I Fed a Man a Peanut…Just to Watch Him Die.

by Alexa on February 1, 2011

One of January’s little amusements was a sudden and unexplained increase in bandwidth that crashed my site several times over the course of the month. God knows it wasn’t from traffic, as it’s a miracle anyone still comes around here anymore—you people have the patience of saints—and according to my hosting company the culprit appears to be a Hot Link. (Not just a spicy sausage, but also an impolite Web practice! Who knew?) As I understand it—which is poorly—this link, to an image, has not yet been found, and yesterday evening I was in the middle of posting when January decided to go out with a bang by bringing the site down around my ears one last time. Thank you to those who wrote to make sure I knew things were all broken to bits over here, and I’m sorry for the annoyance. The link remains Hot, but a new month means a new bandwidth allowance, so I should be fine for long enough for my intrepid hosting person, Emily, to get to the bottom of things. And January? Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

I’m ashamed to say I was unfit for human company all month, and with no good reason. Mediocre ones, sure, but it’s not like anyone died or anything, which historically speaking puts this January above the pale, assuming you confine yourself to the history of the past decade. Besides a new bandwidth allowance, a new month means an arbitrarily new page of our arbitrary calendar, and I wanted to begin February focusing on victories and accomplishments. As my own accomplishments lately have been, let’s say…modest, I thought I’d highlight those of my daughter, which have been immodest formidable:

1. Playing the Harmonica
I mentioned this in my last post, but it bears repeating as it was no small feat. Simone had been trying to play the harmonica, off and on, for almost a whole year. (Practice makes tuneless-but-enthusiastic!) I knew she could do it, as the harmonica is in her blood: Did I ever tell you about picking up a harmonica years ago and discovering that I could play a song on it, just one song, as if I’d played it a million times before? And that this song was Taps? I’ve never been sure if that story is funny or just deeply disturbing.

2. Growing Hair
After a slow start, Simone has finally bucked down and applied herself. I tried to get some pictures of her remarkable follicular achievement, but if you have ever tried to take pictures of a preschooler you know that you end up with a lot of Blurry:
Curls
…some Playful Nose-Wrinkling/Dramatic Angry Face:
Angry Face
…and eventually you call it a day and settle for At Least Partially In Focus And Not Actively Frightening:
Still More Curls More Curls

Her hair is exactly like mine at her age, only darker: curly, but so fine that the curls that spring up after bath time vanish as soon as they’re slept upon. When mushed straight by sleep her “bangs” (such as they are) are long enough to merit the application of a barrette. Simone became enchanted by the idea one day last week and insisted upon applying barrettes to all members of the household—including the cats, who were actually excellent sports about it. (Again, getting a picture was nigh on impossible, complicated by the fact that she is most excited by barrettes in the morning, when our apartment has all the cheerful natural light of Plato’s Cave.)
Ta Da
Usually Simone decides she’s done with barrette-wearing after a few seconds, but the fact that her hair is long enough to hold one at all is evidence of just how much progress she has made in this particular area. Why, look at this picture, taken on her birthday last year:
Age Two With Harmonica
Practically hairless (and failing to produce any sound at all on that harmonica, I might add).

3. Baking
I told you about the cookies, but did you know Simone made a pie? It turns out she’s a natural with a rolling pin. At first I mocked my mother for breaking out The Apple Master to peel the apples—cheating, you know, for lazy people who don’t appreciate the soothing task of apple-peeling—but I had to grudgingly admit that Simone is too young to be trusted with a paring knife, and she did enjoy turning the handle. (You will be relieved to know I at least cut the apples by hand, to avoid uniformity and thus ensure a proper balance of soft/toothsome for the filling.)

That day I didn’t have a camera at all, only my cell phone, but here you can see her rolling the dough:
Rolling
And here she is displaying the finished product, into the crust of which she has poked several crucial, finger-shaped ventilation holes.
Pie

4. Installation Art
At the end of October, my mother and I took Simone to the park, where she made a beeline for two large trucks sitting in the sand. Naively, we assumed she wanted to use them in some conventional, hackneyed way—as trucks, maybe. But no. Instead she painstakingly dragged each to the nearby table, where she hoisted and arranged the two just so.
Installation
I am not even kidding. Afterward she sat on the seat admiring her handiwork, the weirdo.

Later there was this more functional piece:
Installation 2
(She removed a section from time to time to take a tissue/paper towel, then carefully replaced it.)

5. Spelling Her Name
One of Simone’s favorite things to do is to write letters, or rather to force others into letter-writing on her behalf. She holds a pen or crayon in her hand while an assistant holds said hand in their own. Then she calls out a letter and the assistant obligingly guides her in tracing its form. It’s a little like having an Ouija board that yells at you. This has the potential to be just as creepy as as the original board game, as when Simone, letter by letter, somehow spelled out “STOP U,” but usually she is intent upon one thing—writing her name.

“ESSSSSSSSS,” she says, and pauses.
Then: “OOOHHHH. IIIIIIIIIII. EMMMMMMM.”
Pause. “ENNNNNN. EEEE! SIMONE!”
SOIMNE
It’s funny, because we came this close to naming her “Soimne,” which is an old Hebrew name meaning “Blessed is she by dog (and dyslexia).”

I haven’t felt like correcting her just yet. After all, she knows it starts with an “S” and ends with “NE,” and I’m sure the middle letters will work themselves out in time.

6. Composing Original Songs
She sings a lot, my daughter. She has a keen appreciation of the standards—”Old McDonald,” “Sing (Sing a Song),” “Wheels on the Bus,” et cetera—but lately has been making her own contributions to the world of music.
Here she is after playing “Happy Song,” which in my opinion may be actionably derivative of “Elmo’s Song,” though I admit the piano part is very complicated and like nothing I have ever heard on Sesame Street.
Happy Song
Other works include “I Take It!” and “Ya Ya Ya, Simone Simone Simone.”

7. Continuing to Age
Simone’s birthday—her THIRD, if you believe the calendar, which I am not at all certain I do—is nearly upon us. This is the first year she hasn’t been quarantined for her Special Day, and I was sorely tempted to throw her a proper birthday party, especially now that she has friends from school to invite, making my own dearth of friends less conspicuous. In the end I decided against it due to a lack of money, a surfeit of laziness, and the fact that I’d have better odds at Roulette than at predicting whether Simone will be well on any given day. (Yes, Simone got sick again mid last week, though this time it was only a cold.) (I know she was sick AGAIN rather than sick STILL because we did have a golden five or so days where she was footloose and symptom-free.) (I am unclear as to whether *I* am sick again or still, and suspect that what we have in my case is something of a Melanie/Beth situation—GWTW/Little Women—wherein my health has been permanently compromised.)

We’ll have a cake that night at home, but Simone has school on the day of her birthday—and before you ask why I don’t keep her home for said birthday, I should mention that Simone regards a day without school as a day without sunshine—so assuming she is not sick again/still, the plan is for me to show up with a Special Birthday Snack for the class. Besides bringing a Special Birthday Snack, parents are invited to read a favorite book aloud or just join in the general revelry.

I decided right away that The Adventures of Louise: Story of a Chicken would be a good choice for the book, partially because I’ll have an especially chicken-friendly audience, and partially because I do an excellent accent for Mitzi the Aerialist. The Special Birthday Snack was a bit trickier. It must be store-bought, which is disappointing, given our recent fervor for baking. It must also be healthy, (which makes it rather less special, in my opinion), and free of poisons, ground glass, and those most notorious of child-killers, nuts.

Simone’s school is a Nut-Free Zone, which has been the bane of my lunchmaking since September. Besides being easy to make and pack, peanut butter sandwiches are Simone’s favorite food. There is no one with a nut allergy in her class, and still we wash her hands and brush her teeth before school should she dare to eat a peach peanut for breakfast, having been warned that even the breath of a nut-eater can be deadly to an allergic child.

I do not mean to make light of peanut allergies, which are a serious business, to be sure—especially for the children not in Simone’s class, some of whom actually suffer from them. It gives me a chill, frankly, to contemplate how fast and loose our parents played it when WE were young. It’s a wonder any of us survived! And what’s REALLY alarming is how little attention today’s youth pay to the true challenges ahead, those for which my generation was much more thoroughly prepared.*

Anyhow, I settled on cheese and crackers. A nice sharp cheddar Simone particularly likes and an as yet undecided brand of nutless cracker. I plan to vent my pathetic need for whimsy by slicing the cheese and using a small set of numeral fondant cutters to stamp it into festive number 3s. (Unless it is determined that this violates the nothing-homemade rule, in which case I will…pack up my supplies and do it at the school. Yes, I have a problem.)

Unrelated to anything above, Chinese New Year is Thursday. I wasn’t kidding about celebrating it in lieu of the Here Comes January version (my favorite New Year holiday is Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur, but Chinese New Year is both closer to the beginning of the calendar year and pleasingly aligned with the end of January), but so far our celebratory plans consist of a) wearing red b) decorating with rabbits and c) ordering Szechuan for dinner. If anyone has any ideas, particularly ones that involve burning something/ululating magical words/ritual drinking to usher in a fresh new annum, I’d love to hear them.

*Killer Bees, The Metric Revolution

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