Saturday, December 31, 2005

why give a fuss?

This is not really baby related, but it's something I've been really excited about. Lately I've been craving intellectual stimulation. I've been thinking about how I miss being in school and having analytical discussions, and then it hit me. About two years ago, I started doing research on various powerful corporations and lobby groups. I wanted to learn about the most influential players in this country. As soon as I plunged in to my research, I began finding out the most fascinating and at times spooky information. I still have the notes from two years ago, so why not share what I've learned so far. I am ready to pursue this project and continue doing research. It's pretty much a neverending endeavor. But I love the feeling of being a detective and then sharing what I find with my friends. So here is the blog where I will be publishing my findings: I call it Why Give a Fuss?: the dirt on your favorite corporations.

And if you're out there reading one of my blogs, leave a comment. I've gotten lots of emails from friends about my blog, but very few comments on the blog itself. So, leave a mark, okay?

hot toddie, anyone?

On Thursday we had a fun little party. We served cookies, hot toddies, and spiced cider, a good way to warm up on a cold, rainy winter night. Amusing coversation, laughter, gossip... The party did come to a momentary halt when a stool Tim was sitting on while holding Jonah caved in. The two of them came crashing down on our handsome wood floors. The guests' eye balls nearly popped out of their sockets and my heart stopped for a moment. No one was hurt. Jonah remained close to Tim's chest the whole time, never leaving his dad's arms or touching the floor. He got scared regardless and cried like never before, nearly shattering the glass window pains. Poor little bear. He eventually calmed back down and went to sleep, but boy, I'll never forget the sound of that cry.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

velvety red Hannukah tomato

I just had the most fascinating set of dreams. In one dream I was in a big hall with a whole bunch of people around my age. We were sitting in lines along long narrow tables on super tall square bar stools. These were maybe seven feet tall? We were practicing a Hannukah song from a song book. There was a men's part and a women's part. The song was a folk-sounding song about a velvety red Hannukah tomato. Using Yiddish terms, the conductor asked who in the room was a Jewish boy and who was a Jewish girl, wanting us to draw on our personal experience in our interpretation of the song. I debated whether I should raise my hand. I didn't want to lie, but didn't want to be left out. Not raising my hand would've been denying a part of myself, but also most probably missing out on dating Jewish boys. Lots of people raised their hands which made me feel excited. I raised my hands half-way shyly and hesitantly, twisting them from side to side to say "sort of." And I felt strange about my answer. There should not be a "sort of." It's a yes or no question. But the fact that I raised my hands even half way was progress. I am claiming my heritage, damn it, I thought. I don't want to care about what others think anymore.

After we sang a couple of practice rounds of the Velvety Red Hannukah Tomato, there was silence in the room. I clowned around on the seven-foot bar stool for a while, inspiring some muted laughter. Then I scooted my stool next to another young man's to ask what we were supposed to be doing. He was reading the narratives introducing the songs in the songbook. I asked him what we should be doing, but noticed him only spitting up into a plastic bag, eating his own spit up, making fart sounds, and smiling slyly while doing so. Very funny, I thought. And attractive too. This was the baby creeping into my dreams. At that point I began to wake up, realizing the baby was waking up too, ready to eat... and farting!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

holiday report

We had a great Christmas. My mom spent Cristmas Eve and Day with us. On the twenty-fourth we cooked together, sang carols, and then in the evening had a traditional dinner of fish soup, breaded and fried fish and potato salad, topped with mountains of cookies, of course. Jonah was too excited to fall asleep, so he ended up being up late, watching us open presents. Lucky Ducky got ten times more than the rest of us. I got a great present from Tim. It's a digital recorder. I can't wait to use it on some recording projects I have in mind.

On the twenty-fifth, I lit the first Hannukah candle. This was my first time celebrating Hannukah and I really enjoyed it. Of course, there are still a few more days left. I heard an interesting fact: every thirteen years Hannukah and Christmas start on the same day. This was one of those years.

We also had a friend from Seattle visit Sunday morning, and another friend join us for dinner that evening. Very, very nice.

I wanted to have something else to look forward to lined up, so we're throwing a little party on Thursday. We will be serving cookies, hot toddies, and spiced apple cider.

Then in January, Tim's parents will be coming to visit, and at the end of the month my sister will be here from New York. I can't wait.

Monday, December 26, 2005

first time at the ZOO

Today we wanted to go for a walk at a park and in a fun neighborhood with shops and cafes, but on the way, we took the wrong turn and ended up at the ZOO. We changed our plans and decided to go. It was a good day to be at the ZOO. It rained a couple of times, but very briefly. The rest of the time it was cold but sunny. Not many people around either until it started to get dark and families with kids came in to see the ZOO decorated with Christmas lights all over the place. I had never really explored the Oregon ZOO. We had gone there numerous times to see concerts on their outdoor stage, but never to really look at the animals.

The sea otter, sea lions, and monkeys were my favorites! The sweetest ones were the Gibbon monkeys. There were two, a black and white one that were friends. At one point one of them gave the other a little shoulder rub! The white one made a funny whistling sound. I immitated it and whistled at the monkey and the monkey whistled back at me! I briefly contemplated hiding in the bushes and staying past closing time, then sneaking in to the cages during feeding, and lurring the cute monkeys home with me. But I already have two monkeys at home. That would be too many monkeys.

The penguins were cute too. I made a motion with my hand, calling the penguins over to us, and two of them swam right up to my hand. Only the glass seperated us. Maybe they thought I was going to feed them.

The most beautiful animal was the leopard. We got to see him up close. His fur was so clean, plush and vibrant, so perfect that one could have mixed him up with a stuffed animal.

The most disturbing animals were the naked mole rats and bats, who were hovering around fresh bananas, melon, and broccoli they were just fed. The naked mole rats were all moving around in one big pile, rubbing their ugly flesh against each other. Their orgy disgusted me. I had to run out of that smelly pavilion fast.

Jonah watched the monkeys, fish, sea otters, and sea lions too the same way he watched us eat lunch. He seemed the most entertained by the kids running around the ZOO.

Here is a picture of Tim, Jonah and one of the sea lions, who kept swimming by playfully, as if to brush up against us.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

holidays in pictures

Here is a little Hanukkah montage I put together (yes, I finally found a menorah plus I made and enjoyed some potato latkes!)

Here is a little food montage including me baking a vanocka, traditional Czech bread. You can also see some of the cookies I made.

Plus some pics of our Christmas tree and Jonah wearing his new slippers and baby accessories.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

the menorah blues

Okay. Trying to find a menorah in Portland is like trying to find chicken and dumplings on the moon. What is going on? No one sells Hannukah paraphernalia in this town? Nothing besides paper plates and napkins with the star of David on them. What a way to celebrate. It looks like this year I will be using my tea lights.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

something fishy

Well, the snow only lasted over night and just when I thought I might not have to go to work, it started raining and the snow melted. That's Portland for you.

Things are going well. I'm getting excited for Christmas. For the past few years it was just another holiday to me, but now with a baby, the holidays have regained some of the magic they'd had when I was little.

I've baked two types of cookies. I'd still like to squeeze in one or two types more. And then there is this special Christmas bread that the Czechs make every year. It's quite a bit like challah, actually. I've made it every year for the past few years, and this year I plan to make it again.

When attempting baking, I have to choose the best moment. Either when Jonah is taking a nap, which could be as short as ten minutes or as long as two hours, or I have to wait until Jonah is in the mood to entertain himself in his swing or on his mat for a while. But there are always a lot of interruptions, which can spell trouble in the kitchen. Today I set off the fire alarm, but to my surprise, Jonah slept right through it.

Aside from the cookies and sweet bread, there is Christmas dinner. For some reason, traditional Czech Christmas dinner consists of fish soup, breaded and fried fish (carp) and potato salad. One step up from plain bread and water. But this way the Czechs can claim to be humble people. The Germans have another version of this meal, I heard the other day. Instead of fish it's hot dogs. There is nothing that says Christ was born in Bethlehem better than a hot dog and a side of potato salad. Tim would fit right in to Frankfurterland. I know he dreams of living in a place where cured meats grow on trees. One time my grandparents brought Tim some Czech salami as a Christmas present. He was in seventh heaven. But come Saturday it will be fish for us. Fishy fishy fish.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


it's snowing!!!

Yay! It's snowing in Portland, a moment we hope for every winter. I can hear kids screaming with joy outside. Pictures coming soon.... if the snow sticks.

first bath with mom

There are a few things that only Tim does around the house. It's just a pattern we've gotten into. Otherwise we split all the chores pretty evenly - I hope Tim would agree with that. He ends up dumping the cat litter and cleaning the cat box almost always. That started when we were trying to conceive since pregnant women should stay away from cat poo... and now, conveniently for me, the chore remained Tim's. With the baby, Tim always cuts Jonah's nails and bathes him because I'm too chicken to do it. When I tried bathing Jonah once, the baby freaked out and started crying.

For the first time yesterday, though, baby got in the tub with me and we had a fabulous time. He loves to kick his legs in the water, but in the big tub without the baby tub, he really went wild. The water had to be luke warm, of course, so I got a little cold, but Jonah got so excited that he was still kicking his legs on the changing table afterwards. Tim took this picture of us. I cropped it slightly so as to not make the audience of this blog blush.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

chinese garden

Today we ventured out to the Classical Chinese Garden. I got a membership to the garden as a gift from a friend and haven't really used it yet, though I would like to use it a whole bunch for the remaining few months.

The Chinese garden is such a peaceful place right in the middle of downtown. It's been cold here and the lake in the center was covered with a frozen crust, a sight unseen in Portland. The garden looks a little sad in the winter. Only one rose bush was blooming and though it was bright and sunny out, the stone and bare tree trunks are what stood out most. Still, it's worth going any time of the year. In the winter hardly anyone visits, so the garden becomes a quiet place to reflect and be alone, much more so than in the busy summer season. Of course, it's too cold to walk around barefoot on the foot paths made of small stones, which work the feet over acupressure-style - an intense, but pleasurable experience better left for the summer.

The tea house is my favorite! Hot tea and moon cakes was the perfect way to wrap up our outing on a chilly December afternoon. I've put a few pictures from today's trip in the "outdoor adventures" photo album on the right.

the best present ever

picture I took yesterday

Friday, December 16, 2005

four-month check-up

Jonah had his four-month visit to the doctor's today. He weighs 14 lbs 13 oz and measures 25.2 inches, which means that he has gained 3 lbs and 7 oz and grew almost 3 inches in the last two months! Apparently he is in the 50th percentile in weight and 75th percentile in height. After the nurse measured and weighed him and the doctor examined him, Jonah got his second set of shots, a moment I'd dreaded. He was sitting on my lap while the nurse administered the shots. She was quick, which was good. He cried for a couple of minutes and then fell asleep in the car. Now we're at home and he seems to be doing fine. He is a bit cranky and has cried a few times. It's tricky to find a good way to hold him without pressing down on his thighs which are sore. The doctor said that since Jonah didn't really have a reaction to the shots last time, such as fever, that he would most likely do well this time again.

When Tim and I were trying to decide whether to get Jonah vaccinated, we had read a whole bunch of pro- and anti-vaccination literature to educate ourselves. In the end, vaccinating Jonah was a clear winner. But in the back of my mind lurks the thought that many claim there is a link between immunization and autism in children. Yikes! The link supposedly has to do with mercury in the vaccines. From what I know though, the common vaccines no longer contain mercury.

On another note, it's been very cold here. Much colder than usual in the winter. It has also been sunny, also unlike the usual rainy winter weather. We're waiting impatiently for some rain since that means snow in the mountains. And snow in the mountains means cross-country skiing. We haven't gotten out of town in a while. Looking forward to it... maybe this weekend.

Monday, December 12, 2005

four months old!

Jonah is now four months old (as of yesterday)!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

the holidays are coming!

Tim and I got our first Christmas tree ever together yesterday. I haven't been this excited for Christmas in years. We started decorating the tree this weekend. More will be added soon - a cranberry-popcorn chain, for example. We also have to make something for the top of the tree. I've included a little picture story from this weekend.

This year I plan to celebrate Hanukkah too - in my own way, because it's important to me. I grew up celebrating Christmas and my dad, who is Jewish, did as well.

I love the feeling of lots of people celebrating all at once. This is one of the times of the year I miss the Czech Republic the most. Christmas in Prague is so magical. The season really starts on December 5th, St. Nicholas Day, when St. Nicholas, accompanied by a devil and an angel comes knocking on your door and asks you, if you are a little boy or girl, if you've been good or bad. Meanwhile the devil is rattling his metal chain and you're so scared he'll take you away that you're pooping your pants, that is if you're not hiding under your bed. Of course you hope your parents will say you've been good. Then you're asked to sing a song or recite a poem for St. Nicholas and he rewards you with a bag of goodies, usually fruit and candy. If you've been bad though, you get coal and potatoes. I did once, as a joke. Later I was given fruit and candy and the adults had a good laugh at my expense.

One time when I was about twelve years old I dressed up as St. Nicholas, defying status quo. My sister dressed up as an angel and our friend Helena as a devil. We walked around the neighborhood, knocking on doors and scaring little children to tears. They really believed I was Nicholas (or Mikulas, as we say). It must've been the fake beard.

I must have been around five years old when I recognized the devil as my parents' colleague from the theater. He was wearing white man flesh colored tights I still remember to this day. Everything I had believed up until that day had been shattered. I was so disappointed. I felt lied to and angry, very much the way children here must feel when they learn that Santa is really their parents' car mechanic, making an extra buck at the mall taking pictures with little kids on his lap.

Prague is so beautiful at Christmas time. The streets and the squares are lit up and full of stands with beautiful handmade crafts. The blacksmiths are out, hammering out metal buckles and knives. The carp sellers dish out live fish for Christmas dinner with their nets from their sidewalk barrels. The mulled wine sold in cafes and stands outside smells divine. And when it snows and the city grows quiet, and you can hear the horsehooves and carriages roaming Old Town, you're transported at least a hundred years back in time. I miss that.

But we're making new holiday traditions here and we're very excited.

Friday, December 09, 2005

daddy knows just what to do

Check out Tim bottlefeeding Jonah.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

latest developments

What I've been up to you know. But what has Jonah been up to, you may be wondering. Well, my little boy is still losing hair, but a new batch is slowly coming in. The bald stripe that he was born with over his right temple has disappeared and is now covered with brand new hair.

Jonah's been talking less, but instead he has been experimenting with squealing sounds and fake laughter. More than caring about his parents' reaction, he seems entertained by the sound of his own voice. He does not roll yet, but that could happen soon. And he is teething. No teeth in sight yet, but his hands, burp cloths and bibs tend to all end up in his mouth.

His favorite games are holding onto mom's or dad's fingers and sitting, then standing up, and also being lifted up and brought down to slobber all over his mama's nose.

Tim and Jonah have been doing great while I've been at work. It sounds like Jonah is getting used to the bottle.

On Sunday Jonah will be four months old! Next week on Friday my poor little monkey gets his second set of shots. Ouch!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Teachers keep on teachin'

I'm back at work and my class is in full swing. I have a Mien student in addition to students from Malaysia, Vietnam, Korea, and the Philippines. So far the class is going great. Too bad the agency doesn't currently have anyone to fix all the broken computers and printers. Computer lessons are an integral part of the course I teach, and right now we're strapped for properly working equipment. Welcome to the non-profit world of donated goods!

I love teaching adult education classes. The students are so dedicated and polite! Nothing like my last high school teaching experience. I still shudder remembering the students talking back to me and throwing tantrums and whatever else they could find in the middle of class just to distract from real learning. My favorite was the skinhead-looking boy who defied my authority by teasing his friend, refusing to do work, and putting his feet on the table. I asked him why he had such a hard time following my rules. He was so pent up that he began to tremble and through his teeth hissed, "because I don't like you." That's the best that he could come with. I felt like bursting out laughing, but kept my composure. On the last day of my assignment at this high school, a fight had broken out among two girl gangs. As I was leaving the school, I heard what I thought to be a miniature lap dog barking somewhere in the parking lot. It turned out to be a teenage girl, alone, handcuffed, screaming her head off inside a cop car. Adult ed is so much more peaceful.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

a short hike

We finally got out of town yesterday and went on a short hike in a very pretty park called Lacamas Park with a peaceful lake, a creek brimming with fast water, and foot bridges over waterfalls. Jonah was a little cranky at first, but once I fed him on the trail, he calmed down and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the forest and water. I added some pictures from our trip to the outdoor adventures album.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

dates or figs?

What's the last time you've gone on a date? Me? Glad you asked. Just last night! With my husband. Tim's brother and his wife came over for dinner and then stayed and watched the baby while Tim and I went out on a date! We had a great time - went out for dessert and a hot beverage, and then to shoot pool. I won only one out of three games, but only because my foe scratched on a break shot. My game left a lot to be desired, but still, no matter how much I suck at it, I love pool.

At my high school, we had a pool table in our English classroom. Students could take pool for P.E. credit, which I did. I was the slowest learner in the school's history. It took me months just to learn to move my arm right. I just didn't get that it's possible to move one's arm only from the elbow down. I learned the rules to several games and I also learned to visualize the possiblities in a game. As far as execution goes, it's always been a real hit or miss (like my pun?).

Last time Tim and I played pool was about two months ago. We were out with the baby who was asleep. The idea of a quick game of pool sounded great, so we hopped in to the nearby university student building, put the baby down on the pool table next to us, and snuck in a quickie. Baby woke up just in time for the eightball shot.

When Tim and I first started dating, we played a lot of pool together and with friends. For some reason, around the bar pool table, there is often the "know-it-all" guy with the "all-the-chicks-with-cue-sticks-need-my-help" attitude. I hate that. Unwanted advice from a stranger, always a guy mind you, really ticks me off. This fact becomes obvious pretty quickly. One time I got in a huge argument over unsolicited suggestions with a guy who actually later became my friend. At least he knew what he was getting into from the get-go.

But no know-it-alls or annoying advice last night. Just my fabulous husband and I on a sugar high in a cloud of cigarette smoke, like it used to be back in the days. Good times!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

work song

Today was my first day back at work after a sixteen-week long maternity leave. Time sure went fast! It was good to be back and to see all my favorite work buddies. I work for two different projects and have two different bosses, both all business almost all the time. One hugged me, the other only nodded his head in my direction: "Welcome back."

The bamboo plant on my desk nearly died without my care. I gave it some love by taking a pair of scissors to it. The haircut left it looking naked and pitiful. But hey, it's still alive.

It was a bit of a whirlwind once I got there - a lot of stuff piled up to do - supplies to order, surveys to count and collect data from, students to call to make sure that I have a full class starting Monday... Good thing I remembered how to use the work phone and computer.

One thing I had to do for the first time was express breastmilk at work. My workplace isn't the best for a private activity such as pumping. We have a lot of employees and a ton of open space, but hardly any secluded rooms that lock. Well, I grabbed the breast pump in the biggest and most conspicuous-looking case you can imagine and checked if I could use one of the computer labs. No one was there, so I went about my business. It turned out fine. But next week I will have to wash the breast pump parts - those giant, awkward tubes and siphon-like things that look like cold war NASA material - in the staff kitchen. Dealing with those in the staff lunch room, I imagine, will be akin to sorting menstrual pads and tampons on the employee kitchen counter. While I'm at it, I should really make the washing into a show, complete with hot pink rubber gloves, sparkly bottle brush, and a load of bubbles. Heck, maybe I should even wear an apron and one of those sterile plastic caps that look like they are made to be used in the shower.

While I yacked on the phone, pumped breastmilk, and shuffled papers, Jonah was at home giving the bottle a cold shoulder. Unlike on our practice days he wasn't so keen on drinking from a bottle today. He eventually ate, Tim said, but it took a lot of fussing and complaining. He'll have to get used to it. Tim and Jonah both will.

I don't go back again until Monday when the next course I teach starts. We'll see how next week goes.

back to work

Today will be my first day back at work. I will let you know how it goes. Fingers crossed.