Friday, April 28, 2006

Good omen?

Our goldfish Nemo, whom I revived from certain death, looks perkier now than he's ever been! It's quite unbelievable. It probably sounds ridiculous, but I'm hoping that this is a sign of more good things to come. All I have is hope right now.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Nemo's little life saved...for now

After we got back from Barcelona, our goldfish Nemo looked fine in his bowl. Clean water, his pod of vacation food worn down slightly...but he wasn't very active. I took out his vacation food and put in his regular food. Within a few days, his bowl was quite cloudy. I kept cleaning out his bowl, but his water seemed to get cloudier faster. Then, I noticed a few missing scales, but I couldn't address his health issues because I had bigger issues to deal with. Today, I went to clean out his very dirty water again and found Nemo motionless, but somehow upright, at the bottom of the bowl.

I had saved a pet goldfish in childhood by running fresh water over its gills for several minutes and thought it might work with Nemo. I cradled him in my hands over the kitchen sink and let the cold water run over his gills for about ten minutes. His gills would begin to undulate intermittently, and finally, at the end of the session, a very weak Nemo was breathing on his own. Not much energy for swimming, and the breathing looked slightly irregular, but I got life back into his little body. As I was working on Nemo, I couldn't help but think about the little baby in my body that I was desperately trying to protect from danger. The tears almost surfaced, but they never realized because I was focused on reviving Maylin's fish. I couldn't bear letting her down and telling her the bad news. But I know that most likely, sooner rather than later, Maylin will have to deal with the death of Nemo.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Not in the clear yet

The ultrasound was not as perfect as it seemed. Typically here, the radiologist will give pictures and a printed analysis right after the ultrasound, but in this case, she didn't -- this made me suspicious. Now I know that she wanted my doctor to deliver the news to me personally. Still nothing definitive, but I have to do more tests. I'm seeing some specialists at another hospital. Perhaps the best in Europe, thanks to a wonderful referral from a friend.

I see now that I really took the ease of my pregnancy with Maylin for granted. How many women out there are going through the same thing I am? And how many are having two or more complicated pregnancies? Probably a lot more than I think. Let's all thank our mothers for what they have gone through for having us!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

I'm back and I'm fine!

Well, I've actually got really bad allergies and a really bad cold, so I'm not totally fine. But we had a nice trip to Barcelona which I'll tell you about later, and the ultrasound I had last Thursday seems to be okay -- I'll get detailed results tomorrow!

Not feeling too well, so I'm going to rest some more now. Please be patient. I'll get back to writing more regularly again soon!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I need your positive thoughts and prayers

Nothing to get scared about yet, but the radiologist had concerns about the last ultrasound and didn't tell me! My doctor said I need to go in for another ultrasound and blood test in a couple weeks. Sorry I'm going to be vague about the details at this point. I just need you to send your positive thoughts and prayers to this baby. Thank you. By the way, don't be too concerned if you don't hear from me for about a week. I'll explain later...

Sumi Jo in Paris

On Tuesday night, I took John out on a date to see one of the top coloratura sopranos in the world in action. Sumi Jo is Korean, but studied at the Saint Cecilia Conservatory in Rome (by the way, Saint Cecilia is the patron saint of music).

She gave an amazing performance of vocal fireworks, exquisite tonal beauty, and top artistry in phrasing and dynamics. Jo blew us away! The most difficult pieces were thrown off with such ease. And she demonstrated quite a range of tone, too. For her coloratura pieces (lots of superfast notes, often high and sometimes very high), she had the more typical, light tone for coloratura sopranos. But she was also able to bring out much more richness and fullness for the heavier second half of the program, which included lieder by Richard Strauss and arias from Verdi's La Traviata.

Dramatically and artistically, in my opinion, the peak came too early -- due to the piece itself. I had never heard this Vivaldi aria before from Bajazet, "Sposa, son disprezzata," but it was so moving and so delicately phrased -- I could tell everyone was holding their breath for the entire piece. It was really incredible. The rest of the first half of the program had some sexy and charming works, including the very whimsical Adolphe Adam aria, "Ah! vous dirai-je maman," from "Le Toreador, ou l'Accord parfait", which had the wackiest, wildest variations on Mozart's most famous theme (Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star).

Alas, I am super-critical. Although Jo was not to be matched by many other coloraturas out there, I still found a few things that bothered me. The clarity of her diction went in and out. Sometimes, I understood what she was singing perfectly, usually at the beginnings of phrases. but her words would get muddy towards the ends of phrases and in her higher range. She modified some vowels in her higher range which my voice teacher would have disapproved because some of those notes weren't really that high (just an F or fa). You really can't change the Italian word for God "Dio" into "D?o" -- it changes the meaning of what you're trying to communicate, especially in such a well-known aria as Puccini's "O mio babbino caro."

In recital, it can be difficult to decide how much acting to do and how many gestures to incorporate into a piece. I was in want of more acting and expression from Jo, whose face would annoyingly blank whenever she stopped singing (even if the piano was still playing). As singers, we need to communicate from the beginning to the end of a piece. Then there was often the awkward movements of the arms, which were repeated all too often. After no physical movement for almost an entire piece, an arm would get thrown out to emphasize a final, stratospheric note. Too strange. In other pieces, she would do the same movement, maybe with the other arm, maybe with both -- but exactly the same movement. At least two times, she reached out to the audience at the end of a phrase with her right arm. I don't mind physical movement during a recital, but it needs to have more of a context and be varied. How many times did she touch her right cheek with her right hand during the La Traviata works?

Jo wore a couple loud dresses in her program, the latter being bright orange with huge ruffles everywhere. Those showed her true personality underneath all her professional calm. The lengths of the dresses for the most part hid the sometimes distracting shifting of her right leg, forward and back, side to side -- must have helped with the coloratura.

I'm really too harsh. She was really wonderful. The French love her -- of course, with beautiful tone and vocal agility like that? We clapped until we got four encores, one of them a Korean song, and the final, Schubert's Ave Maria, in remembrance of her father's death. (I think it was her father. Jo spoke beautiful, though very soft, French during her intro to the song, but I thought I heard "mere" and "pere" and couldn't figure out which had passed away.) The funeral was that very morning and she had to miss it because of her singing engagement with us. But she knew her father would be happy she was singing. The story made the piece even more moving. Afterwards, the entire audience gave her a standing ovation. What courage it must have taken to come to Paris and perform under such circumstances!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Maylin's amazing memory

She remembers a lot from time spent with Grandma and Grandpa. This last weekend, I took Maylin to Belleville to get some Chinese groceries. This was supposed to be a quick trip. But first, I had to pick up a roast duck to go at a restaurant, and in the window, I showed her some duck wings which she instantly remembered enjoying at Grandma and Grandpa's house in February. She really wanted to eat inside at that point. Why not? I'm pregnant -- I can always go for a snack. Once we were inside, Maylin recognized the restaurant as the one Belleville Chinese restaurant we ate in with Grandma and Grandpa last May -- nearly a year ago!!! How did she ever remember??

One time, she was telling me how much she liked Grandma and Grandpa's house and how she liked feeding the ducks bread (and eating it herself, too) nearby. Another time, I was cutting oranges, and she said I cut it just like Grandpa did.

This is unrelated to her memory, but has to do with oranges. I ran out of juice, which she usually drinks, very much diluted. She didn't want water at that point, so I said I'd squeeze some oranges. She was fascinated and nearly delirious with joy. Now she knows where juice comes from! She found the fresh juice especially tasty.