Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Oh Torvald, I've Stopped Believing In Miracles

I'm all anxious and on edge. My show opens tomorrow night. And we've never even had a proper run-through. Not even an improper, unseemly one. Last night was all about hammering out tech cues. It promises to be a late night tonight. I did finally get to practice with my gun, synching the sound of the 1858 revolver to my cue, which was kind of fun. But our director announced that he'd like all the women to come out on stage in our underwear and get dressed in period costume while acting our scenes, which occasioned a bit of resistance, to say the least. See what you're missing by not reading my secret theater blog? :) There was also a cute moment when I came on stage as Hedda and did a little boogie to Bill Withers "Use Me," and someone from the audience (I couldn't really see in the glare of the spotlight, dontcha know) whined "Why does she get all that time to dance around?" and about four people shouted in unison "Because she's Sam!" Whether or not they meant that disparagingly, must remain a mystery. :)

Today, in addition to everything else I usually do, I will be:

a) re-reading A Doll's House. I want to understand Nora better. Back to the text.
b) trying to memorize that *&^%$#$ opening speech. Last night I sounded like I was delivering it after a handful of sleeping pills, which is perhaps appropriate.
c) singing along with our finale song on iTunes, "49 Bye-Byes." Why? Because I STILL don't know the words.
d) muttering my major speeches to myself, to make sure I haven't forgotten them.
e) ironing my thrift-store costumes, as I had to wash them to get that granny's attic smell out.

Anyway, in the few hours allotted for sleep these days, I am not doing enough of that. Any tips? Don't say drugs. You know what a crunchy, organic, pure kind of girl I am. (This reminds me that one of my students back at UMass described herself in an essay as "I'm sort of an Oh! Natural! kind of girl." Hee.)

If you plan to be in town Wednesday or Thursday night and are jonesin' for a fix of 19th century realist theater and some, ahem, unpredictable flourishes, I can hook you up.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Something New and...Brown

We had a first for our house last night. Projectile vomiting all over the living room. I've never actually seen anyone projectile vomit before, though I know it's the stuff of legend. It is pretty impressive, if you've never had the pleasure.

Jarrah and I were snuggled in our WHITE armchair, reading together. She had her head on my chest. All of this should have been my first clue, since the kid does not snuggle. Physical contact is limited to occasions when she is terrified or has a big owie. I was sitting there, all comfy, congratulating myself on this "bonding breakthrough," and then I felt a hot splash across my arm. It seemed to come from nowhere, and for a second I thought she'd peed on me. I looked at my arm, and then the next splash cascaded across the crotch of my WHITE shorts.

I must admit I yelped rather uncompassionately, and leaped out of the chair. Jarrah was so surprised she didn't even cry. She just stood there, continuing to hurl. David ran for a bowl, positioned it in front of her, and she proceeded to hurl right over it, like she was getting points for distance.

It really was the saddest sight to behold. Afterwards, she looked at us, her sweet little face covered in spew, and said "Uh, I think I might be a little bit sick." David and I laughed, quietly but helplessly, and said "Oh, sweetie, you're definitely a bit sick."

Then she said, "My throwing up is bad," and we hastened to assure her that throwing up is a good thing, that you can get rid of stuff your tummy doesn't want that way. That seemed to reassure her, and she allowed herself to be led away for a bath.

Weirdly, she was absolutely fine after that. Talking up a storm, even saying she was hungry and thirsty. She had no fever, and slept 12 hours like a champ. Today she's been fine. Well, maybe her appetite hasn't been quite up to speed, but that's to be expected.

We've known Jarrah over three years, and the only other time she's thrown up, she had pneumonia and the doctor said it was just because she was coughing. Anyone know how to get vomit out of carpet without using a lot of chemicals?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Creative Chronology

Yesterday Jarrah melted down on the way home from her ballet lesson. That's not unusual--sometimes she doesn't wait until afterwards and melts down during the class, which is definitely more embarrassing for me. I can't really blame her--it's late in the afternoon, she's been in school all day minding her p's and q's, and she's hungry. I try to be understanding. This time, she freaked out when we left the playground adjacent to the rec center, and clung to my leg to stop me from walking, screaming, "I DON'T LIKE YOU MESSING UP MY FUN!" That was a good one, and I did laugh, trying not to let her see.

Since she was so busy screaming, she didn't see the curb in front of her, and fell over it. After I helped her up, she screamed even louder, and I saw why: she'd torn a hole in the knee of her red ballet tights: the ones I'd finally remembered to pay the teacher for that day. Sigh. Can you darn lycra tights?

Once in the car, the screaming turned to indignant sniffling, and I gripped the wheel, willing there to be no traffic because quite frankly, I am exhausted (rehearsal every night until almost 11:00 this week, not sleeping enough or well) and was starving (I get a serious 4:00 sugar drop that changes my personality.) It was in this state of mind the following conversation took place:

Jarrah: (wailing) Mommy! Mooooommmmy! I've had a hard week! A haaaarrrrrd week! Sometimes I have a hard week!

Sam: Mmmmmm.

Jarrah: (repeat several times) Mommy! Did you hear me say I've had a HAAAARRRRD week?

Sam: (snapping) You know what? You haven't had a hard week. You've had a very nice week. Monday you had friends over after school and tore the house apart for hours. Tuesday you got to go to T-ball with Nathan and have your favorite dinner at their house. Wednesday, TT came to play with you when I was at rehearsal. And today you had ballet and fro-yo. So I don't really see what's so hard about your week.

Short silence. I congratulate myself on my honesty, my directness, my getting through the force-field of pre-school narcissism.

Jarrah: But that was AGES ago! AGES!

Sam: (wailing now) It was YESTERDAY!

Jarrah: That was AGES ago! And I'm having a hard week!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Another Woman's Treasure

So, Readers, I want to confess something to you. I know I'm going to feel a lot better after I've gotten this off my chest, just as Foucault explained. It's hard to say this in front of the whole wide internet, but...I have a problem. A little addiction. I can't stop myself, and it seems to be getting worse. There's no longer any genuine need or logic involved. I am helpless to resist.

During my last play, my friend Jessica introduced me to a couple of her favorite thrift shops. They always have these catchy, boutique-y kind of names like "Disabled American Veterans." ("Thanks...I got it at Disabled American Veterans for $4.00. Sexy, right?") In a moment of brilliant discovery, I landed the floofy bubble-gum pink '60s-era dress that I wore in "The Stepford Guy." I accessorized with a big, fake flower in my hair, pearls, pink shoes and a satin bow sash. I looked a treat. (I need to post a photo, don't I?) The dress smelled like a granny's attic and seemed to be made of some fire-retardant plastic amalgam. (Hard to tell when the tags are removed.) It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. When I came out to the cast for the big reveal, there were gasps. Actual gasps, Readers. That's how delicious I looked. The cost of the dress? $6.00. I was a freakin' genius, and a wizard economist to boot.

So, I knew that with my current show, there would be more thrifting, as stealthy as a black-ops mission. I would search, and I would destroy all competition. I would parachute into those warehouses just as major shipments of fabulousness dropped; I would swoop them up and airlift out before the other shoppers could blink.

Only one hitch: this show is set in the 19th century. In the glory that is Amvets, there's not a big market for late Victorian period. Not a lot of supply, either. I was going to have to get crafty. I yanked feverishly through the racks, focusing like a personal shopper in a think tank dedicated to coordinating separates. This was going to take all my imagination...and fortitude. Maybe a vanilla iced coffee or two.

Now, there's one little problem with thrift shopping, and it's also fuel for my burning desire. There are no dressing rooms. Sure, some of the pieces have sizes on the tags, but some don't, and some of those sizes were assigned in other decades. You can hold up the garment, shimmy it over your clothes, or you can do what I do. You can gamble. (Oooh, just writing it is like a shot of liquid Xanax in my veins!) You squint at that baby and will it to fit you, not just fit but spill over your curves like a water feature at a theme park.

And, inevitably, you get stupid. You go too far. Thinking you are SO money, you plunk down your remaining chips and bet it all on the red velvet. And when it's just you and the red velvet and your closet mirror and a zipper that will not move another inch, you lose. You lose, baby, but the sweat on your upper lip and the slight panting you hear (is that you?) tells you you're going back anyway, even though your closet is bulging with finery that didn't quite get there.

I am a magpie thrift shopper. If you've seen me in action, you know. Anything with paillettes, gold thread, burn-out velvet, satin, chiffon, tulle, angora, bell sleeves, underskirts, giant sashes, rose ribbons finds me snaking out a trembling finger, sucked in by the Siren-call of someone's bridesmaid cast-offs. Do I dress like that in real life? I wish. Maybe if my "habit" continues, I'll start. As it stands, drag queens could have some fun in my hall closet. (That sounds a bit odd, doesn't it?)

I did find an amazing dress for Hedda's "dressed for callers" scene, after a long and satisfying search, with several false positives. (Did I mention there are "NO RETURNS, NO EXCHANGES, NO EXCEPTIONS?) I actually found it a day before I bought it, went home and dreamt feverishly about it before screeching back in the morning "in terror and hope" (as Nora would say) to see if it was still there. It was. It has a black velvet top and a goldy-green tulle skirt that swishes on the floor. Over it, I button a tight green velvet blazer, and I look like a 19th century lady. Well, a 19th century lady who wants to get laid. When I debuted it at rehearsal the other night, there were gales of "OOOooooooh" when I emerged from the changing room. Gales, I tell you. Now if I can keep from killing myself on the dark stairs backstage (I keep stepping on the hem) I won't have to go method when I exclaim "Then you should have found no one to receive you, for I have been in my room, changing my dress, ever since lunch." I look like I've been changing since lunch, baby. And I'm doing it for $9.95.

Has finding this gorgeous treasure stemmed my compulsion? Oh, no. I took another cast member, Rachel, shopping yesterday afternoon. Rachel is a runner, and would literally look good in a burlap sack. But why wear a burlap sack when you can swathe your litheness in a full-length purple satin gown with a tight, double-vested, crushed velvet jacket? And look like a million freakin' 19th century bucks? Rachel told me later that she'd never have found anything without me, that it took my trained eye to put that combo together. I was flattered, but deep inside, I knew it. I have a gift. I've finally found my calling.

You might think it's all about costumes. Oh, how sweetly naive you are. Slowly but surely, my whole wardrobe is getting supplanted with thrifty finds. I wore a sundress to pick up Jarrah yesterday which got a compliment from across the parking lot. When I replied, "Amvets, $3.00." I got a "Shut UP! I do not BELIEVE that!" Now that's the kind of response I like. Crave. Could grow to NEED.

Somebody stop me. Wait, I take that back. I don't have a problem. I can stop any time. Let's talk about this sensibly. Maybe over iced coffee and a little...shopping. You know what? I could totally see you in a satin duster.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

America's Finest City, Part One

It's been a whirlwind week of exposing San Diego's many gifts, as our friends Teresa and Gina have been visiting from Alabama. I had a crash-course in our tourism infrastructure, one that I was sadly needing, like the refresher in CPR every two years. For instance, I learned that we are no longer America's sixth largest city--we've somehow fallen to eighth, which was news to me. Which cities have taken sixth and seventh from us, I wonder? Readers, do enlighten if you can.

I have a strong compulsion (which has been cruelly pointed out to me on a couple of occasions) to treat vacation reports like a sort of Jewish Christmas letter (All the Details You Love, Now with More Snacks and Super-Deluxe Kvetching!), describing every moment of each day with transitions like "Then back to the car" and "In need of refreshment, we..." so this time I am limiting myself to one or two significant events from each day of the five-day visit. If you want, you may read a lot more driving, eating, and shopping interludes into these daily reports. If you don't, simply read on:


Having flown in late the night before, T and G were ready for a hearty breakfast, but I'm not allowed to talk about that part, or the stop in Coronado to admire the view across the bay. I'll skip right to the event of the season, the preschool auction dinner, which had actually been scheduled for the better part of a year. Happily for us, our guests were game to attend this hell-raiser, and everyone rested up for the debauchery while I helped set up the space, providing skilled labor like:

1) placing stickers inside of shoe-boxes for the raffle
2) peeling price tags off about 100 picture frames for item descriptions
3) arranging sand-filled votive candles on tables to represent tropical splendor
4) gluing lot lists to giant poster boards with a sad little stick
5) drinking mimosas until I was cross-eyed

In the end, the place did look sort of glorious, and definitely festive. I changed into my dress (very of the moment, with a "large floral print and contrasting bright-color shoes," because I don't miss a trend) and regretfully left my Hawaiian-shirted husband and friends to make use of their drink tickets and shop while I worked the check-in table (did I mention I was on the planning committee? That was probably a key bit of information.) After that, I danced crazily from table to table (there was a DJ) writing my name down everywhere, which is a strategy that usually finds us at evening's end purchasing a bunch of stuff I don't remember wanting, but this time paid off with one item I will definitely use--a new subscription to the acting workshop I'm already in! Yay! Teresa and Gina bid on and won a package of gift cards, playing right into my hands (literally) by handing over the mani-pedi gift certificate they'd have no use for in Alabama. And the new raffle was awesome--we won a mosaic set for Jarrah, and a package of dance classes for me. Woohoo!

Dinner was mostly delish and plentiful, the company was good, and the drinks were tasty if not very strong. One of the preschool moms is a chef, and she made the desserts--her key lime cupcakes were some kind of revelation on the tongue. I stayed after for clean up, which went swiftly and netted me some gorgeous dendrobium orchids. And when I finally got home, David rubbed my aching feet (too much running around in those contrast-color high heels) and we pronounced the night a great success.


San Diego is famous for its zoo, and the Wild Animal Park is even more impressive since you can ride a tram through rolling hills and see baby giraffes frolicking. It was a really special visit because a baby elephant had been born the day before--he was even on the front page of the paper. Turns out I have never been to the elephant enclosure, judging by the long walk uphill I don't remember making. But it was totally worth it. When we arrived, the baby was lying on his side near his mother, and didn't look much of anything except startlingly small...for an elephant. But then he started to wave his little ears and wiggle his legs, and after a good, swift kick from his mum (nothing like a little maternal encouragement) he staggered to his feet and waltzed around her a little bit before they took off. We didn't get to see him up close for long but I will never forget it. I emitted a sort of combo laugh and scream, unable to process the strange delight of seeing this little guy. He weighed 155 lbs. that day, and was perfect and tiny and gray like a baby elephant in a children's book.

Then we had the rare experience of seeing the male lion, with his big, fluffy brown mane, sit up and stare at us when our tram came into the station. He stayed like that for so long it's like he was posing. It was a gorgeous day, not too hot, and all over the park there were new residents. We saw a guy feeding a baby cheetah a bottle of milk, and Jarrah shoved her way up to glass, in front of the other people, past the sign that said "do not go past this sign." Jarrah also wants me to tell you that on the way back from seeing the Sumatran white tiger we got to jump up and down on the "bouncy bridge." And for 10 minutes afterward I felt like I was walking on a boat.

Sunday night I had planned dinner out (Jarrah was with her babysitter) at a new place I was itchin' to try. In a strange confluence, it was three doors down from T and G's hotel. It was called The Riviera Supper Club and Turquoise Room. I don't know what it was before, because this place is new, but it looked like it had been there since the '50s. And while you're there, you eat and drink like it's the '50s, tossing down your Harvey Wallbanger or Manhattan while waiting for the waitress to return with your slab of raw beef. That's right--raw. Everyone ordered the sirloin except me--I had to be different and get the filet, which was about a foot high and took several hours to cook. And I would know, because at the Riviera Supper Club, you cook your own meat. We threw the hunks on the huge, communal grill in the center of the room, and doctored them with teriyaki and Worcestershire (at least I did) and busied ourselves burning our garlic bread while they sizzled. Soon enough, our sides arrived at the table--four cheese Mac and Cheese, and Creamed Corn, and a baked potato the size of a Mini Cooper with a stick of butter melting through the center. I want to say the food was "a heart attack on a plate" but it's been done. In any case, it was all supremely delicious and evil. And we didn't stop there--we ordered an Apple Crisp with Cheddar Cheese topping, and a Chocolate Malted Creme Brulee. Each of these was the size of a family soup tureen. I've never understood when people say "I won't be hungry again for a week!" That's absurd. But this time, I was still recovering at breakfast the next day. Teresa got so full she couldn't sit down anymore and kept saying "I have to walk!"


We dropped Jarrah at school a smidge early, as we were catching a boat at the downtown marina--whale-watching! David and I had followed orcas in British Columbia, but it would be our first time cruising grey whales in the open ocean past San Diego Bay. The tour was 3.5 hours, which we assumed would be a bit much for Jarrah, and quite frankly, was a bit much for me. But it was a glorious day to go to sea, and the boat was surprisingly crowded for a Monday morning. We didn't get good seats, but in the end, no one sat down anyway--we were all poised at the sides, holding our breath, and I inhaled great hanks of long, brassy hair, attached to the teenage girl squeezed in next to me. Our naturalist, Kerry, from the Birch Aquarium, was a chipper and cheerful gal who talked the whole time, and we did learn quite a bit about what we were seeing. For most of the trip, that was basically water and kelp, but it was soothing to watch the boat cutting through the white foam. We headed out towards the Los Coronados islands, tiny outcroppings of rock that are part of Mexico, and eventually passed through some pods of dolphins. One of the pods was spectacular, about 50 Common and White-Sided dolphins surrounding the boat and leaping every which way. I marveled that the dolphins seemed to enjoy riding our bow--several at once would hug the front end so tightly we feared for their safety. Kerry kept saying they wanted to "play" with us--so interesting.

After a couple hours, I began to fear that we were one of those trips that would receive the "better luck next time!" vouchers for a free re-do, but finally, someone spotted the two grey whales we watched for the next half-hour or so. Or rather, the people on the other side of the boat all screamed in delight as one of the whales decided to "breach" or jump head-first out of the water ("Ohmigosh, that is SO RARE!" screamed Kerry) but none of our party saw a bloody thing. After that, we all stood (or staggered, or clutched) waiting for "blows" while the whales "sounded" underneath for five minutes at a time, and basically saw a whole lot of nothing except some expelled water and occasional glassiness on the water's surface which meant there was a whale somewhere...that we couldn't see. And then we had to turn around. But considering that Gina was heaving over the side at this point (hit hard by sea-sickness) and I was pretty banged up from falling over a bench when I tried to sprint to the other rail to see the freakin' whale that couldn't wait ONE MORE SECOND for me to get over there, it was time. All of us were strangely exhausted for the rest of the day, and David and I fell asleep on a bench inside on the way back.

This week was also momentous in another way...Jarrah was "Star of the Week" at her preschool. That is a big freakin' deal, in case you were wondering. The photo above shows her posing with her wall, which included her artwork, her "favorites" list, and a bunch of photos. I loved how she claimed "broccoli" is her favorite food. Yeah, right. Try sugar, eaten with a spoon from a bowl. And I think her Grandma and Pop-Pop will be kvelling that she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. A "bone doctor," she told us. For some reason the kid has gotten interested in bones.

And this last one was just too cute and funny not to include. David went in to check on her one night last week when I was at rehearsal, and found her like this. She never woke up, even though he turned on the light and took a bunch of photos. I guess we can deduce that Jarrah got pretty tired doing all this sight-seeing.

Question for the Sages

We've had friends visiting from Alabama this past week, so I haven't had a moment to blog. I'll write something more substantial in the next couple of days, but in the mean time, a quickie:

We live near a major highway that is fronted with malls, and one of them has a sort of Jump-Jump World in its parking lot. I'm talkin' serious jump-jumps. One is shaped like the Titanic. In the act of sinking. The kids can gaze longingly at the massive inflatables from their car seat perches as they whiz past and start working you for a visit. And they do.

I am nothing if not generous, so I did do the research. Turns out the place costs like $20 to enter, and then they charge another $10 for the parent who is just standing there! Not even jumping! That was crazy. And there's no shade. We could wait and jump at someone's birthday party, or at the farmers market, or someplace else we could do it for a couple bucks.

So here we are, driving down the freeway:

Jarrah: Mom! Look! Can we go there?

Sam: Nooooo....I'm sorry, honey.

Jarrah: Why NOT?

Sam: Because it costs like a million dollars.

Jarrah: How come the other parents can afford it?

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Daily Idiocy

I have been carrying the same black duffel bag to the gym since 1994. 'Course, there have been periods when I didn't GO to the gym, but when I have, the bag has gone, too. That bag has stories to tell; sadly, most of them are about smelly socks and graying workout bras.

About a month ago, the zipper finally threw in the towel (which actually was kind of considerate; otherwise, I would have been forced to air dry after my shower) and detached from its moorings. At first, there was just a three-inch section with no zipper, but soon enough, the whole bag was permanently exposed to the elements.

That meant that my gym stuff was exposed, too. My gym ritual grew to include an elaborate re-stuffing so that anything untoward was forced to the bottom with more neutral items arranged across the top, like a checkered cloth over the basket of goodies for Grandma. Not that she'd want those goodies.

Now, any reasonable person (a population amongst which I sadly do not traffic) would have bought a new bag, or at the very least, rummaged in the cupboards for one of those "Hey! I forgot I had that!" items. Not me. No, ma'am. I am just not materialistic like that. I stuck with Old Faithful.

A few annoying things started to happen. One day I was showering at the gym when I realized I had no shampoo. I had to use the industrial soap in the big metal dispenser. I later found the shampoo in the crawl space under my car seat. A few days later, my socks were mysteriously missing, and I had cold ankles all day. Those have never been seen again. A tiny glimmer of realization began to penetrate the murk in my mind: it was time to get a new bag.

Yesterday we went to Target, and I perused the duffel options in the Luggage section. They were all pricier than I'd foreseen, including an Eddie Bauer number with multiple bells and whistles for nearly 40 dollars. Yowza! Then I spotted a series of nylon envelopes in several colors. Reading the fine print, I discovered they contained duffels, with their own carrying case. The colors were pleasing--I chose midnight blue (preferring the sky blue, but imagining it dirty.) The price? $10.99, thank you very much.

This morning, I cut off the tags and began to fill the bag with my gym stuff, which took on a fresh patina in the shiny new surroundings. The bag is roomy, and stylish, with a padded shoulder piece for those long treks to and from the car, laden with ablutions. I was lovin' it, and loving myself for picking it out.

Then I changed into my workout clothes, put my hair in a pony tail, brushed my teeth, and headed to the door. There was only one little problem.

I could only find one shoe.

No biggie, I thought, it's bound to have rolled under the seat in the car. Or maybe Jarrah stuffed it into one of her squirrel caches. I'll just have a quick look-see and be on my way.


Desperate now, I searched everything. I considered who I might call, but couldn't remember where I'd been recently. "Hello? Do you happen to have one blue New Balance in your lost and found?"

There went the workout. Or a walk. I checked my closet for older models--nada. Admitting defeat, I showered and dressed, and headed back out to the car.

To go buy new running shoes. Which were not cheap, even though I got them at DSW. Even as I rationalized that I really needed new ones (it had been a couple of years) I mentally kicked myself for my negligence.

On the plus side, I have spanking new Nikes, which feel like angel's pillows caressing my feet.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Backwards Vampire

This morning we were at the Purim carnival at Jarrah's school with Mary and Joy when David suddenly asked "Should I give blood?"

Well, as Meg Ryan says to Tom Hanks in the second segment of Joe vs The Volcano, I had no response to that. For a second, I was genuinely confused. Then I realized we were standing in front of a big trailer with the words "MOBILE BLOOD DRIVE" on the side. So, part of the mystery was solved. Yet I was still puzzled. Why would he do such a thing during a carnival? We were in the middle of throwing darts at balloons and he suddenly thought, "You know what would be good right now? If someone opened one of my veins and sucked out a pint of my human essence. Yeah, that would hit the spot."

I have never given much thought to giving blood as a reality. Perhaps because it's not part of my reality. You see, I lived in England in 1987, and that period of time now makes me at risk to convey mad cow disease. I certainly hope I don't have mad cow disease. I mean, I feel fine. Also, I think I mostly ate beans on toast that year, since the refectory food was vile. Nevertheless, my blood is no longer wanted. My blood is damaged goods.

My next thought was, "Can you do that? I mean, you're not a citizen." David gave me one of his "What are you on about, you silly thing?" looks. But I was just wondering. Maybe they think Australia is a third-world country of some type. Who knows? But I gave him my blessing anyway, not really thinking it through.

He was off like a shot, and I'm embarrassed to say that for a little while I forgot all about him. He tends to be the strong, silent type in a crowd, and not hearing from him for half-hour stretches is not unusual. We were throwing balls at some wooden queen heads when I suddenly yelped, "Where's David?"

"Probably still giving blood," Mary grimaced. "It takes a while."

Good heavens, what had I been thinking? David is a sensitive man, a man who needs his own show on Animal Planet because he identifies with all living creatures, even sympathizing with a pickle-sized cockroach who emerged from my shampoo bottles last summer and made me scream arias for 10 minutes. ("He was just looking for water," David explained. "When it gets hot like this, they have no choice but to come inside.") Made me feel like a total heel for smashing him with a shoe while screaming "DIE! DIE! DIE!" in front of my three-year-old. Sheesh. If he wanted water, why didn't he just hold out a tiny mug?

But back to David. He's a gentle soul who wouldn't hurt a fly, and I was suddenly convinced that I'd made a terrible mistake letting him go inside that trailer, where I couldn't monitor what they were doing to him. "It's his first time?" Mary asked. "He might be feeling pretty weak after."

Oh, no. He's a frail and delicate flower as it is! I couldn't have them weakening him further. What if his blood was like Samson's hair, and he could no longer smash pillars with his bare hands afterwards? I ran up to the door, and a smiling blonde woman greeted me. "Is my husband in there? Is he okay?"

She kept smiling. I guess her job requires a lot of smiling, or more people might suddenly think better of offering their arm for piercing with a large needle. "He's in there. Doing his interview. It's going to be a while."

"What should I do?" I wailed. "Should I bring him food?"

"We'll give him cookies and juice afterward, but he could probably use a good meal right after. He's...he seems....he's..." She gazed into the middle distance with a dreamy look on her face, and I knew it. I just knew I should have been paying more attention.

"He's tender-hearted!" I screamed. "He's a bit delicate!"

Her smile became even more dreamy. She murmured: "Yes. I can tell."

AAAGGGGGHHH! I was so worried now I almost couldn't eat my hot dog smothered in ketchup, mustard, relish, onions and saurkraut. But I soldiered through. With all the commotion trying to get the girls to eat, I was actually a bit surprised when my cell phone rang.

"Hello?" I shouted. "Where are you? Can you walk? Should I come get you? Have you eaten?"

He laughed over the din of the crowd outside. "I'm fine. I had some juice. I'm walking to find you right now."

"Walking! Should you be walking? Should you be STANDING?"

He appeared smiling just a minute later, looking remarkably like himself. I stood up. "Sit down!" I shrieked. "I'll go get you some food."

"Um, I like this kind of treatment," he said. But I wasn't really listening since I was sprinting to the concession stand, where I pantingly ordered a hot dog and pepsi for my depleted love.

When I got back, he had been plied with cast-off cookies from the rest of our lunches, and was conversing just as if he hadn't been drained of vital fluids in a parking lot on a sunny day. He waved cheerfully to a gentleman at the next table, saying "He was in the bed next to me."

Oy, they were in beds? The horror, the horror. What could he have been thinking? I asked him. "I was thinking that last year that truck seemed all lonely with no one going inside, and how this year I was going inside myself. And I'd do it again! It was fine."

The man is a freakin' hero, if you ask me. But it never ceases to amaze me.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

I'm Glad We've Got That All Worked Out

Jarrah: Mommy, Amelia is a small 4-year-old. But I am a big 4-year-old. And so is Sophie.

Sam: Em, well, it's nice to have people of all different sizes.

Jarrah: But I am very big.

Sam: Yes, you are big for your age.

Jarrah: I am as big as you and Daddy. Because we are The Big Family!

Sam: Well, I'm not really that big. In fact, I'm actually kind of small for a grown-up. Someday you may be a lot taller than your mama.

Jarrah: But you're big! You're the same size as me!

Sam: Well, I'm a little bigger than you. But small compared to Daddy. In fact, Daddy teases me because I'm so much smaller than him.

Jarrah: You should use your words and ask him not to do that!

Sam: You're right, I should.

Jarrah: You say, 'Daddy, don't do that!' Then he will stop doing that, and he will call you Big Mama.

Sam: Oh...I don't know if that's necessary...

Jarrah: From now on I will call you Big Mama, 'kay?

Sam: Em, okay.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Bones and Buddies

Yesterday I took Jarrah to the doctor to check how her clavicle is healing. It's been 4.5 weeks already--can you believe it? I decided to combine the visit with her 4-year-old annual exam, because our doctor is really far away. I mean, it's totally worth it--I love her. How many doctors are going to respond to my e-mails with the subject line "Please Talk Me Off The Ledge" in the middle of the night? Probably just this one. (And by the way, I'm not suicidal--just an amplified reference to late-night motherly distress.) Unfortunately, we didn't get to see "our" doctor the day that Jarrah had her accident.

Everything looks fine. She's got a little lump in that spot which Doc says is new bone forming, and will subside in a few months. I can barely notice it myself unless I'm groping both clavicles at the same time. So she can resume all her normal activities, and start T-ball, and--in the oft-repeated claim that proves we don't share DNA--"get back to running."

It was the annual exam part that started the trouble (because, really, do we ever have a doctor visit under two hours?) She's in the 90th percentile for height at 42.5 inches (no surprise there) and has dropped to the 70th for weight at 41 lbs. (all previous exams have found her in the 90-somethings for that, too.) She has 20-20 vision, based on an impressive reading of the shape-covered preschool eye chart (I love how when she got to the flag she shouted "SQUARE!")

We were practically out the door when the perky nurse shoved a pointy device into her ears, which is some new-ish kind of hearing test more accurate for this demographic because it relies on a sonar report rather than the child identifying tones. The first ear was a breeze, but the second ear was not cooperating, and she kept switching out the squishy heads--green then yellow then red then blue. Finally, she shook her head ruefully and said "Well, that ear's not going to pass. We'll need to get you a referral for an ENT."

Readers, if you know me, or have been reading this blog for, say, longer than five posts, you know that I'm not a calm woman. Most of my day transpires in an elevated, frantic state. So it's with no small pride that I tell you that I did NOT freak out. I thought for a minute, and recalled that last year, they excavated a motherlode of ear wax out of my kid's head during the regular exam, and wondered aloud if ear wax could interfere with the reading. "Well, yes, it could. Let's take a look in there." And soon enough she was exclaiming over the results of my hunch.

We went back to the office, and the nurse tried to remove some wax with a long, pokey stick. Reasonably, Jarrah did not like this, and after one chunk was removed, she cried and said that was enough of that for today. Jarrah is a very determined child, and no amount of begging, bribing and threatening will change her mind about something once it's made up. She locked her fist around the nurse's wrist (the one holding the instrument) in case she got any funny ideas. And when the nurse went to get the doctor, Jarrah grabbed my hands and clamped them over her ears, resisting with surprising strength when I tried to free them. I didn't really like that the nurse said "But you're four now. You should be a big girl." She's not THAT big. I mean, really.

While we waited (having now thrown off everybody's schedule) I had a long talk with Jarrah about reality and options. I explained that sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do for the greater good. "But Mommy," she wailed. "I don't WANT to do things I don't want to do." Was anyone ever more frank and reasonable? She also said, "I don't like how there are surprises at the doctor." You and me both, sister. You and me both.

Ultimately, our wonderful doc handled the situation without further trauma. She looked in the ears, determined there was indeed a lot of wax, and suggested we do the kindergarten ear test instead, the one where you wear one blue and one red giant, rubbery-smelling headphone, and sit in a booth listening to little noises that sound like "Eeeeeeeeeeee!" but super-quiet. Anyway, that was not happening. Jarrah was delighted, and totally cooperative, but she just didn't get the logistics behind raising the hand for the ear that heard the tone and all that. We were out of options when I said--still amazingly calm--"Can we try the sonar thing one more time?" Once again, we went through the pageant of earpiece colors (I should mention that this whole experience was set to crescendos of lusty screaming, as a large crowd of shot kids had come through, and that was certainly relaxing for us all), but after about four times, it finally worked, and the ear passed! I've never been so proud of an ear in my entire life. Way to go, ear! You put your nose to the grindstone and accomplished your goal! Wait...ear with nose...something is getting a little Cubist here.

And that was that, Readers. Another year, another visit. Hopefully, we can avoid broken bones before the next one.

I also wanted to let you know that we've had an explosion of imaginary friends at our place these days. It's no wonder Jarrah brings home drawings crowded with dozens of amoeba-like figures with the title "My Family." In addition to Maine and Crick, who are apparently with us permanently now, we have a "baby" named Braden ("he's a girl") and--my absolute favorite of Jarrah's names to date--we have Star Wars and Away. That should read: "Starwarsandaway."

Many's the delightful family outing we've been having, me, David, Jarrah, Maine, Crick, Braden and StarWarsAndAway. Luckily, all their car seats fit in my Maxima, and they are willing to share chairs with Jarrah at restaurants. She also shares her meals with them, very generously, too. When we ask Jarrah how StarWarsAndAway got her name, she looks at us doubtfully, almost pityingly, and says something like "It's just her name."

Of course it is. What is my problem?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Gender and Species Issues

Today at the library I picked up a DVD of The Aristocats for Jarrah, as I remembered loving it when I was a kid and she's exhausted most of the Pixar and Elmo options already. I put it on when we got home from school and went about my business. I was drinking my coffee and perusing Faulkner/catching up on US Weekly when I heard:

Jarrah: Mom? The dog is nice, right?

Sam: Mmmmm. Very nice. What dog?

Jarrah: The orange one. He's a dog, right?

Sam: No, he's an O'Malley cat. I mean, an alley cat.

Jarrah: But he's a dog.

Sam: No, he's a cat.

Jarrah: (pause) And he could be the dad, right?

Sam: Erm, right. He could be the dad.

Jarrah: Because he's a boy.

Sam: Yes, he's a boy.

Jarrah: So he could turn out to be the dad. Because dads are boys, right?

Sam: Um, yeah. Dads are generally boys.

Jarrah: But why isn't he a dog?

Sam: I don't know, sweetie. Because he's a cat.