Sunday, March 30, 2008

sick again

Over the last few days, we've all been taking turns being sick. Now it's my turn. This is definitely one of the stranger bugs - seems like a stomach flu, but each family member has had different symptoms from a cold to what seems like food poisoning. No fun. Can't wait for it to be over.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

days with a friend

My friend and her three-year-old daughter are in town this week from the east coast. She and I and the kids spent two wonderful mornings together; one at the ZOO and one at the science museum. Our kids got along well though they hadn't seen each other in at least eight months. Ruby is Jonah's only girlfriend. All his other friends are boys.

The science museum currently has a dinosaur exhibit. Jonah is new to the world of dinosaurs. This was the first time he has seen life-size dinosaur models; some of them robotic. I could see in his face he was a bit scared. I could also tell because he started making up stories about how the dinosaurs were his friends. He often does that to counteract his fear. I hope these robotic monsters that growled and huffed and puffed don't give him nightmares.

You can see a few of the pictures I took here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

an elephant never forgets

There is a song I really dislike, but Jonah enjoys. It's one of those annoying jolly children's tunes by a singer-songwriter who probably landed in the kids' music branch of the industry because he couldn't make it in any others.

Once the song gets in your ears, you're doomed because it will take you days to kick-box it out of your skull. Anyways, the song's refrain is: "An elephant never forgets" repeated about fifty times.

Why bring this up? Because Jonah is like an elephant who never forgets, I swear. His memory is unbelievable.

The other day we went on a trip. We hadn't been to that area or anywhere close in about six months. When we crossed the little bridge leading to the beach where we'd planned to go, Jonah asked, pinpointing the exact fork in the road which led to the farm where we went right before Halloween last year to pick a pumpkin: "Where is the pumpkin patch?"

I couldn't believe it. This toddler's sense of place and memory never cease to amaze me.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

a day on the beach

Finally a warm and sunny day! We spent half of it on a river beach. Take a look at the pictures from today.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

the works

Yesterday was my first day back at work after more than two months away. I had been looking forward to getting back in the swing of things and to feeling appreciated outside the home. But I had been dreading the awkwardness that I would surely encounter with co-workers regarding Amalia's death.

Most people at work already knew that Amalia died shortly after birth. That made my return easier. No one asked me to discuss the details (so far, at least). Only one person asked how the baby is doing and I couldn't really dodge the question. I had to answer that the baby died.

Several people came up to me and told me they were sorry, some hugged me, and though our conversations generally ended briefly with them actually verbalizing they didn't know what else to say, their expressing their sorrow and solidarity meant so much. I never realized until this time on the receiving end that just having someone come up to you, look you in the eyes and say they were sorry could be so meaningful.

On the other hand, I am disappointed that my direct neighbors at work, including a woman who was one of the inspirations behind me deciding to have another biological child and getting pregnant with Amaila, only said as much as: "Welcome back," though we sat next to each other at our adjoining desks for several hours.

I remembered my friend Cari's words from the time she and I talked about what it would be like to go back to work after all that had happened in my life. She said: "People will say stupid things (and I should add: or not say anything). Death makes people uncomfortable." It's true.

My students, whose class was predominantly taught by a sub, were genuinely happy to see me back, which was the best feeling ever. I will spend a month recruiting and signing the next batch of students up for the upcoming course, which I will start teaching in mid-April. I do like my job. It gives me lots of autonomy and makes me feel useful in the world.

Monday, March 17, 2008

healthy lifestyle challenge update

I thought I would let you, my faithful readers, in on how my lifestyle changes were going.

I am proud to report that I am still making sure I get some form of exercise in every day. It's either a fast 20-minute walk around the neighborhood or a 20- to 30-minute Pilates workout. The DVD I got has been kicking my butt. In fact, my underutilized, flabby body is now quite sore and because of that, I decided it would be wise to switch up the type of exercise more often. I got a couple more DVDs today: yoga and qigong. I want to see how I like these. I will let you know what I think in a few days.

In the meantime, I would like to hear from you -perhaps in the comments section- what type of exercise you do and why.

Now, on the diet front I haven't been doing too bad with the challenges I set for myself recently. I have limited my consumption of meat to fish and poultry - each only once a week. I have also cut down significantly on the amount of processed and refined foods as well as on the size of meal portions and snacks. At the same time I have added more whole grains and leafy greens to my diet. So far, I have been enjoying these changes.

The hardest thing to scale down on is coffee. I have a habit of drinking a cup twice a day. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. Though I love the taste, smell and effect of coffee on my system, I am aware that coffee significantly decreases the body's ability to absorb iron and calcium. And that's not good. So, I would like to cut out at least one of these daily cups. When the weather is sunnier and warmer, I will probably have an easier time doing this.

I will keep you posted.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

a walk in the woods

Finally, now that I'm no longer an oversized two-hundred pound tanker truck, we've been getting out to nature more on the weekends. It feels so good to breathe fresh forest air. Though it's still cold most of the time, the trilliums are blooming and the moss is fresh and green. Spring is around the corner! More photos here.

my tot, the Terminator

Before I was ever a mother, I used to have a romanticized idea of what we, human beings, at our core, were like. I thought we were loving, pure, and innocent until exposed to violent media or cruel encounters with horrible human beings. Not so. Inside my little boy lurks a Terminator, always ready to pounce.

When he's angry, he tends to scream, throw, kick or hit.

He has somehow latched on to every violent verb accessible to a toddler who does not watch TV, go to daycare, and whose parents aren't known for their cursing or fighting prowess.

Lately he has been enjoying telling stories in which at least every third word is one much like these: smash, crush, cut, crash or hit. Each time, my little barbarian emphasizes the violent verb by raising his voice, clenching his teeth, and making a large, abrupt guillotine- or sledgehammer-like gesture with his arms. The stories roll out at race car speed, so I haven't been able to capture one yet, but here is a quote that exemplifies what I'm talking about:

"I'm bad. I'm a hitting guy that has a bone, hits a tree and smash(es) it."

My little angel.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

the dreaded question

• At the supermarket, a surprise encounter with an acquaintance: "How is the baby?"

• In line at the post office, Jonah asks loudly: "Mommy, where is your baby?"

• The midwife checks in: "How are you feeling emotionally?"

How do I answer? What do I say?

Monday I go back to work after weeks of being gone. Will a lot of people ask?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

my latest distraction

Here are a few more fantastic videos I discovered today while avoiding items on my to-do list. I just had to share these. The theme here is what I would call the Czech psychedelic music video wave of the late 60's and 70's. The first song is called The Fair Has Arrived (as in "the circus and rides are here"). It was made in 1973, the year I was born. Note that there is no mention of little boys, yet we see two little boys in a fish bowl peering and pointing at the singer a few times during the song. The second song is entitled Child's Eyes and it's about a girl who has childlike eyes. The last tune is called Dracula's Answer and, though it's actually a pretty song, the visuals are uber creepy, to say the least. Enjoy.

And here is the bonus track:

our landlord's alter ego

Periodically I must post something about our odd landlord. Today I ran across the video below and thought: if our landlord, whose favorite conversation subject is caulk, was a singer (and a Czech), he could very well be this guy. (Don't quit halfway through because things really don't start happening until the 1:20 mark.)

The performer, Jiri Korn, is actually one of the most famous Czech singers of the 80's - my childhood.

Here are some other sexy Czech (and Slovak) guys... vra vra vroom!

Monday, March 10, 2008

who let the dogs out?

I've got to get something off my chest. This morning I was on my speed walk through the neighborhood - you know my new routine I wrote about earlier - when a dog appeared out of nowhere, charging at me, flaunting its huge canine fangs. It was growling, barking and even jumping at me, though luckily it only dared to land about two feet away from me.

As you have probably guessed by now, it wasn't on a leash and its owner was straggling lackadaisically about a block behind the dog.

As if that weren't enough, this incident happened on the edge of elementary school grounds. Fortunately the kids were all inside.

I yelled at the owner to put his dog on a leash and he retorted, as most dog owners do, that his dog would never bite. Did he not notice his little darling's pea-sized brain switched into attack mode when it saw me coming? Some dog owners...

Maybe next time I should carry something like this - in leopard print, of course. That would teach them.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

food, friends, and family

I have really enjoyed this kick we've been on lately. We've had people over for food every day for the last few days. Eating and shooting the breeze with friends and family is one of my all-time favorite activities. Every day we've had someone different visiting: brunches, after hours snacks and dessert...

Today was special in that the couple that came have a toddler who is friends with Jonah. One never knows how toddlers will do together on any given day, but today Jonah and his little friend did great. Jonah shared his toys and was polite, both the boys ate well and smiled a lot. There wasn't much screaming. The parents could actually relax and have a conversation.

I tried out my first experiment from the vegan cookbook I bought yesterday: a blueberry coffeecake. Already I had to substitute a couple of ingredients. That can be dangerous. Plus I was making something new knowing we had friends coming over. My tendency to do that can sometimes be bad news. You can imagine. But the apple-blueberry coffee cake turned out delicious. Yay! My first vegan baking adventure.

Lately I have been enjoying cooking. Some meals we've had have been quite nice: roasted winter vegetables (thanks for the tips on how to do this, Cari!) and baked salmon; tofu and vegetable curry over rice; cheese gnocchi with cream broccoli sauce; broccoli and mushroom quiche, roasted potatoes and salad...

I hope my enjoyment of cooking continues. It's good for the family.

Friday, March 07, 2008

a health nut wannabe

Lately both Tim and I have become obsessed with revising our diet and exercise habits, which, I am finding, are hard to shake.

After months of literally eating for two, I am now working abruptly on scaling down the amount of calories I take in and upping the calories I exert. I am not one who has ever exercised regularly, but I am trying to get some stretching and walking in each day. To this, I will soon add a gym membership which translates to working out two or three times a week. Full disclosure: to fall within the normal limits for a person my age and size according to the Body Mass Index, I need to lose 25 lbs. That is my goal in the next few months. But mostly, I just want to exercise more because I know it's good for me and because some day when my body is used to the routine, it will feel good.

I am also trying to transition our whole family into eating more vegetarian and vegan food and have decided to personally go back to eating only poultry and fish. I haven't been eating beef for a few years, but pork somehow crept its way into my diet during the last weeks of my pregnancy. This morning I bought a new cook book, Vegan with a Vengeance for more inspiration. I am very excited to try out some of the recipes.

I must say that we have been very good at eating mostly organic food for the last couple of years. This is important to me not just because of our health, but because I want my actions to reflect my concern for the wellbeing of our planet.

The other things I want to cut down are sugar, dairy, and processed and refined foods. I would like to up our whole grains and raw foods intake.

I am now reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, which is encouraging me to make these changes.

The hardest part of persevering with eating healthily (is that a word?) is to stay inspired in the kitchen, which can be hard at times since we usually eat at home all but on restaurant night, which tends to be just once a week on a random night. I tend to have stretches when I think cooking and trying out new recipes is fun, followed by stretches when I detest everything about the kitchen, including the dishes (poor Tim!). Lately I have been making most of the dinners, but when I go back to work, Tim will cook at least three times a week - the way it was before.

I will keep you posted on how our conversion is going.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

bye bye, bunny

Jonah has frequently been asking about what happened to the baby. Today, for change, he asked me where my big belly is. I explained, but he wasn't satisfied, so I decided to do a reenactment of Amalia's short life using two of Jonah's stuffed animals. Gray dog was mom and bunny was baby.

When I got to the part when I said goodbye to Amalia, I didn't know where to put her, so I just ended the skit with the baby lying down and mom saying goodbye.

Jonah then took the baby bunny, a.k.a. Amalia, and performed his own version of the event. He laid the bunny down and waved at it, saying in a resolute yet jovial tone: "You're sick. Bye, bye." Then he threw the bunny across the room into a corner with a mighty force. We then moved on to a different activity.


I have had this idea that I'd been saving for a special, preferably drizzly day. Yesterday I finally decided it was a good day to try it.

First, Jonah and I took care of a couple errands - the post office and bank. Then I left the car parked in the errand neighborhood and we walked over to the light rail train station and rode the train right to the airport. The line actually conveniently ends right inside the airport terminal. Perfect! I told Jonah we would go watch the planes, play on the play structure that kids waiting for flights hang out on, and finally, we would have pizza for lunch, then head back on the train. Now that he is two-and-a-half, he has the stamina to make it through an action-packed morning like this.

Of course, as soon as we were done with our errands, it started pouring cats and dogs. We hung out inside the bank in the waiting-for-a-financial-consultation section, eating our snacks. When the rain turned into drizzle, we set out on our ten-block walk to the train station during which I mostly carried Jonah on my shoulders (as you can see on the picture).

As soon as we got on the train, the warmth, humming and gentle rocking worked their magic. Within minutes Jonah was asleep. "Oh no," I thought. "There goes my plan."

We got to the airport, I carried Jonah inside, and... fortunately he woke up and got excited just by the escalator, let alone the airplanes and airport trucks outside the giant windows. We played on the indoor slide for a while, then ate our pizza while looking out at the airplanes outside getting cleaned, checked, and filled with luggage.

The airport adventure would have been just peachy had I not been approached by the fare inspector on the way back. I had, of course, validated a ticket. But it turned out to be for a zone different from the one where the airport was. One zone short I was that day. The inspector let me off with a warning, but if I get caught violating one of their rules again within the next year, I will have to pay a hefty fine. The inspector checked my ID and wrote down my information down to my eye color, for goodness' sakes, to make sure I get in their system.

I was mad. First of all, the zone boundaries are very confusing and second of all, the inspector should have thanked me, and all of us riding that train, for helping to make our city green instead of harassing us about fares and treating us like we were trying to cheat the system. Oh well. Jonah didn't seem to think there was a problem. While the inspector was filling out my ticket, Jonah was staring out the windows, exclaiming excitedly: "Whoa, construction!" and "Whoa, cherry picker!" The inspector then gave Jonah a sticker of a crime stopper dog and thus forced Jonah to thank him for harassing us. Oh well, as long as my little man had a good time. That's what our trip was all about anyway.