Saturday, December 29, 2007


Things I will miss when she doesn't say them anymore:

"We might get wet--we need baby suit."
"Wait! I need to smallow."
"We rode the shovel bus to Mother Goose parade."
"My shoe cane off!"
"The stunk went to the hospital."
"My ear hurts. It has a stab."
"The birdie said hello me!"

This is it. The last evening I can ever say "Well, I have a two-year-old" in a meaningful voice so that my addressee nods understandingly. As of tomorrow morning, I'll have a three-year-old, which just sounds so much more mature for some reason.

We have a lot of stuff planned for tomorrow, and I've got her gifts all wrapped (a microwave and a digital camera, because we're just that kind of gadget-obsessed household) but tonight is like any other. David and I are tapping away on the keyboard, and Jarrah is perched behind David fixing his hair.

"Does that hurt?" I ask him.

"No, it feel good." Jarrah answers. That's the way life is now. She even tells us what our feelings are.

Recently, I asked David: "She's a lot easier than she used to be, right?"

He widened his eyes and shook his head rapidly. I guess not. But that made me feel good, because it means I've gotten better at this in the past year. I keep my cool more than I used to. Trust me, I'm still a nutjob, though.

Just today, I saw the full spectrum of "three-ness." Watching her eat lunch at the next table with "big girls" Julianna and Kyra while I caught up with my friends Grace and Beth, I was struck by her tall legginess. She sat in a regular chair, ate with a fork, eschewed a bib, dunked her fries in the ketchup and schmoozed like a pro, even though her companions were both almost 9-years-old.

Then she fell off her chair without warning, and sobbed from the surprise and indignation of it. And though she was charming until 2:30, at 3:00 she was in a full, screaming 10-minute sprint around Rite-Aid with me, two tween girls and a security guard in hot pursuit, all because she didn't feel like having a diaper change (yes, there's still that, too.) On the bright side, maybe she'll be a track star?

There have been a lot of milestones this year. She started preschool a few days after her second birthday, and now she's the biggest girl in her class, and even takes dance and sports "after school." This year, she had her first haircut, and her first dentist visit, and rode her first bobsled. She mastered those scary ladders at the park--no more dangling and crying half-way up. She learned everybody's names. She developed her taste for all things chocolate. She had her first airplane trip and hotel stay since China, and took it all in stride. She started loving movies, and taking photos. She learned to ride a tricycle. She reads us books.


It's the day after now, and we still have gifts to open. Everyone has been so generous and loving towards our little girl. It was a very busy birthday. We all woke up early (two of us not by choice) and Jarrah opened her camera, which is already proving a massive hit. Jarrah carried it in its little yellow shoulder bag all day long, and has already produced a documentary called "The I-5 Freeway: A Carseat-Eye View." Look for it at Sundance.

Then we were off for a park date with Mary, Paul and Joy, with a lot of swinging "high-yuh! fast-uh!" After that, we met David for lunch at Milton's, with a surprise cupcake chaser after the mac and cheese (Thanks, Paul and Mary!) Mary made "matchy-matchy" photo albums for Jarrah and Joy that told their whole story in pictures, from the day they met to now. I told her "This feels like it's really a gift for me." She said it was okay for me to think that. ;)

We headed home for nappies (3-years-old and still napping, lucky me!) and then met Jessica, Jason and Yea-Yea for dinner at Sammy's--pizza followed by a "messy parfait." (It's really called a messy sundae, but Jarrah speaks French now, did I mention?) Before, during and after there was screaming and running around the courtyard, opening of gifts (Thanks, J, J and Y!), and snapping of many chocolate-faced candids. Jarrah was more than ready for bed when we got home, though she did tell us "My birthday's in the future," which, I suppose, is true for all of us every day, n'est-ce pas?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Mothers and Daughters: For Jarrah's Birthday

Jarrah is three today.

I'm going to write a longer post later, but in the mean time, I give you this poem, read by Amy Tan, in case you like a good cry with your morning coffee.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bah Humbug

Apparently, I don't possess an immune system. This is the only conclusion I can draw from the fact that I'm a sneezy, snorfly mess for the third time in TWO MONTHS. That doesn't even seem possible. But I do live with a man who has been trying to hack up a lung for over a week now, and a child who's in training to replace Typhoid Mary, so there you have it. And it makes me crabby.

In other news, David got me Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious for Hanukkah (he wasn't trying to hint anything; I asked for it) and I finally had a chance to read it cover to cover yesterday. My findings? Jessica Seinfeld is apparently a cyborg.

She cheerfully details how she sets out trays of crudite and dip "fifteen minutes" before dinner is ready (how does she have that timing down?) in case the children can't wait until the real meal is ready. And if they only nibble at dinner after that, she doesn't have to worry, since they're getting their nutrients. Right--that would have me twisting my sheets in knots into the wee hours, too.

Then there's her Sunday evening "date night" of choice, during which she chats with her husband while she chops and processes "a week's worth" of vegetable and fruit purees to freeze, which only takes an hour (!) Then she's all set for that week's healthy recipes, into which she craftily slips a dollop of cauliflower here and a glop of butternut squash there, and her angels are none the wiser. It's so naughty; I can't stand it!

She even has the kids weigh in with charming little endnotes, such as when Sasha, age 6, comments that her mother can easily whip up whole-grain French toast with fruit puree "even when I'm late for school." Me, too, definitely. I've got Jarrah's French toast in one pan while I'm coddling the hell out of David's Eggs Benedict in another. I'm just a multi-tasker that way; there's no help for it.

The recurring graphic of Jessica, with her round eyes and pert ponytail, makes me think of the '50s, perhaps because that was probably the last time women spent their days entirely focused on their family's meals. (Ironically, I've read recently that the '50s were a low point for "whole food" consumption, because cans, bottles and boxes were seen as the wave of the future--hence all the jars of Ragu in the wonderful '50s-era series Mad Men.)

Perhaps you've heard tell of the brou-ha-ha surrounding the publication of this book at the very same time as another, very similar book which was not written by a rich comedian's wife. Of course, Jessica publicly professed total ignorance of the other book, claiming that she's been in the test kitchen for several years now, whipping up purees, tossing them into otherwise decent-sounding food, and then forcing her family to eat it so they get the correct ratio of beta carotene to Vitamin B each day.

And now that I've read the book? I believe her--100 percent. I just wish I had someone to make me broccoli-infused brownies. Clearly, I'm not going to do it, and my immune system could apparently use the jump-start.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ol' Jake-Eye

On this, the eve of her third birthday, Jarrah has picked up a preschool standard or two:

She can count to 20. That is, if you're not fussy about 14-18. She calls out "12, 13, 19, 20!!" Although we "parrot" back the unabridged version, she still shuns the all-important middle. Fingers crossed this is not some grim harbinger of how we'll wish to remember her teen years.

She knows her ABCs, even the confusing "won't you sing with me?" That syntax really nags at me. "WON'T you sing with me?" What's wrong with "Please sing with me?" or its ilk? I guess it must be British or something.

Anyway, there is a spot where she gets stuck, but I am loathe to correct her because I love it. Here's how Jarrah's ABCs go:

"A, B, C, D, E, F, G!!!!
W,X, Y and Z!
Now I know my ABCs!
Next time won't you
sing wit me!"

Now, I could understand tripping up on LMNO. Probably because that part confounded me for years. I remember the following incident (next time I see my mother she'll tell me this never happened):

Sam: (at 4-years-old, outside the closed bathroom door): Dad!
Dad: What?
Sam: I need to talk to you!
Dad: I'm taking a shower!
Sam: I have a question!
Dad: What is it?
Sam: What's an elemeno?
Dad? What?
Sam: An elemeno? What is it?
Dad: WHAT?
Sam: How come the alphabet is mostly letters but has a word right in the middle?
Dad: WHAT?
Sam: What IS an elemeno and what's it doing in the alphabet?
Dad: I'm taking a shower!

Alas, I got no enlightenment. It was another 20 years before I found the truth. By then, the damage was done, and I was embittered and disillusioned for life.

Wait. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, learning stuff. Jarrah also, suddenly, mysteriously, knows the difference between boys and girls. Now, now, get your mind out of the gutter, Readers. I don't mean in the anatomical sense. Or do I? Because, you see, it's a mystery. But a couple of nights ago David and I quizzed her over dinner on the students in her class, and she knew them all:

Sam: Alex?
Jarrah: She's a gull.
David: Ruben?
Jarrah: He's a boy.
David: Barbara! (her teacher)
Jarrah: She's a gull.
Sam: Levi?
Jarrah: He's a boy.

And so on. It was truly bizzare. How do kids learn that kind of thing? I guess I should have asked her, "And how do you tell the difference?"

But maybe that's a lesson for another day.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I'm Not Making This Up

Jarrah has become a story dictator. She commands me to spin yarns before her nap and before bedtime, but also in the car, where you can often find us. The upshot is that I have to tell five or six stories a day, and they have to be original. She wants all new and improved versions every time. She also assigns topics. Mysteriously, these topics are often colors, as in "Tell me blue story." I am a wreck from the pressure. Here's a typical session:

Jarrah: Tell me pink story.

Sam: All right...once upon a time there were two girls named Jarrah and Joy who were playing at the park. Suddenly, they saw a pink marshmallow bunny sitting on top of the slide! [at this point there's a stalling section filled with salutations and small talk] They played and played, going down the slide, swinging on the swings, and having all kinds of fun. When Jarrah and Joy hugged the pink marshmallow bunny, he was VERY squishy. SQUISH! SQUISH! SQUISH! [my discerning listener doesn't even crack a smile here: "Squishiness! That tired old shtick."] Finally, they were so tired, and made the pink marshmallow bunny promise to come back and play with them again soon. [long interlude of goodbyes and thank yous and more squishing] The end!

Jarrah: Tell me blue story.

Sam: Okay, once upon a time there were two girls named Jarrah and Joy. They were playing in the park when suddenly they saw a blue elephant flying in the sky! They waved to him and he flew down to say hello. [see above re: salutations and small talk] Then the blue elephant asked Jarrah and Joy if they'd like to take a ride on his back. They said yes, and up they went in the sky! WHEEE! They flew around and around the town, through puffy white clouds and over green trees and fields of flowers, and through flocks of beautiful birds. Jarrah and Joy had so much fun. But finally they missed their mommies and daddies and asked the blue elephant to bring them home. [long interlude of goodbyes and thank yous] The end!

Jarrah: Tell me yellow story.

Sam: I need to take a rest. Why don't you tell me a story?

Jarrah: NO! You do it!

So, you see I get no wide-eyed appreciation, no "Mommy, you tell the BEST stories" or "Mommy, you are the prettiest, smartest Mommy EVER." It's more of a job, one with ever-increasing demands and no perks. Even scarier are the times I have no idea what she's asking:

Jarrah: Tell me story. Tell me andry story.

Sam: Andry? What's andry?

Jarrah: No! Andry!

Sam: I'm sorry, I don't know what andry is.

Jarrah: NO! Don't say sorry to me! Tell me andry story!

These requests end in tears with me wringing my hands (figuratively, since I'm often driving) and bathed in flop sweat because I can't produce.

I had really looked forward to the supple imagination of childhood, and the adoring gratitude for my feats of narrative finesse. But I get no love. I just get a stern taskmaster who's always looking ahead to what's newer, bigger, better, and wants more, more, MORE. I suppose I could resort to what my dad did when we were little. He invented a single character (his name was Moishe Pipik, but I digress) and everything revolved around him. Though he often fell asleep in the middle of his own stories, they were action-packed and full of detail. Later, he admitted they were all adapted from movies he'd seen recently, or James Bond, or both. My siblings and I were none the wiser. Hmmmm. Maybe it's true that great writing comes from knowing who to copy.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Wherein We are Pensive about the Passage of Time

Scene: Jarrah has just awoken from her nap. I lean over the crib rail while she blinks and readjusts to the world.

Sam: Jarrah, Mommy is feeling sad today. Do you want to know why?

Jarrah: I want lollipop.

Sam: Yes, but do you want to know why Mommy's sad? You know how I teach a writing class? Well, today two of my students decided to leave. We've been together for a long time. It's hard to say goodbye, so Mommy is sad.

Jarrah: Mommy?

Sam: Yes, dear.

Jarrah: I sad, too.

Sam: Why are you sad, my sweet?

Jarrah: 'Cause I want lollipop.


We have a new name! And a new look! David's been working very hard to make it possible. This will be a short post (I know, rare for me) but there's an explanation of the name "Little Dragon Fruit" in the side bar, and I finally have a profile and a photo! After two years, it was past time for a change.

What finally provoked me into action was seeing myself quoted on another blog with the introduction, "This gentleman has an interesting writing style." ACK! Clearly, my front page has been vague for too long.

Let me know what you think, Dear Readers!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Remembering Grammy

I lost my Grammy Fannie this week. When I couldn’t sleep that night, I told David “It doesn’t seem possible for Grammy to die.” She was a force of nature. Here is a collage of my memories of her.


Grammy didn’t drive. She just never learned how. But that didn’t stop her. When she visited us in California (she and Grandpa George spent half the year in Massachusetts, half in Florida, which I thought was very civilized) she walked everywhere, even to the supermarket, nearly a mile away. She would take my youngest sister in the stroller, and then push her and the groceries back up the incredibly steep hill. She was about 4’11” and had flaming red hair. I once asked her why her hair was red when “grandmas are supposed to have gray hair.” “It’s all thanks to Miss Clairol,” she told me. I had no idea who that was. I figured Miss Clairol was a friend of hers with magical powers.


Grammy spoiled me rotten. I was her oldest grandchild, after all. Anything I wanted, she got me. She was visiting when I turned 10 and she asked me what I wanted for my birthday. “A stereo,” I said, without hesitation. I had no idea why I’d said it, except that my next door neighbor, Kristy, had just gotten a stereo and it was the most extravagant thing I could think of. But even at 10 I knew it was an absurdly expensive piece of faux-teak furniture. I would never have mentioned it to anyone but Grammy. When I got home from school on my birthday, I could hear Neil Diamond belting “Beautiful Noise” from upstairs. The music got louder and louder as I approached my room. Inside was a brand new stereo, with a turntable, 8-track cassette and the biggest speakers I’d ever seen. I stared at it, marveling at the sound, and then whirled around to see Grammy and my mom standing in the doorway, grinning.


Grammy was not shy. She had her hip replaced in the early ‘90s and spent her recovery with my parents. I was home from grad school in Massachusetts on Winter Break and dating a local guy, Brian. He came to pick me up one day and met Grammy for the first time.

“It’s really nice to meet you,” he said when I introduced them. At first there was no response. No hello, nothing. And then:

“Turn around.”

“Excuse me?” said Brian, looking a little frightened.

“Turn around. I want to see something.” Slowly, darting his eyes toward me with a “help!” expression, Brian turned his back to Grammy.

“I thought so! You have no hair on the backs of your knees!”

“What?” Brian whispered.

“No hair on the backs of your knees, but otherwise your legs are covered with hair. Why is that?” I was mesmerized, and wouldn’t have known how to interject if I’d wanted to.

“Well…I think maybe it wears off from wearing pants?" He was wearing shorts at the time.

“Hmmm. It looks very odd.”

Brian and Grammy ended up becoming quite close. In fact, he looked after her when my parents went on vacation and I was back in school. Brian never said too much about it, but Grammy was not so restrained. “Brian’s a very sweet boy,” she told me, “but he has no idea how to make coffee.”


Grammy spoke her mind. She became sort of famous amongst my college friends when I displayed her postcards during mealtimes. One of my favorites said, “Dear Samantha, Your mother tells me you FAILED the law boards. Study hard, and PASS NEXT TIME!!!! Love, Grammy.” “Failed” was underlined twice. When David and I got married, Grammy sent a card saying she’d been waiting forever for me to get married, and now that I was finally doing it, she didn’t feel up to traveling. She enclosed an extremely generous check, with the following suggestion: “I don’t expect you to piss this away on bills—buy yourself something nice!”


I guess Grammy was what you might call “a character.” But that label doesn’t begin to hint at her fabulously forthright self. The last time I saw her was in Maine, where she was living in a condo near the beach. I stopped by with a couple of friends. She made us tea and snacks and regaled us with the shockingly torrid plot of the historical romance she was reading. “Your grandmother is awesome,” said my friend Beth on the drive home. “She’s so much more fun than the average grandmother.”

She was fun. And tough. But soft—I have this image of her letting my infant sister suck on her forearm for hours on end. “Why does she like to do that?” I asked her. “It’s comforting.” Grammy said. “Babies like to suck on things.” She was nurturing--I remember her hugging me when I’d had a hard day at school. And she was industrious--I remember sitting with her for hours, helping to fold the mountains of laundry our household produced, or sometimes just watching her and listening to her talk.

Even though I hadn’t seen her in a long time, I’m going to miss her. I miss her already.

Thanksgiving for the Memories

It's so rare that the three of us get to spend four days in a row all together--that in itself is something to be thankful for. This year, Jarrah was quite aware of the significance of the holiday--"turkey, cranberry, stuffing and pumpkin pie." She actually favored only one of these delicacies (Hint: it's red, and handily consumed with a spoon to avoid other less-perfect foods.)

Here are some notes and photos from our long weekend:

Dinner at Grandma and Pop-Pop's in Orange County. It was worth three hours in traffic to get there, and Jarrah slept the whole car ride like a Thanksgiving miracle.

Dinner with Jessica, Jason and Yea-Yea at Sammy's on Black Friday, including Jarrah's first "Messy Sundae." Lately, the highlight of restaurant meals is "sitting like big gull." Jarrah is also becoming an ace photographer; you can see her portraits of Yea-Yea and "Mommy-Daddy" here.

This meal was preceded by Nia and some ill-advised sale shopping at Fry's, where the line was literally a mile long and we had to ditch our basket of goodies along the way so I didn't miss my class.

Road trip to Temecula, with a visit to Professor Pennypickle's Imagination Workshop in Old Town, a child (and adult--John, this one's for you!) paradise of science experiments and old-fangled machines.
Throw in a sunny stroll and a barbecue meal and you have the perfect complement to William's 4th birthday party, the real attraction of the greater Temecula area.

Plus, Jarrah's first pinata! The best thing ever invented as far as she was concerned: you whack the hell out of a cute monkey and then are rewarded with a shower of candy and "gummies" (which, she would like you to know, are not the same as candy.)