Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I Just Work Here

Jarrah and I at "My Gym" last week. Jarrah careens past a mom who is sitting with her son on the trampoline.

"Is she your daughter?"


"She looks nothing like you!"

"I know."

"And you want to know why?"


"Because she looks exactly like her father! Am I right?"

"I expect you are."

"You want to know something?"


"Little girls ALWAYS look like their fathers. It's just a fact."


"Still, though, it's amazing. She gets absolutely nothing from you!"

"Yup. Absolutely nothing."

Monday, September 25, 2006

That Two-Letter Word

Well, it started. This weekend. You know what I'm talking about. For months, Jarrah's been nodding vigorously along with "Yeah, yeah, yeah" in a slight New York accent when she is in agreement. I can't imagine where she gets that. ;)

But on Sunday, she broke through the shimmering curtain and reached the magical land of Opposite World. Where the word of the day is always...Mo.

MO. She puckers her mouth like she's about to whistle when she says it. And she's been saying it frequently. Today when I said, "Jarrah, let's go home!" after nearly three hours of playing at My Kid's Clubhouse, she said, "Mo." When I said, "Let's go home!" after a visit to our neighborhood park, also "Mo." Both times I had to carry her to the car. This new word is not going to be good for my back.

Mo, this is just the beginning.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Oh, The Places You'll Go!

Yesterday was Jarrah's first day of "Tot Shabbat," which is the Mommy-n-Me precursor to preschool. It's cool because it's on the same campus and uses the same playground as the regular preschool, so it enables Jarrah to get used to the place with a safety net--me by her side.

From the moment we arrived, it was a wonderland. Not only was there a ball pit, there was a pit full of packing peanuts. Though Jarrah did have an anxiety attack when another little girl threw her shoes into this pit and they sank. She stood over the spot where they vanished and pointed frantically, bugging her eyes out. Even a half-hour after the incident, she looked up suddenly from her Play Doh and inquired "Shoes?" I had to reassure her I'd retrieved them and they were safely in our stuff. Speaking of Play Doh, this perennial childhood staple is apparently just as popular as when I was using it, which must have been, oh, five years ago now. ;) Jarrah had a field day rolling out the blue stuff with a tiny pin, cutting it with cookie cutters, and grinding it through a garlic press.

The other moms (and one dad) seemed nice but our conversation was minimal thus far. Some of them definitely know each other, and there was some gossiping on the playground of which I couldn't fully partake because I could see Jarrah trying to kill herself on a tricycle. The dad asked me, "Is she part Asian?" and I cheerfully answered, "She's all Asian!" and he murmured "Huh. She's very pretty." That was that.

The day has a well-organized structure. First there's indoor play, then snack time, then Miss Myrna with her guitar (Jarrah was goggle-eyed that the singing and strumming was not coming through the car radio) and finally, outdoor play. There are about 14 kids in the class ranging in age from 8 months to 2 years, and there are several kids her age. The morning was a massive success; Jarrah played hard and charmed all she met. Some of the other kids had tantrums when it was time to transition to a new activity, but Jarrah was cheerful and enthusiastic throughout, except when I had to explain to her that she got only one piece of apple and then we had to pass the plate on to other children. Even that evinced only one"mmmmm" of distress before she was happily distracted by the raisins coming the other direction.

Still, I know it must have been a tiring day for her. New place, new people, new toys. At the market afterwards, she staged a full-scale meltdown over not wanting to ride in the cart but then not wanting to walk, either. And then she slept three-and-a-half hours. Ah, yes. I think this school thing is going to work out just fine for all of us.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


We are having a laundry crisis. About six months ago, we noticed that our washer had started making a noise like a rocket getting ready to launch out of our laundry room. It was so loud we couldn't hear the TV over it. We adapted by not running the washer while watching TV.

Then about three weeks ago, certain loads of laundry started coming out with black stripes and patterns of small dots all over them. The stripes and dots were comprised of something like crude petroleum, or at least some substance that was impossible to remove. So we had to choose between dirty clothes we could imagine wearing someday and clean clothes that had to go straight into the garbage.

We called an appliance repair company. Jason came out to "diagnose" our washer. In my naivete, I thought he was there to fix it. But no. He opened and shut the door a few times and announced, "Yep. It's pretty screwed up. I need to collect $55."

"That's it?" I said.

"Welp, you need a new bearing. And maybe a new basket. Someone will call you. In the mean time, feel free to keep using it. Don't be afraid of the loud noise."

"We're not afraid of the loud noise. We're afraid of the way it destroys our clothing."

"Ahhhh. I forgot."

Someone finally called us four days later to break the news. We were looking at a "two-man job" and ordering a part from Bangladesh and it would be "3-4 weeks" until it arrived.

I've started having nightmares about mountains of laundry breaking through our closet doors. Only now, instead of just seeing piles of David's jeans and t-shirts and sweaty wads of my workout clothes, I see hundreds of teeny, tiny socks and footie pajamas. When we moved into our own house, it was obvious to both of us that one of the major benefits of leaving our apartment would be having our own washer and dryer. In fact, these items were going to change our lifestyle considerably. We were also certain that owning a washer and dryer would be essential to childrearing. We have not wavered in these impressions in the past year and a half.

Now I've been Googling laundromats in our zip code and coming up with very few leads. Apparently other people in our neighborhood also enjoy washing their clothing in the privacy of their own home. I've also been suds-ing small batches of items in the kitchen sink, wringing them out, and tossing them in the dryer. Sometimes while I'm vigorously wringing I like to fantasize that I'm back in colonial times, or at the very least, a cast member on the PBS miniseries "Colonial House." I am bravely clothing my family as in olden days, scrubbing our garments on a rock by the river.

But if the dishwasher goes next, I'm not getting out of bed.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


I just noticed that I let the one-year anniversary of starting this blog go by without fanfare! And fanfare is so near and dear to my heart. Last September 9 I wrote my first post when we were still three months away from our referral day for Jarrah. And today is our seven-month anniversary of being home with her.

Seven months! Sometimes that seems a ridiculously short amount of time for how much our lives have been completely, utterly transformed.

Jarrah has been mostly delightful lately. She is still taking every ounce of my daily energy in order to keep her entertained, but we have seen fewer instances of foot-stamping, fist-pumping mini-tantrums, possibly because she is better able to express herself now, and, hence, we are better able to respond to her needs.

Cute thing that just happened: David discovered Jarrah had pulled my box of Special K cereal off the counter and was digging in hand over fist, so he filled her Snack Trap with a handful and figured that was a good compromise. Well, I agree, but the Snack Trap functions better in theory than in practice. The technology depends on the child reaching daintily through the slits in the flexible lid and extracting a lone chunk, rather than pulling the lid off and dumping the entire contents. Jarrah is not a dainty reacher, not really ever, and especially not when it comes to snacks.

So, within short order, our house sported a Hansel and Gretel trail of Special K, and David went to get the broom. As he cleaned, Jarrah came around the corner, having managed to put on her own pink leopard-print sneaker (wrong foot) with the express purpose of stamping on the Special K for the satisfying crunch it made when she did so. As David frantically swept, she gleefully stomped. I felt bad for laughing.

Cute thing that happened at "My Gym" this week: it was "separation time," which is the five minutes at the end of class when the kids gather in the middle of the room with toys and the adults "retreat to the lobby" while they play (this ritual amuses me, because I wonder if I'm the only one who fantasizes about "separation time" lasting more like an hour, wherein I retreat to a coffee shop across the street.) The staff brings out boxes of toys, and they are different every time. This week, there were neon-colored diaphanous scarves. These scarves made an appearance about two months ago, at which time one of the teachers tied one around her head, babushka-style, to amuse the kids. Apparently, Jarrah remembered this, because she spent her separation time attempting to tie a scarf on each of the other children. She was gentle but firm, draping a scarf over a nearby head and starting to wrap, sarong-style, before the mostly oblivious child moved on, and the head was no longer available for accessorizing. At which point, she simply moved on to the next available head.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Jarrah's Big Day Out

Last weekend, we got to attend Maya and Zoe's fun first birthday party at J.W.Tumbles (which is very much like My Gym, where Jarrah is now a pro.) The following photos are from the whole day -- from the drive to the party, to reading the day's newpaper before hitting the crib.

Night Zoo

Even though we have an annual membership to the San Diego Zoo, this was our first experience at the night zoo, and we went with Mary, Paul and Joy. As it did get dark, most of the shots were in the late afternoon after the heat had subsided. I have included the shots of two dwarf hippos kissing, to demonstrate there are some things you only get to see at night.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

This Is What I Learned

I am a slow learner. Always have been. People have to show me things five times and I still don't get it until I've done it myself--wrong--again and again. And then I get it. Then I really, really get it.

Tonight I made a frozen yogurt run while David gave Jarrah a bath. We love frozen yogurt. David likes the fruity flavors and I like the coffee flavors. Apparently everyone else likes frozen yogurt, too, because there was a line out the door. Ironically, the place itself was smoldering hot. We all waited and wiped a sheen of sweat from our respective brows. There were only two girls working, and I could see they were "in the weeds," as they apparently say in waiter-speak, and ramped up with adrenalin to get through the line as fast as possible. (Note: I have never been a waiter, so I apologize if I'm misusing the lingo. And may I add I have the utmost respect for waiters.) One of them announced, "I'll go get some more lids," and I was transported back to when I was 16 and worked in a donut shop on Balboa Island. It was a summer resort kind of place, and in the evenings we sold frozen bananas and ice cream bars rolled in candy coating to the warm-weather revelers. Often, we, too, got a line down the block (we served at a little window) and I remember the feeling, which I stangely recall as very meditative. In meditation, one is asked to focus on being in the moment, and when you are trying to dip, roll and wrap hundreds of frozen bananas and dispense correct change for them in as little time as possible, the whole enterprise has a way of narrowing your focus to a place that's almost relaxing.

As I watched this gal announce she was going to get lids, I remembered the times I would say "I'll go get more butter brickle" and sashay towards the back room, even though the line snaked past where I could see its end. No one could argue in those moments that this decision was shirking; we needed more butter brickle topping, the tub was low, and it was our best seller. But when I got to the back, I could never resist a stolen moment in the walk-in freezer, just to breathe deeply and watch the cloud of frost as I exhaled. For a few seconds, I savored the almost deafening silence compared to the front of the shop. And then I was off, refreshed and ready to leap back into the fray.

When I got to the front of the yogurt line, I tried to be clear and concise with my order so as not to waste her time. I remembered that much. But some of that goofy summer nostalgia overcame me at the cash register and I made a casual comment about the crowd. "This is the first time I've seen the end of the line since 7:00," she told me, laughing. "Well, it's hot," I said, and she said, "Yeah, everybody wants yogurt when it's hot." Lulled into an unearned sense of intimacy from this exchange, I blurted, "I used to work in an ice cream place when I was your age, so I remember what it's like."

She rolled her eyes. Readers, she rolled her eyes! Instantly, I was so embarrassed that I actually burst out laughing at the absurdity of trying to bond with her in precisely the same way that used to annoy me back in the day! Are we all doomed to repeat the past? I heard myself say, "Bye!" and she turned her back as I added, "Thank you!" She was finished with me and my old fogey tales from the porch rocker over a tumbler of iced tea. I felt like such an ass I smiled all the way to the car.

I am a slow learner. Back in Massachusetts, I had MCI phone service for a year and finally cancelled it because it took so much of my time. I told someone this about a year--a year!--after I cancelled it. They were puzzled. "What took so much of your time?" "Well, I had to dial those stupid 14 numbers every time I used the phone!" Pause. "You don't have to dial those numbers from your own phone; you know that, right?" No, apparently I didn't know that. And that's why I had to have it cancelled...after dialing 21 numbers every single time I made a local call for a good portion of my '20s.

Recently, we had a playdate at the home of my friend Karol, and Jarrah took a lavish piss all over her nice, clean living room floor. Jarrah was wearing a swim diaper at the time, and what I learned is that those things are not designed to keep in liquid. In fact, they do the opposite: they keep OUT liquid, so babies do not blow up like puffer fish when they swim in a diaper. Swim diapers are designed for one purpose and one purpose alone, and I'll let you figure that out (unless you also cancelled your MCI service for nuisance reasons, in which case e-mail me privately and I'll explain.) But was this a valuable lesson for me? Apparently not, because it was not the first time. Jarrah had already peed like a racehorse and turned my parents' dining room into a lake, and my mother made me take the high chair outside and hose it down. At the time, I thought: "Huh! Right through the diaper?" But did I go on to apply this information? Apparently not.

Speaking of pee, here's my favorite lesson of all time so far. A few months ago (a few months ago, Readers! Do you know how old I am?) I discovered that you can extract a toilet seat cover from the dispenser in a public restroom, shake it over the seat, sit down, and pee in sanitary comfort. Right now you are thinking "Yes? And you expected it to play the Macarena?" But, you see, I've spent my life believing it was necessary to shake out the seat cover, punch a hole in the middle, hurl it over the seat as if tossing a round of pizza dough, and then whisk yourself over it before the torn cover slips into the water. Which it always did. And each time, I thought, what is the point of these idiot things? They're great in theory, but they don't work. What a difference a tiny detail like not punching out the center makes! Now when I use one, I think, "Freakin' genius!" It's a beautiful thing, really, how education can change our lives.

But I won't go telling anybody about it. Nope, I'll be quiet and let those young folk figure this valuable stuff out for themselves.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Oh, B-have!

Jarrah is having a little problem. She only knows a few words, see, and each time she learns a new one, it messes her up. One of her first words was "ball." Then she added "bubble" after a particularly memorable afternoon. These are both extremely important words describing daily necessities, so they get a lot of use. Then we started saying "bottle" to her. That threw her. Bottle? It sounds like bubble. Okay, then. When it's time for her milk, she asks for "bubble." Then we went to a birthday party and there were lots and lots of balloons. "Balloon!" I shouted. Balloon? Ball-oon? BALL-oon? She's also been crowing at the sky every time one of those wing-ed beasts happens by. "That's a bird!" I tell her. Bird? BURD? BURDLE? Today when we went in the back yard to water the plants, she spotted one of her balls, the cool one with the nobbly bits. "Bubble!" she announced. "Ball!" I "repeated." I try not to correct her. "Balloon!" she said. A bird buzzed our towers. "Bubble!" she screamed with glee.

Readers, the letter of the day is becoming (get it? B-coming?) the letter of the month. And it's the bee's knees in Jarrah's book.

Book! Bookle!

Ring The Bell; School's Back In

This morning I attended my first "Parent Breakfast" for Jarrah's preschool. In an earlier post, I explained that she wouldn't be starting until she turns two (December 28) but I am "on the list" for her classroom now since the school year began last week. On Friday, I got a call from Jarrah's "room parent," and the reason I am putting this stuff in quotes is that it still seems so foreign to me. I was looking around the room thinking "So this is what a group of preschool parents look like," and it suddenly hit me that they also look like me, apparently. Humph.

At first I wasn't even sure how I was going to attend, since my question "Are kids welcome?" was met with a long "Ummmmmm...." on the phone. Luckily, my friend Melissa came to the rescue. She and I were planning to go shopping this morning at the Carlsbad Outlets, and she agreed to hang out with Jarrah for an hour first. She is a generous soul, particularly since she is leaving this Thursday for China to become a mom to a 9-month-old daughter herself. She even survived a hazing ritual: Jarrah decided to get all poopy as soon as David and I left, even though we had just changed her half an hour before! What's up with that? Melissa was a champ, though, and I'll just keep trying to convince myself that she really, really needed the practice, and Jarrah--sensitive child that she is--instinctively knew that. ;)

At the breakfast, I was somehow plunged back into my highschool mindset of feeling like a total outsider and not part of the cool crowd. I kept having the urge to retreat to a tire swing wearing a giant SONY Walkman circa 1984 playing Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits where I could gaze moodily into the middle distance. Most of the women were air-kissing hello, and waving other gals over to sit with them. As much as I kept repeating in my head, "That'll be you soon; just give it time," I felt more and more self-conscious as my end of the big table remained an uninhabited isthmus. Also, several of the women were pregnant, or talked about their two or three older children in elementary school. I tried to picture myself part of this homey little group and couldn't do it. I know that jumping to judgment is one of my less attractive qualities, so I kept squelching back my anxiety. I do rationally understand that I just need time to get familiar with all this change. After all, I'm guessing I was the only mom there today who became a parent eight months ago and is already meeting their child's preschool room parent.

One thing that I haven't felt any anxiety about is Jarrah herself. It feels totally right to me that she should be starting school. My knowledge of her thus far is that she is tirelessly curious, and quite bold in new situations. I just know the stimulation of other children, new toys and giant fingerpaintings will only make her happier.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Cute Things

So I'm walking around the house (probably trying to do something really outlandish like get dressed or find my shoes) and I can hear Jarrah "talking" in her room. She doesn't go in there much without us because there's not much to do, except get her diaper changed, and that's not a preferred activity. I poke my head in there and she is sitting very properly in her rocker-recliner, which is not hers at all but ours, in which we are supposed to hold her and feed her, all baby-like, and hence is rarely used. She is reading a book. Recently, I arranged all her books into two sections: chewable board books that she can reach, and lovely books with delicate pages and complex narratives that she can't. She looks up, acknowledges me, but then continues her recitation. For the next 15 minutes, each time I walk by the door, she is sitting in the same spot, each time reading a different book. She likes a lot of variety. Someday I can see her telling someone "I've been reading Anna Karenina for a year because I keep getting distracted by other books!"


We are at University Town Center (it's actually just a mall) and they have a tiny train near the Pottery Barn. It has an engine and five cars, and goes around a track shaped like a kidney bean with some sad-looking, multi-colored detritus piled in the center. The lady in the booth switches the train on and occasionally blows a realistic-sounding whistle. The train ride has two notable features: it is oddly fast, and oddly long. I am used to the 60-second rides at county fairs, but this one circles for fully five minutes. It also whips around corners, necessitating both seat belts and a chain across the door to keep tots from flying onto the track.

Jarrah sees the train from her stroller as we pass it on our way to meet the Animal Crackers. She cranes around and makes a mournful "doot-doot" sound because we are not stopping. When we get to the fabulous exploding water feature, where her cohorts are shrieking and splashing, she wears an air of distraction. Every couple minutes, she points in the general direction of the train and intones "doot-doot..." This continues long enough for me to throw in the towel and take her back to the train, which costs $3.00. On the train, she smiles with two rows of teeth and raises her palm like the Rose Queen to all and sundry, none of whom we know or have ever seen before. If she's ever invited to ride on a float, she is ready.

After the ride, she is willing to get wet for a while, but each time I look away for a blink, she has wandered a little ways back to the train. Eventually, I dry her off and take her to the playground next to the train track, where she eschews the equipment and stands with her face pressed against the fence, watching the train riders, and calling "doot-doot!" at them. Lisa springs for a second ride, and it's possible Jarrah enjoys this one even more. Afterwards, she returns to her position at the fence. She would be standing there still if I hadn't put her in the stroller and rolled her into the Baby Gap.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Where's The Fire?

My latest anxiety is prompted by people asking me how old Jarrah is. I say "She's 20 months." and they invariably respond "Oh, so almost two."

Readers, she is NOT almost two. When she is almost two, I will say "She's almost two." At least I think I will. Because, you see, two is still a third of a year away. Even I do not rush my next birthday with this phrase, and I have been on the planet a heck of a lot longer. It just doesn't seem right to me to rush the birthday of a person who heretofore has had only ONE other. Someone who, to the best of my knowledge, didn't have anyone around to document that one. And someone whose Mom and Dad celebrated her last birthday with friends and a birthday tiara, but no actual, photographable cutie with frosting on her face.

I have known her for less than eight months. That is only twice again the amount of time that is supposedly "almost" something else. Does that make sense? I can only imagine that in four months she will be, as she is every WEEK, a completely new and exciting pint-sized force of nature.

And she does seem so different all of the sudden. I have adapted to her being slim (relatively) and tall, and to requiring a little-tolerated barrette to keep the bangs out of her eyes. I have adapted to her running my behind off (oh, would that it were!) every single day.

But I still marvel that almost every day she suddenly does something brand spanking new, like catch a ball, walk downstairs without a handrail, build a block tower seven blocks high. This weekend, she identified "head," "toes," "belly," "knees," "shoulders," "eyes," "ears", "nose" and "mouth" when Aaryn asked her to find these things. Readers, I'm embarrassed to admit that it never occurred to me that she might know where these items were located! I have been transported to giddiness when she points and says "Ball." or "Bubbles." or "Car." or "Apple." plain and clear, as if she's always known how to say it but didn't want to let on. I get internal flip-flops of cute overload when she spots the San Diego trolley and raises her hand to pull the bell, calling "Doot-doot!"

She is suddenly interested in what things are called. I'm no child development expert, but it's as if she has suddenly worked out that things have names, and now she must know them all. She will happily spend 10 minutes pointing at objects in her crib after her nap, and then do it faster and faster, as if trying to confuse me. "Blanket. Pillow. Cookie Monster. Pillow. Cookie Monster. Blanket-Cookie-Pillow-Cookie-Blanket-Pillow-Cookie." She doesn't repeat these words after I say them, but I can tell she's taking it all in.

And...can it be? Is it my imagination? Or does she seem happier recently? As if she is relieved to discover that things have names? Perhaps it is a relief because this phenomenon applies to her, too. She often points to herself, and me, and David. "Jarrah. Mommy. Daddy," we say, over and over. We have names. She has a name. And she is tickled pink to know just who she is.