running. Once the heat turns on again if you keep the water running it doesn't usually go out - but once the water turns off you'll probably have to restart it. I've had it happen that the water was hot and running and then suddenly the pilot light died in the middle of the dishes so I had to restart it - twice before it took and would start to heat the water again. Fortunately that hasn't happened in the shower yet.

The "shower" here is a shower head on a long hose which attaches to the faucet. The shower head fits in a slot supported by a pole attached to the wall. The pole system for the showerhead is broken - the bracket pieces that attach to the wall are broken on the inside yet it balances the pole if you place it just right and will support the shower head. I've been asking to have it replaced for a while - it's been that way for months. I don't have the technical skills or the tools to drill in to the tile, etc...

Our shower is a rectangle smaller than your hall closet. I can stand in the middle, rotate at the waist, and with my hands below my waist I can touch all four sides with my elbows. Think about the size there.

So - this is how my mornings have been. Get up, maybe eat something, turn on the shower. Go to get in the shower and realize it's cold. Go to the kitchen and hit the pilot light - repeat get in shower, cold, kitchen pilot light up to three times before success is found.

Once in the shower try not to move - if you bump the shower hose it hits the pole and knocks it against the loose bracket - the nozzle, pole and bracket all come tumbling down - down on your head, back, legs, feet and most importantly right on top of the faucet. The force of the falling hardware turns the water off.

Now, the fun part - by the time everything has fallen down, been replaced and the water is turned back on the pilot light has gone out again.

You have to exit the tiny shower, warm steamy bathroom and pad through the hall and across the bare kitchen floor in an uninsulated (or archiacally insulated) building (it's been zero Celsius lately - quite cold in the flat!) and start the whole process over again - while soaking wet.

I mentioned this morning ritual to a friend recently and she said something about with such a difficult morning the rest of the day doesn't stand a chance - getting off on the wrongest foot possible, stuff like that... and I realized she may have a bit of a point - when I'm feeling overwhelmed just trying to get in the shower my outlook probably isn't so cheery for the rest of the day.

Fortunately - hopefully - after many repeated requests both the shower and the hot water heater are scheduled to be repaired next week - it's not till Friday, but I'm just thankful there's finally a date on the calendar!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

brown paper blues

On my way home the other day I stopped at Tesco. To be honest, I was on the way back from the doctor trying to stock up on fruits and veggies for the next few days as I knew I'd be at home resting... I wasn't feeling top notch.

BUT - I was no where near as bad as this guy I encountered in the shop. He was tall and gaunt, tight-lipped and grimacing and looked miserable. He was so stiff and tight and intense looking - he was a black hole of gloom in doom the midst of Tesco's overly bright fluorescents and shiny displays... I took a quick look down at the sole object he was trying to purchase and then my empathy just skyrocketed.

He was holding a single roll of toilet paper. Not the Charmin-y softness (Charmin TP doesn't exist here), not even the cottony Kleenex (Kleenex TP does exist here). This poor guy had the roll from hell - it was made from that dark brown rough hand-towel paper you used to find in school bathrooms back in the 70s. You can still find dark-brown rough hand-towel paper in school bathrooms, but it's not nearly as rough as what existed back in the day. For some reason there's a company that distribute TP here that believes that paper should be revived and used not on your hands but elsewhere. That poor man could have bought a 4-pack and purchase something not intended to remove the top 3 layers of skin. Instead I looked at him and knew his discomfort was not to be abated, only transformed.

augmenting with augmentin

So, I entered a new phase with my perma-cold last week and had to go back to the Dr. She started me on some antibiotic and some other stuff, blah blah blah. I went back a few days later and she wasn't happy with the lack of progress, so she told me she wanted me to try another antibiotic... Last time she had me on two antibiotics at the same time so I wasn't suprised when she told she wanted to "start augmenting." We talked a bit about other stuff and then reviewed all the changes she'd made to everything - the new stuff and then augmenting. I like to review my understanding with doctors, especially when not dealing with a native or near-native speaker, so I gave back a recap of my understanding... "Increase this, change that and then take this new antibiotic along with the old one... right?"

"No, just the augmenting."

That didn't make any sense whatsoever. So she wrote it out... Augmentin. The name of the new antibiotic was Augmentin. I wasn't to augment anything - I was to stop my old stuff and take Augmentin instead.

Friday, October 8, 2010

little setbacks

This was supposed to be a turning point... I got a raise, increased my hours and started teaching - money should be flowing in right now.... and then a few things hit-

The stupid ransom I had to pay for our passports - that took up most of the rent... to put it in perspective - most everyone I know pays less in rent than what I just paid to get back our passports!

Trip to the hospital for the kid - not covered by insurance at this point (even if it had been, we didn't have our passports so it wouldn't have been accepted)

I got another respiratory infection. I've been told to stay home for 10 days - that means no pay for 3 days then half rate... which puts me at less than what I was making before! Every single stupid cold I get goes straight in to my lungs and then asthma kicks in to overdrive and I'm wheezing and gasping and coughing and hating life.

And now the school has given 24 hours notice of funds due for a multi-day retreat - in the past it's been a discounted price but this year it's the full cost - and the full cost is inflated from the past few years... urgh.

SATs. Even though she may stay here for college she's still got to take the tests.

And now I have to get the Kid another new insurance policy as the one we've had for her isn't right for the new visa laws. You have to prepay for the full year.

I'm sitting here trying to figure out how to make ends meet till the end of the month - and today's only the 8th. I've been home for 3 days now and instead of getting better my stupid cold is entrenched in my upper respiratory track - and am feeling rather frustrated with the progress of October. I have my next class on Tuesday and my book and guide are sitting in my desk at work - I'm home and have plenty of time to prepare, but no materials to do it with.

The Kid's starting to feel better, finally, at least. And despite the notice on the door our rent won't be going up.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

some nice news

Here's link to a heartwarming article. It's not often pleasant things make the news - and to me THIS ARTICLE ranks up right up there with really nice surprises... a bit of validation and some recognition and appreciation.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dude brought a sword!

Here's a rather unusual glimpse in to some very rare street violence. It happened in Vinohrady, on Vinohradska... that's our part of town.

In case you didn't pick up on it - the taxi drivers here are meat-head idiots... and people are really in to LARP.

Tuesday Sept 5

Apparently I've caught whatever the kid's got. Big ole bummer. She gets to stay home for days and I've had to go to work. This is a busy week for me... the start of the new term for all of our new students, papers due, writing to review, and today was my first day teaching at a university. I'm sure you're shocked, after having followed my writing, that I could be teaching university, but wonder of wonders, I am. And as nervous as I was, as underprepared as I felt having devoted my weekend to mommy stuff rather than class-prep, and as sick as I am - well things weren't too bad. One student, on the way out the door, even said he loves stuff like I just gave him - challenging thought provoking questions that require genuine work and reflection. Right on - or maybe write on... it's a writing assignment after all. :)


(apparently I forgot about tuesday - all day i thought it was wednesday. at the end of the day i found out i was wrong. even with the day wrong i managed to take care of all my tuesday obligations. woo hoo me!)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

not strep - Motol Hospital rocked!

The Kid's most likely just got a virus of some sort and will be home till at least Wednesday.

The trip to the hospital was easy - since she's a child they didn't require anything from her... no ID, no address, nothing. I think it cost a bit more than my check-up did but that's probably due to her having to be seen in pediatrics. They were fast and efficient in the foreigner's department, and then we got lost in the pediatric wing. We asked a nurse for the area and she didn't speak English but really went out of her way to be helpful - she pantomimed, asking us if we wanted the sleeping children (she put her hands together and layed her head down on them as if they were a pillow and closed her eyes) or if we wanted the doktora. I answered the doktora and she walked us up the stairs to the correct department and waved us goodbye.

Even the doctor was quite sweet and helpful. I understood pastilky and we all said you suck on it like candy, yet she wanted to be perfect and so got online to translate - the translation is lozenge, by the way. The Kid was satisfied with the care and thought the doctor was really nice and quite earnest in her desire to be as helpful as possible.

All in all, for being quite miserable and sick, it was a good experience and I'm grateful she had one when she's feeling so awful.

hospital without ID?

We still don't have our passports. It's Saturday. The Kid appears to have strep throat so I've spent my morning calling hospitals. Technically she's still a child so she can only be seen in a children's department. Most of them are closed. I think I've found one - we're on our way... waiting for the taxi. Hope they'll let her in without her national ID. Please send her a get well email. Thanks.