Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Bubble Fever

Yesterday while Jarrah was napping I made some calls. On the whisper of the wind occasionally float rumors of free toddler events at our esteemed local libraries. I've also heard of some sort of baby rave that goes on at Borders Books. Not only free, I heard, but with coffee for the mommies. (That last part turned out to be someone's delirious fantasy.)

Turns out "Borders Babies" is held at 10:30 every Wednesday in Mission Valley. I was a bit doubtful, but Jarrah was dressed and waiting by the door, and people, it's 90 degrees outside right now! What kind of June Gloom is this anyway?

We arrived early, but mothers and toddlers were already streaming through the front doors. Jarrah almost didn't make it, though, since she saw the books displayed out front on the sidewalk and promptly sat down to read them there. When I finally coaxed her inside to the children's area, a mob was brewing. I sat down in some squashed cranberry muffin and shielded my face from the 2 1/2 foot people who kept jabbing me with Dora the Explorer board books. Jarrah helpfully brought over two armsful of garish fluorescent dinosaurs. Eventually I ended up next to a lively young woman whose daughter turned out to be three days younger than Jarrah. It's amazing the variations on cocktail party banter that can be gleaned from spotting Target toddler play clothes in a crowd. When we exhausted that topic, we moved on to the popularity of this event, the fact that there were going to be bubbles, and which libraries have the best story times. She also told me about her C-section on Christmas Day: "I was the present--they unwrapped me from here to here." Oof. Sucks to be her. I wasn't sure what to say: "On my daughter's birthday, I was still more than a year from meeting her. But nobody unwrapped me. That was good."

"Borders Babies" consisted of three stories: one about baby monkeys that Jarrah seemed to enjoy for the ruthless crocodile who tries to eat them, one called Daddy's Day Out which actually kind of rocked, and one that was just the Pledge of Allegiance with photos, which I found sort of odd. In between stories, there was leaping and dancing to such classics as "Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed." Jarrah liked that part. But what she really liked was the bubble machine at the end. It looked like a red plastic submarine and when the story lady turned its handle, voluminous torrents of bubbles poured out. A bunch of kids rushed the stage at that point, a phenomenon my unwrapped friend described as "the weekly bubble mosh pit." Jarrah seemed stunned at first by this fruity abundance of bubbles, but within seconds she was right in there, pushing and jumping, and making her most enthusiastic "Gach!" sounds.

Afterwards Jarrah and I amused ourselves by listening to music samples on the giant headphones and drinking from strange children's unsupervised sippy cups. I bought Jarrah a CD that was featured in the story time (after all, Readers, isn't that why they do it?) and was taken aback when the giddy clerk asked, "Will you be watching this right away?" I stared. Watching what? And where?

"It's a CD." I countered. "Isn't it?"
"Oh, I suppose it is! It looks so fun. Can I ask you something? Do I have mascara on my face?"
"No, your mascara looks perfect."
"Thanks, sweetie. I do think you're going to enjoy this music. It doesn't look like the sleaze that's out there. (pause) I'm sorry. I suppose I should ask you if you like sleaze?"
"Uh, no. Not a big fan of the sleaze."
"I'm so glad to hear it! I myself have very eclectic taste. I shock myself sometimes. Can I ask you something? Do you know how to open these, or should I get someone?"
"I think I can figure it out. Thanks."
"Okay! Or I can get someone. There's some secret to it. I can't remember it for the life of me."

During this exchange, Jarrah kept busy by licking frantically at the purple butterfly the story lady had stamped on her hand. Today, far from being frightened of the requisite toddler stamp fest, she hurled herself into the crush of bodies clamoring for the honor of having their flesh inked. But afterwards, she had tatoo remorse, repeatedly showing me her stamp with a concerned expression. I know it's just a matter of time, though, before she becomes a stampin' pro. And a fan of the sleaze.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Wave Bye-Bye to Mommy and Daddy

Totally scored this weekend. I decided to get all edgy and hip and techno-savvy and hired a babysitter off of Craigslist. I only sent out one e-mail, and she got back to me right away. I liked that she had good spelling and grammar. (Whaddaya expect? I'm an English teacher, folks!) Her name is Nicole and she goes to SDSU and is off for the summer. She described herself as reliable and fun. I like those things. I asked her for a reference, mostly because I thought I should, and called the reference, who was extremely nice, said she loved Nicole, and that if we stole her regular night she'd have to track me down and kill me. I appreciated that kind of enthusiasm. Nicole was so hired, even though I couldn't think of one single, solitary thing to ask about her.

We asked her to come at 6:00 to get acquainted, and she was here at 5:50. Nice. She is adorable, with very nice teeth and eyes I would describe as "the copper of a mountain lynx." She was so easy-going I instantly forgot I was meeting her for the first time. Best of all, Jarrah was nonchalant, waved hello and went back to her apple sauce. Then she toddled from room to room after Nicole and me, dragging her lawn mower, chatting up a storm like she was giving her own tour. Maybe it went something like this:

Me: We usually put her down about 8:00.
Jarrah: Don't listen to her. It's actually about 9:00.
Me: We give her a bottle of milk before bed time.
Jarrah: And a whole bunch of those fruity Gerber toddler snacks. Maybe two or three packets.
Me: Her favorite things to do are play ball and work on puzzles.
Jarrah: You will only score points with me if you wear the colander on your head.

I decided to attempt a new exit strategy that I fashioned on our daily ritual of saying goodbye to David when he leaves for work. Jarrah and I stand by the open front door, waving as David gets in the car, and I repeat "Wave bye-bye to Daddy. He'll be home tonight after work. Bye-bye Daddy!" I say this a lot. Jarrah never cries. She loves to wave. After Daddy drives away, I say "Would you like me to close the door, or do you want to do it?" She wants to do it. And she does.

When it was time for David and I to leave for the movies, we went outside with Nicole holding Jarrah, and everybody repeated variations on the above scenario. Jarrah did not cry. She waved a lot. She did, however, look perplexed, and her face reflected a certain pensiveness.

When we got home, Nicole said that Jarrah did great. She welled up a couple times when she saw our computers ("Why aren't they sitting there, ignoring me as usual?") but was otherwise cheerful. Whew! We are so going to make a habit out of this.

We also went to two birthday parties and a baby shower this weekend. That's got to be some sort of record. Jarrah had a blast at all of them, of course. See photos for evidence.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

They've Got Balls

Jarrah and I had a blast with Stephanie and Izzie today. First of all, it was great to see them; we hadn't since the big birthday blow-out. But today was also the day we discovered My Kid's Clubhouse in Poway. I know, I know, you're probably thinking "Do those two ever stay home?" and the answer is, "Not unless we're in the mood to listen to each other whine."

But my friends, it grows hot and wearying in inland San Diego in these dog days of summer. I find myself unsure of my name or address when I waver behind a swing at the park, pushing listlessly as I swipe the sweat from my maternal brow. We are in need of more vampire-friendly stomping grounds for the next few months. "My Gym" will help but that doesn't start until next week. So when I found myself dreading Steph's suggestion of the zoo (an idea that would have struck me peachy just two months ago) I decided to be all bold and counter with a destination I know only from the internet. As we sped up the I-15, I felt a bit rash and kooky. What if it was freaky or pathetic or--egad--unhygienic in there? But as soon as I opened the door and felt the first sweet rush of air conditioning, I knew it was all good.

Jarrah is such a pro now that she showed me the cubby where we would stash our shoes. And then she was off. At first there was so much to look at she seemed a bit dazed. There was a section where you could dress up as a princess or Darth Vader, an entire fake kitchen (later I saw Jarrah stoically munching on some plastic pizza) a plastic RV with a place for cooking and sleeping in the back, a dollhouse with a door bell, a plastic ramp with a truck for whizzing down, and--what a stroke of genius--a coffee bar smack in the middle, a perfect little parental panopticon. All around the perimeter, moms in socks were curled up in video rockers with paperbacks while their little darlings cavorted.

But soft, Readers: I haven't described the main attraction yet. On one wall, from floor to ceiling, there rose a kind of two-story padded cage, all crannies of which could be accessed through a system of tubes, chutes, ladders, steps and bridges. The way down was a magnificent triple slide. The way in was a humongous room full of colored balls, several feet deep. Pretty impressive, huh? Here's the kicker: it's built for adults. Well, yes, of course, children are allowed, too, but did you hear the part about it being built for adults? Guess who was shoving six-year-olds out of the way and shimmying through treacherous tunnels like an overgrown hamster? That's right, Readers. Moi. There were moments when my heart was actually pounding, as some of the passageways were constructed of industrial-strength mesh that you dragged your knees and elbows across, gazing down on the distant heads of the moms who were behaving like adults. I got quite an adrenalin rush from imagining myself plummeting through the wobbly bridge and puncturing the roof of the RV below. I also got to fulfill a life-long dream of rolling in plastic balls. I was always too tall for the ones my brother and sisters went in. This time Stephanie, Izzie, Jarrah and I buried ourselves up to our necks and giggled like little girls. Well, technically, two of us are little girls, but being buried in balls is a great leveler.

The only damper on the day was Jarrah not wanting to leave. When I told her we were going (after nearly three hours!), she purposefully wheeled a doll stroller towards the exit, and lost her cool when I blocked it with my foot. I guess she figured she was at least entitled to a souvenir. She cried all the way home.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Man Who's Known As "Mama"

Father's Day! David's first, and he graciously played nice and shared by spending the day with my father et al. in Orange County. We had a picnic at a park on top of Laguna Beach, a walk around Balboa Island, and a whole lot of Jarrah charming the pants off everyone.

Jarrah has some funny new shtick: she shakes her head vigorously whenever you ask her something, even if you know the answer is actually yes: "Would you like a great big ice cream sundae with a cherry on top? No? Oh, I beg your pardon. I thought you were indicating no." She also says "Uh-Oh..." in a sing-song voice whenever she drops her bottle, loses a shoe, or watches us trip over the popcorn lawnmower she has strategically laid in our path. Pretty freakin' cute.

Today she had her first boat ride, on the Balboa Peninsula Ferry, and showed her appreciation by throwing a leg over the side multiple times and fighting us off while we desperately clung to her shirt to prevent her leaping into the bay. She also had her first ride on the carousel, which gave me a little lump in my throat. She looked like such a big girl, sitting ramrod straight on her steed (I had buckled the seat belt deep into her belly flesh), holding the pole with both hands, and surveying the scenery with studious silence as the contraption spun around in a fashion even I felt was unnecessarily fast. David was snapping photos and didn't get even a suggestion of a smile. When the horses slowed, I was relieved that she hadn't cried, as she'd trembled slightly as the ride progressed and I thought that's where we were heading. Imagine my surprise when I swept her up in a big hug and proclaimed "All done!" and she stiffened, screamed and struggled so much that David and I both had to hold her down in order to get her into the stroller. Ah, our first real tantrum. What a beautiful Father's Day gift. ;) I guess she really liked the carousel!

Lesson #867 in the baby handbook: When baby is weeping and wringing her hands in the late afternoon after a napless day of constant stimulation and new experiences, it is not just because she is hungry. And you are not going to fix it by stopping at Milton's on the way home for a "relaxing" and "casual" Father's Day supper with the baby in question. Instead, you will end up desperate enough to draw on the tablecloth with the mustard squirt bottle, and spend your whole meal wheedling her to eat tiny bites of everything on the table because most things will be flung aside with a dramatic hand. The moral of the story: drive straight home, stuff sleepy baby with anything edible, and send her to bed. She is not responsible for your weekend plans. File under: "Food and Mood: The Primal Connection." Hope to remember for next time.

Friday, June 16, 2006


Today was our four-month anniversary of bringing Jarrah home (could I acknowledge any more anniversaries? I guess that's what people do when they don't even know their child's birthday for certain) and she celebrated by being frighteningly adorable all day. Well, except for the incident involving a pile of human waste on the floor of her room this morning when I made a two minute phone call. But calling in the Haz Mat team (that would be me with a whole lot of Clorox) was a small price to pay for the pernicious cuteness to follow.

We spent a happy hour climbing on and off the armchair and bursting forth from behind the curtains with big laughs. Then she let me know it was time for her nap (!), grinned sweetly when I put her in her crib (!!), and then snoozed fretlessly for over two hours. She rose in a peachy mood when my friend Renee arrived to take us to lunch, and looked like a Hawaiian princess in her new tropical outfit courtesy of her Auntie Jen. At Soup Plantation, she mystified me by accepting several wands of squash (instead of her usual fusilli) to snack on in line, and then proceeded to eat her lunch without doing any of the following: messing up the floor, peeling up her placemat, covering herself in sauce and melon, or "Ma-MA-ing!" when I ate my frozen yogurt. Those are the things she did NOT do. What she DID do was behave like a little lady, sitting up straight in her high chair, eating all her lunch, and actually allowing Renee and I to finish sentences.

I might have thought she wasn't quite well except she was extremely cheerful when we got to Target, requested that Renee carry her, and then quietly followed us around the store with kicky little steps when we let her walk. And when we got home and it was time to do the hand-over to Daddy so Renee and I could leave for NIA, she asked me to pick her up, gave me a huge, huge hug and several kisses, and waved bye-bye with a beautiful smile. I tell you, Readers, I was in love. ;) It was hard to believe this was the same child who had me at my wit's end just a few days ago. I guess that's just one of the amazing things about toddlers--they keep you guessing. Maybe when Mark Twain said "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a minute." he was actually thinking of a one-year-old.

If You Want To Destroy My Sweater...

When David and I were engaged, I developed a feverish obsession with choosing the right wedding dress. I had my Excel spreadsheet detailing all twelve (!) of the bridal salons I visited, plus my favorite dress at each one, its pros and cons, and special features. Late into the night I'd keep David awake with my persistent whine--how do I choose? After all, the dress at My Fluffy Wedding has more layers of tulle, but the one at I Heart Veil and Bouquet has more subtle beading on the bodice. David, driven mad from the constant interruption to a good night's sleep, reasonably argued that it didn't much matter because whichever one I chose, the result would be the same: I'd be wearing a big, white, puffy, shiny, fancy and--yes--beautiful wedding dress that would look great in photos. There would never be reason to regret my decision, so why not make it and have some peace?

Smart man. That's exactly what happened. And now I'm hoping history will repeat itself, because this week I've driven myself to distraction, once again, with the happy dilemma of too much choice. Yes, Readers: Jarrah and I went to JW Tumbles. It's in Point Loma, in the gaping "Going Out Of Business" maw of the shopping center behind the Bookstar. It's quite new, and we were able to drive almost all the way to their door. Nice and convenient. We were very early, but within a minute or so, a sweet, smiling girl came and opened the door for us, won over Jarrah in an instant, and for the first 15 minutes or so it was like we had our very own gym. Kind of like in "The Three Bears" I would say that it wasn't small like Gymboree or huge like My Gym, it was juuuuust right. It was clean and colorful and incredibly bright, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. I wasn't letting on to our young host, but Jarrah is a jaded old gym-goer now, and knew exactly what to do when she saw the familiar ladders and slides.

Soon, a young man arrived, and if he hadn't had a beard I would have clocked him at 15 years old. Actually, he was the manager, and completely adorable. Jarrah loved him, too. Like My Gym, we had two teachers for the class, but unlike My Gym, there were only about six or seven students. The manager put on some music, and once again I was surprised: it was a sort of KROQ mix, with The White Stripes and several other semi-morose bands with a bit of an edge. Not children's music at all. Again, I didn't mind. I thought that was an interesting choice.

The other children started trickling in, and Jarrah was like a one-baby welcome wagon, running out to greet them with a big wave. It was like she owned the place. The program was similar to My Gym in the sense that there was "circle time" at the beginning and end, and in between, the terrain was constantly changing with new props. If there wasn't as much gym equipment, there was instead an almost frenetic rate of situations created from goodies secreted in a back room: lawnmowers for racing, little cars for driving, big tubs of balls for jumping in. One mom asked me if 17-months was much different than 14-months (her daughter's age) because she hoped it would be less exhausting. Although I don't know much about babies, here was a question I knew something about. "It only gets more exhausting," I told her ruefully. "Sorry." "I was afraid of that," she said.

Besides that conversation, the other moms didn't interact with me, except one unfortunate moment that left a bad taste in my mouth. I know I just have to adjust to mommy-toddler politics and soon I'll be as cool as the rest of them, but right now it's new to me and a little upsetting. A little girl who was slower than Jarrah went in for a little car, and Jarrah, in her usual style, intercepted for the super-fast snatch without even acknowledging the other child. Except her mom, who blocked Jarrah's body, said pointedly "Excuse me, but she was using it" (like Jarrah was going to understand this! Her daughter was the same age!) and then, looking at me, "She was using it. Sorry." "That's okay," I said, though for some reason it wasn't and I felt a lump in my throat. I pulled Jarrah away and she cried a little. "Sorry," the mom, who looked like she'd been hewn out of marble, said again. "Don't worry about it," I said, but I felt all ooky. Maybe because there were half a dozen little cars on the floor. Maybe because I've been having the feeling lately that the relationship we're really working to create is one with other moms. After all, the children have a 14-second memory. Are they going to be offended by each other, or even remember the awkward skirmish five minutes later? Nope. But grown women can remember. And I find it alienating, particularly when you'd think this gal would have some intimate knowledge of the scandalous manners of this age group.

At any rate, for the rest of the class I felt a deep and baffling tiredness, though Jarrah was having a great time. I did notice, though, that the presence of those cursed little cars was a major distraction for her. If she could get to one, she wasn't interested in anything else that was going on. I didn't feel like that was her fault, though. I wish they had put the cars away before the final circle time.

Overall, JW Tumbles seemed very similar to My Gym, but smaller, newer, cleaner, and with less stuff. At My Gym, though, the flow sequence (will you listen to me?) seemed smoother, easier, more comfortable. The teachers at JW Tumbles had a light gleam of flop sweat lurking beneath their rapid-fire presentation. Not that they flopped. It's more that they sensed that they could.

On the way home, I was torn with indecision, and not a little aware that this decision, like the wedding dress, doesn't really matter. All these outfits are long-standing pros in the kid distraction business, and Jarrah has demonstrated that she will have a good time anywhere. In the end, I let David make the decision for me, so we could both sleep at night: My Gym is having a special right now, making it the cheapest for the most number of classes. It's fairly close by, and the vibe is casual, without intimidating moms sporting aftermarket enhancements. We start the week after next.

And David reminded me that, unlike the wedding dress, if I ever have reason to regret my decision, this is one that does have the option for a do-over. Heck, we could work our way through all three before Jarrah is ready for pre-school.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Y'All Ready For This?

In our continuing quest to find mommy and me activities, today Jarrah and I attended a class at My Gym in Pacific Beach. After my recent post about Gymboree, I received some helpful tips from other toddler moms advising me to do my homework before committing, since there are several kids gyms in San Diego and all of them offer a free trial class.

I was a little nervous that getting to PB would take even longer than Solana Beach due to beach traffic, but even at 8:30 a.m. we made good time. I was also a bit nervous about parking, I assume illegally, in the Vons lot across the street, but no one in a fedora and trench coat seemed to be watching us as we slipped across the street.

From the moment we entered, I could tell this was going to be a different kind of play time than Gymboree, which had been cozy and gleaming, with a relaxed receptionist who had all the time in the world for me. The first thing I noticed was the incredibly loud music, the hootin' and hollerin' kind that reminded me of a Padres game, like the Macarena and "Shwoomp! (There It is)." Which was fine by me, actually. I found it energizing and got a bit of boogie on. Two leggy blonde girls were relaxing behind the counter (it was the first class of the day) and there was a distinct odor of disinfectant (hey, I can think of worse.) They were welcoming to Jarrah, and obviously made her feel comfortable because she allowed both of them to pick her up several times when she wandered away.

Once again, Jarrah couldn't wait to start climbing and tumbling and bouncing (there were trampolines!) and all that good stuff. The room really was as big as a gym. At the beginning of class, there was circle time with a few songs, but also sit-ups and calesthenics and other movement that Jarrah wanted no part of. Interestingly, if she wandered away from the circle, one of the blonde girls (they were both teachers also) would gently return her to me, which did not happen at music class or Gymboree. After it happened three or four times I felt a bit embarrassed and was relieved when they said "Okay! It's play time!" We had no bloody incidents today and Jarrah wasn't sure where to go first--the slide that you could climb up backwards because it was covered in felt? (This fulfilled a longstanding dream of hers--she is frustrated no end by the slippery ones at the park.) The big box full of balls? (I thought it would scare her, but she refused to get out!) The giant tubular thing-o that bobbed up and down when you sat on it? Wahoo! And, unlike Gymboree, the terrain kept changing: as the class progressed, the teachers would bring out and install new doodads, like hanging rings, and a train of attached plastic cars that fit four kids (that was a bit surreal) and at one point there were suddenly many vehicular swings hanging from the ceiling. Jarrah didn't know where to look first, until one of the moms murmured, "Oh, the Space Ride!" and the two gals began pushing the children one-by-one across a pulley in a big, padded unit that looked like a giant pumpkin. Jarrah was not pleased when it was someone else's turn on that one.

Once again, Jarrah cracked me up during the final circle time by foregoing the patient wonder that the other children were bestowing on an owl fingerpuppet, instead going "back stage" behind the teacher and attempting to snatch the other furry characters she had waiting in the wings. A session begins in two weeks and is considerably cheaper than Gymboree. Also not as far. And bigger, with more toys. It's tempting, though for some reason I still have a vague, inexplicable longing for Gymboree. Maybe it's because these teachers, though I thought they were wonderful with the kids, did not have the special, extra-loud delivery with the "Let's put on a show!" singing voices. In fact, they didn't really sing, now that I think about it. Jarrah was not mesmerized by them as she was by the Gymboree mistress. When they said time to put away the balls in the bucket, she took off for the slide again, whereas when the Gymboree gal said it, Jarrah was drawn to do her bidding. Still, we both enjoyed ourselves, and no one was dressed fancy or had special boobs.

Tune in later this week when we try out JW Tumbles. I'm trying to be an informed consumer, readers!

Friday, June 09, 2006

You Know, Samantha Was A Witch

Monday I woke up vile and poisonous. I didn’t want to get out of bed; I didn’t want to hear any yelling or running in the hallway. I didn’t want to give anyone breakfast, except myself, and then I wanted absolute quiet while I ate it. I didn’t want anyone standing on my feet as I did the breakfast dishes, or throwing Tupperware behind me. I didn’t want anyone rooting through my purse, finding some half-eaten Goldfish (which were not mine in the first place) and spreading the crumbs like a new carpet through the living room. I didn’t want anyone smashing our bedroom fan. I didn’t want anyone searching in the kitchen garbage for an applesauce container that had already been in there two days, and licking it. I didn’t want to hear even one second of Elmo’s high-pitched fake laugh. I didn’t want anyone keeping me company in the bathroom. I didn’t want anyone pulling down my underwear after I’d just taken the trouble to pull them up. I didn’t want anyone jamming their fingers in my mouth when I picked them up. I didn’t want to pick anyone up, period, and I certainly didn’t want to listen to anyone scream if I didn’t. I didn’t want to carry bags of poop to the outside garbage. I didn’t want to chase anyone into the street screaming “Nooooo!” while they laughed and laughed. I didn’t want to buckle anyone into anything, particularly while they struggled. I didn’t want to haul anything weighing 18 pounds out of my trunk and fill it with crap that I would then wheel around.

What I wanted was to stay in my pajamas for a really long time, hearing nothing but the birds and the tea kettle, and read all the newspapers stacked behind the kitchen table. I wanted to watch my shows that have stacked up on Tivo. I wanted to go to the gym and zone out on bad morning talk shows from the elliptical machine. I wanted to go shopping and linger before making up my mind. I wanted to drink a cup of coffee in a public place, with a book. I wanted to call a friend and have a long, dishy chat. I wanted to meet someone for lunch and eat something complicated like salad really, really slowly, and drink two glasses of iced tea. I wanted to hear an entire story. I wanted to tell an entire story, complete with hand gestures and dramatic pauses.

I probably sound ungrateful to you. I may even sound like I have no business being a mother, particularly one who had to work as friggin’ hard to become one as I did. I don’t know what to do about it if that’s how I sound. Some days I just feel overwhelmed by the boredom, the repetition, the drudgery. Yes, there is drudgery; I don’t know how else to put it. Some days it takes me an hour to move 10 bites of food from a plate to a very small mouth. I spend an inordinate amount of time smelling someone’s bum. I do not have any family helping me; I do not have a regular babysitter; my husband works a 45-minute drive from our house.

It’s very confusing that this ennui settles either over or under my growing feelings of love for my daughter, depending on the day. I can’t imagine her being more perfect for us. She is gorgeous, smart, talented, fearless, fun, saucy, and a great dancer. I couldn’t ask for more, truly.

Monday I woke up vile and poisonous. I fretted my way through the steps of morning; the bottling, the breakfasting, the cleaning, the changing, the dressing, the diaper-bag packing, the car-loading, the frantic pulling of myself together. I fretted my way from home to the science museum, where I fretted Jarrah into the stroller and on to the lobby, where I met Lisa and Anton. When I saw Lisa, I fretted to her, too; what a relief it was to say, out loud, “I’m so depressed this morning. I am just not in the mood for any of this.” Lisa is a wonderful listener, and never seems to judge me for my awful thoughts. We made our way up to Kid City, where we turned the kids loose. I continued my fretting, really warming to the topic. Lisa nodded sympathetically, lord love her. Finally I was able to tear myself away from my fretting to look for Jarrah. She was sitting on the rug in the “library corner,” holding a book about a spotted dog, pointing at a picture of grass and babbling to herself with great delight. I knelt down beside her. “Grass!” I said softly. “That’s grass. You like grass. You didn’t used to, but you do now.” She looked up at me, pointed back at the grass, and said something else that I didn’t understand, but was probably about grass.

I looked at Lisa. “And then they have to go and be all adorable when you least expect it.”

“I know,” Lisa agreed.

Making it really hard to stay focused on my fretting.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Today I went to a new playgroup, this one for FCC: the San Diego chapter of Families with Children from China. This is a national group with outposts in many major cities to support families who have adopted from China with regularly scheduled community events. For some time, I’ve been following e-mails on their bulletin board about an East County Playgroup and, since nothing was on the calendar for today, I thought we would attend.

It wasn’t until I was halfway to Rancho Bernardo (at least a 20 minute drive from our house) that I noticed that the directions actually read “North County Playgroup.” Well, that would explain why we weren’t going somewhere in East County. Really, it’s amazing that I can get myself dressed in the morning anymore; I’m so addled with the blows of motherhood. Then it began to drizzle, the sky a heavy, disconsolate gray. It didn’t seem too promising.

Indeed, it became even less so. We arrived at Rancho Bernardo Community Park, which was huge, with rolling lawns that required a big sign reading “No Golf.” I could make out a play structure in the distance, sandwiched between tennis courts and baseball diamond. I could not, however, make out a paved pathway to that structure, so we foraged ahead through the wet grass. Jarrah bumped along obligingly; indeed, she was very quiet in the car, unusual for her.

When we reached the playground, there wasn’t a Chinese baby in sight. There were two pregnant women pushing toddlers in the swings, and an Asian dad with his son. Jarrah jogged around a bit, exploring, which included some fondling of the wood chips underneath the equipment, and some straddling of a low wall, pretending to ride it like a horse. Eventually she moved over to a great cache of sand toys thoughtfully provided by the mom of one Nathaniel, 2, both of whom were more than generous towards our little miss. An hour went by and I didn’t see a single Chinese person of diminutive stature. I decided to give Jarrah a snack and go. That way if she fell asleep in the car (a certainty) she wouldn’t get too hungry during her nap once I’d swiftly transferred her from car seat to crib.

Our stroller was parked near a gaggle of moms with infants. I felt a little awkward, not wanting to make a statement by rolling away, but also like I was eavesdropping on them, we were so close. Their conversation amazed me—do I ever sound like this? It was all about who sleeps where and for how long, and who eats what snacks and how much. Everyone took a turn dutifully reporting their little angel’s stats, nobody really interacting, just waiting their turn. I was glad when Jarrah started to fuss and I had an excuse to wheel her away.

While we were at the park, I became aware—not for the first time—of the types of “mommy speak” I can’t be a party to. One gal, during the obligatory “how old is yours?” conversation, told me—inexplicably—“But his head is probably much bigger than hers. Both of ours were born with the biggest heads.” There was nothing I could add to this nugget, so I was quiet. Later, during another identical exchange, I commented (for lack of anything better to do, “My, he’s very tall for two!” and the mom said proudly, “Well, both his grandfathers are very tall.” Again, I had nothing. I could pipe up, “Jarrah was the heaviest AND the youngest in our travel group!” or “We’ve noticed she has sensitive skin because citrus fruits give her a rash around her mouth!” but that might be construed as changing the subject. Sometimes the subject is just genetics, and that’s what it is.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Air Log

Today Jarrah and I took a trial class at Gymboree. I really had no idea what Gymboree was, but I figured that attendance was one of the statutes of Baby Law, right up there with glider rockers and a zoo membership. The only Gymboree in San Diego is in Solana Beach, which is a long drive from our house. As soon as we walked in, I could tell we were truly in another land. The little girls I saw had complicated hair ribbons, and their moms wore $180 jeans and tiny tops with alarmingly high and pert boobies. I was unshowered, unbrushed, unironed, bedecked in my Target finery. I was also embarrassed because I hadn't brought socks, and they are required, so I had to borrow some from the really nice pregnant lady at the front desk. Isn't it funny that I didn't imagine for a moment that people might stare at us because we don't look alike, but I felt totally self-conscious about my clothes. I may have to make more of an effort next time.

And I think there will be a next time, Readers. Gymboree is fun! Even before we were permitted through the swinging door to the gym floor, I could tell that Gymboree is serious. An adorable, bubbly young woman was singing her lungs out about the Duke of York and Gymbo the Clown, and it actually sounded professional, like she could ride on a Disney float. She used a special really loud and slow voice that seemed to mesmerize the children into doing her bidding. The place was bright and clean and multi-colored. Jarrah could not wait to get in there and dashed through the door when I was still wrangling with my socks. In a shot she was hurtling herself up ramps and through cushy tubes, which as it happens was appropriate because the word of the day was "through." Jarrah's level at Gymboree works on concepts and vocabulary, and when our teacher first announced that, I got a little nervous. After all, Jarrah doesn't have vocabulary. I think you need at least one word--does "doggeh" count? :) But Jarrah fit in like magic. Within minutes of our teacher explaining the word of the day and how, as parents, we might demonstrate "through" using the many alluring props, Jarrah was gamely squeezing "through" everything. I was a little puzzled about the format of the class, since at this point the teacher left us alone and the moms simply followed the babies from prop to prop, but later we got together for some seriously slick circle time, including bubbles that somehow did not pop (you could hold them on your fingertip!) and a big striped parachute that we launched over the children.

The whole presentation was so amazingly professional that it made me think fondly and indulgently of our music class, where the main attraction is a huge stuffed frog that Jarrah loves to smother. Both music teachers wear their lesson plan around their neck on a lanyard, speak softly, and don't get their feelings hurt if the babies all run away during circle time (and they often do.) I really love them, but I could kind of understand why Gymboree costs twice as much. (Eek!) Heck, I wanted to demonstrate "through" myself!

In keeping with our perverse desire to stand out wherever we go, Jarrah was the only child to have an accident, and she had TWO. First, she leaned back on some sort of bridge and fell into a hole, where she didn't hurt anything, but cried a lot from the surprise. Next, she got herself into a twist coming down a slide and whacked her face on the railing. That one was really scary because I picked her up when she started screaming and her mouth filled with blood. I got that weak-kneed sensation again, like I was going to just freak out and be totally helpless, but our teacher came to the rescue with an ice pack, and the wound turned out to be lip rather than teeth. In fact, Jarrah was totally over it before I was, and headed for the see-saw on her own when it became clear that I was having issues.

At the end, teacher rolled out an "air log" for the toddlers to pound on, and when the song went silent, we put our finger to our lips and went "Ssssshhh!" I thought this was a bloody brilliant thing to teach babies, and Jarrah thought it was the most hilarious thing in the world to start pounding again after the silence. Afterwards, there was some "open gym" time, and I got in a nice conversation with another mom, whose son, amazingly, was born one day after Jarrah! When I remarked on this coincidence, she whispered, "And she's adopted?" which, for the first time, made me laugh. I think it struck me funny because I'm around so many strange moms now and because nobody ever says anything, I've convinced myself that everybody thinks my husband is Asian. I was so amused I actually asked this gal if she had thought this, too, and she said no because Jarrah doesn't look "Eurasian." Isn't it weird that already I don't know what she "looks like?" She just looks like Jarrah to me. Which is, I guess, how it should be. Anyway, this mom was really, really nice, and I enjoyed talking to her. In fact, now that I think about it, all the moms there were uncommonly nice. One admired Jarrah's hair, another offered her fingertip bubbles, another helped her on the slide when I wasn't there. I guess I'll get over my feelings of inadequacy about my boobs. We'll be back.