Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Adventures in Playland

We've had a busy couple of days, or at least Jarrah has. I've been hobbling around from the pain in my back. I guess it will go away in 18 years or so.

Last Wednesday we were invited over to Judy and Shannon's. It was a small group but Judy knows what she's doing. There was a fabulous all-ages coffee bar (well, Jarrah thinks she was getting coffee but it was really water...shhhh...she tells me she can't get through the afternoon without a caffeine fix ;0) and lots of new toys to steal. I really am getting a shade embarrassed by Jarrah's stealthy pilfering. Though I also kind of love that she's not in the least ashamed or furtive about what she's doing; she reaches over in one deft motion and the desired object is hers, capiche? But it's also sort of mortifying when I hear another child crying and I know without looking who the culprit is. She's not a smacker or biter or pincher (at least not yet) but is not above a well-placed shove if a shoulder or tushy presents an impediment. I hope we don't start getting banned from playgroups due to Jarrah's criminal record.

On the way home, Jarrah fell asleep and I decided to try out a new idea I got from Jennifer T-L (Hi Jennifer! Thanks a bunch!) I drove past our house to the lovely Starbucks drive-thru in La Mesa, where I procured a frosty beverage and made one turn out of the parking lot into the circular drive for Lake Murray recreation area, then wended my way gently to a shady parking spot, pulled out my book (Sue, if you are out there, I am LOVING Candyfreak; he is the exact same age as I am and I'm having some serious nostalgia) and whiled away a blissful hour slurping and enjoying the whisper in the leaves. Readers, you have no idea how good it was for my soul to read an entire chapter without interruption, to drink an entire beverage without a single "em." Or, you have toddlers at home, and you know exactly how good it was. Curiously, I started noticing that many of the other cars also contained one man or woman reading as well. Coincidence? Or did they have babies asleep in their trunks?

And because Jarrah had had a second nap that day, she was practically charming while I made dinner, which was the super bonus double lotto extra of the whole experiment. Of course, I tried it again today (confession: she was not already asleep at the time) and it was a complete bust. She sat stoically while I drove around and around, and was still chilling when I finally gave up and drove to Windmill Farms to get some more bananas (the kid goes through bananas like they're going out of style.) She was pliable, but not sleepy. And when we got home from the store, David was an hour later than usual and things got ugly. By the way, I am not in the least resistant to letting the TV babysit her a while. But she is just bizaare and won't watch it. Sure, she'll stare for 2 minutes, followed by a command to lift her into my lap, followed by maybe 5 more. Then she's down and looking for something to break, and it's as if the TV had never been on. Even if I leave it on, she can't be lured back. It's heartbreaking, I tell you. Does this mean she has ADD?

Thursday we had our first visit to the zoo with Animal Crackers. Now that Jarrah is walking, she has more fun than ever in the petting zoo, and she slapped some goats around pretty good. I've been trying to demonstrate g-e-n-t-l-e by holding her hand and caressing it up and down the fur, but she looks at me like it's all a fabulous joke and then goes right back to the slapping. Add goat slapping to the list of things we have to work on, right after toy theft. I'm not sure she saw that many animals, because I couldn't be bothered to lift her in and out of the stroller with my back screaming the way it is, so she mostly just kicked it in the stroller with some 'Puffs. Eventually Martha and I (hi, Martha!) were the only ones left and we got some lunch with Jarrah and Vince that really went pretty well. Jarrah is fond of her Tia Martha and will even behave for her when I dash to the bathroom. Exciting stuff.

On Saturday, David and I went to see "Thank You For Smoking." My favorite line in this very funny though not truly evil satire, from the tobacco lobbyist to his young son working on a school essay called Why America Is The Greatist Country There Is: "That's the beauty of argument--if you argue correctly, you're never wrong." It struck me as I was laughing that this is essentially a justification for every single Ph.D. dissertation in the humanities, my own included. This "date afternoon" was brought to us courtesy of Jennifer and Yiftach, who generously volunteered some time out of their action-packed weekend to hang with their new friend Jarrah. And guess what, readers? She LERVES them. At first I was so relieved to see that neither party had suffered any trauma in our absence, and then I must confess that jealousy quickly followed when Jarrah continued to reach out her arms to J and Y even with us in the room! :) I hope this bodes well for future outings, and that I learn to manage my feelings in a productive way. ;)

We received a great, big box from my friend Carolyn in New York on Saturday (Hi, C!) and here are some photos of Jarrah playing with her new wheeled doggie on a string. This is a particularly appropriate gift for a little girl whose first English word is likely to be "doggie." She is obsessed with them! She used to just point and yell something like "dah-geh!" when she saw them trotting by, but she has grown more bold and is now prone to stalking them at the park, not quite pouncing, but lurking inches away and waiting for her face to be licked so she can chortle and gurgle with glee. She seems to have no fear at all and I sometimes wince when I see her sprinting after an unsuspecting canine that this will be the one who is skittish around small children. But so far these diplomatic missions have gone well for all concerned.

Sunday we celebrated being in our "new" house one year (wow!) by hosting our realtor, his wife and two children for wine and cheese. The fact that I invited them for "wine and cheese" goes some distance to demonstrate the rerouting of my neural pathways in the past two months, as I have never suggested such a thing before, and know nothing about either wine or cheese. I had a vague idea that the cheese should be of various consistencies, and that there should be at least one lumpy, unappetizing looking one, but I didn't want it to actually be inedible, so I got something called "English Cheddar with Carmelized Onions" which, when paired with some Apricot Fig Chutney I've been saving from our trip to Sonoma, may be the best thing I've ever put in my mouth. We made use of our "California Room" for the first time as a party venue, and I think it went well, though I think the Potters were politely masking their shock when Jarrah helped herself to their clementine peels, and proceeded to chew and swallow them even once her tongue was able to identify the non-food-ishness of what she had in her mouth. That's our little recycler!

Readers, it's shocking that I seem unable to put this post to rest. So I will close with a final anecdote that brings us full circle to our second "Let's Make Music" class this morning. What a difference a week can make! For one thing, we got there early, and for another, Jarrah was not sleeping when we arrived. I brought her into the multipurpose room and let her run around for a while to get acclimated. I think that helped, because today she was more than willing to bang on the drum and drape herself with diaphonous scarves. I, too, was totally shameless in my diva belting of "Have You Ever Seen A Lassie Go This Way And That?" The most interesting moment, however, came when we reprised the "The Ping Pong Samba" and I let Jarrah walk the circle on her own (full disclosure: I couldn't have carried her today if my life depended on it, my back is so useless) and, adorably, nay, magically, she began to kick her little legs in imitation of our synchronized kicks at the end of each bar. One of our teachers, Sharon, exclaimed, "I have never seen a child actually do the dance before!" and I stared with amazement and pride, laughing and laughing at Jarrah's rhythmic feat (and feet!)

At least I thought I was laughing. After a few turns around the room I began to notice that my laugh sounded more like a bray, and that my face seemed to be frozen into a gape like a plastic jack-o'-lantern. I also noticed that I wasn't breathing, so I drew a breath and...what was this? I wasn't laughing, readers. I was crying. I was watching Jarrah dancing around the room with the other children and I was weeping at the sight of it. Immediately, I felt embarrassed and tried to collect myself, but I ended up just having to avert my eyes for a few minutes.

On the way home, I wondered if I just couldn't believe that it was really happening, that after all this time I was actually living one of those "cute overload" moments I had often fantasized make up the bulk of one's days spent with a child. I know better now. The bulk of the day is not adorable. There's a load of drudgery, frustration, boredom, even revulsion. Oh, there's also delight, and surprise, but here and there--not constantly. But at least a couple times a day, the little door opens and and you walk through to a land where the sun has a smiley face, and you gambol amongst the life-sized lollies and the silky flowers with tiny fairies in them. And when this happens, dear readers, it's so bright, so dazzling, that it almost hurts to look.


Mary said...

We have that same doggy! Remember? We got it at Gepetto's when you came up.

That is so true about being a parent. One minute, I am laughing, the next I am trying to keep her feet from dabbling in her dirtly diaper. Never a dull moment...very much like teaching kindergarten!


aaryn b. said...

These ARE the moments that make it worthwhile...
I love lurking!

Anonymous said...

Sam -- Michele and I have been wondering how things are going and then I remembered the blog...you are quite the writer -- but we knew that! Jarrah is just adorable and it sounds like you are busy but we would love to have a play date with you! All is well here -- we start Repronex 5/5 and then we will see -- I am down for any of those book titles as they would make a good read for me and so many others. Let's chat soon!

Anonymous said...

Those precious moments grow and grow...
How could Jarrah possibly get even cuter than she was two weeks ago? :)
Best, Gail

Anonymous said...

That child is like one of those lollies--she's just gorgeous. You and David must just be so proud. TV gets interesting for most kids around 2, I think. Jacob didn't get interested until he was 3. It will come and make dinner preparation easier.

God bless those latte moments, eh? I swear, I've fallen in love with lattes just because they symbolize that brief respite, that period of peacefulness.

And won't we be saying how we miss it when they're 18?


Anonymous said...

Hi Samantha -
Patty sent me your link. I have devoured every word.
Your writing brings up fun memories of Paradise Pond.
So many of your comments brought tears to my eyes while chuckling out loud!
Welcome to parenthood --
it's a fabulously confusing, challenging, fulfilling journey that you are recording so articulately!
xoxo -- Nork

Anonymous said...

Aaaah. I'm in blog withdrawal. It's been since Tuesday without a fix. ;)

Kim said...

She really does just get cuter and cuter, doesn't she?

Anonymous said...

My favorite blog so far - I cried!