The Play Date

A couple of weeks ago, P had her very first play date. Before you pass horrid judgement at the fact that she was almost three before this milestone took place, please let me explain myself.

P was born in the lovely (and expensive) city of San Francisco, and since we knew we wouldn’t be living there permanently, I didn’t bother joining any mommy groups. So I completely missed out on the whole mommy-group camaraderie, as well as the possibility of having women around with kids P’s age.

We ended up moving twice in P’s first three years, so there wasn’t really any time to settle down and find friends with similarly-aged kids. And it turns out that none of my friends who live within a thirty-minute driving radius have kids around P’s age. So that wasn’t an option either.

I was excited when P started preschool, thinking that I’d soon meet other kids’ parents and we would start the whole mysterious cycle of play dates. But meeting said parents turns out to be rather difficult when you all have different drop-off and pick-up times.

So I just figured I’d wait it out until P started going to slumber parties sometime in high school.

One day at school, though, I had a fabulous surprise waiting for me: the mom of P’s BFF had left a note with her email and phone number, asking if we were around during winter break, and if we’d be interested in setting up a play date between P and S.

Interested? I was practically doing a happy dance. I think I was way more excited than P was, because honestly I don’t know that she knew what a play date even was.

After a few backs and forths on email, we decided on a Bat time and a Bat place, and I was to bring drinks (which, in my excitement turned out to be way too many for a two-hour play date). The girls played happily with one another until around lunch time, at which point P got completely cranky and needed some space. Apparently, that’s normal at toddler play dates. So much to learn.

S’s mama and I chatted happily, complained a bit about our preschool, drank yummy tea, and had a lovely snack. And I finally figured out that the play date was as much for our sake as it was for the girls’. So, so much to learn.

The Princess and the P

I know it’s a bit too late for a post-Halloween post (all the on-the-ball mamas probably did it by midnight of the 31st), but I’m definitely of the better-late-than-never mindset.

This year, P, along with every other girl in her preschool wanted to be a princess. OK, I take that back, I remember seeing a mermaid. And a Princess Leia (Disney’s newest princess?). When I saw the gaggle of children at the Halloween “parade,” aka children wildly running to their parents in excitement as teachers tried to make them walk in a line, my first thought was: why don’t any of the boys want to be prince charming? They were probably having too much fun being firefighters,  Humpty, and Dumpty to worry about rescuing all the girl preschoolers from the clutches of evil stepmothers.

I’ve already chronicled my own issues with Halloween elsewhere, so I’m generally pretty determined that P will have a different Halloween experience. So, donning her Cinderella dress and tiara, she ran around with the other kids, and ate her treats.

I’ll be honest: I had tried my best to have her pick another costume. Super Girl? Doctor? Anything else? The idea that someone of my flesh and blood could be so princess-centric is completely foreign. No one who knows me, even remotely, could ever ever in a million years call me a girly-girl.

Not being a girly-girl is practically unheard of in Iranian culture. Almost every Iranian woman (and I only say almost because I’m thinking of my sister as the other lone exception) wears gobs of makeup, is always immaculately put-together, wouldn’t dare sunbathe in order to keep a clear complexion, is always wearing incredibly trendy clothing, and more likely than not, has had some sort of surgical enhancement, and looks YEARS younger than her husband, even though they are probably the same age. I realize that I’m making incredibly huge generalizations, but I know a lot of Iranian women who fit this bill.

My lack of girly-girl-ness, however, came as a result of growing up in Iran. We moved from Iran when I was nine, and from the time I started school when I was six, I had to wear headgear to cover my hair. My solution, completely endorsed by my parents, who thought having to cover my hair at such a young age was completely ridiculous, was to cut my hair really short and pretend I was a boy outside of school. Minutes after the school bell would ring, I would run out of the building, tear off my headscarf, and sprint home. Ahhh what a heady feeling of freedom.

I got to be so good at pretending I was a boy that a second cousin, who was in the military, was able to sneak me into the military stables and have me hang around with the horses. The obsession with horses, a staple of all girl childhoods, was definitely not lost on me.

Once we got to the U.S., I tried to shed the tomboy tendencies, but it was difficult. I distinctly remember holding the door for an elderly couple at a restaurant, and being thanked in this way, “Thanks, son.” My English was still rocky, but I was shocked at not being recognized as a girl.

So I figured the next step to becoming a “real girl” was acquiring a Barbie. So I shamelessly begged for one. The only one I was allowed to have was Astronaut Barbie, since my mom was not too keen on the whole princess thing.

She did see the error of her ways at some point, though. I may have been the only teenage girl who was begged BEGGED by her mother to wear makeup (this generally happened in a frantic tone in the car as we were going to visit relatives, who were generally really well-put-together Iranian women). I was probably not the first teenage girl to be begged to wear lighter colors (I was no goth, but somehow she thought I was). All to no avail.

What I find fascinating is that my parents are now the princess enablers in P’s life. My mom is getting an early start. There’s no need to pretend P is a boy in America. My mom is definitely getting all the girly-girl potential she lost with me in P.

I generally find it pretty amusing, and despite half-heartedly trying to get P to wear a different Halloween costume, I try not to be too militant anti-princess. P has a pretty healthy curiosity, likes kicking and throwing balls and rolling in dirt as much as any other toddler–boy or girl.

And the following picture also gives me hope. Image

Any girl who goes to an indoor playground, dresses up as a princess and then proceeds to put on a hard hat and play with the Black & Decker toy tool set is probably going to be OK.

I’ll Put it on My Eyes

My family had been living in the U.S. for just over a year when we moved into an incredibly cute duplex in a working class town 20 miles south of San Francisco. The house had a front yard filled with wood chips, a sunny eat-in kitchen, and hardwood floors throughout.

We had moved to Northern California from Irving, Texas, not too long before. In Texas, we first lived at my aunt’s house (for…two months? Three? The details are fuzzy) and then a hopelessly depressing apartment.

So the duplex in San Leandro was definitely a step up. And we had an awesome view: the house across the street. It was one of those beautifully refined Craftsman-style houses–incredibly well-kept and sporting a fantastic yard.

The man who lived there was, in every sense, quite neighborly. He was always out in his yard with a huge sun-hat, perfecting the garden, waving hello as we walked or drove by.

We hadn’t been there very long when he knocked on the door one day, presenting my dad with a huge basket of vegetable-garden bounty. I remember there were zucchini, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

My father, already an emotional man, was over the moon. He started praising the vegetables, our neighbor, America in general, and ended with “Thank you so much. I’ll put them on my eyes.”

Our neighbor wasn’t really sure what to make of this, and said something to the effect of, well, I guess you can do that, but it’s probably better if you eat them.

You see, my dad was literally translating a common saying in Farsi. The phrase, which is said when one person gives another something of value, literally means “I’ll put the [insert gift here] on my eyes.” But the real meaning is that the gift is so precious that I’ll put them on my most precious possession, my eyes (well, something to that effect anyway). It’s just a very flowery way of saying thank you.

That little sentence has fueled my love for all things involving literal translations. They are a fantastic, albeit nerdy, source of amusement.

Fast-forward 20 years, as I try valiantly (and often fail) to sing P lullabies that are actually lullabies, and not Tori Amos or Simon & Garfunkel songs. This is how bad I am–until recently, I would finish “Hush Little Baby” in this way:

If that looking glass don’t shine
Mama’s gonna buy you a concubine.

Every night I would think, what if she asks me what a concubine is tonight? So when I remembered, I would use “porcupine” instead. I pretty much learned how to correctly end that song while watching Skylar singing it to her newborn baby on Breaking Bad. (Ohhhhhhhhh Daddy loves you and so do I!)

So when an Italian friend and his American wife, back from a trip to the Ye Olde Country, gave us a book of traditional Italian nursery rhymes and lullabies, I was super excited. If I can’t teach P all the right American songs, at least A can teach her Italian ones.

And then I saw the songs and rhymes.

And they are ripe for a literal translation.

Here’s the first (please excuse my shoddy translations and lack of rhyming. It’s been a while):

Under the Baracca Bridge,

Little Gigin is pooping.

His poop is really, really hard,

So a doctor came to measure it.

He measured thirty-three,

Now it’s your time to count!

It needs to be said: wha? A nursery rhyme about pooping? Really hard, worrisome poop that needs doctor intervention? This may be the best nursery rhyme ever!

Well, that’s what I thought until I read this next one:


Three little owls on the dresser

Were making love to the doctor’s daughter

The doctor got really really mad


OK. WHAT? This is a nursery rhyme? About three owls having sex with the doc’s daughter? Who, rightfully so, gets mad? I mean, wouldn’t you if three owls were having sex with your daughter? All I can say is, leave it to the Italians to come up with a nursery rhyme that involves sex.

A laughed hysterically when he saw these rhymes in the book. I guess it’s one thing to hear them said over and over again, and it’s completely different to see them written on paper.

Well, K and M, friends who brought back the book from Italy: I love it. I’ll put it on my eyes.

The Vacation Edition

We just came back from one of the best vacations ever, visiting the in-laws in the Olde Country. It was one of those vacation when you think…I totally want to move here. Until you slap yourself and think, wait, I already did that.

Anyway, I wanted to do a brief run-down of the 2.5 weeks, so here it is before I forget all the good bits.

The Good

  • Family. P’s complete love for her cousins, especially my 15 year-old, super cute, super patient nephew. She followed him around like a little disciple, and he patiently let her. They watched cartoons together, played with PlayDo, read books, and of course, played soccer. It was beautiful to watch.
  • Sorrento. It’s good to have friends in high places, or friends who have houses in Sorrento. P outdid herself by eating an adult-sized Neapolitan pizza. The original is still be best.
  • Venice. Again, it’s good to have friends in high places, or friends who rent boats for you when you visit Venice. I lived in Venice for a year, so I know my way around the city by foot, but seeing the city from the water is another thing in itself.
  • Beautiful weather. The reason we decided to go at the beginning of March was that last year, when we visited for Christmas, the average temperature during our stay was around 30 degrees. There’s nothing worse than flying across the world to then sit at home for three weeks. This year, it was nice enough that we took a few bike rides along the river that runs through the town A is from.
  • Beautiful food. And wine. I mean, we were in Italy…need I say more?
  • The politics. My brother-in-law is running to be the mayor of their little town. Rather surreal, but very cool.
  • The language. At the start of the trip, P was still mostly conversing in English, even though she was understanding everything in Italian. Her poor grandparents were learning random words in English (including monkey and book, two very important words in P’s repertoire). By the end of the trip, she was definitely talking more in Italian, a habit she has continued on our return.  There was even a funny language moment: when we were in Sorrento, our friend was teaching his daughter to call to a dog in the local Neapolitan dialect. “Vien a qa! Vien a qa!” he kept saying, so the dog would come to him. A week later, we were at dinner again in Northern Italy, and the hosts had an adorable little dog. All of a sudden, P started saying, “Vien a qa! Vien a qa!” Because obviously all dogs in Italy speak Neapolitan.

The Bad

  • The too-muchness. For poor P. She met around 100 people (give or take a few) in a span of 17 days. It was a bit too much. P loves people, and is well on her way to becoming a social butterfly. But even she would flip out after a few hours. One night she started talking in her sleep, saying “no bacini! no bacini! (no kisses!)” over and over again. She was even freaked out by her grandmother, who wanted nothing more than hang out with her. Which was the problem…grandma wanted to be there every minute, while P wasn’t sure she wanted to hang out every minute. By the time she felt comfortable enough to stay at home with the grannies, it was time for us to come back to California. Sigh.
  • The jet lag. I had a friend mock me (mock!) for complaining about the jet lag when I would have a fabulous vacation in Italy to show for it. I don’t care where you are, though, when your toddler wakes up at 1am and is completely wired until 5am, you’ll be pretty miserable. Thankfully, she got over it in a couple of days.

The Ugly

  • The soda. Every time we go to Italy, A’s parents have a party that involves a lot of food and a lot of people. This year, the main event was a roasted little boar…yum (this is not the ugly part). I was sitting across from an acquaintance’s wife, who was keeping an eye on her two kids (four year-old son and two year-old daughter). Trying to make small talk, I commented on a dark liquid in her daughter’s sippy cup. “Looks like she’s nipping at the wine!” I said. “Oh no,” she responded, “it’s Pepsi.” Wait, what? Here I was, in the heart of fine dining, eating a roasted boar hunted not too long ago…and a mother is giving her two year-old Pepsi? Really, no words.
  • The doctor. A friend, L (half American, half Italian) and his wife S (from Tonga via New Zealand and the U.S.) moved to Italy not too long ago. S is now magnificently pregnant, ready to bring a half Tongan, quarter American, quarter Italian baby into the world. She was telling me about their experience meeting with a pediatrician. L and S were happy to hear that she was really into holistic healing, all down to earth. Until they heard her talking about American healthcare and children. Apparently, on this side of the ocean ALL children suffer from ADHD and ALL kids are hopped up on Ritalin. Obviously. Again, no words.

So that pretty much sums up the vacation. As with every vacation, it was too short. Thankfully, I’m pretty sure we’ll be back.