Tuesday, May 30, 2006

new mode of transportation

Jonah has figured out that crawling gets him places and isn't such a drag after all. Though it's not quite the hands and knees type of a crawl babies on TV show off, but more of an army crawl, belly dragging, the parents are relieved. That "walk me around" whining sound was wearing on us. So now Jonah is officially mobile. He has known how to crawl for some time, but at first it was so much work for him, that he would instantly get frustrated and insist on walking... with the help of mom or dad, of course. Crawling has gotten easier and more enjoyable. Jonah now uses his new skill to explore his surroundings. His favorite destinations include the sleeping cats, lint on the floor, any type of a screw or hole in a piece of furniture, and, last but not least, the cats' water bowl, for which we now have to find a new and elevated home. Jonah still crawls slowly, so it's easy to monitor him, but soon, I'm sure he will learn to cruise like a race car. Oh joy!

Friday, May 26, 2006

today's walk

Just the other day I realized there is a post office within a walking distance from our house, so today I decided to take Jonah there in a handy baby backpack carrier we found for free at a garage sale last weekend. I brought an umbrella since the sky looked menacingly dark. The walk to the post office, as I had expected, was no walk through a rose garden. Our house is near a train yard and an industrial area surrounds the tracks which one has to cross to get to the post office. So, we set out along the train tracks and silo-like buildings.

Walking past the barbed wire fences and warehouses, one encounters countless danger and caution signs. We are so accustomed to going about our days ignoring the barrage of signs everywhere. What are these signs meant to communicate to us and how do their collective messages, when the words accumulate at the end of the day, affect us, whether we pay attention consciously or not?

Most of the signs I saw on our walk were signs that warned of danger, prohibited entry, or promissed punishment if laws were broken. Other than business names, I only saw two positively phrased messages. One said, "Thank you for not smoking here" and another, above a door to a video arcade, read: "Children OK." How is one supposed to have a peaceful day when one is bombarded with harsh prohibitive language at every step? And I mean every step.

The backpack I wore is extremely comfortable for both me and Jonah. The only drawback is that it's impossible to put or adjust Jonah's hat while wearing the thing. Today was a cold day and when his hat fell off, I needed to put it back on immediately. I took the backpack off, not an easy task, stood it up on the sidewalk with Jonah sitting inside, put the hat on Jonah's little head, swung the backpack around, and clumsily slid it onto my back again. I took three steps and the hat was on the ground again. Two men were standing nearby on an otherwise empty street and I entertained the idea of asking them to help. What's wrong with asking strangers for a little help once in a while? I decided to go for it.

The men were in their late twenties or early thirties. One had long died black hair, trench coat, and tall leather boots. A sort of a dungeons and dragons type. The other was a hipster, I could tell by the type of glasses he wore, but he was extremely dirty for being your typical hipster. He must work for a living, I amused myself.

"Would you mind doing me a favor and putting this hat on my son?" I asked.

"No, not at all." They were nice. The hipster's hands smelled like cigarettes and when I handed him the hat, his callouses brushed up against my fingers. He asked Jonah his name and repeated it a few times while putting the hat on Jonah's noggin. I thanked the men and, lo and behold, three steps away the hat fell down again. Oh boy, I thought. What am I going to do? I picked the hat up off the ground and alerted the urban knight and the intellectual laborer that the hat had fallen off. Again, the hipster helped, this time tying the hat strings in a bow. That did the trick for the next hour. Yes!

Next came an area I hadn't yet explored - an underpass through a tunnel alongside a busy road and underneath the train tracks. Ugh. How I hate pedestrian underpasses and tunnels. You never know who may be lurking in a dark corner or, as Tim remarked, who may have shit on the walls. There was no way of getting around the underpass, so I decided to speed up into a trot. I was a horse and Jonah the rider on my back. I must say Tim knows his underpasses. The walls had a few smears on them. And sure enough, there was a homeless man, sleeping on the ground next to his cart. Sleeping homeless men don't generally harass anyone, but there was still another corner to turn before getting up out of the tunnel. That's the part I dreaded. What do you know. Right around the corner, it was as if I had entered someone's living room. Three disheveled men were sitting there on buckets smoking. I sized them up fast and belched out a quick out-of-breath hello. Two didn't seem so happy to see me, but the third, an older man with a large handle bar mustache, greeted me with a warm, robust voice: "How are you doing today?"

I made small talk as I trotted by, "It looks like there is a big rainstorm coming our way."

"I hope not," the men replied and my favorite guy waved, yelling, "Have a nice day, girl!" behind me as Jonah and I reached daylight again. I just made a friend who'd defend me in the mean city streets, I thought, feeling safer already.

The post office clerk was grumpy and his customer service style akin to that of the gruff Czechs. He was chewing on his snack and sitting on a crate when I showed up. Granted, it was about two minutes to closing. No greeting, no how-may-I-help you? I wanted a book of stamps. He impatiently slammed his index finger on the design he thought I should get. A picture of some white lady. Figures he thought I'd like that. But instead I bought stamps with the black boxer, Sugar Ray Robinson, on them, thinking how perfect those will be when I pay my bills. That'll show those utility people. Stick it to them, Sugar Ray!

I wanted to try a different way back home. Tim had mentioned there was an old foot bridge leading across the railroad nearby. I meandered through a lush green neighborhood, eventually making my way into the industrial strip and towards the tracks. The dudes in overalls must have thought Jonah and I were a strange site in the concrete landscape. I found the footbridge, rusty and abandoned-looking. I had hoped to be able to make it across since it looked like a storm was about to send buckets of rain crashing down onto us and the next road leading across the train yard was a ways away. To my surprise the bridge wasn't closed off. Some of the wood appeared rotten, but in several places, the boards had been replaced with brand new wood. The bridge must be well taken care of, though it doesn't appear so, I thought and continued climbing the stairs. The higher we climbed, the more my heart pounded. The bridge was so high at the top, that I didn't dare look down. What if they had forgotten to replace one of the old rotten boards? I made sure to step only on the new, gold-colored boards, but at one point, the brand new plank I had stepped on bent so far down under my foot that I thought it would pop like an overstretched rubber band. No! Not now! I felt the adrenaline propelling me to the other side. Thank goodness we made it across, safe and dry. No cracked boards, no boogie men, not even a drop of rain.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

she don't know what she talkin about

"This lady don't know what she talkin' about!" the waitress smirked and slammed shut my menu, rolling her eyes at the others seated around the table. "Half acre? She crazy. She can't eat that much. Order a quarter and then tell me if you hungry after you finish," the waitress yelled out with her gruff voice and rushed off to get us some "coppee."

"I thought you wanted to share the pancakes," I nearly whispered to my friend seated across the table, probably blushing. The deal was done. The waitress, who doubled as the restaurant owner scolded me and I didn't dare protest. She isn't even Czech, I thought to myself, and she can still get away with barking at her customers. But for some reason my friends found her charming and amusing.

"One time this guy come here and order a full acre and eggs, hash, bacon and he ate everything. I said, 'Don't get sick. Don't be a hero," she recounted. I pictured a giant Texan with an extra, extra large cowboy hat, stuffing himself full of grease. Too greedy for his own good was the moral of the story. I shuddered at the thought that I was the one who caused that memory to surface.

The pancake showed up. I slid the butter off with my knife into an empty half-and-half dish. The owner caught me red-handed, "Next time you tell me no butter!" I grumbled into my lap, "I didn't think of it." But my friends stood up for me this time, "We will use the butter, don't worry."

I did enjoy my buttermilk pancake, reveling in its fluffiness. And while in food coma, the left over pancake noodle on my plate spoke to me, "See how happy I made you? Why hold a grudge? Forgive the waitress. She didn't even ask you if you were expecting another baby."

good impression of a Czech

Recently one of my students had to drop my class. He wrote me an e-mail, letting me know how much he enjoyed the class and how much he learned from me (now that I think of it, maybe I should print out the e-mail and frame it!). I was flattered as any teacher would be, but the most remarkable part of the message was when he mentioned that I made a good impression of a Czech on him. Phew! So glad I represent my people well. Wouldn't want to ruin the reputation of a nation!!! Better think of that next time I feel like chewing a student out... which I would never do, of course... not me. No Czech would ever stoop to that.

better now

Jonah is better now. The fever is gone, but still no teeth! When do they plan to make their appearance? Here is a picture of Jonah still during the intense teething spell.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Jonah has been teething again for the last three days. As is common during peak teething times, has had fever off and on and has been very grumpy and needy. Plus he has been pooping up a storm. Needless to say, he has had trouble sleeping... and so have we. Finding distractions has been a challenge. Once we find something new and intriguing, Jonah usually stays interested for anywhere from thirty seconds to five minutes. And then the search for new and exciting stimulus starts again. I feel pretty exhausted. I know Tim does too. We have been giving Jonah baby pain relief drops in the evening and in the middle of the night so he can at least get some rest. It will be nice when the pain and swelling subside again.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

today's check-up

Jonah had his nine month check-up today. The doctor said he looked very healthy. He now weighs 18 1/2 lbs and measures 28 inches. That means he has grown one inch in three months and gained about two pounds. He is in the 25 percentile for weight and just about average in length/height. Here is a picture I took of Jonah while we were in the examination room waiting. In the background are the doctor's instruments, in which Jonah was mildly interested for about ten seconds. Rather than getting examined, he would have preferred to be in his bed napping, as you can see from the dark circles under his eyes.


Here is a sign I came across on my walk with Jonah yesterday. Hmmm....

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

chew, chew, chew, chew

"What has Jonah been eating lately?" you may or may not be wondering. Well, his most recent favorite selection from the menu at Baby Jonah Restaurant has been cheerios. This is a new development. It's been about a week since he has tried cheerios, and quickly it's become the only solid food he goes wild for. Just yesterday we tried giving cheerios to him dry, not pre-soaked in water or mom or dad's saliva. Gross, I know, but what would you do if you wanted to be sure your baby doesn't choke? He does great with dry cheerios. He pretends to chew on them, his toothless gums working overtime.

Watching him practice chewing reminds me of when I used to watch the nanny that used to babysit my sister and me as little girls. She was the sweetest old lady with a tightly braded white bun. She snacked on rolls, cut up and soaked in a cup of milk. When she chewed, her toothless gums worked harder than anybody's and her cheeks puffed out almost like Dizzy Gillespie's each time her jaws came together. I loved her and remember that at a certain point I began worrying that she is so old she could die soon. I told my sister we had to be nice to her since she is so old. That is the first time that I remember worrying about an adult and the first time I recall realizing that a person could die. This was a significant moment. I must have been around six years old. Like children tend to be, I was impressionable and wanted to try whatever else others were eating. Inspired by our nanny, Mrs. Fuksova, I even wanted a roll soaked in milk. I did try it and, if my memory serves me right, I found the roll soaked in milk so bland that once was enough for me.

My mom told us this joke the other day. She must have learned it from the kids she teaches acting. "What's the difference between a teacher and a train? The teacher says, 'Spit out your gum!' The train says, 'Chew, chew, chew, chew!'" That's right, Jonah, chew, chew, chew, chew your cheerios!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

first Mother's Day

Sunday was my first time celebrating Mother's Day - or should I say my first time being celebrated as a mother on Mother's Day. Tim and I celebrated last year too with Jonah still inutero, but that doesn't really count. As a present on Sunday, Jonah gave me a nice boquet wrapped in a diaper... Okay, enough potty humor. I had a fabulous day. Tim took my mom and me out to lunch to one of my favorite places - a Japanese buffet. I am always in seventh heaven there. So many choices! I stuffed myself with sushi, green bean salad, and much more including delicious dessert. My mom enjoyed it too. The place is pretty large and it was packed! All the mothers that day received a complimentary orchid - truly a nice touch.

After lunch we spent the rest of the day in our backyard talking, weeding, relaxing, and watching Jonah play with a bucket of water, which was the most exciting experience of his life, it seemed. For dinner I made a pot of lame curry, but it definitely didn't ruin the wonderful day we had had.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Saturday with the Czechs

Today Tim and I spent most of the day weeding the garden and mowing the lawn with Jonah looking on and walking around while holding on to our hands alternately. I thought I would have the whole backyard done and ready for new herbs and veggies by the end of the day, but the grass is taking so long to rip out of the overgrown beds that I have another couple of days of weeding on my hands. And that's just our teeny backyard. Then there is still some weeding to be done in the front!

I always dread yard work. Haven't done much of it in my life, but it's funny that when I get started, it always feels good. It feels nice to be outside, digging in the dirt and being able to see the results instantly. That's elementary gardening, I guess, since sophisticated gardeners plan for seasons, if not years ahead. This year we would like to plant some chili peppers, cilantro, parsley, lettuce, cucumbers, basil, and cherry tomatoes. Thanks to the landlords and previous tenants we already have blueberries, strawberries, rhubarb, celery, mint, chives, oregano, lemon balm, blackberries, raspberries (I believe), and a persimmon and pear tree out front.

Aside from gardening, Jonah and I went on a little adventure together. I recently found out, completely by chance, that there is an organization called the Czech Society of Oregon. I came across their website and thought to myself - what a perfect place to advertise the Czech course I will be teaching this summer at a community college in town. Also I thought that I should check out what they do, because I would love for Jonah to get to know more Czech people in the community, and especially kids. So I e-mailed the president and she invited me for their bimonthly potluck and meeting. I washed the dirt off my fingers and toes, grabbed Jonah by the collar, stopped by the store for some fruit, and headed over to meet some fellow Czechs.

My intuition was right. The group consisted mostly of retirees, some of whom immigrated to the U.S. from the Czech Republic decades ago, others were descendants - children and grandchildren of Czech immigrants. Most of the attendees seemed to be in their seventies. There were a few in their fifties and sixties, but only a couple in their forties. Only one young woman other than me showed up. It was her first time too.

During the potluck I broke down and had some pork roast. I hadn't had pork or beef in at least a year. It looked so good, so traditional, and I was so hungry. I had it with cooked cabbage and potato dumplings. Very satisfying! Just like in the old country. Except, no one's cabbage even comes close to my grandmother's cabbage, so no tie-breaker there. My other favorite was the blueberry coffee cake. Yum! Possibly the best coffee cake I'd ever had. Too bad that when I went for seconds there was no more. And I heard the strudel was outstanding, but it disappeared faster than a chirping bird's worm.

At our table, the former president of the Czech Society, a primped up older lady in a salmon-colored sweater told stories as she ate her casserole. She talked about how when she first immigrated, a secretary who had always lived in a large city, was sent to work on a farm. She walked around in high heals and didn't know what to do with herself. This lady was a great storyteller. I noticed that one mark of a good storyteller is to steamroller right over minor interruptions, stern face, solid gestures, strong voice, so no one dares interrupt the second time. This lady definitely had the air of a president of some type of society. I asked her what being President entailed. "You rule," she replied, "and do a lot of this." She pointed in a commanding way at each person at our table, nodding her head. A lot of delegating, she said. "No one wants the responsibility now and we are voting on a new president today."

"Do you dance?" an elderly couple asked me. I inferred they were asking about ballroom or polka dancing. "I don't," I replied coyly. I got the dirtiest look from them I have gotten in years. It was as if I had said that I don't cook or clean - ever. Neither I or anyone else in our household. Heaven forbid I don't dance! Shame on me!

The meeting started with a salute to the flag. No, not the Czech, but the American flag. This was the first time Jonah heard The Pledge of Allegiance. He got impatient and shrieked right in the middle of this solemn occasion. I whisked him from the floor to the chair for a quick change of pace, and then right into my arms. My trick worked and the society members got through the pledge without any further interruptions.

During the meeting I learned a bit more about the group's activities and got to introduce myself and advertise my class! It looks like I may have a few students!

We didn't make it through the meeting. Jonah got tired and grumpy, so we had to go. But I was impressed with how personable everyone was. And the food... nothing makes me happier than good food that reminds me of home. It looks like next time, following the potluck and the meeting, there will be some polka dancing. Do I dare go?

In the parking lot I took a good look around, hoping to collect more demographic data, but the dozens of cars parked there surprisingly lacked any sort of personal touch - no dolls, caps, or stuffed animals, no bumper stickers, in fact no stickers of any kind. Only one Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker and one that said, "Soy Republicano" in all caps. Darn, I thought, I had hoped I could figure these people out a little better than this. Maybe next time?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

nine months old today!

Jonah is nine months old today, which means that he has been out in the world longer now than he was in my belly. That's quite a feat. He still loves to be walked around and only "crawls" out of desparation. It's still more of an army crawl. He doesn't get up on his knees yet. Solid food is not his favorite. If we are lucky, he will have three to five spoon-fulls of something like peas, squash or apricots twice a day. He liked his teething bisquits when I first got them for him, but now they're old hat like the rest of solid food. Oh well. He is still a breast milk fan all the way. He still loves our cats and recognizes cats and dogs in books. His favorite place to be is outside. Jonah loves to touch plants, grass, dirt, hoses, water spouts, and the like. When we let out the cats but not him, he sometimes throws a fit. Yes, he is very determined these days to get what he wants. Oh, and he is just getting over his third cold ever. This one was the mildest one yet. I'm pretty sure he caught it at story time. I caught the bug from him, but it hit me worse. I stayed home from work yesterday, but today feel much better.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Last night we had a potluck at our house. Originally we wanted it to be a barbecue, but the weather was a little sketchy, so we mostly stayed inside, though some barbecuing did take place. It was great having people over. Tim and I busted our asses cleaning and it showed, which made me very happy. Having people over is always an incentive to clean the house well. It's slightly embarassing to only notice the amount of dirt we live with when imagining our house through the eyes of guests. We should invite friends more often!

Baby Ira came over too. I am honored to say that this was the first party he attended in the first three months of his life. I posted a couple of nice pictures that Mia, Ira's mom, took in the Jonah, friends & family album.

Friday, May 05, 2006


As of yesterday, Jonah has officially learned how to scoot. It's not quite crawling, but it's something akin to the army crawl. He started attempting this style of movement a while ago, but yesterday he successfully managed to inch his way forward towards a toy during story time. Ever since then, he has been using and perfecting his new skill every chance he gets. Putting Jonah down for naps and for the night has gone from a fifteen- to twenty-minute event to a forty-five minute ordeal during which he twists and turns and scoots and spins on the bed smiling sneakily or laughing. It's now become unsafe to have him sleep in our bed alone. We might have to get him a crib, something I wanted to avoid since I have bad memories of being in a crib myself. I had hoped we could transition him from his co-sleeper right into a toddler bed, but I guess there is an in-between stage, which we have just entered.