Category Archives: latvian

And so it begins

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And so it begins

I am competitive. Losing is despicable. Maybe growing up with three older brothers left me scarred into always feeling weaker and less able. With my children, sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, and I’m okay with that. We are teaching our children the agony of defeat is okay to learn as well as triumph in a victory.

Now let’s talk preschool. In our small town, there are few choices. We applied at two and was accepted by one. Through facebook I see friends trying to sift through a dozen options. Mandarin? Spanish? Nature play? Gifted? The application and interview process for these can be multi-tiered! To this small town gal, that is incomprehensible. For college, elite sports teams, or advanced programs, yes.

But preschool? Where am I going with this? Recently a parent questioned the placement of our child with his child. Are my son’s second language skills as developed? Nope. Does he comprehend the Latvian language? Minimally. So perhaps you are right, he is not on the same skill level as your child. But he’s a sponge. They all are! Don’t discount his current lack of language. Remember the old saying, don’t judge a book by its cover? Well don’t judge his language base until you dive into the language.

We want our kids to have a well rounded kid’s life. The ability to run in a creek, play 4 square, catch frogs, camp, build a fire, visit special places, and most importantly learn about themselves. What is it that makes each special? Perhaps we spend extra time living a kid’s life, growing a future, and need to weave in additional language time. We’ve attempted to create a happy balance between school, sports, Latvian heritage, activities, and community involvement. But honestly it’s a work in progress.

Don’t start getting all competitive and selective, the kid is 4 and learning daily. And to the father who told me that his kid is way smarter than mine and cannot imagine they will be in the same grade upon entering school, again they are 4! Let’s save the competitive, my kid is better than your kid crap for later, much later. Let them be kids. IMG_5842.JPG

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Summer Solstice

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As part of the Latvian Jāņi (Summer Solstice) tradition, women and girls wear vainags (crown of flowers). My first couple of Jāņi celebrations, I fumbled my way through vainags preparations. Then, I landed at the mothership, Rīgā for Jāņi.

Driving back roads to country homes, it is perfectly acceptable to pull over and tromp through fields in search of “the” flowers. “The” being nature’s bounty, wild. Next the task is to weave and fasten the crown using stems, leaves, and more “nature” parts. I learned from the Obi Wan of vainags, locals…in a roadside bar.

This year I painstakingly picked flowers from around our home. Upon arriving at vecmamminas (grandmother’s), the husband and daughter added some additional floral pieces from the generational plot. Thirty minutes later and this…

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Yes, my daughter wore it with pride until…she noticed a masterpiece. A crown so tightly woven that the flowers hugged the head like a floral halo. Never mind that the flowers were store bought or held together with artificial pieces, she wanted that vainags. The golden Jāņi crown. Gone was my mommy pride, leaving behind only two green thumbs and thorn punctures. The vainags tossed aside with her dinner plate.

Oh Jāni, give me another chance. I will avenge the 2014 vainags!

Not in Kansas anymore

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Not in Kansas anymore

My trips to Latvian Center Garezers in Three Rivers often feel like Dorothy in Oz. The sounds and sights transport me away, minus the plane ticket or crashed house. Besides the obvious language differences are the sights, symbols, and cultural artifacts. Take a stroll with me.

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Textiles and symbols – The beauty is in the detail.

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Shelves full of old stories

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Crowns of flowers from a summer solstice long ago

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Here generations are preserving a way of life thousands of miles from the homeland.

Easter eggs

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Spring is not complete without the annual egg dying expedition. The Latvian eggs are colored using onion skins. I’ve been saving up for the last few months. The eggs are draped with a leaf or flower and then wrapped in onion skins. The results are various shades of sunset to rust. Some artistic Latvians scratch traditional symbols on the rusty hued eggs. I tried. The cramp in my hand only resulted in a primary age “saule” or sun. Stephanie at Barefoot Rose is the Queen of scratching!

Our “traditional” eggs were lovely shades of periwinkle, pea shoots, and lemons. I left the older two soaking the last two eggs in color baths. Upon return, I found eggs looking like the Easter Bunny threw up all over them. Which is ironic, because I was in the other room dealing with that from little brother.

What are your egg traditions?
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Pankukas

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This morning M asked to make breakfast. On the menu, bacon and pankukas. Pankukas? Latvian pancakes, think crepes.

M is the official bacon man. He has more patience than I and a watchful eye for the exact moment to turn the hog slabs.

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Meanwhile I whipped up the thin pancakes.

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Family fillings include jelly, PB, and/or Nutella.
The finished roll ups were devoured before picture evidence.
The recipe is merely an ingredient list…I was “taught” by watching and instructed to measure with the eyes.
Flour (We use 100% ww.)
Egg
Milk
Sugar
Vanilla

What’s in a name?

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Have you ever wondered about your name?  How did your parents choose it?  Is your name one of the “top ten” of your birth year?

Each of our children is blessed with a unique Latvian name.  The oldest shares his name with a Disney character and a popular 80s tune.  He does not like either.  Kids at school tease him, he handles it well.  I prefer to dance wildly to his 80s hit, he scorns my existence.  E has a number of cute nicknames, Elle Belle, Jana, Belle, El, to name a few.  Entering preschool she decided to shed the main nickname and asked the teachers to call her by her full name.  Example?  Em for Emily.  What determination and personal conviction for a little peanut!  Call her “Emily” at home, no way, it’s “Em”.  Save Emily for when trouble arises.  Our littlest, as some may remember, is our RV.  He shares his wonderful name, although with a Latvian spelling, with a Hollywood character.  So often when cheering his successes, whether counting, singing a tune, or potty progress, we often erupt in enthusiastic R chants.  Very reminiscent of the movie counterpart.

Like most parents, the selection process was much like the NFL draft.  Round after round, we narrowed our choices.  Actually this is not true for our first born, we  fell in love with his name while honeymooning in Latvia.  In fact, we did not have a girl name.  We were that sure.  Our daughter’s name came from an early 1900 Latvian names day calender (or here).  Her middle name was agreed upon much earlier, so when I found the old school name and combined the two, insert light-bulb moment.  Then came little R.  His shocking addition entered us into a nick-picking draft for the name.  We knew from the day of the positive test that this little bugger deserved a strong, independent name.   Returning home from church one afternoon, my dear husband had a spark in his eye and said, “what about “R—-?”  Another bulb, different kid.  Done.

Flash back to the 70s.  Do you remember the popular female name during this time?  There it is at number 1, Jennifer.  I longed to be a Jennifer.  Elementary school was full Jennifer’s, multiple Jennifers per class!  Jennifer + my maiden name…  In my young mind, the combination was like hot chocolate and marshmallows, just melted together harmoniously.  To escape my brother, I would hide in my closet, flashlight in hand, writing Jennifer in swirly print over and over.  The more I wrote it, the further into dream world I fell.  What a warped world I made for myself!  Me a Jennifer?  NO way!  I’m a Julie, or Jules to a few.  And I cannot imagine being anything else.

Is there a story behind your name or nick name?  I would love to hear it!
names

Translated

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Daily I translate.  Sometimes in my brain.  Sometimes via translate.google.  Sometimes itranslate on my kindle.  Latvian to English.  English to Latvian.  Ten years ago with a dictionary in hand I would get lost in translation.  Now, in mere seconds I can read Latvian School notes, family emails, or send  my husband “low down” emails.  You know, “hey, you got an email from so and so, and he wants to switch dezure (think church Deacon) duties next week”.   Thank you Al Gore for creating the world-wide web.  😉

Today, I found another app.  My son.  As he was perched at the kitchen table, pouring over his Latvian homework, a light bulb went off.  Words came to life and suddenly he was not just reading individual words, but sentences.  The best part?  He got it.  He understood that attending Latvian School was about more than just learning vocab words, knowing simple responses, or mastering the polka 3 step.  Despite the Sunday time crunch, homework struggle, and gas mileage, M reading to the little ones, priceless.

Laba diena!

 

Some suggested reading:

Femme au foyer

Latvian History

Moms Rising