Saturday, January 31, 2009

Flesh and Bone

They say kids are resilient. Kids are flexible, adaptable. Kids bounce back. Kids are tougher than we are. They thrive in crazy circumstances. My daughter is a good example--in her four years she's been through crap that I'll never even know about. I've always marveled at her strength, and joked that you wouldn't want to meet her in a dark alley. I've seen her lift her entire body weight (considerable, that) while being held upside-down. I've seen her sprint like the wind to get to a fruit leather miles ahead of another child. I've seen her soldier uncomplainingly through pneumonia, high fevers, hacking coughs and worse. I've seen her shimmy to the top of a giant inflatable slide ahead of kids three times her age. My girl, I always say, is way tougher than her marshmallow mama, and already I can tell that she will never stand in the outfield twirling her hair and let a ball roll out of her glove while whining "Owwww!" My girl is Mt. Vesuvius.

So it's humbling to learn, as I must, that she is fragile, too. Like any other tiny person finding her footing in the world, she will make mistakes, she will have regrets, there will be moments she (and I) wish she could take back. Readers, one of those moments is upon us.

Yesterday afternoon was a Friday at the park like any other. A bunch of preschool moms and I lounged in the shade while the kids raced through the wood chips, scrambled up slides, swung across bars, plunged into bushes teeming with bees. I barely even check on her any more--by now, she seems invincible to me. Sure, her knees are mottled with bruises, but that's her job. It was almost time to go when Jarrah decided to bring her friend Amelia a bottle of water, and spun lightning-quick (her only speed) to begin the dash across the grass. Something restrained her--dirt? a rock? her Croc?--and BAM! the full force of her take-off propelled her face-first into the dirt. She cried--she's a big crier--and I hauled her up for a hug, inspecting hands, elbows and legs for scrapes, finding none. I whispered that she was gonna be okay, but she said, clearly, "I want to go home." Well, that was unusual.

She cried out when I buckled her into the car seat. Her shoulder hurt, she said. I drove home, tense, telling her it was going to be okay. She cried out again when I took her out of the car, more desperately this time. Now I was worried. I took her inside, installed her on the couch with Curious George, an ice pack and some Motrin. She sucked her green popsicle stoically and didn't say much.

I called the triage nurse. Can't hurt to call, right? Take it out of my hands. I was a little surprised when she didn't hesitate. "Bring her in. Let's get an x-ray." It was the recurrent crying that convinced her. Kids don't cry more than once about their owies, generally.

I couldn't find David. Turns out he'd forgotten his cell phone--great day for that. And I was a little more than an hour away from teaching Nia. I tried to think straight by talking to myself. "Find the sub list. You can do it. Just call a couple people. No answer? Okay, call the front desk. Get someone to make a sign. It's okay. Focus." I kept calling out cheery updates to Jarrah--"We're going to the doctor, sweetie. To take a picture of your shoulder. No, no shots. I promise."

Back at the car, she clearly found my attempt to get her in the car seat excruciating. I stood there, heart pounding, alone with my furiously ticking head. Drive 30 minutes in rush hour traffic with no restraints? Or mangle my child's injured bones? I strapped one half of her, and she stared at me stoically, using her good arm to "hold" herself into the seat--she knows the rules. (Later, the doctor told me I did the right thing.)

Finally found David. He would meet us there. I was so nervous I threw a bunch of candy in Jarrah's lap and told her to have at it. I didn't want her thinking about pain. David thought I could drop Jarrah and still make my class. But there was no way I was leaving her.

She fell asleep in the car. For some reason this made me almost hyperventilate. I guess because I couldn't get my mind around the idea that she might just be tired. She looked so subdued. That is not the natural order of things. Melissa kept me clinging to the ledge all the way up, making small talk, staying upbeat. Thank goodness for her. Jarrah pitched dangerously forward in her stupor; I envisioned her tumbling to the floor, smashing her shoulder.

When we checked in, no sign of David. Jarrah, alert now, ran (!) to the toys and announced "I'm feeling much better!" It's an indication of my worry level that I genuinely meant it when I said "Well, that's great!" instead of sarcasm about a day turned upside down. She asked to go to the potty. We were in there so long that they called our name. Then I tried to help Jarrah up and she cried and cried. Maybe not better? When we came out David was there--he had gone to the wrong office. Again with the no cell phone.

The doctor didn't have much bedside manner. She asked a lot of questions (how is she going to answer questions accurately?) and said she didn't want to move her too much. Off we went to x-ray. And then we were there forever, listening to Mary Poppins and babies crying until I thought I would scream.

In the imaging room, Jarrah got to pick one parent, and it was me. "Sorry, Dad." the tech said cheerfully. "Mom always wins in these situations." What a difference three years makes! Jarrah was brave and cooperative, and they took three views. At one point, the two techs were around the corner for an age, whispering. I should have seen that for the sign it was. That and the way one pressed the films into my hand 30 minutes later with a significant "Good luck."

It was getting dark now; no doubt the whole building wanted to go home, almost 6:00 on a Friday. But we were on our way back to the doctor with the x-rays, and after some more waiting, during which we decided it was all going to be nothing, she sailed into the room with the opening salvo, "Well, she broke her clavicle!"

"What?" I was in shock. I know it sounds crazy to be in shock about something we'd been pursuing all day, but there you have it. And then this doctor had nothing to say about it. "There's nothing you have to do for it. You can have a sling if you want. Yes, they make an immobilizing splint but we don't have any. Yes, you could see an orthopedist, but not until Monday. Or you could go to the emergency room now if you want. Sure, Motrin is fine if you want." Everything was so vague and blase it's like we were not all staring at a giant picture of a bone snapped in two. A bone in my small child's shoulder, causing her a lot of pain. I excused myself and went to the bathroom, where I sobbed and sobbed. I guess I was just letting out the tension of the day, the smiling and coaxing and thinking two steps ahead for hours and hours.

Outside, I finally connected with Mary, and broke down, asked if we could come over for dinner. (They live around the corner.) They welcomed us with open arms. I asked for Chinese food--got that, too. Jarrah and Joy were happy to see each other, and within two minutes the sling was off, never to be seen again. We pushed past the sadness of Jarrah trying to squirm into a princess costume and screaming when she raised her arms. I said I would go to Target and get her some button-down shirts and Mary offered to come with me. Target is such a dependable memory-wipe that I actually had fun, and got to peer through the window of parenting boys, since the only button-down shirts were in the boys section (and why are they all plaid? is that a rule?)

I arrived home at 10:30, and Jarrah was fast asleep, dreaming away the day. She slept 12 hours and woke in an uncannily agreeable mood, full of smiles. Don't think she isn't learning to milk that bone already, though. We are required to soap, rinse and dry her hands, bring her copious amounts of frozen treats, and David has to carry her from room to room, since apparently she has broken legs, too. She said she is looking forward to telling her class that she broke a bone, but she did have one very hard question for us, suspicious in its extreme adorableness:

"But how will I give hugs?"

"Oh, sweetheart," I said. "Very carefully. Very carefully."

Her attitude has been champion except for the few moments when she's tried to act like her old self and it's hurt like all get out. Then her lip quivers and her eyes well up and she says "I'm worried. I'm worried that I can't do things that I want."

That is a big one. I totally relate.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

She's Crafty (She's Just My Type)

Jarrah is in a wrapping phase. I buy multi-packs of off-brand tape at the dollar store and she uses it and our unpaid bills to encapsulate everything in the house. Every time I sit down, it's on a hard wad of crayoned paper, strapped to a degree that would have even Criss Angel scratching his head. Sometimes she tells me these packages are "gifts," and how "lovely" it will be for me to open one. When I do, it contains a white-board eraser, a doll's head, or my car keys. Happy Birthday!

Tonight, however, she got herself into a sort of conundrum. There was a discussion, and perhaps an argument. I'm not really sure, because I was assiduously not listening and reading magazines on the couch (what the hell IS that poking me in the butt??) while it was going on. What I mean is, David was handling it. When they reached an impasse, Jarrah came to me, proffering a triangular parcel with a dangerous-looking pointy end.

Jarrah: Mommy, I need a grown-up's help for something.

Sam: Mmmmm. What do you need a grown-up's help for?

Jarrah: I need a grown-up's help with the scissors because I need to wrap something.

Sam: Where are your scissors?

Jarrah: Here. (indicates pointy parcel) I wrapped them.

Sam: Well, I don't think you need to be using any grown-up scissors.

Jarrah: No, I really do. I have to make something.

Sam: Well, I think you can just use your scissors.

Jarrah: No, my scissors are wrapped.

Sam: Unwrap them, then.

Jarrah: No! They're a present!

Sam: And when you unwrap them, you can use them to make ANOTHER present.

Jarrah: Oh. You're right.

Sam: (incredulous, laughing) I'm right? Well, thank you. Now that's something you will NEVER say when you're a teenager.

Jarrah: (looking me in the eye) You never know.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Oh, The Humanity

What a week it's been. What started with hurling ended with snorfling. I guess my immune system got depressed (I don't blame it, frankly) and now I have a cold, too. Which I want to say is unfair, but lots of things are unfair--like cancer and getting hit by a bus--so I'll just be quiet.

Jarrah is in the tub, as we speak, playing with her first Barbie. She got it for her birthday, and it's not even a real Barbie--it has no legs. That sounds weird. It has no legs because it's Mermaid Barbie. Apparently, there are three in the set. She will not be getting the set. In fact, I attempted to spirit Mermaid Barbie back to the Underworld but I wasn't quick enough and Jarrah insisted on opening the box. David and I both argued with her for a while, but then I started feeling like a hypocritical idiot and gave in. Because Mermaid Barbie is sea-worthy, she can spend time in the tub, being groomed with a special comb and Mermaid Shampoo. The Mermaid Shampoo is not an official accessory; I invented it because--let's all think it together--I'm just awesome like that. It's a tiny bottle of hotel shampoo in the same fin-blue as Barbie's scales.

This morning I went with my friend Stephanie to a Magnet School Fair at Balboa Park. It was a gorgeous day in the park--they were also having a Lunar New Year Festival, an Art Fair, and a gathering of hundreds of greyhounds. The building where the fair was held was tiny, with a low roof and no windows. Somehow they had packed every magnet in SD Unified into this space. I almost swooned a couple of times--particularly when a P.E. teacher got up in my face--not because he was mad but because he was screaming over the Mission Bay HS Jazz Band.

I learned a lot at the Magnet Fair. I learned that most of them aim to "serve the Whole Child," which sounds like a recipe for suckling pig. Not that I don't want my whole child served--I do. It's just, as a mission, it's kind of vague. One of the schools has a magnet called "Athletics and Academics." I asked what this meant, and unless I misunderstood, it means that they sit around less than is otherwise mandated by the State of California. All that running around helps them think better, and this also serves the Whole Child. Some of the schools "help create global citizens." To which I want to start nodding furiously, thinking "Yes, yes, global citizens!" but then I realize I have no idea what that might entail.

Some of the magnets were easy to understand, like "music" or "drama." But one school promotes "micro-societies," e.g. the children found their own bank, which they are responsible for running themselves. "Ooooh," I winced. "Do they all end up asking for bail-outs?" Only a few, apparently. I don't know if founding a bank is what I want my 5-year-old thinking about, but then, I am biased--the school that offered African Drumming and Puppetry Theatre had me re-thinking my vow not to choose any school that involved freeway driving. I'm not joking about that one--I am drawn to the drumming and the puppets.

One school featured a panda as its logo because it's a Mandarin magnet. Cute. But the school directly across the aisle also featured a panda, and when I asked why, the director confessed that she had no idea. Probably because it's cute. As we were leaving, a man in a lawn chair with a lap top handed us a brochure for something called "Virtual High," which doesn't even exist because the kids do all their work from home.

"A school where you can't even get them to leave the house. No, thank you." I said with a shudder.

I'm really glad I went, because knowledge is power. Of course, a little knowledge can also be dangerous in the wrong hands, and mine are probably wrong. I will now use this new information as a reason to schedule tours with every public school in a 20-mile radius, especially if they have drumming. (Though one of the schools that offers drumming had labeled their photo "drumers," which does not inspire me with confidence.)

Good thing she doesn't go to kindergarten until 2010. I'll start planning soon. Right after I lie down for a minute.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Nurse, She's Not

Nausea and parenting are mutually exclusive states. I learned this valuable truth at a much earlier date in my tenure. Check out Wherein I Am Sorely Tried to see what I mean.

However, that was nearly three years ago, and I vaguely remember from my perusal of parenting books that the child is supposed to grow an empathy stash around...what, three? So it seems we're well in the window with her having just turned four.

Apparently not.

Tuesday afternoon I was feeling uncommon tired when I picked her up from school. "Mommy is going to need a nap this afternoon," I announced. "So you're going to have some quiet time."

"Okay, Mommy," she agreed. "Right after my snack and Clifford."

By the time she was sleeping and I was watching Gossip Girl, I could tell something was seriously not right. Because my bouts of barfing are often like a tornado watch in the sense that the townsfolk can see them coming over the hills from miles away, I get a lot more notice, frankly, than I need that my evening is going to end curled on a fuzzy blue mat, staring at linoleum.

Jarrah woke up and asked for more snacks. I provided. I paced from room to room, sensing the inevitable. I paced back into the kitchen. "Mommy, I need more snacks." she reported.

"I'm feeling pretty sick right now. I don't think I can deal with any snacks," I murmured. She gazed at me frankly for about 2 seconds.

"Yeah, I'm hearing 'blah blah blah' and wondering where my snacks are."

Well, she might not have used those words exactly. But she might as well have.

"Did you hear me say I'm not feeling very good?"


I walked out of the room. I wanted to call David but felt strangely unable to pick up the phone. The bed called to me, and as soon as my cheek touched the cool pillow, I knew it was the right decision. I curled in a ball, wracked with shivering. Then there were about three blissful minutes with my eyes shut before the pounding of little feet across the hardwood floor.

"Mommy! Where ARE you?"

"I'm in bed," I whispered. "Not feeling well." The mattress dipped, and my head was roundhouse-kicked from the left side. "OW! You just kicked me!" My stomach lurched. Roundhouse kick from the right side, making good contact with my temple. BLAM! "OWWW! Stop kicking me! I'm sick!"

"Mommy, I'm just having a rest. Now be quiet. You need to rest, too." BLAM! Upper cut punch to my soft bits.

"OWWW! You are really hurting me!" And so it went for the next half an hour or so. I just lay there and took it. I wasn't exactly a worthy opponent. Finally, I heard David's little "Helllooooo!" in the hall.

"Jarrah, go get Daddy." I rasped. She did, since I was so boring and all. As soon as David saw me and I choked out my plight, he tried to corral her away from the bed.

"Mommy's not feeling well--we need to give her some space."

I opened an eye and saw Jarrah doing her Joker face, the corners of her mouth dipping down in a perfect upside-down U. Two fat tears slid down her cheeks. In spite of my agony, my maternal matter was unsettled.

"Awww, sweetie. It's okay. Are you upset?"

"Moooooommmy! I'm worrrrrried about youuuuu!" she sobbed.

Okay, that would have been really sweet, really it would, except I know my kid, and here's the translation:

"Mommy! I thought we had a decent thing going here! I ask for snacks, and seconds later, you deliver them! Now we have this serious lag time interfering, and you're not being at all clear about how long this will be inconveniencing me! And I really can't take that kind of uncertainty, ya know? It gets my chi all out of balance! Now please let's go back to the way things were and never mention this again!"

The rest of the night, David herded her away from the bedroom while they had dinner, a bath and got ready for bed. During that time, I mixed it up a little by hurling my guts out. As I leaned over the bowl, eyes watering, I could hear Jarrah shrieking through the closed bathroom door:

"I'M WORRIED ABOUT MOMMY! I NEED TO HUG HER RIGHT NOW!" There was a tiny part of me that found this sweet and funny. Tiny.

Later, Jarrah made me a "card" that said (purportedly): "Dear Mommy: You have a cold. I am worried about you. You will feel better in 48 minutes. I love you. Get better. Jarrah."

I also got a lot of extremely agonizing hugs and some more kicks to the head.

It's good to be needed. Except when it's not.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I Had A Dream...That Someone Was Baking Cookies

Jarrah: Is it Sunday?

Sam: Yes! And tomorrow is Monday. Normally, you would go to school on Monday, but tomorrow is a holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Did you learn about him in school?

Jarrah: Yeah.

Sam: You did? What did you learn?

Jarrah: We read a book...and he wroted the book.

Sam: What was the book about?

Jarrah: It was a book about smelling.

Sam: (wide-eyed) Smelling? What about smelling?

Jarrah: I don't know.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Being Dramatic...Again

Just a quick note to let the few and proud readers of my Secret Theater Blog know that I have a new post up there. If you were invited before, your invitation still stands.

And if you've never been invited, and would like to be, you need only ask, dahlings. Send me your e-mail and get all the uncensored scoop.

See you backstage!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hello, Last Word? Can I Have You?

Today, at the supermarket, a man gave Jarrah a balloon (he worked there--nothing creepy.) The following conversation took place while I was loading up the conveyor belt.

Jarrah: Mommy? I'm worried about my balloon. How about we drive home real quick and put it in the house where it will be safe?

Sam: (knowing that our next stop was literally next door) No, that's really not convenient. We're going for fro-yo next.

Jarrah: But Mommy? What if someone opens the door to fro-yo and my balloon escapes?

Sam: (thrilled with my own brilliance) We'll tie it to a chair!

Jarrah: Oh, okay. (pause) What kind of chair?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Pirate's Life For Me

Jarrah is not a princess-y girl, thank heavens, so when she mentioned that she'd like a pirate theme for her birthday party, I was pleased. In the aftermath, however, I told David: "Next year, the theme of her party is going to be 'Happy Birthday.'" "That's a great theme," David agreed. "They probably sell tons of stuff with 'Happy Birthday' on it."

The party had another theme of sorts because we held it at the gymnastics academy where she had camp this summer. Right now my theory about birthday parties is that, until she complains, they will all include a portion devoted to running around and screaming, because the day will come when she thinks that's lame. Until that day, gym-related venues fit the bill.

This year it was hard for me to plan the party, because I wanted to invite my friends and just hang out, but Jarrah had some definite ideas about who she wanted there, including her entire preschool class. I mean, hello, is she paying for it? The very idea. By the time I'd invited everyone on her list, we were at the maximum. I rationalized that at least Jarrah would know everyone there.

The pirate theme got a significant boost when David mentioned it to his co-worker Jake, whose family (for reasons not divulged) collects costumes and stuff relating to costumes. One mention of pirates brought a thorough list from which we were invited to pick our favorites. A flag, sea lantern, treasure map, chest, anchor, chains and CD of pirate songs later, we were the best-kitted out kid's party in San Diego.

A toast of gratitude must be raised to my dedicated staff, without whom I'd be no one. While I enjoyed a great relationship with our contact, Crystal, before the party, we started having communication problems when we arrived and found that the 30 minutes we'd been promised for set-up had become 20. Which was more like 10. My sister Lindsey, and future BIL Thomas, quickly departed for ice cream and ice and a stain stick, since in the car I'd managed to dip my boob into the buttercream-frosted cake. (Oh, the cake. David and I made it ourselves--isn't it cute?)

Also on the scene 30 minutes early: Mary and Joy, and Stephanie, Shaun and Nathan, all of whom reported for duty with a cheerful attitude about being put to work transforming the room into a pirate wonderland in 10 minutes (and extra kudos for blowing up all those black skull-and-crossbones balloons--I raise a glass of mead to ye.) Another shout-out to Melissa, official Bagel Organizer, and Phoebe, mistress of Dixie Snack Cups.

Only about six kids were accounted for at the official start time of 1:30, but the sour-faced babe who came to escort them to the gym was hardly flexible. "Oh, you're welcome to wait as long as you like," she said sweetly. "Just know that we'll finish at 2:30 no matter what time you start." Em, okay then. Eventually all the kids made it down there. Parents were not encouraged to join their children on the mats, but we could watch from the upstairs observation deck, and clearly the coaches were well-prepared and had planned a lot of fun for the kids. There was a very involved obstacle course, sprints down the running trampoline into the marshmallow pit, a jump house, and a giant parachute. They looked like they were having a blast.

Meanwhile, the parents upstairs (that's my mom and dad and sister in the photo) were enjoying a little downtime to schmooze and eat a bagel (though when we headed home at 4:00, I suddenly realized I hadn't eaten anything since that morning) while we set up a ring-toss that caused a sensation when the kids returned--nothing says "free for all" like a blanket covered in unwrapped prizes. I repeated, "Sweetie, can you wait until we play the game?" so many times, I got a little light-headed. The actual playing was adorable, though--David was impressed how each child graciously accepted the item their ring landed on, and we all cracked up when Jarrah's class bud Amelia knelt over her chosen item, carefully placed the ring over it, then looked at us like "Got anything to say?" Not at all, ma'am. Have at it.

Then it was time for cake (none of the kids took an interest in the freeze-dried fruit and string cheeses I had put out for them) but, whaddaya know, a car jammed to the roof with party stuff had apparently not had room for one teeny ol' box of matches. Shaun saved the day by heading out for a lighter (another reason the location bugged: no matches? At a place that hosts several birthday parties a day?) After the singing, scooping and gobbling (I swear I was sweating from all that slicing), we had another game that David had made: Pin the Eyepatch on the Pirate Girl. Most of the kids enjoyed being blind-folded and spun around, but Hannah was especially competitive, going back four times to perfect her previous score. Which was fine, since we weren't looking for a winner per se. All the kids got to dip into the treasure chest for Mardi Gras beads and gold coins after their try. It was pretty cute seeing them all in their sparkly necklaces.

There was an impromptu balloon battle, which made me think "Note to self: no need to over-plan these things. The kids take care of it." Wonder how many more years of parties before that self-evident truth sinks in? In the mean time, I learned (once again) that I don't really have the personality for the barely restrained chaos that is a preschool party. "You're a good planner," David corrected me. "But you're right--you're not calm." I can accept that, since I don't think there's a rehab for it.

Sour-faced girl came in again to say--in her best passive-aggressive style--"Just wanted to let you know you're welcome to stay as long as you like, but we'll charge you 15 dollars per 15 minutes starting at 3:30." I was dumbfounded. 3:30 was the official end time.

"But you're not going to charge us to clean up?" I asked, rhetorically I believed.

"Actually, we expect that you're sort of cleaning as you go and ready to leave at the end of two hours," she said. HUH? I'd never heard of this at any other 2-hour kids party venue.

"Well, you should really mention that up front," I said. "And there's no clock up here. We didn't even know it was 3:30."

"It was in your contract," she continued, really pushing it.

"I guess I didn't read the fine print," I said. My loyal team sensed the change in mood (thankfully, most people had left or were leaving by then) and began breaking down the set, and with their help we had most stuff packed up in 15 minutes. And I must say we left the place very clean.

I guess that Crystal, my original contact, felt bad about the altercation because when it was time to leave, she apologized for the mixed messages, and may have charged us a bit less to put it right. I think I was pretty gracious about it; hopefully I didn't convey any of my annoyance to the guests. There was also a classic moment when Sour Girl asked Joy if she was the birthday girl, and I said "No, this is," pointing to Jarrah, and SG looked baffled and said, "Wait. Really? Why do they look alike?" and I growled, not even trying to disguise my annoyance, "They don't--they're just both Chinese." As the pirates would say, ARRRRRR!

It sounds like I'm doing a lot of bitching here, but I do think that Jarrah and the other kids had a lot of fun. It was a great venue for a party, just a little controlling (like a police state.) The real problem is me. Next year, I'll be looking for a place where all you have to do is show up.

Oh, and here's a little indication of how important the pirates were to Jarrah. When David and I were shopping at Party City, and had just spent the bulk of two hours feverishly arguing about the virtues of different styles of eye patches and were finally on the way to pay, Jarrah announced, "Mommy? I want Sponge Bob party."

"Just keep walking," I murmured to David. "Pretend like you didn't hear her."

Monday, January 05, 2009

It's A Big Day!

I've already posted today (twice?) but couldn't resist when David offered to scan this...Jarrah just wrote her name for the first time! And (I puff up with pride) quite legibly, too!

Anyway, what good is a Mommy-blog (shudder) if I can't brag a little? So let me continue: we've never shown her how to write her name (and they don't at her school, either) so somehow she figured it out for herself!

I tell ya, I'm kvelling. (That's Yiddish. I am a Jewish mother, after all.)

My Daughter, The Poet

Today on the way home from school Jarrah announced: "Today we went to see a room full of signs and all my friends came, too."

Sam: What did the signs say?

Jarrah: The first one said "THE MOONLIGHT DOESN'T MATTER."

Sam: (incredulous) Really? It said that?

Jarrah: And the second one said "HOUSES BREAK WHEN THEY FALL DOWN."

Sam: Wow.


Sam: Okay.


Sam: Sounds like there were a lot of signs.

Jarrah: A whole room full of signs. And the moonlight doesn't matter--it doesn't matter at all.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

It's Kinda Normal

I thought this was hysterical. Especially because I'm married to an engineer. ;)

Hope everyone is enjoying the first Monday after the holidays. I know I am. Thank you, preschool!

Getting an Education

Here goes: a birthday alphabet for Jarrah. Next time won't you sing with me?

A is for Apple. (what else?) Jarrah asks for apples almost every day, but not because she likes them. Back in September, her school celebrated Rosh Hashanah with apples and honey and she thought that was the bee's knees. She uses the apple slices as porous spoons, then leaves them, unbitten, on the plate.

B is for Big-Girl Bed. She's ready for one, but currently sleeps in her old crib with the side off. It's only been six months, but already it's hard to remember a time when she couldn't get up in the wee hours and make us crazy with mysterious thumping sounds.

C is for Candy. The child lives for candy, cupcakes, chocolate and other confections. All bribes and threats must revolve around sugary goodness. Recently, we were at Big Lots! and she picked out a toy. David and I offered to buy it as a "treat." She looked at us for a moment, wheels furiously turning, then responded "And can I also have a food treat?"

D is for Dora Game. She still loves Dora the Explorer, but especially the shrieky, repetitive version emanating from the laptop, where she will happily walk Dora and her friends through mazes for an hour, the only sound "Great!" and "Try again!" She often asks for a Dora game at night to stall going to bed.

E is for Eurythmics. Her current favorite song is "I Saved The World Today," and while I find it mysterious, it probably seems tidily sensible to her: "Hey hey, I saved the world today/Everybody's happy now; the bad thing's gone away/Everybody's happy now; the good thing's here to stay/Please let it stay." As a huge fan of Buffy, she probably thinks the song is about slaying.

F is for Faces. Sometimes she'll fill an entire page with faces, body-less, like a sea of amoebas with eyes. Often they have a big shock of hair, like Troll dolls. Even more frequently, they have what resemble ear muffs. When I ask Jarrah to sign cards, she draws one trademark face and hands the card back. It's like she expects her retainer to be higher before she commits to two.

G is for Gymnastics. She's showing some aptitude without having had lessons. Already she does the splits purely for her own amusement. Oh, and not really related but awfully cool: she taught herself to pump on the swings about four months ago. She sails into the air, and I marvel that my pushing days are already over.

H is for Hilarious. As in, when she said out of the clear blue sky, "You know what I love, Mommy?" "What do you love, sweetheart?" "I love how you say 'I don't think I'm in a very sexy mood tonight!' in your play. That is SO funny." I can't imagine how she has this line verbatim when she never saw my play. Except on the video. Must have a conversation with her father...

I is for Imaginary Friend. There have been many, but currently we don't go anywhere without Maine from Maine. Maine is based on the daughter of my friend who actually lives in Maine (hi, Miss J!) but Jennifer did not actually name her child after their state of residence. It is also pertinent that Jarrah and "Maine" have never met. Today I had to "buy" two smoothies, two quesadillas, Purell two sets of hands, buckle two car seats, put on two pairs of socks and shoes...and hear about Maine, seemingly without breathing from the commentator, for about five hours. So far.

J is for Joy. Always, Jarrah loves her Chongqing cousin like a sister, except they hardly ever fight. I can motivate her to do absolutely anything by invoking her name. "If you blow your nose you might prevent a cold, which would mean you'll be able to see Joy in a few days" even worked.

K is for Keyboard. Jarrah can now type her name, either into the laptop or David's GPS. Writing it--not so much.

L is for Leaving. A protracted process of grieving, necessitating an emergency support group for "people who find it hard to say goodbye to friends." The pain is just as acute when the departed is someone she has known only an hour, like a little girl named Leah whom she befriended at a holiday party last week. She reminds me of Cecily Cardew in The Importance of Being Earnest who has this gem: "It is always painful to part from people whom one has known for a very brief space of time. The absence of old friends one can endure with equanimity. But even a momentary separation from anyone to whom one has just been introduced is almost unbearable." Oh, so painfully true.

M is for Mac & Cheese. Still her favorite food, though I'm very proud of her--she's not a picky eater, and eats what we eat. Given her druthers, though, it's the orange stuff, every day (if I'd allow it.)

N is for Naps. Sadly, they are on the way out. She still wants them--three hours of them--but then it will be 11:30 at night and she's saying "So, where are we going now?" like we're on a cruise ship. If I let her sleep just an hour and wake her up, I pay and pay and pay with crying and kicking and all the things I'd like to do when my naps are cut short.

O is for Olfactory. She has a particularly finicky nose. She often recoils from my "stinky" hugs in the morning. One day she burst out "I just can't handle a stinky mommy!"

P is for Pretend. Most self-play is elaborate situations with multiple characters right now. I hear the characters negotiating about going to school or the park, and sometimes there is yelling and My Pretty Ponies who have to go in a time-out.

Q is for Queen. As in Drama Queen, totally to the max. Raising my voice slightly or expressing any kind of disappointment sets her wailing, instantly and lustily, with rivers of tears and so much volume people come running, assuming she's hacked off a finger.

R is for "Arrrrrrrr!" What pirates do. Jarrah is very into pirates for some reason, and looks so freakin' cute when she's imitating them. When I asked her what kind of birthday party she'd like, she replied enigmatically, "A pirate ship with a flower coming out of the top." And that's not a fluke--she's mentioned it several times. I'm not sure about the flower, but I did order her a Fisher-Price pirate ship--complete with booty.

S is for Stage. Not as in, "she's going through one," though that would apply, too. She speaks constantly of how she's going to be on stage, and "come out from the cor-tens," and while she sobbed when I told her no children were allowed at my play, she rallied quickly. "Well, I'm in a play, and no grown-ups are allowed," she told me. "They have to stay home with the Mommy-Daddy babysitter."

T is for Teaching. Jarrah has been exhibiting a pedagogical flair. For instance, when I made a wrong turn and said we were a bit lost, she said "And what have you learned? That you should really listen to your children more." On another occasion, when I regretted losing my temper with her and apologized, she squeezed my arm and said "That's okay, Mommy. You learned your lesson." An empath, too!

U is for Upside-Down. That's how she likes to watch TV, with her head on the seat and her legs flipped up over the backrest. She gets into this pose from a full run, canonballing into place.

V is for V----a. Recently, Jarrah announced that "some of the boys at school have an extra piece in front." (Quoth David: "Some of them?") I took a deep breath and explained that all boys have those. Then I told her the piece's name. "What's a p---s?" she asked. And then I did something very mature: I cracked up for about 10 minutes. When I was done, I said that it's a body part used for peeing, and that girls have a v----a for peeing. "'Cept I don't have one of those," she answered, with surprising conviction. I assured her that she did, and that it was like "a little hole in front." (Whaddaya want? I'm new to all this.) When David came home, I widened my eyes and said "Daddy, ask Jarrah what she learned about body parts today." "I learned that I have a penis, and it's like a little hole," she said. "Well, that's very...close!" I responded. The fun new terms have not come up again.

W is for Witches. Mean witches, only. "Nice witches don't have powers." She didn't even get scared watching The Wizard of Oz, because "I'm not afraid of witches--I'm a witch, too." So I guess it's a union thing. (That movie scared the crap out of me until I was like 12--flying monkeys, anyone?) Recently, there has been disturbing talk of switching allegiances from witches to ballerinas. She told me she might have to be afraid of witches now. "Oh, but I think you still have immunity," I said. "Huh?" she said.

X is for her favorite letter. She makes hundreds of them on sheet after sheet of paper, and also enjoys fashioning them out of my bobby pins.

Y is for "Yeah, but." This is her response to absolutely, positively everything in the entire universe. I could shout "The house is on fire! Run!" and she'd say "Yeah, but I'm kinda busy cuz I have to Scotch tape this magazine insert to one of your socks right now."

Z is for Zimbos. I'm not totally clear on who the Zimbos are, even though I invented them. Originally, I believe I was thinking of the Oompa-Loompas, but must now disguise that piracy since she's seen the movie. At any rate, the Zimbos live in Candyland, have the ability to turn anything into candy, and the power to put Jarrah to bed at night--the very last thing she asks for is "a Zimbo story." Guess who has to tell it.