Monday, March 26, 2007

By Order of the Authorities

Last night we went out for Chinese food with my parents in Orange County. Jarrah has recently been, shall we say, a challenging dining companion. First, she scattered a dozen or so gnawed orange slices across the table and wedged some chop sticks into available cracks, ready to impale the next person to reach for the sweet and sour chicken. Then she slurped a mess of five-foot-long soba noodles into her face and scattered edamame pods around her chair like a toddler garnish. Throughout, she brandished her hoisin-covered fingers like tiny Fabric Destroyers, heat-sensing for nearby sleeves. Finally, she hoisted a 32 oz. cup of water, which inevitably slipped from her greasy fingers, bounced off the table, and splashed fountain-like towards other diners.

And that's when a waiter came over and erected a yellow CAUTION cone next to Jarrah's high chair. And no, Readers, I am not creatively lying this time.

Friday, March 23, 2007

And They Gnashed Their Terrible Teeth

Jarrah has been a beast all week. For a couple months after she turned two, she was sweeter n' cream with a cherry on top. Combined with all the cute new chattiness, things were dreamy for a short while. She will be 27 months next week, and suddenly the tea party (with the china cups and finger sandwiches) is over, baby. She has spent the better part of this week crying without provocation, pushing her friends (and me!) and shouting "NO!" at the top of her lungs, even when everything is status quo.

Just when I'd decided my child has been snatched and replaced with a pod, something happened today. A breakthrough--literally. We were at the mall with Jessica and Yea Yea (aka Olivia) and Jarrah had just performed a full-scale operatic aria in Gymboree over some waterproof beach shoes. Seems she wanted to put them on--NOW--and was not interested in my reasonable argument that they were still connected to each other with tags and a hanger. There was thrashing, and wailing, and pushing, and then much more of all three. Luckily, Gymboree is one of those places where the stares you get are all sympathetic. Eventually, I had to broker a brief silence by borrowing some scissors and getting the shoes on her feet before we paid for them. I don't want to be a Bargaining Mom. I want to establish a reign in which "what I say, goes, because I'm the Mom and you're not." But today, with my head pounding, bathed in flop sweat, and a shimmer of pain zooming up and down my clenched jaw, all I wanted was quiet. I think I would have bought her one of the cash registers if I'd thought it would calm her down.

The hysterics continued at Pat n' Oscars, even after the procurement of a soft, chewy breadstick. There was a brief eye of the storm during which a great deal of pizza was consumed, but it didn't last. Having had to pee for about two hours, I fled to the bathroom, rather ungraciously leaving my screaming daughter with my friends in order to do so. When I returned, Jessica was peering into Jarrah's mouth. "Look in there," Jessica said, triumphantly. I did. I couldn't see anything under her tongue, but I could see the roof of her mouth, and there was a tooth the size of a submarine beginning to surface.

Jarrah got all her baby teeth quickly, between about nine months (or so we've been told) and sixteen. But those two-year molars have been shy about their debut. Now the moment, Dear Readers, has finally arrived.

My main thought looking at her little pink gums? OWWWWW. That is one BIG tooth, and more like it on the way! Suddenly I had compassion where once was none. I got her a smoothie in the hope of freezing her gums a bit, and she was soon lamb-like.

My questions for those of you with kids over two: How old were yours when those two-years popped through? How long did it take to finish all four? How can I ease her pain without giving her a bullet to bite on? How can I ease mine? And the big one:

How much more beastly pod child am I in for?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Say My Name, Say My Name: The Sequel

I had to return some overdue library books the other day. It just so happened that it was Tuesday and just in time for the storytime of yonder days. Tickled at the notion of observing my all-grown-up girl behaving herself like a little lady--after all, isn't she in school now, and eight months older?--we wandered into the comfy but mildewy back room and took our seats. This story lady had no bells and whistles--just an assortment of books about spring arranged on a table behind her. My confidence increased as the room began to fill with a preschool class and various toddlers from the neighborhood--when questioned, many of them revealed they were also two.

Jarrah listened to two pages of the story. Then she made her spine like a Gummy Worm and slithered off my lap, and remained prone on the floor repeating "DA DA DA!" at the top of her lungs. Admitting defeat, I gathered her and our things and slipped out the back, so the other children--mysteriously riveted, even glassy-eyed and slack-jawed--wouldn't snap out of their trance. Since my investment in this experiment had been low, I was able to recover quickly, without projecting any crap onto Jarrah.

On the way to the check-out desk, I quietly reminded Jarrah that "the library is a Sssshhhh! zone." She nodded and repeated "Sssshhh!" I handed one of the librarians my books and my phenomenal fine. Jarrah observed the other librarian, an older lady, who was seated behind the counter, and then:


Lately, she's taken to introducing herself to strangers, always in a very loud voice. I could tell the librarian had no clue what Jarrah was saying. Luckily, Jarrah never travels without a skilled interpreter.

"She's telling you her name is Jarrah," I translated.

"Is your name Jarrah?" said the librarian.

"YEH! JARRAH!" replied the very same.

"And what's your Mama's name?" asked the librarian (though I have no idea why.)

"MAMA NAME SAM!" shouted Jarrah.

My head almost blew off. She knows my name! And here's the really kooky part: in my last post, I said that Jarrah has been calling me Sam, but I was lying. I was taking creative license there. (I'm clever like that.) In fact, I was speaking at the greatest level of hyperbole I could conceive of, with the sole design of being found amusing by You, Dear Readers. That's right--I do it all for you. BUT SHE DOES KNOW MY NAME!!!

Even more interesting, her Daddy--the center of her universe--does not call me Sam. He has never called me Sam. When we first met, he said "I like your full name and I intend to use it." He has never reneged on this intention. So that means Jarrah got "Sam" just from observing me interface with the outside world. Kind of spooky. It's like having a tiny CIA agent living in the house. I'd better watch my back.

It's Starting

Today we went to the Birch Aquarium with Rayna and her twins, Maya and Lulu. Jarrah knows the Aquarium well by now, and has certain "must-dos." One of them is looking through the pay telescope that faces the pier and the ocean. It's a pointless little interlude, considering that she hasn't figured out how to focus her gaze through it, but--until today--a harmless one:


"Yes, Jarrah."

"Up. Look."


"Mama." (she reaches for my purse) "Money. Money. Money."

I'm dreading our next visit to Toys R Us.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Say My Name, Say My Name

For most of the time I've known Jarrah, she has made use of a single sobriquet to designate all those in her inner circle, as well as the general population:


This meant that while I was Mama, her Daddy was also Mama. Paul and Mary were both Mama, as well as all other friendly adults. Further, total strangers in the mall or at the zoo, of both sexes, could become Mama at a moment's notice if they happened to be holding snacks. All people whose attention was not currently fixed on Our Lady of Myriad Desires were Mama. When someone was annoying her, any less annoying personage in her immediate vicinity was Mama. No doubt about it: Mama not only ruled the world, she was all-seeing and all-knowing.

While this irked me occasionally, I had long since stopped thinking about it except as an endearing eccentricity of my fascinating little girl. It amused me that her little friends would call her Jarrah while she stared them down, suspicious: How does this person know my name?

So you can imagine my surprise when the whole world turned upside-down last week, and in the process Mama fell right off. Well, I mean, I'm over here--see me waving?--but the vast Army of Mamas has beat a final retreat.

I picked Jarrah up from school as usual on Tuesday afternoon and once buckled into the car, we began our ritual of taking leave from the salient features of the morning: "Buh-bye pizza!" "Buh-bye paint!" "Buh-bye slide!" It was all very familiar until:

"Buh-bye Joshua!" Plain as day, her first totally intelligible three-syllable word, and a name!


"Yeh. Buh-bye Joshua!"

(A moment while I collected myself from my "Oy, she's growing up" swoon.)

"Is Joshua in your class?"

"Yeh. Class. Buh-bye Joshua!"

On Thursday, I was in Jarrah's classroom gathering up the uneaten lunch, soiled clothing and glitter-covered toilet-paper rolls when I had a thought:

"Barbara?" (That's Jarrah's teacher.) "Is there a Joshua in this class?"

"He's right there." Barbara pointed to a very tall, very blond boy who was currently sobbing into his mother's shoulder. Humph. Not what I expected for Jarrah's first beau. Right then out of the corner of my eye I saw a pixie-haired girl give Jarrah a more-than-casual shove.

"UH!" said Jarrah. "CHEE-yuh PUSH!"

"I am sick of telling you!" the little girl shouted. "My name is not CHEE-yuh! It's Julia!"

I bent down to rub Jarrah's back, thrilled but trying to hide it. "Sorry, Julia. I think she's saying Julia but it's a little hard for her to pronounce."

"CHEE-yuh!" Jarrah whined. "Push."

"Stop it, stop it, stop it!" said Julia. "My name is not Chee-yuh!"

Well, there wasn't much to be done about the pushing thing. Chee-yuh's mom was facing the other way, and Chee-yuh herself was too riled up about her name to pursue the subject. But for once I really didn't care because...JARRAH HAS FIGURED OUT THAT PEOPLE HAVE NAMES! READERS, THIS IS SO EXCITING!

I'm sure if I thought about it long and hard I could come up with something poetic about the act of naming, and how it distinguishes the beautiful things of this world from one another, and individuals begin to blossom like springtime hyacinths, and and and and and. But mostly I was just proud of Jarrah, who since Thursday has been calling everybody she's ever met and continues to meet by name, and even pronouncing most of them correctly, like she's been doing it since the day she was born, easy peasy.

Now if only she'd stop calling me Sam.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Wiggly Party

Last Friday, David, Paul, Mary and I were really, really amazing parents and took our daughters to see the Wiggles Live! at Cox Arena. Man, are we generous people, so deeply attuned to our daughters' need for stimulating entertainment that we'd pony up about a million dollars for concert tickets.

Oh, let's drop this charade: the tickets were for me. That's right, Readers, MOI. The toddlers were simply my beards. I love the Wiggles. There, I've said it, and it feels so much better to have it out in the open. From the moment they arrived on stage in The Big Red Car, I was enraptured. They had me at Hot Potato. We had good seats considering the vertigo-inducing chasm of the arena, and a T-shaped stage enabled giant dinosaurs, teddy bears and refreshingly buxom ballerinas to dance right into our midst. I clapped, I danced, I giggled, I got choked up when both Jeff and Murray came up the stairs and stopped to shake Jarrah and Joy's hands. I kind of lost my voice from a lot of shrieking and woo-hooing. I even shed a few tears during--of all things--a soaring rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," in which the only lights in the stadium came from the audience's cell phones, and Jarrah held her hands over her head and twinkled her fingers. We all admired the playful lightness of the performers, who chatted with the audience, ad-libbed their banter, and chuckled over technical glitches.

And did the intended viewers of this spectacle appreciate it? Oh, I suppose so, Readers. At first they seemed stunned, blinking at all the color and light and the people who usually stay in the television. Later, they danced and cheered, ate snacks, and set about annoying people in front of us by kicking their heads. To paraphrase Dudley Moore in Arthur, who was speaking of yacht travel, if pressed they might have admitted "The Wiggles don't suck." But whether they still tingled and glowed from the wonder of it all thirty minutes later? On that subject, Readers, I can only speak for myself.

I was ready to chuck ordinary life and go on the road, following the Wiggles around like the Dead. I could hang in parking lots before and after shows, passing the Gerber Fruity Snacks with the other acolytes. Clearly, though, I can stop feeling slightly weird about this because if you go on YouTube and search on the Wiggles, you will currently pull up several dozen "tributes" to Greg Page, the Yellow Wiggle, who recently announced his retirement due to a chronic condition that makes it hard for him to dance. Despite his public assurance that this condition will not kill him, the YouTube videos are structured in the fashion of "In Memoriam" montages at the Oscars, or like slide shows in junior high of the girl who was hit by a car while skateboarding. Somewhat ironically, these tributes are not set to Wiggles music, but to popular adult songs. My favorite: Coldplay's "Yellow." The one that made me snort inappropriately: Sarah McLachlin's "I Will Remember You."

I know about the Wiggles latest YouTube coverage because of a conversation that David and I had after the concert, in which he asked me what I thought of the video that opened the show. See, the Wiggles have, out of necessity, swiftly replaced Greg with another Yellow wiggle, Sam Moran (a move I refer to as "hiring from the inside," since he was already a secondary cast member.) He's a friendly-looking fellow, has a stunning voice, and is about a foot shorter than Greg. Honestly, if kids notice anything different about Yellow, it will probably be this anatomical discrepancy.

But that's not true for their parents. David pointed out that whoever is making these YouTube tributes, they're not three years old. My new friend Robyn from Jarrah's preschool told me she attended an earlier Wiggles concert when Sam understudied for Greg, and the substitution occasioned a wailing and gnashing of teeth throughout the stadium. And those doing the gnashing were over 30. Clearly, the official change was a matter requiring delicate diplomacy, and kudos to the Wiggles for treating their fans (of every age) with honesty and respect.

In the concert's opening video ("...and now, a message from Greg!") we zoom between close-ups and extreme close-ups of Greg talking about his condition, and his hard decision to retire from the Wiggles. Then we see a two-shot of him sitting with a man whom he describes as "my good friend, Sam." In a gesture both sweetly earnest and tongue-in-cheek, Greg announces that he would "now like to officially transfer the Yellow skivvy to Sam," which he does, and which Sam accepts like it's a royal sceptre.

And what was I doing during this video, Dear Readers? I was crying. Crying as a two-year-old would never do over the presentation of a polyester shirt.

I'm happy to report that Sam did a bang-up job in his inaugural outing. He sang and danced and smiled, and did so bravely, considering how many people were holding signs with deluded messages like "Greg, we miss you! Get well soon!" But all was soon forgiven and forgotten by the very small. Down in front of the stage, the young ones cavorted to the music, and when the time was right they held out their long-stemmed red roses.

These roses were snacks for a dinosaur, dontcha know. Next time I'll be sure to bring some, for the kids to hold. Or maybe just me.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Nobody Here But Us Chickens

Houston, we have a problem. Or, more accurately: Dreamworks, we have a problem. That problem involves clay and British accents and Mel Gibson and chickens. Mostly chickens.

When David and I were in China, we visited a "DVD Market" (it was a small, smoky room on the third floor of a mall otherwise devoted to jewelry) where we thoughtfully selected some "children's" movies for our new daughter: Madagascar, The Incredibles, Babe and Chicken Run. Notice a theme here? None of these is actually very appropriate for, let's say, CHILDREN. Oh, sure, school-age children, who can have a tender heart-to-heart with Mummy about the facts of life (and death) before and after. But two-year-olds? C'mon.

Nevertheless, we were trying to distract Jarrah recently and put the aforementioned Chicken Run in the DVD player. Have you seen this movie? It's about a chicken farm in England, overseen by the evil Mrs. Tweedy, who is planning to make pies out of her birds if Ginger the head chicken doesn't save the day by teaching them to fly. They are visited by Rocky the American rooster, whom they believe to be their savior (he's played by Mel Gibson--insert your own joke here) because he flies into their coop. From the opening scenes in the dead of night wherein Ginger is trying to escape some fierce, slobbering dogs, the movie is, shall we say, dark. It's made very clear what the fate of these chickens will be, either via Mrs. Tweedy's ax or the Chicken Pie Machine.

Jarrah instantly sat up and took notice of Chicken Run. Shortly after, she became obsessed with it. "Chick-eh Ruh!" she sings when she wakes up in the morning, after her nap, upon arriving home and before going to bed. "Chick-eh Ruh!" she shouts as the chickens, literally, run from their captors, barely avoiding death. She loves to stand really, really close to the TV, gasping on cue and moaning "Oh nooooo!" when Ginger gets thrown into solitary again and again, or when a dog nearly bites her head off, or when she and Rocky are thrown into the pie machine. It's all such glorious, wholesome fun!

Meanwhile, I am quietly cringing while loading the dishwasher or folding her clothes. What kind of mother am I? My darling daughter is having her first filmic love affair and I've allowed it to happen with Chicken Run? Now, make no mistake: Chicken Run rocks. It's a great movie, and the Aardman Animation folks (also responsible for Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit and the cheeky Creature Comforts) are wizards with clay story-telling. If I'm going to have to watch a movie straight through and then start it again, I could do worse. But will it besmirch the innocence of my two-year-old innocent flower, pure and untouched by all that is unsavory in this big, bad world?

Oh, who am I kidding? I should just be thanking my lucky stars that it's not Snow White. And that we haven't had to have "the conversation" about Chicken Fingers yet.

Time for Charm School

Jarrah has discovered a brand new way to get our attention from her crib in the morning: