Monday, December 31, 2007

Parlez-vous Nemo?

This will probably only make sense if you've seen Finding Nemo as many times as I have, but then if you have even a passing relationship with anyone under eight I'm sure that includes you anyway.

Anna, sitting on a bench waiting for our friend to fail to appear from the Santa Barbara Air Bus (upon seeing it pull up she squealed 'Ganny & Ganddad are back!', ouch).

Anna, to random nice lady: 'My name is Anna'
RNL, 'hi Anna, my name is Random Nice Lady'
Anna, 'I have a lot of Nemo toys at my home. A LOT'.
RNL, smiling a little nonplussed, 'really?'
Anna, 'yes, twenty-ten'.
RNL, 'how old are you Anna?'
Anna 'I am two'
RNL, 'two, wow I'm impressed, you speak well'
Anna, brightening, 'I do speak whale, oo-ee-arr-oo'
RNL '----'

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Goodnight Moon Indeed!!

Because I know I'm not the only one labouring under a big black post-Christmas cloud, I bring you this:















Honestly, get your minds out of the gutter. What did you think it was? Clearly it's a drawing of a moon and stars by the very talented 3-year old daughter of friends of ours.

It was thoughtful of the teacher to annotate it though wasn't it? Just in case there could have been the slightest confusion as to the artist's intent?

Oh, and I have regained enough sanity to realize that adding another child to the K family might bring Mum and Dad back for one more visit - but would bite us in the arse and more importantly the wallet very soon thereafter. Taking a look at Expedia for April's flights to England and realizing the creature would need her own ticket for this trip was enough to do that. It's about time someone swapped some Finding Nemo time for some cold hard cash earning time I think. Anyone want to hire a 2 year old?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Auf Wiedersehen

I've just said goodbye to Mum and Dad, something that never gets any easier. A sadness and a heaviness sets in, like grief. One thing I've learned over the years is that the throat-tightening and the tears will go away, but that the heaviness needs to be dealt with, that being sad is such a ridiculous waste of time.

The only way to do this is to have a plan - I need to have the next visit if not booked then at least penciled in. This time I am lucky enough to be seeing them in only three months as it's my brother's wedding in April. Usually when we say goodbye, sad hugs saying all that we cannot, it's for at least a year. This time they will be seeing Anna before she's grown much bigger, before she makes another giant unrecognizable leap from babyhood. Crikey, three months might not be enough time for them to recover from the last fortnight of non-stop Dora, WonderPets and Nemo.

The fact that I'm seeing them soon made this morning a little more bearable. It certainly made me a nicer person to be around over the last couple of days. Usually I'm so eaten up with anxiety and portentous gloom that I have LK looking at me wondering what on earth he's got himself mixed up with and where my loyalties truly lie. On those lines it doesn't help that I know that this situation is entirely self inflicted. Just add a big dollop of guilt to that simmering stew of loss.

Saying goodbye, even if it is only auf wiedersehen does seem so very wrong. A fact that's inescapable when you break down because your toddler has just asked 'are you coming back Ganny and Gandad?'.

Ouch.

So I've concluded I need to take matters in to my own hands. Not move back to the UK of course (have you seen the exchange rate?!), no I've decided that having another child will force Mum and Dad back for a visit - and besides right now the exercise would do me good. Talk about making your bed and then lying in it!











































OK - I realize that was a bit drastic. I know I'll stop being sad soon. As LK said 'think about poor me, my Mom's been gone for a whole month'.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Perspective

I haven't been near the computer in days and now I'm terrified to even look at bloglines for fear I have 600 new posts to check. Sheesh. My Mum and Dad arrived on Wednesday and since then I've been in Hallmark Channel heaven watching Anna play with 'Ganny' and 'Ganddad' while I bask in the knowledge of all that babysitting to come.

I'm so full of the joys that I'm prepared to do something completely out of character. Put that wineglass down? Surely you jest? No, inspired by Little Britain, I'm going to list the things about my life in America that I love. Here I am, secure with all my peeps in town, able to take a step back and be broadminded *gasp*.

So here in no particular order and with very little sarcasm is a little list of what I love about life over here:

1. Going out for breakfast. Growing up in the UK this sounded as absurd a concept as going out to clean your teeth, but it's something I've grown to love. If someone had told me 15 years ago that I would spend every Sunday going for a half mile ocean swim followed by breakfast at a restaurant on the beach the anti-America chip on my shoulder would have fallen off in shock. I still won't put syrup on anything, but guilt-free Eggs Benedict after an icy swim? Now that's a lifestyle.

2. Having an English accent over here generally makes life so chuffing easy. This is a country that loves all things English (albeit a hashed together Disney-fied version of England). Moving from a continent that universally villifies anything British this change is shockingly refreshing. It's an automatic opener at cocktail parties, and only causes a few problems when talking on the phone. Generally, a good thing.

3. Food glorious food. It's very hard to stay skinny in this country there is such abundance and variety. Some of the things I would miss if we ever moved back to Blighty are; ranch dressing, jalapeno Cheetos, Mexican food, Philly Cheesesteak, Hass avocados, decent cocktails and anything from Trader Joes. Oh and free refills. As I said, hard to stay skinny.

4. Sunshine on tap. OK this is obviously a California thing, and probably not going to win me a lot of friends while the rest of the world shivers through yet another ice storm, but the advantages of a climate that never, ever varies are manifold. The thing I will never get used to is being able to schedule an outdoor activity three weeks in advance knowing full well that the weather won't ruin it. Want to play tennis a week next Thursday? Want to have everyone over for a barbecue Tuesday week? No problem. That is a luxury that I won't ever tire of. Putting sunscreen on every time you leave the house is a small price to pay.

5. Bum-protectors. What? I think the official term is 'toilet-seat covers'. Those filmy pieces of waxy paper that are supposed to prevent other people's arse-germs tainting your saintly derriere. I'm sure they're about as effective as a chocolate teapot but the faux-reassurance level is high. I was very surprised at how much I missed them on my last trip home.

6. US Mail. I realise many of you have just sprayed coffee all over your computer screens, but yes, the US Mail rocks, for the reason that you can have them pick up your stuff if you just put up that little flag jobbie on your post-box. No trawling around town trying to find a postbox over here! Try asking the postman to pick up your post in England. Didn't think so, he'd have a hard time trying to get his hand through that letterbox for a start.

7. Have a nice day. Not necessarily true in Brooklyn or downtown LA, but for the most part Americans are absurdly polite and well, nice. We Brits tend to be rather cynical so if a shop assistant welcomes you in to a store and starts offering to 'start a room for you' it's a knee-jerk reaction to think they've just identified you as a shoplifter and are subliminally telling you to watch yourself mate, I've got my eye on you. Customer service here is rampant and not deemed beneath your dignity.

8. Driving. It is so much easier to drive over here. Firstly cars are mostly automatics, which make driving with that latte less of a first-degree burn hazard, secondly most roads were built after cars were invented so they are spacious and being forced to overtake is almost unknown (you haven't truly learned to drive in the UK unless you've had to overtake a tractor on a narrow, blind corner with 17 angry motorists in tow). Plus, the weather in CA makes driving a dream. It rains 2 or 3 times a year, other than that conditions are always perfect, no snow, driving rain, freezing fog, black ice, nothing.

9 People. I've met some pretty kick-ass people out here who I would miss terribly. Smart, funny, warm-hearted, genuine people. Friends who smile politely whenever I say 'shedule' instead of 'skedule' and who feign interest in England's inevitable defeat on penalties. And they all drink and serve great wine, hell, some of them even own wineries. What's not to love?

I know for completeness' sake there should be 10 things but don't push me OK? This was painful enough as it was.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's The Thought That Counts

I need your help.

I need to know what to get Anna's preschool teachers as a Christmas gift. I was thinking Coffee Bean gift cards, but I'm sure that's what everyone gets them, so what then? $20 in an envelope? I expect that's what most poorly paid preschool teachers would like - cold hard cash.

I asked Anna if she had any suggestions, but my question of 'what would your teachers like for Christmas?' was met with the reply 'a lot of rainbow coloured bunnies in a cage'. Hmm, note to self, don't include a 2 year old in the decision-making process. On the plus side, I now know what to get her for Christmas. Well, that and a diamond.

So in an effort to please I actually asked a teacher from the class above Anna. I said I was new to the 'thank the teacher' thing, and did she have any suggestions? She literally grabbed me by the hands, pulled me to her chest and looked me straight in the eye to say 'anything you get that is from the heart would be gratefully appreciated'.

Waaaahhhh!!! Inappropriate body contact. Inappropriate talk about feelings. I'm too English. Waaahhhh!!!

So, I need your help, because I'm not bloody asking another live human being. The hug risk is too acute.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Who's A Pretty Girl Then?

I've always loved advent calendars, the countdown to Christmas marked out with each tiny door. I remember my Mum showing us our first calendar when I was 5 and my brother was 4. We would take it in turns to open it, revealing the Christmas picture within. December 1st was a christmas pudding. I remember that because we had the same advent calendar throughout my entire childhood. After 15 years you start to remember whether the picture of the christmas crackers falls on the 13th or the 15th.

This is America though, so Anna who's 2 has an Advent-Calendarpalooza courtesy of her Nani. No paltry piece of cardboard for her, not even a candy-filled yuletide marker. No, she has giant wooden calendar with an individually wrapped present for each day. I'm not even going to write about how spoiled she's going to become, or how, if we ever move back to the UK she's going to think she's moved back to the dark ages. I am going to write about what happens when a 2 year old gets a Santa ink-stamp on day 9 and you nip upstairs to go to the loo:
















If you look closely you can see each individual Father Christmas. How I managed to produce a daughter so obsessed with make-up is beyond me. She's even adorned each eye.

So, did you get anything just as exciting in your advent calendar today??

Friday, December 07, 2007

Seven Silly Stories About Me

With apologies for the satellite delay, here's the meme that Villa Luna tagged me on. I'm not sure if they all qualify as 'silly' but they're all pretty chuffing embarrassing.


1.
Late one night in my first year at University a group of friends decided to come round to my room for the evening. Uncertain of the state of my room and not wishing to embarrass myself, I decided to race off in front so I could do a quick tidy before the hoards arrived. Unfortunately in my haste I tripped on a flight of stairs. My guests were greeted by the sight of me sprawled on the concrete, skirt over my head flashing a very questionable pair of knickers.

2. When my brother and I were very small I wanted to put a picture up in my room. We decided where it was going to go, and he kindly offered to bang in the nail for me. My Dad happened to be walking past my bedroom window at the time - approximately three seconds before my brother would have hammered that nail an inch above the light switch and electrocuted himself to death.

3. I once asked a French teacher how to spell 'double-v' (W).

4. I've been involved in 3 minor car accidents. Two of them have been in a garage.

5. When Anna was seconds old and handed to me for the first time I was so deranged I thought 'bloody hell, a baby'.

6. When LK and I first met we drove cross-country together from CA to NY in a VW Rabbit (a Golf to you Brits). For a reason that is too complicated to explain we had a surfboard on the roof. Whilst driving through Arizona we passed through a torrential downpour. I went "oh no, the surfboard" to which LK replied "shit yeah, we'd better not get it wet".

7. When I was very much younger I 'found' my cervix (don't ask), and thought I was dying of cancer. I never told a soul.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Follow Through!

As LK says every time he watches me play tennis "follow through, follow through, oh for the love of God, nrrghhgrrnnn". So, in the interests of continuity, and well, sense, I'm following up on the last couple of posts. Thankyou for all your lovely comments. I knew you all had diamond car stories and you did me proud.

Firstly, a Honda Pilot. We got a Honda Pilot. It would have been useful to perhaps mention this, as several of you kindly suggested, when writing about my new car. I chuffing *love it*. Apparently so does LK who drove it last night to get milk - 300 yards to the shop across the road.

Secondly, to answer my own question, how did we choose it? Well, I obviously had to solidify my reputation as a mainstream maven, ergo it was either a Toyota Highlander or a Honda Pilot. We are sick to the back teeth of our Ford and its random ailments, and my Honda Accord had eleventy billion miles on it with absolutely no care or attention from me, so another Honda was looking pretty likely. Plus one of my book club cohorts recommended the Pilot over the Highlander because it's bigger and you can haul an entire soccer team in it. That sounded like a nightmare to me, but apparently you want to be that Mum, the 'chauffeur-Mom', because they're the ones who get to listen in on the kids conversations while driving little Xavier/Madison/Ryland and Dave home. Another instance of book clubs ruling the chuffing world.

I will miss Jaffa though, and as my friend the fabulous Ms T. reminded me, I will miss its automatic seatbelts that felt you up every time you put the key in the ignition. I'm sure automatic seatbelts did seem like a great idea in 1990, but bloody hell, if you're driving that self same model 18 years later and the electric's on the blink, nothing screams new car like being constricted to death by an overly-enthusiastic seatbelt that's overridden it's shut-off.

Finally, to follow up on this post, no Cinderella story for Harrogate Railway, despite some very Yorkshire pluck and stick-to-it-iveness. You can read the match report here. They lost 3-2, almost a last gasp equalizer, and I particularly love this comment, 'And in the last minute Davidson, who works for a building society, shot powerfully at goal from the edge of the area.' Stupid building society. If only it'd been a bank that shot would've gone in. Click on the link to the interviews if you can. I may have been away from North Yorkshire for a decade, but Railway's Manager does not have a strikingly Yorkshire accent. Unintelligible yes. If only I could muster that much enthusiasm on the greatest day of my life.

Also, I've been tagged by villa luna, and I'm working on it OK? Seven silly stories coming up. I promise only one of them involves my cervix.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Chitty Chitty Bling Bling

I almost feel like I'm tempting fate by writing this, as if somehow my good fortune will disappear, like the England team always managing to snatch defeat from certain victory:

I have a new car.

This is absurdly overdue, as I've already mentioned, here and here.We have been in crisis mode with both our cars for a long time, managing to staunch vehicular hemorrhaging with regular oil changes and duct tape. My car was in particularly poor shape, because:

1. Smoke would curl ominously from the bonnet every time I drove on the freeway.

2. I didn't feel comfortable driving it more than 15 miles for fear it'd blow up.

3. Last time I went to get my oil changed the bloke said he couldn't do it. He couldn't change the oil if I didn't have any oil. That's how I found out I had an oil leak.

3. I was rear-ended about 4 years ago and as the insurance paid us rather than a garage and as the car was bashed up but still drivable we never had it fixed. The advantage to this was having the only easily recognizable Teal Honda Accord out of a sea of similar ones in Santa Barbara.

4. It was a 2-door. When I was pregnant I knew it would be impossible to get an infant in and out of a car-seat in a 2-door car. Almost three years later, I can add that it's almost impossible. As she got larger and larger I was flirting with the laws of physics to get her in to the back seat. Recently it was proving impossible to do it without banging Anna's head an the car roof as I literally had to fling her 28lb frame in to her car-seat as I couldn't take her weight with my arms outstretched. She's a great car passenger mostly due to a constant state of mild concussion.

The only cons to getting a new car were:

a. Paying for the damn thing.

b. Our tenants thinking we're living large off their hard-earned rents and keying the new car out of spite. Oh how I wish we were living large off their rents.

c. Having 14 feet 2 inches of pristine paint on each side of the car, and a narrow parking space. (this last comment seems to have been added by LK while I was away from the computer - thanks love).

Well, we've thrown caution to the wind and I now have a terrifyingly brand new SUV. Hello Soccer Mom-dom! This is a momentous occasion, as this is the first vehicle other than a bike that I've had any hand in choosing. All my other cars have been hand-me-downs. Not that I'm ungrateful you understand, but I have always merely ended up owning a car, I've never been instrumental in the decision-making process. I mean God Almighty, I drove a red Geo Storm for months that LK bartered from a friend (technically a 'Torm' as the S fell off never to be found). That car blew a head gasket after a matter of months - some would call it assisted suicide.

Going through the car-buying process has made me wonder though - how do you pick a car? There seem to be so many choices out there - how did you end up with yours? Was it a carefully weighed decision made with Consumer Reports in hand? Or did you just nick one you fancied from the local mall parking lot? Does anybody really say yes please, a brand new Dodge Neon, that's the car for me? What's the story behind your car?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thank The Lord

Oh Thank God. Hello December.

I have enjoyed NaBloMoFo really, in the same way that I enjoy training for a triathlon and then it being over. The pressure though, bloody hell. Sitting at the computer each morning sent me straight back to being 8 years old and sitting on the piano bench with my fingers poised over the keys only to hear my Mum yell from the kitchen "Ali, you haven't done your piano practice" (how very middle class). Every time I log on I'm constantly reminded that I haven't yet performed.

I had stuff to write about too, stuff with substance. Want to hear about my battle with US immigration? Want to know the real differences between Americans and Brits, other than we have better bread and chocolate (I'm sorry America, we do. Deal with it.) Don't they sound entertaining? Well, you're probably right. A few token photos and Anna-ecdotes was all you got, and you're probably much happier for it.

**Edited for content**

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Third Time's The Charm

I don't have a good success rate with Disneyland. The first time I went was two weeks after arriving in the States, back in 1996. Last century. I've honestly attempted to go back but it's never worked out. LK and I tried to go with his sister and her kids about 7 years ago, but my boss wouldn't let me have the time off work. Funny, I don't work there any more. We tried again a few years later, but the morning of our scheduled departure I decided to get a bit of early triathlon training in, cycled into a tree and badly broke my collar bone:




















We called my sister-in-law from the ER to say 'sorry to break it to you' pun intended, and she suggested I get bandaged up and hold the bags and sodas while they went on the rides. I think she was joking.

On Monday night Anna woke up screaming in pain. She's never been a crier so we knew something was horribly wrong. After what seemed like hours of 'use your words', 'point to the owie', 'stop crying or I'll really give you something to cry about' (my suggestion not LK's) we concluded that something was hurting in the ears/mouth/teeth area. We did what any thoughtful, caring parents did and dosed her up on baby Tylenol, put Wonder Pets on extended play and kept our fingers crossed our trip to Disneyland hanging in the balance. She eventually fell asleep and that was that. Another Disneyland nuclear-mushroom-cloud averted.

Or so we thought.

Turns out she had hand foot and mouth disease. We noticed the blisters on her hands and feet when we put her in her carseat to drive back home to SB. It's a fairly mild but incredibly virulent virus that is now affecting every single child under five who went to Disneyland on Tuesday.

Our bad.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Anna in the Mouse Hizz-ouse

Sorry to leave you in the lurch, but I have to take the creature to Disneyland today. If we manage to fight the LA traffic and get back before midnight I'll post some pics.

I know, my life is hell, pure hell.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sunday Walk

If there was ever a photo that summed up my family it would be this one:















As I've mentioned before, the Sunday walk was one of the things my brother and I would dread, particularly in our petulant teens, as if staying at home and watching The Waltons was any better alternative. I miss it now though. These photos my Mum sent make me long to grab my wellies, some kendal mint cake and that extra pair of thick socks.
















Of course, it's completely possible to hike in SB, and there are some beautiful trails. It's just that you have only two options; you either hike straight up to the top of the mountains, or you walk along the beach. There is nothing in between.

So here's a picture of me struggling with the inequity of living in Southern California and not being able to walk through some muddy cowpat-strewn field in my wellies:














Sometimes I don't know how I manage.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Come on you Railway!

England didn't qualify for Euro 2008.

The more I think about it (and I have had a few days to mull this one over) the more I'm certain this is akin to rabbits eating their young so the fox won't get them. If we don't qualify, then we won't lose on penalties will we?

Being an ex-pat means experiencing this kind of thing in a vacuum. It is strange to have something so personally momentous happen and for it to cause so little stir in your immediate surroundings. As if a tree fell in a crowded forest and no-one heard a thing.

Being an England fan this kind of travesty is nothing new, and fortunately, being a football fan you can usually find something else to cheer about (even if it's only Chelsea losing at home). My silver lining to England's giant nuclear mushroom cloud is Harrogate Railway still being in the FA Cup.

For those of you not in the know, the FA Cup is a competition any football team in England can aspire to win. Any team no matter how lowly can work their way up through grueling early rounds played on dodgy pitches with only two old blokes and a dog for support, to having the BBC film your next match. Can you imagine that happening in baseball or basketball? I don't think so.

These are not professional players, they all have full time jobs elsewhere, my brother used to play the occasional game for this side, and now the BBC are to pay £75,000 for the rights to show the match because they've hung on long enough to reach the 2nd round where the League Teams are introduced. Hopefully some of that money will trickle down to the players this time.

The match is to be played on Sunday December 2nd - I'm sure you'll want to check ESPN or your local listings(!) If they win this match they get through to the 3rd round where the really big boys enter the fray, the Premiership sides. I can see it now, Manchester United v Harrogate Railway.

Stranger things have happened - as it says in the flyleaf of my Christening Bible, '1973 The Year Sunderland Won The Cup.'

Come on you Railway!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Friday, November 23, 2007

Don't Let Your Daughters Grow Up To Be Cal Girls

Today is 'Black Friday' - a bit of American 'kulcha' for you - Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving when everyone wakes up from their triptophan haze and says 'fuck me, it's officially Christmas time, I must shop NOW'. Unless like me you woke up at a friendly 8:30am realizing you were already 3 1/2 hours too late for the JC Penney sale. WTF America? Who needs this so chuffing early, or quite honestly at all?

No, I did the next best thing and rolled over to ask my bleary-eyed toddler what she wanted for Christmas.

"Spongebob-underpants" was her reply - eyes glued to the telly. This of course prompted LK to say "I love lamp".

Not to be undone by her flagging attention span, I tried again.

"Anna, if you could have anything you wanted for Christmas, something you don't have perhaps, what would you like?"

Ha, this time there was a glimmer of recognition, of the enormity of the question, the potential ramifications. She thought long and hard, and came up with;

"A diamond"

Don't let your daughters grow up to be Cal girls.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving, or if you're reading this from the UK, Happy Random Thursday!

Obviously this is a quintessentially American holiday, but honestly I'm surprised it hasn't caught on in the UK, because a holiday devoted entirely to food - how brilliant is that? It's definitely a holiday I would carry back to the UK should the situation ever arise. Much better than that other American holiday, July 4th which I'm still struggling to get in to. A little too much jingoism if you ask me (perhaps I just need to get over the fact that you lot won).

The only downside to mountains of mashed potato, gravy, turkey and pie is the familial guilt that's often involved. So thankyou English family who are no doubt right now helping at 'Riding for the Disabled' or at either badminton or pilates. No guilt - more food! I think for Thanksgiving to be a success you have to either have an unbelievably amicable relationship with both sets of in-laws, or one set has to be foreign and happily oblivious.

Whilst mashing a Matterhorn of potatoes this morning I told Lance that come the inevitable divorce I would quite happily let him have the kids on Thanksgiving. He took a thoughtful sip of coffee and said 'nah, there's always an amazing swell on the holidays, you have them'.

How could I divorce a man like that?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I'd Like To Thank.....

Memes are to NaBloPoMo as Baby Einstein DVDs are to parents of infants. After a while you have to give in and use them because you've run out of options.

StickyFeathers tagged me yesterday on 7 random facts. I'm going to tweak this one a little, because I'm fresh out of random facts (I'm simply not that random) so in deference to the upcoming holiday I'm going to list 7 things I'm thankful for:

1. The 10 days in November & December when we don't have house guests.

2. Interest rates being cut. Oh you have no idea.

3. The upcoming 5 day holiday (yup I'm tacking on Monday too).

4. I finally got upgraded to OS10 at work. So long hamster!

5. Anna's kick-ass 3 hour naps that have been going on for months now.

6. The fact that I not only love but genuinely like my family.

7. You, my faithful bloggy readers - yes all three of you! Your comments, and support regularly make my day - even though some of you are clearly insane.

Christ, 7 things, that was a toughie.

OK, I'm sending this to a few of my favourite people. I need 7 things you're thankful for. Points for sarcasm.

Sticky Feathers, Dafodilly, Currently, Scribble Nation, Fresh Hell, Amy, Little Britainer

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My Commute

I've been tagged on a meme by stickyfeathers, but it's another 7 random things, and I've just posted 10, so you'll have to bear with me on finding another 7 - maybe tomorrow!!

So in lieu of a meme, it's finally come down to this - if you thought my last posts were scraping the barrel, I bring you:

My Drive To Work

I have a five minute commute so this is going to be a short post. A tiny commute, but four distinct socio-economic zones. How fascinating is that? OK, maybe you're not all geographers.

1. High School
We live a stones throw from a high school, so close in fact that it's impossible to get out of our road between 7:45am and 8am without getting sucked in to the schoolkid drop-off vortex. Still, as I sit there, waiting for the slowest kids of all time to shuffle across the crosswalk I do get the opportunity for some stellar people-watching. The outfits are obviously the main draw. There are so many distinct cliques that it would take a proper post, not a bit of NaBloPoMo fluff to do them justice. Let's just say I am so glad that I got to hide my nerdiness and relative pauperism behind a school uniform when growing up.

2. Financial District
OK, that's really a tad euphemistic. This is a few blocks of downtown SB that's home to most of the financial and legal firms, where it seems you have to wear the Santa Barbara business uniform of chinos, pale blue cotton button-down shirt, navy tie and styrofoam cup of coffee. Women and men. I think this is the only area of town where people don't wear flip-flops to work. Honestly.

3. Athletic Grannys
Just before I get to the hospital I have to drive through a neighbourhood full of fiercely exercising Grannys. It's an area of large multi-million dollar homes, up by the Santa Barbara Mission. Beautifully manicured properties, sprinklers gently spritzing the perfect lawns and Mexican gardeners coiffing the bouganvillea. A place where no person under the age of 70 can afford to buy, and the only reason these old zealots are hanging on financially is because they come from old moneyed East Coast families and their property taxes haven't changed since 1923. The power-walking Grannys are always out in force as I scream through at 7:58am. They have a uniform of sweats, hats with ludicrously large brims, and absurdly large sunglasses (the kind with the wraparound sides). Their skin has not seen daylight for decades. They generally appear in packs of 3 0r 4 and they move with a fierce intensity towards who knows? Coffee? Sanatogen Smoothies?

Hospital
Lots of medical people wearing scrubs and white coats with stethoscopes snaked around their necks. Don't be alarmed pedestrians, we are medics and are here to save the world!

Told you I was scraping the barrel.




Monday, November 19, 2007

Phoning It In

I've just deposited an Anthem BlueCross BlueShield check for $0.03.

Thanks, Anthem - thorough!

(and the NaBloPoMo award for shortest post goes to......)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Word To Your Mother

Here for no particular reason (other than sweet f.a. to write about) is a list of words I have to continually look up in the dictionary. I simply cannot make these words stick:

Atavism - nope, not a clue.
Sobriquet - aliblahblah
Sardonic - a sardine-like smile?
Sanguine - if there is a word least like 'cheerfully optimistic' I'd like to know it.
Solipsism - moi darling
Polemic - it is impossible to write a Geography paper without this one.

It's as if my brain reached maximum capacity at 21 and simply refuses to learn anything new.

Of course, I am blonde.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Earthquake in Santa Barbara!

We had an earthquake last night!

I know everyone who lives in the UK thinks we have ten earthquakes before breakfast here, but no, sorry to disappoint.

My very first morning in California I woke up thinking crap, this is it, it's an earthquake, only to realise next door had their washing machine on. I used to look at people's houses, with their rows of wine glasses on shelves and think 'God you complete muppets, these'll be gone within the week'. Several false alarms later (train rolling past, overly enthusiastic neighbour on treadmill) I stopped giving it a second thought despite SB being built on one big fault line.

I've experienced only three earthquakes since being here (bloody lucky I know) and one of them was last night!

Look, do you see that big blue box at the bottom of this map? That's our chuffing house!


















It was only a baby earthquake, more of a foetus really at 3.4 but SB was the epicenter which explains why we felt it. There was just one large jolt, as if a really big lorry had just driven by. I honestly didn't think much of it until Red Fox called to confirm. Then Mooks called to say she'd got in to a fight about it as her husband had yelled 'get in a doorway' and she was not sufficiently spry and would clearly have faced IMMINENT! DEATH! if it was a bit more powerful.

So, what do you do if you've just experienced nature's fury? You go out dancing that's what.

LK and I went out on the town and tore it up K-style, and this morning I woke up wobbly and bleary to find Anna munching away on my 'guaranteed hangover cure' Jalapeno Cheetos from the night before. That child is like a waste disposal.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Football v Basketball

Proof positive that LK is having a serious effect on UK culture:




















For some reason he didn't believe my Mum and Dad when they said they'd run in to a Lakers Bar near Keswick.

Perhaps basketball is going to become the world sport after all (!)

Maybe you lot can weigh in on this one for us. The first night I met LK we got into a debate about whether football (soccer) or basketball would be the most global sport in 50 years time.

I said football he said basketball (well, duh).

It's scary to think that so far 10 years have already passed but I'm quite confident that I still have the upper hand here.

I have been known to be a tad biased though, so any thoughts?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

There's an animal in trouble.......

The phone! The phone is ringing!

Some of you with small children will already know what I'm talking about.

The phone! We'll be right there!

Anna's favourite show right now is Wonder Pets! Supplanting even Dora in her devotions. A guinea pig, a duckling and a terrapin who all don capes after preschool hours and save animals from certain doom. Stuck in some tree sap? Paw caught in a brambly bush? They'll be there just as soon as they get that call.

There's an animal in trouble!

She absolutely refuses to watch this show alone, presumably because of the ABSOLUTE! HORROR! of a bee being stuck in some jam and unable to fly, and it MIGHT RAIN! I suppose it's good that she's not watching telly by herself at the tender age of 2 (although when else am I supposed to blog??), but this theme tune, repeated every 4 minutes throughout the show is like a mental chinese burn. I have been singing it all day. My subconscious is ready to grab a cape and go.

Oh yes! My brain is melting!
There's a animal in trouble and it's me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

You Are What You Eat

I am flying, heart racing, palms sweating from a hastily downed lunch of left over pasta and thickly buttered bread - the remnants of yesterday's pharmaceutical company sponsored lunch. We get a catered lunch practically every day as drug reps vie for the attention of our doctors. I know, your overpriced prescriptions are feeding my face. I feel guilty I do, but there's no time for a debate on the ethics of drug sales, sorry, this is NaBloPoMo, I have no time. Must post fluff!

What I wanted to talk about is, 'You Are What You Eat', and right now there's a carb-bomb going off in my stomach. I've been glued to this program on BBC America where a fearsome Scot terrorizes people with visions of what they've eaten in the past week. Then she guides them towards the peppermint tea and celeriac casserole. The trainwreck/salvation aspect of this program does make compelling viewing (more compelling than Dora) but I have several issues with the show. Firstly, the presenter is the most terrifyingly pinched and anaemic looking nutritionist. She doesn't glow with health, just with zeal for converting people. Mostly though, I'm cross at how it's always the woman of the house who's faced with making the Aduki Bean Casserole for the family dinner, from scratch, using four hours of her 'spare' time each day. While blokey no doubt sits down in front of the telly sneaking a can of lager and some prawn cocktail crisps.

What I find interesting is not the inevitable, 'wow don't we look better we've lost weight' reveal at the end of the show, it's how the people feel better, have tonnes more energy, their sex drives leaping about with very un-British candour. I like how she addresses each mineral's particular job, how so many Brits, overweight or not, are malnourised when it comes to some key nutrients like B-vitamins and zinc. She has a very interesting way of judging your health by examining your tongue, and then your poop. Apologies if you're eating. I am fascinated by the idea of kick-starting my flagging immune system and energy levels by just eating better. But why is it so hard to remember that before you down that giant bag of jalapeno Cheetos?

If you can, try and catch the show, because not only might you learn something, you can't deny the comedy aspect of some bloke from the dodgy end of Leeds clutching his shopping list and trying to find quinoa and miso soup in his local Co-op. That's worth watching right there.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Marbles, What Marbles?

Just when you thought it was safe to stash the old bikini in the bottom drawer, it's chuffing 80º here today. I'm roasting in my rather tasteful cable knitwear. That'll teach me not to watch the weather forecast before leaving for work.

Having lived here for over a decade *breathe* I know this to be typical Thanksgiving weather. Nothing says let's roast a 18lb turkey in the oven for hours like it being over 100º outside.

I don't have anything of value to write about, and for that I apologize. I have so much work sitting on my desk, so many sheafs of paper that I'm thinking of executing a controlled burn. Nothing major, just a very localised inferno.

There is one refreshing thing about working where I do though, and that is just when you think you're so busy you're going nuts, you're reminded what it's really like to be losing your mind:

Case in point, I overheard this particular gem this morning.

Elderly Patient: What's the date please?
Receptionist: It's the 13th
Elderly Patient: Of?
Receptionist: Of? Oh, November
Elderly Patient: And the year?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Move Over Destiny

Scribble Nation recently sent me a superb double CD 'A Rose is a Rose', a collection of great female musicians. Now I am to music what dub-ya is to world peace, but I am always interested in hearing something new. What I had not expected was to stumble on an old friend. Her collection rightly included a song by the amazing Nina Simone.

I think everybody has that one song, the one you played on continuous repeat for hours on end as it spoke so perfectly to what you were going through at that particular point in your life. 'I got it bad (and that ain't good)' is that song for me. Hearing Nina Simone on Scribble Nation's compilation was like a time-travelling punch in the gut, back to emotions I haven't felt in a long time.

I played it on continuous repeat for old times sake yesterday, and damn that's a good song. What's amazing to me now is how the lines 'Lord above me, make him love me' use to resonate with me. Had I no self-respect, no sense of self-worth? I suppose the generous response is, who honestly does have a solid sense of self-worth in their early 20s, but crikey, note to 20-year-old self - if he doesn't think you're the dogs bollocks, move on, and hit shuffle on that bloody CD player.

I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to my former flatmates who probably hear that song now and have to fight an urge to open a cheap bottle of Rioja and fling it towards my bedroom door.

At the time, my friend and internationally famous flatmate S. tried to put things in perspective (oh so many times, and over oh so many bottles of wine). We were standing outside the Porters Lodge at College, and she flung out her arms in desperation and said 'Look Als, if he was your destiny, there'd be some sort of sign' - as he cycled past waving.

God it felt good to laugh.

So what's your song?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Bloody Sunday

In order for me to get everything done today I need Anna to nap for approximately 7.5 hours.

So far she is on her third viewing of the same episode of Dora and while my back was turned (OK, while I was on the pompooder) she has managed to do this with my earrings and a doorknob:
















That does not bode well for the banging sounds I now hear coming from her bedroom.

Her father is currently golfing and I am going mental as her favourite word is now why? Why is poop stinky? Why Anna no haf Hallowe'en candy? Why he haf no trousers?

Why who haf no trousers young lady?!

I usually work four days a week. Four days followed by a three-day weekend. I highly, highly recommend it. What you lack in bank balance you make up for in sanity. My rationale is that I get to spend more time with Anna in her important formative years, but truly, I'm wondering how I can get my employers to spin this out til Anna goes to college because working five days a week is for the birds. I know this because for the last couple of weeks I have been back to my old five-day-a-week schedule and it's doing my head in. I am thinking of scheduling time to cut my fingernails.

Which reminds me, I really should go and cut my fingernails.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Vincent Van Chuff

Love is blind. A recent thankyou note from someone who received some of Anna's artwork:

"I see the talent in the brush strokes, the placement of colors. She paints with her soul."

Friday, November 09, 2007

Wait, I Have A Few Suggestions Myself

Anna just had her yearly flu shot, and was her usual stoic self. I don't know how I ended up with such a die-hard daughter. My Dad would faint at the sight of a needle, and I'm not the bravest. While the needle was being prepared (even writing that makes me shudder) I had her singing the ABCs, so that by the time the nurse did the evil deed Anna was part way through the 'now I know my ABCs....' part and didn't stop singing, she just looked over her shoulder at the nurse as if to say 'dude, you are so not helping me here'.

I did not get a flu shot. I feel like I've already had my yearly dose courtesy of Anna, and I'm not pregnant or sickly, so there's all the more for you, you pregnant sickly people of SB. It took me 3 weeks to get over the last bout of pre-school flu, finally having to resort to antibiotics, which I'm usually deathly allergic too and for me is rather like playing microbial russian roulette. Ha! You think this sinus infection is bad, why not try anaphylactic shock on for size.

What I did get was a surprisingly large amount of advice about colds, and infections, and immune systems. I suppose three weeks of me going 'bI'm bine bankyou' had people doubting my cold-fighting techniques. I did receive some very helpful suggestions, and some, well, less so. Large amounts of tequila (helpful), whisky lemon and honey (right this way nurse), washing your hands (less helpful).

It amazes me how many people will tell you that, "Hey! You know what works for me so I don't get colds. Basic hygiene! Why not try washing your hands and not picking your nose?!"

Gosh thanks, that's very helpful particularly when you're woken up at 3am by a snot-nosed toddler meeowing and pretending to be a cat whilst licking your nose and mouth.

That's when you need the tequila apparently.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I Hate You Pompooder

It's a grey and dreary day today here in the 'Golden' State. I'm thinking of cooking lasagne. Can you tell that I'm running out of things to regale you with? I have a fabulous lasagne receipe that I won't share with you, because it's not mine. It belongs to my friend C, and it makes me smile every time I use it because not only is it wantonly loaded with meaty-cheesy goodness, but the recipe was also hand-written by C's older sister and contains such gems as 'it's in the green jar in your fridge' and 'stick your finger in it to see if it's done'. All of the comments are those that an older sister would make who has serious misgivings about her sibling's cookery skills. You can almost feel her going 'for the love of God, move over, I'll do it'.

I miss my friend.

Anyway, a lovely comment from one of my 3 readers has led me to my first official 'you've been tagged' meme. I'd link to her here but I'm blogging on an archaic machine powered by a hamster, so I'll just have to say, check out her link on the sidebar - Squishy Thoughts!!

So, here goes, 10 random facts about me:

1. I cannot stand men whose torsos are longer than their legs. I'm pretty intolerant of men with short legs in general actually.

2. I support Manchester United

3. Growing up I was a huge Anne of Green Gables fan. In 2004 I realized a dream by travelling to Prince Edward Island. I was really bummed not to come home with a decent souvenir. Until 3 weeks later I realized I was pregnant.

4. I could groom my hair for split ends for hours. Literally. It's probably my most unappealing habit.

5. I am a chronic worrier and planner. I know to the day when our next car insurance payment is due, I've figured out our next vacation around 2008's quaterly tax payments and I know enough about our mortgage to wonder how I sleep at night. Actually this IS my most unappealing habit and sometimes I wish someone would just put a bullet in my brain. I once joked to LK that I might accidentally be pregnant and he said 'W, I've seen how you are with our bank accounts, you're not going to be accidentally anything'.

6. I am a situational alcoholic.

7. I drive a car that's old enough to vote. If it could vote, it would probably ask to be put out of its misery.

8. I am a brilliant sleeper. When not worrying about mortgages or immigration I can easily sleep 9-10 hours a night. My daughter is also a champion sleeper. It's one of the things I love most about her although it shouldn't be.

9. Courtesy of Anna I now call computers pompooders, DVDs deebee-deebees and flowers shadows. She might be college-aged before she learns the truth.

10. Anna still sleeps with us most nights. She'd better kick that habit before she's college-aged, for the sake of our marriage and the sake of any future siblings.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Love

Last night was Film Club, a chance to hang out with the girls and watch the kind of movie that would make LK run for the hills clawing at his eyes. Last night's offering, chosen by the wonderful Mooks, was the perfect example of a film that would LK would never, ever watch. I think he'd rather sit down over a cup of coffee with his Mum and say 'hey, got an hour, let's talk, really talk'. We saw 'Nowhere in Africa' which was not only beautiful, evocative, and award-winning but was also in German, with subtitles. See what I mean? No Will Ferrell in sight. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would definitely recommend it, but there is the usual caveat that I was heavily under the influence of some stellar pinot. It was one of those films where you end up caring so deeply for the characters that by ten minutes in we were laying odds on who was going to suffer the inevitable tragic and haunting death. It also made me want to go home, hug my daughter til her eyes popped out and promise her a world in which man's inhumanity to man would cease. Like I say, much wine was drunk.

I have always been a bit of a weeper when it comes to movies, I was inconsolable during Herbie Goes Bananas. Having Anna though has rendered me a sentimental basketcase. I seem to have lost all emotional resilience and, dare I say it, perspective. Perhaps I just have a new, softer, perspective - whatever, it's bloody annoying. Particularly because the one thing that always bothered me before I had kids was people who would say that you never really knew what love was until you had children.

Now a bona fide member of the Mom-brigade (no perineum here) I still find the concept insufferably patronizing and insulting. But is it true?

Is it ever possible to empathize without having gone through the exact same thing? I think it is.

I will be the first to admit that having kids has changed me. It's certainly true that I pay more attention to children now, that I feel more pain at tales involving cruelty or neglect to kids, but to assume that if you're childless you are somehow incapable of understanding the love a parent has for their child is staggering to me. Having Anna has taught me a lot about myself, about how I grew up, how I relate to people, but I still recognize the pre-Mum me. Yes I had different priorities, and much prettier toenails, but I was still human, I could still love and realize the depth of love parents had for their children.

That is one of the defining things between women - have you noticed that there always seems to be a 'we have kids' or 'no kids' dynamic in all relationships, with blokes that is almost never the case. I certainly get on much better with my fellow staff at work now that I have become 'accepted' as a mother. God it pisses me off. Why do women do this to themselves?

Maybe it's just that I won't completely understand what it is to love until I have a son.

It's been suggested.

Seethe.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tennis Rackets




















First of all racquets or rackets? Who knows. As I'm typing they both look wrong, so I might just have to go with 'bats'.

LK collects them, has done for years and at last count we had over 200 of the things in our attic and storage cupboards. They're not small and in a town where land is roughly $1 million an acre, it's not exactly a practical hobby either. They are surprisingly beautiful though, and after years of bundling them all in bin-liners and hiding them away we've finally put some up on display:
















I know - just looking at that magnolia wall makes me itch to paint it 'capuccino' or 'ochre' or some other trendy Restoration Hardware colour. On a side note, I did notice Pottery Barn have a shade of green called 'dill weed' which I would love to use just so when Lance asked about it I could say "it's green. Dill weed".

Aren't they gorgeous? For about $3 each you can find one of these at any thrift store or antique shop and they are works of art. Some of LK's rackets are clearly almost a hundred years old, predating leather grips even. They all have different woods inlaid, and time-worn inscriptions like this one that says "Wright & Ditson, Boston Mass".















Obviously a collection like this makes more sense in our wonderful arid climate. As anyone who's looked for that old racket in the back of the wardrobe in England knows, damp and wooden rackets don't mix, and even those brilliant old racket-presses are no guarantee you won't end up with equipment the shape of Charlie Chaplin's legs.

















Second only to this hobby, is LK's passion for taking one of these 50-yr old rackets to the local tennis courts for a pick up a game with some random stranger. Someone no doubt strutting around with his latest computer-enhanced GPS enabled titanium weapon. LK watches them sneer as he produces his antiquated racket, politely turns down their proffered spare racket, and then he tears them a new one.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Happy Blogiversary To Me

No, I did not expect this to last a year.

I'd toyed with the idea of having a blog for a long time, I'd even set up my account months before I started. Then, for no particular reason, one year ago today I got straight out of bed, logged on and voila my first post. Auspicious beginnings I think you'll agree, can't think why I didn't get more comments.

This was supposed to be a project to help me with my writing. I was halfway through writing a book when I started. I'm still halfway through writing that book. Blogging I've found, can be rather addictive and far more rewarding than slogging away at a novel that is starting to thin a little in the middle and where all the characters sound rather too much like me. Blogging also takes up far, far more time than I have. Which is why I'm doing NaBloPoMo - because I'm a whack-job, certifiable.

What inspired me to start blogging, or rather who, is definitely Fussy. Living next door to a blogging icon for nearly a decade will help motivate, if you can get past the intimidation factor of someone who can whip up a post like a literary souffle. I still think about 'popcorns' and 'WTF little man'. She also wrote last year about those people not doing NaBloPoMo maybe making a resolution to comment on a blog at least once a day. That certainly hit home after many months of writing this, literally sending posts out in to the void. I'd been a 'lurker' for years myself, laughing and crying, reading posts and never saying a word. I think about it now, and can't believe I just let some posts go unacknowledged, like my favourite blog entry of all time. I honestly think about that paella post at least once a week and crack up. Genius.

So, another year? Who knows? I had intended to use this both as a tool to help my writing and also to memorialize some of the parenting stuff that otherwise gets forgotten, but I'd genuinely no idea how much time I would spend writing about how it feels to be a stranger in a foreign culture. Clearly I have *some issues*, and this blog is proving strangely cathartic, so for now you're stuck with me.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Signs Point To 'You're Buggered'

I just ran across a Magic 8 Ball while cleaning like a dervish for our guest's arrival. Our guest who was originally staying for 3 weeks and has now tacked on an extra 2 weeks.

I asked "Will our ******** real estate deal bankrupt us".

* YES *

What happened to "Reply Hazy Try Again?" or "No, Not In A Million Years, You're Quids In Mate"??

I have a feeling this is a trusty 8 Ball. If you have a question for it - post it in comments and I'll happily let you know.......

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Hair of the Dog

I just spent $18 getting my hair cut at Fantastic Cuts or some similar chain. Yes, times are hard, but honestly the thought of coughing up nearly four times that amount for a trim at my usual swanky salon was just too much this time. I get my hair cut on average about twice a year. I don't colour it, and I keep it long, so really there shouldn't be too much to it. It suddenly dawned on me that I was paying about $80 for a head massage and for Montecito Moms with heads bristling with tinfoil to glare at me. Plus, I get the feeling my hairdresser thinks that people who don't get highlights are just a waste of time and money, a hairdressing cock-tease if you will.

I love the colour of my hair but it's fine and limp and throws in the towel with hair product if someone so much as sneezes. I have nothing but respect for people with gorgeous thick hair who selflessly cut off a foot and send it over to Locks of Love. MM & Fresh Hell did that recently, good girls that they are. My ponytail is the circumference of one of Anna's fingers, one of her smaller fingers. My hair needs to put on weight. I'm sure Locks of Love would send it back saying they don't take chinchilla shed.

Maybe because it's so fine I've never had any luck getting my hair 'done'. My coup de grace with hairstylists probably came a few years ago when I took a recommendation from a friend and got my haircut at some bijou salon. I had a pretty nice cut going courtesy of Toni & Guy in the UK, and I just wanted it tidying up a bit. While he was snipping away I asked him if he thought I should ever go for a shorter, bolder look. He picked up one desolate, lank lock, looked me full in the eye and said 'I'd keep it long, after all it's probably your best feature'.

So, QuickCutz it is. It's not half bad, this new cut either. Nothing fancy, I suppose I got what I paid for. A vanilla haircut for a mainstream maven, but just take a look at this picture and see what I was given to work with people. Ever wondered what a natural blonde looks like when she's 6? Ever seen naturally pale blue hair??? Hair so pale you literally blend in with the wall?

Guess which one I am, just guess.















By the looks of me I'd just had my hair done. The pout says it all.

Do you think this photo dates me? I mean, look at the artwork, the carpet (sorry V). At least it's in colour.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Gratuitous Photo Post

November 2nd and I'm already clutching at straws.

Here's a few photos from the Halloween Party hosted by the wonderful Mrs Skeletor.





Yes, those are my old college footie socks. For the wheel!!!
In my defence I've been sick for 3 weeks, and had 5 minutes to throw together an outfit. I should never have worn those fake knobbly knees.








Next year I'm definitely just buying a chuffing wig. How awesome is this?






















Yes she really is that damn cute.
It must be good genes.










.....and finally the piece de resistance. Hans, Franz, and random flamenco guy. Can you believe they're all sober? No, neither can I.

That's a statue of a witch in the foreground, and not a small child of unfortunate head-size, although you'd have been amused at the party to find how many people tripped over her and then apologized profusely.





.....seriously though, check out what she's looking at......








....I think she's right, I think it is a very dodgy stain.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Rabbits, Rabbits, Rabbits

Hello November.

I'm going to give this NaBloPoMo thing an honest attempt, but I hope you realize that each of my posts is a carefully crafted essay, laboured over and lovingly edited? Nope? Well that should become fairly apparent in the next few days.

Here's the first in a stream of useless fluff to pad out the month.

My Nanna taught me that the first words you should say on the first of every month are 'Rabbits, Rabbits, Rabbits' if there's an R in the month and 'White Rabbits, White Rabbits, White Rabbits' if there's no R. If you manage to make that the first thing you say then you'll have a very lucky month. Provided you can spell of course.

This is made far more challenging when you have a small child and you don't wake up gently to sunbeams and the smell of freshly brewed coffee at 7:30am, instead waking up to a 28lb toddler clambering over you at 3:14am, using your neck and boobs for leverage whilst whining 'need Mummy's hair'. It can be a lot more challenging to say 'rabbits, rabbits, rabbits' and not 'get the fuck off me you parasitic little worm'.

I'd always had a sneaking suspicion that 'Rabbits, Rabbits, Rabbits' was something my Nanna had made up, something to distract me from my requests for a bacon sandwich at 7:06am on a chilly Manchester morning. Upon further research though, it's quite a widely-held superstition, confirmed even by Wikipedia. So Crikey it must be true.

Has anyone else heard of this? Is there anyone out there who will admit to equally ludicrous superstitions?

For the record I did manage to say 'Rabbits, Rabbits, Rabbits' this morning, although my first actual thoughts were 'crap it's November'.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Horror

Oh America I cannot pretend to understand you.

You make Halloween an entire month-long festival of candy and costumes and props and spray-on cobwebs, yet when I drop Anna off at preschool this morning resplendent in her Tinkerbell outfit it seems she was the only belle at the ball. WTF? Halloween-a-palooza somehow doesn't extend to the actual day? There was one other pint-size fireman cowering by the rabbit hutches, but everyone else was as we Brits say 'in mufti'. What, suddenly you're all concerned about the practicality of this holiday and decide to dress everyone sensibly and appropriately? I have been assailed by pumpkin paraphernalia for weeks! I repeat, WTF?

I died a million repressed British deaths. It was the parental equivalent of that dream where you turn up to school naked. Fortunately my little Flower Fairy is 2 and didn't realise the massive faux-pas that had just been committed. She trotted off to find little Jayden/Brayden/Squayden to say "fuck yeah I'm wearing wings beotch, throw-down Ugg-boy". While I mumbled about a change of clothes being in her cubby and fled.

Her father will be picking her up.

Friday, October 26, 2007

First Born

The universe is having a cosmic joke at my expense, I have the flu, on top of residual catarrh from a two-week old cold that I have still yet to kick. I'm not up to posting anything that requires thought, so I've 'borrowed' this from Sticky Feathers. When I responded to her post, I failed to say, crikey 7 weeks early. What the chuff!

Questions About Your First Born.

1. were you married at the time? yes.

2. what were your reactions? equal parts excited and terrified - oh and I somehow didn't believe that the pregnancy would 'take'. It's a good thing a pregnancy is 9 months long as that's precisely how long it took me to get my head round the idea of being a Mum.

3. how old were you? 31

4. how did you find out you were pregnant? I came back from holiday and thought, hmm, wait a minute, it's been more than 4 weeks since I was last flying the red flag, maybe I should take a test. I took one, it was negative. Many days and tests later I finally got a faint pink line (and promptly googled 'faint pink line'), then I took a digital test, and crikey moses it said 'pregnant'.

5. who did you tell first? I called LK, he was at a friends house watching the Raiders. I couldn't wait for him to come home, so I called him on the phone and said 'I'm pregnant' he said 'that fast? What happened to all the practice we were supposed to get'. Then when he finally came home he made me re-test (test #6).

6. did you want to find out the sex? No. About 75% of friends told me they thought I was carrying a girl by the shape of my belly, and they were right. I bought a girl's onesie (babygro) at Baby Gap 2 weeks before delivery on a hunch.

7. did you deliver early or late? 2 days late - on my late Grandad's birthday, his first great grandchild.

8. did you have morning sickness? Not really, it just felt a bit like motion sickness, although I did spectacularly projectile vomit on Christmas Day. White robe, projectile vomit of coffee. LK could not stop laughing for the next hour. There was no warning, I was midway through opening presents and midway through a sentence and suddenly, BLEURGH.

9. what did you crave? Sweet and tart fruit; cherries, strawberries. It was the wrong time of year. I spent a fortune on cherries imported from Chile.

10. who irritated you the most? People who promised not to let the cat out of the bag when I told them I was pregnant. I had not intended to spill the beans so early, but my brother was visiting from England and would have rumbled why I wasn't drinking. I wasn't prepared to be pregnant and not ready for people to know before I was comfortable with the idea. Plus my Mum had a late miscarriage before me and I was terrified of the same thing happening.

11. what was your first child's sex? Girl

12. how many pounds did you gain throughout the pregnancy? Just less than 28lbs, (2 stone) and no stretch-marks, which I only realised about 2 weeks after giving birth, and then I was in the shower going, 'well I never'. I was convinced I was going to get stretch-marks as I'd already had them age 14 when I grew about a foot in one summer.

13. did you have any complications during your pregnancy? Nope, I was still playing league tennis when I was 7 months pregnant.

14. where did you give birth? Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital

15. how many hours were you in labor? All told about 24 hours, 12 hours of early labour interspersed with some truly awful contractions, then 2 hours of real balls to the wall contractions in the hospital when I went from 1cm dilated to 9cm in only 2 hours (the nurses quote was 'fast labours are good, but they can be very very painful'). No shit sherlock. I had an epidural which slowed things tremendously and then she was born at 9:20pm. Just in time for cocktails.

16. who drove you to the hospital? LK. It was a five minute drive and I had 3 sets of contractions en route.

17. who watched? LK. I declined the mirror.

18. was it natural or c-section? Natural.

19. did you take medicine to ease the pain? Naturally I had an epidural. As the docs I work for say 'they don't give out medals for bravery in labour and delivery'.

20. how much did your child weigh? 8lbs 10oz. Good Lord, she was only 2 days late people. I birthed a watermelon.

21. did your child have any complications? No, she was a whopper and was Apgar 9 and 9. We were very lucky.

22. what did you name him/her? Anna Rose. Anna for her maternal great grandma whose birthday was the day before, and her paternal great grandma was Erna (Danish Anna). Rose because despite being born in the US she is still an English Rose.

23. how old is your first born today? 2 1/4

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How Can We Sleep While Our Beds Are Burning?

California is on fire, again.

Santa Barbara County has been declared a State of Emergency by the Governator again. That makes it twice this year for God's sake. It's going to be pretty hard to justify house prices at this rate. Fortunately for us the headlines are the only terrifying aspect of this latest natural disaster, oh and I suppose the idea that Santa Barbara is going to be inundated by refugees from San Diego and Los Angeles, crowding our streets, drinking our lattes. Heaven forbid.

CNN's headline is 'Mass Migration as State Burns', unnerving I think you'll agree, and even the good old Beeb has California Fires Affect 500,000 which I almost typed as 'California Fries Affect 500,000' probably far more lethal when you come right down to it. The BBC map shows raging wildfires from Santa Barbara to San Diego, with hurricane-strength winds and a diaspora of SoCal residents. Going where? The Ramada Inn?

It's all a little surreal here, there is appalling air quality, dirt and ash raining down and the smell of smoke in the air, but that's also probably true in Manchester right now as well. We do however have a fantabulous sunset going on courtesy of the fires, so thankyou San Diego.

Every mushroom cloud has a silver lining.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Do Unto Others

This cold has kicked my arse. I'm finally on the mend but still operating on only one lung and half a nostril. We were at lunch this afternoon at LK's favourite taqueria and in front of everyone Anna grabs a napkin, puts it under my nose, holds the back of my head and says 'blow Mummy, blow hard, you have boogers.'

Nice.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bwa Ha Ha

Ok, that's certainly more seasonal. That's actually a photo of our pumpkin sitting outside our front door. Unless it's already been nicked by some 8-yr-old cholo. Now I'm just having a mare with my fonts and title placement. It's just too much for my snot-addled brain. We're all in the throes of some deathly virus courtesy of Typhoid Anna. Our house is littered with used tissues and animaux - Anna's pronunciation of her flotilla of tiny plastic animals she is desperate to play with at all hours of the day. We are too far gone with snot to protest the tide of giraffes, zebras and agitators (alligators) that are continually washing up on our carpet. Woe betide the errant midnight wanderer in search of Advil, a plastic rhino to the instep will make you forget that paltry head cold in no time.

Still, on a cheerier note - have you seen who the Madrid Masters have hired as their ball girls this year? Skanky crack addicts with giant boobs. No actually they're Spanish models, but you could have fooled me. Models it seems are not best suited to playing fetch for tennis players. Watching them break into a trot after a tennis ball puts me in mind of a herd of newborn giraffes galloping across the Serengeti. How anyone can be that gangly, with knobbly limbs flying everywhere yet still have such voluptuous cleavage is beyond me (but I'm sure LK will be pondering the phenomenon).

As you can read in the BBC article linked above, the models have been charged with bringing the game into disrepute by gazumping the usual crowd of pint-size tennis players eager for the chance of stardom. In all fairness though, I think they're doing an amazing job of making sure they'll never be hired for the gig again. Tonight's crop are in shapeless pale grey mini dresses with giant black trainers (sneakers). Bristling with clavicles and elbows, and honking great bosoms.

If I'd had more than 8 hours sleep in the past 4 days I'd write something witty about ball-girls. But I can't, I just can't.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Normal Service Will Resume Shortly

I know I know! What the chuff is going on with the header. Nice summery image - it's October you moron!

The point is, I have finally, finally worked out how to manipulate my blog header, a bit of a personal victory, so you'll just have to bear with me while I give it a proper sorting out. That is with all my spare time of course - in the time it's taken me to do this Anna has been wreaking havoc toilet-papering the entire second floor, and tipping everything out of every drawer. Honestly, what does she think I am, a parent?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Wardrobe Malfunction

Bit of a shocker at the gym this morning. I'd decided to wear a pair of yoga trousers rather than shave my legs and go with shorts. Big mistake. As soon as I started even the faintest trot on the treadmill they started to head south. I had my i-pod in my right hand and my clothing in my left. Fortunately I have just enough curve in my depressingly boyish hips to stop my pants making a complete bolt for it, but that, coupled with my jog top which was headed towards my ears left me showing a vast expense of polar-white midriff. Eva Longoria I am not. My post-Anna muffin top was out and proud. I ploughed on regardless, feigning ignorance and pretending that my bright red face was cardio-related not mortification. After all, damn it, I'd paid that $3 for childcare and I was going to sweat. Naked or not. I'm sure all the doctors in SB this weekend will be wondering how so many gym-members ended up with snow blindness.

Back to shorts and a T-shirt next week I think. Why do all those stupid jog tops have to be made for midgets anyway? Am I the only person who has more than a 3-inch torso?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

NaBloPoMo

As you've probably noticed by that tasteful decal I have on my sidebar, I have, with reckless abandon, signed myself up for Mrs. Kennedy's NaBloPoMo. Honestly who doesn't love a challenge?

NaBloPoMo for those who don't know or for those wary of committing to a double-click on the above link is National Blog Posting Month, the premise of which is to write a blog entry every day for a month. Inspired by NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month where you write a novel in a month. Shortly followed I'm sure by NaDroSproMo which is National Conceive and Drop that Sprog in the space of a month, which to mind is just about on a par.

I signed up because I was so involved with lurking and reading other NaBloPoMo wannabes slog through their marathon months last year. Something that actually inspired me to start this here masterpiece midway through November 06.

As you may have guessed, I'm already having second thoughts and I haven't even chuffing begun. I'm thinking it's perhaps a little rash in hindsight considering we'll have house-guests for 3 of those 4 weeks, and I'm hardly 'prolific' at the best of times.

I suppose this is just by way of a warning; in November you'll be getting a lot of crap coming your way. Want to know what vegetable I pulled out of my daughter's arse this week? What jests and japes our hapless tenants have been up to (remind me to tell you about tonights screaming match over a stolen telly...).

I know, you can hardly wait.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Ways I have been woken up recently:

1. Anna, inches from my sleeping face
"HERE'S ME!"

and

2. Me, out cold. Anna, frustrated and peeling back my eyelids:
"MUMMY! Are you in there?"

Friday, October 05, 2007

A.S.S

Actual. Star. Sighting.

The other night we went out on the town without the appendage, and it was bloody marvellous. To be able to pay attention to what people are saying without having 95% of your brain on Anna damage-control - wonderful. So there we were sitting down to some sushi and hot sake with our friends Mooks and Raf (or Ass as Anna calls him), and LK turns and says "dude, check out the all-NBA table right behind us".

Literally inches from us, two giant uber-athletes, a random older bloke and a token hot Asian chick who may or may not have been an WNBA star because she was a chuffing giantess too.

Raf (with his back to the NBA table in a reverent whisper): Dude! That's Cuttino Mobley and Mike Dunleavy. Who's the guy in the sweats behind me?

LK: Shit, that's Sam Cassell

Raf, loud as you like: Dude, he is so on my all-alien team.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Boobs & Utah

I know, boobs and Utah in the same post.

Well apparently I don't know as much as I thought I did about my friends back home in Blighty. I've just learned that some of them are hiding more than what God gave them underneath those handknits. Good Lord!

I will take their identity to the grave (hint: it's a woman) because with our history I owe this person some discretion, but honestly, who has a secret boob job? Are they possible? Apparently so.

Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled program, with a satellite delay of only three weeks. Sorry! I'm rubbish and also a very busy person....

So there we were leaving Las Vegas, the creature all fueled up with Old MacDonalds FIES! Then we hit a snag. The first hint was when LK said 'I don't want to alarm you, but'. He is not a man for superlatives. For him 'Houston we have a problem' was probably a bit overstated.

I turned down my ipod and braced myself for disaster.

We were 25 miles outside Vegas on the most deserted, windswept piece of desert highway you could imagine. It was 3 o'clock in the afternoon and 110º. The last turn-off we'd so blithely passed was appropriately 'Caliente, Nevada' - and for good reason. The temperature gauge needle was vertical and we were spewing engine coolant. LK pulled off the freeway in to the sand and scrub and 'popped the hood' (opened the bonnet) to survey the damage. There wasn't even a lone Joshua Tree for shade. The trucks thundering by mere metres from our heads were creating quite a breeze, but breeze is a misleading word isn't it? You automatically think, cool, refreshing. This was like standing in front of a hairdryer to keep cool. If you haven't been to the desert before this kind of heat is surprising. The first time I ventured anywhere with that dry, arid heat I was casting my eyes around for the fire - for the open oven, for anything that could generate such fiery energy.

Don't say 'but it's a dry heat'.

The rest, three weeks later, is all rather anti-climatic. LK poured several canisters of coolant back into the molten radiator, we did an extremely ill-advised but absolutely necessary U-turn on Interstate 15 and crawled back to Vegas on the hard shoulder at a measly 17mph, our sweltering tails between our legs. Neither of us daring to breath in case the temperature needle started to climb again. Our favourite Vegas road-trip game of 'spot the car-fire scorch marks by the side of the freeway' was not quite so entertaining this time. I have never wished so fervently for a GMC Behemoth or a Dodge Leviathan, something absurdly large and garish with ice-cold AC. There are occasional reasons why American 'cars' are giant tank-like gas-guzzlers. Our little sedan had thrown in the towel.

The miracle of the situation was not that the head gasket had not blown (it's not that I don't love double negatives), it was that we didn't see a cop for the entire 90 minute mis-adventure. We ended up limping back to Santa Barbara in the dead of night, with no air conditioning, to take advantage of the cool 90º night-time temperatures. We did not get to Utah to visit the cabin that LK's Dad built entirely by hand. A cabin I've only ever been to once. But if we had made it to Utah and taken pictures, they would have looked something like this:








































Oh well, next time. In our Ford Four-Miles-to-the gallon McMansion on wheels.

And no, for the record, it was not lost of me on my 10th anniversary that I am married to a man who is not only smart enough to think ahead to buy engine coolant, and a cooler with ice and gallons of water, but who knows how to 'pop the hood' and is man enough to work out how to fix the damn thing too.

Woof!