Friday, June 30, 2006

first time audio blogging

this is an audio post - click to play

Love this technology! I'll be doing these audio blogs once in a while I think.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

great-grandma and teacher stuff

We are impatiently awaiting the arrival of my grandma, Jonah's great-grandma, from Prague. She arrives tomorrow and will be staying with us for three weeks. I haven't seen her in nearly two years and that breaks my heart since we are so close and such good friends. I wish we didn't live so far apart.

In other news, last week I was told that my coworker and I will most likely get laid off since the organization that funds us is taking its sweet time to make the formal decision to renew our program for two more years. So, come August, I will most likely be jobless and come October, I might be hired back. But I emphasize might. So, I've been on the lookout for other jobs, applying for all kinds of teaching gigs, including ones in virtual classrooms. Strange, huh? The things that go on on the internet these days are mind-boggling.

My Czech class at the community college starts in two days! I have eighteen students signed up. Daring, daring people. I will take this new course as an opportunity to reinvent myself. This time as the toughest teacher my students have had. Should I wear my World War II German army suit or the lion tamer outfit? I know. I will start the class by giving the students the evil stare. I will survey the class for a long while until it's so quiet one can hear a pin drop, and then I will quickly raise my fist and hit the desk with a loud bang to establish who's boss. No one will mess with Tereza the Terrible, or else. All of us have had teachers. But do we ever hear what teachers fantasize about? Well, I just let you in on my teacher fantasy. But I digress. Come Thursday, despite my sizable muscles, strong voice, and a will of steel, I will be as sweet as a lamb to those innocent students... until one tells me his dog ate his homework... Ha ha!

Monday, June 26, 2006


Yesterday I was giving Jonah some water to drink when I heard something hit the glass, creating sort of a ringing sound. It was the moment we had been waiting for! Finally after days of fever and restless sleep, Jonah's first tooth had broken through! Believe it or not, this is up there with the most exciting moments of parenthood.

heat wave

The temperature has been climbing up to just over 100 degrees every day. Yikes! This is what Jonah has been doing to cool down.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

launching Czechs in America

I am proud to announce the launching of my new project, Czechs in America, a bilingual podcast about the lives of Czechs in the U.S. For those of you not familiar with the podcast format, podcasts are audio clips that can be listened to via the computer or downloaded onto other devices such as MP 3 players and iPods. Many podcasts come in daily, weekly or monthly editions. Mine will most likely be sporadic, but the premier edition is ready to go. Tim will help me upload the sound file and make it available for you to listen to in the next couple of days!!!

The first episode of Czechs in America features an interview with my sister, Marta Topferova, a New York-based singer and songwriter whose original music is inspired by Latin American and Czech folk music. In the interview, my sister discusses her experience as a Czech immigrant, her first impressions of the U.S., her memories of the Czech Republic, what inspires her as an artist, and more. You can find more information about the podcast at, where the episodes will be available for your listening pleasure.

Future editions of my podcast will feature interviews with other Czechs living in the U.S., including artists and entrepreneurs; spotlights of interesting Czech-related organizations and events; as well as a bit about the history of Czech immigration to the U.S.

I will let you know when the first episode is up. It should be by the end of this month! It would be great to get your feedback!

Friday, June 23, 2006

men at work

Here is a list of three men caught in the act -

1. Today while trying on clothes at a store, I caught my little man Jonah kissing himself in the fitting room mirror. "I'm so pretty," he said and planted one on. "Yep, I still like myself."

2. The other day I was shopping at a produce store when a man around forty with a muscle shirt and an unkempt stubble walked in whistling matter-of-factly and casually rattling his car keys. He had a serious expression and a rough look to him, but not to the point of appearing homeless. Far from it, in fact. He did, in some distant way, resemble George Michael, though I am pretty sure he was unaware of that fact. Do you know what he came in whistling? Drum roll, please.... it was "Little Bunny Foo Foo." Incredible.

3. This afternoon Jonah and I went for a walk in one of the largest and most frequented Portland parks. And what do I see, a man facing the bushes and relieving himself right next to the path. This was a reputable-looking gentleman too. In his sixties or seventies, I'd say. He turned around and saw us coming. Then he pretended to be surveying the trees and the sky. Good one.

In many parts of the world there is nothing unusual about spotting men peeing out in the open. In Prague, for example, it's quite a mundane spectacle. Oh, there is another drunkard pissing in the park. Just like his dog right next to him... Little children, too, when they have to go, they are allowed to go just about anywhere. In the gutter seems to be a favorite place. A busy city street? No problem. My gutter is your gutter. But in Portland urinating in public is a rare sight. Boy, were we lucky to spot such a rare specimen today.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

father Tim's special day

A special brunch awaited father Tim in the backyard today - freshly picked raspberries from our garden, red grapes, baguette with cream cheese and smoked wild salmon, mimosas and coffee. Almost everything, except for the coffee and the salmon, was organic. Jonah ate along with us, seated right at the table behind the house in his high chair. No wasps, which was truly a treat.

I had told Tim a couple of weeks ago that on Father's Day I was taking him and Jonah somewhere and that "somewhere" was a surprise. In fact, the place was a bit of a surprise to me as well since I had only read about it.

After brunch, Jonah napped and we got ready. At two I had scheduled us a tour of the Macaw Landing Wildlife Refuge, located right in Portland, just a twenty-minute drive from our house. The Macaw Landing Foundation is a conservation organization dedicated to the preservation of Macaws, wildlife, and to environmental education. The macaws that have a home at the foundation were placed there by their previous owners who believe that macaws should not be kept as pets and that their birds would be more contented living in the company of other macaws. One of the macaws at the refuge represents a species of which there are only twenty-four alive in the wild!

The refuge houses more than ninety macaws in a public viewing space and is also home to a donkey (which I completely fell in love with), pygmy goats, geese, turtles, snakes, frogs, as well as deer, coyotes, raccoons, beaver, turtles, rabbits. We got to see a list of these creatures. Too bad we forgot our camera!

Tim didn't let me forget that once in my yester years I had the role of a parrot in a college play, directed by one of the drama professors. I took the role because I thought it would look fabulous on a resume. Little did I know that I would get to be a parrot on a stage in New York City!!! In order to prepare for the role, I studied parrots and when my mom would get mad at me, I utilized the cold stare and jerky head motions I had learned from parrots to further irk her.

But back to Father's Day. Jonah thought all the birds were amusing and strange at the same time. He didn't seem to know what to quite think of them. When he saw one by itself sitting on a perch without the distraction of dozens of others shrieking and flapping their wings for attention, he demanded to touch it, but we didn't dare let the two of them make each other's acquaintance.

Since my role as a parrot, I have come to love these birds. Until then, I didn't know that parrots were so smart and could be so loving. When I was pregnant with Jonah, I fell in love with an African grey parrot that was for sale at the pet store where we get our pet food. This bird would bend its head to get it scratched every time I would come by. He seemed to remember me. I cried, feeling terrible for the bird trapped in a cage and tried to convince Tim to let me buy him. $1,500? We can do it, can't we? I insisted. But Tim had barely anything to say about this. His silence discouraged my need to constantly bug him about this poor bird. Pretty soon my emotions cooled. But I still feel terrible for birds that have to live in tiny cages.

In the spirit of working towards wild habitat preservation, the Macaw foundation is affiliated with an ecotourism travel agency called Tropical Nature Travel, whose website and brochures are tantalizing to say the least. Perhaps some day our little family will travel to South America and stay at one of their wilderness lodges in the jungle of Peru or Brazil.

Now that we are home, I miss the birds, but mainly Spekles, the donkey. Maybe I was meant to be an animal care taker. Hopefully I will get to see Speckles and the birds again.

For dinner I cooked steamed vegetable mushroom buns I got an Asian market with teriyaki-style dipping sause I made, steamed broccolli, and fried rice. For dessert there was still some raspberry rhubarb crumble I made from fruit from our garden! After Jonah fell asleep, we made a fire in our garden and finished off the champaigne from the morning.

A Father's Day well-spent, if I may say so myself.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

ten months old!

As of last Sunday, Jonah is ten-months-old! Only two more months and he'll be considered a toddler. Whoa!

Monday, June 12, 2006

(no) more sad news

I am very sad to share with you that Tim's grandfather Art, Jonah's great-grandfather, passed away Friday night. His passing was sudden and unexpected. I think he would have been pleased to know that we all got together in his name on Sunday, and were still able to have a wonderful time together even on such a somber occasion. I know that to Art, family was everything and I also know that his legacy will live on through his children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren.

I've included a picture of Art and his sons with spouses from last summer's family reunion. Art, of course, is seated in the middle with his wife Thelma.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

evil chicken burrito

I must record this event before it is too late. For posterity. It happened recently, but because of the traumatic nature of this incident, I have already almost completely blocked it out of my memory.

I was in a rush to get ready to go to work - no time to make lunch - when I remembered that there is a little shack in my neighborhood that whips up and sells what must be authentic Mexican food. "Perfect," I said to myself. "I've always wanted to sample this place."

The trouble was that the restaurant was completely hidden among a myriad of warehouses, garages, loading docks, and fenced off truck part cemeteries. I had forgotten exactly where I had seen it, and to find it meant I would have had to zoom up and down cracked paved roads, dodging fork lifts and men in muscle shirts, with the visibility hindered by whirling dust devils and giant unpredictable trucks. I had, however, made the decision that I needed a burrito that fateful day in May.

Burning up in my car and tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, I finally shoved the delivery trucks out of my way (or I like to think I did), and made my way to the parking lot of the tacqueria. To my surprise, the restaurant offered indoor and outdoor seating. The white walls, turquoise trim, flowers on the tables and curtains over the windows transported me instantly to a world south of the border. What cleanliness, I remarked to myself. One could eat off the floors. This time I dared to speak to the lady in Spanish, which I am normally too shy to do. What the heck, I thought.

I told her that I lived in the neighborhood and that this was my first time at their restaurant and how excited I am that their place is nearby. She was polite but didn't engage in idle chatter with the gringa customer that I was for very long.

My chicken burrito came out of the kitchen fast and traveled to work with me. While eating it later that day, I thought of my favorite chicken burritos and compared mental notes. This one fell in the average category. A little too salty and not enough lard.

Off to teach my class I went, and lo and behold - some three hours after eating the darn burrito, my stomach began climbing into my throat. Oh oh, I panicked. Am I pregnant again? Can't be.

I told my students I would be right back and went to the bathroom to check the day's vomit alert scale. "Red, orange, yellow, blue or green?" I asked myself. Orange: high. A couple of dry heaves later it was time to return back to my students, intently working on their computer assignments. "Oh, I feel so much better," I thought. But not for long.

The computer screen shivered in front of my eyes. It hurt to look at it. People passing by began to comment on how pale I looked. I sat there looking at the clock while my students stayed busy with their work.

And sure enough, the wave surged again. Off to the bathroom I ran. But nothing happened. This time I told myself that it's better to get whatever was bothering me out... and I did. Red alert: danger severe. And while I puked I thought, "It really is a pity that the staff bathroom is adjacent to the lunch room. Whoever came up with that design?" First time throwing up at work. And I wasn't even pregnant or drunk. It was clear. The burrito was the culprit. What a shame. I regret to inform you that I have resolved to never go back to that Mexican joint in my neighborhood again. And my students? They never knew I had just turned inside out in the employee bathroom adjacent to the staff kitchenette. And Jonah? The evil chicken burrito cast no spell on him, thank goodness.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

first plane trip

We just came back from spending four days in Montana, visiting Jonah's grandparents. Jonah did great on the plane. For the most part, he stayed entertained and quiet. He even slept for a little bit. Worried about his ears hurting from the air pressure, I fed Jonah cereal and breastmilk neurotically for most of the flight. It seemed to do the trick. His ears didn't seem affected. He did have a couple of shrieking spells, but they were short-lived, thank goodness.

In Montana we just mostly relaxed - took walks, hot-tubbed, hung out in Tim's parents' beautiful backyard... In fact, I told Tim that their backyard is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. The lush grass and trees surrounding a small creek are a home to countless birds, deer, and other furry creatures. And in the distance across the dry valley covered in sage, cactus, and wild grasses, the yellow sandstone cliffs topped with pine trees frame the view... That's the scenery Tim grew up with, lucky boy.

Tim and I got to go out to dinner just the two of us. What a treat! One day all of us made a trip to a historic landmark, Pompey's Pillar, which was an important point for the Crow Indian tribes as well as a stopping point for the Lewis & Clark expedition. The well-designed new interpretive center provided some interesting information. The view from the top of the Pillar was worth the climb in the hundred-degree weather. The lush area surrounding the Yellowstone River made for a perfect spot for our picnic lunch.

One of the highlights of the trip was the performance we saw, thanks to Tim's parents. It was Stomp, a musical I had always wanted to see. What made the experience even more special was the fact that we were surrounded by the Stomp crew on our flight to Montana. So seeing the performers on stage after observing them doing mundane tasks such as drinking beer on the plane, playing computer games, making funny faces at the neighboring babies, and teasing each other, was quite amusing. Hey, that's the guy that was so rude to me, I whispered to Tim while tugging on his elbow as one of the performers made his first appearance in the show. Check it out, that's the guy that was rocking out to his walkman. Oh man, that's the dude that was watching that stand-up routine on his lap top.

The show was fun. It didn't quite make me want to run away with the circus... or the troupe, I should say, but it was entertaining. What I liked the most was the audience interaction and the parts that were quiet and subtle. Also some of the slapsticky humor was right up my alley. My humor is, after all, still stuck somewhere in the first grade.

I've posted some new pictures from our trip here.