Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Concrete and The Clay

I am dementedly tired. I don't get any sleep lately unless I am Benadryl'd into oblivion, and I prefer not to. For three weeks now, my sinuses have behaved like they're rented. I have an appointment with a fancy-shmancy ENT next week, but she is "out of network." Does this mean I'm going to have to pay a million dollars for her to look up my nose with a flashlight? This was the conversation I had with her receptionist yesterday:

Her: So, what's the problem?

Me: My nose is stuffed. I can't breathe. Day or night.

Her: have sinusitis?

Me: (pause) My nose is stuffed.

Her: suffer from allergies?

Me: (longer pause) Um, my nose is stuffed?

Me: (if I weren't so polite): Um, I'm sorry. You seem to be under some misapprension that I, too, am an ENT. If I were, I'm not sure I would be calling your boss, especially since she's out of network. I think I would just diagnose myself, and write a nice little prescription for some particularly lovely drugs, and call it a day. However, I am not an ENT, nor a medical professional of any kind. Ergo, I am calling you for an appointment, so I can get an opinion that ACTUALLY MEANS SOMETHING.

Today is my eighth wedding anniversary. By some thundering coincidence, it's also David's. Isn't that cool? I can't believe I've been married EIGHT YEARS. Especially since we've been together almost ELEVEN. Before this, neither of us had been with anyone longer than a year. So we must be doing something right. We're going out to a new French restaurant (it must be some kind of California-style French, because the menu looked good rather than scary to me) and I will be wearing the flower earrings my thoughtful husband gave me at breakfast this morning. Ain't he sweet? But he's taken.

In honor of our anniversary, I took myself out for a massage this morning (you're probably thinking, "Gosh, that girl has massage every day of the week. What a life!" but it's actually been a month--I'm on a plan.) I had managed to snag an appointment with Amanda, who's my favorite, and it was pretty great. And because I'm feeling magnanimous today, I didn't even get ruffled when she finished by whispering in my ear:

"All set, Stephanie. How are you feeling?"

Well, I was feeling fine, thank you very much. I'm not sure how Stephanie was feeling at the moment. (Steph? How were you at about 12:30 today?) Normally, I really get my hackles up when someone calls me the wrong name. I'm not saying that I'm right to get my hackles up, just that I do--it's probably some deep-seated insecurity rising up from the roiling sea of my soul--but today I was feeling pretty darn good and decided to see the situation from a fresh angle. She caught herself right away.

"I mean, Samantha. Where did that come from?"

I laughed. "Actually, I get that all the time." (It's true!)

"You do? I wonder why."

"You know, long name...lots of syllables..starts with an S." I positively giggled with delight over my equanimity. I was ready to tell her that, as a child, a lot of people called me Amanda (it's true!) because I was horribly, painfully shy (it's true!) and when anyone asked my name I mumbled it straight into my shirt. I guess it came out like "Amanda" because the large person would inevitably give my shoulder a hearty smack and boom, "Well, Amanda, that's a lovely name!"

And it was. It is. Just not mine. At which point I would be horrified into a state of rigor mortis and wouldn't even correct them. So I was Amanda for much of my childhood. Believe it or not, there were NO Samanthas then. None. I know you're thinking, "That Sam--always with the exaggerating." Not this time. I met my first Samantha peer at 25.

So, here are some questions for you today, Readers. Do you have an anniversary, of whatever kind, coming up, and how will you celebrate?

And do people ever get your name wrong?

P.S. Bonus points if you know why this post has the title it does.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Boobs and Blogging

I am tickled by how 21st century I am. I'm sitting here blogging on my new Netbook, in a Starbucks, wretched iced coffee at my elbow, after what felt like hacking into the government mainframe in order to access their Wi-Fi. My Kindle is by my side, as I'm tempted to download today's New York Times for the post-mortem on American Idol, which I didn't even watch this season. (But Adam, I'm feelin' you.) Occasionally, a Facebook update pops up in the corner of my screen.

Yup, it's official. I'm a total cliche. Sitting at a tiny table, framed by some gauzy beige curtains held back by polished wood rings (no doubt hand-carved in a developing nation) under the glow of a speckled yellow glass lamp, looking like the just-hatched egg of some rare, exotic bird. Outside the window, iceberg rose bushes wave in the breeze. Also some red ones, but I don't know what they're called. Just behind the roses, cars dart past, and behind them, a giant sign for the Sprint store. Grateful Dead coming through the speakers--"Box of Rain," really? In Starbucks? Is nothing sacred?

It was an irksome morning. Well, the first part was cute--it was "Pajama Day" for Jarrah's class, and she's been talking about wearing her (too small) Tinkerbell jammies for days now, and how I shouldn't make her eat breakfast because they were going to have "pancakes with syrup." Far be it from me to force my child into a healthy start for her day. She also made me tack a reminder note to the front door, which I was about to object to on the grounds of overkill when I remembered just how many things I've forgotten about completely--and that's just this week.

Then I headed to the outpatient hospital for my annual mammogram. This event combined many elements that I dislike into one delightful package--jammed parking garages (I'm totally claustrophobic), sickness and despair, huge signs with the word "CANCER" in block letters, waiting, paperwork, and total strangers grabbing my boobs.

I don't normally discuss my body parts in this blog--I'm just shy and retiring that way--but I figure a lot of my readers have probably endured this surprisingly low-tech ritual, or at any rate, will soon. I've only done it once before, and while it was uncomfortable, at least it was quick. Today, I had the distinct impression that this was a little like a porn shoot. Someone had a camera jammed up way too close to my intimate bits, and kept giving instructions like "drop your robe" and "relax and turn your head but lean towards me." Not to mention the little stickies they slap on the, em, headlights that--good lord--have Hello Kitty on them?

I'm not sure what it says about me that, the gentler they are with my delicate flesh, the less I am able to restrain my gag reflex as the minutes crawl by. Last year, the gal was cheery and rough, slamming each boob shut in the machine and pushing me out the door in under a minute. Today, there was altogether too much manipulation, and I stood there swallowing and hoping I didn't retch all over her. This happens during my annual, too, when my doc--a sweet man, but I guess I don't care for sweet--feels me up under the Holly Hobbie cape as gingerly as a 15-year-old boy on a movie date (not that I'm speaking from experience, you understand.)

At least the preamble was quick. I had maybe one minute of gripping my striped robe in the hallway (why even offer the robe? If I wasn't clutching it closed, it wouldn't perform any robely function whatsoever) before Our Lady of Perpetual Pokes and Prodding beckoned me into the icy room. Afterward, I needed a big hug and a slice of seven-layer devil's food cake, but neither was forthcoming. Harumph. I guess it would be enough to get that little piece of paper in the mail with the two little words I crave: "Results Normal."

Time to go pick up Jarrah. Hope the guy studying for finals at the next table didn't see me typing the word "boobs." Just the blogosphere. Let's keep this between ourselves.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Odds n' Ends

I'm in a mood to post, but have no particular topic burning in my brain. But has that ever stopped me before? Say it with me: Naaaaah.

All The World's A Stage

I'm feeling better about the whole thing. That has a lot to do with our amazing director, who is very young but totally on the ball. She has a little schedule printed up each week, with our activities in 15-minute increments. Peeking over at this makes me feel all warm inside--a girl after my own heart. And we're playing really fun games. This week, we had to go up on stage alone and tell an off-the-cuff story from childhood involving a location. I totally got off on that, though I'm not going to tell you what I chose in case my mom is reading this. ;) And we're really workin' that script. One of my lines is "Great idea!" We tried it about five different ways. I tell you, if there is humor to be had from this thing, she is going to wring it out like a kitchen sponge.

"It's Really Up To The Wife."

On Saturday, David found out that his car is not long for this world. Which is not a huge surprise, since it's 11 years old and has 200,000 miles on it. But (can you relate?) it's not good timing. We headed over to Carmax, where we'd never been, and heard a lot about Hyundais from our helpful guide, Tony. David test-drove one while Jarrah and I hung out in the playroom (and I marveled that I should have a need for a playroom at a car showroom) but I could tell he was feeling it was Not His Father's Hyundai (by which I mean, it was.) He really wants a Prius, but has been crushed to learn that it's really not appropriate for all-freeway driving. Basically, we're looking for something cheap, safe and minimally polluting, so if you have any suggestions, let's hear 'em.

Live Long and Prosper

David and I saw Star Trek Sunday night. I was, surprisingly, sort of looking forward to it, even though the last Star Trek movie I saw was about humpback whales in space. I can't say it was the best action movie EVER--there was already too much hype for that; same thing happened when I finally saw Ghostbusters--but I enjoyed it. Especially Zachary Quinto as Spock. He was sort of mesmerizing. Then there was an earthquake in the middle. I felt my chair rumbling and thought "Wow, this is so realistic." Then it didn't stop, and I kind of freaked and thought we should go right home to check on Jarrah. David said it wasn't very big, though. Considering he comes from a land that is not riddled with faultlines, he's very blase about our unstable earth.

Can I Have Them Removed?

I mean, do I really need sinuses? What are they good for? I haven't been able to breathe in several days now. I want another one of those magic shots. I tried some Claritin, finally (only a half pill) and it did sort of work, but my heart raced like I was about to bungee jump over a waterfall in New Zealand. That did not seem good. What should I do?

"I Don't Want A Snack."

That's what Jarrah said when I picked her up Monday afternoon, and how I knew something must be horribly awry. She then proceeded to put herself down for a three-hour nap. Obviously, I kept her home from school on Tuesday. Somehow we have started a tradition of "mommy and me movie morning" when she is not feeling well. This time, we went to see Hannah Montana: The Movie. Neither of us was previously acquainted with Miss Montana. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't love it up. I'd also be lying if I said I didn't get all emotional when Miley comes to her best friend's Sweet 16 as Hannah, and Jarrah said "Wha' happened? Why she sad?" and I whispered (through the lump in my throat!) "She's sad because her friend showed up at her party as a rock star, and Lily wanted to be the only rock star on her birthday." Jarrah loved the movie, too, and afterwards kept exclaiming "She's Hannah and Miley--both!" I told her to keep her voice down and not spoil the secret for everyone else. (Just kidding.)

In hindsight, perhaps it was unwise to move directly from the movie--accompanied by a bag o' candy and an electric blue slushie for my little friend--to the carousel (Jarrah has always called it the "care-of-self") and let Jarrah talk me into "the swirly-whirly" tea cup. That way, we were whipping around in a little circle while already traveling in a circle, and it definitely messed me up. Jarrah was fine until right after, when she moaned "My tummy hurts" and we made it to the bathroom just in time. Oops. That was the end of that outing. After her three-hour nap, though, she was right as rain, and ready to go back to school today.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Day Four: Homeland

David has informed me there isn't a single photo for this day. But the blog must go on.

Sunday did not begin auspiciously. Jarrah was cranky and looked like she had the measles from all her bites. I felt terrible and put her in a warm bath as soon as I could persuade her to leave the bed, which took a while. David went to the store for supplies. On his way out, he said "Anything else you need?" and I said something vague and snappish while thinking "Yeah. How about breakfast in bed, a homemade card and some diamonds?" Instead, I was passive-aggressive about not feeling special on Mother's Day, and I wept a bit over Facebook after he left, listening to Jarrah splashing listlessly around the corner.

He did return with a white rose for me, and a can of General Foods International Coffee. Those of you who know me well, know that this was a loving gesture at least. And then we went down to the lobby for Mother's Day Brunch, though the Mother's Day part was just a coincidence--it was more like "Day After" brunch. (Day after the wedding, that is.)

There were indeed a lot of mothers there, and we all wished each other a good day while piling our plates with made-to-order omelettes, pie (inexplicably, the only carb available--no toast, bagels, muffins or savory breads) and I grabbed a mimosa (or two) for good measure. It was fun gossiping about the previous night's festivities, and Jarrah was immensely cheered by seeing her cousins--both new and old.

All too soon, it was time to say goodbye, and everyone started trickling away. For a long time, we couldn't find Jarrah at all, and panicked a bit, but then it turned out she was in Kay and Matt's room, hanging with their kids. That's how casual we'd all become after two days.

I was sort of dreading the drive in our tired and bedraggled state, but it really was just fine. Of course, we'd gone only a few exits before Jarrah started in with "Is this San Diego yet?" but she never got ornery about it. Well, there was one full-blown, crazy-head tantrum at our first fuel stop in Buellton, when I took her to the McDonalds bathroom while David got the "petrol," as he calls it. I asked her to "try" in the bathroom, and for some reason this was a button-pusher and resulted in her screaming and flailing and flinging water from her sink onto the lady at the next one. David--as it happened--was standing outside the girls room, stricken by all the caterwauling, not sure what to do. In retrospect, it's sort of funny that we went in all nonchalant and by the time he showed up, it was like bunnies were being killed in there. And who knows why? (I know those of you with children under five are nodding.) Within a few minutes, her first McD's fries made it all better.

We (well, I, actually) drove straight through to Ventura, and then exited at what I thought was the Harbor, so we could ride the carousel I'd read about and get some lunch. We did find the water, but no carousel (turned out it was the wrong exit) but no matter--it was also suddenly a frozen tundra down there, wind whipping through our brains, and Jarrah wanted nothing more than to get back in the car. We did get some burgers at a place called "The Habit," which looked scary but was scary delicious instead. That perked everyone up (well, David and I, anyway--Jarrah was on a hunger strike for the rest of the day.)

Back on the road, a bunch of traffic in LA, accompanied by my copious weeping as we listened to the podcast of a recent "This American Life," with a heart-wrenching account from a man losing his mother to cancer. I was definitely in a crying mood, so it felt good to indulge.

At this point, we realized we were making awesome time, so I suggested we stop to stretch our legs at the Irvine Spectrum in south Orange County, and Jarrah was convinced when she saw the giant Ferris wheel from the road. Though a mall, the Spectrum also has a carousel and a choo-choo, and Jarrah was not pleased that we told her "one only." I usually love Ferris wheels, but this one was glacially slow, and I ended up wishing I'd brought a book.

After, we got some fro-yo in the courtyard, and Jarrah cried because we'd gotten her cake batter with gummy bears when she actually wanted my plain vanilla cone (guess what happened then?) The sun was going down and the day was very pretty, and we were glad we wouldn't be getting home too late. Jarrah fell asleep on that last leg, and David did, too. I drove along in the dark, listening to music, feeling peaceful, but also wondering how the weekend had gone so fast, and plotting for our next vacation.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Rest Is Done With Mirrors

So, this morning I glanced over at David (we sit side by side in our office) and this time when I remarked "That chair is ridiculously small for you," I did it out loud. And then I said we should get another one on Craigslist. Then I did something even more uncharacteristic--I followed through. I looked up "office chair" and studied the results. There were a lot. On the second page, there was a chair for only $20 that looked suitably capacious for my rangy man. Even better, there was a little note: "This chair lives in a pet and smoke-free home." Well, it wouldn't have occurred to me to ask, but that seemed like two for the plus column. (Note: I am not anti-pet. I love pets. But we don't currently have any, so bringing hair-covered furniture into our home seems like putting the cart before the cat, or something like that.)

So I e-mailed. I am not that familiar with Craigslist. It always seems a bizarre combination of intimate and distant. On the one hand, we are all people, and these transactions involve a visit to one of our homes. On the other hand, we're talking about a used office chair here, the kind someone might leave by the curb (only very nice.) My note said "Hi. Is the chair still available? Thanks, Sam."

In a few minutes, I got: "Yes, it is." A few minutes after that, a follow-up: "Here's our number." I started having my doubts now, mostly because I didn't want to make that call. Believe it or not, I am extremely shy around strangers. I didn't want to talk to one on the phone, especially about furniture. But I got over myself.

She (Michelle) sounded pleasant but not overly-friendly. Which is totally fine. I asked if we could come by soon, and she said they were going out--but after 3:00 would work. I told her we were going out, too, and I'd bring their number.

We went to a Chinese Cultural Fair (Jarrah consumed her weight in sugar, kick-ass tai kwon do demonstration that involved exploding vegetables) and then to Carmax (David's clutch has given up the ghost) and then made David call them. While he was getting their address, I turned the car around and we fired up the GPS. Turned out we were only 2 miles away.

Their house was the cutest one on the block. Tiny, but with impeccable shrubbery, including some well-tended lavender. I liked these people already. "This is a be-YOO-ti-ful house," said Jarrah. We knocked.

Michelle opened the door. She was naturally glamorous, with lots of curly hair and teeny-tiny hips. She had wedged the office chair right into the doorway, which was slightly awkward, yet seemed appropriate for what we had come to do. However, Jarrah was already trying to squeeze past her ("Hey Mom, we're here now--I'm gonna go explore"), and suddenly, a sweet little voice came down the hall--"Is that my friend? Come in!" I peered around the doorway, and the most adorable little girl was coming to greet us. "Come to my room!" she shouted when she saw Jarrah.

Jarrah needed no second invitation. Her shoes were off (this was funny, since we have a 'no shoe' policy at our house, Jarrah is used to taking them off--but these folks had a "please remove your shoes" sign on their door!) and she scrammed to the back of the house before we could say a word. Now we had some awkward.

"Um, Jarrah?" I called. "We're not here to play. Just to get the chair." Both girls came back out. "Please?" said Isabelle (for that was her name.) "Just for a while?" Jarrah nodded eagerly. "Um, if it's okay with your mom," I said to Isabelle. We all laughed a little nervously, and David and I went out to put the chair in the car.

When we returned, Jarrah and Isabelle had a veritable city of My Little Pony in her lovely room, with what looked like castles and about a hundred figurines. They'd arranged them in a perfect ring around themselves, like they were pioneers circling the wagons. Turns out they are only a month apart in age.

There was something so natural about their play, like they'd known each other in another life. I was charmed by little Isabelle, so welcoming to her new friend, and also delighted that Jarrah was exactly the child to find nothing the least bit odd about busting down a stranger's door to go play ponies in the back room. The girls were temperamently suited to a T. They chattered to the ponies and each other like they'd done it yesterday, and had been doing it for years. It was really kinda beautiful.

And it made me feel this weird kinship with her parents. Michelle's husband, Michael, came out to say hello, and it felt like the most unnatural thing in the world to say to Jarrah, "I guess we better go now. The chair's in the car." The girls didn't fret, but Isabelle followed us out and called from the doorway, "Love you! See you at our next playdate!" which made me want to cry. I suddenly felt that the world is just too big, and that people are not allowed to meet strangers and become friends unless they have a really, really good reason. And knocking on one's door to buy a chair is just not enough. The gap is too wide to bridge. I left, but I did so reluctantly.

And then something just short of miraculous happened. We went on with our afternoon--brought the chair home, puttered around the house, made plans to go to dinner--and went back out. We parked by Costco because we thought we'd stop in there after we ate, and walked by the front door (noticing it was closing) as we headed to the restaurant. And coming out of Costco? Michael. Isabelle's dad.

We live in one of the biggest cities in the country. He recognized us first, and seemed struck as much or more than I was, seconds later. "Maybe...maybe we should have that playdate." he said. "Do you have my wife's number?" "Here," I said. "My card. We were obviously fated to meet." Everyone laughed. Jarrah was the only one who didn't find it the least bit odd. She probably figured she'll see him tomorrow, too, and she can tell him all about what she had for dinner, while she and Isabelle put those ponies in perfect formation.

Day Three: Castles in the Sky

In retrospect, we jammed a bit too much into Saturday, but it all worked out fine. We'd booked a tour at Hearst Castle in San Simeon (about a 45-minute drive, really lovely) for 11:10, and by coincidence, my brother and his family had done the same. I was looking forward to the castle, last seen when I was seven years old (and D and J never) but also to spending the day with my family, a rare occasion since they live in the Bay Area.

We had another quick breakfast in the coffee shop with my parents--it was really nice to start each morning like this--and then rushed to the car. We made it to the visitor center with only minutes to spare, which is a bit of a bummer because apparently there is a movie and also some hands-on exhibits, all of which Jarrah might have appreciated more than the actual tour.

It was fun to bond with my niece Stella about Facebook--at 13, she's brave for Friending her old aunt--and to realize that she's getting to an age when we can really talk about stuff. We all enjoyed the bus ride that wended its way to the top of the mountain, and searched for buffalo and zebras like we were told, but didn't see any, alas.

We took the "Experience" tour, which is the introduction to the castle, including the two really impressive swimming pools and a guest house, in addition to some rooms on the ground floor of the main house. Jarrah was instantly bored of the tour guide's coy, saucy yet canned sermon (and David was disgusted by it; I found it rather sweet) but luckily she had the best diversion possible--my brother. I was able to focus on the details, and I did enjoy hearing about an average day for guests at the estate, but the rooms seemed kind of bizarrely ornate, like Hearst wanted to live in a 15th century devotional fresco. Seemed all wrong for California, somehow. Not that I would have turned down an invitation!

Afterwards, we drove a few miles back up the 101 to the town of Cambria, which is very cute and sleepy, and after a bit of disagreement (mostly involving the tastes of the youngsters) we settled on a place called Robin's that ended up being totally delicious. Unfortunately, it was becoming apparent that Jarrah was not quite herself--she kept sneezing and coughing, and had no appetite. She was still her feisty, busy self, so I knew it couldn't be too bad, but the sad little coughs were worrying.

We hightailed it back to Atascadero with just enough time for everyone to bathe and primp before the wedding--I was supposed to be there early to rehearse with Therese (which never really happened.) It turned out we needn't have rushed--members of both clans were ridiculously late and the ceremony started 45 minutes later than planned. The drive up to the Ascunscion Inn was very windy and beautiful--we later heard that various people were frightened by the tiny road, and terrified to retrace their course at night with no light, but I was never scared because it's not like there were cliffs or anything, and there was a glorious full moon. At the top, we parked in a field of waving grasses, and made our way up to the three-bedroom inn. I was surprised to find Lindsey and Thomas getting ready together, in their gorgeous room, with my mom and a friend helping, but I guess they were determined to be pretty casual about the whole thing.

Me, I was getting a bit nervous, but not so much that I turned down the most luscious strawberries, dipped in sour cream and brown sugar, that I've ever had the pleasure to encounter. I thought it was a nice touch that the caterers put out snacks and pitchers of sweet tea--something about waiting for weddings to start always makes me hungry.

The guests all crammed together in a little patio, standing, and then we were starting--Jarrah came down the aisle, holding hands with Pele's son Aegean, brandishing her yellow bouquet, and I think she was a bit non-plussed to find herself done so soon. Therese and I did our thing--talks on what marriage means to us, readings, walking them through the vows and rings, an Irish blessing, and a short discourse on the meaning of smashing the glass. I got a little verklempt when I saw that Lindsey teared up during my reading, but I plowed ahead, and I guess they liked it because a bunch of Thomas's family asked me for copies afterward. The funniest part was that Jarrah kept coming up to me while I was standing there solemnly waiting for my next cue (there were harp and song interludes, family, of course) and hissing "Mommmmy! There's a roly-poly on the sidewalk! A rooolllly-poooollly!" I tried not to giggle, but it was just too fabulous an example of how we all have our priorities. David said I had my "Obama moment" when I totally messed up the vows, which I was supposed to recite so my sister could repeat. Everyone laughed. "At least the Constitution didn't require a do-over," I told him.

Then there were appetizers (the mushroom streudels were to die for) and drinks and a scrumptious dinner; many of us sat outside, but our trio had foolishly come without any jackets (that whole 90 during the day, 50 at night thing was throwing us off) so we didn't stay outside long. Jarrah was seeming miserable by this point, coughing, nose running, hot. Soon enough, she asked to go home. I told David we were going to have to, even though it meant missing my sister's wedding...bad timing, but what could we do? Then a small miracle happened. Jarrah fell asleep on the couch. Something you should know about this kid is that she does NOT, simply does NOT, fall asleep when stuff is happening. It could be 2 a.m. and she'd be woo-hooing with the best of them if there was action to be had. We've seen it before. But I guess she really was under the weather, because she passed out. And once she's out, there's no waking her. None. She curled on the couch under an afghan and snoozed solidly through all the yelling and laughing and raucous toasts (so many of which, I held my breath during the ones that veered dangerously toward inappropriate territory, but they got back on track.) And we didn't have too much guilt because she just would have been sleeping back at the hotel, right?

One sad thing happened, though--mosquitoes had her for dinner. The side that was exposed (not a moving target, like the rest of us) was so thoroughly feasted on that she looked like she had an extra forehead the next day, and one eye was swollen shut from being bitten in both corners and on the lid. Poor little bubelah. She was so itchy. Luckily, she's such a fast healer that she already seems better, and the same--miraculously--was true for whatever ailed her that night. By the next morning, the fever was down, she'd stopped coughing, and her energy had returned. Who knows what the heck was going on there?

Things were winding down by 10:30 or so, and though I was a bit bummed there was no dancing, we did have a lot of fun shmoozing and the atmosphere was very warm and loving. I'm happy for my sister that she's gaining such a sweet (and ginormous) family.

On the way home, a beautiful deer walked in front of our car, illuminated in the moonlight.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Try To Make Each Precious Day/ One You'll Always Rue

David left for L.A. early this morning, so it was on me to get Jarrah up, fed, dressed and to school on time. I know, you're all wah wah wah, some people do it for like 18 kids and don't complain. But it's hard!

Usually, Jarrah is standing over our bed at 7:45 when her nightlight snaps off (having been awake for nearly an hour) but today I was padding around after 8:00 and there still hadn't been a peep. I poked my head in there and sang: "Wake up, Little Snoozy! Wake up, Little Snoozy!" and then trailed off because I don't know any more of the words, but the effect was immediate and teenage-like. She pulled the covers over her head, groaned, and turned her back to me. I opened the blinds. She groaned again and said "I'm sleeping!"

"Time for school!" I trilled, with an enthusiasm I wasn't really feeling, and eventually she did get up and somehow we weren't too late. As we were driving, Jarrah welled up with the memory of her truncated dreams.

Jarrah: Mommy? Why did you wake me up?

Sam: Why do you think I woke you up?

Jarrah: I don't know. I don't feel like guessing.

Sam: Okay. I woke you up because it was time to get ready for school.

Jarrah: (wincing from the painful memory) But when you wake me up...I really don't like it.

Sam: Yeah, welcome to my world.

Jarrah: What?


Recently, we've been having a wave of people to the door who want to sell us candy. I'm never clear on what is happening there because I must confess I shout "No, thank you!" and slam the door as soon as I see the tell-tale box. Yeah, I'm a terrible person. Submit the forms in triplicate, please.

Anyway, Jarrah gets very excited whenever our doorbell rings, and can't seem to remember my exhortations never to open the door without me (especially when she's naked) and goes barreling over there to greet our visitors. On the first occasion with the candy dude, though, I got there first, and the door was closed again before she could make out what was going on.

Jarrah: Who was it?

Sam: (absently) Oh, nobody. Some guy who wanted to sell us giant chocolate bars.

Her eyes flew open wide, and I realized that potentially I had just said the very thing to convince her I needed to be carted off to a nice, quiet place to "rest" under supervision. But then I realized her expression was much more like:

Mommy just told me that someone came to our door to give us giant chocolate bars. Not just chocolate bars, but GIANT ones. And she said no. She said NO. Which can only mean one thing. The chocolate bars are poisonous. Or they are bombs. One or the other. Because Mommy could not possibly be that freakishly crazy. Could she? No, I won't even think it. No one is crazy enough to shut the door on giant chocolate bars. So back to the theory that she was protecting us from poison and bombs. Yeah, that's it. Phew! She sure is brave.

The next day, we were driving somewhere, and she wanted to revisit this fraught situation.

Jarrah: Mommy? Why someone want to give us giant chocolate bars? (Note: We have since discussed this incident about 500 times, and she never omits the word "giant.")

Sam: They're trying to make money.

Jarrah: But why they want to give us giant chocolate bars?

Sam: They don't. They want to sell them.

Jarrah: But we said NOOOO! Why we say no?

Sam: Because we don't want those in the house.

Jarrah: (pause. shudder.) Noooooo. We don't want those in the house.

(Since they are poison and could blow the house up.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Day Two: Meet The Family

The first night in a hotel is always a restless sleep, and I was none too amused when Jarrah appeared bedside to stage-whisper "Mommmmmy! It's light outsiiiiide!" just after 6:30. Ugh.

I did enjoy wearing my hotel robe and checking e-mail on my new netbook (gift from David) and even drinking the hotel coffee mixed with white powder. There's something about that ritual that just says vacation to me.

Soon enough, we were down in the hotel coffee shop, where we met the first wave of Thomas's family--Kay, Matt and their two kids, and Mark and and Museng from Switzerland. Actually, Kay was sitting with John, another of the siblings, and at first I thought those two were married yet suspiciously similar in appearance.

I happened to mention that Jarrah was supposed to go "somewhere" while we were wine-tasting, and before I knew it John was handing me the phone and saying "it's the Ranch." "Hello?"

I said uncertainly, and it was Pele, who is just the sweetest person ever. She's married to Dominic, yet another brother, and she said "Yeah, bring her by! She can hang with the rest of the kids. Don't forget a bathing suit."

It all seemed a bit vague, but soon we were wending our way up a tiny road into green hills rippling with lupines and poppies, where curious cows peered at us from inches away.

I don't know how the family found that ranch, but it was just beautiful, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by verdant splendor and a giant wood deck to admire it from.

There were a number of children already there, and as soon as Jarrah met them, she was all "Don't you people have wine-tasting to do?" We can take a hint, so after meeting and greeting, we headed back to the hotel to catch the van Thomas and Lindsey had arranged for the day.

At our first stop, Zenaida, Thomas produced an incredible lunch spread, including sandwiches, fruit, brie, salad and lemon bars, which we enjoyed at long tables in their garden.

At this point, I was a bit overwhelmed by all the people, and had already confused a few of them...for instance, how did that long-haired guy who sat with us at breakfast manage to open the gate for us as the Ranch? Did he teleport? No, turns out Mark and Dominic just have similar hair.

And they were all as nice and welcoming as could be. I felt like I was the one joining the family. I got an especially warm reception from Margaret and Paul, who asked me lots of questions (maybe hoping for dish that Lindsey had withheld?)

At one point, I was riding shotgun in a different van with about five of Thomas's siblings and spouses (none of whom included my sister or my own husband) and we were singing, and Margaret mentioned that they used to do a lot of harmonizing on family trips. I burst out "Why wasn't I in your family?" and Paul squeezed my arm and said, "You are now!"

We visited a few wineries, but I was totally done drinking after the first one (all that sipping and furrowing my brow to announce "Hmmm! A hint of cherry!" just exhausts me) so I mostly just hung out. It was like a million degrees in the shade and I could tell I was a bit dehydrated. Still, it was lovely to have a kid-free afternoon (free of charge!) and meet a lot of interesting people who were very interested in meeting me, too.

Eventually, we ended up at a tasting room in Paso Robles (a very cute little town) and Margaret and I sat on a bench outside and dished for over an hour about all and sundry. Occasionally, other members of our party would stagger by, heading for the shops or the "saloon" across the street, and it was all very jolly and social. I had a vague concern that someone might be trying to reach us about Jarrah, but my cell phone kept telling me otherwise.

We got back to the hotel about five, with enough time for a little rest before Jarrah showed up, squeaky clean and smiling, with Pele and Pele's daughter, Solara. I thanked them profusely, and then Jarrah regaled us with tales of swimming in "the hot pool" and all the fun she'd had at the Ranch and we dressed for the rehearsal dinner.

Which, handily, was right down in the lobby, at the hotel restaurant. There was a reserved room for us, and a great buffet, and everyone spent the evening noshing and circulating to their heart's content. Jarrah showed off her "high heels," ran amok with her new cousins, and got thrown around by my brother Karl and any other person she met,

including my co-celebrant, Thomas's oldest sister Therese, who had just arrived--bearing books and gifts for all the children like a May Santa. Jarrah had The Paper Bag Princess memorized by the next day, so smitten was she with the idea that you can call a prince "a bum."

Having not slept the night before, we were all pretty wiped out by 10:00, and headed back to the room, where Jarrah was much more willing to get settled than she had been the night before.