Tuesday, October 31, 2006

some parents...

Do you ever hear a name and think to yourself, "Thank goodness I am not named that." Or, "Boy, what were those parents thinking?" I had a moment just like that today, walking in to work. Downstairs at my job, where I was for the last time today by the way, is a daycare center. One of the parents, though she seemed more like a grandmother or nanny, was walking out with two kids. She yelled at the one dilly-dallying behind: "Napoleon!" I just about lost it. "Napoleon?" Okay. Which of these shady characters would you like to evoke the image of each time you introduce yourself to a new person: the temperamental, war-hungry emperor-conqueror Napoleon Bonaparte; the weirdo Napoleon Dynamite; or Napoleon the Stalin-like pig from the Animal Farm. Some parents...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

uncle Andy's birthday & Saturday hike

We went to celebrate Jonah's uncle's birthday today. Jenni served delicious chili and I pitched in by making a spinach ciabatta casserole, topped with cheese and walnuts and complete with freshly picked porcini mushrooms from our hike yesterday. I'm thinking I should make this new dish often.

The party at Andy's and Jenni's house was nice, but as is the case with most parties, they start very near Jonah's bedtime. So we had to leave just as everyone dug out their pumpkin carving utensils and long before dessert was served. Darn.

Andy got a rain-proof jacket from us. The idea is that he will be able to bike to work rain or shine.

As I mentioned, Tim, Jonah, my mom and I went hiking yesterday. It was a gorgeous fall day. Sunshine, perfectly clear skies and no wind whatsoever. The trail led steadily but gradually up to the top of a mountain from which the view of the surrounding Cascades, Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson was stunning. Almost no traces of man anywhere in view other than a couple of very small clearcuts on a hill across the valley. Unbelievable! Of course, I forgot the camera. Go figure.

On the way up we encountered a few patches of snow, which Jonah found greatly amusing. For a good chunk of the way up he wanted to walk. So we took turns guiding him along the trail which was no piece of cake for a new walker. Rocks, roots, hills. But he was relentless. I dressed him in snowpants and a snow jacket since he tends to get cold easily. He looked like a true mountain climber.

It's been a little too cold for mushrooms, I think. But we found a few. Thus the mushroom, spinach, ciabatta casserole.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Do you know who Jonah looks alike the most? Yes, Tim of course, but also Tim's mom when she was little. When I saw a photograph of her when she was about three or four-years-old, my jaw dropped. The likeness is uncanny. Tim's mom just sent us a copy of that picture and I still can't believe the resemblance. Jonah likes looking at that picture too. He always has a big smile on his face when he sees it. Maybe he thinks he's looking at himself :)

On another note, last night I had a dream I befriended an ape whom I met in a college class we were both taking. I got to hear about what it's like being an ape and how much prejudice the poor creature experiences. Where does my mind come up with these ideas?

Monday, October 23, 2006

retreat & dreams

Just got back yesterday from the girls' retreat at the coast. This was my third time away from Jonah overnight (two nights this time). All went well. I was secretly jealous to hear that Jonah only woke up once both of the nights I was gone. When I'm home, he wakes up about three times a night! I have my fingers crossed, hoping once a night at most will be a new pattern.

The girls' retreat was fabulous. Everyone got along great and enjoyed the company of all who were there. Unfortunatelly one of my friends wasn't able to make it because we didn't coordinate rides in time. We'll have to do a different kind of girls' thing. Maybe a girls' night out. This time we were so lucky with the weather. Couldn't have asked for a nicer weekend. Here are some pics.

After I got back and spent some time with Jonah, Tim and I watched a movie at night. It was a very good movie, but pretty intense in content. I won't go into the details here, but just tell you that my night following the film was filled with nightmares.

In my dream, I first witnessed the death of a dog. Why, oh why? Next, I was driving in some city when thick smoke started filling the streets and the car. I rushed out of the car thinking I could still get some fresh air, but soon realized it would be better to jump back in, close the windows and hope for the best. This was some sort of poison gas, afterall, a form of biowarfare. I survived that, but then a vicious group began to take over and attacking with liquid acid that would burn the skin. These Nazi-like devils tried to trick people into following their orders, eventually hoping to eliminate everyone. I could see right through their tactics and found a way to escape. In the end, I ended up in the same room with the Nazi head honcho. I had no choice but to confront him. He tried to shoot poison darts at me and succeeded with two, but before it was too late, I came at him with a knife. His back was too hard, but I got his neck pretty good. He was still not dead. I shot a poison dart at him, but did not trust anything more than my giant knife. Just to really make sure this man was history, I ended up cutting him up into small, porkchop-like pieces. I'd like to think I rid the world of evil last night. Thank goodness I woke up to Jonah's sweet little smile.

Friday, October 20, 2006

baby events, mama events

Jonah and I have been going to the library for story time every week. He enjoys it. I took my mom there to show her what all the fuss is about and she thought it was great. The toddler group gets to do rhymes that are more physical than the ones for little babies. So, we do things like Ashes, Ashes, walking around in a circle and falling on the floor. Jonah loves that. We also do a little rhyme called Little Red Caboose and stomp around, pretending to be trains. Also quite fun.

Just like when I took my grandma to story time at the library last summer, I stopped over at an authentic French cafe across the street to treat my mom for coffee and a pastry. Jonah can't sit still for more than two minutes, so we ended up taking turns walking him around the restaurant, but the baked goods were heavenly. This place is a must for anyone visiting Portland.

At least once a week I have also been taking Jonah to the indoor playground at the community center gym. Now that it has been raining more often, it's the perfect activity for a restless toddler who's always busy running around and trying to climb things. It's good for Jonah to be around other kids too, though at this point, objects are as fascinating, if not more so than other children.

As for mama activities, I'm going on another little trip this weekend. I organized a getaway for girls at the coast. We'll be gone for two days. Don't worry. Tim will get his jitters out too next month when he goes on a bachelor party weekend with his guy friends.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

getaway report

My little overnight getaway turned out very nice. I feel refreshed after spending some time relaxing and hanging out with my sister. We're so close. I miss her already. Her show was great! She sounded better than she ever has. It's great seeing her have fun on stage. I was reminded of how important it is to pursue one's passion. I love seeing how far my sister's hard work and dedication have gotten her. Truly inspiring. Another thing I enjoy is hanging out with musicians. I spent many years around musicians before I moved to Portland and that world feels sort of like family to me. And I enjoy conversations about music. So, that was fun.

After the show all the musicians, an Olympia-based dancer and musician we met that night, and I went back to our hotel and hung out at the bar. Our waitress was one of the worst I've had. The clarinetist that plays with my sister and I were laughing like crazy. This high school age-seeming girl with a fake tan had a bit of an attitude, was unresponsive most of the time and when we did finally catch her attention to ask her about items on the menu (which, by the way, only contained about six items), it turned out she knew nothing.

"I see you have two kinds of buffalo wings." I said. "What does kalbi-style mean?"
"Oh, it means spicy, I think," she replied.
"So, you have either hot or spicy buffalo wings."
"Well, I'm not really sure what it means. It could mean mild."
"So, could you go and check?"

Every conversation with her was like this. My sister brought a bottle of wine to the bar. We were told they would open it for us for a $10 corking fee. Great. So our by now infamous waitress comes and fights with the cork screw and bottle for ten minutes, saying things like "Oh, oh." and "I have no idea how to use this." and "I'm scared." Wow, scared of what, I thought and teased her, "It could explode, you're right." She finally broke the cork in half still in the neck of the bottle. So, my sister's bass player had to finish the job. And the restaurant still charged us the corking fee. I tried to challenge this to no avail. Welcome to Olympia.

At the end of the night, a moment I had been waiting for impatiently arrived. I finally got to show my sister a couple of video clips of sketch comedy I recently found. The character's name is Borat and his comedy is the funniest stuff I've seen in a long time. Every time I watch one of his sketches I laugh so hard my stomach hurts and my eyes water. I made the mistake of watching one of his sketches while my sister was taking a nap in the hotel room. I had to laugh into a pillow. And at one point I had to leave for the bathroom. I highly recommend this dude.

Well, now it's back to Portland on the bus. It's raining cats and dogs outside, which I don't mind at all. I sometimes enjoy the melancholy mood of wet weather. And we needed the rain "like salt," as the Czechs say.

In other news, I will be returning to my old job in November. Yay!!! More of a challenge, a lighter schedule. I will only be working three days a week, which means I'll be able to go back to teaching Czech at the community college, which I love! So, life is good. (Knock on wood.)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

getaway & afternoon with friends

I'm reporting from my little getaway in Olympia, WA where my sister will be performing tonight as part of her West Coast tour. She performed in Portland last night. Tim went and I babysat. So tonight is my night out. I'm just staying overnight and will be cathching... drumroll, please... the Greyhound back. Ah, just like the college days.

It's so good to see my sister. Whenever I'm with her, I'm secretly (and not so secretly now) scheming about changing things so we can live closer to each other and so Jonah can have her aunt nearby. They are so darn cute together. But those who know me well always hear me scheming about a million things, most of which rarely come to fruition. But it sure is fabulous to spend time with my sister. Jonah loves live music. He was all over my sister's cuatro (four-stringed instrument), examining it and plucking it with a curious face, as you can see from the pictures I've just posted.

I also posted some pictures from our afternoon with my friend Mia and her son Ira yesterday. Ira is six months younger than Jonah, but nearly the same size. By the time Jonah outgrows his clothes, it's almost too late to pass them on to Ira. Those two had a great time together. Jonah kept handing Ira miscelaneous objects, which Ira would examine with great curiosity. I love Ira's hair. It juts straight out in all directions as if electrically charged. His smile floors me - sweet like a little koala bear's. Seeing Ira and hearing his mom describe the things he's been up to always takes me back. Six months seems ago seems more like six years ago. There was actually a time when Jonah couldn't walk? Oh yeah, and we had to walk him, our backs aching. Ah, babies.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

my job, my dreams

Perhaps you're wondering how my new job is going. Well, funny you should ask. I've been there less than two months and I'm already bored. So far, I only have one student in my class. He's a good guy - he is polite, serious about education, and a fast learner, but it's a little awkward to spend so much time with just one student. He comes to class four to five times a week after working all day and stays for our three-hour sessions. That's almost more time than I spend with my husband on weekdays! So, at this point I'm sort of a glorified tutor.

My student mostly needs conversation practice, so we spend a lot of time discussing various topics that I suggest or that we stumble on naturally. Since he understands much more English than he can formulate into sentences, we sometimes clarify certain points or vocabulary in Spanish. Practicing Spanish is a definite perk for me. The other good thing is that I can structure my own curriculum, but don't have to if I don't want to since we have sequenced textbooks from which I can draw materials.

So far, I haven't needed much preparation time, but for some incomprehensible reason I was told to be at work two hours prior to the beginning of class. So, that leaves me with a lot of time to do non-work stuff. I use the time to catch up on my correspondence and various other odds and ends. The fact that I get this time is a real luxury for any mom of a little one. So, I can't complain there. In fact, I am finding myself becoming a bit like what Jerry Seinfeld once described in one of his routines- a person who is obsessed with protecting her time for doing nothing. So much so, that if a phone call or another teacher comes into the room, I get mad: "Come on folks, this is my quiet time. Go away!"

But the ambitious side of me is not only bored, but embarassed by the fact that I often do nothing while I should be working. My lazy side is satisfied and growing big, feasting on nothing. So big and powerful that it's squeezing out the ambitious side. My ambitious side is not dead yet, only dormant and getting restless. That side wants me to have bigger impact in the world than what my current job offers. And I know I can handle more than helping one student. So I keep dreaming and scheming about what I want to do next. I have some ideas. Now my son is small, so maybe it's good to be working a job that's not too demanding. The schedule works for Tim and me for now and I get health insurance with my job, which is a luxury as well these days. So there are trade-offs. But I will soon be ready to move on to bigger and better things. I feel the itch already.

But speaking of dreaming, my student told me a whole bunch of stories about things that he has seen and experienced that scared the be-Jesus out of me last night. These were very much like ghost stories. I thought I wouldn't be able to sleep last night. But after a little wine and dessert I surprised myself. No problem falling asleep and no nightmares! Two nights ago I did have a nightmare, though. I was in San Francisco when I realized I was completely lost. I did not remember any names of hotels or streets where I was staying. No phone numbers either. Yikes! And not only that. On top of being completely and hopelessly lost, I also noticed that the water surrounding San Francisco began to rise and consume the city, street by street. Oh my goodness! What a terrifying dream. Well, I hope for no more scary dreams for a while.

Friday, October 06, 2006

baby talk

Jonah learns new words, uses them for a few days and then seems to drop them in favor of new words. Interesting. Here are the ones he says these days. Some of them have stuck around from the get-go.

"da" - short for "voda" or water
"ta" - short for "bota" or shoe
"ka" - short for "knížka" or book (he loves books!)
"papa" - short for "papat" or to eat
"ah" - meaning "up"
"co je to?" - what is this?
"bah" - short for "bottle"

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Montana adventure

Just got back from our second trip to Montana with Jonah. This time, the occasion was a somber one. We went to take part in Tim's grandfather's memorial. Most of Tim's family was there and the ceremony, of which a part took place by the Yellowstone River, was lovely and moving. I love that Tim's family is so big and close-knit, and that, even if they weren't related to Tim, I can imagine being friends with most of his cousins, nearly all of whom are our genration. We always enjoy each other's company.

Jonah did great on the trip. New places excite him. The hotel, for example was a fun playground. The plane rides are not bad when two hours or less in length. It may be a whole different ball of wax when we go to Prague in December - nearly 24 hours on planes and in airports!!! Plus the nine-hour time difference. Lord have mercy! But what is life without adventures.

Tim's parents think Jonah is the best thing since sliced bread. Grandpa even played horsie and let Jonah ride on his back around the living room. Fun times! Grandma's waffles were a hit with the junior, who's been pretty lucky to see his Montana grandparents about every other month.

Well, that's it for the latest update. Hope all is well in your neck of the woods.