Letter to Self

Every year at Not-Back-To-School Camp, I make time with my advisees to write a letter to our future selves – to be mailed by camp six months down the road. It’s a way of carrying those special weeks forward.

I got my letter today:

“Last day of Camp

Myrtlewood, Sept 2013

Hello Me,

Third year of camp over the span of 12 years and I can really feel the difference of coming more deeply into myself. I’m not so worried what people think and more able to be receptive and connect.

I loved that Chad and Christian got to be here this year. Chad and I started the session rushed and irritable and now feel loving and relaxed. Taking the time and space to take care of myself: Downtime, morning time to regroup for the day, time outside, exercise, really helped to make me grounded and clear-eyed versus emotional and snippy.

I would have loved to have given more physical attention and cuddling to the campers, but it’s harder to do with teenagers. Enjoy those Forest Kinder kids. So cuddly.

C loves it here, especially the creek. I love being here – the location, perhaps even more than the reason.

This is the year to work on Chad’s book. DO IT. Personal stuff is important.

Lots of sleep

Raven cawing overhead.

Yellow frog in hand

Enormous myrtle marked

Art conversations with Tilke

Girl time with Abbi

Baking with Rosa

Good people. Keep carving out space for myself. SIMPLIFY. DO LESS. DO MORE. HAVE LESS TO TAKE CARE OF.

Love you!”

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Kale Salad

Kale salad is something I always like to pick up already prepared at Mothers or Whole Foods, but it seems simple enough, so I finally dared to try my own – on Christmas Day no less.

It turned out fine!

The trick to make it palatable is to cook the kale a bit. This can be done on the stove or in the microwave.

I took three bunches of washed organic curly kale and de-stemmed them and tore the leaves into bite-sized pieces in a big glass mixing bowl. Then I added a 1/2 cup of water, covered the bowl with a paper plate, and nuked the whole thing for 6 minutes. I was surprised to find that the kale was barely wilted, but it was enough.

I made a simple honey mustard vinaigrette in the dijon mustard jar with the last couple tablespoons of dijon (trader’s joe’s): Mustard, honey, olive oil, basalmic vinegar, salt, and fresh cracked pepper – all shaken thoroughly. Add to the kale salad and massage in well. I use tongs for this, but tongs with a round flat end that really squeezes the kale well. Hands would work.

I tasted it and it wasn’t enough, so I made a second round of the same honey mustard vinaigrette and I also added some dressing we’d brought home from a restaurant. More salt and pepper to taste.

Then I started to add extra stuff I like: dried cranberries and coarsely chopped pecans.

I tasted again. It was starting to taste good but not enough bite, so I very finely diced half a red onion.


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Lost in the Memory Palace

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller have long crafted space, whether physically manifest with plywood and façade or immaterially delineated by recorded audio; and that space is often a surreal or dreamlike place reminiscent of an empty de Chirico piazza with the sound of children’s laughter echoing in the distance. Cardiff first gained attention with her audio walks in the 90’s, where the viewer put on headphones and ostensibly was guided along a path, but the “tour” was complicated by overlaid audio tracks – snippets of intimate dialogue and ambient noise – and the shivery result was the feeling that the viewer had just slipped into somebody else’s skin and intrigue for a few brief minutes. Miller’s solo practice included more electronics, robotics, and surveillance in both a futuristic and nostalgic sense. Together, Cardiff and Miller are deft manipulators of perception and makers of immersive environments. They have created an impressive oeuvre that is ripe for a more complete retrospective. In the meantime, the exhibition, Lost in the Memory Palace, is a purposeful and concise selection of “room works” spanning 18 years of collaboration that provides a chronology of a diverse range of shapes of space.
Although The Paradise Institute, 2001 and Forty Part Motet, 2001 are notably absent, viewers will discover that this show is greater than the sum of its parts and is, in fact, deliberately curated to be an experiential installation as a whole. The Museum of Contemporary Art La Jolla has been transformed into a maze of sound corridors and isolated rooms, each containing a single work: a labyrinth intended to provoke wandering and perhaps, a little disorientation. The title of the show aptly references a “memory palace”, a mnemonic device in which a person creates a place or series of places in his mind where he can store information that needs to be remembered. This exhibition can be explored as a tangible memory palace and every encounter with a meticulously scripted installation is sure to trigger some kind of transmogrified awareness.
The earliest work, The Dark Pool (1995), is nearly a memory palace in and of itself and clearly speaks to the obsessive art mind: a cluttered room carpeted with flattened cardboard and made claustrophobic by makeshift desks on sawhorses covered with stacks of books and dirty tea cups (science experiments?) The viewer’s motions inside the room activate fragments of music, noise, and a story that never quite coalesces. The room as a physical object contains the viewer, but the disjointed and unexpected audio combined with the sheer quantity of detail of fictional pseudo-scientific memorabilia, is what allows the room to shift place in time and become something of a dream-like experience.
On the other hand, The Killing Machine (2007) is an open-walled installation that cannot be entered by the viewer; however, the viewer is directed to push a button, which then activates what appears to be a torture chamber. Implicated by the start button, the viewer cannot then stop the two large robotic arms that begin a choreographed interpretive “dance” over the empty reclining doctor’s chair; first hovering, then jabbing, then drilling. Although the impulse of this piece may have been Abu Ghraib, the theatricality of the piece operates more as a sci-fi than an indictment of the spectacle of war; and frankly, as such, probably has more access to shifting the viewer’s perception of reality. The sequence of clinical horror is muted by the sense that the enlivened machinery is re-acting a dream sequence. It’s no surprise, and a real bonus that the YouTube video of the installation is as spine-chilling than the real-life experience of the installation. In an era where worth can be defined by number of hits, this piece lives on and lives well, beyond the museum.
Of the six installations (sadly, there was not enough room for Storm Room, 2009), only The Muriel Lake Incident (1999) utilizes binaural technology, a method of recording that produces an astonishing fidelity by using microphones in the ears of a dummy head. The viewer stands in front of a diorama of a theater (perfectly to scale) and puts on headphones while watching a video projection on the screen in the miniature cinema. The recorded ambient sounds of a large theater cunningly layered on top of the soundtrack for the “film” is so life-like that it will likely cause unease as the invisible neighbor leans in close and whispers in the viewer’s ear. Via the audio, the viewer is propelled into the miniaturized space and locked in engagement. Here, as Bartomeu Mari has described it, is an “audio event akin to sculpture”; and the space is not so much the plywood box on legs containing the theater as the sonic reality projected into the viewer’s mind. A precursor to the award-winning The Paradise Institute (2001) which was originally produced for the Canadian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, Cardiff and Miller continue to mine this rich vein of fabricating an immersive space to house an experience.
These six discrete installations will make you want more – and luckily for transcontinental types, The Forty Part Motet (2001), a binaural recording of 40 a capella singers performing the 1573 “Spem in Alium” by Thomas Talis is at the Met until December 8, 2013.

Link to the online article here.

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The 40-hour Journey Through Christian

Two nights ago, I noticed Christian had something in his mouth. It was something thin, like a coin, and he was holding it casually between his back teeth and his cheek.

I wouldn’t have barked at him to spit it out, but he was lying on his back, for pete’s sake.

He immediately tried to get up and comply, but you know how you have to open your mouth a little wider to move something around? I saw him do just that, and gag just a bit.

When he was standing, I put my hand in front of him, “Spit it out.”

He shrugged. And opened his mouth wide.

Nothing there.

“What happened to that penny in your mouth?” I screeched.

He shrugged again and pointed to his throat.

This was followed by frantic googling of what to do when your kid swallows a coin. Chad went a bit berserko.

Apparently pennies made before 1982 (?) could contain corrosive metals and are very dangerous to ingest. Could it be a dime? Chad had just handed C a handful of coins with both dimes and pennies.

ER? We paced and googled five minutes more.

URGENT CARE! I remembered from my days leading bike tours that urgent care was a great place to bring injured or hurt kids for dramatically less than emergency rooms. The closest urgent care was closing in 15 minutes – We began grabbing clothes, purses, books, and knitting. C was quiet through all this, but when he heard we were going to see a doctor, he began screaming and holding onto furniture. We got him to the car with a lot of sweet talk and cajoling. But we’d lost time while prying his fingers off the door frame.

It was 7:01 when we arrived at the firmly locked and definitely closed doors of the urgent care facility that was supposed to be open until 7 pm. Granted, this was July 3, and I couldn’t blame anyone for cutting out early the day before the July 4th.

Deflated, we sat down on the curb and I began doing what I should have done to begin with, which was CALL DR. BOB SEARS. Dr. Bob is our trusted pediatrician.

His answering service message asked all callers to please check with  www.AskDrSears.com before paging the doctor.

I knew this was the right thing to do. In fact, I’ve said it myself a hundred times, “Have you checked www.askdrsears.com?”

Reading about swallowed objects on askdrsears.com was tremendously reassuring. Basically, anything small enough to be swallowed and reach the stomach is small enough to come out in the poop. It is recommended to check the poop for at least a week, or until the object come out. There was no mention of toxic pennies, only the incredible anecdote of an open safety pin passing through a child without any discomfort or discernable harm.

So, for the last two days Christian has been very reluctantly pooping on a plastic potty. And I have been very reluctantly going through aforementioned poop with gloved fingers. GROSS. And VERY SMELLY.

I  was rewarded with a poopy dime this morning. Unbelievable.

It was scrubbed and disinfected and photographed for posterity.

Christian swear he will never put another coin in his mouth.

I’m putting it on my list of things-I-never-had-to-do-with-Bella.

poopy dime


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Letter to Christian at 5 Years

Imaginative play in a favorite fallen oak tree. Best play equipment ever.

Imaginative play in a favorite fallen oak tree. Best play equipment ever.

Dear Christian,

You are FIVE now. You have had a very busy year. Three days of Earthroots a week has made you strong and healthy. I have to work pretty hard to keep up with you.

Building small structures during Forest Kindergarten.

Building small structures during Forest Kindergarten.

You appreciate Kyla’s friendship and the two of you often hang out during class. The two of you together make doing anything fun – and the other kids want to join in.

Here you are planting at the Laguna Botanical Preserve.

Here you are planting at the Laguna Botanical Preserve.

Those red shoes you are wearing were your signature piece of clothing this year. We got them new and you named them Iron Man Shoes. They are now filled with holes and scuffed and stinky beyond repair.

You love exploring and physical challenges.

You love exploring and physical challenges.

You love your Ganma. Especially when she comes camping with us!

You love your Ganma. Especially when she comes camping with us!

We fit two Joshua Tree camping trips in this year. Camping remains one of your favorite things to do. That yellow sweatshirt is another signature piece of clothing. You got it from Nu two years ago. Thanks, Nu!

Ganpy is one of your favorite people! He's always willing to play a game or show you something new.

Ganpy is one of your favorite people! He’s always willing to play a game or show you something new.

Many stories were told under the story tree.

Many stories were told under the story tree.

Leaping into tide pools at Crystal Cove.

Leaping into tide pools at Crystal Cove.

Metal-working while camping in Joshua Tree. Hammering with a real hammer is something you enjoy.

Metal-working while camping in Joshua Tree. Hammering with a real hammer is something you enjoy.

You were barefoot most of the time. Sometimes we would get home after class and I would realize that you had never put on your shoes once. I say that Evan was your inspiration for going barefoot but you say it’s because you can grip the earth better. Makes sense.

You worked a lot on your personal relationships this year.

You worked a lot on your personal relationships this year.

If you look closely, Christian is up at the front of the line in his yellow hoodie.

If you look closely, Christian is up at the front of the line in his yellow hoodie.

Caught being naughty. Zen isn't doing anything to deserve that, Buddy!

Caught being naughty. Zen isn’t doing anything to deserve that, Buddy!

I know you think that Forest Kindergarten would be better if you could bring your toys with you, but I have to say IT LOOKS LIKE YOU ARE HAVING A PRETTY GOOD TIME.

I love you.

I look forward to even more adventures this coming year.



Relaxing like a baby cougar in a tree.

Relaxing like a baby cougar in a tree.

Made cobb house at Pine Manor with clay, straw, sand, and water.

Made cobb house at Pine Manor with clay, straw, sand, and water.

Posted in Christian Holden, forest kindergarten | Leave a comment



The stage was very simple with a single wooden workstand, a wooden crate, a mike, and a red fabric background. One guy ambled onto stage and began to tell a story by singing a story of the sea. Then he was bending his leather belt rolled in a tight coil to record a creaking sound and then he blew into the microphone

and magically, the sounds looped and became the rhythmic creaking of a boat out at sea. Nic was joined by Jof and they swayed back and forth on their boat. I was captivated as was the seven children with me.

They proceeded to tell the story of Jof’s life from birth (wherein a gull appears, made of knotted rope)

And how the boat split in half (dramatically re-enacted with a boat carved out of a loaf of french bread) which led to a land-based life with the circus. There Jof met his one true love before running off to his other love, the sea. A wise Japanese fisherman tells him to find her before its too late, and Jof does, but he does not stay.

With puppetry wonders (fabric slung over Nick’s knee and calf becomes her swaying skirt, his forearm her body and his fist covered with a bonnet and blond braids, bobbed convincingly as Jof’s one true love); simple circus acrobatics; and a lovely narrative about the windy path of love and life and death, the audience never stopped believing for one single instant.

This one-hour production intended for children may well be the most ingenious and creative acts of story-telling that I have ever encountered. It was Boats by the Terrapin Puppet Theatre from Tasmania of all places. I was lucky to see it at the Segerstrom last Friday.

P.S. Here is a video clip from the Terrapin Puppet Theater website. I wasn’t surprised to discover that this show is an award-winner. Lots more clips of their other productions.

Boats Highlights from Kevin O’Loghlin on Vimeo.

P.S.S. I saw this show for $6. The Segerstrom offers special school group field trip rates for a series of family shows every year. The catch is that you have to organize and pay for the tickets waaay back in August and September in order to get seats. Interestingly, this was the best show so far, but least attended. Sadly, a gap between the show’s unique ingenuity and effective promotion.

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Alina’s Birth Story

Nothing like holding a sleeping 4-day old babe in a sling while writing about her birth. Especially as I am not the one recovering from the labor.

Nothing like sitting and typing while my 4-day old niece is peacefully nursing her mama in the next room.

When Christian and I arrived in DC ten days ago (Feb 8), Olga was anxious for their baby to be born by her due date Feb 13. First, she hoped the baby would be born while I was still here (me too!); and secondly, she wanted to meet their new daughter. However, Olga was showing no signs of impending labor; her cervix was firmly closed and not even a Braxton Hicks contraction had been felt.

This worked out for Christian and I, though, because we spent a very full and fun week exploring DC with Olga who wanted to walk as much as possible once she heard that exercise might stimulate labor.

On the morning of her due date, Feb 13, Olga saw her mucous plug and had very light contractions.  After lots of discussion, Songbae went to work. Olga, Christian, and I drove to Virginia to have lunch at my parents’ club (yummy: calamari, fresh tuna wraps, caesar salad with grilled salmon, steamed mussels). We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling in a nearby park trying to bring on more contractions. We were sure the baby was going to come any time! And that evening, well, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one staring at the ceiling all night long…

We woke up the next day and still no baby. Olga went in for her weekly check-in with her OB. Everybody was delighted to hear that she was two centimeters dilated. Seriously, it was practically a party in this house, but the doctor cautioned that 2 cm could mean labor in a day or labor in a week. The doc was unmoved by the bloody show nor was she impressed by the light contractions.

Olga, Christian, and I walked all over Oak Hill Cemetery (beautiful) and Dumbarton Oaks Park (wooded).

After we got home we then hoofed it to the Target 15 blocks away. We did end up taking the bus home though, at Christian’s moaning about being tired.

By evening there were more contractions, but still irregular and light. We decided not to talk to say the c-word (contraction) anymore. We were definitely jinxing ourselves. We determined to eat a good meal (we did) and get a good night’s sleep (we did not).

Somewhere in the wee hours, Songbae woke me up. Olga was having contractions every 5 minutes and they thought it might be time to go to the hospital. Olga appeared  calm, which was a warning signal to me that it was probably still early labor, but they both assured me that Olga had a very high threshold for pain. Another clue, in retrospect, was that before we left the house, the doctor on call asked to speak directly to Olga and calmly asked how he might help her. When she engaged in conversation with him, he agreeably said she could certainly come to the hospital to see if she was really in labor or not. At that time, Songbae and Olga could only shake their heads in disbelief. I mean, is there anything to be believed about labor for the first time? At 3 am we packed everybody up, including Christian, and headed to Sibley Hospital.

Laboring just before leaving for the hospital the first time. Idyllic and peaceful compared to later, but at the time, it seemed unbearable.

Laboring just before leaving for the hospital the first time. Idyllic and peaceful compared to later, but at the time, it seemed unbearable.

Upon arrival, Songbae and Olga were stunned to find that she was still only 2 cm dilated, the same as she had been that very morning – and after so much laboring! It was disappointing. Our nurse was sweet and optimistic though and gently broke the news that she thought we should go back home.

More stunned disbelief from Songbae and Olga, but I was secretly relieved. The longer Olga was at home, the more she would have the freedom to move around untethered to monitors and the longer she would have to snack and drink for the energy she would surely require. The hospital only allowed clear fluids and later when Olga considered a possible epidural, not even fluids were allowed, but only ice chips. In the end, Songbae and Olga were glad for the time at home as well.

We stayed a couple more hours, but after we were told dilation was still at 2 cm, we packed up laboring Olga and a perky and alert Christian and drove back home around 6 am. This next part of the story is unclear to me, because as soon as I got home, Christian and I tumbled into bed and passed out until 10 am. Umph. We were spent and labor was just beginning!

Olga did not get so much sleep. She’d rested and bathed and labored and moaned and

when I woke up she was moaning quite loudly,


Which, if you’ve ever had a baby, you know is a typical thing to say, especially when you are in transition.

Please note: Olga was a super woman and labored beautifully (all the nurses said so too) and delivered Alina without any medication whatsoever.

We accommodated Olga, but we did it slowly, because we both knew that if she had not dilated amply when we reached the hospital that we were going to have a very unhappy laboring woman on our hands. She was already not in a good mood about the level of pain she was experiencing which was much much more than she had anticipated. Again, I heard her complaints as good news. It is common for women in transition to feel like the contractions are unbearable. Her contractions were between 3-7 minutes apart, but they were lasting longer and were clearly much more painful. I applied pressure on her lower back during contractions and she said it helped. Damp washcloths did not.

When we got to the hospital, Olga went straight in, but I stayed in the waiting area, because for whatever reason, this time Christian was denied entrance to the Delivery Wing. Songbae was upset about this as he’d previously confirmed that is was patient discretion that determined who was in the the room. In fact, he ran right back out and told me to go in with Olga while he sat with Christian. (He says now that he and Olga discussed this and both agreed that I might be more helpful to the laboring mom.)

Olga was now 6 cm dilated! I was thrilled! Olga was not. She wanted an epidural. Blood was drawn, she was put on an IV and baby monitor and blood pressure cuff, juice was withdrawn, and many scary questions were asked about blood transfusions and reactions to anesthesia.

We were informed that the blood work could take up to two hours to return.

So Olga and I talked it through – between contractions, of course. She wanted a natural drug-free birth; she did not want any medical interventions. We’d discussed this in advance. I was there to remind her of that. And could she see how much more medicalized the labor had become just at the mention of an epidural? She was doing so amazingly well too. Then I got a timely text which bolstered me and which I showed to Olga:

“6 cm is the beginning of transition. ALL WOMEN SAY THEY WANT AN EPIDURAL AT THAT STAGE!!!”

She agreed to see how much she’d dilated before making a decision.

We were left alone for a long time. Fortunately for us (but unfortunately for somebody else) there was a medical emergency in the delivery wing and we were left alone. Olga’s blood samples were left rolling on a tray in our room. We just kept on trucking through contraction by contraction and before we knew it two hours had passed. After 2 pm, Olga had her first visit from a doctor. She was 8 cm. She was progressing completely ON TRACK. (It is typical to progress one cm per hour after you reach the first five centimeters.) The doctor assured Olga that she could have the epidural whenever she wanted. Olga decided to wait another half hour.

At this point, we did everything in half hour increments. An entire hour was too long to imagine.

Take a moment and open your mouth as wide as you can. Measure it in centimeters. You are probably near 6-7 cm across. So imagine a uterus contracting enough to stretch its cervical opening to 10 cm – for the first time ever. It is a miracle of childbirth that our organs change shape and our bones shift to allow passage of a new human. AND SO MUCH WORK.

Olga and I imagined beautiful wooded places, we floated in seas, we told stories,  we thought of mothers around the world and through history, we massaged, we cried, and we sweated. We were delirious, obviously she much more than I. (Although, I did realize at some point that afternoon that I had not eaten since the previous night.)

Around this time, Songbae was able to come into the room with us. My parents had arrived with provisions and Legos. Christian was with them – but after already four hours in the waiting room, I knew he might not be easy to handle. When we got the inevitable text that one of us needed to come out, I tried to go, but Songbae thought I stay, in case Christian wouldn’t let me leave him again and Songbae went out again.

Olga, meanwhile, was having contractions hard and heavy. We got her up and standing and moving around. The contractions were less painful and shorter when she was up and leaning forwards supported by the raised hospital bed. She hated all the tubes hanging from her, but there was nothing to do. She labored on. Soon she had an urge to push. The nurse came in and Olga told her so. The nurse looked at her calmly and said, You said that to me so nicely…I am going to wait until you yell that at me. And then turned and left. She did it in a nice way. It was funny also, but nobody had time to laugh. Finally Olga’s water broke. There began to be messes to be cleaned up with every contractions.

Olga began yelling that her uterus was pushing on its own. We called the nurse. The doctor came in. And thank God, a head was visible on its way down. I yelled, Olga, It’s almost over! Baby is on her way!

To which the doctor muttered out of the side of her mouth, She still has quite a bit pushing to go. Baby is not here yet.

I ran out to tell Songbae to come in and take over so he could witness the birth. My parents were down in the cafeteria and Songbae was helping Christian build his new Lego set. Songbae looked up and said mildly, Okay, I’ll come in as soon as Mom and Dad come back.

I sprinted back to Olga. Every contraction showed us more and more of the baby’s head. IT WAS SO EXHILARATING. Olga was working SO HARD. The whole thing was surreal. I just held my breath and waited for Songbae to relieve me. I knew I wasn’t going to see the actual birth and I wanted to absorb every minute detail. Olga had her legs back and she pushed against me with one foot. She pushed against a nurse with the other. She pushed until her face turned purple. She was having alternating big and small contractions and she used the little ones to rest.

Then suddenly the head was fully crowning and with big exhale

baby slipped slithered out pink and beautiful.

I took off to get Songbae. I was astonished at what I’d witnessed in place of him. SORRY SONGBAE!! WHERE THE HECK WERE YOU??!

When I got to the lobby Songbae was calmly putting away Legos. With the memory of that morning’s first trip to the hospital still in his mind, he’d thought he had plenty of time. Mom and Dad were sitting and drinking coffee. I surely yelled something incomprehensible. Songbae took off.

Placenta delivered without incident.

There was meconium in the amniotic fluid (baby pooped before leaving womb), so the neonatologist scooped baby up and suctioned out her lungs. This happens often and while it can pose a threat, it was quickly and efficiently handled.

Alina Nari Lee was born in the afternoon of February 15, 2013 in the year of the snake. 6 pounds 15 ounces. A beauty.

Did I mention that her mom was a champ? OLGA IS A CHAMP!!


Alina an hour after being born. She'd just been washed in this picture.

Alina an hour after being born. She’d just been washed in this picture.


Daddy and Baby bonding on day 2.

Daddy and Baby bonding on day 2.

Baby Alina sleeping on day 4.

Baby Alina sleeping on day 4.




Posted in alina nari, babies, says Songbae | 1 Comment

Alina Nari Lee

Where did that name come from?!

That’s the $1,000,000 question in the house – here and in Kyrgyzstan, Olga’s mother country. In both countries, it was widely circulated that the new baby was named Katherine. Let’s just be clear, that when I post that name in parentheses, there was a question mark there also, to indicate its non-confirmed status.

When I arrived in DC, I was informed that the names had been whittled down to just three: Katherine, Andrea, and Jennifer.

Andrea was on the list to honor Olga’s grandfather who was named Andre, but it was later decided that Andre could be saved for a future possible brother and that it wouldn’t be right to have an Andrea and an Andre (even though we recently met a woman with quadruplets named Christian, Christina, Christopher, and ChristiAnn – no, really).

Katherine Lee got some flack because it would inevitably degrade to Kathy Lee (as in Regis).

And Jennifer, I don’t know what anybody said about Jennifer,

but when the baby was born, all those names flew out the window, because somehow, as pretty as those names were, they somehow did not match the baby’s prettiness.

So, after much sleep-deprived discussion post birth, a new name was decided:

Alina, which is a popular Russian name, to honor her Kyrgyz heritage. (This little one will grow up speaking Russian like her mother.)

Nari was my father’s suggestion and means both “lily” and “your highness” in Korean. (My sister’s youngest has the nickname “Leela wha dee” which means frangipani flower in Thai and both Bella and I have the middle name “Rose,” so flower names run in the family.)


Alina Nari Lee on her first day this side of the womb.

b. February 15, 2013alinanari

Posted in alina nari, babies | 2 Comments

The Waiting Game

I am up at midnight – typing instead of sleeping – waiting for my sister-in-law to wake up to tell me it’s time to go to the hospital.

This is the part of pregnancy, labor, and birth that I ALWAYS FORGET. The waiting is naturally eclipsed by labor, birth, and BABY. Once those things happen who remembers the days of anxious pacing and nervous nesting?

Today, February 13, 2013, is Olga’s  due date. She has been hoping for weeks that the baby will come early, because like any new mother, she is anxious to meet her baby girl – her first one ever. But there has been no sign of impeding baby – no contractions, no dilation, no nothing – in fact, we’ve spent the first four days of my visit, pounding the pavement of DC hoping to move things along. We were even starting to worry that the baby (Katherine Renata Lee?) might not choose to come before I leave on Feb 23.

But today. Today. We woke up to a bit of bloody show. And teeny tiny contractions in the morning that stopped.

We bustled about and decided to go ahead and drive to Virginia for lunch with my parents. We decided to cancel our afternoon cookie-baking plans with random people we don’t know (Songbae’s friends). We decided to pack our things in case we needed to go directly to the hospital. We started the day half believing that we would be in the hospital by night.

Now we are home. We had a very yummy lunch, courtesy my folks (Cobb salad with salmon, calamari, steamed mussels); we played at a great park in the drizzle; I filled the tank with gas; we drove by the hospital; six deer crossed our path; and then we came home. Contractions have been coming more frequently, but have been pretty minor, meaning, Olga was capable of making an amazingly delicious dinner of noodle soup and then going for a walk with Songbae.

By then her contractions were coming 10-15 minutes apart but still not too bad. Her disposition was good. We all showered, packed, and got into bed. I suppose everybody else is sleeping (I can hear deep breathing) but

I drank iced tea and coffee prematurely at lunch. And now here I am full of caffeine and anticipation.

Pity that when the action gets really exciting later on, I won’t be able to post like this.

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Intended as an Aid in Netflix Queue-ing

I’ve been watching a lot of movies.  I’ve been  sucked into my husband’s obsession.

What are we, day 11 of 2013? I think I’ve watched nine movies so far: Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, etc, and many more back during the holidays, which included some excellent ones like Rust and Bone (French).

As a point of reference I’ll share Us magazine’s top 10 of 2012:

  1. Silver Linings Playbook
  2. Argo
  3. Les Miserables
  4. Zero Dark Thirty
  5. Life of Pi
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  7. The Dark Knight Rises
  8. Your Sister’s Sister
  9. Skyfall
  10. Ted

Honorable Mentions: Django Unchained, The Sessions, Looper, The Cabin in the Woods, Searching for Sugar Man

That is a good  list. I’ve seen everything but Les Mis and Life of Pi, but I don’t question that they probably deserve to be on that list.

Here are some of my own favorites

amourAmour (IMDb 8.1/10) is this year’s Separation, which was last year’s Best Foreign Language film and interestingly, the subject of aging appears in both. It is not a easy subject to watch. This film deeply examines one couple’s final descent into age, physical deterioration,  and death.  The pace is slow and deliberate, like your 80-year old dad getting out of an armchair. The acting is phenomenal. The leading man came out of retirement to play this role and Isabella Hupert- everybody’s favorite French actress- plays the slightly estranged daughter. It is also a moving love story – in the manner of deep devotion flicks like The Notebook, but Oscar-worthy.

rustandboneRust and Bone (De rouille et d’os) (IMDb 7.6/10) – This was possibly my favorite movie of the year. Do you remember Marion Cotillard from her stunning performance in La vie on rose? The performance that won her not only an Oscar, but also big money state-side roles, like the love interest in The Dark Knight Rises? Rust and Bone is sexually explicit; not about sex, though, so much as physical needs and how much we can connect to each other on a deeper level when we are catapulted into crisis. Not too much dialogue.

moonrisekingdomMoonrise Kingdom (IMDb 7.9/10) – I am a sucker for quirky and kids and I love Wes Anderson. Throw in Frances McDormand and Edward Norton and you got yourself a no-brainer winner. This stylized teen romance, lushly shot on Rhode Island, will pull up the side of your mouth in wry grin and you’ll hang on every word. If I made movies I would want them to be like this.

Cloud Atlas
(IMDb 8.0/10) – When this movie started, Chad remarked, I hope they don’t think they can cut between stories this fast for the whole movie. I was in agreement – no way this film was going to hold four?five? completely separate story lines together. But somehow, somewhere, in the three hours of this movie, the different quests and relationships (with the same actors in various versions of their characters) started to gel and there emerged a beautiful theme of  integrity and personal responsibility. Tom Hanks and Halle Berry are the name brand stars, but it’s young Korean actress Doona Bae whose face I keep seeing.

silverliningsplaybookSilver Linings Playbook (IMDb 8.3/10) – I fell in love with Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone (dark, but well-worth watching) and she has not disappointed me since. She elevated The Hunger Games, and now in in Silver Linings Playbook, we discover that she’s “old enough to survive a marriage without being locked in the loony bin.” Bradly Cooper does a fine job acting, as he did in the less popular film, The Words, that he did earlier this year. Despite the subject matter of, well, acceptable craziness (OCD, bi-polar, manic depression) and non-acceptable craziness (nervous break-downs, promiscuity, violence), the tone is matter-of-fact, and love prevails. Plus, we get to see Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence dance. Directed by David Russell, which is enough of a commendation for me anyway (Three Kings, The Fighter, I Heart Huckabees – all excellent).

headhuntersHeadhunters (IMDb 7.5/10) – What I love about foreign films is that the whole life paradigm is so not-American. Here, the easy-going art thief with a beautiful house and trophy wife, falls into a comical thriller. Wha? It starts light and turns into a heart-thumping (and bloody) chase when the thief, who steals from the wrong guy, just cannot get away. The technology of spyware taps right into the collective consciousness: the fear that there is no way to hide in today’s world. The bad guy is Jamie from Game of Thrones!

thisis40This is 40  (IMDb 6.4/10) may not be an Oscar movie, but I laughed until my stomach hurt. Some moments have already been overplayed in the trailers, but there is enough spit-your-food-out chortles stuffed into this one movie for plenty of gags to just get by with mild snorts.  As one reviewer put it, it is “humor porn.” This might be the Fast Times of Ridgemont High movie of my middle ages, because me and my friends are already  quoting from it (I can fix it. I got tools. My dad’s a plumber.)

I also enjoyed

Argo, Take This Waltz, Lawless, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Dark Knight Rises, Your Sister’s Sister, Skyfall, Ted, Looper, Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Magic Mike, Seven Psychopaths, Total Recall, Bourne Legacy

I anticipate loving

Les Miserables, The Sessions, and The Master

I was disappointed by

Brad Pitt (Killing Them Softly); Woody Allen (To Rome with Love); Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Premium Rush)


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