Monday, April 30, 2007

It's a Small World After All

On Sunday I taught Family Nia, which is something I do each time a month has a fifth Sunday (about four times a year, for those of you keeping score at home.)

This time was special, though, because it was the first time Jarrah came to class. David brought her, and we worked out a contingency plan in advance in case she decided to spend the hour hugging my legs and shouting "Mommy! Picka up!" In the event of this outcome, David was to take her across the street to the park. Should that not suffice, he was to walk her to the nearby mini-mall for a smoothie. I figured that about covered it.

In honor of the occasion, and because ever since I've had a toddler it's become clear that toddlers aren't ever going to "get" my choreography to Madeleine Peyroux and the theme from Les Triplettes des Belleville, I added some Wiggles songs, plus two other numbers that it suddenly occurs to me are both about fruit.

As it happens, I needn't have been concerned, because we also had a secret weapon. Jessica came to class for the first time, and she brought Yea-Yea. After that, it didn't matter what I did or didn't do, because Jarrah and Yea-Yea just wanted to sprint around the room and admire themselves in the mirrors. And that was just fine with me!

Just before I started up the music and called the class to order (a relative term here) Yea-Yea made some introductions.

"This is Jarrah," she told the others. "She's going to be my sister someday."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What's a Gal Gotta Do...

Lately, Jarrah has become very chatty with restaurant staff. She says hello and tells them what she's been up to. They rarely comprehend, but they smile with varying degrees of politeness or enthusiasm, depending on their day or how they feel about toddlers.

Apparently, she's also been taking notes from the various mommies and daddies who dine with her.

Recently, a waiter stopped by to introduce himself. "What would you like to drink?" he asked.

Said Jarrah: "Coffee, please."

"Make that two," I added. "We've both had an exhausting day."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Whan that Aprill with his Shoures Soote

The title is the first line of The Canterbury Tales. Why? Well, I didn't memorize the first 18 lines for my senior year Chaucer seminar to let that accomplishment fade into obscurity. Also, for some reason April has always seemed a time of reckoning for me. It was the month before I got married, the month before I submitted my MFA thesis, the month of our LID in China. Not to mention all those bursting buds and frolicking lambs, which is precisely what old Jeff Chaucer was talking about.

So, in honor of April, some observations:

I am better at this Mom thing than I was last April.

David left me for three days, as he did last year and has done every year since we've met, for the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Vegas last week. I was a NAB Widow and lived to tell about it. Last year, I was terrorstruck at the idea of being alone for three days with the tiny, unpredictable person now living in our house, and wheedled and cajoled everyone I knew to keep us company--I figured if I made any serious mistakes, there'd be someone else to help me clean up the mess. Several people stepped up to help alleviate my fears. This year was no different in the sense that friends kept us company (a special shout-out to Grace and her daughter, Julianna, who brought us Chinese food and their delightful company for the second year running) but there was a profound difference in another sense. I was not freaking out this time. Yes, I was a little tired and yes, had my moments of near-witless exasperation. But this year, no one was jet-lagged, and I know a thing or two about wrangling a toddler. Also, I'm a little more patient (just a little), a little more flexible (just a smidge), and a little more tolerant of total irrationality (actually, a lot more.) And these refined qualities helped me not only to cope, but--if I do say so myself--to have a few moments of sublime synchronicity with my child, even without the invaluable and unflagging support of my dear husband.

I don't care for this aging business.

I had my annual last week and requested that my doctor (who can never seem to remember who I am even as he's pronouncing me "one of his favorite people in the world") check under the hood in addition to kicking the tires, if you'll pardon my metaphor. What he saw in there did not please me, though I don't plan to detail the Latin terminology here. In fact, although he was not concerned, I felt fragile and teary as I headed back to the car, a state I remained in until I was able to get through to my dad (who is also an Ob/Gyn) and he pretty much quelled my anxiety with a single line: "Telling a woman of 40 that she has [...] is like telling her that she has green eyes." Since my dad is not one for mincing words on the medical front, this was reassuring indeed. Still...

I really can't cope without doing a lot of talking.

This was made obvious by my behavior later that day when I ran into my new friend, Robyn, at the supermarket before we picked up our kids from school. I started telling her about my defective lady parts and my eyes filled with tears. I was having a "the world is unfair" moment and I needed to vent. Robyn was not only sweet, she cited a real-life example of how this was going to be no big deal. Which, believe it or not, had the effect of instantly calming and comforting me. I'm a little embarrassed that I broke down like that, but if I hadn't, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to feel so astoundingly much better, and so soon. If you're reading this, Robyn--thank you.

Despite my history, a shot in the ass can leave me feeling elated.

Turns out this "cold" I have not been getting over is actually a sinus infection. Despite my faulty sinuses (now there's a body part I feel no shame in admitting to be deficient) I have never had one before, and thought maybe aching teeth, a head full of quicksand, and near-total deafness was just my new lot in life. But today I went to the doctor again (as Jarrah would say, "diff-went doc-tah") and he was satisfyingly sympathetic, whipping out the little pad and scratching some hieroglyphics that meant I was entitled to THREE prescriptions for my swollen passages. And just because I'm a special, special patient, he sent in the head nurse to jab me with some cortisone before I left. "I need to see your good side," she parried, and I was feeling such a warm glow of validation, I was happy to show it to her. "Can you get rhino ass from an anti-inflammatory?" I asked David as I walked to the car. He didn't think so. Within a half-hour I could already breathe in a way I vaguely remembered from my old life.

Fevers are scary when they happen to your two-year-old.

Yesterday at Play Town (that place rocks, by the way) Jarrah was whining and checking on me every three seconds; normally I am chopped liver until she wants a snack. Then, suddenly, she was as clingy as this season's jeans, but the real give-away was when she refused to eat cherry jello. Toddlers may be as unpredictable as the weather in New England, but I know two things to be true about my child: she is not cuddly, and she never turns down dessert. That's when I noticed that her skin was smoking hot.

Luckily, we had Jessica and Yea-Yea with us and they stayed calm and reasonable while I freaked out. We got Jarrah home quickly, her temperature was 103, and she was dopey with fatigue. She asked to get in her crib and then stayed there for over four hours. Of course I called her doctor and the triage nurse talked me down from the ledge. At dinner time, she was cheerful and knew all the Wiggles and their corresponding jersey colors, but was still burning up and seemed to be doing the toddler version of delirious ranting:

Mummy! Jarrah has bath. Then your turn. We in house. Car outside. Wiggles on. Daddy in house. Mommy in house. Po in house. Mr. Potato Head in house. Fish fingers. Owie. Jarrah has bath. Then your turn. Jarrah has bath. Then your turn.

I'm ashamed to say we had to hold her down to squirt Motrin into her maw, and then she cried and said "Get in crib." Then I cried. She was still scorching hot. I called my dad. He suggested I call our doctor "which she'll appreciate, because it's not the middle of the night." I e-mailed her, and of course she e-mailed back right away. She wasn't concerned. One of the things I love about her is her unflappable equilibrium. Between her reassurance and my cough syrup with codeine, I slept like the angel I am. And so did Jarrah.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Last year we had a magical Easter celebration with Mary, Paul and Joy at Mary's brother's home in RB. They even hid multi-colored plastic eggs full of goodies all around their yard and provided baskets to enhance the adorability quotient in the subsequent photos. As I mentioned then, Jarrah was perplexed by the egg hunt and the concept of carrying the basket, since she was under the impression that "Ma!" and "Other Ma!" were there to do the heavy lifting. She was only 17 months old, after all.

This year, we were eager to continue the tradition, and happy to join the Rupperts again, this time at the official Encinitas egg hunt. Unfortunately, about 5,000 other people were also happy to join the Rupperts, which made for a slightly different experience.

There was the ritual circling of the parking lot, followed by the crush of bodies towards a fence and the sound of bullhorns emitting complex instructions about how to avoid a Who concert-like melee. Signs warned that only children were to touch the eggs, and that only 3-year-olds (whoops--we were breaking the rules) were eligible for this particular hunt. Jarrah was holding the basket from whence we'd dumped out our television remotes. She had been briefed on her objectives: find "acks," put them in basket.

First, we watched a group of people scatter the eggs in the grass from black plastic garbage bags. Then, some more bullhorn warnings. Many, many frantic cell phone exchanges between myself and Mary, since we couldn't locate each other. Finally, a rush towards a starting rope, where we got into position and were finally released. Yelling. Stomping. Crushed plastic in the grass. Jarrah and Joy staggered around like amnesia victims. Feeling the pressure, I hovered over an egg or two screaming "Look! An egg! GET IT IN YOUR BASKET! HURRY! SOMEONE ELSE IS GONNA TAKE IT!"

And, finally, we were alone, the madding hordes having been herded out the back fence by more people with bullhorns and big signs that said "KEEP MOVING." I peered in Jarrah's basket--four eggs. Some of the sprinters had looked suspiciously post-three, more like five or six or eighteen. I saw some baskets precariously heaped with eggs and triumphant parents snapping photos of their children displaying their vast booty like Henry VIII with a giant chicken leg. A bullhorn-holder warned us to move it along.

Outside the fence, some brave children climbed into the lap of a fuzzy white Easter Bunny to get their photo taken. She beckoned to Jarrah: nothin' doin'. The Easter Bunny kept telling the children gathered around her "No egg unless you're a good girl and get your picture taken." What bizzare criteria for goodness have we wrought?

We meandered towards some jump-jumps with staggering lines snaking away from them. The line for face-painting was even crazier. There was a brief debate about what to do now, and Paul bravely took Joy to one of the jump-jump lines but had to flee when a "scary clown" came by, which seemed like an excellent reason.

Just before we left the premises (and ended up eating a yummy breakfast at Coco's) David said to me, with the delicate hesitation borne of eight years with an unpredictable woman, "So...this might be something we want to skip next year?" I thought about being cruel and saying "No way--we're coming back EVERY year" with a straight face, but I started laughing instead.

Can I Get A Whoop-Whoop?

A few weeks ago we went out to dinner with the Rupperts and ended up with our own private club in the vestibule of the restaurant. The tunes were pumping, the energy was high, and the girls were dressed in their new "My Mom Is Blogging This" t-shirts, courtesy of Cheri. Paul even demo'ed The Crazy Robot for us. Sometimes people would enter or exit our exclusive dance party (they seemed to feel it was a public entrance--how peculiar) but that only added to the fun.

Some of you see Jarrah in person all the time, but for those of you who've never had the opportunity to see her in action (or to understand why I'm so tired at the end of the day) here's your chance! Enjoy!

And be sure to check out two additional videos in the post "What's 'In'."

What's "In"

"Too." She may have learned this at school. It seems to be based on a collectivist model of childhood. She almost always uses it incorrectly, referencing a phantom crowd of two-year-olds who are ostensibly competing with her for objects of desire. First thing in the morning: "I want yogurt shake, TOO." Spotting strawberries on the counter: "I want strawbies, TOO." Seeing her friend Joy has fallen asleep in the car seat next to her: "I want seep, TOO." She pronounces it "T'YEW," which makes her sound a bit like the Swedish chef from the Muppets.

"Owies." We've entered a new hypochondriac phase, in which Jarrah spends several hours a day fixating on miniscule scratches on her fingers and toes, and then, when her indignation overflows, crying lustily over these wounds while yelling "Owie! Ouch! Hurts!" She is briefly mollified with kisses, and a bit longer with "bandies," but she will remove the bandie within 10 seconds of application, while gazing at you as if it pains her to do so.

Lion Dancing. This one sounds too convenient, since Lion Dancing is actually a Chinese art form and an important part of Chinese culture like the New Year's celebration. But what can I say? Jarrah attended a couple of events with these huge-headed beasts (comprised of men bobbing up and down inside dragon-like colorful costumes) and their deafening drum accompaniment, and was hooked. She has fed red envelopes full of "lucky money" to the lions enough times to create a connection (showing me her little zipper purse with a dollar in it: "Yook, Mama. Lion Dancing money.") and David has created a monster by letting her view Lion Dancing videos from YouTube on his lap in front of the computer. Now he has to do it several times a day, and she never gets tired of them.

"Wha' doing?" Brand-new, super-useful, all-purpose question for those times when Mama and Dada are engaged in mystifying activities like cutting an apple, turning on the TV, getting dressed, brushing teeth or a host of other occasions when she is searching for a conversational gambit or some clever cocktail-party opener.

Joy. Pronounced "Choy." (To be fair, she's started pronouncing her own name "Charrah.") Chongqing cousin and totally awesome friend. Last week we watched Joy for the afternoon while Mary and Paul were shopping, and we wheeled the girls around town in the double jogging stroller (Thanks, Lisa!) to supreme cute effect. Amazingly, the day was not twice as hard with twice as many toddlers. They are a calming and focusing influence on one another. We went to lunch at Islands, we rode the carousel (Jarrah calls it "care of self") and the Balboa Park doot-doot (sadly, I must reveal that all doot-doots are now called "choo choo trains," thank you very much) and they couldn't have been sweeter together. It was more like spending the day with two cherubs. (Aw.)

Cousins. Last weekend, my brother Karl, my sister-in-law Carrie, and their two kids Stella and Ruby came to San Diego for the day, and Jarrah tried to do everything they did. The girls are 11 and 8, and Jarrah followed them relentlessly, laughing with delight when they threw her in the air or dragged her between them. They were very sweet with her, and all three had a great time.

Logo T-shirts. In a triumphant instance of nurture over nature, Jarrah is taking after her daddy in her sartorial sensibility. Dresses are okay, but the really whine-worthy, you'll-all-pay-if-I-have-to-take-this-off outfits have pictures and writing on them. She has even been known to cry if she's not given one to sleep with, like a lovey with advertising. Favorites: cherries and koalas. Especially koalas. (See? She does take after her daddy!)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

My Fifteen Seconds

Driving in the car a few evenings ago, with a full moon:


"Yes, lovey."


"Yes, isn't it pretty?"



"Sing moon!"

"Oh, you want me to sing 'Moon, Moon, Moon?'"


"Okay! Moon, moon, moon/Shining bright/Moon, moon, moon/My night light/Moon, moon, moon/I can see/Moon, moon, moo--"



"No, thank you."