Wednesday, September 24, 2008

If At First You Don't Make Sense....

Sorry for the vague Robert the Bruce comment. It appears not everyone was schooled in this 'stick-to-it-iveness' legend as I was growing up.

What I meant to convey was, I will be telling Anna that 'if at first you don't succeed try, try again'. How does this relate to Robert the Bruce? Well, as I understand it whilst fighting the dreaded Sassanachs (the English) he found himself holed up in a cave nursing his wounds and many defeats. Whilst glumly examining his options he watched a spider trying to build a web in the corner of the cave. It tried and failed seven times - mirroring his successive defeats to the English - but on the 8th time the spider was successful, which our Robert took to be *a sign*, and, so I have been told, the origin of the phrase 'if at first you don't succeed....'.

For a better explanation, including those of you who want to know who the chuff Robert the Bruce was in the first place, and why he is responsible for killing ExpatKat's ancestors (and, what he has to do with the credit crunch) read here, and here.

Interesting point from that first article '............Bruce was at the lowest point of his life. He thought about leaving the country and never coming back'. Funny how history repeats itself.

So there. I can't help thinking that if it had been Roberta the Bruce holed up in a drafty cave somewhere in the Borders she would have said 'right, well, let's make the best of things and tidy this place up, that web's going for a start', and the spider would have been history rather than legend.

And so endeth the sermon for today. Dying with Dignity tomorrow. I'm sure you can hardly wait....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In Defence of the Imprudent

As if sitting in on an end-of-life lunch conference wasn't bad enough (and imagine trying to discreetly work your way through a pasta salad when discussing Terry Schiavo and feeding tubes) I had the joy of sitting next to two self-congratulatory muppets holding forth on the credit crunch.

I did not weigh in, although I may have given my broccoli spears an extra vicious stab or two. It's a refrain I hear too often these days, smug fixed-raters happy to lay the blame for the current financial meltdown squarely at the feet of those 'stupid enough to take the loans in the first place'. People who happily bought their homes five or more years ago that were lucky enough to find properties they could afford without incurring excessive risk.

We are certainly not in this happy group. We did end up buying at the wrong time and with a horror story of a loan. We probably do deserve everything we are likely to get served up to us. I am putting this down in defence of the imprudent, the stupid, the people who made their own beds and are now forced to lie in them. I am writing this so I can get it off my chest without engaging any self-righteous twits the likes of whom I sat next to this afternoon.

If Bridget Jones can have her 'smug marrieds' I can have my 'smug fixed-raters'.

In my (our) defence, we are not stupid. I had heard of negative equity well before the credit crunch. We were faced with a town where real estate was so ludicrously out of our reach that renting was the only option. In the time that we sat quietly, prudently squirreling away our nest egg, the most basic, squalid, 2-bedroom condos sky-rocketed by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those people we watched take dodgy loans to get a foothold in the market were coming up smelling of roses. Santa Barbara real estate was always a safe bet, there had never been a downturn, if anything only a plateau, way back when the rest of the country took a bath. So we took a chance, because we'd already wasted so much time doing nothing. It was good advice, a sensible decision, and I am terminally sensible. It was the only chance we had.

I still think the decision we made was prudent. If things had gone faster, smoother, we would have been chuffing laughing. We bought an income property with the intent to switch four apartments in to four separately saleable condominiums. Divide and conquer. The City of Santa Barbara worked on our conversion application at a deliberately glacial pace. There were too many hurdles to mention (archeological surveys, sounds surveys, sewer lateral surveys, survey surveys), but we finally did get planning approval and permits issued.

Too late it appears, the financial tide had turned.

We are still in the fortunate position of being able to collect rents. Our position would have been infinitely worse if we'd bought a condo back in 2005. It still leaves us with a nuclear mushroom cloud of a loan, and a hell of a job trying to hang on, but you better believe we're getting creative on that end!! Who knows, you may see creature #2 on Ebay in the near future. At the very least I may be jogging for a 'tax baby' at the end of December.

So while you're busy patting yourselves on the back and applauding your fiscal good sense, perhaps take a moment to consider how much luck played in to your success. We are not all spendthrifts putting 'I want, I must have' things on credit because we feel we are entitled to a lifestyle above what we're prepared to work for. There are plenty of people in this mess, who through job-loss, illness, sky-rocketing interest rates or other unforeseen circumstance are no longer able to afford a basic right -­ a home.

And yes, in the words of Norman Tebbit, we can just get on our bikes. No-one made us live in this rich-man's town. Except it's my husband's home town, where he wanted to stay and raise children, and we tried to make it work. Trust me, nothing can put a strain on a marriage like running in to trouble fulfilling someone else's dream.

I don't blame our mortgage broker, he was only doing what every single loan broker in this town now denies doing; helping people into properties they knew they couldn't afford so that they could at least have a chance at taking a risk. I do blame the mortgage companies for allowing these loans, which caused property values to rise exponentially, and I'm sure they in turn have regulators they would like to slap. And yes, this is a 'correction' and people should be made to pay, capitalism will have it's pound of flesh. I see how unfair it is to take tax-payers monies to bail out those who made bad decisions. But this is bigger than that -­ this is everybody's savings, their pensions, their ability to get a loan to make a better life. This is scary. This is working hard and going backwards. You better believe I will be telling Anna the 'Robert the Bruce and the spider story' over the years to come.

See, this is what happens when I eavesdrop on other people's conversations instead of listening to this month's guest speaker on the topic of 'Advance Directives, How To Die With Dignity'.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Square Eyes

How do you know if your child is watching too much TV?

Not necessarily when they can name all of the Backyardigans, or when they say 'I've seen this episode'. It's when they say:

"Mom, would you like to get more for your money?"

at least it was that and not:

"Do you have embarrassing odour, that itch you can't scratch?"

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Daddy's Girl

As a parent you're not supposed to play favourites. On the whole I'm finding that easy, considering one's still in utero, kicking me in the bladder and causing me to pee when I laugh, sneeze, and move too quickly.

No-one tells a 3 year old they can't play favourites though, and I'm rapidly being demoted to parent #2.

This morning while HRH was sitting in the bath I told her that I would be watching her while Dad was in the shower, but that once he was done, I was off to work and he was going to be looking after her. I usually drop her off at school, but for once he had a late start and was on Anna-duty.

'Oh great' she said, more to her turtles than to me 'I knew a Dadda day would come up soon'.

To save on childcare, we have arranged our schedules so that I have Friday thru Sunday off and LK has Sundays and Mondays off, so Anna only has to go to school 3 days a week. I don't get to see LK that much, but after almost 15 years of being together, *shoulder shrug*.

Monday is LK's favourite day of the week, he takes Anna to the beach, to the swimming pool, to the Sea Center, the carousel, all over. On Fridays I take Anna to the supermarket, to my gym, and we do laundry. Hmm, I wonder why LK is winning parent of the year.

I realize my issue is not so much with Anna (although Jesus Christ beotch, I nursed you for chuffing months, throw me a frickin' bone here), it's with LK. It's getting the balance right. I am more interested in her having a presentable ponytail and outfit when she leaves the house. LK never adheres to a schedule and doesn't care when she turns up somewhere or how she looks. He's also far more creative than me. If I take Anna to the beach, we will look for shells, or more often these days, I will park my giant bulk on a towel and she will hunt for sea-life herself. When LK takes her, they pretend to fish for marlin and barracuda, they design elaborate assault courses and then race til exhaustion. Exhaustion seems to hit me a little earlier these days.

I know this is only going to get worse when the new little one arrives and I'll have to spend half my life nursing. I've decided to up the ante while I can. This weekend, I'm playing dirty. Anna and I are making cupcakes, going bug-hunting, watching Dora ad nauseum and going swimming. I will save the errands for LK for Monday. Then we'll see who's parent of the month.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Scent of a Woman

Someone outside my office, sitting in the patient’s waiting room, is wearing my Mum’s old perfume, and it’s amazing how strange a sensation that is. I don’t even know what my Mum’s current perfume is, I’m sure it’s changed. I think what I’m smelling, wafts of nostalgia fighting the usual smell of old people and antiseptic, is Magie Noire, but I’m not even sure of that. You can’t google a smell after all. I’m having to restrain myself from dashing out there and yelling ‘Mummy!’.

I doubt Anna will ever have the same experience. I am a perfume maverick, constantly flitting between a few faves. For my birthday LK bought me this Marc Jacobs, Daisy gift set.

I know, lucky me.

I’m embarrassed to say I like the bottle more than the smell, but only because I LOVE the bottle. If I could come back as a perfume bottle, this would be me. The scent is inoffensive, floral and sweet. It actually reminds me of Palma Violets:

Does anybody remember those?

It’s not the kind of perfume that people will walk up and ask what you’re wearing. Unless they’re a diabetic. Case in point, LK asked when I was going to start wearing it, while I was slathered in the stuff - 3 squirts of perfume and some glittery body lotion for good measure.

When I was in my early teens I went on a school trip to Italy and the South of France. One of our excursions was a day trip to a perfumery in Grasse. I learned a lot about perfume, and how they vary in intensity and ‘honesty’ with different skin types. I do remember being told that very fair people should always go for lighter fragrances. In perfume terms I am a willo’ the wisp WASP. No fun. Even so, I feel like Daisy is getting lost on me. I’m somehow absorbing rather than radiating it. Still, at least the bottle is gorgeous.

My greatest perfume successes have been Light Blue (huge hit – even Anna tells me I smell good when I wear it, DULL DULL DULL bottle) and Dune (definitely not a subtle scent). I had a love affair with Michael by Michael Kors, the only perfume I’ve come across that smells like a bottled tuberose. That seemed to smell better in the bottle than on me though. I got married in Eternity (ha, bloody ha) but it always smelled slightly chemical on me, and I will occasionally wear Burberry Brit.

I would KILL to smell like this:

Purple Orchid Tree. I regularly go out of
my way in order to walk under this tree near my office.

As for LK, my favourite of all his aftershaves (of which he has none) has to be Tide Original Scent. Yum. I once read that married woman 'mark' their husbands by making their clothes smell like Downy - as no self-respecting single man would take the time to put conditioner in his wash.

What about you lot? Any recommendations? Any scents that define you?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Make Me A Chuffing Baby

I stole this idea from A Girl and A Boy, and thought how interesting it would be to try when you already know the results.

What the chuff am I blathering about??

OK, sorry, A site where you take a picture of you:

(I have no pride)

then a picture of the alleged father:


Plug the two photos in to the site, and lo and behold it produces your spawn:

A little uncanny, no? Certainly, her hair has never looked that presentable, but that's a pretty damn accurate photo-fit of our little 3 year old.


So, it got me thinking. People are always saying that LK looks a little like Jon Bon Jovi, and quite frankly who am I to contradict - having spent most of my formative years in the library or watching Match of the Day, I wouldn't have known quite frankly. All I recognized was someone I knew I wouldn't want to kick out of bed in the next 50 years.

Ahem, anyway. So, I put it to the test. I plugged in my photo, and a photo of JBJ:

And, you will be as amazed as I was at the results. Look at our potential daughter:


I think the sunglasses may have thrown them off a little off (yah think?), either that or one of us has some latent African heritage that only this website can pick up on.

Anyway, it made me laugh. I think I'll settle for the DNA donor I've got thankyou very much.

....and Pete, you'll never know how much restraint it took for me not to try it for you and the missus. Feel free to share the results with me though, if you feel so inclined.....

Friday, September 12, 2008

Didn't See It Coming

Absence makes the heart grow stronger? No, well maybe not. Sorry for being AWOL for a while. I have been finding it hard to snatch the requisite five minutes to fling my thoughts into cyberspace.

Anna is on the cusp of giving up naps. She is a nap-tease. Running round a mile a minute throughout her normal nap time (approx 1pm-3pm, ahh, those were the days), eschewing sleep or even my suggestion of ‘quiet time’, ie get the chuff away from Mummy and for the love of God stop talking. Then she will more often than not crash at 5pm. Too early to be put to bed for good, but too late for any use.

I knew that naps were going to end at some point, I’d just hoped it would be closer to age 18.

In the meantime, we’ve had both anniversaries and birthdays. My birthday went swimmingly. As in, Anna crawled in to our bed at 4am, then at 5:15 we woke up swimming in toddler urine. Nothing says Happy Birthday! like a pre-dawn sheet-strip.

The sudden wake-up calls continued this morning when Anna and I witnessed a car plough into a moped right before our very eyes. There we were, happily chatting about whether ants cans dance (my argument, yes, but do they?, unlikely) when all of a sudden *bang* and a person flying across the tarmac.

You would think my first thoughts would have been, 'shit, a crash’ or ‘if I was going any faster I would have flattened that poor soul’, but no, I distinctly remember seeing the moped and rider sailing sideways and I thought ‘well, that’s odd’.

Someone is missing their pre-pregnancy cups of coffee, obviously.

It was all rather anti-climactic after that. The moped rider hobbled to the side of the road, some kind soul picked up her scooter and (fortunately for me) people swarmed to offer their witness assistance. I parked half a block later in front of Anna’s school and noticed that the driver of the car was getting out with a look that said ‘oh well, guess I’m going to be late for work’. No concern, no hurry, just an embarrassed half-smile, a rueful grin. Meanwhile I was really shaken. Anna was happily oblivious, wondering why the bike was parked in the street, and I'm trying to hold back the tears. Stupid baby hormones. I just can't seem to get a grip these days.

The 4-wheeler versus 2-wheeler scene must be repeated twenty times a day in this town, because for the last 6 months mopeds, vespas and the like have hit Santa Barbara like a swarm of locusts. A swarm of brightly coloured retro-locusts. It makes sense. Gas prices are high, nowhere in Santa Barbara is more than 15 minutes away, people here love to be seen to be green, and it very rarely rains. Whether or not these moped drivers are inexperienced is not the issue (and most, swerving, and buzzing their way around town with a baguette and a yoga mat in their basket seem to be), the truth is other drivers just don’t see them.

The same is true of bicycles. I went to University in a town swarming with bikes. A Medieval town with ridiculously car-unfriendly tiny streets and alleys, and practically no parking. You went everywhere by bike and people would blithely walk out in front of you all the time. Let me just tell you, it hurts like a mutha-fucka to get hit by a bike, and your pride is very often just as badly injured. Tourists were particular culprits, failing to realise we 'drove on the wrong side', looking the wrong way while stepping directly in your path, your bike bell sounding its futile tinkle.

All of these points I made repeatedly to Anna on our walk in to school. No murdercycles for you young lady! No not paying attention. No bad grammar!! Although I held off on really driving it home in case she was tempted to rebel and start a preschooler Hells Angels of her own, complete with Barbie trikes and streamers. Her princess posse riding off in to the sunset, flashing Incy-Wincy Spider gang signs for all to see.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Baby's First Christmas FROM HELL

Wow, who knew there were so many Capricorns out there? But, seeing as how you have so happily volunteered the information, I have a question. Can there be a worse time for a birthday?

I suppose I'm making sweeping religious assumptions here, but isn't having your birthday around Christmas a complete nightmare? For the length of time it took us to get baby #2 on board, the idea of quibbling about her birth date seems both churlish and absurd (although the idea of a late December 'tax baby' is not to be sneezed at). I do know people who have abstained from 'trying' in late March/early April for fear of conceiving a Christmas baby. We also know someone born on Christmas Day, which is both unfortunate, and a distinct possibility for us.

What I was surprised at, is how many other people I know who are also knocked up and expecting at the exact same time as us. LK's tennis partner is due the day after us, for example. Why is this time of year so popular? We all know that there are a lot of September birthdays because there are a lot of drunk people gettin' busy around the holidays, but surely no-one would aim to have a baby over the holidays?

I can only assume that it's only after the deed is done - for most people - that you start to think about the timing of the birth. Poor old Anna is early June, which if we stay here is no big deal, but if we ever moved back to the UK it would mean her birthday would fall during exam time for her entire school and University career. Thanks Mum! On the plus side, it's far enough away from the holidays to not have the dreaded 'double present' issue, and it's a week after the Nordstrom half-yearly sale, so she always ends up getting fabulous clothes as gifts.

This creature is highly likely to make landfall within a two-week radius of Christmas. I know they are unlikely to let me 'go long' as Anna was so big last time, and she's a little more likely to be born early due to me gifting her with a dodgey umbilical cord, so keep your fingers crossed (and I shall likewise keep my legs crossed) that it's not Christmas.

That aside, is it miserable to have a birthday that close to the holidays? Are you doomed to receive double presents? Does no-one come to your party? Are people hastily removing the 'New Years knockdown' price-tags from your gifts? Am I being completely insane?

You're probably just glad to be here at all - as I should be with creature #2, but I can't stop wondering. What's the story?