Thursday, December 15, 2011


Christmas seems to arrive faster every year. One second it's Halloween, the next you're scrambling for the international mailing deadline.

I explained to Lucy that when every door on her advent calendar was opened, it would be Christmas Day.

So she opened every door on her calendar.


P.S. - Thank you to Michaela for probably the nicest blog comment of all time on that last post. *Humbled*

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I was really hoping to do this Halloween on a budget. Not least because the girls' dress-up box is literally overflowing with taffetas and sparkles. It is Disney Princess-a-palooza, and I find it not a little entertaining that it's Lance's old toy box that now stores this raging river of pinks, purples, sequins and silks. Ha ha ha - nothing says he failed to produce that Y chromosome more than his childhood being annexed by the princess posse.

In the run-up to Halloween Anna had seen a 'Barbie A Fairy Secret' costume in one of the many junk mail catalogs that cross our path. I flat out refused to buy it because a) we already have 17 lookey-likey dresses and b) that would mean I'd have to buy something for Lucy too, and c) that's $34.99 that Chase bank were really hoping would go to them instead.

I was hoping she'd just forget about it, but when the lady at Girls Inc asked what she was going to be for Halloween Anna screamed 'I'm going to be Barbie A Fairy Secret and it's going to be SPECTACULAR!!'.


I had to think fast.

Anna loves princesses and animals. She has been some variation of a princess for the last six Halloweens. It was time to embrace her animal side. Rather than cobble together a unicorn costume, I went with the path of least resistance. For some reason she has accumulated rather a lot of leopard-print clothes. She has a small leopard camisole and some leggings/pyjama bottoms. All I had to do was sew (badly) a long tail, use my entire eyeliner on a nose and whiskers, and jerry-rig some black ears.

Oh boy did she get in to character.

I can't get over this soft-porn pose she struck when I suggested a photo outside with her sister.  The bent wrist kills me. She loved this costume, and it being California all we had to do was add a t-shirt under the Cami for her evening trick or treating.

The costume did go a little awry for Girls Inc. Halloween happened to fall on a school holiday for Anna, so she was at Girls Inc all day. Her Dad was in charge of the costume. Apparently he ran out of time when it came to adding the whiskers/nose so by the time I picked her up her hair had escaped her pony tail, she had no face make-up, she was missing an ear and she actually looked more like Rod Stewart after a hard night in Glasgow than a leopard. Not that she cared a bit!

On the night of trick or treating itself (3 Halloween parties later....) Lucy had opted for a blue 'Cinderella' costume. Here she is channeling her inner 16 year old and giving me the 'evils'.

Photo courtesy of Jen - our host for the evening.

They had a brilliant time. Despite us losing Anna in the crush of trick-or-treaters in the biggest Halloween neighbourhood in the town. Three minutes of blind panic where both Lance and I were going 'I thought she was with you' and scanning for a leopard needle in a Halloween haystack. Fortunately she materialized a few minutes later and I got my heart rate back down from hummingbird pace. 

It was a great Halloween.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Technical Difficulties

This is the side of my desk at work. It explains a lot. It also seems to indicate our cleaners aren't getting in to every corner. I'm in the middle of making my job more efficient, so it's taking many hours, dual operating systems and is proving to be *quite a lot of work*. My friend just logged my blood pressure at 140/100. I think the Luddites had a point.

Please don't give up on me! I will be back. I have tooth fairy stories for you, dodgy Halloween pictures that will make Anna die of embarrassment in later years. Parent blogging gold - you'll just have to bear with me and pretend not to notice that I'm giving you Thanksgiving posts in February.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The F Word

Anna: "At school on Friday my friend Robert used the S-Word!!"

Me: Really?

Anna: "Yes, and to a new girl too. Her name is Lola and Robert said the S-word to her."

Me: "Wait, what is the S-word? Is it stupid?" Thinking, please be stupid and not shit.

Anna: "It's Shut-Up"

Me: feigning horror, "Wow, that's terrible. Poor Lola."

Anna: "I know. Robert is not nice. The S-word is not as bad as the F-word though. Robert says he knows the F-word. But I don't know the F-word. I think I could probably guess though."

Me: Thinking back to every harried morning commute over the last few weeks, every muttered expletive.... "Ummm"

Anna: I think it's "Forget - You!"

Me: Fuck that was close.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mmmm, Yellow

Do you take vitamin supplements? Do you give your kids vitamin pills? I'm not judging, really I'm not that kind of person. I'm just curious.

Until fairly recently I was one of those people who thought you should get all the vitamins you need from the food you eat. We have quite a varied diet, and the year-round fruit and vegetable options available to us here in California mean you can't open your mouth without ingesting vitamins and minerals. Really, we had no excuses. Plus, there was this recent Finnish study that concluded taking supplements actually shortened the life span of otherwise healthy 60 year old women.

We'd never considered supplements before, but then came Lucy.

Why eat spinach when there's cake?

Lucy will only eat food if it's yellow - and quite frankly not much of that either.

Anna on the other hand has always been a good eater. Her first babysitter described her as a 'garbage-disposal'. How sweet. Her current favourite food items are dried seaweed, calamari (the more legs the better) and miso soup.

Despite her limited diet, Lucy is chuffing ginormous, a beautiful long-limbed Amazon of a two-year old. In fact she is often mistaken for a petulant 3-4 yr old when she's actually still in the throes of the terrible twos. Quite what out of her diet of chocolate milk and chicken nuggets is making her shoot up is unclear. Many evenings I'll try to recollect what she's eaten, only to come up with; popcorn, goldfish, chocolate milk and popcorn.

Maybe it's the daily stretching:

Hang in there baby.

I realize that I am supposed to be in charge here. I used to be a smug parent, of the opinion that if you just present them with a variety of wholesome food options they will eventually be eclectic eaters.

Ha! Ha ha hahahahaha.

No I not! Says Lucy. I can't yike this! It's a battle of wills, and she can out-stubborn me any day. She eats when she wants to eat, and what she wants to eat. I honestly don't have the time to sit down with her for an hour each night cajoling her to eat every broccoli floret. Yet, I'm still fighting the good fight, and thanks to Anna, Lucy now eats dried seaweed - but only because she can't bear to see her sister enjoying something without wanting to quash that joy by at least 50%. But, because I'm genuinely concerned that she's not getting a good nutritional range I've started feeding then gummy vitamins. And now I'm eating them too.

I was always worried that gummy vitamins would be confused with candy, and I'd come downstairs one morning to find them gorging themselves on Vitamin C and Zinc. The container does come with a child-safe lid though, and the girls do seem to be aware that they can only have one dose a day. Me too - because I've found that unlike the horse pills masquerading as 'Women's Multivitamins'. I can actually stomach these gummy vitamins without waves of nausea hitting minutes later due to the iron. Plus, these little gummy bears contain the B vitamins that may decrease the frequency or intensity of my migraines. It's probably too early to say, and the trouble with migraines is that everything can be a culprit, but I think they may be helping. And as long I feed Lucy the red bears that means her nutritional rainbow has been increased by 100%, and that is one less daily battle to fight.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Words of Wisdom

I've never had the best of luck with my teeth, but then I'm British. QED.

About eight years ago my American dentist persuaded me that I would have to have my wisdom teeth out. The bottom two were impacted, but he warned me that should I ever get punched in the jaw, or something similar, I may run in to trouble. As I run a busy medical practice, I took this advice pretty seriously, you never know when a walking stick-wielding octogenarian is going to object to their bill and clock you one. Then the dentist said the top two had to come out because there were no teeth opposing them, and that could lead to problems.

Problems like me having to shell out large sums of money to have perfectly good teeth removed.

Like a lot of my English counterparts I only consider oral surgery if there is a medical need. I don't see the point in messing around with scalpels and anaethestic for cosmetic reasons. LK was golfing with a British dentist on our last trip home, and he must have said something like "British dentist = oxymoron, no?" when he was treated to a gently mocking American dentistry joke: a busload of American tourists plummets off a cliff in England - the only way to identify the victims after the bus explodes on impact is by checking dental records. Except, they couldn't identify anyone because they all had the same teeth. I like that. I know there are some quite startling teeth out there in the UK, many a public figure is positively bristling with misshapen molars, but if they're not unhealthy why do they have to be considered unsightly? Why does everyone have to have the same terrifyingly uniform smile? Stepford Mouths abound in this country. I must have been out here too long because now when I flick through the pages of Hello magazine I do see some less than perfect teeth. They look out of place and I notice them, whereas I don't think I did before. I honestly don't think British people care as much. Same goes for eyebrows.

Anyway, off my soapbox and back to my wisdom teeth. On my first attempt I went in for surgery thinking I was to have all four out, and came round to find only the bottom two were missing. Apparently the surgeon had decided at the last minute that the top two were 'viable'. Perhaps the part where he had to break my lower jaw to extract the bottom two proved so time consuming he was in danger of missing his tee time?

Sadly for me each subsequent dentist I have seen has disagreed with his decision. The top two also had to come out. I would have to have another surgery. I put this off for several years with the cunning use of pregnancy - dentists prefer not to operate or x-ray pregnant women, but I couldn't keep sprogging up just to avoid the dentist. It was proving expensive.

In the end I could dodge the knife no longer, and I had my last two wisdom teeth out on Friday - and have yet to talk to a SINGLE person who has not experienced a dry socket. You think people would keep that kind of information to themselves when chatting to someone pre-surgery, but no, dry sockets abound. My father-in-law even saw fit to describe his in harrowing detail in the car on the way to the dentist.

So far I seem to be doing OK. I tried to be stoic, even when faced with a general anesthetic. I have a very early memory of being a small child and hearing someone talk about our family dentist - about how their Mum went in for surgery at his office, and when she got home she realized her knickers were on back to front. Oh, the scandal! Perhaps she'd put them on inside out herself - but, oh the horror, perhaps not!!! I know this is a pretty unlikely scenario, North Yorkshire dentist molests middle aged mother, but you never know. Dentists are a funny lot. My surgeon seemed like a very trustworthy family-man type, but even so, I wore some very tight jeans as a deterrent.

As for the recovery - bloody hell I never realized how much food I consume on a daily basis until faced with a liquid only diet. I am up to here with milkshakes and mashed potato. I long for a steak sandwich on crusty bread. On several occasions I have caught myself snatching pieces of food from the girls' plates, or a little something from the snack cupboard, only to have to return it in favour of something I can gum down to a paste. I live in terror of losing a piece of food in those giant cavernous holes that once housed teeth.

Good times.

P.S. The tooth fairy brought me 'four whole quarter dollars' reported by a squealing Anna the next morning. Hooray, that may be enough for another ice cream.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sugar and Spice and Rogaine

For once we have come up trumps when it comes to educational opportunities in this town. Just this once we've managed to be in the right place at the right time. We drive past at least three schools to go to Anna's current elementary school. Something that's not lost on me during my 90 minutes every day that I spend driving between our home, preschool, school and office. We drive that far because our local school is a 'failing school' and if it's failing in California you'd better believe it's no bueno.

But! Her granola, happy-clappy, love-in of an elementary school is in the neighbouring town's pick up zone when it comes to after school care - which means Girls Inc will pick her up from school and take her to their brand new state of the art facility, that *could we be so lucky* is just down the road from Lucy's preschool.

I had no idea what Girls Inc was, except probably female in orientation. I was thinking Monsters Inc - only pink. It is an 'enrichment' program, somewhere kids go after school when their parents are still chasing the almighty dollar. Her program includes a theatre, a gym, a garden, a computer room, a professional teaching kitchen, a ballet studio, a tap studio, really - somebody stop me. They feed them snack (kid approved - Anna had a blueberry Joker smile when I picked her up after her first day), let them loose in either the playground or the library (when Anna saw this brand new library you could literally see her heart stop beating....), and then they pick a class - a different class every afternoon. So far Anna is going twice a week and is doing 'Sea Science' and 'Tap'.

She loves her Sea Science teacher. On the first day they learned about ecosystems and her teacher cornered me at pick-up to say "she's quite an adept learner isn't she" and I just smiled, knowing full well I had an evening of regurgitated tundra ahead of me.

Last week they were to take a field trip to the beach. Every child who was going on the trip had to have a Girls Inc T-shirt. Anna was admiring hers in the car on the way home. The Girls Inc motto is emblazoned on the back...

"Girls Inc" read Anna "Inspiring Girls to Be Strong, Smart and Bald"
"Don't you mean, BOLD - as in confident" I said to the rearview mirror
"Nope, I'm pretty sure it means hairless" was the reply.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Potty Training By Costco

Potty training Lucy was always going to be interesting, mostly because she is just so. damn. stubborn. It was obvious right from the start that 'training' was out the window, that it would have to be her idea. For weeks she would hide behind the couch, red faced, and teary eyed, doing her business. We would gently ask if she wouldn't rather put that poop in the toilet "NO I NOT!", "DON'T SEE ME", "I NEED SOME SPACE" would be her favourite screams.

We hit mid-summer, and she passed the two and half year mark. I placed that last pack of 256 diapers in my Costco trolley - and then hit on a genius idea. In full view of the girls, I grabbed a giant pack of Otter Pop popsicles. 

Game on.

Lucy was stubbornly going at her own pace when it came to potty training, but bribery can work wonders, especially when an older sister is thrown in to the mix. We had a deal - for every time Lucy used the toilet they could BOTH have a popsicle. Even in this bizarrely grey and foggy faux-summer, a popsicle made for some pretty hard currency.

Yes, it did mean that on many a morning they had popsicles for breakfast - and no, when only the green ones were left it did not mean they could 'trade up' for an ice-cream. I'll tell you what though, it worked like a charm. In the space of one week we went from nappies to knickers. No accidents. We may have flirted with early onset juvenile diabetes with a 6 popsicle a day diet - but amazingly while she kept using the toilet, the requests for popsicles dwindled. I think she was just so chuffed with herself for being a big girl, and so happy to be wearing new knickers courtesy of her Nani.

It's not easy taking a fledgling knicker-wearer out in public. Most overused phrase of August was definitely 'do you need to go potty', at five minute intervals. We had a close call the other night when she cried out 'I need to go pee-pee' at about 3am. I raced her to the toilet, only to realize she'd been sleep-talking, something that became apparent when she quickly woke up as her naked arse hit the cold toilet seat. I put an emergency nappy on her and took her back to bed - it was dry in the morning so it must have been a false alarm - much like when she yelled "I need some scissors" in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Of course, there is an exception to every rule. Just as I was patting myself on the back knowing that we were now a diaper-less family, I found her Achilles heel. She may be stubborn, she may have mastered bladder control in the space of a few days - but she is no match for the wet foot reflex. Twice this past weekend we were at the beach, and there she was splashing her feet in the cold ocean, when bingo - the flood gates opened. Fortunately it's the beach that's getting a good fertilizing and not my couch, and no-one except immediate family noticed the awkward open-legged gait and wet stream coursing down her shorts.

I will just have to remember not to swim too close to her when we first get in the pool.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Hello, My Name Is....

Not really a reference to the fact that I've been away from the blog for a month, more a hint as to why.

I could claim some tenuous french heritage and say that the month of August was just a holiday (my Nanna was born in France after all), but really, do the French still take a month off in the summer? Is that a bit like Americans assuming I stop everything to have a cup of tea and a crustless sandwich at 4pm? Chance would be a fine thing.

No, in actuality the American summer holiday kicked my arse. It was ten long weeks of patching together childcare and balancing very welcome guests. Lucy was mostly in her preschool over the summer, but Anna was thrown to the wolves in what the Americans like to call 'summer camps'.

I have a personal theory that summer camps are a training ground for the American psyche. Each year the local papers comes out with the list of camps available in town for the summer (well over a hundred) and you pick and choose like ordering from a very eclectic menu. Anna could have done theatre, surf camp, Spanish camp, Mandarin camp, Mandolin camp (OK maybe that's a stretch), but of course she mostly did tennis and swimming because in our household that is free. These camps vary in cost and popularity - there is a definite pecking order and the good ones fill up fast. Savvy Moms organize their broods into the same camps as friends to help with pick-up and drop-off, and also to help with camp cold-turkey. This is what I think is a trial of fire in terms of character building. Every week a different camp, every week a different set of kids to meet, introduce yourself to, bond with. For a shy child it can be brutal. I am constantly amazed how Anna has changed from a timid and clingy two year old to a six year old prepared to march in to a room of strangers and just get on with things. I would still find that draining. Perhaps it crushes more delicate flowers, but it has definitely given Anna a teflon self-confidence that I hadn't seen coming.

She has some great camp stories; came back muddy and wet from 'Natural History Museum camp' where they searched for pollywogs (tadpoles) in the creek, studied hissing cockroaches and made dodgy scientific crafts that are now littering her bedroom floor.

The best quote was about tennis camp though. Anna, tired, streaky and pink with sunscreen and sunburn - eyes red with chlorine and hair matted with a dozen swimming pool dunks - sighed and said "Momma, I don't fall in love often - but when I do, it's only with very special boys. I've only fallen in love three times this whole summer!"

You can't teach that.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Potty Training Can Be Painful

I can't believe we're back at this. I remember, all too vividly what it was like when we were potty training Anna. Going from place to place with that tiny little diaper-less bottom, like a grenade with the pin pulled.

Now it's Lucy's turn. Quite frankly, I think Lucy's diaper is the only thing keeping her trousers up these days. She has the bum and legs of a heroin addict, even her leggings flap in the breeze. But she's hit two and half, she's dry overnight, she hides when she poops. She's ready. Except she doesn't believe she is. When her eyes are teary with the strain, when her eyebrows are pink and she shuffles off for some 'pivacy' we ask her if she wouldn't rather use the toilet. "No I NOT!" She yells. We've tried bribery. "No! Go way!" she yells. We bought some very fetching tiny Dora knickers - also a failure, but for different reasons:

Anna (age 6): "Dad, why did you give me Lucy's Dora knickers to wear to school today. They are WAY too small and really uncomfortable".
LK: "Wait, Lucy has knickers now too? How am I supposed to know that?"
Me: "Anna, why on earth did you still put them on (and how?!)"
Anna: "Errr"

Potty training - it's hard on the entire family.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Independence Spirit

My 15th Independence Day was my first as an American, and also the first experience of July 4th for my Mum and Dad. Reason enough to celebrate. We decked the girls out in matching red, white and blue outfits courtesy of their American Nani, then we fed them ice creams so that their regalia quickly became red, white and dairy. My daughters are anarchists, after all.

Then we headed downtown to witness a most peculiar July 4th parade. Santa Barbara has lots of parades, the most notable being, Solstice (everyone gets their hippy on and struts State Street in ski boots, body paint and pasties), and Fiesta (which is Spanish, you understand, not Mexican - Good God No). The July 4th parade had no real cohesion and it was all a bit odd really. There was a youth band from Oxnard, the mayor in a t-shirt on a golf cart, a collection of Corvettes, Girls Inc in matching t-shirts, a local autobody and detail shop throwing candy, and three or four civil war buffs firing real muskets. Damn those things were loud. A battlefield must have been a nightmare place for a migraine sufferer. Seemed like a great excuse to nip in to the new H&M while the crowds were lining the streets.

The highlight of July 4th is of course, fireworks. Fireworks are a little like dolphins - it's always a bit of a thrill to see them. We are lucky enough to be able to see the harbor fireworks from our bedroom window. Which is nice, as we don't have to go down to the beachfront and deal with the gang stabbings crowds.

One of my favourite photos of Anna was just after her first birthday, wrapped in a post-bath towel, watching the July 4th fireworks:

You can see her thinking - what the chuff??

I wanted to get the same shot of the girls this year. We had all the lights off, so I just pointed the camera and prayed. They were certainly enjoying themselves, there were 'oohs' and 'ahhs' and "I think I shall call that one the gumball machine" from Anna, and "my favourite fireworks is red" from Lucy.

This is the photo I took:

Anarchy is in her blood.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Princely Polo

The other day one of our elderly patients asked if I would be seeing the Royals come to the Polo Club. "It's the social event of the season" she added. She obviously hasn't heard of our 'build your own taco' nights.

California was all of a twitter about the Royal visit - although it was clearly a steep learning curve, with our local TV station announcing that the 'Dutch and Duchess of Cambridge' would be flying in.

We weren't about to be paying $400 for a ticket in the cheap seats just to see Prince William and Catherine. We considered $4,000 a ticket (lunch included) to be a little steep also, even if the lunch was to be catered by Giada de Laurentiis. However, we do have a lot of kind and generous friends, who happen to live right on the doorstep of the action.

The 'cheap seats' were on the left of the field, the VIP seats were on the right. One of our friends who had bought a ticket for the cheap seats commented that it was like 'The Old South' in terms of segregation - except with free-flowing champagne and canapés. I think she may need to re-visit that period of American history for another look.

That is Prince William in the #4 jersey balanced over my right shoulder. I am wearing clothes, honest - no-one wants to see this Momma streaking. In fact I'm sporting a very tasteful $30 H&M Maxi dress courtesy of my Mum, and some rather fetching gladiator sandals I got at a garage sale. Nothing but the best for Wills & Kate!

Stick with me, the photos get better.

I've watched a fair few polo games over the years, courtesy of LK's job. It's a pretty exhilarating sport. Having ponies thundering past chasing a rock-hard polo ball is quite an experience - and one I decided that a wandering 6 yr old and a rambunctious 2 yr old could probably defer. I didn't want to cause a diplomatic incident after all.

Prince William scored quite a few goals - as the other players seemed to magically part like the Red Sea whenever he approached the goal posts - or so it seemed to me. He was really chatty and smiley though - and responded with a grin and a wave at me bouncing around like a nut job waving my British flags....

Sadly we missed seeing much of Kate. Apparently she had been seen hanging out with Will and the ponies prior to the game, but at that point we were still hiking our way in to the polo grounds because we weren't allowed to drive in. Sadly we were too far away to see her presenting Will with the winner's trophy, but - just when we thought all was lost, they drove right by in a swanky black Audi on their way to the helicopter. The windows were all blacked out at the back of the car, but as they drove by, Kate rolled down her window and they both gave us a wave - Will is even leaning over to wave. That's a class act if you ask me, and my squeak of joy probably had dogs howling in San Francisco.

It was a great day.

Sunday, July 03, 2011


I always feel that if I haven't posted for a couple of weeks I should follow it up with something worthwhile.

Sorry, that won't be happening. I have a sliver of time in which to get my thoughts down, so this will have to do.

I will admit that I've been toying with the idea of wrapping up AliBlahBlah. Five years is a long time. My life is getting crazy, my migraines are caused by stress, they are happening with increasing, debilitating frequency, and I'm really having to try to cut back on my to do list. Plus there is a lot going on right now that I'm not sure I can write about, and will definitely struggle to put a positive spin on.

On the other hand, I agree that you are not done with blogging as long as you are still composing posts in your head, and that's still going on, so I'm at a crossroads. Plus, William and Kate are coming HERE! next weekend, and not only that, they will be hanging out at my husband's place of work and we may have wangled ourselves a psuedo invite - and how can an Expat blogger pass up that juicy morsel?

In the meantime, on this 4th of July weekend, my first as a bone fide Amercun, I bring you an odd difference between the two countries. Flag-worship.

We were at a party recently with a giant Amercun flag waving in the breeze. Tis the season after all. Lucy is a tomboy in every sense of the word, and her new game is called 'ka-cha!' which is basically her running around karate-chopping thin air and making elaborately fierce poses. We need to teach her to yell "bow to your sensei!!" then the entertainment would be complete.

This is what happened: Lucy was running around ka-cha!ing and - maybe on purpose, maybe by accident - she 'ka-cha'd' the Stars and Stripes (which was hanging a bold 10 inches from the ground).

All hell let loose.

She was reprimanded by EVERY American present - except me. They were kind but firm, the American flag was sacrosanct, and had to be treated with respect, it represented the country and all who sailed in her. Meanwhile I'm thinking 'are you kidding me, she's two, please hold the civics lesson until she can use a toilet unassisted.'

I don't think there is anything in the British non-constitution that is held so reverently. The monarchy, the flag (of which there are many), even tea - they are all treated with a healthy disrespect. While these things are taken seriously, they are not followed zealously or overtly. The reaction to Lucy hong-kong-phoeeying the flag was really surprising to me - even after 15 years of living here. LK took both girls to one side and gave them a talking to. He later told me he was brought up to believe that if the flag accidentally touched the ground it would have to be burnt. Really? Even he would not be nudged on the position that Lucy needed to be told, in no uncertain terms, that what she had done was wrong.


After having gone through my Naturalization, and all it entailed, I do know why the flag is important to the concept of Nationhood. It stands for the country in more of a way than a head of State can. It represents the country, the unification of the separate States. We The People etc etc. Except this is also a country that prides itself on 'question authority' (you see it on every other bumper sticker shouting at you from the freeway). Maybe that's just California - but again, maybe that's why I'm surprised.

I think I still have some Naturalizing to do.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Every Cloud Has A Purple Lining

We're completely socked in by our traditional 'june gloom' right now. Fog so thick that Anna walked outside this morning and said "Mom! It's dribbling!" which I assume is Californian for 'drizzling'. Not a word she gets to use with much frequency.

From a practical standpoint, it's an absolute bugger to dress for this weather, because you're never entirely sure when the fog will burn off. Some days (as in the last few weeks) it has clung resolutely all day. On other days it lifts as early as mid morning, and then you're left at work sweltering through 80º in your light woollens. My advice: scarves and cardigans, sounds deathly British, but really they are truly sensible when it comes to the gloom.

What's funny is that when the skies turn leaden, the trees turn purple. Santa Barbara is full of jacaranda trees, and as soon as the first May Grey or June Gloom hits, they start to bloom. They are fabulously beautiful, seemingly giving up leaves entirely for huge bright purple blossoms:

It's as if Mother Nature is throwing us a bone, trying to prove that summer is out there somewhere.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Do'ed It!

The other morning at Lucy's preschool the little ones were all called in from the garden for morning group. 'Circle time' is the official start of the day. I imagine the children were finding a spot on the floor and sitting cross-legged when the teacher looked around and said "where's Lucy K?"

Good question.

An even better answer came from C. a sweet boy of 4, who said "oh, she's stuck up a tree."

You might think that I'd be worried about this kind of preschool, or even about why C. didn't bother mentioning it until he was asked. I'm not though, because Lucy's preschool is absolutely brilliant. You can't really complain about your 2 year old being stuck up a tree in a huge garden dotted with peach trees, apricot trees, tangerine trees (wow, they're good), a gnarled but incredibly productive avocado tree, and a passion-fruit tunnel. Really, it's a paradise on earth. The kids are encouraged to pick their own fruit, and Lucy has almost inevitably developed a thing for climbing trees.

It was no surprise to anyone that she was up there (a whopping foot and a half off the ground). When I picked her up that very afternoon - she was stuck in an orange tree. Heavy with oranges, and the flowers of the next crop already starting - there sat Lucy K.

"I stuck!" She wailed.

"Watch this", said J., her teacher, with a wry smile on his face. He walks over and delicately extricates her from the branches, and as soon as her feet touch the ground she sprints across the lawn and starts scaling a peach tree. I walk over to her and she beams "my do'ed it!", and then "I stuck!".

"All day" her teacher replied.

Lucy K loves to climb trees.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

It's My Party

I always get a little anxious when it's time to plan the girls' birthdays. Treading that fine line between what they want and what we can manage. Anna's 6th birthday is the perfect example. She wanted a massive party, at a park, with everyone from her preschool to be invited. Except she also goes to Kindergarten, but she didn't want to invite any of her Kindergarten classmates. I suppose she's known her preschool buddies longer, but for a start, that was odd. Also, several key players that she wanted to invite had already had their birthdays earlier in the year without Anna. I think she's happily oblivious to this, but I'm not. I hurt for her. Then we had an issue with her wanting two key guests, her best friends, but they both had conflicts on the weekends either side of her birthday. It was turning in to a logistical nightmare, and I was starting to hyperventilate.

We ended up compromising, and thought small and early. We bumped her party up by a week so everyone could come. We invited three of her closest hang-out friends. We're doing a sleepover tonight and they are currently having mani-pedis at a local salon for the bargain price of $13 a child. That's in my price range (although, being the anxious sort I'm now wondering if $13 in Korean-American is actually $30....).

Meanwhile I am busy crafting another fabulously bad homemade cake (why do they never come out of the pan in one piece for me??!!), decorating the house and enjoying some quiet while Lucy naps. We have pizza, games, and a movie for tonight's entertainment. After their manicure/pedicures, LK is taking them to the Polo Club to see the horses and have 'tea' on the main veranda. A packed program - hopefully they all crash out by 10pm!!

I think Anna is happy with her economy-sized party. I suspect the main reason she wanted an Annapalooza party was to score huge numbers of presents. I think she'll have much more fun having girl time with her best friends. It's hard when they get older and they spend all year crafting the perfect party in their head. After we hijacked her giant park-party she wasn't going to leave anything to chance, so when I said I'd be making her cake this afternoon - she went so far as to dash off a quick drawing, so I could bake one to her specifications.

In case it's not perfectly clear, she wanted blue icing, strawberries around the edge, and the black blob 'represents something amazing in the middle'. *Sigh*

This is what I came up with. It's uncanny isn't it?? If uncanny means a culinary horror.

I really hope I don't have to eat any.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sweet Dreams

A hundred thousand years ago, when I first moved to Santa Barbara, I had an Italian boyfriend. He taught me many things. I'm sure you're thinking, lucky girl, but honestly what I remember most is that he always presented me with a bunch of flowers when he picked me up for a date. First of all - how lovely is that? Well played Italy. He said I should put them by the side of my bed, that his Grandma swore that the scent of sweet flowers would bring sweet dreams.

What a line.

A few days later I met LK at a party and it was ciao fiori, hello surfer boy.

I remember that one day he bought me a bunch of the most beautiful, fragrant sweetpeas from the Farmers Market. I loved the idea that he'd been thinking of our date when he was shopping that morning. He was probably thinking, I'll tell her that line of my Grandmas and that will get us talking about bed.

Anyhow, that was a lifetime ago, yet I can't help but love sweetpeas, and when I saw them at the Farmers Market this morning, I couldn't resist. They are a bunch of summer, last almost as long as a fling with an Italian, and three bunches for $5 buys you a lot of sweet dreams....

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

With Age Comes Wisdom

"Now that I am going to be six I am thinking I could be married and I think I should marry Oliver. Not because we play and have fun together but because he is taller than me, because he is already six, and because he is handsome, and well, beautiful."

I'm thinking many marriages have been built on less.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

While I Wasn't Sleeping

Migraines are such a waste of time.

I have lost one day out of each of the last couple of weekends, which considering I have three days weekends won't make you feel too sorry for me. I woke up feeling so thoroughly rotten on Friday that I had couldn't drag myself out of bed and take Anna to school. That sounds dramatic in a Victorian woman-with-the-vapours kind of way, but the nausea and the pulsing headache were far worse than any self-inflicted student hangover I've ever experienced.

Not being able to get out of bed and look after the girls was a first (LK had left obscenely early due to our urgent need. to. make. money). Anna was obviously thrilled with the idea of missing class as I croaked and slow-breathed my way through the call to her school. As I gripped the sides of the bed, trying through a combination of measured breathing and mind control to not throw up my migraine medication, she bounced on my right chirruping, "I get to be Absinthe! I get to be Absinthe!"

Anna was my little Florence Nightingale. She took care of Lucy by putting 'Shaun the Sheep' on repeat downtairs, and she fed her a banana and cereal. Later, she crept up to the side of our bed, kissed me on my forehead and asked if I would like a glass of water.

As the pain gradually subsided, followed non-too-swiftly by the nausea, I started to wonder what the house would look like. We've safety-proofed as much as possible, and Anna is very conscious of her sister's welfare (she's a dyed-in-the-wool snitch). But, a soon-to-be-6 year old is not the best judge of whether a 2 year olds 'play' is 'appropriate'.

I got off very lightly. In the space of a morning almost every toy was unpacked and strewn about, cereal had run amok, and Lucy had been 'artistic' with the toothpaste:

I was very lucky. We were all very lucky - at least I think we were, after all there may still be as yet undiscovered surprises, like the blue crayon in the dishwasher that I only discovered after the full wash cycle, and even then I spent a moment thinking, wait, when did we get willow pattern?

As if to prove the size of the bullet that was dodged, the very next afternoon we were sitting as a family watching Harry Potter. Lucy was hidden between the wall and the armchair - her favourite hiding 'nook'. All was peaceful, all was quiet.

Too quiet.

The first I knew of it Lance was yelling 'Lucy, oh goddammit!'. An ENTIRE brand new bottle of zinc oxide factor 50 sunscreen spread liberally all over her, the armchair, the curtains and the carpet. We need not worry about our upholstery ever getting sun-damanged as that shit is never coming off.

And just to prove that I can laugh about it all, now, I am borrowing this from BrambleScat, I liked her post about migraines as I'm sure you will too, and I had to laugh at the 'footballers migraine':

I'm sure lots of Blackpool supporters experienced exactly the same thing just this morning.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A is for Alligator

When a five year old announces they want to write their own encyclopedia, your first reaction is probably to ask them if they've been outside too long in the sun, or if they're absolutely sure they know what an encyclopedia is. This was Anna though, and when it comes to academics, the girl means business.

She wanted to write an Animal Encyclopedia - a page for each letter, and three animals to a page. I did not expect us to get much past E is for Elephant, but here we are at V and we are rapidly approaching the 'Zooble purchase' (don't ask) which I had promised for a completed project.

I think the inspiration was a lovely book bought for Anna by my friend Jen called 'My Very Own Name' where her name is spelled out by animals who each bring along a letter. She loves that book.

She has had a lot of fun with this project, and Lord knows she is getting more out of it than she is at school. For each letter we google pictures of animals, and she suggests a sentence describing the creature. Each sentence is completely her own thoughts - and I have some favourites such as 'An alligator can sneak up on you' and 'Dogs have wet noses'. Some letters have been challenging. 'I' was a toughie, and we resorted to googling 'animals beginning with i' which is how we came to be sitting there wondering what to write about an ice fish (answer - 'an icefish is very hard to find').

We had the same trouble this weekend with 'v'. Vulture was an obvious pick, vole was considered but rejected, Anna usually picks fierce over fluffy, velociraptor was discounted because it's extinct, then we saw 'vixen'. Perfect.

So there I was, my five year old perched on my lap, while I googled 'vixen photos'.


"Oh shit" I said as 100 variations of Madame Spankalot appeared on our screen.

"Silly computer" Anna said "we said vixen and it thought we said rock star!"

Monday, May 09, 2011

Mothers Day Present

I went in to Mothers Day with the intention of bleeding it dry - of cramming three uncelebrated years into one. Not quite the spirit of the occasion I'm sure you'll agree.

I had a lovely day which set me straight. A bunch of pink tea roses from my love - a bouquet that he'd been offered a hefty sum for the night before when leaving a tennis game and a fellow player realized he was Mothers Day gift-less! I had hand drawn hummingbirds from Anna, cryptic squiggles from Lucy, and a necklace spirited up from Anna that I think I need to thank Mooks for.

On Sunday morning we set off down the road to the beach, and I luxuriated in the feel of soft warm sand beneath my bare feet. A cruise ship had arrived, so big it dominated the horizon. Like the moon it followed us all over town. It was an added blessing to know that we were having a Sunday morning coffee stroll on our secret beach, and 1,000 people had paid for the privilege of Mothers Day in our town.

These were all lovely things - but a lesson learned was truly my favourite Mothers Day gift:

Anna finally conquered the monkey bars at the playground!

A lot of things have come easily to my oldest daughter; she has been an effortless reader, a sponge for information, a freakishly gifted retainer of facts - but she is not a natural athlete. Unfortunately she takes after me in this regard. She even found crawling a challenge and opted to move straight to walking. Perhaps that's why the left-right left-right motion on the monkey bars proved such a challenge. She hated not being able to do it, going from frustration, to defeat, to defiance "I do not like monkey bars, I do not need to do monkey bars!'. I felt for her - I don't think I ever made it up the rope climb at school.

On Saturday, with tongue stuck resolutely out, she swung from one end to the other. I don't know what persuaded her to give it a go - maybe because the playground was deserted except for us. She reached the end, and gave a grin that said she'd just about conquered the world. It was the greatest feeling - for both of us. It sounds absurd to say this about a five-year old, but this has been years in coming. I was just so chuffing proud of her. Best Mothers Day present ever. I have it all on video, and would post it here, except she's wearing a very short skirt, there is a lot of flailing, and well, knickers. It might ruin the majesty of the moment.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Mother Load

I think I'm going to organize my own Mothers Day this year.

I am two for five when it comes to Mothers Days. Two years ago we were evacuated due to the Jesusita WildFire, which meant the breakfast in bed, card, bunch of flowers routine was cancelled as we spent the day driving back to our smoked out house and trying to reassemble our lives. Twice I've been in the UK during American Mothers Days, and despite heavy hints to the contrary, LK does not consider a Mothers Day to exist outside its country of origin. I will admit it is hard to remember a day without the media tapping you on the shoulder and dragging your guilt-ridden carcass to the shops. Last year LK played golf with my brother on Mothers Day. But - don't feel too sorry for me, I did remember to send my Mum a card and a gift this year, but completely forget to honour the day with a Mothers Day phone call. We chatted by Skype, but I completely blanked that it was Mothering Sunday the day of.

This year, I think I'm going to put myself in charge. I've had six years of partial sleep and vomit, nosedrip, food and poop on my clothes. I have paid my dues, I am pencilling in a Mothers Day. I am sure LK will remember this year, but I'm not sure what that will entail. Case in point, he called me last week at work to say he would be coming to pick me up from the office, he was bringing the girls, and he had a treat for me. Not a surprise, you understand, a treat. I've been putting in some long hours at work this year, and it had been a very trying day. I was ready for a treat. I wondered what it could be - dinner, a movie?

What I was not expecting was to walk up to the car and to be handed a gym bag with running trousers, t-shirt (absurdly tight), jog bra and shoes. We were going running! Surprise!

I ended up having a great time - this was part of our run route after all:

But that is why I'm definitely going to reign in the surprises this Sunday and organize some treats of my own.

Monday, May 02, 2011


A huge sigh of relief that it's over. I'm sure you're thinking I'm referring to the wedding, but actually no - and how could I be over Will and Kate when there's still gems like this to entertain us:

No, the reason I'm breathing easier is because April is finally over - otherwise known in this family as eventapalooza. In the space of thirty days we have 4 birthdays and 2 Mothers Days (one American, one British, so two separate Sundays). We both come from fairly small families, so this is quite a significant cluster. The same happens in September, which I am bracing for. We are a family of Virgos and Tauruses - make of that what you will. Good job Anna and Lucy were born outside the vortex and shook things up a bit. Well done me.

Anyway, presents have been bought, cards selected (or arm-twisted into creation by my two serf-lets), things have been wrapped, addressed and sent winging around the globe. Isn't it interesting how little time it takes in a marriage for it to go from; "what do you think my Mom would like for her birthday" to "what did we get my Mom for her birthday" to "did you remember my Mom's birthday?" Interesting, but I'm sounding a tad waspish and victimy, so I'll swiftly move on.

To the topic of me getting a surprise present - a Versatile blogging award from the lovely radmegan, who actually wrote something so nice about my blog I blushed, under my perma-Cal tan. Not a bad way to start a week. Here it is in all its glory:

The rules of the game are that I have to share seven things about myself, which crikey moses sounds like an awful lot even for such a self-obsessed blogger as me. Then I have to refer back to my bloggee award benefactress, done, and finally link to seven other blogs I like. Yikes, nap time! OK, so brace yourself for seven random things:

  1. I only give presents that I'd like to receive myself, and I usually put far too much thought into the process. Seriously people it's that easy - you can always just send my gifts right back to me and I'd be thrilled. It HAS happened. Unbelievable but true. 
  2. I have never dyed my hair but I'm getting vain and depressed at how dark it's become post Lucy (oh, Lucy, it's a good job you're cute because you have RUINED me) - anyhoo, I am now resorting to lemoning my hair whenever I go out and exercise.
  3. It's a really bad idea to sweat with lemon in your hair because it drips in to your eyes and stings like a mofo.
  4. I have been blogging for nearly five years, and have almost stopped numerous times, but YOU have always lifted me up, cheered me up and made me carry on. So thankyou. I would already have forgotten most of the mindlessly charming and silly things the girls have done if it wasn't for this blog and the people who read it.
  5. I am not a little pissed off that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown weren't invited to the Royal Wedding. If the Royals are supposed to be staunchly apolitical whilst helping themselves to a big chunk from the taxpayer then they need to behave apolitically. 
  6. I cannot say 'meditate' without thinking I might accidentally say 'masturbate' so that rules out Buddhism for me. 
  7. I can do an Australian accent but not an American accent and I have no idea why.

Now I need to enjoy myself and surf the web to find 7 bloggers to refer too. Feel free to volunteer yourselves otherwise I will pick my usual suspects on the right hand side of this blog WHO ARE ALL BRILLIANT.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Royal Wedding Tea Party

Do you know how hard it is to persuade an American to eat a biscuit called a 'digestive'? It was much easier to hand out the champagne.

On the way to school on Friday morning a tiara-bedecked Anna asked 'but why is this important?' - which to be fair was a good question. So I explained to her that she is half British, and that her future King had got married that morning. I told her that Britain was one of the oldest monarchys in the world, and contained the most famous Kings and Queens of history. I said that this was a day to be proud to be British - even half British - to be proud of our heritage. We talked about her being a quarter Danish, a little bit German, a little bit Irish, and half British, but mostly American.

She thought about it for a while and then said 'people can have a lot of halves, can't they?'.

Yes, that is a telephone-box cake stand.

 And just to remain truly humble to the occasion I will admit that this was the first time I realized that the Queen doesn't sing our National Anthem, 'God Save The Queen'. When they were panning across the congregation in Westminster Abbey, there she was tight-lipped and silent. 'Wow, she's not singing' I said. To which LK replied 'well, duh'.