Friday, November 30, 2012

Two Year Hungarianniversary

Last September marked our second full year in Budapest. To belatedly mark the occassion, I am sharing the following truths I now hold to be self evident. And it only took me two years to accept and appreciate these things!   Here are my observations and pics of my favorite spots around town.
#1:  While it is no buttercream, marzipan, done right, can be delicious icing and, for the sake of appearances, easily beats fondant.
#2:  Socialized medicine can be scary, but at least people, especially very little people, who desparately need medical care are getting it. We are lucky to have private doctors here, but sweet P had to have a minor, but medically necessary surgery performed by a state doctor at the main children's hospital. We learned a lot that morning.

#3:  The deposit system for grocery carts (insert coin in cart & get coin back upon cart return) is smart. I have never had to remove abandoned grocery carts from around my car in a parking garage (notice I didn't say "lot").
#4:  While Nutella is certainly not a substitute for peanut butter, it bests peanut butter in every respect.

#5:  Want to be treated like a queen everywhere you go? Take a baby with you.
#6:  Want to be scolded by every old lady in town? Take your baby out without a hat on.

#7:   The Soviet reign is over, but it will take generations to erode the stigma. We once got our car stuck in the snow going up the steep hill on our block. The neighbors all looked out the windows and then drew their curtains tight. Maybe they thought it was some kind of trap? I don't know, but I do know that Hungarians had to watch everyone, particularly their neighbors, during the Soviet rule.

#8:   Everyone likes Western music & movies. I was recently shushed by my fifty something cab driver so he could sing along to some Rhianna song about diamonds. That said, Eastern music is catching on. There seems to be no stopping the rotation of Gangnam Style here.

#9:   Just because someone says they do not speak English does not mean they don't know English. They just aren't going to be speaking it with you. See number 5 for a different result. Note, I tried to learn Hungarian. I really, really tried.
#10:  Ikea is your new Target.

#11:  Most of the streets are wide enough to accomodate golf cart traffic. Tuck in your side view mirrors and hope for the best.
#12:  The United States has absolutely pitiful maternity leave. Most European countries give mothers a year or two... with pay even! The women here practically choke when I tell them that American women get six weeks, unpaid, by law. Hungarian maternity leave is three years, partially paid.

#13:  There is a good chance that, unless you are a recognized regular at a store or are carrying a baby, that a clerk checking you out is not going to be particularly kind to you. It's not you, though. That's just how it is. Pay, bag items and leave.
#14:  If a Hungarian waiter tells you something is too spicy for you, trust him and order something else.

#15:  The "Right Hand Rule" might as well be replaced with an "Every Man For Himself Rule."   For most intersections, there won't be stop signs or traffic lights. In theory, you are to yield to the driver to the right. In practice, when multiple cars approach an intersection, the most impatient driver wins.
#16:  If you stumble upon a drive through McDonalds, ATM, etc., make a note of it. It's the only one in town.

#17:  We are SO LUCKY to be living here. I get misty eyed every single time I cross over the Danube at night. Budapest is a beautiful, beautiful place full of wonderful, wonderful people (see #13 for the exception).  

Excited and grateful for another year in beautiful Budapest!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Counting My Blessings

Last year we started a Thanksgiving tradition with Claudia of making a crafty turkey, asking her what she is thankful for and recording her answers on her turkey.  We got some interesting feedback:  (1) food ("mostly crackers and cookies"), (2) baby swans, (3) "my pretty little hands", (4) Mommy, Daddy, Paddy, (5) "the golden sun", (6) birds in the trees, (7) ponds to swim in, (8) Oatmeal & Birdie Blanket.

We were really pleased that she was "extra thankful" for Patrick. 

The "extra thankful" part made him happy too.

I was extra thankful that my cousin Mandi and her boyfriend Jeff came to visit!  Being far away from family makes you a little homesick at the holidays, so it was super to have these two come to Budapest!

Plus, they are really good at entertaining the kiddos!

Thanksgiving day was also Mandi's birthday, so we squeezed in two celebrations!

I can't begin to describe the meltdown Claudia had when they left.  She was devastated.  Luckily, we will be seeing them soon... in TEXAS!

Claudia's Thanksgiving pageant at school was pretty entertaining as well.  I think she is one of the four Americans at the school, so we were thankful that the day got recognized in such a big way. 

Sometimes you can really get to the heart of a holiday when you ask a child why they are celebrating.  Claudia said Thanksgiving is for being glad you have a family.  She knows it has something to do with Pilgrims crossing the Atlantic and Native Americans keeping these Pilgrims alive, but at least for now, its nice to just go with her sentiments.
These two (Claudia with Theodor from Sweden) didn't sing a single word of "When Turkeys Wake Up", instead they swung their hands back and forth and giggled.  Even better than the song!

I'm thankful that Claudia was so helpful in the kitchen while getting ready for Thanksgiving.  She handled the lion's share of making pumpkin pie cupcakes and was really serious about the whole thing.
And then she tried to teach Paddy to play the harmonica.  Did I mention that Claudia has started playing the harmonica?  Almost everyday?   Early in the morning?   I  think I need to find that harmonica and put it somewhere special today.

I'm so thankful to have my family!  
No matter where we are, I will always feel at home when I am with them. 

I am "extra thankful" to have such awesome American friends to share Hungarian Thanksgiving with.  What a blessing!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

On Being Manly

A few weeks ago in Claudia's preK class, they had a "family" unit.  This paper doll family was one of the art projects they did.  Notice anything strange?  Hint:  Patrick is wearing a skirt and is labeled "sister."  Claudia has been telling everyone that Patrick is a girl and that Patrick is her baby sister.  I've got to hand it to her.  She just doesn't give up.  She wanted a sister and she's going to stick to that. 

For Patrick's benefit, I will now post pics of him doing very many things.  Here Paddy is, watching ESPN Red Zone with Daddy.   Let me disclose this, though; I don't usually let Paddy watch tv, let alone ESPN Red Zone.  But he has been so sick this past week with an ear infection, that we pretty much let him do anything that would keep him from crying.  And that included watching ESPN Red Zone.  

Daddy let him try a Budweiser.  The Czech one.  The American one is way too expensive over here.

He liked it!   Daddy assured me the alcohol would help kill off any nasty bacteria or viruses.  Poor Paddy's cheeks were so red from the fever.

Feeling better, Paddy played a little b-ball.

Nothing but net.  And a little rim.  And a little backboard.  He got his little arm stuck in the rim too.  Bless his little heart. 

Then he really showed the rim who was boss.

Like I said, he's so manly.

His new game on sunny days... crawling after his shadow and slapping it.  It's so sunny in our living room, he has to wear a hat to keep the sun off his already rosy cheeks. 

My sweet, manly Paddy. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Silly Things & My Mom's Birthday

Today is my mom's birthday! We are sending big hugs your way today, Mom! Here are some pictures of silly happenings around the house to brighten your special day.

This is what a handle bar chocolate milk mustache looks like.

Again, with a smile.

Here is happy Paddy.

Here is really happy Paddy.

Due to excessive hugs and kisses around the house, everyone has managed to get nasty sick from a cold bug.  Origins of the virus are unknown.  I suspect it had something to do with three back-to-back visits to the Zoo Playhouse last weekend. 

Little man has been trying his hand at finger foods.  Carrots- his first.

Paddy like?

Yes. Paddy like!

Claudia draws pictures of her buddy Carsten almost everyday.  She drew this and said "Carsten has all the colors of the rainbow in his tummy."  I asked "you mean in his heart?"  She reaffirms, "no, his tummy.  Where his love is."  I nodded.  Its good she understands early that the way to a man's heart is, indeed, through his tummy, where the love is. 

Claudia drew a family portrait.

... and an astronaut.

Being home sick this week allowed for plenty of craft time.  I helped Bop make this hand & foot print turkey for Thanksgiving.   She loves having her appendages painted, but giggles to the point of hysteria when I paint her feet! 

We had a "leftover" hand from the turkey craft.  Claudia wanted to use it for a picture.  She drew a mommy tiger and a baby tiger.  She then pasted the handprint to the top & asked to put red glitter on it.  We did that.  I asked, "why the glittery hand?  What does it mean?"  I'm always looking for some kind of deeper meaning in her pictures.   
The answer I got was a bit disturbing, but funny, at least to me, so I'll share.  Claudia:  "This is a hand that I am feeding to the mommy & baby tiger.  It's just a bloody hand."  I nearly choked & asked "why are we feeding them a bloody hand?"  She says "It's the circle of life." 
So now I'll explain something about the Budapest Zoo ... where they keep old livestock pins next to the wild cat pins.   At feeding time, a VERY recognizable side of beef (legs & hooves attached) is promptly procured & delivered to the cats.   We've seen this a dozen times.  I don't know how to explain this to my inquisitive three year old, other than tell her its part of a cow & that this the circle of life.   At the very least, this picture is confirmation that she has been listening to my little biology lessons! 
Happy birthday, Mom!!  We love you!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Veterans Day and Fall Leaves

Happy Veterans Day and Happy Fall! I am thankful that Veterans Day quickly followed the big election.  I wasn't thrilled with the outcome of the election, but in all honesty, I was underwhelmed by both candidates.  But now that the election is over and done, I think that we can all unite in a common appreciation of those that devote their lives to the service of our country, ensuring our safety at the expense of their own.  God bless our veterans and God bless our country. 
Here are two of my favorite veterans, my Grandma (United States Marine Corps) and Grandad (United States Army and Office of Strategic Services).  Don't worry, that only looks like a prison jumpsuit on my Grandad.  He spent most of his retirement in his brightly covered Dickies coveralls. 
Changing horses, fall has definitely arrived here in Budapest and the best place to observe the beauty of the season is Margaret Island.  When we go back home, I know I will miss Margaret Island the most.  It's the best place to sit down, slow down and appreciate everything around you.

Paddy had a good time.  He ate everything off our plates and out of our hands.  Even this sour apple.  That was a surprise.

Bop jumped her way through countless leaf piles.

... and watched her first leaf storm.  It's pretty amazing to watch the wind blow thousands of leaves off the trees and spin them around. 

That leaf in her hand is bigger than her head. Just imagine thousands of those flying around the sky above you!  

Lots of these guys were hopping around the petting zoo.  They put a big net over their little habitat so they can't fly away.  I hope they don't get too cold this winter.

Daddy & monkey boy

a game of chase in the leaves

Daddy & monkey girl

Happy fall!

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