Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Case Against Saturday Mail

I hear the Post Office is considering abolishing Saturday deliveries to save money. I've always been with Seinfeld on the issue of Post Office pricing - if you think it's bad that they're putting up the price of stamps, then just you try and find someone else to take a letter from Guam to Maine for only 44c.

I was all for getting rid of the Saturday mail last week though, for that is when the bombshell 'it is our understanding he may be filing a lawsuit against you' letter was received. How the hell are you supposed to deal with that on a Saturday when the people who sent it are not answering their phones? I spent the entire weekend flying between hysteria and depression. Is it possible to be hysterically depressed? Why yes it is, thanks State Farm.

First thing Monday morning LK called State Farm. After a no doubt leisurely lunch, they called us back. Apparently they've never spoken to our tenant. That was a 'form letter' they sent which to them read 'he has not contacted us, thus we have closed the claim, but due to the nature of his injuries we think that he may perhaps contact you in the future and at that point we will reopen the claim'. He has not expressed any intent to file a lawsuit. Yet. Perhaps they could have worded things a tad differently?


So I have been coaxed off the window ledge for now. I don't expect this issue to just go away. After all, he did contact us to get our liability insurer's name. State Farm have been out to photograph the place and have expressed surprise that anyone would file a claim, but hey, if there's money involved I'm sure anything is possible. I just wish that we could have spoken to someone the minute we got the letter, saving me 48 hours of panic. Of course, it would be nice to be like LK and have the capacity to go 'oh well, can't worry about this now, there's nothing to be done til Monday so I will just go about my business and think about other things'. How do you do that? I did everything in my power to keep calm; I went for a long run, I had a glass of whisky in a hot bath, I tried not to repeat 'it is our understanding...lawsuit against you'. Not possible. How are men capable of this kind of selective lobotomy? I wish I knew.


Anyway, so's to avoid the Monday morning funk that I've probably put you in by reading the above, I bring you two funny stories:

Firstly, my co-worker had a first date on Saturday. Santa Barbara can get a little chilly on a summer evening, so halfway through their romantic meal at an outdoor restaurant she pulled on her slinky black shrug and carried on laughing, drinking and generally having a wonderful time. It was only after they were leaving that her date pointed out the lacy black thong clinging statically to her cardigan that had been pulled fresh from the dryer. He had been facing her for the meal and so had not previously noticed - but the entire restaurant surrounding her......

Secondly, LK is a genius when it comes to fixing problems with the apartments. He is incredibly handy and has saved us thousands with plumbing, plastering, you name it. We had a note from one of our tenants saying their hall shower was running slowly. LK comes back one hour later having snaked, flushed and fixed the problem.

LK: "So Apt C's all fixed, I took out years of hair and calcified gunk and now it's flowing like a dream"
Me: "Apt C?"
LK: re-reading note. "Apt B. FUCK!"

Oh how we laughed. And by we I mean me.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Do you want to hear something funny?

Anna in the back of the car whilst driving to Kindergarten (which she is loving).

"Momma, I need to ask you something but I don't think you're going to like it, so I'm going to cover my ears so I don't have to hear myself asking you"

(She wanted ice cream).

Do you want to hear something not quite so funny? Do you remember our tenant that was locked out and fell whilst trying to climb in to his second floor window, all because he didn't want to knock on his own front door and disturb his roommate who could be grumpy? Well, we received this letter recently from our liability insurer:

'The claimant has not filed a claim on this matter'

'It is our understanding he may file a lawsuit against you'.

Not quite so funny.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bye-Bye Baby

Today was Anna’s first day at Kindergarten.

As a parent this can sometimes be a harder transition than for the child. They are concerned with establishing a whole new pecking order on a brand new play structure, while your cloying and over-sentimental brain sees this as: bye Mum, nice to have known you, so long and thanks for all the goldfish.

I have to say, I’ve not been handling this well. As you may be aware, I’m running the knife-edge of sanity anyway, plus I’m not thrilled with the school she’s going to. I’m trying to warm to it. It has lots of good things going for it, and quite frankly I have yet to find a Californian school that doesn’t look like a prison (I think it’s the tiny windows to avoid the glare of the sun, and the fact that they are all pre-fab classrooms with air conditioning units clinging like tumours to the walls). I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised by this alternative school. I’ve already met some lovely down-to-earth parents - no mean feat in this town. On the other hand I’ve also met some complete whack-jobs too. The kind of people who yell "I’d just like to give a shout out to all of you who’ve made a different choice for your child. Boo-yah!!" at the introductory meeting. That made me feel like curling up behind an LL Bean catalog right then and there.

Anna had much more pressing concerns with her new school. They have ‘rheumatic’ toilets. Quite sensible really when you know how often small kids like to flush the toilet (answer – never). Unfortunately Anna is still terrified of toilets with automatic flushes. We have practiced a lot over the last few weeks. I’ve received some good advice on this blog in the past, especially recommending putting post-it notes over the sensor to guarantee it won’t flush while her tiny derriere is exposed, but did I really want Anna to start school as that kid who can’t go to the loo if she doesn’t have a post-it note? I decided we were just going to tough it out and use as many automatic toilets as possible.

Rheumatic toilet total immersion therapy.

That doesn’t sound right does it?

We picked Anna up at noon (yes! Lunchtime! Kindergarten hours can be measured in hummingbird heartbeats - no wonder education isn’t a strong point in this state). She’d had a great time. She couldn’t really say why, she couldn’t really remember any of the kids she’d met, or what they’d done. She said playtime was ‘grreat!’, and that she’d had fun at snack (seriously, at what point do they get down to business??!). She couldn’t remember what they’d talked about, but circle time was now called ‘rug time’. In preparation for Kindergarten I’d told Anna that she needed to answer any questions the teacher asked, so she would know she already knew
something and wouldn’t make her go over the same stuff. “What, like poop makes plants grow?” ventured Anna, “I bet a lot of kids don’t know that”. So I was really disappointed when she wouldn’t tell me more about her day. I tried every angle “So Anna, I never went to Kindergarten in England, how is it different from preschool” etc etc. LK rolled his eyes and told me to stop bugging her. Anna said ‘hmm’ and then continued to bait her sister. Finally she said “you know what I did do? I used the rheumatic toilet!”


Then LK chimed in that her teacher happened to mention that Anna had successfully gone to the bathroom on the fifth attempt. Four times she and an aide had gone to the loo and each time she got there she chickened out and decided she ‘didn’t really need to go’. Eventually they realized she was scared of the flush and gave her a pack of post-it notes that she now keeps in her cubby.

The best laid plans etc. etc.

I just hope she won't still need them in College.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Anyone For Tennis?

Parents can be unwittingly cruel to their children. My Dad's insistence on wearing flares well in to the 1980s being a great example.

Anna had a week off preschool, and LK was able to get her in to a week's tennis camp for free. Perfect. Except there was slightly more consideration given to our finances than to Anna's aptitudes. She's not exactly gifted when it comes to sports. If you throw a ball at her she can just about muster a blink before it hits her in the face. Nevertheless, there was also pool time involved, and summer has finally arrived in Southern California. She would have fun.

LK dropped her off on Monday morning wearing a lilac unicorn t-shirt and a flowery skirt, so she blended in perfectly with the Wimbledon whites worn by everyone else. Plus she was a full year younger than all the other kids, 90% of whom were boys. LK texted me a photo where she looked like the token black kid in a Tommy Hilfiger advert. Then he sent a photo of her kneeling on the tennis court looking despondent while kids played around her. My heart sank. We had put her in 'tennis for tots' on Monday mornings for the month prior hoping that would give her a bit of a head start. I was beginning to wonder if she'd ever set foot on a tennis court again.

Amazingly that evening she was excited about the prospect of more tennis the next day. Despite not having hit a single ball over the net. Apparently when it comes to sheer 'stick-to-it-iveness' she is streets ahead of her mother. I am in awe. The day after, success! She hit two balls over the net!

In four hours.

She was excited that they had been doing a 'tennis hit' that she'd heard of; the forehand. Here's Anna's forehand in all its glory:

These would make perfect 'spot-the-ball' photos....

This one looks like it's going to hurt.....

and finally, very much like her mother, the pro is feeding a ball to her and she is turning to have a natter with the kid behind her....

By Thursday 'pizza prize day' she had accrued a massive 10 points (for successfully eating an orange - I kid you not). She was undeterred and still managed to come home with an alligator squirt gun as a prize. She even wants to do it again next year, which is good, because it's free so I can foresee a lot of tennis in her future.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Funky Town

Through the process of selective reporting I am choosing to remember this period of my life as 'the summer that Lucy learned to talk' rather than the bleakest days of my life. I am in a funk that would beat anything produced in the 70s. Fortunately the girls couldn't care less how miserable we are. They are happily carrying on with their lives. Here is Anna's pre-school graduation photo:

Yes, she rocked it. She stood up in front of the entire audience and gave her speech (why I will miss my school; because we play outside and have sleepovers and have fun with no shoes). They processed down to the garden stage to 'Land of Hope and Glory' and halfway down the music switched to The Beatles 'Revolution' and they all donned sunglasses and carried on walking, but with attitude. This already beats my all-latin graduation solemnity, hands-down.

We made a big deal of graduation, so instead of her usual 'watermelon kidz' shampoo I let her use mine, with conditioner. I then blew dry her hair and she looked so surprisingly groomed , so unlike her usual 'Grapes of Wrath' self that one of the other parents said 'Anna, your hair looks beautiful today' - to which she replied, ­ hand on hip - ­ 'Thanks, I used Dove'.

Did I tell you that Anna can read? No of course I didn't, I've preferred to shower you with news of financial devastation instead. Well, she's been reading for about a year which just proves that delinquent parenting can sometimes come up trumps. We didn't believe her teachers when they told us she was reading at 3. We knew she could sound out some words and certainly knew all her letters, but no, they assured us she was reading quietly to herself in the 'reading nook'. If only everything was this easy. She has been shy about reading in front of us but now just in time for Kindergarten she is going a mile a minute, ploughing through 'easy read' books and warning us that my friend's garden contains snakes (she had a 'cobra' security sign posted in her driveway).

Not to be out-done, Lucy is conquering 'the talkies' as LK calls it. She names everything, with about a 5% success rate. I think she just likes the novelty of making syllable sounds. Yesterday she came up to me, looked me full in the eye and shouted "NARTCH!" What do you say to that? Especially when it is then repeated as a question, complete with baleful look - "Nartch?"

She is at the wonderful stage where she has a lot of words but they all sound a little like 'oon' or 'arl' or 'grnk' and it is a little like trying to take care of a tiny Croat. She also says 'mo' for 'no' which is very funny when you hear her (approx. 100 times a day) yell "Anna Mo!" A la Def Leppard.

I tell you, it is a barrel of laughs over at our place. We can't afford to go outside or to splurge on anything but Top Ramen instead of Ramen, but we certainly know how to make our own fun!


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Get Your Safety On

Summer is not a happy time round our way. LK is working every hour possible rendering him sore, grumpy and vocal about it as only a man can be, and I am juggling childcare like a well-trained seal. Still, at least we’re not tourists who have spent thousands of dollars on a Californian summer vacation only to be met with the foggiest summer in decades. I had to use windscreen wipers this morning!! Heavy marine layer my arse – I grew up in the North of England and I know a persistent drizzle when I see one.

We are very fortunate that Anna’s school does not take the summer off, but even so, they do have a short break, and a week of half-days due to ‘parent teacher conferences’ so I’ve been stitching together a patchwork of camps and playdates to cover the gaps. Incidentally, I asked LK this morning what we were doing about coverage for Lucy tomorrow and he made a volcano gesture with his hands to imitate his head exploding and I thought, dude, you have no. fucking. idea.

I need a wife.

Through my network of fellow ‘Moms’ I was guided towards putting Anna in Safety Town for a week this summer. It’s a brilliant program just for pre-Kindergarteners that teaches them how to be safe in their ever-expanding worlds; stranger danger, road safety, inappropriate touching (really), earthquake safety, and wildfire safety (oh no wait, we’ve covered that many times, thanks Santa Barbara). Anna now knows how to yell and punch hard in the stomach if grabbed by someone – so perhaps I should warn her long distance relations when they go in for a hug at their next meeting - that would be a shocker.

She also knows what to do in the event of an earthquake. Thank God someone in the family does. I have visions of an earthquake hitting and me running around in my knickers looking for a safe place like a bug scattering when you remove the log it was hiding under.

Anna loved Safety Town. She was a fountain of knowledge. Don’t touch matches! Always find another Mom with kids if you get lost! Don’t disturb the driver (then stop talking to her….) It was just what every officious small girl dreams of. Five year olds are all about rules (and ratting out people who break them). After her first day I asked how things had gone;

"Well, Mom, today we were fortunate enough to have two very special guests".

She can be a little scary with that photographic memory of hers. Apparently she'd been hanging on their every word.

"We had two ambliance drivers and Smokey the Bear. I'm not entirely sure about Smokey the Bear."

This was interesting. I asked what was so suspicious about Smokey.

"Well, what kind of bear wears a hat and pants - but no shirt?"

This was possibly a little uncharitable considering it was 90ยบ in the shade and some poor Forestry Service intern was no doubt staggering inside the sweltering costume wondering where his career was going. However, I've just learned that the new slogan for fire prevention is ‘get your smokey on!’ and suddenly Anna’s mistrust of the guy in the bear costume seemed very well-placed.

‘Get your Smokey on’?!

What sixties renegade wannabe gangsta came up with that one? I think her 5 year old counterparts may be the only age group in California that wouldn’t connect that with pot smoking. What were they thinking?

Still, she definitely learned a lot, and when I asked her what the best bit was she said:

“Well, I am really very good at sitting nicely, legs criss-crossed. Probably the best”.

So that’s money well spent.