Marta Maria

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Location: Viljandi, Estonia

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Moved ...

I have decided to combine my Marta and Anna blogs at the following address:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

How do you solve a problem like Marta Maria?

I have recently reached an impossible barrier in my life as a parent. Disciplining my child. All children are bad. Some are worse than others. Some are quiet as church mice and then grow up to be homeless people or prostitutes. Others are wicked and selfish and mature into successful politicians or clergymen. There is no way to gauge what straw of life your child has drawn -- all you can do is try to help them along the way.

Marta is a cute child. She is talented, entertaining, and energetic. And she is also moody, cross, whiny, and nearly impossible to discipline. If she wants bread, she gets bread. If she wants another lollipop she will get another lollipop. If she wants more Barbie Island Princess, she'll watch more Barbie Island Princess.

Are her parents pushovers? Maybe. The truth is we have a hard time making up our own minds on what to eat for dinner and things of that nature. Perhaps it is this perceived softness that has allowed this little Mussolini to blossom in our ranks. But now that it has occurred, how do you deal with someone who will fight you to the death over a lollipop?

There are three methods of dealing with Marta Maria. Psychological, Administrative, and Physical.

Psychological is the the most preferred method of parents. This is where you guarantee certain things in return for others, ie. you can watch Barbie Island Princess if you brush your teeth. You can have ice cream, if you take a bath. You can do X, in return for Y. The problem here is that the tired parental mind is not always as sharp as it must be to deal with the cunning three-year-old swindler. It's hard to constantly make good deals and eventually the kid gets what they want without doing the returned service. They wear you down. You lose in the end.

Administrative is the method where one action deserves a penalty. If you are loud, rude, pushy, hit your parent, you go and stand in the corner. If you act out, you don't get certain rewards, like Barbie Island Princess. In the administrative method, lines are drawn. If you hit your daddy when he doesn't give you a lollipop, certain punishments are handed down, like standing in the corner.

The problem is that sometimes this does not do the trick. No matter how many times you say "No, don't do that", the child does not cease and desist. This is when Physical methods are brought into your arsenal. For example, the other night Marta continued to bite my butt. She kept coming up from behind me and biting me. I told her no in as many ways possible. This was dangerous because I was cooking. I am a big guy and do not want to lose my balance. Finally I was forced to put down what I was doing, and spank her with three hard whacks on the rear-end. Marta started to cry, but at least she wasn't biting my butt anymore.

In the end a combination of all these methods doesn't seem to work. My child is still disobedient, and I don't mind it all too much. I mean she is a child, and *all* kids I grew up around acted like that once in awhile. I too had my temper tantrums and I am sure Epp did as well. Now that we are adults we are faraway from this childhood land, where denial of ice cream could be a factor in a decision for you to trash your room in protest.

It's interest seeing it all now from the other side.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


When the coin was being flipped by God over whether nor not we'd have another girl or a boy, I was hoping/wishing/praying for a girl. I told my friends it's because I have so many girl clothes. This is true. We do have a lot of girl clothes. But I also have to say that the little boys I encounter at Marta's school are totally psycho.

I went to pick her up one day and they were throwing themselves off the top of a staircase like they were in Mission: Impossible or something. I mean we are talking about the missing link between man and ape here: little boy. This is funny because I did all that crazy shit too. As a youth my friends and I would gladly climb inside an oil drum and roll down hills.

But now I have mellowed and my testosterone levels have gone down and -- as annoying as Barbie is -- I'd rather have Barbie on the TV than live with miniature A-Team down the hall plotting my downfall.

Yet every person I meet seems right to quip that the next child will be a masculine child. My grandmother tells me so. The old lady at the post office jokes so. The joke seems to be coming on me right? One out of three could turn out to have a pee-pee.

Girls seem so easy. I could have fourteen daughters. Marta, Anna, Maria, Lucia, Miina, Nina, Sabrina, Drusilla, Priscilla, Ursula, Tiina, Louisa, Lea, Mia -- see how easy that was? But boys? We never were even to find one measly boy name we liked. Not one.

You see, I wanted to name the little guy after men I admired, like Marcello Mastroianni or Caetano Veloso. I could handle a small, very expressive Marcello telling me that he was 'done' and needed his rear-end wiped. But such a designation would create some major eye-rolling across families, not to mention my wife would never call her little bundle of blue-eyed joy 'Caetano'.

She wanted Peeter. But my folks jumped on this one because, well, they didn't like it. They promised to mix dog food in my bolognese for the rest of my life should I move forward with Peeter. And I didn't like it either. In Estonia, Peeter is this old guy down at the pub who will curse, but only sparingly. In America, Peter is one of the boys on the Brady Bunch.

That's actually one of the major drawbacks of naming a future American: pop culture inferences.

For example:

George: Jefferson

Thomas: the Tank Engine

Justin: Timberlake

Ben: a rat.

Dick: Tricky

Fred: Krueger: Flinstone: Drop Dead ____

I decided that I just don't care anymore. But I know people like to write about these things. And nobody has written any comments on this blog for along time. Anyway, we decided to name the imaginary boy Federico, after my favorite film director. Or rather Fred-Eerik, because it looks so positively silly, yet somehow captures the stupidity he could inherit from me should he choose to come to this world. They are also family names, but I digress, this is a blog to amuse you, not me.

In the meantime, as people continue to make jokes about little Fred-Eerik, I will continue to nestle in my cozy home with my two nuzzle bears Marta and Anna and be happy as hell to be a daddy in daughterdom, where the big fight is over what color dress Marta will be wearing to school tomorrow morning.

The girls in my second grade class were right all along. Girls really do rule.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Mimi and Papa are visiting here in Tartu this week. Mimi likes to tell Marta sometimes that if she eats eggs her hair will be nice and shiny.

Mimi brought with her two bags of organic lollipops, and Marta just may have eaten 10 today.

I tried to tell her, as she sucked down #10 in the bathtub, that if she kept eating them, her teeth would rot out (I have been reduced to using old oneliners from my upbringing to get things done -- call it parental autopilot).

"But Issi," said Marta. "The lollipops make my hair shiny." And she pulled the saliva-wet lolli from her mouth to show off just how shiny her lollipop was.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Hoboken Days

What's the first thing you remember? Who can really tell? But it seems like if you boil down all childhood memories, your first memories that stay with you are of life when you are about three years old.

This reality recently reared its head when chatting with Marta about our life in America. Marta kept referring to "Danny's House" [Danny, about 9 mo. older than Marta, lived downstairs from us in Belle Harbor, Queens, for a year]. She also told me that when she lived at "Danny's House" she was still a baby, but obviously not anymore -- no, she's a "big girl" these days.

When we moved to Belle Harbor in early 2006, Marta had just turned 2. In a lot of ways -- think potty training -- she really was still a baby. But it sort of never occurred to me that Marta would 'lose' her memories of Hoboken, New Jersey, where we lived for most of 2005. Hoboken was a very intense living experience. Everything -- the great food, the view of the city lights, the [extremely drunken] St. Patrick's Day Parade, and especially the traffic -- was intense. It's hard to imagine how Marta could just not recall all the days she saw Richie at the laundromat or Chung at the organic food store. But it's just not there at the tip of her tongue anymore.

It is cool, though, that she remembers Danny's House. Because we lived right next to the ocean and it is nice to think that Marta's first memories will be of the Atlantic Ocean and the sand. Those are sort of my first memories too.

First memories are kind of not that interesting though, when you think of it. I mean, what do I remember from the beach? Getting sand stuck in my teeth (ugh), the smell of low tide, and who could forget those primordial beasts the Horseshoe Crabs -- things that no toddler would ever want to step on. See I am boring you already.

One thing I am happy I do remember is my great grandmother. She had a room in my grandma's house and everything about my memories of her seem ancient. To my fragile young mind she seems like a ghost -- blue-eyed, pale, gray, dressed in white. Interestingly she died at the end of 1982, right after my third birthday. It seems that my brain was just old enough to register her existence before she passed on.

Monday, July 30, 2007

When your daughter is a girl ...

Last night we went to Elo's place where Marta and Simona (her cousin) were playing. I started leafing through Simona's collection of Barbie magazines, and discovered that the text was simple enough that it could be helpful in learning some more Estonian.

Simona decided to give them to me 'on the condition that I give them back tomorrow and not let Marta touch them' and so I was quite happy to learn the word for cool (mugav), clothing (rõivad), sparkling (sädaleva), silvery (hõbedane), and ribbon (pael).

This morning though Marta saw that I had the secret Barbie stash and she flipped out. Her whole body quivvered with excitement. "Want to see them!" she cried. I remembered my promise to Simona, but decided to allow Marta to read one upstairs while I put her clothing on.

After I put on a fairly normal shirt -- of fish from Captiva Island -- I searched through unisex shorts. But Marta demanded something else to cover her bottom. "I want a skirt," she said. "A pink skirt."

Meanwhile she was trying to read the Barbie magazine, which is comprised of fun games, like picking out clothing for Barbie and Ken to wear, and quasi-animated pictorials of Barbie and Ken shopping together. I hate to break this to you out there, but Ken is gay. And by gay, I mean homosexual.

No straight man with blonde hair and blue eyes wears an orange scarf and a fire engine red leather jacket. If he was Italian-looking he probably could be straight. But Ken looks like he's from the Swiss alps. Therefore Ken = gay. Not like there's anything wrong with that. But I think Ken just pretends to be Barbie's boyfriend so they can go shopping together.

Anyway, this is just a typical day in the life of a father of girl. I have decided to start an Anna blog to let you know how all is developing with her. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Magic of Harry Potter

It's been a tradition of Epp and mine to see each new film in the Harry Potter series, one that, when looking back, tells a story about our lives and how they have progressed.

The first Potter film I saw was actually in Copenhagen, Denmark in November 2001. This was an especially sweet Potter for those were cold and lonely days and the opportunity to disappear into the magic of Hogwarts was appealing.

By the following November, I was seated in a movie theater in Cork, Ireland, next to Epp and surrounded by misbehaving Irish kids. This may have been the day I asked Epp to marry me, I am not sure, we were only in Cork for two days. But that experience set the precedent of seeing Potter together, each time in a different place.

We saw the next Harry Potter film in June 2004 in New York on our wedding anniversary. The theater was far from crowded, but it felt good to get away into British boarding school land where intrigue lies around every corner. I had a friend who was teaching in England at that time, and I thought that perhaps he was living that kind of life.

Finally, we saw the last Harry Potter flick in Weehawken, New Jersey (of all places) on my 26th birthday in 2005. Being a November baby kind of blows because your birthday always coincides with crappy autumn weather. So again, it was nice be whisked away to Potterland.

Finally, on Friday we saw the latest Harry Potter movie. We bought tickets to see it here in Tartu but the ones we had were too close to the screen to see it so we went and sat on the steps in the back. Epp had been in the early stages of labor since morning and we made it all the way through the film thinking that Epp was going to deliver on July 21 -- not on July 20, her 33rd birthday.

Instead, about an hour (maybe less) after leaving the theater, we were on our way to the hospital. And at 10.09 pm, our daughter Anna was born. She is special. I like to just watch her sleep. And here is a photo of the newest member of our family.