Monday, June 29, 2009

Visit with Grammie

Jonas was lucky enough to have TWO visits from his grandmothers this month. My mom came earlier in the month, while Joe was at "summer camp." Here are a few photos.

Jonas is doing just what his shirt told him to do.

A rare moment of getting Jonas to stand still. "Ga!" he says, when we tell him to smile for the photo.

Trying on Dad's shoes. I wouldn't be surprised if Jonas really could wear these by the age of 4.

This one is my favorite. He's holding a fluffy, bright orange stegosaurus that Joe got for him while he was away for the week.

Friday, June 26, 2009


You wouldn't believe what a hot-ticket item this is. It looks like just a little box, filled with multi-colored waxy sticks, but to Jonas, it is sheer delight. I got the crayons out for the first time last weekend when we were setting out to make a card for Joe. The moment I revealed the box, Jonas jumped up and down in his seat at the table, grunted and gestured wildly to hold the box of crayons. I was taken aback by his enthusiasm. It hadn't occurred to me that he would actually know what they are already from daycare, where he sees the other kids coloring, I would guess, frequently.

While he will make some scribbles, for the most part, he is captivated by removing every single crayon from the box, one-by-one. He lays them out on the table, then with gusto, he scatters the crayons in every direction with his hand, like a great gust of wind that disperses a big pile of leaves.

Then, he laughs and laughs and wants to do it all again. Put the crayons back into the box. Pull one out, and so on, and so on...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day 2009

We had such a nice Father's Day. Father's Day and Mother's Day were, I confess, more memorable this year than last since we actually sleep at night now. Joe went out for a long bike ride; I hit the trails. Jonas created a homemade card for Da-da. I crafted my own present for him. We wrapped up the afternoon with a great chat over coffee while Jonas entertained us. Here are (more than just) a few photos.

Above is Jonas' card that he made at daycare. We also made one at home with dinosaur stickers and crayons scribbles.

I made a few "collages" of old race numbers and photos to hang on the wall in his work shop area. He used to hang them up around his workbench in the basement. One day they all disappeared. I thought they needed more of a permanent installation.

Jonas entertaining us over coffee. He's getting in his canines, these days.

Jonas and Da-da.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

This week's new tricks

* Jonas is starting to "dance." He's not as good as Napoleon Dynamite yet, but he'll get there. He twists around in circles, sways to the music, and displays another "dance move" that looks something akin to running in place. It's so cute!

* He points and grunts to eyes, ears, nose, mouth and teeth. The teeth are especially exciting to him, for some reason. If you're not careful, he will will jam his fingers into your mouth in order to point to your teeth. Let me tell you--this can be quite an unpleasant shock if you're not expecting it. He can't say the words yet, but he recognizes them and identifies the body parts well.

* He's got two new (hand) signs: frog and down, as in "I'm done eating and I want to get the hell out of here! Let me down." His mastering of down is a vast improvement over what he used to do: he'd be eating just fine, and then all of a sudden, start fidgeting, turning himself all around, and whining a kind of insufferable whine. I've been encouraging him to "use his signs" more to communicate. Just so you know, I don't say, "use your signs, Jonas." Weird. I just ask him if he wants or means such and such, and I make the sign simultaneously. I hold off granting what he wants until he does the sign. I'd say more than half the time he'll produce it, but sometimes, he just won't do it. And that's ok, too. We'll get there. Watching him do frog is hilarious. It involves sticking out your tongue and he does this funny thing where he kind of bites his tongue. Words really can't do it justice.

* He recognizes home and "school" from the car. As soon as we get within 25 feet of the turn to daycare he starts jumping around in his car seat and making very enthusiastic grunting sounds. Same thing happens when we near our home.

* Monkey see, monkey do. Jonas is also starting to mimic us, which is hilarious, most of the time. On the other hand, I suppose the time is nearing when we are going to have to be more careful with our off-color remarks and occasional lewd gestures. :-)

Thursday, June 18, 2009


We're really enjoying this age for Jonas. He's mobile, he's communicating (who cares if it's on a caveman level), and he's interested in everything, especially other kids.

That makes playdates much more exciting. "Playdates" in the first year of life were much more about the moms getting together, putting the kids side by side, and chatting the afternoon away. The kids laid--or sat--there playing independently with rattles or tag toys. Don't get me wrong, I *loved* talking with my mom friends, and for certain, it's much harder to get in a quality conversation these days. However, now that Jonas is mobile, a whole new world has opened up to him. And that makes me so excited for him.

For the first time, he can really play with older kids. He mostly tags along as their understudy, but he's in heaven!

This is Jonas' friend Owen. The boys hung out one Saturday morning while their moms were selling some good loot at a yard sale.

Owie is a "big boy." He knows how to walk nicely down the sidewalk and to take hands at the street corner (even though this is just a driveway). These two were so cute together!

The funniest thing about their time together was the eating part. Owen was very interested in showing Jonas his toys, explaining what they were, how they worked, etc. Jonas listened attentively, but his primary objective was to eat ALL the food that Marlena had set out on the table: fresh strawberries, a bagel and yogurt. Owen had a bite or two of the bagel, a few strawberries and a spoonful of yogurt. I think Jonas finished not only his own food, but most of Owen's too!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Feeling much better - 1 yr. later

Wow! Today is a much better day than one year ago today. I've been active all day, ticking off the items on my to-do list.

This time last year, I was in a very different place. I'd just come home from the hospital after my hernia surgery and I was not in a happy place. Well, I was happy that the hole in my abdomen had been closed up, but not happy with the pain, pinching and pulling that came with every movement, even minor ones.

Three and a half months after Jonas was born, everything seemed to be on track. I was getting more sleep. I had more energy. The baby weight was coming off. Then, something started changing. I developed in my abdomen, which had swelled to the size it had been in the weeks right after delivery. I had developed a hernia with some strangulated tissue. So, I had to have everything pushed back into its rightful place and a "patch" put in. What can you do? It could have been worse. It can always be worse.

Here I am shortly after we returned home. The Percocet was working so I actually look more "friendly" that I was a few hours earlier. Still, NOT a pretty picture, is it.

My friends and colleagues at work sent me this beautiful flower arrangement to lift my spirits. Such nice people.

My mom and mother-in-law both came to lend a hand for weeks!

A year later and you'd hardly know. There's no swelling. I feel great. On occasion when I twist in my the right way, I feel a pinch, but it's no big deal.

There is one tell tale sign. It's a small-ish horizontal scar underneath my navel, which Joe finds very amusing. He's always trying to convince me to have two eyes tattooed above my navel, so that I have a "face" on my stomach. It would look like two eyes, a nose (belly button) and a mouth (the horizontal line). Once, I let him draw it. He didn't stop laughing for hours. It's not really anything you'd want to see a picture of. So, I'll just let you use your imagination.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Running as meditation

I had a great run in the woods today. For nearly an hour I immersed myself in the verdant landscape, hopping roots, hurdling logs, and picking my lines. It was refreshing to feel the soft forest floor under my feet instead of the uncompromising, asphalt road. I soaked in the quiet solitude of the ever hospitable woods.

My mind goes to an interesting place during trail running. I have to remain much more alert to navigate the continual terrain changes. To some, this may seem onerous. "Don't you just want to zone out?" they say. I concede that I actually prefer the trail to the road because of the mental engagement it requires. My mind doesn't have much time to wander or fixate on minor aches and twinges. For me running often serves as meditative exercise. As a novice yoga practitioner, I learned that meditation--contrary to popular belief--is not a passive activity. It demands engagement. And it works best for me when I get my mind (stay present) and body (keep form and effort in balance) in sync. Interestingly, trail running and yoga are the only activities that have enabled me to tap into this.

On a really good long run through the woods, I wind down deeper and deeper into... into what, I don't know... the mind? the psyche? the being? Call it what you will. My consciousness continues to settle until I reach a place that I'm not typically able to access. It's like going to a secret garden (an apt metaphor for someone who loves gardening) buried in the heart of the forest. It's a remote location that requiring hours of travel. Once there, cool things begin to happen. It's not like someone sprinkles fairy dust over me, or I see fairies flitting among the trees. What happens is very subtle. It's a new observation, clarity to a situation, a feeling of timelessness, or achieving a state of peace. Whatever ensues, it's always a special experience.

I feel like I have been away from my secret garden for a long time. Two years, too long. It's good to be back, and you can be sure I'll be visiting more frequently now. For nothing lures me back to the trail head like the sweet scent of the woods in summer, and the opportunity to explore new places in the mind.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Jonas update - 15 months

Thought it would be good to give an update. It's been awhile since the last one.

Jonas is great! He is into everything now. He walks well, which gives him full access to the house. (Thank God for gates!) He's developing running skills so that he can run away once he's pilfered our prize possessions.

We spend a lot of time playing the Grunt and Name Game, which involves Jonas pointing toward something, issuing the inquisitive grunt and looking to us to provide a name. This daily ritual occurs every morning when I go into his room to get him. Before being lifting him out of the crib, he points to everything in and around it. Once, he's satisfied, he lifts his arms up meaning, "Ok, Muh-mum, I'm ready now."

Last weekend, he started saying "muh" (mama) and "da" (daddy), and for the first time we were certian that he was actually referring to us and not just making those sounds. This was incredibly exciting. Finally! Sometimes he says, "Mah" and sometimes it's "Mah-mum". Ditto with "Da" and "Dada".

Here are a few other things:

*Daddy Long Legs. There is no question about it; Jonas has inherited the gene for long legs, much to my delight. This month, Jonas has shot up in height. One day I looked at his legs and the chub was almost all gone. They totally leaned out and lengthened a good deal!

*Choppers. He's got a full set of choppers, even molars. The last teeth to break through are the two upper canines.

*Superb begging skills - Jonas has a nearly insatiable appetite. I can't BELIEVE the amount of food this kid can put away. Moreover, he's become a masterful beggar of food. We've learned that if you don't want to share something with Jonas, hide what you're eating at all costs. Once he spots you, next thing you know, he's standing beside you, eyebrows raised with this pleading look, "feed me please, lady. No one ever feeds me around here."

He stacks up all his blocks on this little push cart and drives it around, over everything! Including, feet, paws, you name it.

He likes all push and pull toys.

* Waving. We worked on waving for a long time and now he's pretty good at it. Granted, half the time he waves goodbye after the person has already left, or can no longer see him.

*Morning Person. Jonas is definitely a morning person, like his mother. He is an absolute delight in the morning. Afternoon gets dicey. Evening... run for the hills.

This is another of his favorite toys. It's a tractor and wagon with farm animals. When you press the smoke stack it rolls forward. There is also a horn and a very annoying "Old MacDonald" song. Apparently, with toys that make sounds, the most fun is had when re-playing the sounds at least 20 times.

Here, Jonas had just caused the tractor to drive right off the table. It crashed down making a very loud noise. Jonas was concerned for a moment. Then he tried to do it again.

*Table manners
. We're working on these, but Jonas is making good progress with the spoon and spork (spoon-fork combo). When he gets annoyed with not managing to get the utensil into his mouth, he puts the food on the spoon with the other hand, or just pops it into his mouth. I love watching him pinch yogurt to put it on the spoon!

*Tantrums. We've just turned the bend and crossed right into Tantrum Territory. My friends tell me we'll be in this phase until he's about 2. Great. I have to admit that my threshold for tantrum crying is growing. It's a slow battle, though.

There are so many other funny things he does, but I suppose I should save something for future entries. At least, you have a better idea now.

Thanks for checking in!

Liz's pick - Seventh Generation dish soap

This month's pick is Seventh Generation dish soap. I don't have a long-winded explanation as to why I rate it so high. It's pretty straight-forward.

I started using it regularly about the time that Jonas was born. One of the key merits to this soap is the way it cleaned the baby bottles. I never put the bottles into the dishwasher because they never came out crystal clean. They always had a trace of a powder-like substance dried on them. I don't know that it's harmful--probably not--but it just bothered me. So, I hand-washed them. Hand-washing with any dish soap produced a bottle that passed my cleanliness test, with one exception. The silicone nipples always looked "foggy" with a slightly greasy patina. That really wasn't going to cut it, especially after I just had figured out the solution to getting the bottles crystal clear. I would stand there in my sleep-deprived stupor, mechanically toweling off the nipples to get them nice and clear again. No luck. Then, one day, I used the Seventh Generation soap and everything was right again. Ahhhhh, what a relief. You know that saying about "it's the small things in life that count"? There is so much wisdom to that.

Sidebar: one day, as I was extolling the virtues of this soap to my husband, he matter-of-factly enlightened me that it's the surfactant in the dish soaps that make the silicone so "foggy". Who knew?

Anyway, getting back to my topic. The other reason that I like this soap so well is that it doesn't have any nasty stuff in it that's bad for the environment. Having lived in Central New York (the heart of the Iroquois confederacy) for several years, I became well-acquainted with the Iroquois concept of seven generations. The Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy states, "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations." That impact could apply to any decision: environmental, political, economic, etc. This idea made so much sense to me from the moment I heard it, and it became all the more powerful once I became a mother.

If only our nation's leaders would embrace this advice...

Monday, June 8, 2009

The "Door Fund"

A couple of months ago, I started a project that I so cleverly named, The Door Fund. In reality, there isn't anything clever in the name at all. I wish I could tell you that it's a well-endowed fund created for the purpose of supporting bold new ventures that improve our society, (I work in philanthropy, after all!). In truth, the door fund consists of a well-worn envelope that holds two dozen bills, a few $20s and $10s, and several one dollar bills, all of which are destined for an energy-efficient replacement door for our kitchen.

By now, it's should come as no secret to regular readers that we live in a money pit. We love our house, but every time we turn around there is a new catastrophe to deal with, or another thing-a-ma-jig that needs replaced, which in turn creates new problems that will also need fixing. In an effort to limit our carbon footprint, eliminate waste and cut our fuel bills, we finally accepted the brutal truth that we need to replace three original exterior doors. All of these "improvements" to save money, require two things: money--lots of it!--and time. And since our money tree had been infested by pests, we had to have it removed, by a professional, of course. There's another few hundred dollars, for the arborist. Worse yet, was that our source of lots of "extra cash"had just been eradicated. Quite literally. It looked like we were going to need to make some important decisions about priorities.

Around the same time I was mulling over all of this, I heard the best-selling author of Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortensen, speak about his life journey to build schools for children in Pakistan. (I have so much to say about that, but I should save that for another post.) I'd been captivated by the book, and after I heard him talk about the Pennies for Peace program, I became convinced that if I collected up all the "throw away money" in our house, I could save enough money to pay for one of the doors, one, at the least!

So, I began by collecting all the spare change I found lying around our house, especially near the washer/dryer. And to that, I added all the returned money from the can and bottle returns, proceeds from Craigs List sales of random household items that I can't really use anymore, and little rebate checks from consumer products. Little by little, my total has been creeping up there. I figure we should have enough money for a new door in a few more months.

After seeing what Greg Mortensen can do with pennies in Pakistan, the value of a dollar, and even a penny, has taken on new meaning to me. I would encourage you to start your own "fund". You would be amazed at what you can save with just a little diligence and determination. Or read Mortensen's book, it's just as rewarding.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Summer gardening

In addition to running, drinking coffee, and laughs with friends, gardening rates right up there on my "Do it. It's good for the soul." list.

Last year's gardening aspirations were completely hijacked by a spur of the moment hernia surgery. No sooner had an entire dump truck load of mulch been deposited in my driveway, I was officially given word that I'd be out of commission for another three months. So, this year I'm making up for lost time.

Instead of plugging brightly colored summer flowers into my patio containers, I opted for herbs this year. Why not? I love making homemade basil pesto, or my friend Suzanne's parsley-parmesan pesto that spreads so nicely on crackers. And, it's so convenient to have the mint needed for those summer mojitos right on the patio, where they'll be consumed.

For years it has been my dream to create an English cottage garden, or some version of one, in my backyard. In many a long-winded meeting my mind would wonder off to my imaginary garden, in which I'd elongate the bed that ran the length of the patio all the way to the end of the backyard and infuse the sun dappled space with an array of colorful flowers and plants. I saved flower catalogs, clipped photos of all the perennials that I liked, and stowed them away safely in a file. I spent hours and hours in the evenings studying the names of the plants, their likes and dislikes of sun and soil, and the zones in which they flourish. Three years later, what do I have? A fat folder with lots of photos and plant information and a neglected flower bed. This is the year that I'm actually going to move toward making my garden come to life.

And this is the reason that I will probably only get part of the way through my big plan this year.

"There's no crying in baseball!" Think Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own.

Actually, Jonas loves being in the backyard. He's just now discovering the thrill of pulling up grass. He grabs fistfuls of mulch and "redistributes" it elsewhere, more on the patio than in the flower beds.

He pilfers my tools (a tiny plastic spade and my shovel) and walks off (or attempts to) with them.

Everything is new and so exciting.

He also likes going shopping with Mommy for new plants. This past weekend we bought a pincushion flower, shasta daisies, sedum, columbine, and a tomato plant for a container. Unlike his father, Jonas has much more patience for walking the aisles fourteen times to get just the right combination of flowers. Maybe next time it'll be coral bells, bleeding hearts, and border roses. We'll have to wait and see. See Jonas, there is mystery and surprise in gardening! Well, sort of.

If you check back in a month or so, I'll continue to post photos documenting my garden's progress. Knowing that I've committed to this--publicly-- will motivate me all the more to make it happen!

This was taken moments before Jonas let me know in no uncertain terms that he was done gardening for the day.

He had been toting around the watering can all afternoon. It was so cute. I missed taking a photo of him watering his own behind and shoe, and the shots that I did get of him "watering" the dirt didn't turn out. Next time.