Saturday, September 23, 2006

this week's adventures

This week we went to the indoor play park twice. Jonah enjoyed it very much. He especially liked the oversized plastic wagon which has a large long handle, little doors that open and close, and benches that fit two children inside it. Jonah got to ride in the wagon with a stranger kid about his age. I wheeled them around the gym cautiously. It was quite a funny sight. The two kids sat on the benches in the same exact pose, facing each other and staring at each other silently. I always imagine adults doing the same thing kids are, which makes me laugh, but often times I'm the only adult laughing for some reason. Come on folks, aren't kids funny?

The first time we went, as you may remember, Jonah got sucked halfway under a foot-powered mini car. The second time at the gym, at one point I saw two legs sticking out from under the front of one of those cars. Scary picture. We're talking legs under a car - something that shouldn't happen. The lady with the little boy pulled him right out from underneath the toy car. He was fine. It made me laugh and deep inside I was glad I wasn't the only mom who let such a thing happen to her child.

Other than indoor playtime, we also went to my favorite place, the rhododendron garden, with Jonah's friend Finn and his mom. That was great fun until a gang of geese and ducks started chasing us all over the park demanding food. Toddlers and big mean geese with humongous necks and beaks and no shame... not a good combination. I made the mistake of bringing some bird food and feeding the poultry at the park. The birds got a little too excited, and two biggest and boldest geese strutted their stuff right up to us, flapping their wings and screaming to show who's boss. A little duck joined them and the three menaces started following us around the park, shrieking and displaying their grandeur, so close to us that we couldn't put the children down on the ground until we lost the birds a few turns later. That's what I call a nice day at the park. I'll think twice about bringing bird food next time.

At story time, Jonah met another Jonah. To my dismay, I was told that there was a third Jonah that frequented the very same library. Oh, oh, I thought. What if suddenly the name Jonah becomes one of the most popular ones and I start hearing: "Jonah! Jonah!" on every corner. Hopefully there won't be a new pop superstar named Jonah in the next few years. That could spur all kinds of ideas among the populace.

We finished off the week with a nice hike in the woods near the Columbia Gorge. The forest was beaming today. I say that because finally after months of dry weather, it has rained a few times recently and the forest was moist and more alive than I have seen it since the spring. Jonah got to walk around in the woods. He loved it and was impressive at navigating among the stumps, branches, and roots. The day was perfect - upper seventies, clear skies, sunshine.

So much for this week's report.

Monday, September 18, 2006

something new

Jonah and I tried something new today. Playtime at an indoor playground, really a gym chalk full of toys for toddlers and preschoolers. Great option on a rainy day for a little thunder bolt of a boy.

I had never seen so many wheelie toys in one place: foot-powered plastic cars, pretend shopping carts, and mini tricycles. That's what I call a little boys' heaven. Jonah didn't know what to try first. He ran from toy to toy, sampling each along the way. The rag doll, the foam blocks, the crawl-through tunnels. Watching him in this new and exciting territory, I learned that Jonah can't quite navigate a baby-sized car yet, but he did manage to make one go - uh... backwards. His face was sheer bewilderment mixed with fear. This frantic foot dance went on for what seemed like five minutes until Jonah managed to get sucked down in through the opening meant for his feet. In reality, the backwards speeding car incident happened so fast that I didn't have a chance to prevent it. It was as if he had started sprinting and suddenly, without a warning melted like the Wicked Witch of the West or slipped down into a drain with the bath water. Not completely. Just half-way. Surprisingly Jonah didn't cry, only grimaced. I helped him out and he was on to a new adventure.

In the shopping cart that he grabbed next were some peculiar objects. At first I thought the non-discript brownish plastic mass the size of an adult fist was a partially melted dinosaur. But no. The mangled animal turned out to be a barbecued chicken leg. Someone must have gone shopping. Next to the chicken leg we found a single pile of sliced carrots, the kind with ridges found in the frozen food section of the supermarket. Very realistic too, shellac and all, unlike the chicken. Jonah grabbed the chicken leg, walked over to an older boy in a mini car, and gave it to him. What a generous guy. The boy took one look at the strange plastic object, stuck it in the car's trunk, and continued on his merry way without a single word. Such are little children. Never ceasing to amuse.

A half-hour in a palace full of magical toys and speedy children was enough for little Jonah. When we got home, it was snack time then nap time. I think we'll go again soon.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Jonah phrase book

Here is a little guide to Jonah's language. It may come in handy. I will add to it as he learns new words.

  • ta (short for "bota") = shoe - NEW!*

  • ka (short for "knížka") = book

  • da (short for "voda") = water - NEW!

  • koka (short for "kočka" or "kočka") = cat

  • pey (short for "pejsek") = doggie - NEW!

  • mé (short for "méďa") = baby word for bear

  • kytí = baby word for flower

  • kačka = ducky

  • papa (short for "papat") = baby word for "eat," but I use it exclusively for "nurse" - NEW!

  • co je to? = what is this/that?

  • English:
  • door

  • kitty

  • book - NEW!

  • cup - NEW!

  • gun - NEW!

  • dada (or daddy)

  • mama (also Czech)

  • I think he also says "ka-kuh" for cracker (same word in Czech), but that one is very new

  • By the way, I just read that the average 18-month-old says ten words. Jonah knows more than that already. Hey, maybe he'll skip kindergarten altogether and go straight to baby college!

    * By NEW I mean Jonah started saying the word in the last two or three days though he understood it much longer ago.

    Thursday, September 14, 2006

    how to survive anything

    A strange ad flashed across my computer screen as I went to check my e-mail today. It was a photo of a nuclear bomb exploding with the headline: "How to survive a nuclear bomb." Next to the orange-colored mushroom cloud was a photograph of dry cracked earth with the heading: "How to survive an earthquake." I was tempted to click on the article or ad, but didn't do it. My curiosity got the best of me when later this afternoon I returned to the same website and sought the ad out.

    Lo and behold, the ad led to an entire website dedicated to advice on surviving the worst of natural and man-made disasters. You name it, they've got it covered: bird flu, animal attacks, meteroid destruction, and more. If you ever find yourself in the shadow of an erupting volcano, there it is - the handy "How to Survive a Volcano Eruption" guide.

    What does this have to do with being a mother? A mother needs to be prepared for anything. So I got to work and here is what I learned:

    Erupting Volcanos:
    "There is not much an individual can do to prepare for a volcanic eruption, but it is always good to have a good knowledge of this phenomenon. Be aware of the hazards that can come with an eruption: the flying debris, hot gases, lava flows, potential for explosion, mudslides, avalanches, and geothermal areas... Also be ready to get up and outrun flowing lava. " Very useful, thanks.


    Falling asteroids:
    "There simply is no good way to fight or run away from a killer asteriod - not alone anyway... Some of these mechanisms [for deflecting asteroids] are more realistic than others.

    "Most proposed methods have been rejected due to risk and economic and/or technical feasibility in the near future. The remaining methods seriously considered to date include:

    1.) Blowing it up by nuclear bomb...


    2.) Nudging it by nuclear bomb"

    Great! I love it! Keep it coming. How about tornadoes?

    "Determine the best location in both your home and place of employment in which to seek shelter when threatened by a tornado." Uh.. at home... under the bed perhaps? At work... maybe the half-dilapidated teacher's desk?

    "Conduct periodic tornado safety drills with your family." I'll get right to it. Jonah, where are you? Let's practice.

    My favorite section of the website, however, is the "How to survive the dating game" link. Fits right in with the other disasters. It's really an ad for a book; a book that promises to be the ultimate guide for the ultimate male who exudes "confidence, charisma, and sex appeal" and whose life consists of many dates with many women simultaneously. In fact, this Casanova is so popular he's stalked by women. Sounds like a fabulous life, doesn't it? The ad continues, offering to teach men to "crush the competition" and become "natural seducers." In a nut shell, the book provides "a complete psychological makeover," turning losers into ladies' men.

    So much for the study guide for emergency preparedness. A caring mother can only be grateful for such a fabulous resource.

    call me pathetic

    Last week I thought it was about time Jonah and I went back to story time at the library. It had been months. Now he's considered a Tiny Tot (code word for toddler) and so he gets to mingle with one- to two-year-olds.

    By the time we got out of the house, plowed our way through crosstown traffic, found parking, and raced the stroller over to the library, it was five minutes past the beginning of story time. Not only did we get there late, the room was full and they weren't letting anyone else in. I was so looking forward to Jonah interacting with other little tots and so was he. He stood there listening to the children behind the heavy wooden door, leaning on it as if he wanted to push it open, his eyes wide open looking up at me quizzically.

    "We can't go in," I told him, scooped him up, and sat him down in the stroller. Let's go to the park instead. For some reason I felt so sad and rejected that tears started rolling down my cheeks on our way out of there. Did I revert back to my tiny tot stage? What was this spell the library had cast on me? Call me pathetic. I guess we all have our odd "boo hoo" moments. That was mine.

    This week I was not going to get squeezed out. I made sure we were so early that we turned out to be the first ones there. We were so early, in fact, that the library was still closed. Jonah and I paced back and forth on the sidewalk until a shabby looking man - did he work at the library or was he a homeless volunteer? - opened the door. First ones on the list, first ones there. And I was glad, since Jonah thoroughly enjoyed himself. We sang I'm So Glad to See You, I Almost Couldn't Wait; Toes, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes; The Noble Duke of York, and many other favorites. There were bubbles flying through the air. Fortunately the toys stayed on the floor or in children's hands. I was waiting for that stray block to come flying, but the tiny tots are perhaps a little too tiny to be interested in that sort of stuff. The content of the giraffe book the librarian passed around for us to read to our toddlers didn't interest Jonah. Not as much as the phone jacks on the wall anyways. The only part of the book worth his attention was the circular opening on the front of it, sort of like a window into the book. Holes! That's his thing.

    On the way back, Jonah fell asleep in the car. A morning well-spent.

    Sunday, September 10, 2006


    Here is some more talking over the rustle of a bag of chips. Here Jonah says "koka" (cat in Czech) a few more times.

    this is an audio post - click to play


    I had just gotten home from the grocery store. Jonah reached into one of the grocery bags and pulled out a bag of chips which got him very excited. He walked around the house with the chips, squeezing the bag and making it rustle all the while talking up a storm. I decided to record him in action. Notice at one point he says, "koka" - short for "kočka" or "kočička" or cat in Czech.

    this is an audio post - click to play


    Hello long-lost friends. I haven't been posting as frequently lately, because I started my new job at the high school and things have been busy.

    Tim, Jonah and I went hiking yesterday. Jonah enjoyed walking around in the woods. The terrain was a little rough for a person who has only been walking for a week and it was tough to stay interested in the trail enough to stay on it, but the woods were fun nevertheless. Especially intriguing was a pinecone that had apparently just fallen of the tree. How did I know this? Jonah got fresh sap all over his hand. A strange sensation and smell to say the least.

    On another note, no mushrooms yet. We were disappointed. It's been so dry. We are impatiently waiting for that magic fall rain.

    New photos here.

    Monday, September 04, 2006

    this is an audio post - click to play

    Sunday, September 03, 2006

    J. Walker

    That's my new nickname for Jonah. Not because he likes to drink or because he disobeys traffic laws. No, it's because as of yesterday he's become a walker!!! We practiced unassisted walking for two days. Jonah started off walking from dad to me, then back. He got more and more courageous about walking in his own until he started to trick us. He'd walk over to me, but turn around to walk back to dad without touching me. Then he added an extra turn until it looked like he was dancing. Of course, he was laughing and squealing with excitement the whole time. Two days of practice was enough. He then decided he was ready to use walking as his main mode of transportation, though he still crawls when he needs to.

    He loves to walk so much that he sometimes gets going a little too fast and loses his balance. Today he walked on pavement, alone for the first time and fell on his face. Not hard, but he did get a little scratched. Ah, battle wounds. I guess they are a part of growing up.

    Tim's cousins April and Peter came into town to see us today, which was nice as usual. They got to witness Jonah's brand new skill as well as the fall. We had lunch and walked around Saturday market, their first time there.

    Other than walking on his own, Jonah has been learning new words. His first word, about six weeks ago, was mama. Now he can say "mé" (abbreviation of bear), "kočička" (kitty), "kačenka" (ducky), "kytí" (flower), "co je to?" (what is this?), the door" or just "door", "book", and he's starting to say "papat" (to nurse). He understands several things that he can't yet say: "up", "chceš papat?" (do you want to eat/nurse?); "chceš vodu?" (do you want some water?), "táta" (dad), uncle Andy, "babička" (grandma), and "no!" I think he's starting to understand the word "bath" as well.

    That's pretty good for a twelve months old, I think.

    Saturday, September 02, 2006

    California cont.

    Other than Bolinas, the closest towns were Stinson Beach - slightly bigger and more touristy as well as Olima and Inverness to the north. These were very small as well. As far as we saw, Inverness only had two restaurants and one of them happened to be Czech. What do you know? In business since 1960. Cob webs galore and true Czech hospitality. Though they were open, they weren't serving food. What they were dishing out, however was attitude. Mr. owner sat inside reading the paper while we waited for him for five minutes outside. I finally went in and got yelled at for trying to order lunch. Oh those Czechs. Gotta love them.

    The house itself provided a quiet respite from our busy lives. The atmosphere forced us to slow down. No phone, no computers, no internet. I did experience some withdrawal, but it wasn't as bad as I had expected. Other than the deck with the peaceful view of the lagoon, the hot tub out in the forested backyard was the best part. I dream of owning one some day.

    My dad got to know his grandson. It was fun watching them interact. I think Jonah's favorite was playing driving with grandpa Tomas. My sister made it too, which was quite a treat for all of us. I just wish we lived closer to each other.

    Our day trips to San Francisco across the treacherous terrain ended up being fun, of course. Who could top that city in its picturesque beauty. We walked to the famous Fisherman's Wharf with its colony of sea lions; we drove down San Francisco's most curvy street and up the city's steepest street; we ate in North Beach, the city's Italian neighborhood and in Haight/Ashbury, the neighborhood known for its hippie history. We also explored one of my favorite spots, the Palace of the Arts; we saw the famed Victorian houses - "the Painted Ladies;" and before running out of time, we made a stop over in Sausalito, a small harbor town across the bay. Sausalito was once a fishing town settled by the Portuguese. Today it's a tourist mecca full of boutiques and restaurants. Cute as can be. And the view of San Francisco from the waterfront is superb. If you've ever been to Lugano, Switzerland, you may experience a huge deja vous. I did.

    After our week near Bolinas, Tim, Jonah and I spent an additional weekend in Frisco as a little family. We stayed right in the heart of it all - in Union Square. It's easy to catch a shopping fever there. Everyone is doing it. Our old-fashioned hotel was full of Italians. The streets about 90% tourists. My favorite oddball place was the 50's-style diner across the street from us. In fact, we could see in from our hotel room. The staff was full of colorful characters. The prize winner was the door man. An aging Charlie Chaplin with runny make up and a plastic (?) triangle-shaped Hitler mustache. He would unexpectedly bust out tap dancing to fifties rock, getting even the bums to join in the jig. As he ushered us in, he gazed at himself in the mirror. Boy, do I look good today, he must have thought. Charlie Chaplin would have been proud.

    Tim and I enjoyed more of San Francisco- China Town, Embarcadero, the Financial District, Golden Gate park... Some day we shall return and see more of what we missed.

    Friday, September 01, 2006

    California as I remember it

    It was the kind of cold that got under your skin; the kind of cold none of us was prepared for. Hey, no one told us it would be fifty degrees in the summer! We had arrived. First things first. Tim and I claimed our room, dug out the only sweaters we had brought, and plumped down on a sofa, finally having a chance to admire the view of a peaceful lagoon full of migratory birds, fish, and harbor seals. The road to Bolinas made my knees tremble and I dreaded the thought of having to traverse it yet again for our daytrip to San Francisco in a couple of days. A narrow, windy road on a bald mountain range rising out of the ocean. Several times we had come across cracked pavement where the road had partially washed away. Earthquake country, I thought, gritting my teeth. The benefit of being so high up with no obstructions right above the ocean are the views, of course. So I focused on that, trying to steer my mind away from playing out all the worse case scenarios - its specialty.

    The house I had picked for all of us to rent - sister, dad, wife, Tim, Jonah, and I - stood on a hillside, overlooking a lagoon. The closest town, about a five minute drive, was Bolinas. A place legendary for its residents' intensity about wanting to remain off the beaten path. Stories abound about the locals tearing down the Bolinas signs along the road so as to remain inconspicuous. It's as if time has stopped in the town itself, as my dad remarked. Bolinas - one bar, one market, one restaurant... surprisingly a post office and even a tiny museum... you get the idea.

    The old saloon-style bar opens early, making sure the locals are satisfied. The barn-like supermarket seems a bit crooked and partially dilapidated. But have no fear. They are well stocked for their size, complete with liquor and fresh meat. I was surprised a cowboy on a horse didn't come riding through the place, grabbing merchandise off the shelves while I was there. But rather than cowboys on galloping horses, the town consisted mostly of slow-moving balding hippies in dirty plaid and gray pony tails and the occasional surfer, seemingly lost but ready to brave the mucky waters frequented by the great white sharks.

    The community altar dominates the center of the town. It's a place where the townspeople bond over wishes and prayers written on pieces of paper and placed under small rocks by the feet of the Virgin-like deity. My sister and I, too, added a couple of wishes to ones encapsulating the local flavor: "Peace, love, harmony globally for all beings."

    Unfortunately we hadn't managed to add anything to the community collage bulletin board which consisted of rant-like poetry and random newspaper cut-outs. The sign next to the community collage described Bolinas in a nut shell "Welcome to Bolinas. Nothing here to do. That's the way we like it, hope that you do too."

    To be continued.