Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas In Quotes

The first two quotes come from my Mum, who is a mine of blogability. We were shopping for a gift for Anna. I gave her Anna's wish list and we headed to the toy shop. I pointed to the ridiculously overpriced plastic pegasus, the object of Anna's longing. "Well, I just don't think there's anything practical about a pegasus" said my Mum, shaking her head. Instead, Anna got a new back-pack, with horses on it. Much more useful. (Anna loves it by the way, and it means one less plastic horse for me to tread on at night).

Second quote, more of an anecdote really, from my Mum. She was reminiscing to Anna and Lucy about the Christmas stockings she and her sisters got when they were growing up. "We always had nuts and oranges in ours. Of course, after we'd opened our stockings, we had to put everything back on the fruit bowl."

Thirdly, do you know what a pillow pet is? If not - lucky you, your brain has not been colonized by a frenzy of under-5s marketing. Pillow pets are horrifically plush animals that unfold to form a pillow. They come in a variety of anthropomorphic shapes; ladybug (with giant smiley face), puppy, bumble bee (again with the smiley face), and of course, unicorn. Santa delivered Anna a unicorn pillow pet and Lucy a ladybug. Upon opening hers, Anna squealed, hugged her sister and cried "Oh Lucy, all our dreams have come true." I have to admit I teared up. My Mum laughed.

The next quote comes from LK. I cooked a full British Christmas dinner; turkey, bacon, sprouts, roast potatoes, Christmas pud - you name it. Our family has a tradition of cooking sausages around the turkey, you basically leave them there to cook in the turkey fat and they become gorgeously crispy calorie-bombs. LK devoured them and declared 'I'm not sure you can still call them sausages, but man, these meat croutons are awesome'.

And finally, after opening two presents, Lucy curled up contentedly with her giant smiley face ladybug and said she'd had enough of opening presents. She'd got what she wanted, thus the joy of more surprises could not possibly outweigh the effort of opening more packages. She can be a peculiar one. Anna was more than happy to step in to the breach, offering to open all of Lucy's remaining parcels, and oh my God did Lucy ever pep up again when she saw this:






















Look who joined the party. Bobot and Doll found themselves a lady-friend, Jessie the cowgirl from Toy Story. Lucy was beside herself.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas!




















The seemingly impossible Christmas photo with both girls smiling and (almost) looking at the camera was achieved with a bribe of ice-cream. If only the same could be done with a mortgage company ;)

From the bottom of my heart, thankyou for reading - your comments have got me through a tough year and they are much appreciated. Wishing you all a brilliant 2011.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rising Damp

It's called the Pineapple Express when the jet stream funnels all the tropical moisture from Hawaii straight to the California coast. What is feels like is 5 days and counting of non-stop rain. Contrary to popular belief, it does not rain like this in England. You can have five days of rain, but there are usually brief sunny spells, or a pause for some gloomy but dry intervals. This feels like a monsoon, as if someone turned on a tap and left the room. California is not prepared, evidenced as much by the truly eclectic rain-gear people are wearing as much as the mudslides and overflowing creeks. It bears repeating California - Uggs are NOT rainboots. Our office waiting room smells like wet sheep.

The girls are loving it, puddles, umbrellas and wellies are a real novelty. For my parents - not so much. They are resigned to the weather, saying with their customary cheeriness 'well at least it's not cold and wet'. It takes a lot to say that when you spend enormous sums to leave England for 'sunny' California. I feel bad for them, that their lounging by the outdoor pool and their beach walks are traded in for jigsaws and colouring, I feel like I've got them over here on false pretenses - I always feel bad when California under-performs weather-wise.

Still, they are enjoying the girls and O.M.G. Anna and Lucy are lapping up all the attention. They are like organ grinder monkeys, pirouetting and chirruping at the slightest glance their way. Lucy is managing to let the facade drop occasionally, and my Mum and Dad have been privy to one or two of her 'Lucifer' moments when, for example, she got a Christmas ornament in her advent calendar and not a chocolate and she threw the offending bauble at the tree and then thew herself down on the floor (where we left her).

I don't know where she gets it from, she is such a 'Little Miss'. Hilarious.

By the way, for those of you starved of a little Christmas spirit this year, borrow a 5-year old. Anna is in a frenzy of excitement; no surface remains undecorated, no Christmas movie un-watched, no carol remains unsung. She is a paper chain factory. A one-woman Christmas pep-rally. If I wasn't all amped up on spiced apple cider I would be exhausted.

I think it's going to be a good Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

It's Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Xmas....

My parents have just flown in for Christmas, so of course our perfect weather has been replaced by a solid week of rain:


























For those of you who are neck-deep in the snowy North I apologize, but really, rain? California, you didn't have to make them feel quite so at home.

In the meantime, while I revel in some unheard of babysitting and free time, here are some photos of the girls that didn't quite make it in to the Christmas album. Sand-throwing must be the Santa Barbara equivalent of a snowball fight....









































































Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Faith Healer

Overheard in a medical practice waiting room as a doctor is walking his patient out:


Doctor: "It is very important to get out of the house and stay social, even if it's just going to the shops. It doesn't have to be an organized activity, although those do often have the highest cognitive benefit."

Elderly Patient: "Well, I'm a very Christian woman, doctor, the Lord is my guide and if he feels I should do something then he tells me. He directs my life, I'm just along for the ride"

Doctor: "In that case I think you're going to be easier to treat than I'd thought!"

Friday, December 03, 2010

Spread

Tonight we're going to a very swanky Christmas party at LK's work. I haven't been for five years, mostly because we can never find a babysitter at this time of year, and even if we can, I've either been massively pregnant or one of the girls has been sick.

Needless to say, this hasn't been a year of champagne-swilling glad-ragging for us, so my collection of appropriate evening wear has dwindled. When I was in College I had several go-to outfits, the strappy black, the short cream, the lacy black, the deep green velvet with the eye-popping split. Those were the days.

Now I have work clothes, sweat pants and pajamas, and quite frankly it's hard to tell them apart sometimes.

I stupidly left things to the last minute believing I had two dresses in my arsenal. There was no way I was going to be spending money on a new outfit when both our computer and our car are in a race for catastrophic failure so I dusted off the two contenders lingering at the back of Lucy's wardrobe. Literally dusted them off. First, a fitted, beaded number which is sexy in a kind of Washington DC fundraiser kind of way (think Ann Taylor stuffed shirt) and secondly a floaty tiered black skirt with camisole top first worn for my SECOND wedding anniversary (we're on #13 now).

What has happened to my life????!!! What has happened to sexy? To flirty? To clothes that have to be dry-cleaned??

I tried them on.

OMG.

Firstly let me say I know I've had two children in the last five years, and that there have been a few alterations to my general geography (think urban sprawl), but I put on the slinky beaded number believing all would be well and was confronted with a black pudding bursting out of its casing. I had chicken cutlets between my arms and my boobs. Every time I breathed in I was risking a rupture or a sequin hurtling across the room.

Anna gasped and said "Oh Momma can you wear that when you pick me up from school?".

I went to plan B. This was my bull-pen pitcher, my cast-iron guarantee of a safety net. You see, the last time I wore it, was at the same Christmas party six years ago - and I doubt anyone in the crowd we will be hanging out with tonight has even stayed married that long and so that's a guarantee no-one will recognize it, but more importantly, the last time I wore it I was nearly 16 weeks pregnant.

I'll spare you the details but suffice to say it doesn't fit. Not even close. Too much Ali, too little Blah Blah.

Mortified.

My wardrobe for tonight's affair now consists of a pair of newly purchased tights (I splashed out) and a skirt with an elasticated waist. No top.

I'm sure LK will be thrilled.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Awake, My Doves!

Some parents have a problem with their kids waking them up at the crack of dawn. These are usually the kind of disciplined parents who do not have their 2 year old watching Jon Stewart with them at 11pm.

Because of our night-owls (lazy parenting) we have issues getting our two up in the morning. Especially when it's cold, and by cold I mean slap a scarf over that long-sleeve t-shirt you Californians and try and remember which drawer you keep your socks in!

In the past I have used all sorts of cheap tricks to get Anna to wake up in time for school, "Oh look! Three baby guinea pigs!" being a particular favourite. That will definitely grab her attention, but she won't be a happy camper when you try and explain the guinea pigs 'just disappeared.'

LK reported a particularly hard morning today. ­ I'd woken the girls, dressed them, fed them breakfast, made their lunches, he just had to get them out of the door, but apparently "it would be easier to paint the toenails of a wolverine than put shoes on Lucy when she doesn't want them." I thought that captured things perfectly.

In December we have a reprieve though (and not just from NaBloPoMo - ­ thanks for your support Spanna it made my day!). In December we have Advent Calendars!! Anna will leap out of bed at the promise of a tiny chocolate and a new Christmas ornament. OK, so it only accomplishes getting them out of bed, and does nothing for hair-brushing, dressing, breakfasting or for-gods-sake-stop-talking, but it's a help.

Warning ­ advent calendar 'guaranteed get your child out of bed early' program may have an adverse effect on weekends.

Hooray! NaBloPoMo is done!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Comfort Measures




























Lucy is a boob-hound. She is obsessed with boobs. If you hold her, or sit next to her it only takes a second for her hand to start snaking under your shirt to find your nipple. It's like hanging out with a fourteen year old boy. It happens so frequently that I don't even notice it these days, only registering a social gaffe when I see the person I'm talking to make the 'oh my God her child has her hand down her blouse and she's not even batting an eyelid' face. It's rather like having a dog that's not allowed on the couch. You swear you say no, but ten minutes later you realize you're not only sharing your seat with a dog, you're stroking it too.

The funny thing is ­ it's not just my boobs she's after. She prefers mine, who wouldn't, but anyone's will do. And I mean anyone. We had to forewarn her current preschool, because a hand rooting around inside your bra can be quite a shock ­ however small and innocent its owner. Then there's the fact that she will quite happily grab LK's nipple or even Anna's. Now that's funny. There they both are, a five year old and a two year old watching TV and Lucy has her hand on Anna's chest.

Obviously it's a comfort thing, and I fully expect it to disappear well before she heads off to college, it's just hysterical that she clearly doesn't know why she's fascinated with the boob.

I can't believe I'm writing all this stuff down as if it's completely normal. I think that sums parenthood up in a nutshell.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Home Sweet Home

We spent the majority of this weekend scrambling to fix up one of our rentals. For a holiday devoted to hearth and home, we spent a depressing amount of time at Home Improvement Centers, closing out Bed Bath & Beyond, and OSH. It's a painful time of year to be shopping for curtains for somebody else's apartment. Sorry Anna we won't be going to the Nutcracker this year, but check out these draperies - only $24.99 a panel!

We had some tenants moving out this weekend, and then, 'oh no, we're not, we decided to stay' but then, 'we can't find a 3rd roommate so we probably are leaving after all'. Do you want to know how much fun it is to find tenants on Thanksgiving weekend? Not that much fun. The upshot was, they're staying, but we agreed to spruce the place up a bit so they could attract decent roommates.

I love watching home makeover shows, but when your budget consists of pixie dust and fairy wings it's pretty depressing. It's also interesting how I consider the most cost-effective improvement to be switching out broken blinds in favour of curtains and LK thinks new outlet covers will really attract the eye. We're both ignoring the salmon pink floor tile in the entry way.

I sighed to my friend Jen, at a brief reprieve at a 6 years old's birthday party. "I mean seriously, curtains will make it look a lot less like a crack house."

"What, and more like a crack home?" She replied.

Precisely.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tis The Season

This has been without doubt the worst year of my life, and it looks like it's going to go out with a bang.

I didn't realize it was possible to live at this level of hyper-anxiety permanently. I wish I could switch off, I wish I could pop a pill, but I refuse to medicate something that is entirely rational, understandable and situational. Instead I am just going to attempt to stop worrying. In essence I am going to take a month off from caring. I am going to let someone else figure out how we're going to get out of this one, or not, we'll just see what happens.

It's not my problem. I am giving up for a month. I am reclaiming my life and my peace of mind.

Maybe I'm broken, maybe I'm free.

Fuck it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Well, a picture is definitely worth a thousand words when you're getting towards the end of NaBloPoMo and running out of steam.

Here's Lucy sleeping whilst sitting up. Practicing for College lectures.

Thanks Jen!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Origin of Thanksgiving

In an attempt to embrace my new culture, I asked Anna what Thanksgiving was all about.

"Well Momma, it actually began in England"

Really? I thought - this is going to be good.

"Well, they had a new King but he was bad and wouldn't let them have their own rules so the pilgrims" - pause for enormity of knowledge of new word to sink in - "they decided to find America. A lot of them got sick on the boat and only a few people made it. When they got here they wrote on a rock, so that they would know how to get back to their King, except they probably didn't want to because he was not good. Anyway they didn't know how to plant and they had no houses so they asked the Indians who got here a bit before them." Exhausted sigh. "Can I watch Dinosaur Train now?"

Me: "But why do we have Thanksgiving Dinner?"

Anna: "I don't know. That was just the First Thanksgiving but it has nothing to do with our Thanksgiving".

Or, we can listen to the Eddie Izzard version, which is definitely my preferred Thanksgiving story:













Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Games We Play

Now that Anna has reached the grand old age of nearly five and a half, games are becoming more sophisticated. Nothing will spur on a parent more to organize a playdate than having to role-play "I am the Queen of China and you are a villager who comes to give me gifts. No, you're doing it wrong, bow first, then give me the gift, and wear a costume ­ Momma where is your costume?! No! I wear the crown! Lucy can be a tiger. No! She's doing it wrong, Momma, take her out of here, and Momma you need to try that again." She catches my wounded expression. "Well, it was quite good Momma, but I really know you can do better!".

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I don't know where she gets the bossiness, really I don't.

Some of the old favourites are still going strong. Hide and seek is a big hit in this house, or 'hide and go seek' if you're American. Actually 'go seek' would have been a better descriptor for the last couple of years, because Anna's favourite hide-out would be on the bed, not even under the covers. Hiding in plain sight - ­ my little philosopher. Then of course there's Lucy, who beingalmost two, merely covers her eyes and 'disappears' while asking 'Where Sucey?'. It's a barrel of laughs round our house.

We all have our favourite hiding spots. On our property there are two trees in the front yard. Anna loves playing hide and seek between these two trees. Oh the suspense! Which tree! The giggling usually gives it away. I always hide behind the curtains -­ a fact that was duly noted and repeated at every turn. "Coming ready or not!" I would cry and there would be an excited scream of "look behind the curtains!!!!". Anna Frank she is not.

She is getting much better at hiding now, but will occasionally slip up, case in point last night when she said "Momma, let's play hide and seek. I'm really good at it now that the trampoline is out."

Hmm.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Toy Story Too

Following on from the last post, ‘Doll’ and ‘Bobot’ are ‘Woody’ and ‘Buzz Lightyear’ from Toy Story, and Lucy adores them.

























They belonged to our friends Sophie and Kate. Lucy has inherited them. I like to think it’s because, as in the movie, they had moved on from such childish things, and Lucy was the glad recipient. Although I have a feeling Lucy may have strong-armed them away. They are completely and unconditionally loved. They go everywhere with her. Anna was never so attached to toys, so this is new territory for me. “Bobot?” Lucy will cry in the middle of the night “Bobot, are you?” if he’s not within arms reach.

It will break my heart when she finally moves on from these two. I can’t imagine I will find a home for two such scruffy characters, they are literally being loved to death and have already been the recipients of emergency surgery. If you look closely, Bobot still needs a little patching, but having watched Toy Story (a mere three million times), what can I do? What do you do with Buzz and Woody when they're surplus to requirements? You can't garage sale them, you can't donate them to a kids school in case they end up in the dreaded toddler room, you can't keep them in the attic til your kids have kids of their own. That movie has made it clear that you have to find another good home. I may consider a third child just to carry on the franchise.

Toy Story has a lot to answer for.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Toy Story

If any photo summed up my youngest daughter it would be this one:





I love the way, she's going, 'what?'





















She is a bit of a kleptomaniac. Perhaps it comes from being a somewhat neglected second child, and that means clinging with absolute desperation to what is exclusively hers. She is obsessed with this ladybird/ladybug swim ring (apologies, I have dualing nationalities). If she sees it, she has to wear it. “Swimming?” she will ask at 8:57pm, as if that’s the most natural thing in the world. “Sucey go swimming?” she says as I try to get everyone out of the door for school. She likes to be prepared. Imagine the horror of being caught at a pool without ladybird.

I used to be one of those childless eye-rollers, the ones who would think, what sap of an adult is letting their toddler wear a flotation device in Trader Joes? Who is the adult in this situation? Who is in control?

The truth is, you pick your battles. She has an iron will, and this lady’s not for turning. Which is why Lucy was wearing a ladybird ring, and clutching ‘Doll’ and ‘Bobot’ as we did some last minute pre-book club grocery shopping. It was a tight fit in that shopping trolley. I joked that she was expecting a flash flood, it was forecast for rain after all. The cashier gave me a look that read ‘lady, get a grip’.

Maybe I forgot to mention that Lucy was also brandishing a toothbrush.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dramatic Chipmunk














LK went to High School with the guy who put this together. After all the recent Citizenship stuff I thought it was about time for a little light relief.

Mrs Foster - I think of you every time I see this. I don't know why.

Enjoy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Welcome To America

My Citizenship Oath Ceremony was very special, an intimate and private moment, just me and 3,000 of my closest friends in an event hall at the Pomona Fairplex:




















That's 3,000 applicants who'd all brought their families to share in their special day. Everybody's letter said 'Pomona Fairplex, Building 4, 8am'.

10,000 people all trying to be in one building at 8am on the nose. Of course, no-one realized quite how big the event was, so when you're stuck in traffic trying to get in to the Fairplex, and you're already twenty minutes late for your really important legal proceeding, and you're not sure if you're in the correct queue or accidentally in line for a Monster Truck Rally, you can get a tad anxious.
























Did I mention that one of the main reasons I became a citizen was so that I would NEVER have to deal with the INS again?

I obviously wasn't the only one dealing badly with the stress of it all - as we filed like cattle in to the warehouse, Anna pointed out a big lake of 'barf' on the tarmac. Nice. At the entrance to the building we were separated and I waved goodbye to my family. So much for having the girls learn about the Citizenship process. We hadn't planned for that, so I had the spare diapers in my handbag and throughout the next 2 hours LK sent me texts like 'how much longer???' or 'situation critical, she's going to blow!'

We waited an age for everyone to file in - in the meantime we were encouraged to fill out our voter registration paperwork - but, and they repeated this several times 'please do not sign it as you are not citizens yet'.

Pedants.

The proceedings finally kicked off 75 minutes late, and we all stood up to swear our oath. Except, given the logistics of everything, it's very hard to hear someone addressing 10,000 people, so I *may* have failed to speak every line, and I *may* have failed to renounce any allegiance to any foreign prince or potentate. Quite frankly, uttering an oath like that only days after Prince William announced his engagement to Kate Middleton should be unconstitutional. I know where my allegiances truly lie.

Then the Judge gave his own inspirational story of his family's journey to America, and he congratulated us on making a great decision for ourselves and for our families, and said "Isn't America the best country in the world! Isn't it? Let's see those flags - wave those flags!".

This was a Citizenship ceremony, so a little jingoism could be expected. But then....

We were given a recorded video address by Barack Obama, which was great, appropriate, and humbling. He addressed us as 'my fellow Americans' and spoke of the privileges and responsibilities of being a citizen. This was what I was expecting.

What I wasn't anticipating was the music video of 'Proud To Be An American' by Lee Greenwood. As my friend Mooks later said, maybe a short film by Ken Burns, something a little classier? But no, country music, tacky patriotism by Disney. Urgh.

I don't know what I was really expecting from the ceremony. Something a little less industrial, definitely. I don't know why they don't do it on a smaller, more civic level. I know they used to. Perhaps the numbers are too large, the costs too enormous. It certainly was a little overwhelming.

As for me, I didn't think I would feel any different. My friend Jen put it perfectly, it's like marrying a bloke you've been living with for fifteen years, I didn't really expect it to change anything (except I'm waiting for the jury duty summons - any day now....). My friends helped me celebrate; an apple pie, a sweet Obama '08 t-shirt, champagne, and this:





















In the end I was surprised though. We drove back up the coast, past a perfect Malibu sunset and it suddenly hit me that I'm American now. I had my Ken Burns moment. This land is my land. I'm not any less British, but I belong here now too. (and lets not dwell on how much debt I've just inherited....)

I think that's going to take a little getting used to, for both of us.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Living The Dream

I am hosting Book Club in 3 hours. This is my kitchen.




















3 hours, and counting....

** Updated to add: LK put the sink in, but didn't have time to attach it, so, no running water, but at least the place looked good. This is California after all, and as long as something looks the part, it doesn't actually have to have a function (like the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills). Apparently the pipe had just completely corroded through.

Reassuring.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

You Don't Say

I have so much I want to tell you about the Citizenship process, but I am facing a mountain of work a mile high, so I will tide you over with this gem:

Me: "This foggy morning makes it all seem really autumnal"

Anna: "What's 'autumnal'?"

Me: "Autumn-like, you know, fall."

Anna: "It's foll Momma, not fawl. *sigh*. I think you're forgetting you need to speak American now that youre a citizen."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Amercun

Today I became an American.


























I think this photo, with the 'hot dog on a stick' stand behind me sums the occasion up very nicely. Oh, and notice the bizarre shaft of sunlight that's hitting my certificate. Under God after all perhaps?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gettin' Busy

The date for my Oath Ceremony is fast approaching, and I've been forwarded a questionnaire to complete prior to the big day. In the THREE WEEKS since I had my naturalization interview they want to know if:

  • I've married, divorced or been widowed
  • Practiced polygamy
  • Received income from illegal gambling
  • Been a prostitute
  • Procured anyone else for prostitution
  • Been involved in any unlawful commercialized vice
  • Encouraged an alien to illegally enter the US
  • Trafficked drugs or marijuana (why are they separate?)
  • Joined the Communist Party
  • Been a habitual drunkard.
I'm starting to wonder about this country of yours (soon to be mine).

On the other hand my blog would be a damn sight more interesting if even half of those had occurred during NaBloPoMo.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood

This weekend the weather was absolutely glorious. California glorious. When I first moved here and people would say 'wow, the weather's perfect today' I would look at them with blank incomprehension and think - the weather's always perfect. We haven't had sideways sleet, black ice, drizzle, icy showers or gale force winds in years, if ever.























Now that I've lived here long enough, I can discern an exceptional day from a bog-standard brilliant day. Like a sommelier of the weather, I can detect those top notes of sapphire blue skies, a faint whisper of wind, an ever so slight chill in the shade, soft golden sunlight making the winter flowers glow, and finally everything rounded out by a crisp, cool evening.
























I took the girls for a walk up to the Mission. We stopped to chat with a neighbour at her rose-covered garden gate - her daughter goes to Anna's Kindergarten and they started planning a playdate for the next day. We strolled through parks, fed the ducks, bumped into an old friend who we have lost to 22 units of college this Semester. On our return the lady at the corner store was toasting the birth of her niece's baby and was giving out candy to all the children.
























Perfect. This is why people move to Southern California.

Except (and you sort of knew this was coming didn't you?) this same neighbourhood was rocked by an horrific gang-beating that left our other corner store owner dead 3 weeks ago as he walked home from work. A couple of days later someone was brutally stabbed at 3:30 in the afternoon.

50 yards from our front door.

The first I knew of it was LK and Anna coming back from the movies (Legend of the Guardians - don't do it to yourself, even Anna hated it), they'd had trouble getting to the house because the street was all cordoned off with police tape. There were police cars and ambulances everywhere. There had been reports of a fight, screeching tires, there was blood all over the sidewalk and no sign of the victims. Police were advising everyone to stay indoors.

So of course everyone gathered on the corner to stare.

The police said it was gang related. Why else would the stab victims flee? Gang members never press charges, they have their own courts. They also said we would never see it in the paper or hear it on the news. It happens all the time, they said, except this is a tourist town, so it doesn't really happen, you see.

They were right, nothing was ever reported, no charges were ever filed.

There are two main gangs in Santa Barbara, the Eastsiders and the Westsiders. Original, no? We live on the Eastside. Two of the houses on the street that abuts ours are gang houses. People are coming and going at all hours, cars double-parked and idling, occasional parties that go on all night and erupt in to street fighting. You know, the usual.

Am I scared of living so close to it all? Well yes, obviously. Except to them we don't exist, we are no threat to them, we mean nothing to them. They are Hispanic, but then so are a lot of our really friendly neighbours, the difference is they've chosen to align themselves with a gang. We have not, so we don't exist. In all honesty I think living close to a busy road would be more of a threat to my family. The police said the same is true of pretty much every neighbourhood in this town.

Would I prefer to live across the road from sheep fields like where I grew up? Of course. Except you have to wear wellies all the time. That's not an option right now though, so we carry on here. And honestly, the burglary rate and car theft rate in the gentrified town where I grew up is much higher than here. You pick your poison.

Sometimes I'm scared, but mostly I walk past with my girls in the stroller on the way to get an ice-cream and I pretend that we live in 'Santa Barbara' instead of South Central LA.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mostly Wordless Weekend: Part One



























Drinking wine last night around the fire pit. Yes I know it's November, that's why one of us is wearing a scarf.

Socks and a scarf would mean it was December.

And unseasonably cold.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Greetings!

I have the hardest time finding half-decent greetings cards over here. I think I'm looking in the wrong places, because I know you people have a sense of humour - case in point the fact you all now think it's the Democrats who made a mess of the economy. Good one.

My sister-in-law sent me an absolute corker for my birthday:























































See what I mean? How funny is that? Well, I mentioned the dearth of really good cards to my sister-in-law, and lo and behold, what do I get in the post from England yesterday? Cards!! Except the problem is I've already broadcast it live on the interweb, so I'll just have to find some techno phobe to send them to.

Thanks Lorna!!!

PS - If anyone has any suggestions for where to pick up really funny cards over here, so I can return the favour to Lorna with a decent birthday card, I'd really appreciate it, thanks!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

Veterans Day is one of those fake holidays in the US. Fake because the only people who get to officially observe the holiday are Government workers and schools. The rest of us have to patch together childcare and carry on regardless. That's not to say the cause isn't worthwhile, not at all. Lance's Dad is a veteran, so what better way to reward his service than to make him look after his granddaughters for the morning?

Any longer than a morning and there would be casualties, likely on both sides.

"This is no way to treat a Veteran" he grumbled. But of course he loves it. He is a great childminder, he is ever so slightly hard of hearing, and that coupled with Anna's propensity to talk all the time is a great combination. Then there's Lucy. She's up for anyone who's prepared to sit with her and read a book and provide a decent lap to nap in.

The photo is a little grainy, because LK was using a zoom against a bright light - but this is what he found at lunchtime:





















Anna playing quietly by herself upstairs, and the other two out for the count downstairs!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Spellcheck

Anna is racing right along with this reading/writing malarkey. She's reading Harry Potter at night (heavily assisted) and she even suggested we play hangman - she would pick the word.

Can you guess what it is? The tension was high - only one letter left to guess, and my man was very nearly toast. N _ E M. Four letter word??




















I will admit to playing a fair amount of iPhone scrabble (OK, I'm an addict), and this had me stumped.

Anna hates to see people lose. "If you choose a letter at the beginning of the alphabet you may be lucky!" she sang.

Huh?

She tried harder - perhaps she was being a little obscure? "Momma, if you pick an A you may get a happy ending!!"

Happy ending? This girl has been spending too much time with her father...

Yes, you've guessed it, this was the word:





















Naem (name). The reason you don't play hangman with a 5-year old.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

If Chickens Could Swear

Overheard at Anna's school whilst waiting for the Kindergartener's (with minds like snow.....) to return from a field trip.

1st Grader:
"Yeah, well I know a word that's worse than that"
Me, straining to hear
Other Ist Grader: "What?"
1st Grader: "FLUCK!"

I plan to be an early adopter.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Leaf Fishing

You would think that two full days alone in a foreign city with two small children would be daunting, maybe even in a nightmare. It had occurred to me that entertaining them, even with the likes of the San Diego Zoo in my arsenal, would be challenging.

It was so much fun. For the record, spending time with my two tiny ladies is brilliant – they make the best dates. They are just so enthused about everything. I think we were all excited to finally leave Santa Barbara for a few days, but even I couldn’t muster that much excitement about row upon row of elephants. Not so Lucy, "wow" she would say, then "oh, wow" at the next one, then "elephant" with a serious nod, as if to say, ‘dude, what are the chances?’.

Yes, they had their moments, usually on LK’s watch I’m afraid. They did not sleep well. Lucy projectile vomited two out of the three nights, liberally spraying everything in her vicinity. Sorry Hampton Inn! We think it was because she wasn’t sure of her surroundings, didn’t want to fall asleep in a foreign bed, and so kept asking for a ‘bottle’ to seek comfort (much like her father). The fact that we gave her four bottles in the space of two hours may have explained things. She didn’t so much vomit as pop. Then Anna had violent earache on the second night. They’ve both had a cold, so we immediately thought, crap, ear infection. LK confessed he was worried about us finding an urgent care in a foreign city – I was more worried about the chances of them getting out of network billing right (slim). In the end after a night of tearful ‘ouchy’, *sob*, ‘ouchy’ she woke up right as rain. We think maybe it was pool water stuck in her ear, exacerbated by the remains of a cold. Whatever it was, thank god it disappeared as fast as it struck.

Aren’t you noticing a marked decrease in the scintillation factor since I’ve been posting every day??!

And of course, they may be great company, but usually your date on a fun trip to the zoo does not fling herself in to a fountain, necessitating a full strip-down, towel off with a sweatshirt, all the while screaming til they’re puce and stamping their feet at the sheer indignity of it all.








Guess what happened next?














That sort of thing comes with the territory, but the rest more than made up for it. On the second day we were heading for the Natural History Museum (free with our SB Natural History Museum membership). I parked in the Science Museum carpark, right underneath a sign saying ‘Kid City’. "Oh Momma" breathed Anna. "It’s just for kids, five and under. It’s a Kid City."

They had a blast, and I had the best time watching them. It’s true that nothing beats the feeling of making someone else happy. Which is why Anna ending up getting her face painted ($12) at Legoland, $1 extra for glitter – that’s right, a surcharge - your five year old is sitting there, and you’re supposed to say no to glitter? Shame on you Legoland.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Megalopolis

Los Angeles to San Diego is a megalopolis, home to 22 million people. For two and a half hours you drive through non-stop urban sprawl, stucco, outlets, and six lanes of traffic. Every five minutes you drive past a McDonalds and a Starbucks, every ten minutes a Target, and every thirty minutes an Ikea. The scenery could be on continuous repeat, like the background in a Tom and Jerry cartoon, but you'd never know. Unless you get stuck in traffic, and then you get to sit outside that Discount Sofa World for fifteen minutes, and really get a chance to consider its uniqueness.

I have a new weapon in my co-pilot arsenal though. www.sigalert.com. If you live and drive in Southern California you should definitely get to know it. It gives an instant colour-coded snapshot of the freeway traffic through LA, Orange County, San Diego. Instant flagged alerts of accidents, and visual confirmation of free-flowing alternate routes. Genius.

And that's all I have to say on our 3 hour drive back from Legoland. Well, that and this photo of Anna "I was not napping, I am 5, I do not nap" K.

























Back to non-HTML posting tomorrow. Thank God!

Updated to add: we just drove past Anna's best friend, in six lanes of traffic, 120 miles from home. Apparently they recognized us by the British flag on the back of our car. I think the universe knows I'm posting about So Cal faceless anonymity and just gave me a giant cosmic 'you don't know nothing, beotch'.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

San Diego Zoo






























Posting to this blog using my phone is about as user-friendly as hand-illustrating every letter in a Gregorian manuscript, so......I bring you thoughts on the San Diego zoo, in brief.

Real life Pandas, surprisingly small
Stuffed pandas, unsurprisingly expensive but unconditionally ADORED by Lucy.
Who knew the world had so many monkeys.
How can you be 37 and never hear of a Takin?
Look at that thing, it's huge!
'Takin care of business' on continuous loop in brain
Nobody wants to look at fossils!
100 degrees in November. WTF.
That tiger looks pissed off.
Girls too excited/exciteable to nap.
Lucy fell in 2 inch deep fountain.
Sideways.
Total immersion
What are the chances?
Brilliant time had by all, even Lucy.
Especially Lucy.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Essentials




















Anna said now that she's five she should be able to pack her own suitcase. We are away from home for three days. She packed:

Two dresses
Two nighties
No knickers
No shoes
One tiara (large, Cinderella)
Two ponies, one unicorn
Multi-coloured heart stickers (for emergencies?
A bald-headed eagle
Assorted small plastic animals (to introduce to their friends at the San Diego zoo)
Small treasure box (for small treasures)
Tiny treasure box (for tiny treasures)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Getting Away

Where do you go on holiday if you live in a world-class vacation destination? If the beach is on your doorstep, temperatures hover in the 80s in November, and you can't get a latte at your local Starbucks without tripping over Hollywood's finest? It would seem that Hawaii, Mexico or Tahoe for skiing is the answer for most Santa Barbarans, although quite frankly the real answer is nowhere. Have you see our house prices? If your property taxes alone are higher than the average American's annual take-home pay, then you'll be spending those five precious vacation days in your tiny home, eating freeze-dried noodles.

Apart from my happily childless friends I don't know of anyone who has been on vacation in the last few years - except to visit far-flung family members that is. Anna even said "when we have the next fire (read wildfire evacuation) can we go back to the Monterey Aquarium? That was fun." Poor child. Which is why we're all so excited to be getting out of town this weekend. LK has to attend a two day seminar for work, and the closest location just happens to be San Diego. I must be hard-up for a holiday when I will consider two days of theme parks alone with two small children a break. I'm excited though. I've never been to San Diego, I've never seen a panda, or a killer whale, or a non-Danish Legoland.

It goes without saying that we can't afford it, but the fates are clearly on our side, because just when I was fretting the cost of the weekend a check arrived from Google Ads from all you lovely people clicking the ads on this website. That and a coupon from my friend Chilly just may mean we can splash out on the San Diego zoo and a small plush panda. Good times.

It's NaBloPoMo so I'll be trying to post whilst down there, but I haven't worked out how to post photos from my phone yet, so you may have to wait till Monday for that photo of me pushing two screaming and over-stimulated children round the world's largest zoo...... I bet you can't wait.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

What's Not To Love?

I you ask any kid what they like most about Halloween, they will answer, candy. Getting to wear a costume may rank a distant second, but it seems 90% of the girls I see at our uniform-less California Kindergarten are wearing either a tutu, wings, a tiara or sparkly ruby slippers on a daily basis, so costume may actually be today's ready-to-wear.

Which makes it more than a little odd that Anna collected a big bag of sugary swag on Halloween night, poured her sister's stash in there too, and promptly forgot about it. We never took it home, and it has since been raided by two presumably now-diabetic dogs.

Anna hasn't mentioned it since.

Two full days, not a whisper. I'm the one craving Dots and Almond Joys, she doesn't appear to have noticed.

In fact, she said to me the other day...."Mom, you know why Halloween is so awesome? Because even if the Lakers are on, the Dads still have to spend time with their kids."

It appears that time with her Dad is better than candy. Or he spends far too much time watching the Lakers.

Only 79 regular season games to go!!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Separation of Church and Fête


















































If you can’t recognize the characters behind these costumes, then lucky you for not having succumbed to the brainwashing of kids TV.

If you are able to put names with faces, then I commiserate with you my friend.

For Halloween the K family presented:

  • DJ Lance
  • His sidekick Foofah
  • Merliah (from Barbie A Mermaid Tale)
  • A very dull witch who bought costumes for everyone but herself and seemed to forget that she looks like crap in head to toe black.

I love Halloween over here, and Halloween with two small children is just brilliant fun, and yes I can still say that after cutting out over 100 cardboard bats at Anna’s school on Friday.

Anna shot out of bed on Sunday morning at the prospect of trick-or-treating. She was skipping and pirouetting with anticipation all day, which became a little annoying after, oh, ten minutes.

Unfortunately there is just no way that we could consider trick-of-treating in our neighbourhood as we live in more of a downtown gangland stab-zone rather than a suburban family idyll, (if you think I’m joking because I live in Santa Barbara, stay tuned for future posts about my neighbourhood, and its recent stabbings. Yes, plural.).

Fortunately we have friends in happy nappy valley, and they do still talk to us after being Lucy’s second family for nearly a year and a half - and they also have a fantastic annual Halloween party. Lucy (aka Foofah) broke all our hearts by giving Jen a ten minute clavicle-burrowing hug upon seeing her again – leaving us in no doubt as to which family she actually prefers (the
family with the trampoline).

We were just peeling Lucy from Jen and Anna from the ceiling, ready to venture out in to the melee, when Jen’s daughter returned with a sack of candy and a note that ‘some guy’ had given her in lieu of candy.

Do you want to know what the note said?

It was a printed missive inviting her and her family to come and worship at the local Lutheran church on Sundays where they have sermons aimed at children, songs, crafts, and then coffee and fellowship afterwards!

WTF.

Separation of Church and Fête.

I understand that Halloween flies directly against many religious beliefs with its celebration of paganism, and worse, NickJr. But if that’s your creed, let if be yours, don’t bring the fight to the children. The note was clearly intended to be read by kids. It’s a good job LK wasn’t on the receiving end of the leaflet as he is not exactly tolerant when it comes to vocal religious nuts, and the image of DJ Lance giving someone a beatdown on Halloween would have stuck in many a Kindergartener’s mind.

In the end we let it go. Besides, if the religious zealot really wanted to sway the minds of the children, they would have done so with a leaflet and candy. If only Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown had the presence of mind to do the same.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Happy November!

Do you like my beautiful autumnal photo??



























Yes, that's right, the clues are in the photo......you can tell the seasons in Southern California by the fact that:

a) There is no lifeguard on duty

b) Lucy is wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt

c) Her shirt references Halloween



























How else can you tell it's November?

By the fact that I've signed up for NaBloPoMo. Get ready for a post a day.

Yes that does mean there'll be a lot of photos masquerading as content.....




























It's a hard life, but someone's got to write about it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Naturalization: Part Two - The Revenge

When you apply for citizenship they hand you a booklet and an audio CD of the 100 civics questions they will fire at you during your upcoming interview. Having not taken an exam in approximately 15 years I was rather excited about this. Mostly because I am a nerd and used to be rather good at exams. I'll also admit that I was 'quietly confident' about passing the written and spoken English portion of the citizenship test. English, why it's practically my mother tongue. Perhaps you wouldn't know that from my grammar or spelling, but in my head I'm brilliant.

Anna and Lucy suffered through weeks of listening to the Citizenship Test CD in my car and now scream 'No! Not Nancy Pelosi' whenever I grab my car keys. I know you're dying to know what the 100 questions are, so here's a link, but if you're too lazy I'll write the 10 questions I was given at the end of this post - feel free to knock yourself out - but I want an honest marks out of ten in the comments section afterwards please.

I actually really enjoyed learning about that 'Congress' thing you have, the 'Constitution' and the brilliant idea of 'Checks and Balances', vetoes, separation of powers etc. A written Constitution - what a concept. The more I read, the more I realized that being allowed to be considered a naturalized citizen is an honour, nay, an honor.

So when the INS interviewer called my name I leaped up and put away my 'Best Short Stories of 2010' - see, everyone, I read English for fun, for a laugh, a ha ha ha (poor Peter Sarstedt reference). I clutched my binder of critical paperwork and followed him behind the magic door. The night before I'd assembled my 'very important paperwork' binder because people in chat rooms had suggested that if you look like you're armed with all the relevant info they won't ask for any of it (true). As I collected bank statements and tax returns I came to the section about 'proof of marital union'.

I asked LK how I was supposed to prove marital union.

"You are a moron" he answered.

"Yes, but how do I prove that I'm your moron?"

"Erm, maybe our children???!! Our children who I am starting to believe are much smarter than you?!"

Good point.


My INS officer led me deep into the bureaucratic corridors of the INS - full of small cubicles, family pictures, and people trying to look American and remember who signed the Declaration of Independence.

I took a seat and he asked me how the fires had been in Santa Barbara. Good question really, for establishing residency (and residual distrust and hatred of your current town). He asked me if I would ever bear arms for the US and I, perhaps misunderstanding, said I would be more than happy to bare arms, or bear alms, whatever was needed. He asked me if I had any money owing to the IRS, whether I'd ever been convicted of a crime? I answered no. He said 'not even a speeding ticket?' I said no, thinking of my 3mph drive down to LA. It is impossible to speed here. He asked if I'd had any traffic violations at all. I told him I'd had a parking ticket when I was in labour with my oldest daughter and hadn't been able to avoid the street sweepers. He seemed satisfied.

He then asked:

  • What's the name of the national anthem?
  • Who is our Governor?
  • If the Vice President and President are out of action who takes over?
  • Name one amendment to voting rights?
  • What ocean lies to the East of the US?
  • Who is in charge of the Executive Branch?
  • What is the state capital?
  • Why did the colonists leave the UK?
  • When was the Constitution written?
  • How many amendments to the Constitution are there?


and finally, he asked me to write 'California is the State with the most people', and I was very tempted to write 'California is the State with the moist people' but I didn't because I am cowed by authority.

He asked me again if I owed any taxes or had ever committed a crime. I was starting to doubt myself at this point. Library fines? Changing lanes without signaling?

But that was it. I made it, I passed. I high-tailed it off to Ikea to spend my money on Stüff like a true American.

Next stop the 'Swearing in Ceremony'. I bet you can't wait can you?


Answers:
  • Star-spangled banner
  • Arnold Schwarzeneggar (also accepted - The Governator)
  • Nancy Pelosi!!!
  • Any citizen over the age of 18 can vote
  • Atlantic
  • The President
  • Sacramento. Not LA! Don't say LA!
  • Because they were fools
  • 1787
  • 27

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Naturalization: Part One

























The reason I went down to LA last week was to continue my application to become a naturalized American citizen.

It's a big decision, one that I'm doing for some of the right reasons and some of the wrong reasons.

It took me four years of lost paperwork, unsigned documents, expired fingerprints, transposed alien numbers, queues, tears and rage at the INS to get my Green Card. I was not anxious to repeat the experience, but permanent residency is only good for 10 years and mine expires in 2012. That seems a long way off - unless it took you 4 years to go through the process first time round.

I knew my decisions were; to renew my Green Card or become a citizen.

I asked my Swedish friend Brunhilde (made up name) which option she would suggest. I knew she'd recently become a US citizen after 30 years of permanent residence.

She wrote: .....'on the plus side, if you become a citizen you will finally be able to get that much sought-after job at the DMV, but it you've ever been a prostitute those dreams will be crushed'.

Something to think about.

In the end I decided on citizenship for the following reasons:

  • I literally could not face the green card rigmarole again.
  • I have lived here for 15 years and have been embraced by this country in a lot of ways. It was time to put up or shut up (plus I now use phrases like 'put up or shut up' - my brain has already been naturalized).
  • I want to vote. Case in point a letter from Santa Barbara's Elementary School District last week to inform us that 'the SB Elementary School District has failed to reach basic standards in English Language Arts and Math'. Enough said.
  • I discovered I did not have to give up my British citizenship (this one was huge).
  • Despite suggestions to the contrary, I have never had sex for money.
  • I can't say 'British citizenship' without saying 'British Shitizenship'.
  • Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness. Ha ha ha.
  • Finally, flexibility. I can live in the UK with dual citizenship, I cannot do that as a permanent resident.

I wrote a big fat check to the INS, collected my documents, filled out my N-400 (explaining that I have not been a drunk or a prostitute - I'm not kidding), and waited.

Within two weeks I had an appointment letter for my 'biometric evaluation'. Clearly they either do not have as many people to process as 10 years ago, or, more likely, they are far more keen for you to be a citizen than a permanent resident.

The next step was my interview, English language test and civics exam.

When I finally got in the building I joined a crowded room full of nervous looking people facing a wall. The only thing on the wall was a head-shaped hole covered by a metal grille. This was the INS I have come to know. I opened my book and prepared to wait. I was definitely surprised when my name was called only 15 minutes later. I approached the metal grille only to be told I was in the wrong room.

Ha! English language comprehension test failed. I had misread my appointment letter.

I raced across the building to another eerily similar room full of anxious looking people studying their booklet 'A Guide To Naturalization'. I placed my appointment letter on a pile of others in a box and settled in. It is a common misconception that you automatically become a citizen after marrying an American. It actually only entitles you to apply; first for permanent residency (a Green Card) and then, a minimum of 3-5 years later, for citizenship. There are countless forms, interviews, document-checking etc to be done. Make no mistake, anyone who has become a US citizen in recent years has worked hard and paid a lot of money to so.

Once every five minutes of so a harried-looking INS representative would enter the room - people would stop what they were doing and a hush would fall. The immigration official would then trip his or her way through someone's name and they would both disappear. We all had plenty of time to see all the officials come and go, and peg our hopes on getting one of the least surly.

Finally, my name was called, my number was up, and I disappeared in to the bowels of the INS.




Wednesday, October 13, 2010

You Can't Get There From Here
















Earlier this week I had to drive to LA for an appointment. I do not love driving in heavy traffic, or on freeways with more lanes than the Duggars have children, but on paper this looked easy. I can see the 101 freeway from my house. 100 miles later, the 101 freeway goes straight past the Department of Justice building in downtown LA - my destination.

How hard could it be?

My appointment was at 10am. A couple of days before, I canvassed my friends as to what time I should leave Santa Barbara. The answers ranged from:

  • 6:30am
  • 7ish
  • why aren't you in the car already
  • yesterday
Turns out they were all correct. I left on the nose of 7am, and drove at the speed of light as far as Woodland Hills (North LA). It was a beautiful morning, dolphins played in the surf at the Rincon, and the Hollywood sign peeped out from behind the smog.

It then took me 1hr 45minutes to go the next 15 miles. Stressful at the best of times, but particularly so if you have a plane to catch, or in my case, an immigration interview.

In LA the traffic signs give you distances in minutes, not miles. I'm sure the same is true of many major cities, but where I grew up the major driving hazard was having to overtake a tractor on a narrow country lane. I am not equipped to deal with 6 lanes of traffic all going at 3 mph. Also, even though Anna could jog faster than the speed of traffic, you still have to have your wits about you. The 101 freeway becomes the 405 - and the two left hand lanes peel off to continue the 101. Something you become gradually aware of when the right hand lanes become impenetrably congested for 10 minutes, and it only dawns on you why (because everyone has been getting in lane 5 miles prior) when it's far too late. Good luck trying to ease your Honda Pilot in to that impenetrable wall of Hummers and Priuses!




















The LA freeway system is like the London Underground. You have to know where you're going before you get on the thing, because the last thing you want is to be that person, or that car, fighting against traffic when you realize you're going the wrong way. I've been the victim of London's Circle Line on more than one occasion - I didn't realize trains went both East and West, and that you can also end up on a branch line sitting for 15 minutes at Aldgate East when you thought a circle meant one continuous loop.

The same is true of the LA freeway system, because yes, technically you can just get off at the next off-ramp, but then suddenly, because this is America, an off-ramp delivers you deep in to a neighbourhood, miles from anywhere, practically in some Cholo's back garden with no way back to civilization. You may be able to see the freeway, but there is no way in hell you'll ever be able to get back on it.

You can't get there from here.

So you just stay in your lane praying that the skyscrapers of downtown will suddenly emerge out of the sea of stucco around you, and that you haven't accidentally peeled off on to the 10 and are now hurtling (at 3mph) towards West Covina.

I kept calling LK, surreptitiously of course, because cell phone use is in fact illegal. I would say 'I'm at Topanga Canyon' or 'Sunset' or 'The LA school for Armenian Raffia Weavers' where am I? Am I close to downtown yet? And he would answer, 'fucked if I know, sounds like you're in LA, don't you have a map?'.

Why was I going to immigration to further my relationship with this man?!

I finessed the 101 to the 405 - the source of all the traffic, or so I thought - and was more than a little surprised to see the traffic signs indicating a further 55 minutes to downtown.

Must be a different downtown I thought.

Ha!

I finally made it, the thick smog obscuring the skyscrapers until they were right above me, meaning that I was practically there before I knew it. I cut across 17 lanes of traffic, missed my turn for Union Station (my intended parking) and instead pulled in to the closest multi-storey carpark I could find. Diving 5 stories in to an underground carpark is a little unnerving in an earthquake hotspot, but fortunately it was the least of my worries. I left my car in it's subterranean mausoleum and was three floors up in the elevator when it occurred to me I should probably have made a note where I left it. See, I'm just not an urban person.

I arrived at immigration 10 minutes before my allotted appointment time. I'll tell that story at a later date, but let me just say that the INS has not changed one bit. I was clutching my appointment letter which stated 'please do not arrive more than 30 minutes before your appointment as seating space is limited'. Of course they fail to tell you that you have to join a queue of literally hundreds, a 45 minute queue, just to get in the building.

So no, I don't love LA. But I do love my new Hemnes buffet from Ikea - a 2 hour cross-city side trip I took on my way home, because the LA freeway system? Once you've been through the immigration system - just not scary anymore.




Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Barbie World
























Barbies are taking over our household, with naked plastic limbs spilling out of cars and bedrooms. Anna is at a fever pitch of excitement today because *gasp* Barbie Fairytopia Legend of the Rainbow arrives tonight via Netflix. She won't say Barbie Fairytopia. It's always 'Barbie Fairytopia Magic of the Rainbow'. It's impossible not to laugh when she says 'tonight we get to watch Barbie Fairytopia Magic of the Rainbow'. Breath.

Thanks to Netflix we don't have to own these things, just borrow them. They get a lot of air-time, and while pretty nauseatingly pink and blonde, there is often a 'girls kick ass' message instead of the usual Disneyesque boy meets girl, which is good. Barbie 'Mermaidia' features a surfer girl, and an interview with Stephanie Gilmore - the #1 world ranked female surfer. That is something my Teeny Wahini can get excited about.

I can't believe I'm describing the finer points of Barbie movies, but such is my life. Anyhoo, they do get requested a lot, by both girls, and despite me concluding that they had a positive overall message, they seem to have a subversive underbelly. Case in point, Lucy's vocabulary:

No = Mo
Yes = Shesh
Bellybutton = Beyn
Please =Peez
Orange = Unge, not to be confused with,
Lunch = Untch

but,

Barbie = Barbie. Barbie! Peez TV Barbie!! Possibly the only world she has so far mastered.

This week at school Anna was the 'shining star'. Picked completely at random it basically means she gets to be 'interviewed' and her responses, along with favourite photos are put on the classroom noticeboard for all to admire.

Some sample questions:

  1. I am proud of myself for?
  2. Something you like about yourself?
  3. What are you goals for the future?

Anna's responses:

  1. My blue eyes
  2. My golden hair
  3. To be nice
Gah!!!

If she'd have said 'world peace' I would have fainted on the spot. LK told me off for 'coaching' her on her answers to produce a slightly more acceptable:


























I stand by my editing. She was beginning to sound a bit like a barbie, and by that I mean Klaus Barbie. Those answers were one step away from 'I love being white and I believe Islam to be a cancer on the Western world'. I did coach a little in terms of 'perhaps you should say something you've been proud of achieving, instead of proud of being'. Much eye-rolling from LK, which is why the 'blue eyes' comment remains - but most of her class can't read, only the parents, and I did not want everyone to think we were the Ayrian supremacists of Kindergarten.

It should go without saying, but perhaps it doesn't - we are not rocking the 'Master Race' at home by the way. LK's Lederhosen are strictly for play.

As usual, I'm over-thinking things. What would you have done?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Earthquake Weather

When I first moved here, far too long ago now, it didn't take me long to hear the phrase 'earthquake weather'. To say I was hyper sensitive to the issue of earthquakes is an understatement. I experienced my first 'shaker' my very first morning in California -as next door's washing machine vibrated through the wall.

My evil housemate told me that windy weather was often a sign of an earthquake to come. Yes, I know, I was a *tad* gullible. Mind you, she also told me that Kate Moss was so skinny she was practically 'emancipated', so I was on to her pretty fast in terms of her Wikipedian prophecies.I am technically a geography graduate, so the hardened scientist in me snorts at the idea of 'earthquake weather'. Real hardened scientists are reading this and snorting at the idea of a geography graduate being a scientist - and I will admit that I know far more about writing essays with the word 'polemic' in them than any hard science. Still, wind = changes in pressure, or my brother in the vicinity, it does not bring about tectonic shifts. Unless my brother's had a curry.

Despite this, people do insist on talking about earthquake weather, and we have had a truly bizarre week of weather. 110º last Monday, squally Bridlington in August overcastness today. People are muttering. None of them seem to agree on exactly what defines earthquake weather though. Some say wind. Some say freakishly hot weather. Some say we've had both in the space of a week and we are therefore DOOMED.

If you google it, the jury is certainly out. This article from the New Scientist seems to point towards a strange set of cloud formations bringing DOOM. Wikipedia says no! Snopes says no! I say we have a polemic on our hands people.

Have you heard of earthquake weather? Are you a believer? What do you believe?

Quite frankly I'm sure the good people at Oxbridge are going to confiscate my degree for even posting this. I do not believe in earthquake weather, but I do believe in animals going bonkers before a big quake. My money's on the squirrels.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Pumpkin Patch

This weekend we pretended to be Americans experiencing fall, instead of a week of 110º temperatures.










That's a terrible case of hemorrhoids you've got there Lucy.





















Sisterly affection. Very, very briefly.


























How long do I have to hold this smile?























Lucy fell in love with this one....

















....and was none too happy when told it was too heavy to take home.















Good times.