Monday, July 31, 2006

Tantrum Season

I had a hard week. I understand that it's all relative; for instance, nobody tried to blow me or my stuff up. My health has been okay, though I do feel like my sinuses have been lined with cement.

But I have had trouble getting along with Jarrah in the past five days. I think she may be teething; in fact, it's possible she has 32 teeth coming in simultaneously from the way she's been behaving. She spends most of her time either screaming, stamping her feet (in that kind of "I don't wanna and you can't make me!" way) or letting her mouth go slack when it's filled with barely moistened food so that clumps of viscous gloop roll down her shirt and onto the furniture and car seat. Often these episodes seem sooooo irrational that I am stunned, like tonight when we gave her two slices of peach (she loves peach) and she nibbled one and put it down, then reached for a third "fresh" slice from the bowl. When I pointed and said "You already have two" she began screaming and frantically whisking all her dinner onto the floor.

Yesterday we visited Mary, Paul and Joy at "My Gym" and Jarrah's tiny fingers had just touched the rail to the ball pit when the staff told me she couldn't come in "until the music starts." Well, try explaining that to her. She yelled, cried, snotted and stamped her feet in the otherwise silent lobby while being watched with vague interest by three or four other perfectly quiet children who did not feel the same urgency about the balls.

These episodes have been raising my blood pressure. I hear my heart pounding higher and higher until I think I am choking on it. I repeat like a mantra "Just be patient, she's only one; just be patient; she's only one" and that does work until suddenly it doesn't and a tsunami of rage rolls over my head and I have to stride away from the eye of the storm. David is more understanding. He explains to me that irrational is rational to someone of her age. I believe him, but he is gone all day in a nice, quiet office. Somehow I'm just not doing a very good job of being patient and understanding right now.

And it hurts me, that I feel that way. I want to dig deeper and find a bottomless well of compassion and calm, but I don't seem to be able to. And then I feel inadequate. After all, I remember reading somewhere recently this quote from a toddler father: "I don't worry about my daughter loving me. That's not her job; it's my job to love her." I adore that idea, I really do. And I aspire to that kind of...what? selflessness? Maybe it isn't selflessness when you get everything you need from the ACT of loving your child. Right now loving my child is just making me haggard.

I think what really makes me haggard is knowing it doesn't go away. There will be some version of her stamping her feet and screaming now for the foreseeable future and beyond. And I hope I get better at dealing with it so I don't have some kind of cardiac episode.

Also it's very hard to have these feelings without the soothing balm of chocolate. I'm just saying.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Red Carpet

As many of you have read in Samantha's post "Burnin' Love", our whole family made a short movie as part of the 48 Hour filmmaking competition. I have entered this competition for the last few years to help keep my filmmaking dreams alive, and Samantha is always there supporting in every way she can (writing, acting, crowd control.) This is the year we learned from past miskates; with a more experienced crew we focused on a simple story that works in seven minutes, reduced the number of locations to one, and limited our casting requirements by casting kitchen appliances in the lead roles. All this paid off, as our screening at Landmark La Jolla Village was a great success (the audience laughed at all the correct spots), and our team, Cane Toad Productions, won for Best Cinematography (see the complete list of winners.)

Now it is time that everyone gets to see it.

For those wanting a premium experience, download a high definition version here (PC only, and it is a big file around 270MB) :

Or for an easy-to-view copy, go to here :

Comments welcome!


Monday, July 24, 2006

Hot Mom-ness

"There is no try. There is only do, and not do." --Yoda

I am not really a Star Wars fan. Well, there was the time after The Empire Strikes Back when I told my mother I wasn't getting out of bed until Han Solo was un-carbon-froze. "But that won't be for three years!" she said. "Whatever it takes," I said fiercely. That was a pretty heightened moment for me, popular entertainment-wise. But I digress.

I actually heard this quote at a Mary Kay party I attended last Wednesday. It wasn't really advertised as a Mary Kay party; it was called a "Pamper Party." Now that I am a mom, I experience a slight frisson of horror when I hear the words "Pamper Party." But it turned out to be about feet, not tushes. And I did have a good time, though (as obviously intended) I do get whipped into a frenzy of believing that maybe I should sell Mary Kay at these things. "I can make my own hours, and the stuff sells itself!" I told David. David is suspicious because he thinks it's a pyramid scheme. I do not have a problem with the idea of gossiping about makeup all day. It's more that I'm not sure I want to do it with people I know.

I attended the Mary Kay party in a blaze of triumph (lost over two pounds!) directly after my second Weight Watchers meeting in six months, and the first after discovering that I was correct in my suspicion that I'd gained close to 20 pounds since becoming a mom. How about that, folks? I put on the baby weight AFTER meeting the child. I was looking just fine in China, and feeling pretty good if I do say so myself. But six months of a) eating many of my meals in the car while driving a sleeping baby around and b) cramming into my mouth whatever happens to be lying near my hand and c) feeling too exhausted to shop, cook or even assemble and d) ["d" is the big one here] suffering from acute gastric distress whenever food is present because a small person is shouting "Ma-MA!" at me repeatedly while I shovel my portion faster and faster has (whew!) yielded the not-so-surprising result of being unable to squeeze into any of my clothes.

Recent perusals of family photo shoots have made me wince. Who the hell is that?, I ask myself. That's you, only bigger, myself answers. I have packed on the pounds as efficiently as someone who is prepping for a movie role or training to swim the English Channel. And the outcome, in addition to not being pretty, is totally enervating. I drag myself around town, panting, lugging my solid daughter (who herself has gained not even one ounce, but three inches, since arriving in our fair country) and marvel that I used to be so lively and fun-loving. And while we're mulling this over, could you pass the Red Vines, please?

A few weeks ago, I was driving Jarrah to My Kid's Clubhouse, feeling awful, and contemplating my future, in which I would most decidely not be a hot mom. And I want to be a hot mom! Aren't I entitled to at least a few years of hot mom-ness after all I've been through? And then a little voice said, "Well, I know someone who can help. You."

That did it, Readers. Like a shaft of light through the clouds I was pierced with the realization that yes, it's hard eating well as a mom, yes, it's hard taking care of myself when I'm taking care of someone else, and no, it's not going to get any easier anytime soon. But the little voice said, "Do it anyway. Do it even though it's hard. Do it BECAUSE it's hard." And, just like that, I felt so much better.

I made it to my first meeting last Thursday, but with growing pains. David hit traffic and I was so late I only heard the last 10 minutes of the discussion. It was hard to look at the scale. But when all the paperwork was complete, and I was sitting amongst my people in the cold, white metal chairs, I knew it was right. The leader ended the meeting with a quote: "There is no such thing as will power. There are simply people who are ready to change, and people who are not."

It brought tears to my eyes. May The Force be with me.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Burnin' Love

The title of this post is stolen from a short film that David and I, together with a merry band of friends and strangers collectively known as Cane Toad Productions, created for The 48 Hour Film Project this past weekend.

David and I have been gluttons for punishment three years in a row, but this year the gluttony was exponentially greater with a 1-year-old to wrangle in addition to a film crew in our house. Yes, that's right: our house. It always seems like it will be "easier" to use our house as the location, but that means that we are buried under cables and lights and boom mikes and the sundry crapcake of a dozen people the entire weekend. Ugh.

So, here's how The 48 Hour Film Project works. It's an international contest, taking place in cities around the world. An organizer "kicks off" the contest in a given city at 7:00 p.m. Friday by asking the teams to draw their film genre out of a hat. The genres range from expected categories like Comedy and Action, to wackier ones like Musical and Superhero and Mockumentary. Whatever you pull, that's what you're making. Before the teams depart, three "elements" are drawn by the organizer, and films for that city must contain all three: a prop, a character and a line of dialogue. This year, the prop was a beach towel, the character was Sally Brown, Event Planner, and the line of dialogue was "What would Elvis do?" The films must run between four and eight minutes. And they must be delivered to the finish line by 7:00 Sunday--if you're late, you're disqualified.

After the kickoff, the teams dash off somewhere, preferably with booze, to brainstorm, and theoretically, to write a script before Friday ends. Saturday is devoted to set-up and shooting, and Sunday to editing and post-production.

Sound simple? Consider that a single shot might take 1-2 hours to arrange, light, shoot and then re-shoot in endless retakes. Consider that there hasn't been time to write an actual script, or even to block the scenes and shots in order. Consider that most of the time the participants are non-actors, and have had no time to rehearse or learn their lines. Consider that all music has to be original, and each sound and special effect has to be found or created.

And then consider that 48 hours is still just that: 48 hours. Generally, people like to do things like, let's say, sleep during a weekend. Or eat. Or attend to other bodily functions. Sometimes people like to get really kooky and shower. But this is not the weekend for any of those things.

So, this year I was opposed to the whole business. Absolutely not, are you crazy? I asked David. We have a baby. Who is going to watch her while we're running around town and jumping out of moving cars? (We may have done that last year.) But David really loves it. And because I love him, I could not deny him the fulfillment of his filmmaking passion.

This year, David and I did agree to step back a bit. The past two years, he's directed and I've acted and written--we're a veritable husband-and-wife entertainment industry. This year, he decided to produce, and I...well, I shouted lines from the sidelines, and reprised my role as "acting coach," a self-created position that the cast probably considers more nuisance than anything else. I also had one voiceover. What can I say? I was a highschool drama freak.

Friday night found David and I at home, waiting for that all-important call with the genre and elements. We do have that baby I mentioned earlier, and this year the kick-off was in Carmel Valley. My friend Renee was there, having driven in from Riverside to join the team, and lucky us because she is a composer. Already, there were two guys I didn't know; one of them stayed just long enough to eat our pizza and take enough cell phone calls "outside" that I wondered if he was a secret agent, and then vanished into the night. The other, Kevin, became the sound guy, and he was very sweet. Within the hour, we also welcomed Matt and his friend Carly, who were there to act and anything else we needed.

Now, Matt is an interesting story. The first year, David put an ad in Craigslist for actors who would be willing to come to his office and audition for him, and Matt happened to answer it. Since then, he's been our lucky charm, starring in all three of the films we've made for the contest. Matt is like Santa Claus. He's very jolly, and we see him once a year. We have never seen Matt in a bad mood, nor in any state other than cooperative and enthusiastic. He also does his own stunts. I'm the president of the Matt fan club. And this year, he brought Carly, and I'll be needing to start a club for her, too. Not only did she act in the film, but she played with Jarrah, and even helped me cook!

This year, the kickoff was delayed. Apparently, the organizer was stuck in traffic on her way from LA. We were all getting antsy by the time the call came: we'd pulled "Comedy." Our first reaction was "Ugh!" Let's face it--even the people who pull "Horror" are trying to be funny. So "Comedy" just seems like unnecessary pressure. The early ideas ranged from the tale of a bumbling serial killer, to a woman who dates vegetables. But then Tim and Jake arrived--they'd been at the kickoff--and Tim described his idea about a toaster and blender in love who are tragically separated by a garage sale. Tantalizing images of utterly cooperative appliances danced in our heads, and we were sold. But there was a catch: in Tim's story, the only person who can help the toaster is a baby, and that baby is Jarrah. As it happens, Jarrah is already a total diva. More on that later. Suddenly, David and I found that we had agreed to film the whole she-bang at our house, and within minutes of that decision, our house started looking like Circuit City. If they made movies at Circuit City.

Saturday morning dawned bright and HOT, with our neighborhood simmering in the Palm Springs ranges. Of course, the first scenes were outside, at the garage sale. At one point I went out to get something and there were two women I'd never seen before arranging junk I'd never seen before on a tarp on our lawn. This was Kanda and Lauren, sister and friend to Kevin, and also to Jake, the director. This year's shoot was quite the family affair.

An aside about the teams: every year our team has been comprised of equal parts friends and folks I've never met, and each time the process is incredibly bonding. For some reason, flying high on adrenaline and caffeine while rigging a piece of toast with sewing thread brings people together. While I am ready to kiss the walls with thankfulness when we get our house back at the end of the weekend, I feel a bit forlorn saying goodbye to the cast and crew. We become an instant, albeit highly dysfunctional, family unit.

Saturday is a bit of a blur. There was a lot of sweating, a lot of takes, and a lot of Jarrah wailing because no one was paying attention to her. I alternated between "helpfully" shouting dialogue and scene advice from under a tree, arranging food for the hungry horde, and trying to keep Jarrah hydrated, fed, napped and quiet. Jarrah was quite willing to be adorable and get caught on film doing it, but not so much willing to do anything she thought we expressly wanted her to do. A lot hinged on getting her to say "Uh-Oh," just once, not even in context, but my previously foolproof method of eliciting this reaction with a poorly fastened sandal was instead producing only suspicious looks. I will say we were able to persuade her to do one stunt with very little encouragement that could probably garner us a call from Child Protective Services.

Something happens by Saturday night where I am haggard with exhaustion but unable to calm down. I don't think it's coffee because I don't ever drink that much, but I lay there both nights blinking, my mind racing in the dark. David experiences the same problem. We are completely wired from start to finish. Not that we're in bed for very long. The luxury of eight hours of sleep is anathema to this weekend.

Previously, Sunday has been incredibly frustrating for me, because on Saturdays I'm in the thick of it, performing, writing, supervising, and Sunday the men (it's almost always men) hunker down around the monitors with their headphones and their Red Bull and do nothing but edit all day. Since I don't actually know anything about editing, my contribution is limited to leaning over their shoulders and reporting, with increasing urgency, on how slow or fast or boring or choppy or incoherent something looks. This does not tend to endear me to any of the editors, not even my own husband, and often I'm officially banished for long periods. But this year, our director maintained a preternatural calm throughout the day, and actually seemed interested and--dare I say?--responsive when I offered my "constructive" criticism. In fact, a couple of times I even ventured to suggest that an entire shot needed to be added or removed, and my suggestion was honored. At one point, I was even responsible for setting up a shot we didn't have yet so we could insert it. I got a little giddy with power, I must confess. In the past, I've watched in desperation as someone chose to use what I deemed to be an inferior take and was gruffly told, "Well, it's the only one that got audio, so cool your jets." This year, I still felt like I was in the game on Sunday.

We had a little last-minute stress over inserting the score in time to render a disc, but in the end, Tim valiantly sped our entry to La Jolla in record time. As the sun went down, we relaxed for the first time in 48 hours by sitting outside and watching Jarrah, in a grubby dress she'd worn all weekend in case we needed more footage, stacking some rocks from our garden. There was a house to clean, laundry to do and equipment to put away, but there was also a sense of accomplishment all around.

So, if you've made it through this saga, you happen to be local, and you feel like seeing the finished product on the big screen, drop me a line. The screening is Tuesday, July 18 at 9:00 p.m. (I know, I know, it's late--there were over 40 entries this year so they split us up into four screenings.) If enough people vote for us at the theatre, we could win the Audience Award!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Groovin' On A Sunny Afternoon

A "normal" week after the excitement of grandparents/July 4/Daddy being off for five days:

On Monday we tried out "Kidsville" in Poway with Lisa and Anton. It's near "My Kid's Clubhouse" but it's huge, located in a sort of warehouse, and contains about a dozen little "playhouses" that each feature a different theme: beauty parlor, fire station, dress-up closet, etc. Very cute. Jarrah loved it, of course, and we spent nearly three hours there.

Tuesday we tried out the story time at the Mission Valley Library, where Jarrah facilitated a run-in with an old acquaintance by attempting to pilfer her son's snacks off their stroller tray. In Jarrah's defense, they have the same stroller that we do. ;) We discovered that Jarrah and Ryan are only days apart in age, so that may lead to future playdate opportunities! The story time was fun, but very crowded, and no bubbles or stamps, so Jarrah was a bit miffed.

Wednesday was a fun-filled day, beginning with our third weekly visit to Borders Babies and another opportunity for Jarrah to be stamped into a blissful stupor. This time she harrassed the story lady (who, as described in a recent entry, is verrrry patient) into delivering FIVE belly stamps of trains, a collection that Jarrah displayed for all and sundry the rest of the afternoon. The theme of the day was "Monster Trucks," which I found pretty amusing in light of David's joke that Jarrah is going to resist my steering towards tap dance in favor of monster trucks--it would seem that the polarizing siren call has already begun.

After a massive nap, we dashed up to Penasquitos to visit Caroline and her darling sons, Will and Alex. Jarrah falls between them in age and the three of them were quite winsome together, climbing triumphantly on the train table and squishing into the little play house. If Jarrah had her druthers, every day would have a long nap sandwiched between vigorous social events--it's the only way I can count on her being sweet and agreeable in the early evening. Which is kind of weird, because you'd think she'd be worn out and cranky from tiredness. Instead, it's lack of stimulation that pushes her over the edge.

Today was our third week of "My Gym," but first we met Jen and tiny Ian for coffee at wonderful, wooden, leaf-canopied Cafe 926 in Pacific Beach. I had come prepared, valiantly, with drinks, snacks, Elmo, books and noise-making units for the little miss, and she did amazingly well for an hour, with no running into the street, screaming or panhandling other patrons. I was sort of proud of her, until I realized we were late for class and now a certain stench was emanating from her shorts. We ended up missing the introductory "circle time" because I was wrangling Jarrah on the diaper table in the restroom, and let's just say the margin by which we avoided a total "I packed toys and snacks but no change of clothing" biohazard could be concisely desribed as slim. But then there were giant swings to swing on, medicine balls to somersault over, and cars to whiz down ramps, so all that was forgotten. Jarrah had a wonderful time, as usual, and impressed me again and again with her physical agility.

Maybe her only words are "Uh-Oh" and "Hot!" but man, that child can dunk a basketball. Can you say "scholarship?"

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Flip Fantasia

Last night I taught at a NIA jam at the Eveoke Theatre in downtown San Diego. The jam was a benefit for a handful of non-profit groups and organized by my friend (and former UCSD student) Dani. I was one of five teachers and we danced for two hours without a break. Some of you may have wondered what the hell I'm talking about when I mention NIA. If NIA was a cult, it would be the best kind, where everyone is happy and dancing all the time. And it does inspire a cultish devotion. I always joke that nine out of ten people who try my class say "That was interesting!" afterwards. And the tenth starts taking five NIA classes a week and then trains to become a teacher. NIA combines a bunch of different movement forms, including dance, martial arts and yoga, with some kick-ass music. You do it barefoot, but it's very aerobic. The couple who invented NIA call it "the mind/body/emotion/spirit workout," and that description is particularly appropriate at jams, when a huge room of strangers somehow becomes a hootin' and hollerin' life force. Last night was a prime example.

The Eveoke Theatre is a very cool downtown-y feeling space with cavernous rooms decorated with pastel paints and chalk graffiti, and no air conditioning. It is freakishly humid in San Diego right now and when I first walked into the studio, I announced, "I think I'll wear a towel on my head while I dance to make it a bit more like a Swedish sauna in here." The heat intensified as the night went on and during my segment, which was late in the game, I thought I might go into cardiac arrest from a combination of adrenaline and dehydration (I had already drunk two bottles of water at that point.) My hair looked like I'd just showered. But I can't really explain the thrill of leading the room in a dance where the energy of the group starts to radiate pure joy. One of the songs I chose, "Jammin', " is danced in a circle with a big kick-line into the center and back out, and I always thrill to see a couple dozen people goofily grinning as they kick in unison like modern-day Rockettes.

And just being able to sweat and yell and act crazy for two hours did wonders for my spirit. As a new mom, I find it really hard to exercise as routinely as I once did. By the weekend, I feel like a flubby slug. Lately, I gaze in the mirror at my pasty complexion and purple-rimmed eyes, with defiant gray hairs zinging up from my poorly combed head and admit, "No wonder everyone's been calling me Ma'am." But when I've been doing NIA for an hour I feel young and pretty again; my limbs are supple, my back is strong, and, well, I can just keep pulling my yoga pants up to hide that belly flab. After two hours last night, I was exhausted and thirsty, but the endorphins were buzzing me like fireflies.

They must have been the reason that Grace and I got all reckless, for us and our mom selves, on the way home. We were hungry; the promised post-show vegan appetizers having been depleted before I managed to wring myself out and into some dry clothes. Driving up Fifth Avenue towards Hillcrest, we suddenly decided to pull a U-turn and head back to Little Italy at the unthinkable hour of 10:00, and found ourselves, on a sweet, balmy night in July, sitting at a tiny outdoor table at a new restaurant called Sogno DiVino, sipping sauvignon blanc from impossibly fragile glasses and oohing and ahhing over summer tomatoes, thinly sliced brie, ripe strawberries and field greens the ridiculously cute Italian waitress described as marinated in a "balsamic re-DEWK-shun."

We laughed and gossiped and savored every moment of this interlude that was so unusual for us--the lateness of the hour, the difficulty of the food, the warmth of the alcohol, the total absence of "Ma-MA-ing." As midnight drew near, alas, we both turned back into pumpkins, but at least now we were pumpkins that had been organically and lovingly grown. ;)

I don't know if any other moms can relate to this, but for me having a child really puts the final stamp (as if a big hand in the sky had come down and inked "CERTIFIED" on my psychic paperwork) on the summers of my youth. Now, I'm not saying that summer isn't still a wonderful time, with swimming and fairs and sweet corn and fireworks. But at the risk of sounding a bit...what? nostalgic? revisionist?...I've always associated summer with the thrill and danger of unpredictability. In my teens and '20s, I often had strange jobs in the summer, where I learned new things and met and inappropriately cavorted with strange, new people. I never knew where I might find myself on a summer evening, and which chunk of starry sky or light-dimpled ocean I might be gazing across. I never knew when I might be going to work after only three hours of sleep with a nagging headache and a lopsided smile. It was a time when I might get together with a friend for a dishy lunch after only a week's separation and confide, "You are not going to BELIEVE what's happened since I last saw you!" Summer was a time for kissing men I didn't even like, just because it was summer and, oh, isn't the sound of the ocean and the crackling of the beach fire lovely? Most importantly, every little breeze did NOT whisper Louise: it whispered "Samantha, my darling, my scrumptious little cupcake." Meaning, bien sur, that whatever happened, it was all about the wonder of me.

With each passing day, David, Jarrah and I feel more like a family unit, like the three of us were always meant to be together. But sometimes, for a fleeting moment, I am a bit agog that I'm a grownup now. That means some things are a little more predictable. I haven't had any new jobs lately, and when people say "What have you been up to?" I hesitate slightly, not wanting to say, again, "Changing diapers. Pushing swings. Cutting things into small pieces." But it also means I don't wake up in the morning by bolting upright in bed (alone, mind you, I wasn't ever that naughty) with the cringing thought, "Oh no, who did I kiss last night?" I know who I kissed last night. And I plan to keep kissing them both, every night. That's a prediction I'd bet on, with all my heart.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Puddin' in the Mix

A surreal moment at Borders Babies:

"Excuse me, excuse me!" trilled a voice above the toddler din. "I'd like to make a request!" I turned to locate her. She was an attractive woman dressed incongruously, for 10:30 on a Wednesday, in shimmery red paillette sequins. Because she was sitting with us amidst the strollers and sippy cups, I assumed she was one of the moms. "It's my birthday today," she announced. "And I have nothing to do all day, so I came in here to buy a book."

Huh. Apparently not one of the moms. Now that I think about it, distinctly un-momesque, with the sequins and what not. Here's where it got kooky:

"And I'd like the children to sing happy birthday to me right now. That would really feed my inner child."

I had a sudden vision of her inner child stuffing her maw with Cheerios. But the story lady had impeccable, unflappable manners. She raised her tuning fork and rallied the troops. All the moms and a few grudging children dutifully sang "Happy Birthday," at which point the Sequin Lady thanked us and vanished into the mist.

And I smiled a secret little smile to myself, having just obtained very public proof that I am not the most narcissistic birthday girl in the world. Sweet.

How Jarrah is so very, very Jarrah:

After the bubbles, the story lady announces that it is stamp time, and "I'll stamp all day, so there's no need to push." I don't know why she bothers. In seconds she is enveloped in striving limbs. Since Jarrah is one of the shorter kids in the group today, soon I can't see her. I just have to have faith that she's somewhere in that knot of flailing limbs. One by one, the children emerge, triumphantly waving a hand at their mother, now festooned with a purple cat. Jarrah, however, does not emerge. She is in there a very, very long time. After a little while, I hear an unmistakable cry: "Ma-MA! Ma-MA!" I am looking at a dozen blond children and there is no Jarrah that I can see. But I hear it again, clear and strong as the day is long: "Ma-MA! Ma-MA!" I am laughing, imagining what the story lady thinks about this tenacious little person who keeps shrieking "Ma-MA!" at her. And then, she is nigh. She stumbles to the outside of the circle, and not seeing me at first, looks anxiously around. "Jarrah!" I call to her, and she finds my voice and smiles. She trots over to me, and as she gets closer I can see that both her hands are completely covered in purple kitties.

And then she raises her shirt: there is a purple kitty stamped right above her belly button.

There you have it, folks. The girl for whom too much is never enough.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


I'll try to be as terse as possible in this post, which as you may imagine if you've been following this blog, does not come naturally to me. ;) But terseness is necessitated by the vast panoply of events to share from the past week, and the additional need to document these experiences with many, many photos.

Last Thursday Jarrah met her Australia grandparents (henceforth known as "Nana" and "Granddad") for the first time. They are visiting from Perth, where apparently Jarrah has quite a fan club (hello dear readers in WA!) The first audience did not disappoint on either side: Jarrah adored tearing open her myriad gifts, and Nana and Granddad patiently participated in watching the removal and then facilitating demands for replacement of the orange knitted booties on Jarrah's first doll. They even got to watch her in her natural habitat at Soup Plantation before the evening was through, happily hurling chunks of muffin to mark her territory.

Friday was a historic day for the family, since it contained not only an official first birthday party for Jarrah and Joy (on account of there being no actual Jarrah or Joy to appear at the party we had on December 28) and Jarrah's re-adoption in Juvenile Court for the state of California. No, readers, Jarrah is not paving an early path to juvey. Re-adoption means she'll have a US birth certificate which can be easily replaced if she needs copies for college or employment. Her Chongqing birth certificate is a lovely document but one of a kind. Our judge was a charming lady who happily posed for photos and gave the five-minute cermony (which really just consisted of signing a couple papers) an appropriate gravitas and congratulatory ambience. Then Jarrah got to pick out a stuffed animal as a souvenir. It was a surprisingly enjoyable experience, and the next morning we awoke to a feature in our local paper, not only on the topic of re-adoption, but featuring our own judge! Here's the link to the story:

After court, we met Mary and Paul's extended family at--of course--a Szechuan restaurant, where we all yummed up a sumptious feast, and then over to Mary's brother and sister-in-law Ben and Debbie's for birthday cake. It was in point of fact Mary's birthday that day, so there were two cakes: one with an "over the hill" theme (not that Mary is any such thing) and one shaped like a panda. Readers, Debbie is clearly the Martha Stewart of cakes: the panda was sitting upright. Anybody who conquers gravity in the production of baked goods gets my respect. And, in true American spirit, we had a whole mess of present-opening, an activity for which both Jarrah and Joy are developing an assiduous knack. Cute photo ops abounded, as you can plainly see.

On Saturday, my folks came down to complete the grandparent quartet, and it was a love-fest all around. It was a beastly hot day and I'm not sure who complained more during our walk at Balboa Park: me or Jarrah. However, we capped the family reunion in grand fashion at Cafe Zucchero in Little Italy, where David and I had our family rehearsal dinner prior to our wedding just over five years ago. The hot day ceded to a sultry evening perfect for lounging on their sweet back patio with a nice, cold Pinot Grigio, some ripe tomato bruschetta, some creamy gelato, and some wearing of penne noodles over our fingers. (Too bad Jarrah polished off my wine while I was busy modeling those noodles. ;0)

Sunday morning was another grand occasion: Hannah's third birthday! Jarrah arrived at the pig-themed gala ready to party in her swim diaper and ruffled bathing suit. She enjoyed coloring pig faces, eating some (hopefully) non-toxic pig paint, and splashing wantonly in the blow-up pool. Again, see adorable photos for evidence.

I know you're probably already reeling from the historic import of this extended weekend, but hold on to your Bumkins bibs, because the most historic is still to come. On Monday afternoon we had the pleasure of hosting three of the eight families from CCAI Group 906 in our own backyard for a barbecue and swim party. That's right, Readers: if you've been following along you know there were six litle girls and two little boys adopted from Chongqing back in February, and we got three of them in the same pool! Two-year-old Sedona, accompanied by her parents Kim and Michael, paid us a visit from Albuquerque, and Paul, Mary and Joy joined us for some baby cuteness to the third power. If I thought it was scary how cute the three of them were splashing in the blow-up pool (a brief aside: until one has children, one has no concept of how difficult it is to purchase a blow-up pool on July 4 weekend in the thick of the first, long heat wave of the summer until one has called every Target, WalMart and ToysRUs in the greater metropolitan area. Props to Mary and Paul for finding this one at their local Albertsons!) then I was frankly terrified out of my wits by the sight of three little darlings lined up eating ice cream out of bilious green cones. It was a wonderful visit and so great to catch up with Kim and Michael after nearly five months of parenthood.

And now today is Independence Day, and hopefully Jarrah will experience her first fireworks tonight in some fashion. And you will no doubt hear about it when she does!