Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 In A Nutshell (Where It Should Remain)

Alternatively titled, '2009 - Shut Up About That Damn Baby'

She can walk now, did I tell you that?

She's so advanced.

Really, she's amazing.

Much better than your kids.

I did this meme back in 2007, failed to complete it in 2008 (something about having a baby days in to the New Year....) and I'm re-attempting it this year.

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before? Parented two children. Obviously this was the BIG NEWS of the year. Lucy's arrival. Yes I'd looked after an infant before, but an infant and a 4 year old? It seems ridiculous now that I routinely look after both of them for hours, even days at a time, but that first couple of hours flying solo when LK went to a concert? Etched in my brain for ever. They both slept more or less the entire time, but I clutched that baby to my chest knowing that if she woke up and her sister woke, then the entire Universe would explode with impossibility because it just could not be done.
What else? I had something (a very little something) published in Real Simple magazine, and I started making money off this blog. Neither qualify me for giving up my day job, or even calling myself a writer, but it's a start. Perhaps.

and finally, I got myself organized with Skype and that was by far one of the best decisions of the year. Even though we were flat broke after I had Lucy I splashed out on a webcam for a Mac and my parents did likewise. It has been the greatest thing. During my maternity leave I would have hour-long natters over a cup of tea with my Mum while Lucy dozed in the background. My Dad, who is a man of few words, now participates in conversations, and they both get to see Anna and Lucy flit in and out of camera shot as they go about their business of dressing princesses or picking small objects up off the floor to chew. Now if I could just work out how to get Mun and Dad to babysit via Skype my life would be perfect....

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't think I had any other than to deliver a baby with both of us intact. Next years will include drinking more water and trying to eat at least five fruits and veg a day. A girl can dream.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
That would be me. Welcome to the world Lucy Jane! Now almost an entire year old and 'practically a person'.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit? England. I would love to be able to go back every year. Anna said recently 'I wish I was two Anna's and one of me could live in England with Granny and Granddad and look for snails'. Well said that girl - I'd even take the snails.

We also went to Maine to visit LK's family, and I think that counts because if you live in Southern California then New England is practically a foreign country. A country where the only spices are 'ketchup' and 'more ketchup'.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
Can I say financial security three years in a row? Hell yes I can. Wishlist includes two cars that work, contraception that doesn't send me loopy, more free time to write.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Jan 8th - Welcome to the world Miss Lucy!
May 6th - FIRE!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

See question 3 & 7.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I suppose it's good that one doesn't automatically spring to mind...

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I have had a migraine every day for the last 3 months. When I write it like that I'm amazed I'm stupid enough to think I can cure myself with 'drinking more water'. I think it's hormonal but in the meantime I'll just drink this glass of water...

11. What was the best thing you bought? A webcam to enable us to use Skype, plane tickets home, and I have to say, a ridiculously overpriced scarf I lusted after when pregnant. Flat broke, on maternity leave I shelled out for a beautiful handwoven scarf containing all my favourite colours. My justification was I'd just had a baby and a scarf was the only flattering piece of clothing I could wear. I've worn it at least 3 days a week ever since. It almost makes me want to stop buying crap at Old Navy and only buy one or two gorgeous pieces of clothing a year...

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My friend Jen for volunteering to watch Lucy while I'm at work, enabling me to leave the house each morning safe in the knowledge that my daughter was in a household where people know how to cook fabulous food and a decorate with flair.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Mostly mine. Oh, and people who have faith in health insurance companies.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage and childcare. *sigh*

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Lucy sleeping through the night. Seeing my name in print.

16. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder?
Hard to say. Not that I'm unhappy, but being pregnant with Lucy and facing a 3 month break from work last year meant there was a lot to be grinning about. b) thinner or fatter? Definitely thinner. Squashier, but thinner. c) richer or poorer? I think this is the eye of the hurricane.

17. Who inspired you? My friend Fussy who got the recognition she so thoroughly deserves by getting a book deal out of this blog with her friend Alice. Also Geninne's art blog inspires me every single time I read it. Her work is just beautiful and I would spend a fortune on Etsy on her stuff, if I had a fortune.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I'd had more date time with LK. I also wish I'd looked after myself a bit better, more yoga, fewer 5th glasses of wine at dinner parties, more time by myself. - wow I wrote this in 2007 and it's still completely applicable. So now I'm just going to wish for more money with which to accomplish these impossible goals!

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Nurturing old wounds. 2010 motto - let it go! And stop getting drunk and blurting out all the stuff you're too wimpy to blog about. Oh, and stop worrying.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Home in Santa Barbara, missing my family but having a wonderful time with LK, my two girls, friends and American family.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?
Yes. I have a crush on my smallest daughter and I want to bite her bum.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Mary Queen of Shops and Top Chef, tied for first. OK, and if I'm honest 'Teen Moms' on VH1.

23. What was the best book you read?
Oooo, I'm halfway through reading Girl With A Dragon Tattoo right now which I'm loving, so probably that book unless it has a singularly disappointing ending. Honourable mention has to go to 'Friday Night Knitting Club' not because I particularly enjoyed it (a bit blah to be honest) but I was reading it when in labour with Lucy and wrote my contraction times on the top of every page, so it's a book I shall keep in my library forever.

24. Favourite clothes shop? White Stuff!

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The Killers. I am so very out of date.

26. What did you want and get?
Another child.

27. What did you want and not get?

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
I might have to come back to this one. I loved Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
36 and I can't remember. I must be getting old.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Babysitting on tap.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
I appear to be wearing a lot of scarves.

32. What kept you sane?

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I have to say, it was hard to muster the energy this year, but thanks to S&G for finding this tea towel for me:

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Universal healthcare. If I have to hear one more patient crying on the phone saying 'but I thought we were covered.....'.

35. Who did you miss?
My family. Every day.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
Loop the poop.

37. Most overused word or phrase of 2009: GENTLE!!

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.
Always shut the toilet lid if you have a baby that can walk otherwise say goodbye to your cell phone.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Once In A Blue Moon

I have a million* partially written blog posts about Christmas, New Year, tinsel and tantrums but stop press - I have just found out it will be a blue moon tomorrow night and that takes precedence I think you will agree.

What is a blue moon other than a croony 1950s love song? A blue moon is not, as I had been led to believe, a second full moon in a month, it's:

Most years have twelve full moons which occur approximately monthly, but in addition to those twelve full lunar cycles, each solar calendar year contains an excess of roughly eleven days compared to the lunar year. The extra days accumulate, so that every two or three years (on average about every 2.7154 years[1]), there is an extra full moon. The extra moon is called a "blue moon."

Whatever, Wikipedia, it is a rare occurrence, rather like the second shag of a month or a 13th shag in a year. Hence the phrase 'once in a blue moon' (may or may not be used to describe intercourse).

To backtrack; I had been writing my 2009 'year in a nutshell' post (bet you can't wait for that one!) and one of the questions was - what did you do this year that you've never done before? I was stumped. Other than parent two children rather haphazardly I had done nothing new. I have friends - you know who you are - who could answer 'visited Croatia! Portugal! North Africa! Bolivia!' and still others who were made partners of law firms or bungee jumped off tall bridges.

I wiped two arses.

It made me a little sad that my life was full of 'maintaining'. You think you have all this time, a year in fact, but then when you break it down in to spare time it actually appears you have approximately 4 hours to yourself, in 3 minute increments. No wonder I haven't done anything of value.

Then someone said 'blue moon!' and I jumped - someone's giving me a cosmic second chance. I intend to do something tomorrow that I've never done before in my life. I just haven't thought of it yet. Hopefully it'll be winning the lottery, but it may just be eating an oyster or tickling a marmoset. I'm giving you permission to do something out of the ordinary too, just let me know.

Marmosets beware!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Boxing Day

Finally, a new header - long overdue now that Lucy is almost one. I just couldn't live with her infant picture anymore now that she's racing around on two feet 'like a human' (per Anna).

This was going to be our Christmas card. I had it all planned out. It seemed like a guaranteed way to get two smiles out of two kids - they love the carousel and squeal with joy whenever they're on it. Best laid plans etc etc, I have to hold Lucy on the horse, so in order for me not to be in the shot I had to put Lucy on the far horse. As you can see, if we'd sent this photo it looks like we're saying 'so yeah, we had another kid'.

On that note, Merry Christmas to you and yours, and thanks for all your support and comments this year. You guys ROCK!

Friday, December 18, 2009

How Not To Rotate Tires

The tires on my Pilot needed rotating. LK said call the dealership and find out how much it would cost to have it done. I said 'the dealerships always overcharge, I'll take it out to Costco tomorrow morning when I pick up some formula and I'll get it done then'.

If LK took the car in to get the tires rotated this is how I envisioned it would go:

LK: Hi, I'd like my tires rotated please, here are the keys
Flunkey: No problem Sir! That'll be (at most, surely) $50, sign here
LK: Thanks, how long will it take?
Flunkey: We'll have it done in about 20 minutes, have a seat in our complimentary man lounge and watch the game
LK: Don't mind if I do (scratches balls).

How hard could it be?

This is what really happened:

Me: Hi I'd like my tires rotated please, here are the keys
Has All The Power: Did you buy the tires here?
Me: Nope!
HATP: Sorry, no can do, but if you buy tires then we'll rotate the others for you.
Me: Oho, because I'm a chick you're going to make me buy stuff I don't need...
HATP: Maam?
Me:Well you see it's only two years old do you think I need new tires?
HATP: When did you last have them rotated?
Me: Deer in headlights
HATP: Balanced?
Me: Eyes widen in panic
HATP: Could you show me your car Maam?
Me: Fuck
HATP: Yep, you need new tires all right, these here (points to random tire parts) are what we call 'legally bald' which can be highly dangerous (stares pointedly at my two car seats).
Me: Crap. OK, can you let me know how much that would be, and I'll call my husband and see what he thinks.
LK: "Hi, you've reached LK and I'm not going to answer, so don't even try texting 'I need to by 2 tires? help?' You're on your own. Don't screw up."
HATP: That'll be a staggeringly large amount of money. But we'll rotate your other two tires for 'free'.
Me: OK, two new tires please. *sigh*
HATP: Do you have tire sensors?
Me: Is this a trap?
HATP: Because if you do, you'll need new 'graphite/laudanum/diamond' sensors on each tire or your tire sensor won't work.
Me: Whatever, just buy me a drink next time you financially rape me.
HATP: Erm, Maam, there seems to be a problem
Me: (defeated) for the love of God, what now, do I need new tire 'sleeves', 'grommet casings'??
HATP: Your Costco card's coming up for renewal
Me: Of course it is.
HATP: Hmm, it looks like it's a business card, so you can either renew for the entire office where LK works for $gasp, or sign up for your own membership.
Me: My life wasn't supposed to be like this you know.
HATP: Sorry? Anyway, your grand total is eleventy billion dollars. It'll be ready in about 90 minutes. Good luck with those screaming children you have - that little guy sounds mad!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Seek And You Shall Find

My Christmas shopping so far consists of:

  • A ridiculous splurge on so-cheap-it'd-be-a-crime-not-to-buy-them presents for Anna at Costco.
  • Lots of internet shopping where I fill my cart up with an entire family full of presents and then fail to complete the purchase at the last possible second due to financial guilt.
  • An insane rush around World Market with a $10 off any purchase of $30 coupon (I spent $87 dollars, which wasn't quite how I'd planned it, damn you coupons). This World Market binge basically means that if you know me in real life then you will be getting a Chocolate Orange for Christmas, because I have always loved them and they were made until 2005 in York, but are now made in Slovakia which is a bit crap really, yet I still bought fifteen. Approximately. Damn you Slovak sweat-shops.
That's it. I have approximately eight presents for Anna (and I am not extravagant, just sleep-deprived and forgetful) and one (1) present for Lucy - even though it'll be her first birthday only two weeks after Christmas. One day she will read this and hate me, but honestly, her favourite thing right now is a bath and that is cheap, cheerful and hygienic if a little hard to wrap. She is too little to count presents, wears all of Anna's old clothes, plays with all of Anna's old toys, and quite frankly will have more fun with the wrapping paper, blah blah blah.

Anna on the other hand is getting a little more sophisticated when it comes to Christmas. Remember last year's heart-wrenchingly cute Christmas list? Well, this year she's got a bona fide list involving My Little Ponies, Barbies and various other pink plastic rubbish. In my mad dash round Costco I bought a violently pink barbie complete with bejeweled pink horse (shoot me) and some much more civilized Playmobil horse and stable play thing. Anna has pretty much never played with her Playmobil plane and airport, but I love Playmobil and will keep pushing it on her especially if it's almost 50% off.

Now, I managed my sprint around Costco child free (gasp). I patted myself on the back for securing two good, solid, cheap presents. Then it occurred to me that I had no idea where I was going to hide them. I thought about sticking them in the attic but couldn't remember where LK kept the step ladder. I thought about Marge Simpson hiding things in the salad crisper - the one place Homer would never look. Where was the one place Anna would never look? My closet under some clothes? Under the bed? Well apparently I was wrong on that score because she found the painfully pink princess and was gazing longingly at it when I walked in to the bedroom the other evening.

"Look what I found Momma!" she gasped, clearly thinking that if you just wish hard enough these things appear in the strangest of places.

I explained that it was for Christmas, that she would be getting it, just not right now and bizarrely, she was fine with that. A little too fine, which makes me think I should check my crap-old-clothes bottom drawer and make sure it's still re-hidden there.

I can't hide everything in my bottom drawer though, and thanks to some careless internet shopping at 3am recently there is more stuff on the way.

Where do you hide your Christmas presents for the kids? The attic? The trunk of the car? Knicker drawer? Salad crisper? Under the tree (brave, trusting souls). Help is needed.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nut Crack-Away, Nut Crack-Away, Nut Crack-Away!!

In England at Christmas I would have been taking Anna to the pantomime.

Oh no you wouldn't!

I love pantos, and I think Anna is on the cusp of really enjoying something like that. The audience participation, the cat-calling and throwing of sweets. She's still not very good with loud noises though - in fact at her school summer production she stood on the stage with her hands over her ears, declared 'it's too loud Mumma!' and exited stage left.

The Nutcracker is far more her speed, not least because she is a truly devoted ballerina and never misses an opportunity to launch in to an arabesque or a jeté. This can be alarming to fellow shoppers at the supermarket as very often it comes without warning.

I think it's interesting that the UK has the Christmas theatre tradition of more low-brow, vaudeville pantomime, while the US is all about the more high-brow Nutcracker. Or maybe I'm getting this wrong and posh kids in England go to the ballet at Christmas? I wouldn't know. It was panto or nothing for me. Growing up in the wilds of North Yorkshire we would always have a pantomime based on a fairy tale every Christmas but we very, very rarely had anyone famous in it. Even actors whose greatest achievement involves a walk-on part in Corrie draw the line at Harrogate theatre it seems.

Santa Barbara though, Lordy Lordy. Not only is it a small town with grand artistic ideas, but it also had two Nutcrackers going on this afternoon, across the street from each other, both starting at identical times. A bit of a minefield if you're meeting up with several other tiny ballerinas from Saturday morning dance class. The street was awash with red taffeta and black patent-leather mary-janes. Anna was so excited, I had to grab her hand to stop her pirouetting in to traffic. LK was gratefully at home watching golf while Lucy napped, perhaps for the first time realizing that being the father of two daughters has its advantages. Anna and I were having 'girl time' as Anna likes to put it.

I wasn't too worried about her sticking out the entire performance, we've been taking her to the movies off and on for about a year now. She will sit still for a couple of hours and is working on sotto voce comments, although this afternoon she did let the surrounding audience know that the ballerina doll in the first act had 'big boobies like you Mumma before they went soggy'. Nice. Plus she was being bribed with an ice-cream at the end.

The first twenty minutes were unbelievable. The dancers twirled in their 'deep dresses' (sighed Anna), I think she was genuinely overwhelmed by the immediacy of having real, live, ballerinas performing in front of her. She sat perfectly still, hands clasped, in obvious rapture. Then the toy soldiers fired a real cannon and I spent the next ten minutes trying to pry her hands off her ears. Still, with the cunning use of Cadbury's giant chocolate buttons meted out over the next hour we made it through the first act.

"Ice-cream" yelled Anna. The disappointment palpable when I broke it to her that this was just the interval. The second half was a lot of wriggling, a lot of hissed 'I want to sit on your lap Mumma', 'when is this over' and 'I want an ice-cream'. Fortunately this was a child-heavy audience so she was not in the minority. There was one bloke a few rows ahead of us who seemed to take every cough, comment or movement personally, but honestly, he was going to a matinee of the Nutcracker, was he expecting a child-free zone?

It's not a little sad that Anna's going to grow up without pantomime. Unless we make it over to England for a Christmas one of these years. I took LK about ten years ago and he had that indulgent smile he has for all things quintessentially English, the smile that says 'you're all completely bonkers'. Instead I can see a lot of Nutcrackers in my future. I'd better bulk buy the Cadbury's buttons.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Bad Mother, Bad! Sit!

If you are having only half of the truly shitty week that I am (and it's still only Wednesday people), then you will need a little light relief, and really, what can be better than reading about other people's misfortunes. A little schadenfreude never goes amiss in the blogging world.

And let me just say that this latest fuck-up comes hard on the heels of my recent call from the Public Health Department about Lucy's salmonella outbreak.........

Last week Anna came home from school with a full lunchbox. Completely untouched. Now she is a preschooler and has been known to eschew the odd vegetable, but generally she's a pretty unfussy eater. As I opened her lunchbox I noticed that not only were the cherry tomatoes, the mini carrots and the peaches untouched, but so was the sushi and the boxed apple drink. It was the Marie Celeste of lunches.

Now, Anna not eating sushi does. not. compute. She LOVES sushi, second only to those complete mini octopi you sometimes get in calamari. I know, I have somehow managed to raise a daughter who will devour seaweed and tentacles with relish, but will turn her nose up at mac and cheese. I blame her fancy preschools. The one she currently goes to will allow the odd cookie, and even *shock horror* a packaged drink or yogurt - her old school had to have everything eco-friendly, a no-trash lunch, no wrappings, no packaging, no sugar. It made me want to send her with one of those untouched by anything healthy 'lunchable' things just to watch her teachers' heads spin.

Back to Anna - I asked her what the problem was and she said she didn't like today's lunch it looked 'yucky' so she said she ate a few grapes and gave the rest to unfortunate unnamed child x who Anna said 'likes to eat healthy'. I'm thinking - huh! I am not feeding other people's children thankyou very much, I'm sending PB&Js from here on in.

And then it hit me.

I had forgotten Anna's princess lunchbox at school the previous Thursday. She only goes to school Tuesday through Thursday. I had again forgotten to pick up the old lunchbox when I'd dropped Anna off at school that morning.

Anna hadn't eaten her carefully prepared lunch because she'd gone straight for her old lunchbox, the one with the FIVE DAY OLD LEFTOVER FOOD in it.

Amazingly no-one got sick.

Oh, and Lucy found a peanut on the kitchen floor yesterday, so apparently I don't have to worry about peanut allergies either.

I swear, if these two make it into adulthood they will have digestive systems OF STEEL.