Monday, April 28, 2008


Just walked into my kitchen, where the first thing I noticed was my nostrils being assailed by the plasticky stench of Hershey's Mega Lipsmacker. That can't be good, I thought. Then I saw a little person holding the aforementioned Smacker in her grimy little mitt. The top looked like chocolate cottage cheese. The next thing I noticed was a special coating on the lid of the trash can--a waterproof layer of Eau de Faux Chocolat. As my eyes darted around, they encountered much more chocolatey specialness--across the walls, over the fridge door, and--most innovatively--coating the fronts AND backs of our plastic magnetized photo frames.

"What happened here?" I asked Jarrah.

She didn't hesitate.

"It was an accident."


Jarrah likes me to give physicals to her stuffed animals. I've examined Leo the Lion, T.Rex Brown and Piglet in recent days. She brings them to me, along with her doctor kit, and tells me that she thinks they need to go to the hospital. Unfortunately, I'm very good at these check-ups, so I have to do them often. A couple nights ago, Piglet appeared next to my computer, in need of some urgent care. Jarrah solemnly handed me the stethoscope and stood at a respectful distance.

"So, Piglet, what seems to be the trouble?" I asked, listening to his heart.

"Mommy," said Jarrah, placing a hand on my arm so she could break it to me gently.
"He's a toy, so he doesn't talk."


A few weeks ago, I was slathering Jarrah with lotion after her bath (she has extremely dry skin, and requires a good greasing after any contact with water) when the Eucerin fell over. It was no big deal; it's in a pump bottle; I didn't even bother to pick it up, engaged as I was with slathering her back.

"Dammock," whispered Jarrah.

"What did you say?" I asked. I couldn't have heard that right.

"Dammock," she said again, very quietly.

"What is 'dammock'?" I asked. Do. Not. Laugh. Do. Not. Laugh. Do. Not. Laugh.

"You know, it's word you say when thing-o falls over."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"And Then We Roar..."

Just got back from teaching Nia to Jarrah's preschool class--a group of 12 two- and three-year-olds. I was a little frazzled because I was late, and then totally gobsmacked when I walked into the classroom (in two years, I've never opened that door unless it was time to go home) and the little cherubs were lined up in a perfect row on the rug. What the hell are they putting in the juice? Jarrah did leap up and shout "Mommy!" when I came in, but even she went right back to her place after that. Totally spooky.

So then we marched over to the multi-purpose room and I set up my music and instructed everyone to remove their shoes and socks. I don't think Barbara and Janet, the teachers, were too stoked about that. But they went along with it. It just wouldn't have felt right if I didn't give them the full experience.

I really had no idea what I was going to do; I decided I would just take the temperature of the crowd. We started with a cover of the Beatles "All Together Now" in which we skip in a big circle, and some chaos developed immediately. Also immediately, the performers emerged from the pack. I don't in any way want to suggest that one's desire to dance at age three is indicative of one's level of inhibition later in life, but I guess maybe I just did. About half of them started leaping and wiggling with big grins on their faces, and the rest kind of sulked in the background. I was determined that everyone would be smiling before I was done.

We moved on to Laurie Berkner's "Fruit Salad Salsa," where we shimmied like papayas, and then "Adouma," a great tribal rump-shaker that is my go-to standard for kids since you get to act like a chicken and also do a lot of yelling. For good measure, I threw in The Wiggles "Shake Your Sillies Out" and brought it home with Laurie Berkner's "We Are The Dinosaurs," which (not to compliment myself, but what the hell) was so the right choice. By then, the formerly reticent were out there stomping their feet and roaring, and I felt like I could have gone on for another hour.

Barbara said, "I see you've been holding out on us," which I guess means she liked it. I said I would come back any time. They were actually one of the easiest groups of kids I've ever worked with, even though normally that demographic is hard to reach.

On my way out, a group of slightly older kids surrounded me, and a few of them--one after another--asked "Are you Jarrah's mom?" I'm not sure what it says about me that I interpreted their tone as slightly accusing, or even slightly incredulous. I'm also not sure what it says about me that two years in, I'm still convinced people are questioning my credentials. It's not like four-year-olds think that way. (Do they?)

"I am Jarrah's mom," I said, trying to sound nonchalant.

"We saw you through the window," said one little girl.

"Did it look like fun? Would you like to try it some time?"


Ah, the honesty of children. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, it's like a ripe, exotic fruit. Touch it and the bloom is gone.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Frogs, Locusts, Hail, Soy Sauce

Thanks to everyone who sent their get-well I announced to my Nia class this past Friday, "I'm only telling you all the details because I want your sympathy."

My glacier head has cracked into tiny pieces and floated away. I would talk about the penguins who got separated from their friends in the big break-up but the extended metaphor just starts to sound gross. I'm still a bit weak, but now I have eight days of crunchy cardboard-like squares to fortify my constitution. Yummy. At least we have some frighteningly good Damson Plum Preserves from our trip to Victoria Gardens.

Last night we celebrated the Passover Seder at my parents' place in the O.C. It was a festive meal with all the fixings (my mom is an amazing and tireless cook) but the best part was Jarrah's participation in this year's reading and songs. You haven't heard cute until you've heard her reciting the blessings in a New York accent (her preschool teacher is a New Yorker) and singing "DAY-DAY-AYNU! DAY-DAY-AYNU!" without ever getting to another verse or variation in the refrain. Whenever there was a slight lull in the proceedings, Jarrah murmured, "I want cranberry sauce now," as there it sat, shimmering in a glass bowl mere inches from her nose, but no serving (turkey superfluous) was forthcoming. We joked that "the Fifth Question" could come from Jarrah: "Why on this night do I have to stare at my favorite food for the better part of an hour without getting to eat it?" There's one for the ages. She was also a leetle too interested in wine. At first, she just kept demanding "I want red stuff!" until I finally gave her a taste on my finger to show her she wouldn't like it. That backfired--she smiled and whispered "Yummmmmy," and then asked for a whole glass.

In other Jarrah news, we've entered a new phase of her development I like to call "Advanced Breaking and Spilling." This involves "accidentally" squishing, kicking, ripping, stomping or otherwise decimating objects I prefer whole (and am sometimes sentimentally attached to) within seconds of "just touching it!" It also involves "helping" with all cooking tasks, followed by a dramatic sloppage of whatever was being cooked and her calm, soothing response, "That's okay, Mommy. I spilled, but that's okay."

Friday night I arrived home from Nia starving, determined to make my famous Chinese Chicken Salad (I've been making it since 1994...was it some sort of sign?) The chopping and tossing was finally done, all the dressing ingredients swimming in the measuring cup, and in a magnanimous gesture, I handed Jarrah the whisk. Two seconds later, the entire thing was marinating our counter top. After a rather unseemly, wordless yelp, I put myself in a time-out in my room.

But I can't prevent the "helping" even if I wanted to. Jarrah owns four plastic chairs from IKEA, and she's discovered that the best place for at least one is shoved up against my legs at the kitchen counter. Up she hops, ready for action, whether it's chopping, mixing or measuring. I don't want to discourage her new love of cooking, but I also don't want to chop off her fingers or spend 10 minutes doing what would normally take me two. It's a tricky situation, which requires me to dig into that treasure chest of patience I've been assembling for two years now.

But that's okay. We have to squeegee salad dressing off the granite sometimes, but it's okay.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Off My Head

Have you ever had a flu where you felt like you'd been lobotomized? Not only was I narcoleptic and sore and stuffed up, but my head was like a great big pre-global warming glacier, and no chunks were falling into the sea. For two weeks I walked around with my great big ol' block head, with a great roaring in my ears. Since I couldn't breathe through my nose or my mouth, I spent several nights in a chair, which as restful experiences go, is decidedly not.

My mother thinks I've been sick an absurd amount since becoming a mom, and I don't disagree. But a lot of people have told me that the first few years of parenthood are fraught with cooties. Do any of you find that to be true? I used to get sick once a year, if that. Now I'm sick every couple months.

It's been hard coming back to the blog, because when I try thinking of things the way I used to in March, it's like I've had some major head trauma because I can't remember anything. It makes me feel very helpless.

This week, David has been away at NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) in Vegas, and for the first time, Jarrah is taking it incredibly hard that he's gone. The first night, we had dinner at a friend's house, and at a certain point she just started blubbering "I'm tired! I want my daddy!" Over the last few days, she has broken down several times without warning, calling out for him. Usually, she is incredibly adaptable, and can't get enough of new people and situations. But suddenly, she's fragile, craving the familiar. It's like she got knocked off balance and became some other child.

It's not that I'm not sympathetic, but having been through a vulnerable time myself, I'm having a curious reaction at these moments: it takes all my strength not to get down on the floor and wail for David to come home, too. I'm so much better this week--less tired, much less deaf--but somehow it was just too soon to be alone in the big bed. Adding an inconsolable 3-year-old to the mix pushes me over the edge. And yet I recognize that my job as a mommy is to stay focused on her needs in this situation, so I'm practically biting my fist and running into the other room to avoid letting her see my own anguish.

We've tried to stay busy and productive. We've lined up lots of play dates and dinners, I've managed to get her to school on time, do the grocery shopping and the laundry, keep the house in some sort of order. On the surface, we probably look okay. But at night we lie there across the hall from each other, and I can tell--because I'm not either--that she's not sleeping well. It kind of weirds me out, because I've spent most of my adult life living alone, and it's still new to be needed and need someone else quite so much, especially at the same time.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Man is Fast On His Feet (He Has to Be, Since He Can't Sit Down)

A little "I'm-here-but-still-in-a-swoon" levity:

An after-bath tableau of Mommy, Daddy and Jarrah. The latter is naked. Mommy is holding her in her lap.

Sam: Wait. Whose tush is this?

Jarrah: It's mine.

Sam: Are you sure it's not Daddy's?

Jarrah: (grins) It's Daddy's.

Sam: Oh no! What's he going to do without his tush?

Jarrah: (reaching towards David) Daddy! Here's your bum!

David: I just had my ass handed to me.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Full-On Camille Syndrome

I feel like crapcake on toast, which is a familiar "Play It Again, Sam" kind of refrain around here now that I live with Little Typhoid Mary's Cousin from Chongqing.

Both Jarrah and I have been languishing all week, and today the indignation level rose to burnt sienna when we had to miss a much-anticipated birthday party at Playtown. So David took Jarrah off to see her doctor and I girded my loins for the long weekend wait at Urgent Care.

The results, Dear Readers? Matching mother-daughter flus, with coordinating stoles! Jarrah told me that she "cried and cried" when they put the stick up her nose. I didn't cry, but I didn't like it. Nor did I like the various other swabs of my mucus membranes. Or the hour-long wait to see the triage nurse with some sort of "Playboy Bunnies Marooned On a Desert Island" movie-of-the-week blaring directly over my head. In concert with a symphony of hacking coughs. I went through an entire box of tissues while I waited.

The doc was funny, though. She sat down next to me and said, "I'm sorry to break it to you, but you've got some serious crud." Having heard from the nurse that my daughter had just been diagnosed with flu, too, she continued: "As a mother myself, I want to tell you something about children: they're cute, but they're dangerous." She was so jaunty, I almost forgot that my throat feels like the face of the sun.

After I explained that codeine makes me feel like I'm having a heart attack, she prescribed what Wikipedia describes as "a non-narcotic opiate for moderate to severe pain" which apparently I've built up a tolerance to without even taking, as the first dose barely took the edge off. Tonight I may have to dive whole-hog into "junkie in training" mode--I'm that desperate for pain-free sleep.

And later I cried to my husband, "I know I'm feeling sorry for myself, but I'm the one most qualified for the job!" So far he's the only one holding steady at Chez Virusenia.

But enough about me...what do YOU think about me?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Hoop Dee Doo

Last night we went to see The Wiggles with Mary and Joy. This year, we got priced out of bringing the dads. Then I was powerful jealous when I saw Melissa, Bill and Linda ensconced on the floor in the mosh pit--evidently, joining the fan club is the ticket to VIP status.

Last year, J & J were a bit dazed by the crowds, lights, spectacle and altitude of Cox Arena. This year, they were much more conscious of who they were going to see. Both girls clutched bouquets of Gerber daisies, courtesy of Paul (we had a small miscommunication over what type of flower is Dorothy the Dinosaur's snack of choice) and when I tried to steer Jarrah to the concession stand when we arrived, she gripped my hand and hissed like a 15-year-old, "Do NOT make me miss any of this show!!!"

We twisted, we jumped on one foot, we rock-a-byed our bears. The boys from Down Under did not disappointment. And I was glad to see the new Yellow, Sam, getting some love from the crowd--man, he had some big shoes to fill (literally--I think that Greg is 6 foot 6.) I'll be devastated when the girls become too cool for the Wiggles (though I did spot a couple of teenage groupie-types down on the floor, screaming and fainting with nary a toddler in sight, and that gives me hope.) The Wiggles crowd are sign-carriers--my favorite read "DROPPING OUT OF KINDERGARTEN TO FOLLOW THE WIGGLES ON TOUR!" And I loved when Anthony busted out "My Sharona" on the electric guitar for absolutely no reason. It was like an in-joke to the parents.

I know it's naughty of me, but I did have a fleeting thought as I watched them hurling giant inflatable fruit through a castle window--being a Wiggle is a life sentence of "Vice Parole." There's no way in hell that any of those men can be seen in public smoking, drinking, carousing, perusing questionable periodicals or any of the things that make life so wonderful. Even knowing they're richer than the Queen of England didn't stem my wave of pity for them--one slip, one click of a paparazzo's camera, and they can kiss their livelihood goodbye. That's a lot of pressure.


Jarrah was a bit under the weather today, and couldn't go to school. So I decided to be the super-cool mom and take her out for candy and a movie. Before you judge me, I want to assure you that we didn't come within 20 feet of another person the whole time, and the theater was empty (as I had foreseen.) And she was clamoring to get out. Okay, now you can judge me--I'm bracing myself.

We saw Horton Hears a Who, even though Jessica's incredible review had me forewarned that it wasn't going to knock my socks off. I was glad for the distraction. And Jarrah was glad for any reason to veg in the dark with a lollipop bigger than her head.

Afterwards, I asked her who her favorite character was.

Jarrah: The kangaroo.

Sam: The kangaroo? Really? (The kangaroo is the de facto villain of the piece.)

Jarrah: She was sad because her baby wasn't a good listener.

Sam: (mildly horrified) Yeee-esss. That's true.

Jarrah: Her baby wouldn't listen.

Sam: Is there anyone else you liked?

Jarrah: (concentrating) Horton. He was SOOOO funny!

Okay, Readers. What does it say that Jarrah's favorite character was a reactionary shrew who spends the whole movie yelling at her child and hires some thugs to boil Whoville in oil?

Or perhaps I don't want to ponder that too much.