Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nope, Still Pregnant

I was going to do a play on the whole 'apologies for the pregnant pause' thing, as it has been *a while* since my last post, but my sense of humour seems to have deserted me.

I am so chuffing pregnant.

So much for our tax baby. Apparently creature #2 gets her financial acumen from her father, and is showing no signs of arriving in a fiscally timely manner.

I have tried everything to get her out:

Walking: 4-5 miles a day over Christmas and the weekend. I thought this was more or less guaranteed, as I've convinced myself this was what brought on labour with Anna. But no, no baby for you!

Shagging: LK's response 'there's not enough gin'.

Trampolining: Yes I'm that desperate. No, it wasn't pretty, and I couldn't keep it up for more than 10 bounces at a time without needing to go to the loo. Come to think of it, the same happened with the shagging too.....

Breast Pump: Ahh, my old nemesis. Got milk? Yes. Baby? No.

Spicy Food: Indian food for lunch. I think the ensuing crampiness was indigestion though, although you should have seen LK's face when I told him I thought I felt a twinge. Possibly delight at welcoming a second child, or euphoria over not being approached to do the wild thing again.

Induction: My doctor's response 'but I'm not on call this week'. Me (under my breath as I'm terminally British) 'I don't care if it's you or not mate, any muppet can catch a baby'. When I tried a different tack and suggested that creature #2 is on the large side and that I didn't want a repeat of the great-rending-0f-2005 he said 'well, we know you're capable, you've done it before'. *Sigh*. Have decided not to wash my feet before my next appointment with him and the stirrups. That'll teach him!

Cleaning Floors: Nobody needs to have a baby that badly.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Advent-a-palooza

When we were growing up we had the same advent calendar every year. December 1st was always a picture of a Christmas pudding (I'm sure my Mum is looking at that very calendar right this minute thinking, *wow* she's right, maybe we should have splashed out on a new calendar every five years or so).

Times have changed, and also, this is America. No Christmas puddings, but also no cardboard advent calendars. Anna has a deluxe wooden model with individual doors begging to be stuffed with treats. Thanks to her ever-indulgent Nani, and the fact we thought she'd forgotten this year and had also bought a mini treat for each door, every day is opened to reveal a miniature cornucopia. Today she got a chocolate Santa, a plastic pig and a tiny wooden angel for the tree.

























This isn't going to be a post about spoiling your children, or about American largess, mostly because I love Christmas and I'm absolutely crackers about advent calendars (opening the same doors, and alternating days with my brother year after year only served to pique my excitement it appears).

What I want to write about is Anna's face when she eats candy. Something I want to put down on paper before she grows up and I forget forever. I should really work on taking a photo. I love the fact that candy for her is tantamount to a religious experience. Too many of us grab a chocolate and wolf it down whilst absorbed with something else. When Anna unwraps and eats a candy, time stands still. Her whole face transparent with enjoyment and concentration, radiating happiness. You can practically see her tastebuds firing. I know that very soon she'll grow out of this phase, that candy will be gobbled down like a dog ploughing through it's dinner, but as I steadily inflate with each passing pregnant day, I will try and remember how she savours every second of chocolately goodness, and try to do likewise instead of absent-mindedly inhaling a packet of Trader Joes Peppermint O's whilst cooking dinner.

I also love the fact that nothing, nothing, will get a 3 year old out of bed on a school day faster than reminding her that she gets to open another door on her advent calendar. I know most of you have normal children who rise with the sun, but my child was doomed by her genetics and will happily sleep til 9 (unless it's a Sunday of course, then she's all sunshine and 'look Mummy morning is here').

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Rose By Any Other Name

Generally I don't give much thought to any of LK's old girlfriends - if anything most of them did me a huge favour by treating him so badly that any half decent wifely behaviour on my part leaves him shocked and grateful. At least I'll tell myself that until he asks for a divorce.

However, many years ago one of his ex-girlfriends did a complete number on him, and has left me paying the price.

Apparently, early in their relationship she told him she'd one day like them to have two golden retrievers and their names would be blah and blah. Now as any pre-pubescent scholar of Cosmo will tell you, never ever breathe of future domesticity until you're walking the other way down the aisle. And even then let him think it was his idea. This offhand comment on her part (and she's probably still wondering why he ran screaming - maybe she concluded he had a pet dander allergy), left him completely unable to commit to naming something. Fine if you're talking about hypothetical dogs - not so great if you're 8 months pregnant with his child.

We named Anna in the delivery room. I do not intend for that to happen again.

If necessary I will be going in to labour with a fully executed Advance Directive - not in case of emergencies, just in case in the throes of animal pain he manages to persuade me that Waltrout is a great name. For days after naming Anna I was left wondering if 'we'd' made the right decision. We had three top picks if it was to be a girl (we left the gender unknown last time), Anna, Lucy and Elsa/Elsie. The only thing we had agreed on was a middle name - Rose - for English Rose. While in labour 'we' picked Anna because it best matched her middle name. Not such a bad choice as it happens, and it did honour both sides of the family and soften his incredibly Teutonic last name. Still, the point is, I don't want to be naming another child while hopped up on drugs, yet he resolutely refuses to discuss the issue leaving me hopelessly frustrated. Instead he says he wants to 'name her when he sees her' (in which case she'll probably be called 'whopper' or 'tore Mummy a new one').

So, I'm reaching out to you dear internet - let's discuss baby names! Humour me - any favourites, suggestions, names to avoid? I generally go for traditional names, but all suggestions will be met with complete respect - unless you're called Waltrout of course.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

....and I'm spent...

Well, it's inescapable that this is the last day of NaBloPoMo, but it's also the last day of a lovely fat 4-day holiday. Something pretty rare in America. How many of you still have that LOTTD (list of things to do) hovering uncompleted? I have failed to transform our office in to a baby room, failed to write all my Christmas cards, sort through and wash Anna's baby clothes, tidy the chuffing house, wrap and post all my Christmas presents. Maybe the list was a little ambitious considering the time allotted, but four days off in this country? Such an unusual occurrence that you begin to think it's sufficient time to gut and remodel a kitchen, a house even.

When I first moved here I had many, many pre-conceived notions about America. I thought it was a land of rampant crime (and indeed my suitcase was almost stolen in front of my eyes the minute I landed at LAX), of oversized meals, people and free time. Some of which was true, but the free time part? Never in my wildest dreams did it occur to me that the land of 'leezure' could be such a workhouse on the sly.

My first shock was when I asked if we got both Friday and Monday off for Easter, or just Monday. A question met with polite laughter then incredulity. Two days off for Easter? What kind of bible-bashing work-shy country did I hail from? Now, I do applaud America for trying, in some instances, to separate church from State and for playing down the religious holidays - but please throw us a frickin' bone here - give us something in return. A lot of employers do not recognize Presidents Day, which means that you go from January 1st to the end of May without any recognizable public holiday. This is a country that typical offers only 5-10 paid vacation days a year in a new job.

The UK is considered the 'workhorse of Europe' for its lack of public holidays, but maybe it just seems to me that whenever I call home it's always a three-day bank holiday weekend. Either way, it was pretty lovely to call on Thursday to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving safe in the knowledge that it was just another Thursday of toil and freezing rain in North Yorkshire.

Maybe this pregnancy is wearing me out, but I want my Boxing Day! and don't even get me started on maternity leave.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My Mom Is Having A Baby Sister

My pregnancy is inescapable these days. I've even started to do 'the waddle', the weight of my belly coupled with loosening pelvic ligaments means it's easier for me to move forward by lurching from side to side while swinging my legs forward than it is to walk normally. I let out an involuntarily 'oof' noise whenever I bend. The other day I dropped my car keys, and sighed, looking around as if to say 'anybody, help? please don't make me pick these up by myself'.

I look like a bad actor portraying a pregnant woman.

Obviously all this has not gone unnoticed by Anna. So the question is, how is she coping with the idea of being bumped along the food chain?

For months, apart from sporting her own phantom pregnancy, she really couldn't have cared less. In fact she could hardly be engaged on the subject. The first I heard of it was when one of her little school friends went crying to her Mum saying that Anna's Mom was going to have a baby sister and that she wanted one too. I was completely gobsmacked that Anna was even thinking about creature #2 let alone bragging. Things have changed though, and her baby sister is literally in her face. Nose to distended navel. We like to talk about how much work baby #2 is going to be, and how Anna will be my 'big helper'. She is assisting me in 'decorating' the baby's room which is beginning to take shape (although as you can tell by the photos below - we still need to paint). We bought a lovely changing table/dresser on Craigslist last weekend which Anna covered liberally in sea glass. How baby friendly! We have also unearthed all of Anna's old baby toys.



































Now, several people have told me that when a new baby arrives your older child will regress in some way. Some will revert to toddler-style temper tantrums, others will lose ground with potty training (please God, no). Anna is embracing her babyhood. The arrival of all her old baby toys means that's all she wants to play with. She's even started to demand we watch her old 'Baby Einstein' DVDs again. We draw the line when she starts 'pretending' to be a baby. Lying on her back waving her limbs in the air talking gibberish. It's laughably transparent. "Look! We don't need to introduce a new baby - I can be all the baby you'll ever need!".

We're trying to let her know that we loved her when she was an infant, but we love her even more now - now that she's a big girl and so accomplished. We try to emphasize all the things she's capable of that 'Fahan' won't be able to do, like helping to bake cookies, running through puddles, and drawing monsters - all the important stuff. It doesn't seem to be working though.

Anyone have any advice or suggestions in this area? So far we're humouring her, I assume it's a phase that she'll just work her way through, but right now I'm wondering just how far this regression is going to go.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I Blame Go, Diego Go

Yesterday, when walking in to town as a family, we heard a dog barking hoarsely in the background.

Anna: "Mom! Did you hear that?"
Me: "Mmm?"
Anna: "That's a tapir!"



























Quickly followed by this gem at the Thanksgiving dinner table:

(Anna had just performed a rousing rendition of 'the peanut song' to a packed crowd of four older friends of my father-in-law - much clapping and encoring ensued).

Anna: "You're welcome big butt!"
Crowd "......"
Elderly lady #1: "I think she said you're welcome big bud"
Anna (to a lady with a large arse): "NO! You're welcome BIG BUTT"
LK & I in unison: "Anna - please say you're sorry, you can't say things like that"
Anna (genuinely perplexed): "Why not? It's just real life"

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

You've got to love a holiday that's based around being thankful, and food. I have certainly embraced Turkey Day - a wonderful stress-free holiday if 50% of your family consider it to be just another Thursday. No guilt about where to spend the holiday, only the joy of too many calories with hopefully someone else cooking.

This year we have a lot to be thankful for. Creature #2 appears to be thriving. We did not lose our house. We will be able to provide food and shelter for our daughters for a few more months at least - something that was not a given six months ago. We have truly amazing friends and family.

Now lets talk about food. When I first moved to this country I volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner. How hard could it be, right? Lance told me what we'd need to cook:

Turkey
Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Candied Yams
Green bean casserole
Corn bread
Stuffing
Pumpkin Pie
Pecan Pie
Roast Elephant stuffed with quails.....

You get the point.

I looked at him dumbfounded, of the entire menu I'd heard of the first three items. It was just going to be me, him, his Mom and her then boyfriend. They were bringing the wine. I had NO idea what I'd signed up for. Americans do not do things by halves, and you only have to look at a Thanksgiving meal as proof.

I sweated through 15 main dishes in 80º heat. Welcome to Thanksgiving in Southern California. I quickly learned that the best Thanksgivings are potlucks where everyone brings a dish and you don't end up wishing you'd just gone out for Chinese.

This year we're going to LK's Dad's house. I am bringing the pie. Not hard right? Well, you should see the sizeable burn on the back of my right hand - I am not a natural in the kitchen, but even I can't mess up this recipe for the perfect Thanksgiving pie, seriously, give it a try. It's really easy and is the best pie I've ever tasted. Perfectly sweet and tart, with a lovely crunchy topping. I substitute brandy-soaked cherries for currants because I'm not a big fan of raisins/sultanas/currents and their ilk, and the result is this:



































Quickly followed by this:



A large gut (not pregnancy).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Maternity Wardrobe That Works

This is going to sound like a shameless plug, except I'm not getting paid a dime, and after all, this is a lot of what blogging means to me personally - sharing stories, advice and ideas.

It's not easy to dress for work when you've got a belly the size of a regular at the Rovers Return. When I was pregnant with Anna I was tearing my hair out looking for reasonably-priced maternity trousers that had more than a 32" inseam (go ahead - hate me). In borrowed maternity 'pants' I looked like a pregnant sailor, even in flats. Fortunately it was early summer and I could resort to capris and skirts. Now I'm in the depths of November, and even in Southern California capris could leave you feeling a little exposed around the ankles. It is after all raining today.

I was truly dreading a return to maternity trousers. I know that vanity would seem to be the first thing out the window during pregnancy, but every little helps in terms of self-esteem, and not having to wear clown trousers was a big deal to me. I hated them with a passion, and I thought they were unavoidable. Apparently not though, and why? - because several months ago I read this post from agirlandaboy, and thought, hmm, crazy, but that might just work.

I bought two 'Bella Bands' at a local maternity shop, one black, one white, and while it does seem a little pricey for a tube of elasticated material these things have quite literally saved my maternity wardrobe, my dignity and my self-esteem. (I swear I'm not getting paid to say this).

I am 8 months pregnant and still wearing my normal work trousers.

I know - no ridiculous sums of money spent on hideous polyester trousers that just barely graze my ankle. Every single day I am gobsmacked that these giant elastic bands are holding up the impossible. They seem to defy the laws of physics. My fly is wide open but covered with elastic and I have yet to cause people to scream or faint at the sight of the unthinkable. I'll agree that it's much easier with some trousers than others (some with an exposed zip that can rub bare flesh are an obvious no-no even if you do like wearing Granny knickers) but most quality tailored trousers have some fabric between the zipper and your flesh, so wearing the zip down all day is perfectly comfortable. The same goes for button-jeans. I suppose the principle doesn't apply if your arse has grown as astronomically as your belly, but fortunately that doesn't seem to be the case for me - either that or I had naturally roomy-in-the-arse work trousers.

I've heard tell that the same product can be bought for half the price at Motherhood Maternity - but everything I've ever bought there has been a complete travesty of polyester and poor fit, so I couldn't tell you.

Anyway, in conclusion, if you know any leggy pregnant women, suggest the Bella Band, it'll save them hundreds of dollars in embarrassing pant-age.

End of gratuitous plug.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Handwriting

Having just churned out 15 lovingly personalized thankyou notes I would just like to say two things; firstly, people who buy thankyou notes as baby shower gifts are chuffing brilliant and secondly, my handwriting is appalling.

I can guarantee my college friends are laughing in agreement right now.

The fabulous Mrs H had to copy many a lecture from me that consisted of nothing but nnnns and mmmss. What at first glance looks to be neatly ordered tiny writing on closer inspection resembles a march of miniature caterpillars. Completely illegible. Not as bad as J's lecture notes though - as J had taken Economics A-level, and while his script was legible, unlike the rest of us he knew various cunning economic symbols and used them rampantly. Borrowing his lecture notes would mean copying down phrases such as 'the economy showed increasing ∆ after the Bretton Woods agreement'. Useful! Reminds me of a love letter I received from a boyfriend whilst at College. I read it on the way to a lecture (I did attend a smattering), crossing through Corpus courtyard hungrily eating up every word. I hadn't counted on the effect of rain upon fountain pen though and was somewhat dismayed to read 'you are the most *rain splat* person I have ever met'. I never did find out what. That has never happened to me in California I might add.

I also think my handwriting's getting worse (groans from all those due to receive a thankyou note in the next few days). I spend 95% of my time typing, both at work and at home, and the remaining 5% which is handwritten is done at a doctor's office, so you can understand the inevitable decline. It feels so alien to write more than a few lines, I feel like I'm losing the skill. Anybody else feel like this?

Also, as an aside, have I managed to go an entire lifetime thinking that thankyou is a word. Why is blogger constantly underlining it in red, is it only ever thank you?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Flushed Away

Thanks for all your suggestions on how to dispose of Lester. In the end we decided to be very matter-of-fact with Anna. We told her that Lester had had good life, but that unfortunately he'd died overnight and that we were going to flush him down the loo to the ocean (thankyou finding Nemo!).

We made a solemn grouping around the toilet, Lester hanging limply in a fishing net. LK spoke about how pretty he was, how he was always eager to zoom up and grab a pellet. Meanwhile I'm thinking, *damn* the only two things I could say about the bloody fish and you've already mentioned them. I gave a suitably sombre pause and waxed lyrical about how he'd always been a good friend to Anna and that we'd been lucky to have him as a member of our family. Anna was last. More than anything she wanted to flush him down, but we suggested she say something nice by way of a goodbye. She said 'I want you to come back from the ocean alive so that I can play with you'.

*Ouch*

Then it way bye-bye Lester, two of his mourners praying vehemently that he wasn't going to break up in the watery vortex.

In relaying the story to my Mum and Dad later that day, my Dad said 'she'll be looking for him whenever you go to the beach you know'. If only that were true! He was right in that she is looking for him, newly reincarnated from his trip to the ocean, but at his point of departure. She is fully expecting him to reappear in the toilet, ready to play. Honestly, best laid plans etc etc. We are going to have one seriously constipated 3 year old on our hands at this rate.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

RIP Lester

















When I was about 8 or 10, Mum told my brother and I over breakfast that there'd been a death in the family. Cereal spoons paused in mid-air. We went through our list of pets, which at that point in a child's life is always lengthy. It wasn't my gerbil, it wasn't my brother's gerbil, it wasn't their myriad (named) babies. It wasn't even the stray carrier pigeon which had taken to 'resting' on our back steps for the last couple of weeks.

We racked our brains, and I started to get worried.

'It's not Dad is it?'.

If you know her, you know my Mum is not exactly effusive, and having gone through our list of nearest and dearest fluffy creatures, he was the only available candidate.

Well, obviously it wasn't. Not even a Mancunian mother is that heartless. It was a goldfish, I'm not sure we even had a name.

Anna's beta fish on the other hand does have a name, Lester, and Lester's 'sleeping' right now on the bottom of his bowl.

Lester was a present from Anna's Nani, for Anna's first Easter which would have made him about 3 years old. It was a daunting to add another creature that required regular nurturing to a household already straining to cope with a doddery old guinea pig and a demanding 9 month old. Yet despite almost pathological neglect, Lester thrived. We tried to remember to feed him regularly, we even washed his bowl out once or twice, and he kept puttering along, much to Anna's delight. He even survived her increasingly inquisitive toddler and pre-schooler stages. He was frequently given 'apple juice to drink' or goldfish crackers were found bobbing on the surface of his bowl. She would introduce 'friends' or 'treasures' to his bowl - small plastic creatures or even worse, unsterlised beach glass and shells. More often than not though he would be found swimming for his life as she attempted to 'pet' him.

Lester was a survivor, until last night. We haven't broken it to Anna yet. Should you confront a 3 year old with the realities of death? Should he just disappear? We're not mad enough to replace him. Our household budget could barely stretch to those 4 pellets a day. Should we have an elaborate flushing funeral? Suggestions are very welcome as she's going to get a tad suspicious pretty soon - even Mummy doesn't sleep that long.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

NaBloPoMo Fuels The Fire

To think I was actually a bit worried whether I'd find enough to write about for NaBloPoMo. I was a bit concerned that after the first flurry of posts I'd be down to 'God I'm tired today, no really, I'm so bloody tired'. All of which is still true, but life is happily throwing material my way - as if it's goal is to try and get me to pop this sprog early.

Last night I was heading to a jewelry party with my friend Mooks. Riveting so far, huh? One minute we're happily driving down the street, the next minute a complete muppet of a driver has pulled out of a driveway, crossed traffic and is feet from my 30mph car. There is no way he could have been looking in my direction because at the point he bolted from his driveway I was already close enough to tell you how recently he'd washed his car. I slammed on the brakes and for what seemed like minutes, but was probably only a matter of 10 seconds my car screamed and juddered to a halt (who knew brakes made a grinding sound - and does anybody know, if you've reduced your brakes to a shuddering grind do you need to get them checked out afterwards?).

It wasn't pretty. I have to seriously thank some high quality Honda engineering and anti-lock brakes because in the space it took me to try and stop we went from certain catastrophic collision, to likely nasty crash, to we'll be lucky to get away with just a fender-bender, to, well, nothing. We must have stopped within an inch of his car. Even Mooks turned to me and said 'did we hit him or not?'. Unbelievably there was no impact, and yet again a near-death experience failed to induce labour. I'm beginning to wonder if bungee-jumping would get this kid to descend the birth canal.

He drove off, I honked and that's the end of the tale really. I suppose you had to be there. Not just in the car, but in my head. Because while I'm sure I was screaming for my life Mooks assures me I just said 'Fuck'. Like a friend of ours who on re-watching her birth video was surprised to find that in the final 'ring of fire' moment when she was convinced she was screaming expletives for the world to hear, she actually just said 'this is really uncomfortable'.

Friday, November 21, 2008

All I Want For Christmas

Driving home from school last night I asked Anna what she wanted for Christmas. I explained that sometimes people wrote letters to Father Christmas (I'm still labouring under the delusion that she'll say F.C. instead of 'Santa Claus' - it's not working). That if you explained to Father Christmas (say Father Christmas, say Father Christmas!!!!) what you thought you might like, then he would know what to tell the elves to make. The lies start early.

Her eyes grew round with the possibilities.

This is Anna's Christmas list:

  • Candy
  • Choclit
  • A big bag of candy
  • A small plastic squirrel
  • A pink present with stripes and polka dots with candy inside
That is it.

I was going to write 'if only it was this easy every year' but seriously, where am I going to find a small plastic squirrel?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Never Wear Sweats to Book Club

First the fire, then the news that I'm gestating a butterball of a baby - it appears third time's the charm when it comes to surprises.

The other night was book club. Like 85% of women over the age of 30 I have found this book club to be a complete salvation - even though as a rule I would say I was uncomfortable with large gaggles of women. My friend Mooks and I started the club when Anna was a paltry 4 months old and it has got me out of the house for some much needed wine and nattering pretty much every month ever since. Well, Tuesday night the lure of wine and women just wasn't cutting it for me. I've been battling a cold since we were evacuated, and that coupled with the exhaustion of lugging this bulk around left me thinking my couch would be the better option. In the end LK told me to get off my ass and go to book club, that the guys were going to be escaping the oestrogen overload by watching the Lakers at our house, and that if I did stay all their daughters would want to pile in to bed with me and watch fluffy the kitten and her wild adventures in fairyland. Or some such.

The decision was clear.

I scraped my hair back in to some semblance of a ponytail, gave my Target maternity sweats a cursory once-over for embarrassing stainage, grabbed a bottle of wine and fled.

To my surprise baby shower.

Funnily enough as I pulled up to J's house and surveyed the parked cars I thought 'that's funny everyone seems to be here already'. I didn't think I was late. In fact I remember sending the email out saying 7pm, so I knew I wasn't late. I also thought 'hmm, strange, the curtains are closed'. Three seconds later I was thinking 'hmm, that's odd, a whole room full of women screaming surprise, and oh look a big sign saying 'welcome creature #2'.

Pregnancy has not sharpened my mental capacities.

Instead of immediately going 'oh you guys, what an amazing surprise, thankyou, you're all diamonds' I just stood there looking gormless thinking 'what the chuff?' and 'why didn't I slap a bit of make-up on'.

To say I was completely overwhelmed is a huge understatement. It took me a good five minutes to notice this large gift sitting in the corner bedecked with balloons:


















How lucky am I to have friends like that?

Thanks to all your comments on this post, I had decided that a double jogger even with a 3 year old was a must, and unbeknownst to me J. was having kittens that I'd made my mind up and was all set to buy one. You see, while I was thinking that LK was taking a loving interest in whether or not we needed a double stroller (ha!), it was all a cunning ruse on the part of my friends. Apparently J. had decided I needed the Phil & Teds stroller and had roped LK in to talk about it to see if the idea would fly. So when LK said 'someone at work told me you should check out the Phil and Ted's stroller instead of the double Bob' I fell for it hook, line and sinker. How could I have been so daft to not see straight through that statement? Did I think he would next be asking what brand of breast-pump I was intending on using? Have 11 years of marriage taught me nothing?

What she didn't count on was my nesting instinct going in to overdrive, and NaBloPoMo meaning I would blog about the chuffing thing, spurring me on (she thought) to go straight out and buy one. Then, to add insult to injury we evacuate to her house seriously compromising her ability to plan my party. Not that you would have noticed as the party was brilliant. Champagne, shepherds pie (yum!), English cheeses, fabulous people, flowers in baby bottles, the works. If I was a better writer I'd be able to do it justice, but all I can leave you with is this:

How ironic that I actually thought LK cared.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tea Fire Photo

Thanks to Chilly for forwarding this pic - taken from behind our street on the night of the fire.


















This is what it looks like to open your bedroom curtains and come face to face with a raging wildfire.

I'm amazed creature #2 wasn't born that night.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

She Didn't Get The Memo

What kind of mother criticizes her daughter's weight? One that still has to push her out through her unmentionables, that's who. I finally had my rescheduled ultrasound yesterday. Just goes to show there's no point worrying about something, because as soon as you do the cosmic joker will hand you something much more impressive to get your knickers in a twist about.

Did I mention the fire?

Sorry, old news.

Well, apparently creature #2 did not get the memo about a two-vessel umbilical cord hindering growth. She is already 4lbs 130z by their estimates. A whopping 1lb heavier than the 'average' baby at this point. My perineum is already waving the white flag.

How did she and I manage this??! I appreciate that ultrasound is a notoriously inaccurate way to measure approximate foetal weight, but I have to give the doctor credit, all signs point to yes on this one. I have revised my Christmas plans and now intend to start high-intensity aerobics the minute the turkey has been carved. I am not planning on a 10lb baby. As LK and I walked & waddled back from the appointment I let him know that this will be our last child. If I can produce a potential 10lb baby with a dodgy cord and no sign of gestational diabetes then I will not risk a 15 pounder next time. Good grief. Am I gestating babies or turkeys?

After the initial shock that I was harbouring an elephant had waned, there was a little disappointment in that I'd expected to see more of her, but she is so squashed in there that he couldn't get a decent facial shot. This is the best they could do:




Is it just me or is she scowling?















Anyway, gorgeous I think you'll agree. For an elephant.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Anatomy of an Evacuation

The conditions were perfect. It hadn't rained in months and one of the docs I work for had called our office just before we all left at 5:30pm to say be careful driving home as he'd just cycled to the top of the mountain and there were 70mph winds up there. We thought nothing of it (particularly as downtown was dead calm) and headed home.

I had just made Anna her dinner and we were in the middle of 'Wow Wow Wubbzy' (a true horror of a kids TV show) when the phone rang.

My friend R. asked if I'd any idea what was going on behind our house. She told me to turn the TV on. Not wanting to risk a preschooler meltdown by changing channels I dragged my bulk upstairs and switched on channel 3. Fire on the Riviera. I walked to the back of the house, opened the curtains and. just. about. died.

This BBC report is a different fire - and in daylight, but this footage is precisely what I saw - and how close - when I opened our bedroom curtains. It was about 6 o'clock, fifteen minutes after the fire is predicted to have started. The sun was already long gone from the sky, and all I could see was a giant plume of orange smoke, flames shooting nearly a hundred feet in the air, and the full moon a terrifying blood-orange colour. Within minutes the moon was completely obscured by the smoke, and it began raining ash.

I raced for the suitcases and starting throwing things in as fast as possible. Birth certificates, passports, clothes, shoes, desperately trying to formulate 'outfits' in my head as I pulled open drawers and grabbed stuff. I was frantically trying to remember this list from a previous fire post. What had I decided I needed to pack? I was unplugging the hard drive (which because of the battery back-up was refusing to die rather like an electronic headless chicken), and ruing the flippancy of my previous thoughts on fires.

I will never forget the sheer terror of opening those curtains and seeing flames roaring within blocks of our house.

I was desperately calling LK at work, but he wasn't answering his cell. I finally got through to his receptionist, practically sobbing at her to find him as I could already see the traffic pouring off the Riviera and I knew that if he didn't leave work now he would not be able to get to us. She said 'what fire?'. It suddenly occurred to me that if my friend had not phoned I would still be oblivious myself.

LK finally called me back and promised to get home as fast as possible. I kept remembering things I should pack. In an absurd parody of the 'Generation Game', I would keep repeating the same thing twice 'cuddly toy!' and forgot the critical stuff, like our insurance policy.

In the end we did come away with three cuddly toys.

The entire time I was racing around upstairs Anna was happily oblivious downstairs. I was having contraction after contraction - nothing serious, just warnings that I was overdoing it (lugging a 30lb hard drive down the stairs then racing back upstairs to collect another cuddly toy and check on the fire's progress). Yet every time I would sit down and try and gather my thoughts I'd remember something else I should pack, and race off again.

I was so happy to see LK walk through the door, until he announced his intention to drive up the Riviera to the house of some good friends who were out of town. He'd called them to see if they wanted anything rescuing as their house was even closer to the inferno. They were understandably a little taken aback by the urgency of his tone. Imagine sitting by the pool in the Bahamas and answering a phone-call from someone screaming 'your house is going to burn down what do you want me to grab'. It would take a little time to collect your thoughts. In the end LK raced up the hill to rescue their passports, and a split second after he left the power went out.

Now I have previously patted myself on the back for keeping all my candles and matches in one easily accessible (except to a child) place. It's no joke trying to locate that place in the pitch black however. Plus, Anna was not at all happy to have Wow Wow Wubbzy disappear from her life. I tried manfully to remain cheery as I blundered through the dark across a minefield of legos and plastic animals to fish out the candles, the entire time answering a barrage of questions about why there weren't any lights, why she couldn't go and watch TV upstairs, what electricity was, why we couldn't go and buy some, why she couldn't watch her DVD instead..... I went around the living room lighting candles, trying to explain why she couldn't blow them out, trying to keep her from playing with them, knowing I couldn't race upstairs to get the old telephone from under the bed as our cordless phones were now dead, as I couldn't leave Anna alone downstairs with 15 candles. It was certainly eerie to be plunged in to darkness, the only sounds being the screaming and honking of sirens from outside and the endless, endless suggestions from Anna as to how I could restore her TV program. I would have killed for a battery powered radio, I felt so isolated not knowing what was going on, sitting in the dark with my daughter waiting for the police or LK to come to our door.

I thought I was doing well, not scaring her unduly, not once mentioning the raging inferno outside our windows, but apparently I mustn't have maintained the composure I was trying so hard for in front of her, because when LK finally returned, passports in hand, the first thing Anna said to him was:

"FUCK! The lights"

LK looked at her and said 'what did you say?'

and she said "FUCK! THE LIGHTS!"

"Yes, that's what I thought you said" he laughed and raised his eyebrows at me.

..............................

In the end we all piled in to the car, LK having remembered our guinea pig as we were pulling out of the driveway. The traffic was diabolical, not just because all the traffic lights were out, but because people were just standing in the streets watching the fire. There were fender benders galore, and our friend reported seeing someone trying to cross a major junction with two horses in tow. We made it to our good friends house, a little further from the fire but still ironically within the evacuation warning zone - happy to find they at least had power - and we all sat glued to the (appalling) TV coverage which played and replayed the same footage whilst feeding misinformation about other fires being reported only blocks from where we were sitting. One minute we'd be slowly relaxing thinking the worst was over, then a couple of seconds later they'd report a burning house blocks from ours and the panic would grip us all over again.

I can't believe I managed to fall asleep, but the exhaustion and no doubt the baby took over. The last thing I remember is curling up next to Anna, trying not to think about all the things I hadn't packed, listening to the same reporter repeat the same information on the TV while helicopters thrummed incessantly overhead.

It seems amazing now that more homes weren't destroyed, that the 70 mph winds managed to subside before the fire tore a path straight through our town. Even more amazing that life could spring back to normal so quickly for the majority of the city after we were so close to losing everything. It's easy to be flippant about the housing market, and a house burning down being a gift from God if you have a mortgage from hell. When I think that we had the luxury of an hour to evacuate, compared to the people who just had to grab their kids and run, that we have the chance to return to our home and our lovely shitty furniture and equally shitty mortgage. That all those Christmas presents and things for the baby are still sitting in my wardrobe where I left them. I am just tremendously thankful for our good fortune, and so very sorry for those who did lose everything as I feel that now I got the smallest taste of what that must feel like.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thankyou Firefighters

The evacuation warning has been lifted and we are home again.

Without giving out too many personal details (and an invitation to come and knock at our door), here is a map of the fire, and I can tell you it reached within blocks of our house (yes, Almost American - the ghetto was threatened!!). The fire is not yet completely contained, but a good sign is that the hundreds and hundreds of firefighters who converged on SB seem to have headed home. It was quite a sight to be heading north on the freeway on Friday while the route south was crammed with fire trucks from every conceivable Northern California town headed to save our neighbourhood. Quite humbling really. I shall try and remember that next time I pay my taxes.


The red portion shows the 'active' fire area. Our house lies within blocks of the most southerly point (click on the map for more detail).




















As it happens, we had a fantastic mini-vacation. An unplanned spending of gobs of cash, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better excuse I feel.

On a whim we decided to head north with what we'd rescued from the fire. That is how we ended up on holiday with no toothpaste and no toiletries, but instead, our wedding photos, the bottom drawer of our filing cabinet, our hard drive (but no keyboard & monitor) and that accompaniment for every well-seasoned traveler - a guinea pig. Try smuggling one of those in to a Hilton (and I don't mean Paris Hilton) - not easy.

We were clearly not the only people with the same bright idea. We bumped in to one of Anna's former Kindermusik classmates at the Monterey Aquarium this afternoon, which was more than a little bizarre. They too had fled the fire with trash bags filled with belongings and no real plan of where they were headed.

I am beyond exhausted, but happy to be home. I will regale with you stories of our hurried departure another time, but for now, sleep.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Phoning It In

I've been seriously considering winning the 'best excuse for not posting' award as I'm sure being evacuated from a wildfire would qualify me. Instead I'm sitting at a pay-per-minute internet cafe in Monterey (this post will be brief) in order to keep the NaBloPoMo spirit alive.

We decided to get the hell out of dodge. As far as we can glean, we still have a home, although it's too smoky to have a 3 year old and an about-to-pop pregneto spending any length of time there. I'm really looking forward to cleaning up all that ash when we get back.....

I promise longer posts on our return.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Evacuation Warning

We are under an evacuation warning - not sure if we could even get back to our house if we needed to (note - don't pack jogging trousers if you think it's going to be 80º the next day). If you examined the stuff I threw in a bag in a frenzied 15 minutes of packing and contractions during the power outage last night, a mini flashlight clutched between my teeth, you would laugh. 15 pairs of knickers 1 t-shirt and a pair of high heeled work shoes. WTF??? 

We spent a fraught night at a friends house (where they have power - and a laptop). Our neighbourhood looks like a warzone. They are using the school across from us as a helicopter and emergency vehicle staging area. That much I can see from the TV. The air is thick with ash and smoke and they are predicting Santa Ana winds for the remainder of the day (hot, fry off-shore winds - basically fanning the fire down towards us).

I could really do with a pair of shorts and some eye-liner. And a cup of tea. Ironic really as it's called the Tea Fire - obviously out to get all heavily pregnant Brits in the area.

Will try and keep you posted.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fire!

OK, so apparently my ultrasound is not going to be my greatest concern. There is a wildfire raging right behind our house and we have fled to our friends house where for now we are safe.


Cease & Desist

Dear Creature #2,

While I am not yet ready for you to 'drop' and spend the next several weeks feeling like I have a bowling ball in my knickers, I would appreciate it if you'd stop looking for every available exit. There is no fabled 'northerly passage'. Please stop trying to break out through my digestive system. Every exploratory probe is sending stomach acid searing upwards. I am tired of people asking whether I'm 'carrying high' or if it is indeed the world's largest goiter.

In return I promise I'll try and take it a bit easier and limit the intake of crap food. Oh, and I promise I won't call you Chastity, or Britknee.

Love, Mum

------

That letter was composed at around 3am last night as I lay awake miserable with creature #2 partying like it was 1999 in my belly. 'Lay' awake is a bit of a misnomer, as anything other than a sitting position left me wracked with heartburn. Of course, I can't blame her totally, I have started eating jar after jar of pink grapefruit (that's 5-6 grapefruit per jar) so some of the acid may be self-inflicted (ya think?).

Besides, she can party all she wants, as long as it reassures me she's literally alive and kicking. I have another ultrasound tomorrow, officially beginning my 'high-risk pregnancy lets beat the number of times you can see a doctor a week record'. I am excited to get to see her - I've only ever had ultrasounds at 18-20 weeks before so I've only ever seen skeletal babies. Creature #2 could now theoretically make it on the outside, so she'll look like a proper baby. Of course that's my concern. She could make it on the outside, and because of the 2-vessel cord issue they may decide she needs to, and after the debacle of the last ultrasound you can guarantee I won't just be lying awake with heartburn tonight.....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lost

It did occur to me later that I'd marked Veterans Day with a post about boogers. Sorry. I also marked the occasion with a day-trip to Target, probably equally as sacrilegious. Veterans Day is one of those 'fake holidays'. Like Columbus Day it's a holiday we'd all like to celebrate, but only those working for banks, the post office, and as it happens, pre-schools get to. Anna's school was shut, so I took the day off work. We celebrated with a trip down south to Tarjay where our m.o. was to buy baby stuff. Lots of it. In pink.

As an aside - you would think I would be armed to the teeth with baby girl stuff, but no, I am sadly lacking in some areas, notably receiving blankets (I gave in to the lure of turning them into excellent dusters about a year ago) and baby bottles that are now 'BPA free'. Whatever the chuff that means. Personally, I'd be happy to give creature #2 the same tainted bottles her older sister had, were it not for the threat of the Mom-police and their concern with improper parenting.

Back to the story; Santa Barbara is an anomaly amongst American towns (in lots of ways) but notably, it has no Target and no Walmart either. Heaven on earth for a lot of people. People who aren't strapped for cash, or parents. You have to head south to save money if you're from SB. Now it's been quite a while since I went to Target, and I think last time somebody else must have driven, because while I started out fairly confident I knew where it was, I found my certainty dwindling as the freeway exits started zipping by. Geography graduate I may be, but I was also soon completely and utterly lost in the nether regions of Oxnard (and as a 'nard' in SoCal vernacular is a testicle, you can imagine how much I didn't want to be lurking in it's hinterland). What kind of over-educated muppet can get lost in Oxnard? It's pretty simple really - on your right hand side is the Pacific Ocean (pretty easy to spot), on the left are some pretty sizeable mountains (again, doesn't take a rocket scientist...) and in the middle is the 101 freeway, with roads arranged in a grid pattern on either side. Not too tricky.

Well, after inadvertantly getting off at the wrong exit followed by 20 minutes of randomly 'picking the most sizeable looking road' (which always seemed to dwindle to a track just 400 yards past my line of sight) I was ready to throw in the towel and call LK. Anna was being particularly helpful in the back. My problem, you see, was that 'you haf gone the wrong way and we are lost. You problee shouldn't haf gone the wrong way, you should haf gone the right way'.

Genius.

Meanwhile in the Oxnard Historical District (ha - I bet you didn't know it existed did you? - well neither did I until this morning), I was growing a tad impatient. The problem was, the geographer in me kept telling me to head towards the mountains and I would hit the freeway. The scared-ass white girl kept saying, drive on the bigger roads so you don't end up getting shot. I was looking for signs of mainstream American civilization. Common sense states that the larger the chain, the more likely you are to be near a freeway. I was looking for 'Starbucks' for 'TJ Maxx' for 'Applebees' instead I kept hitting on 'Bills Bait Shop' and 'Magic Nails'. There seemed to be miles and miles of suburban nothing. Housing tract followed housing tract, strip-mall followed strip-mall. When I finally stumbled on Walmart I almost burst in to tears. The trouble is, even if you can see the freeway, negotiating 6 lanes of traffic, multiple right-turn only lanes and a know-it-all preschooler in the back means you still haven't a hope of actually getting where you want to go. Three times round the Oxnard Auto Center and I was finally back on the 101.

I did eventually make it to Target - their slashed prices only slightly compensating for the full tank of gas it had taken me to get there.

I will be shopping online in future.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Errr, No

Anna: Dada?
LK: Mmm?
Anna: Will you put this booger back in my nose?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Double Stroller Advice Needed

Sorry, this is an automatic switch-off for anyone without any kids (or quite frankly anyone with anything better to do). I'm trying to decide whether to invest in a double stroller. Any suggestions? Anna will be 3 1/2 when creature #2 makes her debut. We had considered not getting a double stroller and just using a sling for the newbie and our trusted Bob for Anna if necessary. Is a stroller even necessary once a child reaches 4-ish? I'd thought not, but on reflection it certainly makes shopping easier to have her confined and not whining or walking at..........the.........slowest........pace...........of........all..........time (and pointing out every leaf/dandelion/'treasure' in our path).

We chuffing love our Bob, it's even flown with us to the UK more than once, but a double Bob just fills me with fear. There's no popping in and out of shops with this thing:















Someone suggested this from Phil and Teds:






























and despite the fact that we'd have to take out a mortgage to acquire it (LK's flat-screen fund is not looking good), it is seeming to make more and more sense. The key for me is that it's a jogger, so I could still go out and run off this lard I'm accumulating. We spend a lot of time walking around town or running down by the beach. Yet (unlike me) it's not the size of a small aircraft carrier. Plus the terrible twosome won't be sitting next to each other and poking each other into a frenzy of crying. Also, the re-sale on these things is better than a chuffing Honda Pilot (I'm not kidding, we could still get $$$$ for our 2 year old Bob dubious stains notwithstanding).

Also - more importantly, does it come with cupholders? and if Anna farts (and bear in mind she is related to my brother) will she kill her sibling instantly????

Any thoughts? Recommendations?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Bond, James Bond

Everybody has a list. Those people that you wouldn't kick out of bed given a chance. I think there was a Friends episode about it, although I won't embarrass myself by going in to details. All you need to know about my list is that it is a guarantee that if I put a bloke on the list LK will refuse to watch a movie with him in it (he still has not seen The English Patient since I confessed that Ralph Fiennes scored high on the phwoar factor) - as if I could ever spend time with a bloke called Ralph. Or more to the point, as if he should be worried. The only thing I could pull these days is a pelvic floor muscle.

Anyway, it appears one of my 'candidates' has just bought a house only a few miles away from my home town in North Yorkshire. To say this is incongruous doesn't quite do it justice. I grew up in the wilds of Yorkshire; it's a destination if you're a tweed-clad hiker or a snowy plover. It is not a star hang-out (although we did once see Geoffrey Smith on a bicycle). You can't make that up.

Now, Santa Barbara, different story. You can't walk to the shops without tripping over a star or seven. Oprah lives a few miles away (a different school district, I can guarantee you that, but still). The best place in fact for star-spotting is the Starbucks in Montecito. Positively dripping with Hollywood talent in need of a latte. To think that Bond, James Bond (aka Daniel Craig) has moved to - rumour has it - Knaresborough seems a tad unfair. Like moving to Rwanda to spot a silverback gorilla only to find out that your local petting zoo has just established an exhibit.

We had in fact been privy to this rumour when we went home in April. There we were sitting and supping in one of our favourite pubs when the landlord told us that Daniel Craig had just bought a house down the road. "On, Bond Street" he said smiling, then walked away. We thought it was bait-the-American time, but it turns out to be true, confirmed by none other than my Mum who confessed she'd heard from a trusted source that he'd joined the other gym in town. I know!! What are the chances!

I do know, for the record, that I am both married and heavily, heavily pregnant, but ladies, I am not dead, and I wouldn't pass this up if I bumped into it in Knaresborough fisheries:










































Woof!

It's as if North Yorkshire's trying to lure me back (although the likelihood of him wearing a Speedo even in August is slim-to-none).

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Christmas Photoshoot

LK's task this week (or if you believe him, task #1 of eleventy-billion) was to take a Christmas photo of Anna. I'm trying to get organized a little earlier than normal this year, for obvious reasons, and it was my goal to get the cards ordered this weekend, particularly as they will be winging their way around the world and not just California. I did get them ordered, but I thought you might be interested in the rejects. Well perhaps not 'interested' exactly, but this is NaBloPoMo after all and you'll chuffing get what you're given.

I do seem to have embraced this quintessentially American tradition of sending a photo-card for 'the holidays'. I draw the line at matching Christmas sweaters, and as long as I'm in charge you will never see me on a Christmas card, but it is nice to get a shot of people's kids particularly if you don't get to see them that often. Or are my hormones just out of whack? I'm interested in your thoughts on this actually - particularly the non-Americans - do you think it's showing off or lovely? (A Christmas card from us may or may not hang in the balance here).

Anyway, the direction was; red spotty cardigan, hair in plaits, on the beach, either the ocean or palm trees in shot.

I bring you, the pictures that didn't make it:




A little too 'God Bless America' for my taste. Wow, she's really channeling 50% of her heritage here isn't she?









Action photo - I call this one 'leap of faith' or 'don't shoot'.














Nearly but not quite.










This is without doubt my favourite, but it might cause my aged relatives to re-adjust their bifocals.














I also love this one, but it might cause a crick in the neck if it was on someone's mantelpiece (and of course it would be, front and centre damn it).

















My little ham.













Not sure if I should post the 'winner' as I'd hate to ruin the surprise, and you my faithful readership of 8 are probably all on my Christmas card list anyway.

Friday, November 07, 2008

She's Not Going To Thank Me For This....

This may be one of the posts I consider deleting when Anna is old enough to read more than her name.....

Recently Anna came down with a urinary tract infection. The truly wonderful thing about having a child over three is that they are much more able to communicate what is wrong. She'd started to have 'accidents' which is very unusual for her, but we were able to work out pretty easily that she'd been avoiding going to the bathroom as she confessed it was hurting her. Something that only 1 or 2 years ago would have been almost impossible to diagnose was blindingly obvious. LK sighed a big manly sigh, canceled his first golf game in months, and dutifully trotted his daughter off to the doctors. Diagnosis confirmed, I am a genius, Anna starts on some antibiotics, everyone's fine.

--- Incidentally we were told no more bubble baths for Anna - who knew? Well, perhaps we should have, but bubble baths are the prime culprit in causing UTIs in young girls. Bath time is a little less fun, but overall we have a much happier child. We knew she was getting better when she informed us that it didn't hurt when she used the toilet at S. and J's house. Obviously in her mind it was the toilet inflicting the pain, not the infection. Preschooler logic reigns supreme.

Now, here's the kicker. 3 year olds love learning new tricks. That's their raison d'etre, they thrive on figuring things out and mastering new arts. This has backfired more than a little in the K household.

What could Anna have learned at the doctors that is now causing us to watch her every move? Surely nothing that bad right? Well, apparently our little girl had to pee in a cup in order for the doctor to make his diagnosis (and kudos here for LK for not only missing his golf, but for actually being the one to collect the sample - what a hero). Anna was pretty taken with the idea of collecting a specimen. Very taken in fact. Now it's all we can do to stop her peeing in to a vessel every day. If we walk in to the bathroom there is usually a glistening beaker of toddler urine sitting by the taps, and one very chuffed 3 year old.

All I'm saying is, when you come over to our house, keep your wineglass with you at all times, and preferably drink red.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Men Are From Mars

For a while there, when things were really tight. And hairy. Hairy and tight. We were talking about canceling Christmas. I'm sure a lot of families are facing the same decision this year. We had decided to buy a few things for our niece and nephew, and for Anna, but everyone else, sorry you were SOL. I had already drafted the email in my head.

Then our mortgage company sent an 11th hour Fed-Ex and things are a little less hairy and a little less tight. We don't have to cancel Christmas entirely, but we'd still decided to hold off exchanging gifts between ourselves. I remember the conversation falling along the lines of 'let's not get anything for each other, maybe we could buy something for the house or the new baby that we really need'. Which is how the following conversation happened:

LK: Looking at the calendar. 'Wait, you're working this Friday'
Me: 'Yes, I have to go in, we're short-staffed, but at least we'll get a little extra money for the..'
LK: 'TV fund'
Me: at the exact same second 'Baby fund'

Me: 'Wait, what TV fund?'
LK: 'Er, yeah, remember, something for the house, I thought we'd talked about a flat-screen TV'
Me: "--"
LK: 'Face it, we're going to spend a helluva lot more time looking at a TV than we ever are a baby'.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The In-Box From Hell

How can I not write about last night? I have a lot of good friends from both sides of the political spectrum (admittedly heavily weighted towards the bleeding-heart-liberal have-no-money-but-plenty-of-wine crowd), but it does feel like after all the rhetoric, the voting, the tears, that last night we all won. McCain's acceptance speech was the best thing I've seen from him in the entire campaign. Obama, I thought, was rightly sobre and inspiring. What made me laugh was someone describing the upcoming months for Obama as 'the in-box from hell'. I thought about that a lot as I worked my ass off today at the office. I tried to be swept up in the enormity of the moment and not instead spend time thinking that Mrs Obama's dress looked like she'd just been paint-balled.

I am wary of weighing in with my political opinions, mostly because this is not my country - and nothing can be more irritating than an expat waxing lyrical about the shortcomings of their adoptive homeland (although I do seem to have built a blog around that). I will say, that last night for the first time in 10 years, I felt proud to be living in this country, and hopeful for its future and for the future of my daughters. I am ready to do my part. I feel like I could belong here. It was an amazing night.

Anyway, I just wanted to say, America, you totally rock - and not just because you invented Jalapeno Cheetos.

(and yes, our tenant's offensive banner was prop 8, California did pass it, and no, he has not yet taken it down).

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vote No on Yes

I'm really excited about today's election, and I can't even vote. If you know me, you know that by British standards I'm considered left-wing, which makes me tantamount to a communist over here. Generally I won't ram that down your throat though. Mostly because if anyone calls me on my principles or beliefs I tend to get all flustered and cross and end up crying 'because it's just not fair that's why'. So instead I will quietly plot to bring down the American healthcare system from the inside (free healthcare and cabbage soup for all!) and I will subscribe to Voltaire's philosophy that 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it'.

At least that's what I thought until the last few months, but then sheesh people, stop barking your opinions at me. America prides itself on freedom of speech, but I do believe there should be a caveat with that (I am nothing but a geographer and believe in 'shades of grey' wherever people yearn for black and white) - my caveat is; give me freedom of speech coupled with the right for people to tell you to shut the fuck up already.

I don't care what you think! Why do the vast majority of people over here feel the need to display their beliefs on their homes and vehicles? 'Pro-Life/Pro-Choice/Got Jesus?/My pigeon is smarter than your honor student'. I'm surprised it's not de rigueur to tattoo your affiliation on your preschooler and present them at school emblazoned with 'No on 8!' in case there are any undecided 3 year-olds present. Are you honestly trying to change my mind? Am I supposed to think - hmm, I like what you've done with your landscaping I must follow you in voting no on battery farming. I realize it's been a long time since I've lived in the UK - and I did see a rare few 'Conservative' or 'Liberal' placards amongst the privet hedges of North Yorkshire, but my general opinion is if you harangue people about your ideologies in the UK they will generally tut and say 'I am trying to watch Gardeners World'. A Brit's idea of shouting his/her affiliations to the world in general is to be seen reading the Telegraph vs. the Guardian.

How many trees have died for this election? How many bumper stickers, placards, flyers, posters have been generated over the last couple of years? It seems to be made particularly worse because there are so many issues to vote on. One of the key differences with voting in the UK vs here (other than here you can vote for the person not just the party - novel concept) is the number of additional ballots they have. There are countless propositions, measures and people to vote for; councillor, treasurer, janitor, town prostitute etc. It's mind-boggling, people's gardens are positively bristling with placards. I can't imagine what it must be like to be resident in a swing-state - there mustn't be any TV time left for shows at all, wall-to-wall political rhetoric. Good grief.

Obviously one advantage to these political banners that have sprung like mushrooms around this country is that you become aware of the general voting trend in your town, and if you disagree with the general perspective, it might possibly rally you to get out and vote differently. Case in point; one of our tenants has a giant placard in their front window, urging people to vote for a proposition we find morally reprehensible. At first we were in shock, not least because from the street it looked like one of our windows - and we seriously debated asking him to take it down. Obviously it's his apartment, but it's our building, and we are not bigots. Then a good, wise friend, reminded us about freedom of speech, (and less than 1 week of campaigning to go), so instead we didn't say anything and just keyed his car and upped his rent.

Democracy is a joy.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Halloween Candy

Anna is working her way through her Halloween candy. She has easy access to it because we are both too lazy to take her plastic Halloween jack-o-lantern off the floor and put it in the cupboard. No worries that she'll plough through it though as her 3 year-old-fingers are not quite dexterous enough to open the plastic wrappers. Path of least resistance parenting reigns supreme.

As a result she will always come to us with a piece of candy and some cunning 3-yr-old ruse asking us to open it.

Case in point this morning. She came running up, with a mini bag of whoppers (a bit like Maltesers for you Brits), and she said:

"Mom! You know what you and I both love?"

"Balls!"

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Favourite Halloween Photo

This is NaBloPoMo - there will be a lot of photos masquerading as posts. This is my favourite from Halloween night, taken by LK:


















Rather like my husband, this is not only beautiful, but actually has substance. This is a very slow-exposure photo of Anna, wearing a flashing neon necklace, going trick-or-treating. I would marry him all over again just for the fact that he would think to take this photo.

And he had the forethought to bring the flashing necklace, that we bought at Disneyland a year ago, because he wanted to keep her visible during Halloween night. Ok, enough about the bloke - are these pregnancy hormones causing me to turn to mush or what?

As an aside - is it just Santa Barbara or the whole of the US that doesn't have streetlights in residential areas? Even in rural North Yorkshire the streets are all well-lit, here, pitch black. Not only that, all the paving slabs are at jaunty angles from the various earth tremors that have hit over the years (and yes, I managed to sleep through a 2.8 earthquake centred a mile away from here only a few mornings ago). I'm surprised all the nocturnal dog-walkers in SB haven't repeatedly broken their legs, it is lethal out there people - and I haven't even mentioned the crab spiders have I?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

And The Winning Costume Was........

Although you guys had many excellent suggestions for how to dress a whale of a pregnant woman for Halloween (honestly, itsgrimupnorth - how was I supposed to find a dragon costume for a 6'2" man???), in the end we plumped for:


























Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (with token multi-cultural baby).

LK as usual, slapped on a trilby and a pair of cool retro sunglasses, and voila, Brad Pitt. Damn that boy is pretty.

I donned a $10 acrylic wig and an at-maximum-capacity black minidress and was somewhat surprised I wasn't automatically transformed in to Angelina Jolie. Hmm. Apparently it's not that easy to slap a bit of red lipstick on, pout, and instantly become one of the top ten hottest women of Hollywood. What a shocker. Still, we were somewhat recognizable, particularly with princess Shiloh in tow:



















This is me attempting to do trout-lips.

Lipstick on a pig springs to mind.

I definitely came to the conclusion that it's a good job I was born a blonde, because with a black wig I am so pale all my features disappear and my face looks like an Eskimo's arse with nostrils.

Still, my rack, *wow*. At 7 months pregnant the girls are starting to require separate zip codes. From the neck up I may have looked like a transvestite on crack, but no-one was looking at my face, let me just tell you.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Certifiable

I've signed up for NaBloPoMo again.

Because I'm insane.

Because I owe a debt of honour to Fussy, my old next-door-neighbour, who actually birthed the concept of NaBloPoMo, and also coincidentally birthed a baby in her bathroom, both of which inspire awe and respect.

(Note, I will follow her with NaBloPoMo, but there is not a chance in hell Baby #2 will be born anywhere but in the hospital, with me attached to a drip full of drugs - unless of course I slip in the shower at 41 weeks and creature #2 shoots out and skitters across the lino in a torrent of amniotic fluid....).

Sorry, I digress, so I will be attempting to post every day in November, a rather ridiculous mission considering that these days if I'm not at work I'm asleep. Consider the fact that I've eked out a grand total of seven (7) posts this month, I think I have my work cut out for me. Basically I have to write 'cut fingernails' on my LOTTD (list of things to do) because otherwise it will just not get done (JN*F*GD).

I think I need a challenge like this to shake me up a bit. I've been signing up for a lot of crazy things these days (hosting book club, volunteering at Anna's school) as if I'm aware that if not now, when. Answer? Never. The New Year and the New Baby are hovering just over the horizon and I'm trying to fit things in, and that includes posting.

I've been lax.

And you probably thought it was because I had nothing of interest to write about! Shame on you. Why, only this morning LK was leaving the house and said 'can I have a goodbye kiss please' to Anna, only to have her reply 'sure, but I've got to make some calls first' then she turns her back on him, grabs her cow cell phone and starts chatting away, to who? Someone important that's who, leaving LK pausing to reflect how many times he's said to her 'sure, I'd love to read a book/hunt for bugs/play Princesses I just have to make some calls first'. Passive aggression or mimicry? You be the judge.

Or how about my doctor this week who during my routine appointment went, 'your blood pressure's great, bloodwork's spectacular (I'm not making this up), weight is great,' .......and while I'm busy thinking, dude, slow down on the coffee, he without skipping a beat says 'have we talked about sterilisation?'

Wha?

And you thought I had nothing to write about. Hold on to your hats people, November's going to be fu-uh-un.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Tricky Than Treaty

I need your help - any suggestions on what a heavily pregnant woman can go as for Halloween?

I've had some suggestions ranging from the hilarious but vague (Sarah Palin's daughter) to the just plain rude (a humpback whale - thanks Anna).

My costume of preference would be me, in my pajamas lying on a couch surrounded by candy wrappers, but that's a little hard to pull off at somebody else's party.

Any thoughts?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Morning Glory

What's the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?

For me it's usually - is it a work day or a non-work day? Quickly followed by - how the chuff did she crawl in to bed again without me knowing, and how long have I been sleeping with a 3 year-old's bottom in my face?

The reason I write this, is, courtesy of waking up more often than not face-to-arse with my daughter, I am privy to her first thoughts of a morning (and some pretty healthy farts). Recently, they've been nothing if not bizarre (thoughts not farts - thank God). Clearly she's processing some important stuff in her sleep. She used to wake up and ask for 'Anna TV' or some 'cold milk' but these are just last week's gems - literally the first words out of her mouth:

'Mum, I was finking, what are those white fings either side of an elephant's trunk?'

'Hoop rhymes with loop!'

'Octopusses eat crabs'

'Mum, what kind of sea animal are you going to be for Halloween? I fink you should be a whale. A humpback whale. I will be a crab and Dada can be a eel'.

'Mum, you hold Dada's bottom..........and I'll hold his top and we can measure him!'

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dodging Bullets

What a rollercoaster year this is turning out to be.

First creature #2's amnio drama, and then of course, our ever-present financial meltdown. It's not as if I haven't regaled you with how it feels to have a financial Sword of Damocles hanging over your head. I'm sure you enjoyed those laugh-a-minute posts. What I didn't mention was that our deadline was October 1st. Two weeks ago our payments were set to increase by literally thousands of dollars. If we'd moved out of our apartment, rented it and lived in a cardboard box on the beach we'd have still been in trouble. And we have a baby on the way!

We started looking for a larger cardboard box.

Of course we tried to curb our champagne lifestyle. By which I mean of an evening I would say, 'that chair, I mean seriously, how often do we use it? Can I put it on Craigslist?'

Today we received a financial olive branch. The chuffing cavalry finally arrived in the form of a FedEx'd proposal from our mortgage company. More a stay of execution than a plan, but oh Lord the relief.

I feel like I've forgotten how to breathe out.

LK just called to say that he feels like running up to random people on the street and hugging them.

I wish you all half the joy I'm feeling right now, I'm literally laughing and crying.

Stupid baby hormones.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dear Health Insurance

No, my daughter tripping and falling resulting in a small head contusion was not:

1) The result of a work accident:
a - and no, she is not self employed
b - and we do not intend to file a Workers Compensation claim

2) Due to the involvement of another party (possible parental negligence, yes)

3) We will not be describing how the 'accident' took place

4) The injury was not the result of an automobile accident

5) No police report was filed. (!)

6) We have not retained an attorney. (!!!)

7) She is THREE and will not be signing your form, well not in cursive anyway.

Just think how much money your company would save if you just did a bit of chuffing research before blindly sending out forms. This was the second form incidentally, the first one gently inquiring if she had any other form of coverage.

Bloody hell just pay the bill you muppets.

Their questionnaire reminded me of one of those Cosmo personality quizzes, where you were always aching for an f) none of the above choice, because instead your options went something like this:

Was your child:

a) Injured in a car accident (please can the other driver pay?)
b) Injured in her place of employment (please can they pay?)
c) Set upon by a gang of delinquents (please provide their names and applicable insurance details).
d) Injured as a result of a previously unreported pre-existing medical condition (please can you pay?)
d) Injured whilst pursuing a dangerous sporting activity (your policy will be canceled forthwith).
e) She's 3 and shouldn't run in Crocs.

Now, a form like this would have been much more appropriate:

Dear parents of valued client #5638975162345612:

1: Were you failing to pay proper attention at the time? Extra points if you were drunk.

2: Was the patient wearing inappropriate footwear?

3: Did you attempt to swab the wound with a baby wipe while trying to get the blood away from your fancy white sweatshirt?

4: Did you try and stop her crying by offering her chocolate?

5: Did you let your child with a head injury sleep for an hour in the car while you searched in vain for a hospital?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions your child will be appropriated by Blue Shield of California and made to work off her debt to society in the claims processing department.

Hey, everybody, let's get socialized medicine!

Please!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Size of a Cow




















I'm not that big, but I'm not really that small either. Being pregnant has taught me many things, one of them being that people generally don't have a f**king clue how big you're supposed to be at 25 weeks, 32 weeks, 40 weeks etc - but they'll certainly feel free to tell you how they think you should look. All babies grow differently, placentas attach in different places, and we all have a different amount of room between our pelvis and our rib cage. So, while it may sting a little for my uncle, a retired GP to say 'you're on the large side for 28 weeks' (after I'd already lied because I wasn't quite at 27 weeks) I'm just going to have suck it up. What does he know? He's probably only seen three maybe four hundred thousand pregnant woman in his career. That means nothing. They were all in the north of England and probably starved for decent food.

I've decided my response to people saying 'wow that's going to be a big baby' will be, 'not as big as your mouth'. Then I'm going to punch them in the neck.

If I weigh myself in the morning I've put on a *scant* 17lbs, just before I go to bed it's climbed to 21lbs. All completely normal. LK continues to be a superhero (probably because he realizes how close to neck-punching I'm getting). Last night after I dragged my massive frame up the stairs and vowed that this will be my last child, he said he thought I was handling it all much better than last time. I'm not sure I believe him, but it was a sweet thing to say. His neck is safe for a few more hours.

Most of the time I feel pretty good. I make comic grunting sounds whenever I have to pick something up off the floor (I'm seriously considering investing in one of those pooper-scooper doo-dads for clearing the carpet of Anna's positive zoo of plastic creatures). I can no longer bend straight down, instead I have to bow my knees akimbo to make room for the belly. My lower back is getting a little achy, but then I am still going to a weight-lifting class, so presumably I only have myself to blame. I can still run around after Anna, even if she pushes the envelope and breaks in to a sprint at the park and makes a bee-line for moving traffic. I can still sneeze without peeing, but only if I cross my legs fast enough.

My Mum reminded me about kegel excercises helping the perineum pre-birth. Apparently it reduces the risk of tearing. I'm not sure I have a perineum these days though, and I'm certainly not about to check. My theory on birthing this second baby is: do no kegel exercises, maintain no pelvic floor muscle tone and the baby will simply fall out while on the way to the car one morning. Perfect.

While seeing a 20lb weight gain admittedly did give me a good old scare last night (I only weigh myself about once a week) the thing I'm having the most problems with is the hunger. I am constantly thinking about food. Whilst eating one thing I'm already deciding what to eat next. I'm making bad decisions, eating a lot of rubbish because I'm too lazy to forage for a carrot. Or I'll eat the carrot in lieu of a marshmallow, but then I'll eat the marshmallow too. I am ready for the hunger to subside, I feel like a calorie black hole. I feel genuinely sorry for people who experience this level of hunger day in day out. I had my 1 hour glucose tolerance test last week, and was really quite surprised that I didn't get the call telling me I'd failed. I have been craving sugar to such an extent that I'd convinced myself I had gestational diabetes. I think the real answer is I'm working more or less full time, running around after Anna constantly, and I'm craving sugar because I'm tired. Really chuffing tired. If you're finding it hard to muster the energy to get off the couch and find that princess crown/plastic meer cat/Lion King DVD it's hard to make the right choice between a tomato or a handful (bagful) of ketel corn.

LK will say that I'm merely the vessel and creature #2 is the one in control. If I'm hungry, eat, and after all if she's only got a partially functioning umbilical cord, maybe now is not the time to diet. So I'm compromising, stuffing my face but also exercising a lot. Lots of walking round the neighbourhood, pushing my 30lb 3 year old in her jogger whilst trying not to nick a swig of her chocolate milk.

Basically I'm trying not to think about the possibility of a 10lb baby.