Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Eye of the Beholder


Me:
That's it. I'm sick of big boobs. I want my body back. I'm tired of trying on clothes and either looking like a hooker or a matron.

LK: Go for hooker!

The Tailings

Lucy is approaching 6 months old and I am a husk.

The other day LK described it perfectly. He said 'you've been strip-mined'. I've got a beast of a beautiful blonde, rosy-cheeked daughter and I've been left with the tailings. I'm not really complaining, although quite frankly no-one really prepares you for the post-partum period. How many people prior to having children know about your hair falling out a few months after delivery? I have long hair and *oh Lord* our shower is starting to look like a College dorm room. The hair! It's taking over the house. Gossamer strands glinting accusingly from every surface. I am not looking forward to returning to my pre-pregnancy eight strands of limp blonde hair. It has been quite refreshing to have a ponytail wider than my middle finger. Then there's that awful growing back in stage where you have spiky re-growth protruding from your temples like antannae. Good times.

I'm still nursing the beast. I've no idea how she has managed to attain such a size (97th percentile for height) while I'm still exclusively nursing yet still managing to carry around some pregnancy bulge. Looking at the size of her you'd think I'd be down to 100lbs by now. Except while I'm obviously losing weight by breast-feeding I seem to be more than making up for it with my voracious appetite. Lucy woke me up at 5am to feed and for the last hour all I've been thinking about is a full English breakfast. Cereal be damned. I'm talking bacon, sausages, eggs cooked in bacon fat, fried tomatoes and mushrooms, baked beans and fried eggy bread on the side. Hmm. No wonder Lucy looks like she's just eaten all the other babies in the nursery.

We are flying back home for a visit in a couple of weeks and I am not looking forward to presenting my work-in-progress physique. I shall just have to wear a selection of outlandish scarves that draw the eye away from the post-partum carnage. Not sure if that'll be quite so effective in the swimming pool but we shall see. I will admit that I went to the Old Navy $5 swim sale yesterday in an attempt to find a bikini to winch in these giant mammaries. That 10 minutes with two small children, a brightly lit changing room and cheap garish fabrics will require a lifetime of therapy. Damn you self-esteem. Honestly though, what was I thinking? Must have been a low blood-sugar moment, or subconcious self-hatred. Needless to say I did not buy anything - and the moment when Anna announced to the entire fitting room that 'your boobies are too squashed Mommy' was a particular favourite.

Must go. Lucy has just been sick on my hair.

My life is great.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I Made My Bed

My oldest friend V. is getting married today. On Concord, which has to be one of the coolest things ever, unless you are her exceptionally tall husband-to-be who will not doubt spend the entire ceremony with knees bent and a slight stoop. Something he will be more than happy to do to marry V. I'm sure.

Once again I can't be there. We have been friends for over 30 years:











I haven't lost that constipated expression either - that's V. and I in the foreground. I'm the one making an albino look tanned.

It goes without saying that one of the most difficult things about living thousands of miles away from home is having to pick and choose what you go back for. I have missed weddings, funerals, and all-important Saturday morning shopping with my Mum. I suppose ideally I would be living the American Dream, earning enough money to jet back and forth as and when I choose. It hasn't quite panned out that way. I missed V's first wedding because of immigration issues. Now I'm missing this one because we are skint, - busy financing our money pit and two small, incredibly expensive children. As I said, I made my bed.

I can't complain too much, thanks to air-miles we are all flying back in a month for my cousin's wedding and for my parents 40th wedding anniversary. That'll be the last trip home for a while though unless I can persuade LK to part with a kidney. Still, V. came up with a genius plan. She had S. will renew their vows for their 10th anniversary, like we did, in Vegas, and we'll join them then. Please click on the ads on the right had side of this blog to make sure I can finance that trip. I figure $10 a year in ad revenue over the next 10 years could buy us a room off-strip somewhere!!

and finally, on a lighter note, I bring you:

Blue Steel:



Monday, June 22, 2009

Four!

I'm starting to appreciate why this is yelled as a warning in golf.

I'd heard of the terrible twos, Anna sailed right through those. No tantrums, no frustration, the toughest part was separation anxiety. Then people told me that 'three was the new two' and yes, burgeoning self-awareness did bring on more attitude, and that coupled with my pregnancy made for a wearying combination.

Four though. Oy.

I'm not sure how much of this is coloured by the addition of a new sibling, but this new found independence has brought with it a real personality change. I'm all for self-confidence, but I will draw the line at being called a 'brat' by my own spawn when I shut her down on three bedtime stories. "Mumma, you're a brat". No 'Goodnight Moon' for you young lady!

Granted, her outbursts are still heavily influenced by her excellent school - there's no "I hate you" (not yet); thwarted requests for a chocolate milk are often met with an achingly childlike "then I will not be your friend". But please, chocolate milk at 9pm, what kind of a hold-out demand is that? Who are you? France?

There is nascent moodiness and petulance where there was none before. We have foot stamping, arm folding and inanimate object kicking. It's hard not to laugh at the depth of her displeasure. She's like a tiny Queen Victoria, only a mini-monarch that says 'hey guys this is not cool' instead of 'we are not amused'. I appreciate she's just testing her boundaries, but how long is it going to take her to realize there are no boundaries, no ever-changing front line, just a firmly entrenched wall of 'what we say goes young lady'. Until she starts paying rent of course.

Is this just a precursor for pre-teen hormones? Is she learning this from other kids or is it part of being four? It's not a big concern. It just feels like the sunshine has disappeared for a bit. When I mentioned it to her teacher she said, at least she feels confident enough these days to voice her opinions, even if it is displeasure. I hadn't thought of it that way, but I'm still British enough to think, bring back 'meek' - all is forgiven.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

Anna is getting proficient at the computer. That's right, she's just turned four and in China that means she is about four years behind with her technology skills, so we thought what the hey. Actually, 'we' (me) thought Mummy needs five minutes peace and quiet because she has all the thankyou notes of the world to write and is beginning to forget if the talking Sleeping Beauty was from Braden, Jayden or Hayden.

We chose Noggin.com, heavily supervised. It has lovely little games that teach basic mouse skills like planting seeds in a virtual garden and HRH perches her tiny little bottom on our computer chair and concentrates with heart-warming intensity. I say heavily supervised, but you and I live in the real world right? At first we sit there through all the games. The mind-numbing 'build your own flower' the high-pitched Dora voice penetrating your skull until after a while you can't take the electronic accolades of 'good job!' or 'you're doing great' or 'what a team' any more and you skulk off for a cup of tea.

That's where it gets a little dodgy.

She is not exactly slow on the uptake, so pretty soon she learned to type in www.noggin.com and has even learned to enter the word in google. I am happy for her to be plugging away at age-appropriate preschooler computer games; saving baby eagles, planting gardens and building robots. I am even happy that her burgeoning knowledge might help me in the near future, I can see myself asking her whether I should upgrade to Leopard and what's the best way to compact my AVI files, BUT, check out this conversation and see why I'm going to be putting some protection software on our computer interfrastically:

Anna: I love noggin.com. You would probably love www.flowers.com and Dada would probably love www.lakers.com

Me: That's right, well done! (foolish! didn't see this one coming!)

Anna: I think Lucy would probably like www.boobs.com

Me: Bye-bye computer.


I'm pretty sure her father already has it bookmarked....

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Looper


















Last week Lucy started sleeping through the night.

By which I mean she would sleep until about 4:30am, which is a stretch of nearly eight and half hours and any mother of an infant will gladly call that sleeping through. I of course have now been programmed to wake up at 2am for the last five months, so for the entire week I was waking up between 2am and 3am thinking 'any minute now, any minute now'. Still, she was sleeping well and my heart was happy; angels sang and I started to plan my future sans sleep deprivation.

That was last week.

This week she has inexplicably reverted to her old, trusty sleep schedule of waking at 12am, 2:30am and 5am. I feel like I've discovered the formula for cold fusion and now can't remember where I wrote it down.

I know babies are capricious little F@c!%s, but how? why? I can't stop wondering what was working and now isn't. Was it the perfect combination of humidifier, fleecy sleep-suit and and old pheromoney t-shirt of mine? Or 8pm bottle of breastmilk, fleecy sleep-suit, and fresh air during the day? Gah! After trying a bajillion combinations of the above for the last 5 months I can safely say I have no idea what works and what doesn't, and I was happily ready to believe she had just outgrown the need for boobing in the wee hours. I am beyond disappointed. I know that at some point before college she is probably going to start sleeping all night but I was rather hopeful it would be before I had died of exhaustion....

On a more cheerful note, the reason I haven't left her in a Moses basket down by the river is a) this is Southern California and we don't got none and b) 5 months despite the lack of sleep is such a perfect baby age. They are beautiful and constantly delighted to see you. They smell good, and are small and lovable without the old-man scrawniness of a newborn. Perfect baby-trap age. I'm thinking of having at least a dozen more. *Wow* I really need some sleep.

And finally, The Looper. I've written about nicknames before and it appears we have finally found one that has stuck for Lucy. My second daughter is clearly an athlete like her father. She just turned 5 months old and she is practically crawling. She throws herself around a room with such determination that if you turn your back for 5 seconds (OK, maybe twenty minutes, I never said I was a good parent...) she has maneouvered herself into the fireplace and is chewing on an ornamental log. She is already able to scooch both legs underneath her in a pre-crawl motion and then propel herself violently forward in pursuit of that elusive Barbie shoe of chokeable death. So why Looper? Fans of Caddyshack may have already picked this up, but there is a scene where Bill Murray is terrorizing a young caddy with a pitchfork while regaling him with a story of when he caddied for the Dalai Lama. He jabs the pitchfork at the caddy's neck and says "I was a Looper, you know, a caddy, a jock". OK, I'll admit it's a little obscure but it fits her to perfection. That girl is a jock. Watch out world.

















Don't be fooled by the apparent sleep-pose. That eye is half-open. She's watching and waiting....

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Camping





















This weekend a bunch of LK's high school friends (who all seem to live within a 1 mile radius of their former high school - God this town is weird) organized a mass camping trip. I of course declined their generous offer of a night under canvas in a rattlesnake infested camp ground with a 3 year old and an infant - because I am not insane.

Lucy and I deigned to visit for an hour or two and had a wonderful time watching the kids swimming in the river fishing for crawdads, while the adults sipped a margarita.

Now that, is camping.








































I left just as the reality of nothing but hotdogs for dinner was really starting to hit, and I headed back to civilization almost giddy with the idea of an evening alone with the remote control. How hard up do you have to be to consider an night with an infant a vacation?

Meanwhile LK and Anna braved a night in a borrowed tent with a blow-up mattress missing its plug.




That Garnet Hill duvet just screams 'roughing it in the wild' doesn't it?













Santa Barbara is a peculiar bubble. You only have to drive 30 miles north to be in complete wilderness. Full on camping territory, including a Ranger Station which always makes me think of pic-a-nic baskets. LK's friends more or less had the campsite to themselves, except for a couple of well-meaning I'm sure, 7th Day Adventists who distributed literature on the first night no doubt alarmed at the sheer quantity of tequila being unpacked from the assembled Winnebagos.

Poor old LK did not get to experience the campfire drunkenness. Apparently Anna, exhausted by an afternoon of 'swimming' in a knee-deep California 'river' pitched an exhausted tantrum, screamed for Mumma and demanded they both bed down for the night at 9pm. I feel a tad sorry for him, but not too much considering I know full well that if I had stayed the night, I would have been tent-bound by 8:30pm with two children while LK whooped it up with his cronies. Plus Lucy is not sleeping through the night, and I didn't fancy trying to boob her in the pitch black night while venomous things slithered and crawled around us.

I am not an experienced camper. As a child, the one and only time I spent a night in a tent was in the Guides, resulting in an anxiety attack and my thoroughly cross Mum having to come and collect me from a muddy field outside Ripon.

Camping in England means everything suffused in drizzle, firewood too soggy to light and cows tripping over your tent ropes at 5am. Camping in California is the polar opposite. It means punishing heat and dust, poisonous creatures, large wild animals with pointy teeth, grass too dessicated and prickly to sit on and campfires in designated fire pits only. Aren't I making it sound fun? I think it's a vacation if you're a child and you don't have to worry where the next hotdog is coming from, whether you remembered to pack the toilet roll, and you don't care that you've swum in, slept in and lived in the same pair of knickers for the last 48 hours. To me it seems like an awful lot of packing, cooking and washing.

Camping seems to be ingrained in the American psyche much more so than in England. Probably because there is genuine 'wild' here and not just that bit by the river off the A64 near Knaresborough. As far as I can tell, people take a lot of pleasure in moving the entire contents of their house in a massive camper van to somewhere with a nice view and then sitting in a deck chair by that vehicle for the weekend. British people will happily hike 15 to 20 miles in one day but have a desperate need to return to their couch for a cup of tea by nightfall. We are strange races.

It was beautiful to be able to drive across the mountains and see a side of California far removed from the manicured environs of Santa Barbara. It was wonderful to see all the kids splashing it up with their friends. Mrs S. as usual had the forethought to bring inflatables, glow-in-the-dark bracelets and alcohol. The real camping essentials. Our kettle corn was a pale rejoinder.



















I don't think the idea of doing it next year with an 18 month old is any more appealing somehow, but I know I would enjoy waking up to this view through the top of my tent: