The beauty of Sapa in autumn

Travelling to Sapa in this autumn either in Sapa tours or by yourself, you all can witness the gorgeous beauty here. Sapa in autumn is very beautiful, sunshine like silk, dry air, average cold atmosphere, in the evening, wearing a light jacket then strolling around the town with friends, how warm is it! During daytime, sightseeing Muong Hoa valley, watching the yellow terraces layer by layer and trekking to Ta Phin village, how wonderful is it? Yes, Sapa in autumn is Sapa in grain season, when the terraced rice fields all around Lao Cai province gleam a bright yellow color. Yellow color covers all the mountain slopes where hundreds hectares of terraced rice fields grown in Ta Van, Lao Chai, Ban Den, Trung Chai, Ta Phin creating a giant painting landscapes with winding lines of talented ‘barefoot artists’. Continue reading The beauty of Sapa in autumn

Being a Sunshine

I know I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog complaining about my daughter’s bad sleeping and other stressors associated with being her primary care-taking parent, and I feel like overall I’ve barely expressed the amazement and in-love of my days with Anna.

Not that I’m going to forget any time soon.  How could 15 months not be 15% percent more hilarious and gorgeous than 14 months, when it seems every week bring more delightful mannerisms, funny words, and a shocking increase in her toddler beauty?

I mean, she’s the Arm & Hammer baby for God’s sake.

And that was when she was only 7 months old.  She’s on track to displace all Gerber and Old Navy models by the time she hits 2.

But cuteness only gets you so far (very far).  Personality and fun and a liking for hugging and kissing Mommy get you the rest of the way.  Charming all humans, amimals and some cadavers with pure sweetness is just a typical day for Anna.

She loves anything fun, happy, shiny, sparkling, musical, exciting, or new.  She loves dogs, tigers, lions and cats.  She loves people.  She loves people loving her.  Center of attention is too mild a term.

She starts the day by calling “dog…dog…dog!” meaning it’s time for me to come and take her out of her crib to visit Finn on my bed.  We cuddle and kiss Finn until he can’t take it anymore and jets away.  I find her in her crib after a nap with red cheeks, messed up bed-head curls, and a happy disposition.  If I leave her for any amount of time, as soon as I return and she sees me, it’s a full-fledged run and fall into my arms.  Happily muttering “dada, dada” since she calls both me and my husband “dada.”

If there’s a joke and anyone laughs, she’s chiming in with the world’s worst-faked “ha ha ha. Ha ha.”  If there’s something pretty, unusual, or interesting to see, she’s there, pointing her finger at it with a face of wonderment.

What’s life going to be like with a child like this? Fun, maddening, special, warm, cozy, happy, exciting, comedic.

Good thing I’ll get to be there.

When she’s not a cute baby monkey clinging onto Momma’s fur, she’s a little birdie, squawking and receiving bits of food into her mouth.  We ask her to show us her teeth and she happily sticks her tongue out at us (we don’t get it either).  “Itsy-bitsy Spider” is requested, often, with a command consisting of her little fists tangling about themselves in the air and a musically mish-mashed phrase “witsy witsy witsah.”  Grandma is excitedly anticipated at the door with an exaggerated peering around the corner and a “Goy??  Goy?? Goy??”

Life is made new.  Holidays, places to go…it’s like the reason the Thanksgiving Day Parade was ever invented in the first place is for us to experience it with Anna this year.  Could it have bothered to exist before?

Yup, that’s for you.

Somehow Daddy knew to make “You are my sunshine” your official theme song, and it couldn’t fit more perfectly.

Sure, there are the rumblings of tantrums to come, and if any small person grabs a toy you are into, you’re sure to yell “nonono Anna nanana” meaning “get the hell away from me before I push you and I will, I’ve done it before” but really? This is you.


So I’ve never considered myself particularly crafty. Artistic, yes. Creative, definitely. But craftiness implies a level of…patience and detail wrangling I just don’t have.

When my daughter was less than a month old, in some kind of hormonal haze, I bought a Martha Stewart scrapbook kit. The idea was that this would be her baby book. It was part of a shopping spree only explainable by being freed from my breastfeeding house arrest.

It turns out this is kind of fun. Now don’t get any ideas that I’m some scrapbook maven. I’m sure it’s cheating to use one of the kits, and I know people do amazing work with little bits of paper, doilies, and glue. Did I mention I hate using glue sticks? I mean, I graduated nursery school for a reason. I also got my only Below Average mark on a report card in all of elementary school for cutting. “Cutting” was an evaluated task and I wasn’t good enough. Patience! Details! Little bits o’ things! Not my forte.

When I got into drawing and painting as a teenager, these limitations did come back to haunt me. Patience and a sort of neatness are virtues in painting and I would always hastily declare something DONE! ART! It’s done because it’s art and I say so! before I should have due to a severe lack of patience.

Anyway, lifetime failings aside, here’s my daughter’s baby book in progress. I want to mostly finish it so I can leave it out at her 1st birthday party and awe people. With my awe-inspiring awesomeness at life. And paper bits.

In progress. It’s a messy business. Note the quesadilla maker box is used as a platform for coloring for my daughter. It’s not part of her baby book. Yet.

Oh, yeah. I guess I didn’t do the cover yet. I forgot I had to do the cover, too. This is time-consuming.

Labor page. The midwives said I was awesome because I pushed (from fully dilated to birth) for 7 hours with no epidural or pain medication.

Hmm, this page looks a bit crowded. I will amend!

First Halloween and Christmas. All my photos are digital so if I happen to have anything printed, I’m adding it to the book. If I don’t have any physical prints this very moment of an event, like oh, say, my first child’s first Thanksgiving, it’s going to get skipped. Wow, I’m a great scrapbooker.

Love needs a mention.

Gotta brag record for future generations when your baby does everything early, right?

This page isn’t done. I couldn’t handle any more assemblage of minute ephemera by this point.

I’m up to Easter! I could conceivably finish by the time Anna gets married!

Dairy Free Dinners

I’m on week two of a dairy free diet, and so far it’s been slightly challenging to find meals that leave me feeling full and satisfied.

Thanksgiving leftovers, the only dairy I’ve had in 2.5 weeks

I keep feeling like I’m missing something. Not sure if it’s the richness/ taste of dairy or the fullness from saturated fats. I’m not a huge red meat eater so I think I’m missing that…animal fat, I guess.

Foods I’m using to try and satisfy this feeling:

Avocado, on everything

Almond milk (in cereal and oatmeal)

More nuts

More eggs and meat

Peanut butter


Tonight I had regular old pasta with tomato sauce, and I didn’t miss the Parmesan cheese too much. I wanted pizza, so this had to do.
Other weeknight meals this week: chicken sausage and peppers and ground turkey and avocado tortillas.

I’m obsessed with Frontera Foods flavoring packets from Rick Bayless. Did you know he’s a fitness junkie?
And hot?

Anyway, with avocado and warm corn tortillas, I didn’t miss the cheese.

I chopped up half an onion, two potatoes, and cooked them with ground turkey then added the simmer sauce. So easy it works with a twenty-minute napping baby.

I’ve also been trying some really expensive dairy free products like this chocolate chip cookie dough. I was just craving yummy baked goods.

They definitely didn’t have the consistency or look of standard cookies, but they tasted good!

Since I’ve cut dairy, Henry seems much less fussy and gassy, but his diapers are still really full of mucus. I know, it’s gross. I’m not sure if I should cut soy next, or if it will just take more time.

Things That Are Stupid At the Playground

I spend a lot of time at the playground.

I see a lot of stuff that explains why America is doomed as a superpower and how we deserve our inevitable decline and eventual future eating cat food from China in our post-first nation hovels.

We suck.

Today I saw an eight year old who didn’t know how to pump her legs / swing herself on the swings. She wasn’t delayed or special needs in any way. She wanted her mom to push her. She may have even been ten years old. She was practically menstruating and she hadn’t learned to push herself on a swing.

I’m pretty sure the Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese are building swing sets at eight years old.

Today I saw a nice grandmother repeatedly admonish her nine year old granddaughter to be careful and not fall off a tiny little rocking car that BABIES go on. It was like the height of this girl’s knees. I’m pretty sure she’d be okay even if she did fall.

I see kids who can’t play because their parents are telling them what to do next. Go on this swing! Now go over here!

I see huge children of varying advanced ages being followed by parents who hover over them as they climb like three steps.

There are a lot of good books written about this.

A Nation of Wimps is one. Free Range Kids is another. But I don’t need to read an entire book to see the absurdity. This was just TODAY at the playground. One afternoon at a playground makes me feel like either the entire world is nuts or I am.

I think we know the answer here.

Do you see things that boggle your mind at the playground?

Vitamins! and Vacation! To Buffalo in February!

Why the hell I am flying to Buffalo and back next Monday:

Those are clinical trials, if you don’t speak Google self-doctor. And they are giving me hope as I struggle out of this setback.

Shit! The doctors are inside.

One strange synergistic detail here is that for someone who can’t even go to a single damn supermarket without two children in tow I’ve somehow managed to go away on trips by myself three Februaries in a row. Two years ago I went to triathlon camp in Florida. Last year I went on a press junket to a five star luxury hotel and spa with gourmet meals and oceanfront suites and a massage. This year I’m going to Buffalo, New York to see a doctor. Do you see a meaning here?!?!?

And in more fun self-doctoring, I apparently overdosed on blood thinning vitamins in my attempts to take every supplement ever speculated to help concussion recovery. I got a nose bleed, a broken blood vessel in my eye and then a microscopic cut on my chin was like profusely bleeding for no reason. So the moral of the story is don’t take lots of fish pills AND turmeric AND Choline CDP because they all interact to essentially become a prescription blood thinner I never needed. So I stopped all vitamins. I can be pretty dumb sometimes. Vitamins!

My plan to correct my over-correction is to drink a lot of kale smoothies. What could go wrong? Last night in an attempt to assuage my panic (it’s hard being a borderline hypochondriac) I microwaved an entire family-sized bag of spinach, threw some salt and pepper and butter on it, and ate it. I actually brought it upstairs and shoveled it in my gullet as we put the kids to bed, so I was eating a half warm trough of spinach at 9 p.m. off of my daughter’s pink plaid comforter. My husband didn’t even say “I told you so,” with words, he just SMIZED IT AT ME.

He was the original voice of reason when I started my supplement regime. Pshaw, right? Then to make everything exponentially weirder, Henry trundled over and requested a bite of my bitter medicinal meal. I figured he would spit it out, right? He’s 16 months old and all. But, no. He helped me finish that shit right off.

It remains to be seen whether I will survive my next menstrual period. Stay tuned.

Once I Wanted I To Be The Greatest

I don’t know if anyone still reads my blog. I’m aware that it’s an endless series of posts about my injury and recovery but that’s what it is. That’s my life right now, a circular looping in, back around forward and back again, all around This Thing That Happened To Me.

It’s not quite linear. It’s not November Accident —> Today. It’s more woven and convoluted. I don’t know if it will ever be like, this happened, and now it’s over.

So I was feeling pretty snazzy and doing my twenty minute University of Buffalo plan, and was even into the 140 heart rate. No symptoms were coming back, so I was happy.

Then I was buckling my daughter into her car seat in front of the library, and I stood up, and somehow lightly tapped my forehead into a small tree. I know, it seems weird, like how did it work like that, but somehow there was a tiny tree right next to the curb and I’m not completely used to the height of my new car. It was so light of a bump that it didn’t even hurt so I didn’t think too much of it, yet driving home I noticed my right eyelid was twitching a little again, like it did weeks earlier ever since the original accident. Then then rest of that day I went into a fun concussion brain fog, blurry vision, and symptoms. Even dizziness came back the next day. I couldn’t comprehend the possibility that a light tap could bring my symptoms back and tried to figure out if maybe I had done something else, too much in physical therapy, anything. But as the week went on it was clear I was back into concussion brain and I called the doc I had seen who said he sees it all the time in patients who aren’t totally healed. A minor bump sets them back, for a short period.

I didn’t really think of it as a re-injury, more of a re-aggravation of my original injury. Like if you had a bad wound, it had just recently scabbed over, and then you brushed it across a rough blanket and it bled again. It’s not like the blanket re-cut you, more that the recent fragile scabbing got compromised a bit. Because, honestly, thinking that I had a new, second injury was way too depressing.

It stayed kind of bad for a week or so, but not anywhere near like my original concussion brain situation. Then this past Sunday I had a Much Better Day, and it’s been improving steadily. But this put the brakes on my exercise recovery plan. I will start it again when I feel asymptomatic again. Hopefully soon! I feel mostly okay, but for instance, going to Target felt like someone slipped me a roophie. So I know I’m not all the better yet from my setback.

Having a setback when you’ve been making such great progress is discouraging, as an understatement. But I’m refusing to freak out. Somehow. Also, my neck started bugging me and some of the tingling reappeared in my finger but it’s going away again. I think part of my problem has been the concussion preventing me from really getting into the gym in PT and doing all the strengthening of the posture and neck muscles I need to recover.

I really don’t want to end up needing medication or anything and I’m lucky in that my neck is annoying sometimes but it’s not what I would call bad pain in any way. I’m optimistic it’s going to keep improving. I am seeing a spine specialist tomorrow though to see what he says. I’m also doing a lot of chin tucks and McKenzie exercises because I’m nothing if not a believer in exercise cures.

Yesterday was the three month anniversary of the car accident. I have a lot of feels about it. In fact I have all the feels. But I’d rather focus on the next three months, and the good I have today, like finally feeling better since my set back and my neck feeling better and a snow day that means I’m in my pajamas right now.

SO IMMA KEEP GOING. In my pajamas.

Questions for Smart Runners

I posted before about following a real running plan for the first time in pretty much ever. I’ve been glad to find out that I can run almost every day and easily do 25 miles per week (was running three or four times per week and usually around 15 miles per week before this) without injury. BUT I have been really slow.

At least I can do a few of these?

I’m hoping it’s a temporary thing, from increasing miles, and eventually my body will make the gains and I will be faster. This makes sense to me theoretically so I hope it’s happening. I run with the jogging stroller Monday through Friday so I can’t really tell if I’m hitting my tempo paces. On the weekend I run without it for a long run, where I have struggled to hit the last couple of miles at goal pace as my plan calls for.

At least until they sit on my head.

Then the Great Bronchitis of 2013 hit and I had to take off a lot of days. I took off five days, thinking that HAD to make me better, than ran five more than took off three again. Today I started Week Four of my plan for the third week in a row. I don’t want to skip the week since I think I need to repeat it and actually get the key workouts in (tempo and long run.)

Maybe some smarter running brains than mine know the answer – Is it okay to just run with the jogging stroller at a pace that feels the same exertion-wise as my tempo run pace even if it’s almost two minutes per mile slower or is it key for me to hit the tempo pace? If so, I can finagle running without the stroller during the week one day for a tempo run, even if means running at 7 p.m. in the dark (boo.)

Also, is it normal to expect to get slower before I get faster? Or do I just suck?

Don’t answer that last one.

Gosh Darn It I’m Good Enough

I’m currently working on an article about New Year’s Resolutions and why we fail so spectacularly at them.

I spoke with Tara Newman, who is a healthy lifestyle blogger by night but an organizational psychologist and goal setting coach by day. She had a lot of really thought-provoking things to say about what goals we set, how we should approach making changes and common pitfalls. It got me to thinking.

See, “my friend” has a little problem with yelling sometimes. Well, not really a friend. A little birdie that lives in my yard and has my face and name is what I mean.


Now, I have to preface this by explaining that yelling seems normal to me. I grew up in a half-Italian family where yelling was just one setting on a vast dial of emotion, one that could slip momentarily into happiness, elation, anger, sadness, and myriad other expressions and then back as if it had never happened. Like a loose dial that could spin around and around. You were never meant to be upset about the yelling because kissing and love and tomato sauce were around the corner. It never meant anything. Just an opera of unmediated human expression.

The problem is other people don’t experience it this way, people like my dad, and my husband, and the vast hordes of pale Northern Europeans that have mostly populated North America, and even me, even with that upbringing, I know it’s not quite right. It’s not the way to be. But at moments of stress, exasperation, overwhelmed, I revert back to what I know. The easiest path. The worst response. I’d like to not yell as much.

Tara brought up the point that a good way to start is to do a little research. Why do I yell? What happens right before it, both externally and inside my brain? What are the circumstances surrounding it? Do I really mean to say something else, perhaps:



Or whatever. And then instead of just setting the goal to “not yell,” which is way too big and unwieldy and non-specific, I should set action-oriented smaller goals like 1. Plan for a small mental break each day to keep sane and avoid getting overwhelmed 2. Express my feelings in other ways and so on…

So I’m going to try this jazz. Me and Stuart Smalley, we up in this bitch.

Yell Free 2014, here we come. This is going to require a lot of drinking, but please note I did not say Drink Free 2014. I’m good enough, but I’m not a saint.