Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Play little house?

Remember when I told you about the playground at the Jewish school? The actual playground does not hold a lot of interest to Joris, but he loves playing in the little play house (a quite sizable structure - it would fit all three of us fairly comfortably). Mostly he runs or jumps inside and says something like "Joris inside little house!" and then runs or jumps out again. This apparently is very entertaining and having the little house there has been a great resource.

Until the school installed "no trespassing" signs.

Followed by erecting an fence. An 8 foot tall, steel fence. With spikes. And a lock. And surveillance cameras.

I'm half expecting to find a couple of viciously barking Doberman Pinschers to greet us next week.

"Play little house?" Joris asks almost every day.

"We can't play at the little house. The gate is locked" we say, which Joris seems to accept. It's not like he can ignore the big, black monstrosity either.

Although it's probably a fine opportunity for teaching disappointments in life, I'm trolling Craigslist to see if we can find a little house for him to play in instead - he is just so damn cute and happy looking when playing - and we're toying with idea of building one. Boepa - want to help?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Of crushes and uncles

I took May to the airport on Sunday during Joris' nap. He had hugged her goodbye and knew she was going home, but still asked about her after he got up. Then on Monday, when first Christine and then Jacob came home and jiggled the door handle, he jumped up and very hopefully said "May!". But, when you ask him now, he'll tell you that "May go home on airplane."

The visit definitely made an impression, especially the visiting the Space Needle part. He talks about it all the time; while getting changed (he now has a picture of the Space Needle above the changing table), to anyone who comes by and even when playing by himself. Usually the story goes something like "Mama and May and Daddy and Joris and Mama and May go up Space Needle! And Joris also! See trains. See water airplane!". Today he was playing telephone and told us that Moma, Boepa, Baba and Amee were all on the phone. I asked him where they were and he replied "Downtown! See Space Needle!" He also insists on wearing his Space Needle shirt, which is actually his Seattle Sounders shirt, whenever he thinks about it.

Looking at the pictures of our get-together, he started identifying our friend Richard as "uncle Richard" and then, once, as "uncle Trinh". And I'm sure it's confusing, this whole uncle business; he does have an uncle Richard, who we talk about and look at pictures of, but who he does not remember ever having met. And uncle Trinh looks kind of similar to Richard - and we did just see him. And then there's uncle Jack who shows up at our house pretty regularly and since Richard is a fairly frequent visitor as well, it would only make sense that he is an uncle too, right?

With Joris' recent interest in Seattle (well, the Space Needle, which he knows is in Seattle) and the emerging knowledge that we live in a place called Seattle and other people that we know live in places with different names, I put up a world map on the wall and printed out mini-pictures of the people he knows and taped close to the area or country they reside in. It's a little crowded in the Northwest, but with family on the East Coast and in Costa Rica and Holland, it almost evens out.

Joris likes looking at the map, although he mostly uses it to point out May and stands so close that it looks like he's just about to kiss the picture. I think he has a major crush.

Also, the map doesn't name Jaluit as an atoll, but did list Kili (which is a super small single island) and Namu. It also left out Kwajalein and Ailinglaplap, which are two of the largest atolls in the country. My thought is that maybe those just had too many letters. Five or more and you just don't fit on the map!

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Last Wednesday, Joris and I picked up our friend May, who was in town for a work conference and was able to take some vacation time in order to hang out with us.

May lived and taught in Jaluit, Jaluit, the small and only other town connected to the island of Jabor, where Jacob and I were during our time in the Marshall Islands . Most weekends, May would take the hour and a half bike trip up to Jabor to spend the weekend with us, to which we always looked forward. We would play Settlers, make 'fancy' food (i.e. use more than 2 ingredients in meals) and the three of us watched the entire first season of Lost huddled around the 2 inch ipod screen.

We had not seen May since our goodbyes in Majuro, which, to our horror turns out to be almost three years ago already! But even though it was an entire toddler plus a pregnancy ago, events that have pretty seriously altered our lives, it was immediately oddly comfortable and familiar to have May around again and we all thoroughly enjoyed her visit. Joris became infatuated with her pretty quickly, snubbing me in order to get May's attention; he wanted to hold her hand and go down the slide with her - it was pretty hilarious.

We got to enjoy some Seattle sightseeing and hit some local highlights like Cafe Vita, the Fremont Troll, Gasworks Park, Carkeek Park, the University district street fair, campus and, to Joris' ultimate delight, we even went up to the Space Needle!

On Saturday, Auntie Chris took care of Joris while the three of us and our mutual friend Richard (who taught in Majuro and visited us in Jaluit) went to a Mariner's game and on Sunday morning Paul and Sarah hosted Joris while the four of us enjoyed brunch and ice cream. (Sadly, Joris screamed at them for half an hour, but was ultimately pacified with t.v. and candy and Paul and Sarah even invited him back. I think it was a good learning experience for Joris and I'm pretty sure it will go better next time, but I felt bad for our friends.)

But, Friday night ended up being the most fun. Richard joined us for a Jaluit style dinner (tuna cakes, sushi, curry and coconuts; which were all foods we and fellow volunteers Aki and Hiro would make for special gatherings in Jaluit) and our friend Chris, who taught at Jaluit High School two years after we did and who also lives in Seattle joined us a little bit later for drinks and some serious reminiscing. We even briefly talked to Amy, the missing Team Jaluit member, on the phone.

The time I spent in the Marshall Islands is one of the most memorable experiences of my life and one I am most proud of. Not because of having been a volunteer, because it is only debatable if my presence made any real difference, but because of the person I became there; the effect Jaluit had on me and things I learned there.

There aren't many people who can relate to or even imagine what life was like there, so being among people who were there, too - who know the people we know, who get the references and the jokes, who had similar experiences - is nothing short of magnificent. At the end of the evening I felt like I had reconnected with a part of myself; the part that isn't Mama Joris, as honorable of a title as that might be. And although I know that the pre-mom part has always been there and will always be there, it felt like a long time ago that I last saw that person and I realized that I have missed her.

I would not trade being Joris' mom for anything, but I would not mind seeing that other part of myself, the person I was before Joris came along, more frequently. She gives me confidence and I'm pretty sure that she'd be a good role model for Joris as well. But how to find and, more importantly, maintain that balance? I don't believe that having a kid should entirely alter your life, but the fact, of course, is that it pretty much has. And that, too, should not necessarily be a bad thing. So I wonder; is the post-mom me a different person entirely or merely a tweaked version, or an improvement on the previous model? Has there been, or will there be an epic battle between the old and new me? Or have I myself really changed that much, or has it just my circumstances?

Driving back from dropping May off at the airport, I felt like I had just said goodbye to my former self again as well. It was great having them both around and I hope they will come back again soon 'cause I miss them already. And who knows, maybe that part of me will find her way back by herself, without having to hitchhike with May.

More Livvies?

Last weekend we trekked down to Portland for the first time since the somewhat disastrous trip (sleeping-wise) in February.

Except for a somewhat belated nap in the car - Joris finally succumbed to sleep 30 minutes outside of Portland - everything went swimmingly.

On the way out of Seattle, Joris pointed out the Space Needle, with which he has been rather obsessed the last couple of weeks. Once out of sight he requested "More Space Needles?". When we explained that there is only one Space Needle in the whole wide world and it's in Seattle, he asked for "More Seattle?".

We stopped by Jacob's brother Trinh's house and Joris had a blast playing with his cousins, Delia (9) and Livia (5). When we were finally able to pry him away from them because we had to go he asked for "More Livvies? More cousin Delia?".

We had dinner with friends from my Portland days whom we hadn't seen in a loooooong while, which was very nice. Joris stayed up until 9:30pm that night before crashing in the crib at my parents' house and slept uninterrupted until the next morning, which was great.

We enjoyed the Gresham Farmer's market and the company of my brother and his fiance on Saturday and we all made a big Mother's Day brunch on Sunday, after we took off again and Joris took a 2 hour nap in the car.

A lovely, wonderful visit that put my travel-with-a-toddler fears at least somewhat to rest.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hilarious statements of the evening

1) Food falls out of Joris' mouth as he is trying to talk and chew a the same time. He gets upset and starts crying a little. Mama fishes around the booster seat to try to locate the chunk of chewed up burrito and triumphantly holds it up when she finds it.

"Mama hold"

As if I was trying to force the spilled food back into his mouth.

"Throw away. Mama throw away!"


2) We try to convince Joris that the very horseradish-y, Chinese hot mustard is not a good dipping sauce for him to eat.

"Here smell it. Does it smell strong? Yucky?"

"Smell good."

"Really? Did you smell it? Can you smell how hot it is?"

"Smell good. Smell Auntie Chris!"

Public embarrassment

I think it has often been said that children are just put on this earth to embarrass the hell out of their parents. Between the explosive diapers, spitting up on strangers, grocery store tantrums, inopportune farting and belching noises and the ever-present finger up the nose when meeting new people, it is certainly questionable why parents choose to take their young kids out in public at all.

We have now also just crossed into verbal embarrassment territory.

A week and a half ago Joris and I had joined my sister in law at a cool little consignment store. Christine was paying for a fabulous find and I told Joris that Auntie Chris just had to pay the lady and we'd be on our way. He then points to the 20-something year old cashier and yells "MAMA? THERE OLD LADY!".

Obviously, something was lost in translation...

At the Pinehurst Community meeting on Monday:

Joris: Mama?

Me: (whisper) Ja?


Me: (whisper) yes, there are lots of people here. We are listening to that man talk. Can you talk very quietly? Like this? Can you whisper?

Joris: (whisper) ja


Jacob: (whisper) Yes, he is talking. We have to be quiet so we can listen what he has to say.


Jacob and Joris had a similar exchange yesterday at the preschool train event, when all the little kids were quietly listening to an explanation about train whistles and signs.


Jacob: (whisper) Yes, he is talking, let's be quiet and listen to what he has to tell us.


It's still cute. Mostly. Sort of.
But I'm bracing myself for the time when the embarrassment over actual bodily functions will be replaced by embarrassment over the public discussion about said functions.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Yin and Yang

Some of our favorite Joris-isms are disappearing, sometimes slowly, sometimes all of a sudden. Like "ooh-ah" finally got replaced by "uh-oh", so have "nkg-nkg" (auntie Chris)and "hacko" (clock) fallen by the wayside. Of course other, similarly amusing speech developments have taken their place (his name for example has gone from "dootah" to the current "Lotis") and we're usually entertained by most words and sentences that come out of his mouth.

Except for "no".

Or, rather, "NO!".

I'm not so fond of that word anymore, since I hear it approximately six million times a day. In fact, it is the standard response to just about everything.

"Put your shoes away, please."

"Do you want a banana or some raisins?"

"Three little monkeys sitting in a tree..."
"No. NO! NO! NO moh-kins!."

And my favorite:

"Let's go have some fun!"
"No. NO! NO FUN!"

He has also perfected the most snarling, growl-like way of saying no that makes it seem like our sweet little guy suddenly got possessed by an evil, green, ancient demon, (it sounds like NOW!) which is both humongously aggravating and totally hilarious, depending on the recipients' level of patience, humor and hormones.

There has also been a distinct increase in mini-tantrums, which now occur at nearly every diaper change and each time Joris gets a little frustrated. He is still fairly easily distracted and I think it's just his way of testing his boundaries, which I'm pretty sure is what all the no saying is about as well. The power, the delicious power of it all...!

Sleep is still going brilliantly; he has been going down pretty consistently around 7:45 - 8:00pm and will sleep until around 7:00am and the difference that has made in our evenings, nights and mornings is absolutely amazing.

One random development, though, is that Joris has been waking up from his naps absolutely distraught more often than not the last couple of weeks. It had happened before occasionally, but it's been with alarming regularity recently. He will just cry and cry with his sad little gnome face all scrunched up, nothing being able to soothe him and it can take over an hour before he finally snaps out of it. I don't know if it's nightmares, being pissed off that he woke up or, as Jacob thinks, since he doesn't cry at bedtime anymore, he needs to let off steam somehow.

But, even if it sometimes gets a little challenging with the incessant no's and
random bouts of crying, it is nice to remember that Joris really is a pretty easy-going and very sweet little boy.

Since the improved sleep situation, Jacob and I spend some time almost every night listing the many cute, incredible and sweet things that Joris did that day. Below is a selection:

I love that, after undressing him, Joris will insist on sitting up on the changing table and throws his arms around my neck for a nice, long hug until he says "Joris kleertjes aan" (Joris put clothes on).

I love seeing and hearing him interact with Auntie Chris, the way he seeks out her approval and his need to be close to her. Whenever she has been over just before bed or nap time, the first words he will utter when waking up are "Auntie Chris?".

I love the way he is excited about readings books and seeing what stories capture his interest. How he giggles in anticipation of all the animals falling down in one story, or how he will breathlessly listen to all four of the Little Bear stories in a row, leaning against his daddy's chest.

I appreciate how sensitive he is and how his little face clouds over with concern whenever he hears another child cry. With Avery, he will try to find her binky or her lovey because he knows that they comfort her, and whenever she stops crying he will very hopefully say "Avey happy now".

I love the way he interacts with stuffed animals and with the cats. He assumes every toy and stuffed animal can talk and has something to say. He wants to show them things and gain their approval, even though (or maybe because?) it is very clear that he understands that it's us that make the animals talk. He has also taken it upon himself to be the feeder and door-opener for the cats; filling their bowls throughout the day and even opening the door to call them inside when he thinks they've been away for too long.

I love the way how, in his excitement to get words out of his mouth, he stutters - sometimes up to ten or fifteen times.

After waking up this afternoon (not in a foul mood this time), both Jacob and I went into his room to get him. He reached out for Jacob and said "Daddy, play" and directed me to go out of the room. And I love that, too.