Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Interim Blog

David and I just got back from Catalina Island, where we had the most relaxing weekend getaway I've ever had. There's nothing like having a 3-year-old (staying with patient friends) to make you cherish every second of sitting under a pepper tree in the dappled sun reading an entire newspaper in companionable silence with your sweetie. I am working on a full trip report, with photos, which is coming soon.

In other news, I just got cast in a play. We had the table read last night. The show is a comedy, with a huge cast. I'm in one scene, but it's a big one, and VERY funny. I may also be singing a "torch song." We will be doing four WEEKS of performances starting the weekend of Thanksgiving.

I want to blog in detail about the rehearsals, but don't want to get Dooced. So, I'm going to add an e-mail address to this blog where you can let me know if you'd like to read a NEW blog that will be password-protected, dedicated to the play. If you already have my e-mail, feel free to drop me a line there and I will send you the password when I get it all set up.

Thanks, Dear Readers!

Edited to add: No, you don't have to know me "IRL" to take advantage of this special offer. ;)

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Bedtime Story for David's 40th Birthday

Jarrah thinks I'm very good at telling stories, so in honor of David's birthday this Monday, I'm going to tell ours.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, David was born. He wasn't always 6'2", no, apparently he was small and bald like other babies. He lived in the jungle near Perth, Australia, a place so remote that other Australians don't even go there. His parents, Joan and John, were very happy to meet him, and he was "a lovely, easy baby," though soon he would be a terror. Two years later, he was joined by his brother, Ben, and they were all happy together. If you ask David, he'll tell you that his childhood was filled with trampolines and go-carts and ice cream "lollies," ergo, his childhood was not like other people's.

David doesn't talk much about these magical times, but I know that he spent summers on a mythical island covered with furry creatures found nowhere else in the world. I know he traveled around Europe in a van while his family was on a Busman's Holiday. I know he liked to make things like telescopes and computers, his evil genius tendencies emerging very young.

In this faraway land, kids don't leave home when they go to college, and if you tell them that YOU did, they ask if you're an orphan. So David stayed happily with his mum and dad and his gadgets until he reached the manly age of 25, at which point a guy at his work committed treason against the U.S. government (that is another story, Dear Children) and David found himself taking this guy's place on a plane to California. For a while, he worked and lived in the non-magical land of Oceanside, and when the people stopped paying him, he traveled across our country in search of the Holy Grails of American tourism, like Las Vegas. His quest fulfilled, he learned there was somehow another job and more money and let's just say to this day he's never had a job interview. No, David's powers enable him to invent things, just as he did as a child, for a living, and also to wear only clothing obtained for free at conventions, which instead of making him look like a slob causes investors to announce "Ah, the talent's here!" when he walks in a room.

One day, when David was about to turn 30, the king and queen threw a ball and invited every eligible prince in the land, or at least every prince working at Applied Magic. Being the only prince who was free that weekend, David polished his brown shoes with black paint and traveled to the distant land of Irvine to see the princess get married. But the princess was crafty, yes she was, and she cast a spell on David which forced him to eat dinner with a table of women in matching blue dresses. Though neither of them knew it that night, one of those blue-dressed women was his destiny,and that destiny, Dear Children, was Samantha.

Time went by, Dear Children, and David and Samantha became very close. They saw movies together, good ones and bad ones, and ate a lot of pie. More time went by, and finally, one day they kissed. They had a lot of fun. More time went by, and David invented a magical box that could turn ordinary home video into movies. Samantha taught classes, and worked very hard on not waving her wand and turning her dissertation into a book. They were very happy, even when people asked David if he planned to return to Australia soon, and he said yes while Samantha glared.

One day, when David had been living in a large apartment by himself for many months, he and Samantha decided to live together. They were both a little afraid, because they didn't want to break the spell and start hating each other. But, lo, the new life together was easy, and nice. They both kept working, and one day Samantha actually finished her dissertation.

To celebrate, David and Samantha planned a day in Fantasyland, and also Tomorrowland, and Frontierland. They ate frozen bananas and rode pirate ships. At the end of the day, Samantha was weary and wanted to rest on her fainting couch. David insisted that she put on a gown for dinner, and in general behaved peculiarly. While they were waiting for their salad, David offered a toast which included the word "wife." Suddenly, a diamond ring appeared, and desserts and well-wishers. They were getting married. They both cried.

There was some dress-shopping, and many notebooks filled with magazine clippings, and one day there was a magical wedding under a grape-covered canopy and a big, big party with friends and family. And they were very happy, Dear Children. Very happy.

One day they decided to become three instead of two. They were a family already, but they wanted to become a bigger one. But no magic happened. And for some time they kept on being happy but then they started to get worried.

The next part is not appropriate for a bedtime story, Dear Children. It's too scary. There's a lot of blood, and visits to the hospital, and sharp, sharp needles. A lot of waiting and tears and nothing, nothing, nothing. If only a witch had appeared and asked them to spin straw into gold, they would have found a way. But no witch appeared. Sometimes when she was without David, Samantha stared at the wall and tried to cry but there didn't seem any point. She had made a wish, but she was powerless to help it come true.

And so the years went by. Sometimes David and Samantha were able to forget and still were very happy. They traveled far and near, saw many movies, took long, beautiful walks. They laughed with friends, and at night when they were snug in their bed, they felt very, very grateful to have each other.

But something was missing, Dear Children. And one day, as if someone had waved a magic wand, David and Samantha knew what it was. With new hope they wrote a letter to a land far, far away and learned that they were going to have a baby. Their baby was already born, and living happily with her friends on the other side of the world. But for a whole year, none of them knew that. David and Samantha waited, and hoped.

It took many, many people, and two governments, to create a family. David and Samantha worked and waited for more than a year, and finally, the time was nigh. They answered the phone one morning, and the caller on the other end put a spell on their computer. When they looked into it, they could see their baby. She had a very round head, very round eyes, and was very beautiful. And they cried.

Soon it was time to fly to the other side of the world. They weren't alone--their friends Paul and Mary made the journey,too. And very soon after, the baby whose face they already saw in their dreams was placed in their arms. She was very heavy, and this made them laugh. She ate some candy and stared at them. She was named after a tree and a flower.

And that's how it began. No, Dear Children, it wasn't like a fairy tale at all. There was no happily ever after. They were a family, but sometimes there was crying without end and no sleep and throwing tacos at the wall. Sometimes when David or Samantha opened the baby's door in the morning, her cuteness struck them like someone squeezing their hearts. As time went by, they all fell in love, and Three was a Magic Number.

Now it's nearly three years later, but our story doesn't end, Dear Children. The baby walks and talks and makes everyone laugh. David and Samantha are tired but happy, and each day brings something new. The baby loves to sing and dance like her mama, and loves to space out at the computer like her papa. The journey keeps going.

Sometimes, late and night, Samantha marvels at how many things had to happen, at a precise time and in a precise order, for three people from faraway lands to be under one roof as a family. And she knows that, way back when, her wishes were all being granted, even though she didn't know it at the time.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gazing in the Mirror...and Cracking Up

I was searching for something about blog statistics (don’t ask me what; I’ve told you I have the short-term memory of a goldfish) and found this:

Researchers for the Oxford English Dictionary claimed in 2007 that "the 15 most frequently used words in the blogosphere (presumably the Anglo part of the blogosphere) are:”

[four letter word beginning with s]

I love it! My favorite part is the popularity of “lovely.” I know I use that word several times in each post, and find myself particularly adorable while I’m doing it. Clearly, I’m not alone!

I also laughed about “update” and “stuff.” I get a lot of mileage out of those, and I have experienced vague twinges of discomfort as I do so, sensing that I’m galumphing into the Lazy Woman’s blogging realm.

I’m a bit smug, however, that I don’t think I say “stupid” very much. Mind you, I find a lot of things to be stupid, but I force myself to find other words for these feelings as a rule.

How about you, Readers? Do you see yourself in this list?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Late Again

So, David has been highly annoyed with me that I keep forgetting to post this. I think there may be some Freudian foundational garments involved because, if you recall, we did get disqualified.

However, it is a cute little film, so some of you may want to watch it. Who knows what we would have won, had we been eligible? This is our longest entry to date, clocking in at about eight minutes, so get comfy.

A reminder, for those who care, that the required elements were:

Character: Joe or Josie Beeble, Construction Worker
Prop: Tweezers
Line of Dialogue: "Have you heard the news?"

Updated to add: Our genre was "Holiday Film."

As Jarrah would say, "Ladies and Gentlemens, presenting...!"

Beebles Who Need Beebles on Vimeo.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Taking the Cure

I've been feeling sort of crapcake--some sort of snorfly condition, and today I decided to do what I always did in my youth when I wanted to feel better: I went to the beach.

My dad (who is actually a doctor) has some old-fashioned ideas about how to fix what ails ye, and his go-to Rx was always "go get some Vitamin D on your head." Funny how all these years after the furor over sun exposure, doctors are prescribing daily sun once again. I've always felt that it was especially effective when combined with sea, sand and salty air, so--feeling a bit absurd--I packed my red-nose self into the car with a huge wad of tissues, my book and the little unit that I still struggle not to call my Walkman.

I couldn't decide between Coronado and La Jolla Shores--let's face it, neither one is nearby. We may have a house now, but the trade-off is living on an arid, land-locked tundra at least 15 minutes from water in any direction. I think I chose La Jolla Shores for nostalgia reasons--I have taken many a constitutional on that beach, whether for my body or my poor, battered heart. There is something about a solitary stroll steeped in melodrama that soothes the soul. (Okay, feel free to high-five that sentence for its alliteration.) Also, I like The Cheese Shop.

After ordering my sandwich, soda and British fruit pastilles (so difficult to find!) and paying what seemed a suspiciously small amount ("Are you sure you've got it all?") I followed the myriad wet-suited wanderers carrying boards and kayaks towards the water. I was a little surprised to see how high the tide was, and the waves did pound so. I always think of La Jolla Shores as a long, wide beach with soft, rolling whitewash, but not today. There were also massive piles of seaweed, with their attendant flies. And though I had been expecting an empty expanse of post-Labor Day sand, it was hot today, and tourists are not that easily fooled.

But it was okay. I strolled along the boardwalk until I came to a pink bench with a plaque reading "Dedicated to Billie Flack." I stopped and smiled. I don't know Billie Flack, but I once began a spectacular failure of a romance on her bench. Now I thought I'd have lunch with her, lo, these many years later.

My sandwich was pretty good, and I lingered over the food review in the Reader while listening to the many people passing me who seemed to be talking to themselves, until I glanced up and saw their headsets. So many that I wondered what they were doing at the beach, in their ties and pleated pants, but it was not for me to know.

I had decided that I wouldn't go down to the water...after all, I'd have to get my feet dirty, and then what? I started walking down the boardwalk and was suddenly very conscious of the cement beneath my feet. "This is ridiculous," I says to myself, and swerved onto the sand. My flip-flops dangled from my fingertips and the sand was surprisingly hot. Soon the waves were rushing over my feet, and it was cold but I stopped noticing seconds later. Suddenly, I knew I would have been an idiot to skip getting my toes wet.

I switched on my...no, not Walkman, get it straight, Sam!...and it started up on Ella Fitzgerald's "Begin the Beguine." I was about to skip it, when I realized I didn't care if the song was an absurd fit for a Thursday morning at the beach, because I love it. And it's about heartbreak and somehow thinking about heartbreak at the beach seemed exactly right.

I have to stop myself from dancing. I dance everywhere; I dance in the cereal aisle. I try to look cute but I know I just look goofy. I'm not a trained ballerina or anything. So I just wiggled my hips a little...hardly at all!...and did some very small kicks. The waves mostly covered them. It was beautiful out there, seaweed and everything. A girl walked by with her iPod and I wondered what she was listening to. Standing in the waves never fails to cheer me up, and I noticed suddenly that I could breathe and I hadn't reached for a tissue in a while.

Then a song came on I hadn't even known I had. Billy Bragg's "Greetings to the New Brunette:"

The people from your church agree
It's not much of a career
Trying the handles of parked cars
Whoops, there goes another year
Whoops, there goes another pint of beer

I watched my toes and thought about all the places I've been while this song was playing, and how this was a new one. And how different the song sounded from 20 years ago, and yet not different. How it seemed like an anthem then, but now I could tell I was doing my rubbery smile that means I'm finding something ironic. If anyone had been with me, they might have asked what I was smiling about, and I would have had a hard time explaining (though never you fear, I would have tried.) But no one else was there, so the smile was just for me.

When the song ended, I started back towards the car. Sweaty, but feeling a lot better. Stopped at the showers, where my feet rinsed off admirably. On the Walkman, a little roar of applause began, which meant I was about to hear "Stop Making Sense" by the Talking Heads.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wherein We Employ Trickery, and It Is Good

So, as I've mentioned, David is an evil genius, and I am just evil. This is one of those developmental posts wherein the child reaches and pole-vaults over a milestone, and then Mommy archives it for posterity on the blog. But somehow, once again, it's just another situation where we have to figure out how to outsmart her.

About a month ago, I was out in the evening and when I returned home, David had taken the side off Jarrah's crib. It's one of those convertible cribs that turns into a "toddler bed." I'm putting "toddler bed" in quotations because I think it's one of those marketing things like "toddler food" that doesn't really exist. It's just the crib with a side taken off, to minimize climbing and bone-breaking. We figured we'd give Jarrah a little time to get used to the plein air sleep system before springing for the IKEA trundle. (Some of you may already be tsk-tsking over the fact that we waited so long. Our parenting theory is: Bite me. She liked it in there.

She adjusted to her freedom quickly, after the first night when she appeared in the living room and inquired balefully, "What are you doing? I thought it was bed time." I guess she always assumed we were speaking collectively about that event. Then she asked to have the side put back on, but I thought fast and offered to re-install her bumper instead. Yes, I understand that the bumper wasn't actually going to keep her in bed, but my spider sense was that it was all psychological, and indeed, she stayed in bed after that. Just a few nights later, the bumper was unceremoniously removed.

I guess I always imagined that the only hurdle we'd face would be exactly that--keeping her in bed at bedtime. It never occurred to me that we had opened the Pandora's Box of a whole 'nuther problem, which was keeping her in bed at wake-up time.

Or rather, her perception of wake-up time. While we had spent two and a half years high-fiving each other that our child slumbered until nearly 8:00 a.m. most days, suddenly the old rules no longer applied. Each day, she arose earlier, until the norm was more like 6:30. You might be thinking, "Hmmm, that doesn't sound so unusual. My child wakes up at 6:30 every day." May I extend my deepest sympathies? David and I are not morning people, to put it mildly. In our carefree couple days, our perfect arrangement was to drift off between midnight and 1:00, and arise refreshed at 9:00. His work schedule encouraged this schedule, and mine (when I have one) always did, too. We were clearly meant for each other.

Now we had a problem. Brave and Lionheart-like, David was usually the one to haul his sleepy self out of our pillowy nest and start the morning ritual of Dora and cereal. But it was still screwing with my circadian rhythms, and David developed a tendency to nod off any time he sat down.

For a while, we tried meeting her needs (TV, change of clothes, snacks in Tupperware) and then returning to bed, and while she was flexible about this, the arising party usually found it impossible to fall back asleep. Also, we were both needled by guilt that she could get into countless versions of mischief, even though we did leave a delectable assortment of candy-flavored tranquilizers on the coffee table. And do you think it's bad that we told her she could cook her own pancakes?

Then, one morning I hit my limit. My eyes were assailed by a blaze of light at 6:15, and I could hear furniture was being dragged across the wood floor. I jumped out of bed and roared at the culprit: "OH NOOOOOO! DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT! IT IS STILL NIGHTTIME! NOW GET BACK INTO BED THIS MINUTE!"

She could tell I meant business, and, shoulders slumped, she scurried back to bed. For an hour, we didn't hear a peep, and David slept on, but I lay there, eyes open and heart pounding, juggling my guilt and fury. And while I lay there, I hatched a plan.

When we got up, I convened a family meeting in Jarrah's room. I pointed to her digital clock and said slowly, "Do you see that first number? Tomorrow, do not leave your room until you see that number become a seven." She nodded, and said she understood, but let's face it--the kid can't tell time, and isn't even that firm on what a seven looks like.

Luckily, I'm married to the smartest man ever, and he had a better idea. "What if I got one of those timers, you know the ones people use to make lights turn on when they're on vacation?"

I stared at him. "How will that help?"

"I'll attach it to her night light." A glimmer of understanding penetrated the murk between my ears. "And we'll just tell her she can't open her door until it turns off."

As they say on Scooby-Doo, "It was just crazy enough to work." Readers? I hope I'm not jinxing it, but IT WORKED A TREAT. There is nothing ambiguous about the night light being on and then turning off. If she wakes up early, she plays or reads in bed, and then when the little light goes "snick!" she comes out of her room and into ours, reporting proudly, "I waited until the light turned off!" We've been setting the timer for 7:00, but David even sneaked it up to 7:30 on Saturday and it worked just as well.

I'm just marveling that this idea, crafty though it may be, is actually effective. I shake my head and marvel at my husband's creativity. And then I roll over with a big smile on my face, and snooze for another hour.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

When the Moon Hits Your Eye...

Last night was the Moon Festival, a Chinese holiday dating back some 3,000 years. The Moon Festival is celebrated in various ways, including feasting on mooncakes, which are small pastries filled with red bean or fruit paste. Our FCC chapter has an annual tradition of an early evening picnic followed by a parade of children with lanterns under the full moon.

Just between you and me, I'm not crazy about mooncakes. The paste kind of freaks me out. But we celebrate the spirit of the thing with our own tradition: cupcakes by moonlight! And believe me, the children do not complain. The rest of it I love, and each year it gets better as Jarrah and her friends understand the occasion a little more.

This year, we had a couple of special additions to our yummy sandwiches and freakishly cute kids with paper lanterns illuminated by Halloween glow sticks.

The first addition was more company. We traveled to China in February 2006, and became parents in the same moment as seven other families. That's a pretty intense bond, for the parents as well as the children who had been together for over a year before we arrived. While we haven't kept in touch with all those families, I know we think of each other often. Two of these families were already close friends, and practically neighbors: that would be us and Paul, Mary and Joy. Of the remaining six, Kim, Michael and Sedona live in New Mexico, and they visited us when we'd only been home a few months. In those days, the girls were still babies, and though they happily splashed in the kiddie pool and ate green ice cream cones together, they didn't sense anything significant about it.

This time, their visit coincided with the Moon Festival. While it's amazing to watch babies grow in general, it's especially moving when those babies are practically your daughter's cousins, so I got pretty choked up when Sedona hugged Jarrah and Joy hello. Like our girls, she's grown more leggy and lovely in the past two years, and never stops talking. Also like our girls, she's bold and confident, and I loved watching her fling herself onto the firepole at the playground, so nonchalant about that 10-foot drop.

Certain things unite 3- and 4-year-old girls the nation over: mac and cheese, cupcakes, and glow bracelets are a few of those things. Being dragged by older kids in a giant parachute across a wide lawn in the moonlight should probably also go on the list. At the end of the night, there were a few tears for parting so soon after finding each other once again. For the adults, it was heartwarming to reminisce about our life-changing trip and catch up on the fleet-footed toddler years. By the time we'd said goodbye, we had pledged to see each other next summer at our agency's annual picnic in Colorado.

The moon is always high and yellow and full at our Moon Festival, but this year it truly got star billing. One of the FCC dads brought his telescope, a unit so impressive that I whispered to David that it must have cost a million dollars. For once I wasn't being hyperbolic (it was the size of a cannon!) but David instantly replied "Actually, it was probably about $3,000." Turns out he was right on the money, and while you might retort "Well, is THAT all!" you wouldn't if you had actually looked through it. David has always been an astronomy buff--he gets mad at me for telling this story, but when he was 10 he built a telescope with his bare hands and later sold it to the Australian government--but I've always thought him a bit peculiar when he speaks of looking forward to teaching Jarrah about the stars. I chalked it up to being one of those impenetrable Dad things that was not for me to understand.

But Readers, then I looked in that telescope. YOWZA! Did you know, for instance, that the moon has all these big pocks and dents and crumbly surfaces, and doesn't look yellow or white at all--more like different shades of gray? I was completely stunned. I yanked my head back and exclaimed, "Is there some sort of photo glued in there?" I couldn't believe that I was looking at the actual moon, just standing in a suburban park in San Diego and fixing my eye on a big planet-y thing that seemed close enough for me to stroll on!

And then it got even weirder. The accommodating telescope owner swung the whole contraption around and told us he was going to direct it at Jupiter. Oh, that's a good one. Sure, I've seen lots of people point at the sky and announce that an extra-big star was actually Venus, but that didn't seem so far-fetched, I mean, isn't Venus just a few hundred miles from Mt. Everest? No big whoop. But Jupiter? That crazy-big orange thing with the rings and the dozen moons? You can't fool me...that one is apparently really far away, from what I've heard. But everyone lined up and David said I should have a look.

I looked. And I almost passed out. There was a planet in there! Not orange, but big, with rings around it! RINGS, people! And I could see about four or five moons in its orbit! I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP! Once again, I checked to see if there was one of those Viewfinders from the '70s where you click the button and a slide comes down in front of your eyes--maybe they build those into the telescopes if you spend enough money. But no. And I say that with confidence because David stuck his hand in front of the lens so I could test and then it all went black.

So, Readers, it was a momentous evening. There were cupcakes, and lanterns, and parachutes, and three little girls who were babies together on the other side of the planet ate mac and cheese together on the grass in San Diego. And while it was really, really dark, all around us were stars, and moons, and planets, reminding us we were snug and safe on our little patch of Earth.

Friday, September 12, 2008

New-Fangled Entertainment

Tonight at dinner:

Jarrah: Let's talk more about my kids show. [Note: I have no idea what this is.]

Sam: Okay...what do you want to say about it?

Jarrah: Well, you have to bring your own seats. And if you want to bring flowers and marry someone, that's okay, too.

Sam: Really?

Jarrah: And you can't sing. You need to promise you won't sing.

Sam: I promise.

Jarrah: You can dance, though. And if you want to bring your computer, that's okay.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?

Jarrah has an imaginary doggie. She procured him suddenly, while lunching with her Aunt Lindsey and her ACTUAL dog, Zooey, this weekend. Jarrah says her dog is also named Zooey, but sometimes she has five dogs, and then the others are named Kimbo, Autrah, Robot Puff and To-MAH-to Puff.

These are very well-behaved dogs, Jarrah tells me. "They don't woof, well, they woof a little, but not too much." They like a nice bone. They also like fruit. They like to go for walkies. Sometimes they don't listen, though, and have to go in time out. But never for woofing. They like to ride in the car, but they need help with their car seats.

Yesterday while we were grocery shopping, I heard a story about the five dogs that clocked in at 20 minutes. And it only ended then because we ran into a friend. As I said hello, I realized that at that moment, my brain was truly a warm, milky mush, haphazardly splashed into my cranium. I had been evenly dividing my attention between choosing the right cereal, and responding "Uh-huh" and "Really?" at the appropriate intervals in the doggie story, and doing it so well, apparently, that all other functions had been shut down.

Jarrah has been asking to sleep with her dog. Not in the bed, mind you--he'd take up too much room. She wants the dog in her green rocker. Today she asked if she could bring her dog to school. "Sure, why not?" I said.

I love it when I can be agreeable without effort. Agreeable is usually a tough sell with me.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Yesterday was our 10th anniversary. Not wedding anniversary--anniversary of meeting. It was actually a big day when we met, because it would henceforth be my sister Avery's actual anniversary--David and I met at her wedding. Avery has always been quite the matchmaker, and, having met David at a work event for her fiance's company, decided quite purposely to seat him at the bridesmaids' table. He attended dateless, all the better for my sister Lindsey to vet him for the first half of the evening, then lob him over to me for the second half, including a conga line through the hotel kitchen and an afterparty at my friend Bryan's parents' house (Bryan was my date.) By the end of the evening, I had learned that David hailed from Perth and practically lived in my neighborhood, but it wasn't until we were saying goodbye that I learned he liked me. "Well, we live so close!" I sang. "Maybe we'll run into each other!" "Yes," he said seriously. "And towards that end, could I give you my number?" I mean, how could I resist that?

And the rest is history. We've hardly been apart since that night. We got married seven years ago, which a lot of you know, since you were there. But it really blows my mind that I've been dating someone for 10 years. Neither of us had made it longer than two years before meeting each other.

Now my husband, as you know if you've followed this blog, is a dear, dear man with many wonderful qualities. But conventional and material commemoration of dates is not on that very long list. (He did secure many, many years of goodwill with his proposal, which was genuinely a surprise to me.) Because I know this, I decided to plan a special evening, and surprise him. I had a few options in mind, but in the end I chose the cheesiest, because we'd never done it before and because the buzz word of the summer has been "staycation"--get away without going far. So I booked a dinner cruise.

And I did it up, baby. I paid extra for the "celebration package," which included a reserved window table and a bottle of champagne. It also included solid gold plates and a dedicated butler. Just kidding. We both dressed in "smart casual," a description we'd used on the invitations for our pre-wedding party that caused much consternation among our guests.

We almost didn't get on the cruise, since there was no parking at the marina and we drove around and around before finding a spot about eight miles from where we needed to be. And I was in high heels. We trudged along, noticing that even near the water, the humidity had us shiny in a few minutes. The perfect weather for a cruise!

David was puzzled by the black leather booklet they gave us at the embarkation window; I was less so, since I gathered (correctly) that it would hold a tally of our booze and stuffed animal purchases throughout the evening. I hadn't told David that we were traveling first class, so I think he was pretty impressed when a phalanx of Captain Stuebing wannabes ushered us to the top deck, where our private window awaited. I was a little surprised when someone handed us two flutes of departure champagne, since we're not the most accomplished drinkers in the world and I had a feeling one glass was going to do us in (the free one!)

We climbed up to the top deck for departure, and that's when it really started to feel fabulous. I realized that we'd never been on a harbor cruise at night, only the one-hour day tours when they natter incessantly about the military sights and you're crushed against the railing by a bunch of six-year-olds. Now the upper deck was almost empty, and the evening light was twinkling off the buildings of downtown as we sipped our champagne. Why haven't we done this before??? We watched the city recede as we rolled out of the dock, and then descended for the salad course, a crisp and satisfying Caesar, paired with rolls the size of our heads.

Everything was divine until the main course arrived--I'd ordered steak, figuring it was harder to ruin than chicken, but I guess eating on a boat is similar to eating on a plane. As our vaguely surly waitress was placing my plate, I got a whiff of the bilious brown gravy encasing the meat and it put me off my dinner completely. I just kept picturing it boiling and bubbling in a huge cauldron below decks, stoked with coal and sweat. David ate his and said it was fine, but I stuck to the slightly gluey but tasty mashed potatoes, and the single mushroom in a sea of banana squash--not so much a fan of the squash unless it's in soup.

Somewhere between the mashed potatoes and my second roll, I started to feel a bit oogly. It might have been the champagne, it might have been all the carbs, or it might have been the boat, although David noticed that we hardly moved during the dinner service, which was a nice gesture on the part of the cruise people. You know something was not quite right when I took one bite of my chocolate layer cake-thingo and pushed it away. We strolled back upstairs to get some air and soon I was feeling ship-shape again.

And so it went. We strolled, we gazed at the moon, we discussed whether a star was Venus or not. We peeked in at the DJ dancing on the main deck, and beat a hasty retreat when folks of many generations started to shake their groove thangs to "Old Time Rock n' Roll." At one point, we stood relatively unmolested on the top deck and looked up just as the ship slid under the Coronado Bridge. "Someone could fall on our heads right now," I marveled.

Readers, maybe it was a cheesy way to spend an anniversary. But as I scrutinized the water by the light of the moon for dolphins and sea lions, it did occur to me that people all over this great land might wish they had access to this particular form of cheesiness. It's a gesture of gratitude for the many charms of San Diego to make this trip at least once. And now that we've fulfilled that obligation, we might just have to do it again.

Disembarking, we discovered that the ATM was locked and we had precisely five dollars between us. Which for a moment seemed to dash the plans for my grand finale: a ride back to our car in a bicycle surrey built for two. A young man approached, and we candidly explained that we'd love a ride but there would be no perks--we had five dollars, take it or leave it. He took it. And before I could finish saying, "Hey, theirs has a stereo!" we were flying down the Embarcadero with the warm summer evening caressing our faces. Sound over the top? That's how it felt, weaving through the crowds and zipping past cruise liners and pirate ships. When we mentioned we were parked across the highway, our intrepid driver sailed into the traffic without blinking, and, while I think we almost died spectacularly in a wave of oncoming traffic, I was screaming "Wheeeee!" as we arrived at our car.

Which is exactly what I hope to be doing, in one form or another, for the next ten years.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

That's My Girl

Yesterday, at the supermarket checkout:

Checker: Hi!

Jarrah: [glower]

Checker: Are you a princess?

Jarrah: No. I'm a mean witch.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Back-to-School Shadow Box Post

There is a new scary. Or rather, it's probably not new, but it's certainly unique. Jarrah is petrified of "suits of armor." Empty ones. She saw one at a store called "Bears, Buddies and Toys," (I know what you're thinking: why would I bring my child into an establishment of questionable repute?) and started moaning that it was "trying to get her."

"How can it get you?" I asked. "It's empty. There's no one in there." How does she even know what a suit of armor is? Yet she knew the correct name.

Two nights ago, she had a mild melt-down at Burger Lounge because another suit of armor was trying to get her. As far as I could tell, it was actually a wrought-iron window flower box. But apparently my imagination is kind of limited, because Jarrah kept her goggle eyes on it the whole time we were eating.


We went back to the dentist on Friday morning. I had a pretty bad stomachache on the way there, but I was surprised--knowing what she now knows--that Jarrah was even willing to get in the car. She did say, reasonably, "I don't want to go to Dr. Baker. He hurts me." Then I wielded my ability to lose friends and alienate people by declaring that I didn't want any more crowns, only fillings. Things got kind of tense, and we had a to wait a while, but eventually we were beaten down by the idea that she might suffer if we didn't do the crown now. It turned out to be a moot point--she needed a root canal! A "baby" root canal, they call it. David said it only took five minutes, and Jarrah hardly cried this time, which seems incredible. I guess she's starting to accept dental horrors as her fate. The good news is that we're all done, for now. Stay tuned in six months.


Friday was also "Open House" at Jarrah's school. It was unfortunately timed, in that I had to drive there straight from the dentist. But Jarrah seemed mostly herself when we went to pick out her "prize" (a pair of working binoculars--cool!) so I felt it was okay. While I was driving (about a half-hour) a numb Jarrah bit through her lower lip, causing it to bleed and swell and--by the end of the day--look like she was wearing those Halloween wax lips. So she probably wasn't in the greatest mood when I dragged her across the courtyard to her new classroom. "I want to see Colleen," she balked. Colleen was her camp teacher this summer. After some big hugs, we headed towards her actual room. That's when she suddenly pulled on my arm with her full weight and began screaming, "NO! THAT'S NOT MY ROOM! I WANT TO GO HOME!" over and over. Now this was new.

I thought fast and ended up taking her to her old room first, where she was smothered in kisses by her teachers of two years, Barbara and Janet. I got a warm welcome, too. Both of them asked if Jarrah had hurt herself, since she was soaked with tears. "Um, no," I said, raising my eyebrows, "I think she's having separation anxiety." Barbara has a thick New York accent, and said a few times, "I've NEVUH seen her act like this!" She's not exaggerating. We're talking about a child who, just days past her second birthday, strolled into the classroom on the first day without looking back or saying goodbye to her uncertain parents. And that was her "adjustment." It went like this: "Cool! There are a lot of toys here...I think I'll go play with them." (Hours later) "Hey, weren't there two tall-ish people with me when I came in? Hey, isn't that a power drill?"

So, it just goes to show, just when you think you know them, they go all Sibyl on you. We did finally make it to the real room, and though she cried for awhile, she got over it. I am a bit concerned, though, that when I gently mentioned that this would be her new room and new teachers all the time starting next week, she added, "And you'll stay, too, right Mommy?"


I was Googling myself the other day (do you do that?) which is always unsatisfying because there's a child star with my name (imagine that! It's kind of clunky with 17 letters) but for the first time I noticed some kind of publications link and was surprised to find that UMass Amherst has a copy of my MFA thesis in their library. This was exciting, because when I wrote that thesis (a collection of 40 poems) computer technology wasn't great and my collection of badly labeled floppies is of very little use now. It's nice to know it's out there.

And then I clicked on my dissertation, which I know is in the UCSD library because I've visited it (you know, like a bedside hospital visit, with flowers, magazines and soothing reassurances) but then I noticed there were actually two listings. And the other one is Harvard! I clicked on it, and sure enough, Harvard owns my dissertation--on microform, but still. I got all excited about this, because back when I was 17, I was rejected by Harvard, and it seemed like some kind of redemption that someone there now thought my diss was necessary to round out their holdings. I'm sure one of you is going to want to tell me that I'm totally misreading this situation, and that Harvard is actually just required to own every printed word on the planet or something, and to your helpfulness, I respectfully say, "Please keep it to yourself." I want to bask for a while in the sunny notion that my unpublished 300-page book is serving some practical function in the universe.