Sunday, May 30, 2010

Little White Lies

Anna's birthday is coming up so I'm teaching her how to lie.

I suppose you could say I'm teaching her how to be 'diplomatic' considering she apparently already knows how to lie.

She has a strappy sundress that is now strapless - found lying on our bedroom floor this morning, four straps snipped cleanly off.

I asked Anna if she'd done it. 'Nope' she answered, eyes unblinking, 'Lucy must have done it.' As much as I would like to believe my 17 month old possesses the fine motor skills necessary for using scissors, I was sceptical. Besides, Anna has already tried to pin some graffiti on her sister - the word 'LUCY' written on every wall in our house. Nice try sunshine.

I bent down, looked Anna in the eye and asked her again.

"It's a mystery!", she cried, and then, "We should investigate! I wore it yesterday and took it off for bedtime, so we know it happened at night.......... so we know that whoever did it is...................nocturnal!"

Really, I'm at a loss for words.

You'll have to agree then that she's a pretty adept fibber, and I'm obviously working on cracking her story.....yet at the same time I'm trying to teach her about thanking people appropriately for their gifts. While we were in England she was given two presents that she a) had already got, or b) just didn't want. Which is unfortunately exactly what she said. "But I already have this".

I tried saying, no this book is about the same character, but it's a different story, "err, no it's not Mom, it's exactly the same. It's the same book. I already have this one".

Then there have been many times when she gets something and she just doesn't want it. "No thanks! I don't like it." She beams. "Maybe Lucy will want it?" Helpful, but not exactly polite.

Prepping her for her upcoming party I've been telling her about not hurting people's feelings. I can just see her receiving a 3rd copy of the same barbie movie and saying "Thankyou that's lovely".

"Right Mom? Isn't that what I'm supposed to say if I don't like it?"

Friday, May 28, 2010

Thar She Blows

Lucy is proving to be an education in what toddlers are really like.

Granted she has reason to be upset in the above photo as LK has styled her hair a la David Beckham. There is a lot of use of hair gel by male Englishmen. A lot. I draw the line at the 70 year old I saw at Manchester airport with a fauxhawk - please, you're trying too hard. I realize, given his age, that he probably saw the heyday of Britain in the 60s and he's still far cooler than I will ever be, but David Beckham you are not sir.

Back to Lucy. I had never witnessed a 'fit of pique' or even a 'conniption fit' until Lucy arrived. Apparently it's nature, because no-one I know in her limited social sphere flings themselves down on the floor in a rage when thwarted. Anna's preschool teacher described Lucy as a very 'willful' child, which I believe means 'devil spawn who will not be attending my school'. Actually she said that a child with a 'strong sense of self' (again with the double speak) is good, because from an early age they are able to communicate their needs. Violently.

When frustrated Lucy will either:

a) fling herself face down in a pool of tears and snot
b) arch her spine violently backwards so it feels like you're wrangling an Atlantic salmon.
c) or, lock her arms behind her head and go completely limp so keeping a grip on her is like holding a sock full of sand.

I don't know where she's getting it from. We are not passionate people. I am phlegmatic on my most energetic days. She is bred from English, Swiss and Danish stock, not a Mediterranean spark amongst us. Bizarre.

So yes, not the easiest child to entertain/pacify on six flights, or when you land either. My worst moment must have been when my parents and I took the girls to the pool (inside! weird!). Two children, 3 adults - I really thought we had enough hands. After 5 minutes in the pool Lucy wanted to get out and run along the edge of the pool. I tried sticking her in the jacuzzi until a staff member accused me of trying to cook my child - tempting, but no. So I gave up, sighed goodbye to the sauna and steam room, and took Lucy back to the showers, where she immediately squeezed herself under the cubicle door in a bid for freedom and proceeded to race around on the slippy wet floor.

Nursing a cup of coffee in the lobby approximately 3 minutes later, I was really cursing my child and her golf-playing father, wondering what I'd done in a previous life to deserve such a hellion. At that precise moment a woman sprinted out of the changing rooms in front of me. Wrapped in only a towel, shampoo dripping from her hair, she was screaming at a small boy who was dashing out of the front door and in to the street.

I think someone was trying to tell me something. I watched Lucy dump her entire bag of rice puffs all over the carpet and thanked God that I wasn't chasing her naked in to the street.

That'll be next year.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Come On You England

The World Cup begins in less than a month. You cannot escape this fact if you're in England. Every shop has a dedicated 'England' section, home to English flags, union jack mugs and t-shirts, bras and cushions. It's the cushions that grabbed my attention, they are everywhere. Including my suitcase. I couldn't resist. If I am unable to be in England during the World Cup then I will at least transform our house in to a shrine to St. George.

I first saw the Jan Constantine pillows at the V&A Museum in London a couple of years ago, but a diabolical exchange rate and a hefty price tag meant I had to look but not touch. *sigh*

A couple of years later brought 17 billion high street knock-offs, and a plummeting pound (thanks coalition government!) and this meant I could indulge:

I bought this one at Castle Howard:

LK affectionately calls it my 'crappy gay pillow' and threatens to throw it in the understairs cupboard whenever my back is turned. Poor Falkland Islands cushion marooned on the Argentina of our couch.

This one is my fave:

Bought for a song at Next and now giving Lucy's room a good dose of colour, jingoism, jam roly-poly and Jerusalem.

I have a feeling these cushions will reach their zenith of usefulness when being thrown at the telly during England's inevitable World Cup defeat, but for now I love them.

Friday, May 21, 2010

I Believe I Can Fly

Both girls spent a huge proportion of our vacation playing in my parent's back garden. Never mind that it was a full 20ยบ (that's centigrade, people) cooler than California. They were impervious to the cold. Granted Lucy was a little puzzled to be straight-jacketed in layer after layer of clothing and topped with an absurdly overlarge hat:

I wasn't about to be buying any winter clothing for a 10 day sojourn in the UK, particularly as we are hurtling towards our 9 month summer in California, so I just made them wear all their clothes. At once. I was hoping for boho chic, but it turned out more like 'I'm wearing my carry-on'. Of course, now I review my photos, all the English children in the background are wearing nothing but t-shirts, jeans and rosy cheeks and my children look like miniature bag ladies.

Back to flying. Anna was devoted to launching herself off the back patio in an absurd parody of flight:

"Look at me fly Lucy!". She also performed something called 'gliding', not unlike flying, except with an odd contortion towards landing. I nicknamed it the 'spiral fracture'. She was obsessed with 'flying'.

Me, not so much.

As I sit here typing away at 5am (I heart jetlag), I'm still trying to find the words for flying halfway across the world with two under 5s. I've basically concluded that it's not unlike a marriage. We started off well, LK launched a charm offensive on the Continental staff at Manchester Airport, who no doubt snow-blinded by his massive American teeth, let us dodge the hoi-poloi queue and check in interfrastically at the 'First Class' ticket counter. The girls did their best to win over every Mancunian within earshot; "Hi! My name is Anna! I am 4 and 3/4. My Mom is Alison, she is 36! I have 8 My Little Ponies, their names are....." OK, so maybe Manchester was glad to see the back of us, but it started well. I'm sure LK was impressed by my efficient production of paperwork and filing of passports by age and nationality. He probably just didn't want to get caught demonstrating his overwhelming love for me.

But how quickly things degenerate when four family members are stuck in an area the size of a laundry cupboard for 28 hours. I'm not sure we'd even entered International Waters by the time we were both considering divorce. Lucy slept on me and only on me, I still have the armrest pressure sores. Do you know what it's like trying to stop a toddler kicking the seat in front when that seat is practically resting on your knees? I had to admit, the urge to let her keep kicking to gently 'persuade' the passenger in front to push his seat back in to the upright position was strong. I didn't though. I am meek, and do not expect to inherit the earth.

LK on the other hand had the aisle seat, so he was responsible for walking Lucy up and down the plane while she tried to snag headsets and toupees from every passenger. By the time we reached New Jersey we were both pretending we couldn't smell that dirty diaper even though it was mere inches from our noses.

It was hard work. Brutal, really. The jet lag has also been a joy. The girls waking at 3am yesterday morning to demand breakfast and inquire 'why isn't is morning? Is it morning now? What about now?'

It was completely worth every minute though - or maybe I'm suffering a form of childbirth amnesia and I'm already forgetting the true horror. I also know that it has to get easier. Next time Lucy will have her own seat (if she gets a job in the meantime and pays for it.....). She will be easier to reason with, hopefully more inclined to sit still for five seconds and watch a movie. Her sister watched the same episode of Bunnytown for 11,000 miles which means she is either:

b)has the memory of a goldfish
c) awesome!

I am this close to saying why can't you be more like your sister. Except obviously I'm glad they're so different. Now that we're back on the ground.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Busman's Holiday

Is it possible to have a relaxing vacation with small children? Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy we've taken a break and flown to the UK. My accent has already sunk back into it's northern vowels, and my waistline is fighting a losing battle against fish and chips and curry.

We're a week in though, and I still feel like I need a holiday.

Let's just say that Lucy is not quite the seasoned traveller her sister is. On the third flight it took us to get to the UK I had already dismissed the idea of having a third child and ever going anywhere with my youngest daughter again. Lucy was a nightmare. It didn't help that we were re-routed to the south of Ireland to avoid volcanic ash, making the third flight (did I say third flight? I think it bears repeating...) even longer than anticipated.

Anna worked her way through a sticker book, watched endless kids movies thanks to the touch-screen TVs of Continental Airlines, then she announced the need for a nap and fell asleep. Lucy on the other hand wriggled, and screamed, and pulled hair, and kicked her sleeping sister. She spat out the Benadryl we tried to dose her with. She threw countless dummies into inpenetrable corners of the aircraft and then cried for the want of a pacifier. She slept. Fitfully. Gaining an impossible 30lbs every time she dozed, instantly cutting off circulation to my lower limbs. Of course they both chose to gravitate towards me whilst sleeping. I was covered in an impenetrable pile of leaden limbs. LK pretended to be absorbed in his ipad while I tried to spirit my book out of my handbag with my one free hand. Instead I watched the sun rise over the Atlantic and gazed at the cloud of volcanic dust hovering over Ireland, trails of yellow smoke snaking underneath the plane. I tried not to think about ash turning to glass in the engines and killing us all. I tried not to think about murdering Lucy.

When we landed at Manchester, to cold grey skies and rain, we were told that one of our two trains was delayed due to vandalism on the tracks and that we'd have to be bussed between Huddersfield and Leeds. I was so dizzy with tiredness that I managed to lose our train tickets somewhere on the platform. Our ticket collector said the upcoming week was predicted to be 'unseasonably cold'. That is never a good thing in the North of England. I started wondering whether LK and I should have just taken a week off and stayed in bed at home, only venturing out to drop the girls off at school.

Jet lag and small children make a difficult combination and the first three days of holiday were a blur. The girls were not as badly affected as we were. They sleep when it's dark, seemingly oblivious to time zones, but their nap and eating schedules have been thrown off leaving two very irritable girls and much whining. My family have been doing sterling work trying to entertain them, but it's exhausting work. My Mum fell asleep on the couch yesterday afternoon and you can tell my Dad is wishing he could go back to work for a bit of a rest and relaxation. My old bedroom smells like a hospital after an unfortunate projectile vomiting episode last night with Lucy. Who knows what triggered it; tiredness, over-excitement, British soy milk? She exploded in a torrent of liquid. LK dragging her off to the bathroom as she liberally doused everything in sight. What fun.

It sounds horrendous, except with the benefit of a week behind me I am thankful. Grateful that we didn't get stuck in New Jersey due to volcanic ash. Happy that some kind soul at Manchester handed in our tickets and they were returned to us. Thankful for every kind English coffee shop that doesn't sell milk but will happily fill up your baby's bottle for free. Anna turned to Lucy at the train station and said 'Lucy, now you need to know that we are in a country called Manchester and that we're going to England. I get to play with the horses first. It rains here and it's green and they call candy 'sweets.' When she wrote a postcard to her friends at school the first thing she said was 'I know you all miss me but I am in England where the farms come from'.

It's hard work, not relaxing, but it is rewarding. I love showing the girls where I grew up, playgrounds I used to play on, flowers I used to pick, sweets I used to eat. I love seeing the roses they are getting in their cheeks from the cold air. Lucy is going bonkers signing 'bird' as there seem to be so many more of them here than in California. I know we're not going to get a vacation, there will be no lying back with a good book, no unwinding, no rest - but I already have a photo album of memories to make up for it. Who has time for sleep?

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Tao of Anna

Short but achingly sweet:

Anna: There's no such things as monsters really Momma is there?
Me: No, definitely no monsters love.
Anna: Then I guess we have absolutely nothing to worry about!

I wish I could take this from my heart and transplant it to my brain as I lie awake, once again, in the small hours of the morning worrying. Does anyone have any sleep tips? That don't involve medication? I am awake from 2-3am til 4-5am every night. I should hire myself out to look after newborns. After two children have I lost the ability to sleep through the night?

We need a holiday. I may be sleepless, but LK is also stressed. He slept in last Monday (he has Mondays off to look after the girls). For some bizarre reason he woke up thinking it was Tuesday and that I had gone to work leaving him with both girls to get up, dressed, fed and dropped off at their various day-cares before he went to work. Never mind the fact that this NEVER happens. He never has to drop the girls off against the clock, only on Wednesdays when he doesn't have to be at work til the afternoon. Anyway, he went in to LK hyperdrive, running around like a headless chicken cursing me for letting him sleep in, hurling Lucy in to her clothes, telling a sleep-fogged Anna that 'there's no time for crying'! as he buckled them in to the car and gave them cups of dry cereal for breakfast. It was only as he was calling to apologize for Lucy's lateness that my friend Jen said 'it's Monday'. I'm sure she was at that very instant thinking 'wait, it is Monday isn't it?'. Suddenly he was left with an entire day to fill and two tear-streaked daughters in the backseat with nowhere to go. As I say, we need a holiday.

Fortunately for us we have blown caution to the wind and we're going! Home! Volcanoes permitting...... Now I just need to worry about how I'm going to pack.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Careful What You Wish For

I know that years ago, a 17 year old you probably wished for a house full of loose women just waiting for you to come home and scoop them up.

It feels like someone's playing a huge cosmic joke on you doesn't it?

Happy birthday love.