Saturday, March 25, 2006

Please Don't Eat the Daisies

Jarrah's social calendar has been fully booked this week, and she wants me to let you know that she might be stopping by in her surrey to leave a card for you. Hee. Seriously, though, we have paid a lot of calls and it's sooooo good to get out of the house! That seems to be my rallying cry of parenthood thus far: "Get ye out of the house!" And I will continue to trumpet it from the mountain tops.

We've gotten into a bit of a rhythm wherein we toss Jarrah in the crib about 10:00 (I don't know why I'm saying "we;" David is gone by that time) and, after light protestation, she snoozes for the better part of two hours. Then we have some time in which we sit in her rocker and she points at everything in her room and says "Dah!' I'm often not sure what she's pointing at, but I try to be agreeable anyway. Then there is lunch, accompanied by some singing (hers, not mine, generally) and then The Choosing of the Outfit. Then it takes a while to stuff her into the outfit, as she has pressing appointments elsewhere and finds it tiresome to stay for TWO sleeves, TWO legs, and TWO socks and shoes. Eventually, it gets done, and then we are ready for action.

Such as it were. Sometimes it feels like the bulk of the day is spent strapping her into things. I carry her out of her room and strap her into her booster seat. Then I strap her into her car seat when it's time to go. And then when we get there, I unstrap her and immediately strap her into her stroller. Sometimes, soon after, I strap her into a grocery cart or a restaurant high chair. It's like toddlerhood is one big restraint system. Of course, the alternative is said child will try to kill herself at every available opportunity (and lo, there are many of those.) On the plus side, I've become a very savvy strapper. Uh-oh, this is starting to sound naughty--we'll veer away now.

On Tuesday afternoon we received a very welcome visit from Auntie Alicia, who brought over some homemade pasta sauce and all the fixin's (and I wish you all could have seen Jarrah after she had been sucking face with penne in red sauce for half an hour--even her forehead was orange--why didn't we take a photo?) and gamely distracted Jarrah while I tried to nod comprehendingly during our consult for air conditioning, which will apparently cost a million dollars since our house was built in 1957 and has been wrapped entirely in asbestos like a great big, poisonous gift. Then, we headed over to visit the Diann, Nathan and their twin girls, who are getting so big and cute, and were very pleased when Stephanie showed up with Izzy, too. Izzy is getting so big that even Jarrah could not frighten her away from the musical standing toy. Jarrah was uncharacteristically shy during much of that visit, but she was emboldened by a sing-a-long to Disney Princess songs (apparently these are Nathan's favorites) to do some rappeling up and down their stairs, which is probably a good example of why I have 20 more gray hairs since our trip to China. Then Jarrah was ready to spurn me and run off into the sunset with Diann after a few lousy laps of "let's run backwards!" Jeez, if I'd known that was all it took, I would have tried it in Chongqing. ;)

On Wednesday, we met Mary and Joy for lunch at Soup Plantation, which I knew would have good food options for babies, though I wasn't exactly sure how we would procure them. How to push a tray through the salad bar with a stroller? But they are pros at Soup Plantation. They offer you a space-age baby carrier unit as you come in the door that rolls sleekly through the line, and then they go set up a table with high chairs for you. Easy peasy! Of course, the one eventuality they hadn't planned for was Jarrah's sense of entitlement, and you better believe when she saw me filling that tray with salad, she wasn't going to stand for it. Luckily, I was able to slip her a few fusilli (plain, so she wouldn't bespoil her outfit) while in line.

Also in the line, we met a statuesque, modelesque young woman from a town near Guangzhou, with her little boy about Jarrah and Joy's age. She was delighted with the girls, and very happy for us, which was so sweet. She stopped by our table to chat after their meal, and during our conversation I experienced a thrill. Our girls began talking a long time ago! They say "Ni Ni" for "bottle of milk," and you better believe we hear that one a lot. They say "Ama" or "Ema" for "nanny." And the most exciting of all: the "Dah!" game with which we've become so familiar actually translates to something like "I'm hitting you!" which is, by gum, exactly what happens! (Palm to palm, that is, a little bit like a high five down low here.) I can't really explain why I was so thrilled; maybe because I've been waiting for Jarrah to say her first word, but of course she is brilliant and said her first words a long time ago. Now she's trying to figure out this whole English thing, and then we'll probably have 10 words at once!

The following conversation took place when I was sitting with both girls while Mary went to go fill her soda cup. A woman at the next table smiled at us when we sat down and seemed to be watching us carefully. Suddenly, she spoke:

"Those are rad!"

"Excuse me?"

"Where did you get those?"

"Excuse me???"

"Well, it's just, I've never seen a snack mat like those before!"

Well...okay. I was spoilin' for a fight about my "rad" acquisition of a Chinese baby, and then it was all about the Tiny Diner (which David and I call "the Tidy Diner") after all. Whoops! I guess I need to calm down. ;)

Mary was amazed at how well-behaved Jarrah is in a restaurant high chair. She lifts her chin for her bib, and dives in to the buffet I've assembled on the Tidy Diner. Very little ends up on her face or the floor. At various intervals, she raises her face to the heavens and sings a song of gratitude, for the wonder that is lunch. I've explained to Mary that she can't be bothered wasting time on fussing or throwing when she could be eating actual food during that time. It's a matter of priorities. ;)

After lunch we went to Mission Bay, and spring has sprung. The grass is dotted with sweet clumps of tiny white daisies. I tried to have A Very Special Moment with Jarrah by showing her the daisies, and she proceeded to ruthlessly snap off their heads and cram them in her mouth. We had a lot of fun going on the swings, but there was a semi-tragic event. A huge group (I want to call them a gaggle, but I know that only applies to geese) of those skinny, black non-ducks was amassing near the water, so Mary threw a few Goldfish to see if we could get their attention. Jarrah was delighted, and demanded to be put down just as some part of my brain registered that the non-ducks were actually advancing towards us with something akin to menace. Jarrah, undeterred, marched into the fray and pointed majestically in case we weren't sure where to look and then...SNAP! A nasty little non-duck took a swipe at the proferred digit. She began to scream, but truthfully I think her level of alarm escalated because she saw my crushed expression; I had been in the middle of exulting at her boldness and now that boldness was being squelched, hopefully not for good. My sweet, trusting little duck-lover.

Thursday we had a visit from my friend Sharon (hi Sharon!), who was kind enough to bring us lunch and share it in the park. Jarrah was at her most adorable, asking Sharon to help her try on my sunglasses, and tottering around on the grass while doing her husky baby-talk thing. I was stoked because she'd had a good nap that morning and I figured that later, when I had my walk with Amy and her twins around Lake Murray, Jarrah would be in a mood to appreciate the twinkling blue water and gently waving grasses and I'd get some exercise, too. Well, readers, it was not to be. In fact, I have never seen a more nuclear stroller meltdown. It seemed to build with and encourage Maya and Zoe, too, so at some point there were three flat-out screaming babies and Amy and I walking as fast as we could while people stared at us. We couldn't even conduct a conversation above the din, and since we were already a half-hour into the loop, there was nothing to do but push on.

After a while, I found I couldn't hear or feel anything but the screaming. It seemed to fill the whole world. The people going by were a distant blur, and Amy's voice was fuzzy. But the screaming remained distinct. I was light-headed and slow. By the time I got back to the car, Jarrah was slumped forward, furiously exhausted. She fell asleep in her car seat so I drove her around for a while, but the longer I did, the weirder I felt. I fantasized I could hear a choir singing to me, very softly. After a while I started to wonder if something was wrong with me. My head felt like I'd recently been bludgeoned with a blunt object. When David got home, he found me curled on the bed with Jarrah screaming at my feet. I think I must have gotten dehydrated or something--it was a weirdly hot day, and I'm not used to walking really fast while pushing a stroller.

The fact is, I'm used to feeling competent. I gravitate towards activities that feel right to me, feel like I have some talent for them. But every time I congratulate myself that I've "learned" something about Jarrah, she changes the rules, and then I know nothing again. It's a little like pushing that rock up the hill and watching it roll down, only I'm not in the fiery pits of hell; there's actually quite a nice view. ;)

1 comment:

Alleen said...

Oh Sam... Jarrah and you sound like you've never not been mother and daughter and in each other's lives!!! Do you still wake up and pinch yourself??