Sunday, December 30, 2007

I am meat

The other day Jonah laid down on the coffee table and said: "I am meat. Eat me, mommy."

I asked him who cooked him. He replied: "Uncle Andy."

"How did he cook you?" I wondered. "In a pot on top of the stove, in the microwave, in the oven or in the toaster?"

"In the oven, pancake-style." Jonah said and stuck his hand in front of my face: "Eat the bone; the crunchy part, mommy."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas on the coast

We just returned from spending three days at the Oregon coast. We were about the only people, other than about two retired couples with miniature lap dogs, that spent our Christmas there in the rain and wind. Actually, one day it hardly rained, but the ocean was so wild we almost got swept away trying to walk on the very edge of the beach.

The hotel was nice. It's been our favorite. We brought a giant load of groceries, so we didn't have to go to the store at all and could cook all our meals. I made Czech-style potato salad and fish for Christmas dinner. We also brought homemade Christmas cookies, bread, and a little potted tree to decorate and put right on the mantel place.

Jonah got the idea of presents for the first time. He kept talking about Santa, whom he discovered in one of his books recently.

We had a really nice time, though I had a pretty bad cold and the weather didn't cooperate half the time. But that was just half the time. So really we were lucky.

Jonah's favorite present was a miniature version of a UPS truck from his grandparents. He didn't want to part with it, so he asked if he could bring it to bed with him and tuck it in. He has also been enjoying the puzzles and legos I got him. Of course, there is the high tech electronic digger from grandpa which we opened after we got back. I am glad we did because it trumps all that ever was before. This piece of heavy equipment more than half the size of Jonah is complete with a country rock anthem to which Jonah loves to jump around, flailing his arms; lights; thunder volume engine sounds; and a macho man voice dolling out commands such as: "Back it up!" and "Scoop those rocks!" That one is definitely guaranteed to delight parents everywhere.

I got great gifts too - a restaurant gift certificate, an Ikea gift certificate and a new camera are up there in the top three. Warm socks and a new lip stick and mascara - yeah!

All in all we had a nice holiday. Now the countdown to new baby has started. That, along with the cold, has been keeping me up at night. How will we handle a feisty two-year-old and a newborn and get enough sleep on top of it all to survive the first few months? I don't know. I just pray we do.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

here is what I look like

Here is me now (nearly 35 weeks along):

Here I am at the same point in my pregnancy with Jonah almost 2.5 years ago:

The last pregnancy we took so many pictures. Nearly one every week. This time I think we have maybe two showcasing my belly. I can just hear the second child: "Why is it you took so many picture with Jonah in your belly, but not with me!" Well, because second time, my child, it's all just old hat... ha, ha!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

spooky is fun... sort of

Ever since Halloween Jonah has been interested in all things spooky. We read an average of at least one scary story a day - toddler scary. Like the Old Dark Frog.

Now after it gets dark if we don't close our curtains Jonah becomes obsessed with the reflections he sees in the windows. He will see something move, most often his own face or mine, and get concerned that Spooky is outside looking in. He seems enthralled yet perturbed by the idea.

Sometimes he hears things and asks me: "Who is knocking?" Today I could actually trace the sound to me setting my coffee cup on the table, but sometimes I don't know what it is he's heard.

The other day he looked in my closet and exclaimed: "I see a hand! What's that arm doing there?" That sent the shivers up my spine. I picked him up and had him show me where he saw that hand and arm. He pointed to a tube, which was actually a folded blanket the color of white person's flesh. Phew! I felt relieved. Just a blanket.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

baby in belly

Tonight Jonah came to hug my belly. He said: "There's a baby in mommy's belly. It will come out later... and live in mommy's house."

He totally gets it. It's really amazing.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, his emotions could be escalating because he knows a big change is about to take place. But of course, like his grandma says, it is mostly "the terrible twos," though I like "tumultuous twos" better since, though difficult, this age is also so much fun.

I am, by the way, just over 34 weeks along in my pregnancy. I feel much more relieved now. The baby is still considered premature if born at this stage, but so close to fully developed that it is pretty safe to give birth now. I just hope I can make it twelve more days so I can have the home birth I envision.

tumultuous two

Our little friend is two for sure. Lately he has been asserting his will power fiercely regarding just about anything. There could be a tantrum lurking under the surface, waiting to unleash itself just about any time. And not just once, but sometimes three or five times a day.

Today, for example, Jonah did not want to get out of his pyjamas. That turned into an angry crying spell that lasted what seemed like a half hour.

Or little Mister may decide he wants to pretend to drive our family car and if he doesn't get his way, he becomes unconsolable. Other favorite things to scream and kick about have included: not wanting to get into his car seat; not wanting to have his diaper changed (though most of the day he now goes diaperless); not wanting to get dressed; and not wanting his play to be interrupted for a meal. He has been so full of strong emotions lately that at the end of the day sometimes, Tim and I are relieved when Jonah is asleep.

If kicking or hitting is involved, we give Jonah a warning and then put him on the "naughty pillow," which works a lot of the time as a good distraction and consequence. But when he decides to get up from it every five seconds and I have to carry him back over and over, his two alloted minutes of "naughty pillow time" seem to last a lifetime. With my big belly, lifting him up and carrying him with both of our emotions running high (I do try hard to stay calm, believe me), it's really not much fun.

When whining is the tone he uses, which happens a lot these days, I ask him to speak in a normal voice and to say please. This doesn't always get him what he wants, but it teaches him a little bit of self-control and politeness. He does usually respond to my request to use a normal voice. At times, though, I have a hard time reminding myself to request him to stop whining because my natural instinct, though not the right thing to do, is to do whatever I can quickly to stop that god-awful sound that makes me want to jump out of my skin. I have been trying to be diligent about getting him out of the whining habit.

If crying, screaming, and non-cooperation are the problem, we either let him cry without reasoning with him after once or twice explaining our position, or sometimes a little bargain will work.

For example, if Jonah doesn't want his dirty diaper changed, I tell him I will count to five and that he has the choice to walk over to his bed and lay down for me or I will carry him there. If he's able to hear me, he usually decides to walk over himself rather than have me carry him. At least, that way he feels a little more autonomous and he feels like he has a choice.

No wonder Freud called this stage the anal stage. Jonah, like most two-year-olds, from what I have read, is so bent on doing things his way and having a say - in short, flexing his autonomy muscles, that it does create quite a tumultuous atmosphere in our household these days.

I know this is part of being two, an age which I have otherwise been thoroughly enjoying, but I have also read that this could be part of the last few weeks before a new baby joins the family. Jonah senses the change. We talk about it and it could be making him anxious.

Well, for now, we will just try our damnedest to ride out the storm in the most compassionate, yet responsible way. Parenting really is an art.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

latest obsessions

Jonah's latest imaginative games... or should I call them obsessions:

• puzzle with pictures of concrete mixer, dump truck, and other construction equipment. He will do the puzzle about three to six times in a row without help. He is now very fast at it and I don't think it's a very easy one.

• sitting on a sofa and driving a mail truck or garbage truck and playing mailman or garbage man

• "driving" all kinds of construction equipment or the ambulance or fire truck while on a chair or sofa

• riding his rocking horse, which is actually a dog, and pretending to drive a motorcycle

• occasional cooking

• occasional grocery shopping

• having books read to him, especially Toad and Frog and Owl at Home, both by Arnold Lobel. Those are actually some of the funnest books from Jonah's collection to read.

• having stories told to him. His latest favorite are ones about our cats and their adventures on their motorcycle. He also likes made up stories about Benjamin Bunny or Peter Rabbit.

• throwing a ball or pretty much anything outside

• riding his tricycle, though he still won't peddle

• "driving" our family car or shopping carts that are also cars for toddlers

• torturing the cats

Monday, December 10, 2007


This last weekend was quite jam-packed with activities for us. It kicked off with the devil encounter and then led right into a sleepover during which Jonah stayed over at uncle and aunt's house all by himself. He had a did well and enjoyed himself. In the meantime, Tim and I went on a date to an all-you-can-eat seafood (and more) buffet. Awesome! We were going to go to the movies too, but when we got to the theater, located in the mall, and saw the posters for the movie we had chosen for a lack of selection and the hordes of teenagers lining up for the movies, we got discouraged and decided to rent a movie instead. We still had a nice night.

The next morning, Sunday, was our baby shower, which, like last time, was held at our house. In the morning instead of sleeping in, we jumped up to do some last minute cleaning. My friend Megan supplied the food, which was heavenly! Lots of friends, both men and women, and family (Tim's cousins) came, some with toddlers and even one brand new baby. We didn't play any shower games. Just ate, chatted, then opened presents. I hope people weren't disappointed with no smell-the-poop-in-the-diaper- and taste-the-oddest-baby-food-type competitions. I put a couple of pictures from our shower here. If I look fat, it is because I am... pregnant, that is.

After our shower and Jonah's nap, we went to spend some of our gift money on important items such as a swing and a dresser for the baby. I am suddenly feeling like the clock is ticking and before we know it, the baby will be here. So we have to get ready.

The weekend was fun, but a bit much for Jonah, who had a few melt-downs by the end of it. We have to remember to take it easy with him.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

encounter with the devil

Yesterday Jonah and I went to the Czech Society's Christmas dinner and St. Nicholas celebration. I prepared Jonah for the fact that he will see the devil, angel, and Mikuláš by talking about it and showing him pictures of the devil in his Czech children's books. Jonah said: "It will be a little bit scary." I told him I would be there to hug him if he needed me. He said he would talk to the devil and hug him.

When we got there, we saw a couple of other Czech families that we knew with kids Jonah's age. We sat with them and ate dumplings, cabbage and pork, a traditional Czech dish, which is definitely not a Christmas dish. Far from it. For some reason the Czech society has made that their dish of choice every Christmas season. Instead, Christmas dinner is supposed to consist of fish soup, fish (usually carp) and potato salad. Then cookies.

In the last couple of years I have really grown disgusted with carp. It tastes much like catfish. It's a bottom feeder that tastes and smells like fishy mud. It is quite a sight to watch the carp sellers in the streets fish fat carp out of their barrels with nets and either butcher them right there on the spot or just plop them in a bag live so customers can put them in their bathtubs to swim around for fun for the kids. That gives the kids enough time to name and bond with the suckers just before the carp get smacked over the head, stripped of fins and scales, and cooked.

Last Christmas when we were in Prague, Tim noticed the fish sellers weren't shy about scooping up escaped carp from the gutter right back into the barrel to resell them. I was so happy my grandmother made trout for dinner instead of carp. So much better!

But back to our dinner last night. Jonah was one of the bravest children in the group. He not only didn't want to be held; he approached the devil himself, following him around the room. When the devil finally got down to Jonah's level and asked him if Jonah has been a good little boy the last year, Jonah got a bit paler and more concerned. He reached for my hand. But he didn't panic or cry. He calmly took the bag of nuts and candy from the devil and looked inside. On the way home, he said he would share it with daddy. I was impressed.

Here is a video of the carp sellers I found on youtube. It's a little long, but it gives you a good idea of the fishy stuff going on in the Old Country. Also, the video is significant because it was filmed just a block from where Tim, Jonah and I stayed last Christmas in Prague. So we know that intersection intimately.

I also included a picture of the threesome Jonah followed around yesterday. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a good picture of Jonah with the devil. But you get the idea.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

December Holidays

Tonight, December 5th, is a very special night in the Czech Republic - or I should say was, since that special time little Czech children wait for hit about twelve hours ago.

On this day when it gets dark outside, St. Nicholas, or Mikuláš, knocks on doors and asks to speak to the children. He is accompanied by a gorgeous angel who rings a sweet-sounding bell and scary devil who rattles his chain and growls as a warning.

Mikuláš asks the children whether they have been good or bad. Each child then has to recite a poem or sing a song. If a child has been bad, the devil threatens to put the child in his burlap sack and carry it away. But he never does. All children get a bag of goodies before the curious threesome leaves. If a child has been bad, her baggie is filled with coal and potatoes. If the child has been good, she gets fruit and candy.

A couple of times as a little girl I got coal and potatoes, but after every adult around had a great laugh, I was handed a bag filled with fruit and candy.

The night Mikuláš walks around your neighborhood is so magical, exciting and scary all at the same time. Many children hide under their beds and have to be coaxed to crawl out. I always loved the holiday.

The one I remember the most was the year I must have turned five or six. I actually recognized the devil as my parents' colleague. I felt so betrayed, my world utterly shattered. But mainly I was angry about the deceit. I guess that is how lots of kids feel when they find out Santa isn't real.

On Saturday I am taking Jonah to an American substitute of Mikuláš the Czech Society of Oregon is hosting. They host a Christmas dinner and St. Nicholas appearance every year. Last year we went too, but Jonah was only one. He hardly reacted. This year he will have a totally different experience. I hope the devil doesn't give him nightmares!

I googled Mikuláš and his companions, but didn't find very many good images. I have included my favorite ones of the devil, angel and St. Nicholas.

The other holiday that this year coincides with Mikuláš for my family, is of course Chanukkah. I grew up celebrating the major Christian holidays - Christmas and Easter (and St. Nicholas Day). I come from a predominantly Catholic country after all. Half my family is of Catholic stock. The interesting thing was that I didn't really grow up with any religious tradition or understanding. My mom's side of the family is Catholic, though the last practicing and well-versed Catholic is my grandmother. The holidays were more folksy. I never really understood how they tied into the Christian religion because I never studied the Bible or went to church. Religion was frowned upon and nearly banned by the Communists in power. My family was spiritual, but not religious. My father's side is Jewish. The last practicing Jew was his maternal grandmother. My father is completely assimilated to the point that he only observes Christian holidays and doesn't really know much about Judaism.

For no explicable reason, I feel a strong affinity with my Jewish heritage, though I have no tangible connection to it. For the past several years, and especially since Jonah was born, I have slowly been educating myself on issues related to my Jewish roots. I do this mostly privately and quietly, as if hiding it from the world. But it is very important to me to do this. I am the first "mixed" child in my dad's lineage, or so he claims, and there is a part of me that mourns that loss of connection and lineage. Judaism, after all, is a matrilineal tradition, so unless I convert (and even if I converted, according to a large number of Jews), I am a non-Jew. Still, I feel increasingly that sense of personal and spiritual connection. It is something that just is, independent of laws or people's opinions.

Thus, I loop my way back to Chanukkah. I lit the candles tonight and with the help of an MP3 recording, sang my blessings. Maybe later this week I will make some latkes. I did the year Jonah was born.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


I don't know how many of you have watched the show Supernanny. Tim and I watched it a few times before we packed our TV away in the basement when Jonah was an infant. Now a couple of her techniques are coming in handy.

For example, we have started teaching Jonah to fall asleep on his own. We used to read him a book and then lay down with him until he fell asleep. This was just fine when he would take anywhere between five and fifteen minutes to do so. It actually felt like a natural and gentle way to usher him into the world of sleep, but when it took more time than that it was a killer. We decided we better change the habit before the baby comes.

So, for about two weeks, Tim has been at it, reading a book to Jonah and then sitting further and further away until Jonah falls asleep with the idea that soon he can leave the room, shut the door and Jonah will be just fine on his own. Tim now sits in a different room, but with the door still open. I think we have a few more days left before he transitions to just saying good night and closing the door.

I have done my bedside duty a few times too, but Jonah has become quite uptight about this night time ritual, wanting his dad there always. We are letting him have that luxury for a couple more days. I work nights three times a week anyway.

When we first started this trend, Jonah cried until he almost went hoarse the initial three nights. I followed my instinct rather than what Supernanny would have advised. Instead of not paying attention to Jonah and just quietly sitting near his bed, I talked to him, explained the process again, told him I would brush his teeth one more time and then he would lay down like a big boy and fall asleep.

The next night, Jonah told me, almost beginning to sob, but holding the tears back bravely: "I'm a big boy now. I'm gonna lay down." That almost made me cry. Ever since then he hasn't cried. The gradual easing out of his room has worked.

The other Supernanny trick we have just started implementing is a time-out of sorts. Except we call it not a "naughty chair" or "naughty step" like Supernanny does, but a "naughty pillow" which is what we use. When Jonah hits, kicks or scratches one of us or one of the cats or if he throws a hard object inside, he has to go and sit on his "naughty pillow" in our bedroom for two minutes. We used to put him in his room for two minutes and hold the door shut, but he wreaked havoc there. He would take either his chair or a hard-cover book and start slamming it against the door with enraged and scared of being shut out. He knew that would get us to open the door for fear of him putting a fist-sized hole in it. So the naughty pillow has been working better for us. It gives us a consistent consequence and a way for him to break away from a destructive activity and refocus.

I never thought we would resort to TV show-style parenting techniques, but for a lack of real life models this is what modern parents do, I suppose. Whatever works AND feels right, I guess.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

off into the snow!

Today we made a trip to the mountains so Jonah could really experience playing in the snow. We wanted to go before I get too close to full term. It was the perfect day to head up. The roads were clear and traffic smooth, but the mountains had inches of fresh, dry snow. The weather wasn't too cold, just a couple of degrees below freezing and only snow flurries. Just great!

We found a hill that was really a dead-end street and sledded there for a while. The snow was too dry to make snowballs and snowmen, but the sledding was fun.

Getting down on the ground to sit in the child-sized sled and then getting up at the bottom of the hill was definitely a chore for me, but screaming all the way down as I tried to remain in control of the sliding saucer was a blast. For some reason, Jonah would not ride with me; only with daddy. Hmmm...

It would be so fun to rent a place up in the mountains for a while some day that has a fireplace where we can warm up after eXXXtreme sledding.

Here are some pics from our trip and a couple of videos: