Thursday, May 29, 2008

Out Gallivanting

So we just got back from nine days in Massachusetts. I was going to write about our upcoming trip (including a very funny, prolonged misunderstanding of Jarrah's that we were visiting Fitchburg) but then I figured I shouldn't announce on the internet that our home was going to be vacant, even though we really don't have much to steal.

Anyway, we got back last night, and had a wonderful time. The main reason for the trip was my 20th reunion at Smith (that's right, Readers--I'm old) but we expanded on that. David was amazed how I was able to pad a three-day event, but I always have been known for embellishment. We included a few days in the Pioneer Valley and another few days in Boston and Marshfield, where my friend Sue and her family live.

My emotional response to reconnecting with so many dear friends (all of whom I've known over 20 years) cannot be described, even by someone as eloquent as me. I will be sharing some highlights (and lowlights) of the adventure over the next few days, but for now I'll just tell you that, while we are home, our blue suitcase is still on vacation.

This particular blue suitcase has already been all over China (it even took two separate trips from San Diego, once with our friends Melissa and Bill) and to Columbus, OH. Apparently, it craves the open road, because when we arrived at the baggage carousel last night, all of our stuff was there except it. On the carousel a few feet away, a single bag was forlornly circling, and wouldn't you know? It matched ours. I smelled a conspiracy right away, and tried desperately to sway the agents to my side. "Don't you see?" I shrieked. "The same bag! And it's alone! Clearly, someone picked up ours instead!" But I might as well have been shrieking "DON'T GO! IT'S A COOKBOOK!" for all the response I got. They just kept saying that the other bag was with Hawaiian Airlines, and we had been on American, so there couldn't be a connection. "But don't you see???" I shrieked again. "The carousels are mere feet from each other!" Meanwhile, Jarrah was interrupting constantly to tell me that "My lollipop is too sharp! Too sharp!" Hey, everyone's got their priorities.

I was certain we'd never see the bag again, and by the time we got in the cab, I was resigned to that fate. I spent today makeup-less. So I was quite surprised to receive a voice mail late this afternoon saying the bag would be on a 6:20 flight. The rest was muffled.

When there'd been no further updates by 8:00, David called, and was on the phone a long time. When he got off, he said, "The bag will be here tomorrow. It went to Charles de Gaulle." World-traveler that I am, I know that Charles de Gaulle is in Paris. I felt a stab of jealousy. I want to go to Paris!

As I write, the bag has apparently made it as far as Dallas-Ft. Worth (another fine destination of which I haven't had the pleasure) but won't head to San Diego until tomorrow.

Meanwhile, it's probably out having barbecue and line-dancing, busting its zippers with glee because it didn't have to come home, like us, and like that poor sap, the black suitcase.

Friday, May 16, 2008

My Time On The Edge

Anyone recognize the allusion in my title? If you came of age in the '80s, then I'm guessing you do. It's paraphrased from a scene in St. Elmo's Fire, in which Rob Lowe reassures a despairing Demi Moore (who for some reason is trying to commit suicide by sitting naked with the windows open) that it's not unusual to make dramatic gestures right after college, and that this, too, shall pass. "This is our time on the edge," he tells her, and at the time, it sounded like poetry.

One of the stars of that ensemble pic was Mare Winningham, who felt like an impostor to me. In those days, they kept lumping her into roll call for the Brat Pack, but her credentials seemed shaky at best. But I do remember her very fondly from that movie, especially the scene where she tells Rob Lowe (wearing her nightgown, I believe) that she loves having her own peanut butter and her own jelly in her own apartment--I could relate then, and I can relate now. I could also relate that she was prepared to have sex with Rob Lowe even though she was a virgin and knew he didn't care about her--we're talking about Rob Lowe, after all, who was so dazzlingly pretty in St. Elmo's Fire that he even made the roach clip in his hair look cool.

I really have no idea what Mare (how do you pronounce that?) has been doing since but I know what she was doing this morning. That's right, Readers. Get your scoop here. Mare was buying a bagel sandwich at my absolute favorite bagel place in San Diego (any self-respecting New Yorker needs that qualifier), Big City Bagels. In fact, I opened the door for her as she was coming out. Did I do that because I get all star-struck and tongue-tied around celebrities? Well, I do, but that's not why. I opened the door because I'm a nice person. I open the door for everyone, and I check to make sure I'm not closing the door on people behind me.

It wasn't until her radiant "Thank you!" (almost sung) and her swish past me that I recognized her. She was gone, but in my mind's eye I saw her lemon blonde bob, preppily tied back with a scarf, and those crinkled brown eyes. She looked young and fresh, but then, I would say that, since she's probably not much older than me.

After I ordered my bagels, I asked the cute trio of bagel girls, "Did I just open the door for a famous person?" It sounded outlandish, once out in the air. But the freckled one gasped, and said "Yes! I knew it!" They were all a-twitter, but didn't know her name, so like a total grandma I explained, "You're all too young to remember her, but she was in St. Elmo's Fire." The freckled one got all excited, and the tall one who'd waited on me said "Damn! I miss everything good!" I suddenly recalled that Mare is starring in The Glass Menagerie at the Old Globe right now, so it makes sense she's in town.

Anyway, the encounter reminded me of something that happened in 7th grade. I was totally ga-ga over Frank Hinman (Frank, if you're out there--have a good summer, and hope we have some classes together next year) and he sat down in my desk to flirt with Stacy Rau while I was sharpening my pencil. When I came back, he glanced at me, flirty smile still on his face, and asked "Am I in your seat?" I tried to speak (a simple "Uh-huh" would have worked) but no sound came out. I put my pencil on the desk, and we both watched it roll off and land in his shoelace. Without thinking (I was no longer capable of thought) I reached down and--perhaps because I was shaking--managed to get the pencil tangled into the bow of his lace to the point where he reached down and yanked it out himself with mild impatience.

My point is, I wasn't always a klutzy moron when I was in 7th grade. I could usually be counted on to place pencils on my desk without creating an incident. I just couldn't function normally around Frank Hinman.

And usually, that's how I am around famous people. When David and I visited the set of The West Wing (my sister worked on the lot at the time) we met Allison Janney, and I have no idea what I said to her, but I know it was incoherent and intellectually suspect. I feel sort of tickled pink that today I didn't recognize my '80s icon until it was too late for me to do anything ridiculous. In fact, I know I was both graceful and polite.

How unusual.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My Non-Mother's Day

There's a hullabaloo right now about the contest that Teleflora is sponsoring to find "America's Favorite Mom." Seems they want our help buying a lot of flowers (oops, I mean, nominating candidates) and anyone can go on the website and nominate their favorite mom in the appropriate category. These categories include "Military Mom" and "Single Mom" and "Working Mom" and--until a very big and stinky stink was raised--the "Non-Mom." This category included "grandparent, step-mom, foster mom and adoptive mom." You know, Readers. Your basic Non-Moms.

Now, if you click on the link, you'll find that enough potential customers raised hell with Teleflora, NBC and esteemed hosts Donny and Marie (herself a Non-Mom, I believe) to warrant some hasty, sycophantic back-peddling on the contest website. As it should be. Grovel a little more, NBC and Teleflora. In fact, our dining room table has a great big open space eagerly awaiting your free gift of two dozen roses. It's really the least you can do after my mental distress. What's that you say? Oh, all right. No need to be impolite. Instead, you'll have to listen to me tell you about my day: My Day as a Non-Mom.

I woke up. I woke up because a herd of wildebeests passed by my bedroom door. Oh, that wasn't wildebeests. It was a 35 lb. three-year-old. She was already up because David (the Non-Dad) had woken up early to give her breakfast after she started screaming "DAAAAAD!"

So I got up. There was a lot to do, because we were going to a birthday party. We've gone to about 100 in the past 2 years. Strange, because before that I had never been to ONE. As a Non-Mom, I can't figure out what changed. I spent about 10 minutes getting ready and the rest of the time creating hairstyles, applying lotion, packing a ginormous bag with various containers of snacks (someone likes a full buffet when she's out and about) and lying on the floor discussing the finer points of an alphabet puzzle. This took around two hours, which is strange, because before I became a Non-Mom, I was able to get ready much faster.

Into the car, also odd, because someone in the back seat kept asking for toys, snacks, her "magic wand," etc. making it impossible to hear our movie podcast. What is UP with that? When we got to the park, we narrowly avoided a meltdown because the first birthday party we encountered had a jump-jump, and it was briefly unclear if ours would also. (Thankfully, it did. And this word--jump-jump--not even in my vocabulary two years ago! Where did it come from?)

It was a beautiful day in the park, and wonderful catching up with the other Non-Moms. Actually, just one other Non-Mom. The rest were actual Moms. (Not sure which category.) But we didn't have T-shirts or anything, so it didn't come up.

Afterwards, we went out to lunch with Mary, Paul and Joy--they are another Non-Mom-and-Dad family whom we traveled to China with. The kids who live at our respective houses really like to play together. We should probably just ask those two to get their own place, huh?

Mary and I did some shopping afterwards. You know, shoes and stuff. Just kidding. We meant to get to the shoes, but there were three baby shops at the outlet mall and for some reason we bought stuff at those instead. Now what the hell am I going to do with a strawberry-covered dress in 4T? While we shopped, the Non-Dads spent nearly two hours in a toy store. Well, whatever blows their skirt, I guess.

The afternoon ended with a double display of "parting is such sweet sorrow" histrionics. But I actually paid the kids to do that because before I was a Non-Mom, I saw other people's kids doing that and I just thought it looked so cool. Someone had missed her nap and I felt SOOOO guilty seeing her little tear-stained face that I offered her a big ol' hunk of chocolate. I don't know what came over me.

Back at home, the Non-Dad watched Finding Nemo with our little friend for the 257th time. It's his favorite movie, and I just can't seem to talk him into trying any others. Oh well--MEN. Who can figure them out? While they did that, I pounded some chicken and chopped some veggies for a chicken salad. I also hulled strawberries, because someone at our house goes ape for berries and cream. We had dinner, but first I cut a bunch of stuff into teeny-tiny pieces and put them on a Dora plate. I don't why--I get these whims.

During dinner, someone started crying and saying her bum hurt. That's what she said, Readers. Apparently, her bum hurt a lot. Dinner ended very abruptly so we could tend to the bum in question. Lots more crying. I felt inexplicably sad that the little bum hurt so much, and rushed around trying to find solutions. Why should I care? My bum felt fine. During the bath, I successfully negotiated--with the aid of a prominently-placed kitchen timer--for a full immersion of the sticky hair in exchange for 10 glorious minutes of "playing coffee" with the bath water. Somehow I've become a master of diplomacy in the past couple of years, and I have no idea how that happened.

Bed time. Lots of "ooohs" and "ahhhhs" about good dental hygiene, followed by books, and an under-the-covers story about The World's Largest Lemon Cupcake, which had to be baked in a kiddie swimming pool! I tell this same story every night (each night with a different color frosting) because somebody apparently prefers it. It is kind of cool to have someone prefer it, though, now that I think about it. It just wasn't the same when I was telling it to an empty crib.

Ahhh, a quiet house. Non-Dad and I in our pajamas, looking forward to watching a movie on the couch. We don't go out much anymore--inexplicably, it suddenly got WAY more expensive to go out to movies. And I better wrap this up, too, because something tells me we'll be getting up a smidge earlier than we'd like to on a Sunday morning.

Happy Mothers Day to all of you moms, Non or otherwise.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Jarrah has suddenly become interested in puzzles. She received a beautiful giant floor puzzle of "Undersea Life" for her birthday (Thanks, Karol! :)), and one day--apparently while angels were performing a cappella--she decided it was fun to sit by herself for 30 minutes at a time, putting it together.

This made me sit up and take notice, Readers. My child usually has two speeds: turbo and asleep. With this new development, I'd be reading a newspaper and suddenly realize that I hadn't heard a peep in 15 minutes. I'd stampede into the other room, expecting crayon on the walls and clothing diced into a fine mince with the kiddie scissors. Instead, she'd look up sweetly from her recumbent pose, bat her eyelashes, and inquire, "You want to help with me, Mommy?"

Clearly, we have broken through the "able to sustain self-play" wall, and I am all for it. I must confess I've never been good at the part of toddler parenting where I kneel on the floor for an hour, building block towers or eating pretend snacks. I feel myself going to a very special place inside. But puzzles aren't bad. I haven't worked on puzzles in years, and now I have a reason. And maybe it's even educational.

Speaking of which, I am clearly having issues. But am I shoulding all over Jarrah, or all over myself? When she was one, we got her one of those wooden puzzles with the pictures under the pieces, and after a few rounds of sitting on my hands while she wedged and wedged and wedged the tomato into the cucumber's home, I stuffed the thing in the toy box, telling myself she was simply too young.

Now, she understands immediately when a piece doesn't fit. But she clearly doesn't understand why, and for some reason, that drives me mad. It's funny, because her daddy is an engineer, and while I recognize that this is not really relevant, I do find myself shaking my head and thinking, "Poor girl, she's inherited her mother's sense of spatial relations." Which is to say, no sense at all. Not only did I suck at math (all kinds) but I had to change my major in college because I could not figure out how to draw something in perspective (the class was Set Design; the major was Theater.)

Jarrah does puzzles like an artist. I can ask her to find a piece with a tip of pink anemone that is literally a 1/4 inch in diameter, and BAM! she goes right to it. When I ask her "Where's the sea lion's OTHER eye?" the big picture is instantly clear to her.

But Readers, I think I might chew my knuckles off when she picks up a corner and--for the 500th time--I ask: "What kind of piece is that?" and she says, "A blue one?" I pick up another corner: "And this one?" "A white one!" No matter how many times I show her the straight edges, ask her to count them, and demonstrate how the finished puzzle always has four, I'm not getting through. No comprehension. Whatsoever.

And then I get this scary edge in my voice. It's like I'm clenching my teeth. I hear myself saying, "Jarrah. JARRAH. Jaaaah---raaah. That's an edge piece. An edge piece. An EDGE. EDGE!" It's not pretty, Readers. And when I catch myself (usually later than I'd like) I laugh (ruefully and inwardly) because what the hell am I doing? Are we training for the Russian Puzzle Olympics? Is finishing a 500 piece a requirement for kindergarten now? Will puzzle prowess determine whether she drops out of grad school ABD?

And here's the weirder thing: I really don't care about stuff like that. Some people with toddlers do alphabet drills and flash cards and pre-reading and number games and yada yada yada. I never do any of that. I sort of have this philosophy that she'll learn all that when she's good and ready and that her only job right now is making messes and climbing stuff. Maybe I'm naive. I am a first-time parent, after all.

But somehow, I can't seem to get my mind entirely around the simple fact that while I know how to do puzzles, there was a time when I didn't. And probably no one loomed over me repeating my name over and over in a strangled voice. I did puzzles, I didn't do puzzles, no one cared. Or maybe they cared if I asked them to, but the rest of the time they left me alone.

Yesterday, I got myself in a puzzle frenzy. I think I imagined that if she had a whole variety of puzzles, she'd be able to entertain herself for hours at a time. So we went out and bought three new ones. And when we got home, she did them all in a row, pretty much without help, even though it took her forever because she jammed every edge piece into the center a dozen times before calmly choosing another.

And today she didn't touch any of them. I'm sure there's a valuable lesson here, Readers. For me.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


I write to you today as a law-abiding citizen. Sadly, I could not have made the same claim in my last...oh, let's say 100...posts.

It only cost me $28 and an hour of my life to restore my good name. I feared much worse, between you and me. I thought there might be an interrogation of some sort, and I'm a terrible liar. Some sort of wrist-slap, at the very least.

Here's how it happened.

I was in the Bloomingdale's Home Store near my parents' house on Sunday (I know, aren't I fancy?) purchasing a hypo-allergenic comforter for our bed (all the feathers are coming out of our old one.) I was gazing into space while she processed my transaction when I suddenly heard, "Your license is expired." I stared blankly. "It expired on your birthday." "My birthday's not until October," I said dismissively, taking the card from her. Zoinks. She meant my last birthday. Which essentially means I've been driving around with no license for over six months. Or rather, that's what it means. No "essentially."

Six months! What the hell? I've paid my registration; I've voted. Why didn't somebody say something? You mean to tell me I'm supposed to keep track of my own life without official direction? (Turns out that license address for the DMV is a "separate database" from the registration one. And I ask...WHY?)

Suddenly, I felt not so together. Not so capable. I wondered how I manage to keep a toddler from killing herself every day if I can't handle my own basic business. It was jarring, Dear Readers. Jarring, I tell you. It shook me up.

I kept my failings on the down-low for a few days because I needed to find an opportunity to go wait in line (too late for an appointment) without Jarrah in tow. Monday was a possibility, but I couldn't imagine that even the souls in purgatory are forced to visit both the DMV and the dentist in one morning. (Dental aside: speaking of not being able to take care of myself, I have apparently cracked three of my teeth down the middle through the violent act of sleeping.) Tuesday I was with child all day. So, Wednesday was it.

Readers, I'm not totally helpless. For instance, I knew enough to go on-line and check the wait-times at all my local DMVs. Fat lot of good it did me--though Hillcrest said the wait was six minutes, I arrived to a line out the door that took 20 minutes just to obtain a go wait some more. While in line, I overheard the young couple behind me having a conversation, and now I will NEVER AGAIN claim that the dialogue in teen comedies is unrealistic. Apparently, those writers are holding BACK. Here is one snippet, verbatim:

She: How'd you lose your license, anyway?

He: Do you really want to know? I was banging some chick on the beach in Hawaii and I lost my wallet. Totally sucked.

(a little later)

He: So, why did you light your license on fire?

She: It was Mike. He was, like, 'Is tequila flammable?' and next thing I knew, it was burnt up.

Suddenly, I felt really, really smart. That was cheering. Which I needed, because right then we passed into the building and I discovered that the line snaked around three more times before the ticket window. And there was no Matterhorn at the end.

They actually called me pretty quickly. And the gal at the first window was friendly and efficient. I also got to feel sort of smug after she had me read the eye chart and then said "And you're sure you're not wearing contacts?" "The rest of me is going," I told her. "But the eyes are still hanging in."

I figured I was just about done, but then there was a snafu involving one of those computerized "pads" that just would not register my signature, a long-ish wait in a totally different line to punish me for said invisible signature, and then a really long-ish period of watching the gal at the photo desk be dumbfounded that she could not get my name to come up on the computer.

With my societal standing restored, I took matters into my own hands. "Is it possible that my name is still up on the screen over there (here I pointed across the room to the previous line) and needs to be logged out?" And that's exactly what was wrong, Readers. Say cheese, voila! And I was on my way.

See? I'm not totally dysfunctional. Right?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Beef Fest Redux

This weekend was Spring Fest, an event that I rhapsodized about in this space last year. Not a street fair (since it takes place in a grassy park, and there's really not much to buy) and cozier than the county fair (we can walk there, and had no problems getting curbside seats for the parade) Spring Fest is in a category by itself. Last year, Jarrah was only two and not talking much, and called it "Beef Fest" for reasons known only to her. Since the lovely smell of sausages permeates the place (and because it's funny), the name stuck.

The build-up to this year's event was intense. I talked about it constantly and tried to recruit everyone we know into going. Most people were polite, but the look in their eyes suggested that they think I don't have much going on in my life. Jarrah heard about it so much that for the last month, she woke from every nap exclaiming, "I go to Beef Fest now today?" Sometimes she even cried when I said "Not yet." Of course, it's not like she would remember how much she liked it last year, but I was so goofy about it, she figured it had to be good.

If anything, we had even more fun this year. I know you're relieved to hear that, Readers. For one thing, this year we remembered to bring money (!) so we didn't have to spend Friday evening gazing longingly at the other folks enjoying their ice cream. For another, we had the company of Jessica and Yea-Yea both days, and of Mary, Paul and Joy today. As I'm fond of telling Jarrah, it's nice to share.

Last night, we lit out shortly after Nia, and Jarrah had her plan in place. "First Dumbo ride, then popcorn, kay?" First, though, we had tri-tip sandwiches, which David and I agreed were the best we've ever eaten out of doors. Already the event was surpassing expectations! There was some dancing (aka flinging and falling) to the great Beatles cover band, Rockola. And finally...the Frog Hopper.

The Frog Hopper is a sort of pulley ride that rises high and then drops you, suddenly and at intervals, down to the bottom. You only have to be 36 inches to ride, but I can see how it would be alarming for someone of any age. Both Jarrah and Yea-Yea looked ready to lose their lunch after about 15 seconds. Both went on record to say that it was scary and they wouldn't be doing it again. Sound reasoning. But about 10 minutes later, Jarrah mused, "I ride again, and I like it next time."

And apparently, she wasn't kidding. This morning she told David, "I had dream that I rode Frog Hopper, and now I like it." We didn't pay much attention, but she kept talking about it. And dammock if she didn't mean what she said. She rode it again, more stoically this time, and right before we went home today, she rode once more and grinned the whole time. It was pretty cute, dammock.

There were many, many other attractions to today's portion of Beef Fest, starting with the parade, which we saw most of from primo seats at the beginning of the route, where--as David noted--the participants still have the best candy. Yes, candy. David suggested it was a reverse Halloween--we sat comfortably while people in costume pelted our ankles with big handfuls of Tootsie Rolls and Dum-Dums. The parade itself is the most small-town spectacle you've ever seen that goes on for 90 minutes. It ranges from hairdressers from the local salon sporting beehives to little kids doing karate demos to school principals waving from convertibles. Two of the best-loved features are the Shriners funny cars (often with Elmo or Big Bird riding shotgun) and the tricked-out low riders, bouncing up and down, what Jarrah calls "the bumpy cars."

Beef Fest has its charmingly wacky moments. We were dealing with a mini-tantrum under a shady tree when we were suddenly accosted by Frank, who was dangling an orange handkerchief and wanted to know if we liked magic. I know, I know, sounds like a recipe where all the ingredients make a fabulous penis souffle at the end, but really, he was incredibly sweet. He got the girls to assist him in about 5 different magic tricks involving cards, ropes, coins and scarves, and then thanked us profusely for being his audience before disappearing into the afternoon. And the girls thought they were super-lucky for getting a private show (with three parents there, of course.)

We had a yummy lunch, we had "Make-Your-Own Slushies" (how smart is that?) we danced crazily to the bands in the mild, breezy sunshine, and we supplied tickets for several trips through the blow-up obstacle-course/slide thing-os. We frolicked in bubbles blown by a 10-foot tall Uncle Sam on stilts, shilling for the Republican Women's Group. We practically shut the place down. How is it possible to enjoy more than five hours in the park down the street from our house, you might wonder? Ah, that's the magic of Beef Fest. Go next May, and discover for yourself.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Somebody's Been Watching Too Much Dora

At a light, in the car on the way to Yea-Yea's house today:

Sam: Look, Jarrah. See all those little white things floating over the car? The ones that look like snowflakes? They're actually seeds.

Jarrah: Wha' happened?

Sam: Well, the wind takes them all over so they can grow.

Jarrah: They could land on a tree!

Sam: Probably.

Jarrah: They could land on a car!

Sam: I suppose.

Jarrah: We've got to do something!

Sam: What?

Jarrah: We've got to do something! We've got to help! THIS MUST BE STOPPED!