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?'.


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


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.

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?