Friday, January 29, 2010

What To Buy A One Year Old

First of all, I'm sorry. My life has been frantic lately. My work life, out of control. You hear people saying 'my Monday morning was so crazy that when I looked at the clock it was already 5pm' - well, I look at the clock and it's already Thursday, which is my Friday, so don't be feeling too sorry for me.

I haven't had time to write, think, or most importantly read your blogs (so sorry, but in the meantime, congratulations on that birth/new job/move/mole removal - I will catch up soon). There is no room in my overstuffed brain for thought processing. I was at a big meeting this week where the jumble in my head actually leaked out of my mouth in a horrific torrent of 'oh my God I'm actually saying all this in front of a crowded room full of people and I'm veering violently off topic, and what was my point again, and how do I wrap this up and make them think I had a point and oh Lord they all now look as confused as I feel'.... I ended my public speaking ramble with 'you know,....right?' which just screams professionalism I say. I am like a Mac running PC software - full of useless information; birthdays, school meetings, appointments, shopping lists, job deadlines. I need a re-boot, or perhaps five minutes and a cup of tea, we shall never know.

Anyway, my point.

It amazed me how much I'd forgotten about infants and toddlers, case in point when I was confronted with Lucy's birthday being two weeks after Christmas. What the hell do you buy a one year old, and then two weeks later, what the hell do you buy a one year old? I always like to ask Anna for suggestions. When I asked her what I should get my Dad for his birthday she said 'a San Francisco magazine' ??? And for Christmas she thought I would appreciate a new bra. In red. Anyway, I promised myself I would write this down just in case we have a third child, my brother has a child, or someone googles 'birthday present for a one year old - red bra, appropriate or no?'

I would highly recommend these three things in order of price:

Touch and Feel books/cards - You cannot sit for more than three minutes in our house without Lucy thrusting a book/card in your face and screaming 'da!' She loves to touch the shiny fish, stroke the puppy, tickle the cat's whiskers. It all sounds a little porno but I promise you it's good, clean educational fun.

Secondly: Busy Ball Popper - I think there are a couple of versions out on the market. I was dubious at first, but it turns out that a machine that musically spits out balls is mesmerizing for a toddler. She will fly across the room to get to this thing if it's on and will then sign 'again' until you wish the William Tell Overture Muzak would put you out of your misery. I thought this might be a big, plastic, noisy waste of money, but it is bang on the money for kids ages 1 to 36yrs guaranteed. The only downsides are lightning fast battery depletion and balls that magically disappear - oh and do not entertain the idea of bringing this in to your house if you have a dog as it will be destroyed within minutes.

and finally.....A Rody

A what? Darling, you obviously don't live in Italy, or Santa Barbara, because these things are a plague. Anna swears it's a llama (because of the ears Mumma). When we discussed whether it could be a horse, a goat, an alpaca, or a defunct Olympic mascot, she rolled her eyes and said (I quote), "It is a llama. Because of its ears. You people need to stop talking now. I am tired of hearing this". I see a career in teaching.

Whatever its genus, it is bright, cheerful, wickedly fun and bouncy for an active toddler - rather like a four legged space-hopper, and it's a damn sight cheaper if you buy it online. Trust me. It does come with a stand which I frugally neglected to purchase, as such it's a little unstable for small legs, so after several crashes we've now named it the 'llama of death' and that's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Colour Blindness

We're in the process of looking at schools for Anna.


California schools are ranked 48/49/50th (depending on your sources) out of 50 states, and the school that Anna should, geographically, be going to is ranked in the bottom 10th percentile of California schools. I have been lying awake thinking about this.

As awful as that sounds, it turns out it could play to our advantage, because her district school is a 'failing' school and that gives us a bump up the transfer list to a choice of other Santa Barbara schools. This is according to the School District, and against a barrage of heartfelt advice telling us to lie about our address, we are playing by the rules and attempting to legally transfer in to a good school.

No, I don't know what we're going to do if the transfer fails. We don't have a plan B, other than move to England where Anna would already be a year behind in school.


Now, there are many schools to choose from in Santa Barbara; dual-language immersion schools, charter schools, alternative schools, religious schools, crap schools, bad schools, failing schools and awful schools, but they mostly fall in to two camps; rich and white, and poor and hispanic. This makes me angry.

I don't want to purge all this vitriol your way as you are most likely reading this looking forward to a nice weekend, so I will tell you the story of Anna's perspective.

Thank God for Anna.

We have been trying to keep Anna out of the school discussions, because, should the worst happen and she end up going to a sub-par school we would like her to be oblivious of that fact. We were talking the issue over with a hispanic friend of ours who happened to go to the school we would like Anna to go to. Anna was quietly crayoning in the corner. I said 'the bottom line is I have as much fear of her going to a Montecito school as a barrio school. I don't want her growing up thinking the whole world is white'. Quick as a flash, Anna butted in:

"Mom! (eye roll) I know the whole world isn't white! It's mostly green and blue, the only white bits are the Arctic and the Antarctic".

Can I put that on her application?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Too Close For Comfort

For almost two years now Anna has been old enough to use the toilet by herself. I can tell you're already thinking, this post is going to be great! She runs upstairs and only very rarely asks for assistance.

Of course, flying solo does not always go according to plan and she will often forget to wipe (don't ask how I know that) or will forget to wash her hands, or worse, I will come upstairs after twenty minutes to find that hand-washing has now morphed into 'sink soup' involving soap, horrifyingly healthy squirts of Molton Brown lotion and toothpaste.

She can't use the facilities by herself when out and about though, so in that case we always have to go together. She has a fear of 'rheumatic toilets', read, automatic toilets, the ones that flush when they no longer sense your presence. A little troublesome if you're a waif of a 4 year old as they often decide you're no longer there when you're in the middle of your very delicate procedure and WHOOSH! the terrifyingly loud cyclonic action flushes right beneath your tiny derriere. She will hold back the Nile if it means avoiding a rheumatic toilet.

For the last two years going together to public bathrooms has been an adventure. I will long remember her heartfelt cry of 'You did it Mom! You did a poop!' in the Nordstrom stalls, 'this one's going to be a Dada poop' at full volume in a posh restaurant loo, or my least favourite 'your butt is really hairy Mom' (at 8 months pregnant bikini waxes were not high on my agenda). Her latest gem, uttered last weekend in our local cafe toilets, really cracked me up. We were washing our hands, wondering, with barely concealed excitement whether the hand soap was going to be white (usually), blue (boring) or pink (squeal!) when she turns to me and says...

"Err, Mom, I think that you're forgetting that you left some toilet paper in my butt'.

You're on your own there sister.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Big One

Lucy, first of all I'd like to apologize for taking entirely awful photos of you all year. When I could drag myself out of my sleep deprivation and point a camera your way I mean. I think I have four good photos of you in total, and maybe two of them are in focus.

For the first six months of your life you had comically sleepy eyes, causing your Dad to name you 'Popeye' and your sister to parrot 'Pot Pie'. I was worried about your eyelids. You constantly looked like you'd had a really rough night the night before, and to be honest, you often had. Even so, some days I thought you'd have to go through life with your neck at a 45ยบ angle just to be able to see straight. My Mum told me to stop being overly critical. The doctor said 'as long as the lid doesn't cover her pupils she will be fine'. Big sigh of relief. Then he said 'but, while we're on the subject, have you noticed that her pupils aren't centered in her irises'. To which I said ' -- '.

Turns out he was right:

Perhaps I shouldn't have had quite so much wine right before I found out I was pregnant.

Anyway, you're fine. Weird, but fine. Apparently it's purely a muscular issue, the muscles on one side of your eye are stronger than the other, causing them to be off balance. It's now corrected, and your eyelids aren't half as droopy, but for a while there I was fully expecting you to have x-ray vision or an uncanny ability to view those 3-d puzzles instantly. Something.

Lucy, to me you are so staggeringly beautiful. When Anna was an infant, people would literally race across a shop floor to congratulate me on the beauty of my spawn, with her perfect angelic blonde head and too-cute-to-be true Gerber tuft. They never did that with you and I can't understand it. Maybe it's because I had the 'don't come near me or I'll stab you' expression of a sleep-deprived mother, or maybe it's because they were thinking 'fuck me that babies eyes are messed up'. Whatever is was, they were wrong, because you are stunning.

I feel that too often you get short shrift as a second child; hand-me-down clothes, hand-me-down toys, hand-me-down been-there-done-that parents, but I think it's worked to your advantage. You are brimming with confidence, with a zest for life that only someone with 4-D vision can have. I told my friend S. that your latest trick is to squeal with delight at the slightest thing, baths in particular have you sending the neighbourhood dogs in to fits with your screeching. You love life. S. suggested that we should take lessons from you and find more joy in the ordinary. Have you seen Avatar? SQUEAL!!! That's the best bite of sandwich I've had today! SCREECH!


Today you turn one, or Juan, as LK likes to say. A whole year of Lucydom. This evening we are having one of those ridiculous one-year-old birthday parties. The kind where you will blink your unremembering eyes at the hoopla around you and then smash your fists in to your slice of birthday cake and paste it into your hair.

I decided months ago that a party would be ridiculous. I was going to take a picture of you under a sign reading 'I was born in a recession year'. Dress you up in a sack cloth and give you a copy of Grapes of Wrath to chew on. Then the guilt started to creep in. There would be no festive 1st year photo, no paper hats or streamers. That was four days ago and I now have nearly twenty people arriving in an hour for appetizers, champagne and birthday cake. *Yikes*. It seems the lure of a 1st birthday party is too strong. Either that or there's nothing good on TV tonight.

Anyhoo, back to the main event - what can I say about my smallest daughter now that you're officially 1? Well, you're an all-business chick for a start. You know what you want in life and you go for it, unfazed. You love baths, running, climbing. You took your first steps on the day you turned 10 months old. You weren't bowled over by the idea, so you carried on crawling at top speed. Then a few days before you turned 11 months, you walked from the coffee table in the lounge, into the kitchen, across the entire length of the kitchen, to the foot of the stairs, where you proceeded to climb then. It was like having a mute child suddenly reciting Shakespeare. You have not looked back.

You love books, dolls, soft toys and toilets. You don't like to be held. You don't like cuddles. You want to be down, off, there not here. Dammit. You pinch, and then laugh. You bite when you're tired. You don't sound very nice do you? Except that you're absolutely irresistible. Beautiful, passionate, headstrong and fearless.

It's going to be a wild ride.

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year's Day 2010

We woke on New Years morning to Anna padding in to our room at 7:15am.

"When I woke up this morning there was a man in my bedroom"
"But then I saw it was just a t-shirt and a pair of pants"

You can bet we were wide awake after that one.

Then Lucy woke up. I love this stage of babyhood, soon to be over, where the giant bowling ball head is the hardest thing to balance and maneuver. When she wakes up, still floppy with sleep, she has the hardest time lifting her head. It's as much as she can do to push her bottom high in to the air while she circles and tries to gain the momentum to raise her head. Eventually she'll greet us with a toothy grin and a puff of white candy-floss hair and then she'll crash back in to the pillows with the effort.

A warm baby with a giant overnight nappy and an overly imaginative 4 year old. 2010 started well.

And to end: a sunset walk on the beach. Red sky at night, shepherd's delight. Hopefully auguring in a good year for all.