Monday, January 31, 2011

Every Picture Tells A Story

Every picture tells a story.

You see two sisters, fast asleep, holding hands. A photo to treasure through the no-doubt hormone-strewn years ahead.

I see photographic evidence of an entire months worth of sleep deprivation.

We have had house guests for six weeks.

When you put it like that, it sounds like I should be chewing Prozac like M&Ms, but it's not been that bad. Until Anna had a nightmare that is.

Anna had given up her bedroom for my Mum and Dad. They stayed over Christmas, and then a few days in to January, LK's Mom arrived, escaping the snow-covered north. Anna was more than happy to give up her room in exchange for the attention of people who genuinely wanted to play with her. We had Lucy in bed with us, and Anna was sleeping in Lucy's toddler bed. All was well with the world.

Then around midnight one evening, Anna came stumbling in crying, having had a nightmare in Lucy's bed. To her, the nightmare was entirely situational. If she went back to sleeping in Lucy's bed, the nightmare would return, so she didn't want to go back there. We tried the tactic of leaving the light slightly on, flipping her pillow over to 'squash' the nightmare, everything, but nothing worked. She only wanted to sleep with us. In our Queen-sized bed, with her two year-old sister.

We've tried popping her back in Lucy's bed once she falls asleep with, but she always wakes up crying and climbs in with us. The nightmares seem to be new too. Maybe they're because she's feeling displaced, having 'lost' her room for a few weeks, or maybe, sadly, she's inherited LK's tendency to nightmares. I hope not. She's even started asking to hold my hair again - her toddler 'comfort blanket'. It's as if she's lost the ability to self-soothe.

As it is, we're all squashed together like chuffing sardines, all waking up at the slightest moan, cry, rustle, or fart. There just isn't the real estate for us all to sleep comfortably, it's like trying to fall asleep holding a yoga pose.

It has been a nightmare. I am so tired, I think I'm re-experiencing the newborn stage all over again. The other night Lucy was crying out in her sleep 'boobie, boobie' and I was so exhausted, and so reluctant to wake up that I just fished around for her hand and put it on my boob to stop her crying.

And then I realized it was actually Anna's hand I'd grabbed. Anna who was fast asleep, thankfully.

I really hope this stops when Anna gets her room back.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

You Go, Diego!

Have you ever fed an elephant?

Last week the girls and I got the chance to do just that - courtesy of my friend Chilly. It was an eleventh hour opportunity, but I managed to beg some time off work. After all, you don't pass up the chance to pet a pachyderm.

When I was growing up there was a tiny zoo in the even tinier town next to us. Knaresborough Zoo did not stay around very long, it was closed down when I was in my teens due to budget and permitting issues. I think it was woefully underfunded, more of a personal collection of animals than a zoo, and the more I remember it, the more it would have provided much fodder for the likes of 'When Animals Attack', but I didn't notice any of that as a child. What I do vividly remember was getting to touch a Burmese python on one of my trips, so when Chilly mentioned we'd get a free behind the scenes tour of the Santa Barbara Zoo, complete with elephant feeding, Channel Island fox petting and toad prodding I was all for it.

We go to the zoo a lot thanks to a Christmas gift from my Mum and Dad, but we usually try and stop Lucy from touching the animals. This was going to be fun.

Our first stop was backstage at the 'Eww' exhibit. All the creepy-crawlies and things with more legs than my car has goldfish crackers. The first animal we saw was a massive blob of a toad. Lucy piped up "I touch it!!" and the zookeeper said yes. I don't think Lucy was expecting this, because she gave a slight pause and then said "Anna touch it?!" To which Anna said not bloody likely, you touch it, so Lucy backed down and said 'I dwan noo'.

I think we may have just cured Lucy of the 'I touch its'.

While we were walking to the next 'encounter' (Channel Island Fox petting - quite how they got it into that harness we never asked), the zookeeper was describing the passing exhibits and asking questions. She asked if anyone knew the difference between an ape and a monkey. I was thinking the spelling, but we were all drawing a blank when Anna piped up "monkeys have tails and apes don't."

Obviously I need to be watching more Go Diego Go, because she was quite right, and we were all a bit flabbergasted. The Tiger Mom in me roared with approval, until the zoo tour guide said it happens all the time - it's always the under 6's who know the difference between a kinkajou and a koala - because they lap that stuff up (and watch 6 hours of TV a day - it went unsaid, but we all knew it).

The Tigger Mom in me was restored.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Like Pigs in Shit

At first I thought I'd left the soap in the bath.

When I was little my Nanna showed us how to blow giant bubbles using Imperial Leather soap and our bare hands. I've shown the girls how to do it and naturally they are fascinated. So much so that I have to keep an eye on the soap otherwise one bar will disappear in a single bathtime and they will be sitting in a milky puddle going 'what?'

Now that the girls are older I no longer have to hover like a hawk during their bath, instead I just pop in to mediate disputes and administer the shampoo. I'm never too far away of course, always keeping a ready ear out for when the laughing turns to screaming, when the floor splashing turns to a deluge, or when sisterly affection naturally turns into the infliction of pain.

I checked in on them, even though there were no signs of distress. There was the constant stream of princess role-play monologue from Anna, with occasional shouts of annoyance directed at Lucy - so I knew they were both alive. In fact, they were playing happily - the only disconcerting thing was the soup-like consistency of the water.

I asked Anna if she'd left the soap in the bath.


I asked if she'd been using the bath crayons.

"Nope" she said, "but I think Lucy might have pooped"

Turns out that is exactly what had happened - and yet there they both were, completely unfazed.


Obviously the bath rapidly became a shower in the other bathroom while I hazmated the scene like something out of Sunshine Cleaning.

I won't be taking any relaxing soaks in there for a while.

This never happened with Anna, but then again she was always a morning pooper. Like clockwork I would get her ready in the morning, drive her over to the nanny-sharing house and bingo, she would take a massive crap en route meaning I always delivered a lot more than my child at drop-off. That didn't exactly make either of us popular.

Lucy on the other hand is a night-time pooper. Her daycare people think she's constipated, her nighttime babysitters think she's the devil incarnate as she unfailingly unloads right before bedtime. Usually right after you've wrestled her in to her footed pyjamas.

We were talking about this recently, and Anna must have overheard - because when my parents were visiting at Christmas she said, quite out of the blue "I am a morning pooper, Lucy is a nighttime pooper, but Dada is a morning pooper and a nightime farter".

Children are such a blessing.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Short Shrift

For Anna's second birthday we had a party at the carousel. We invited all our friends with their children, I made sandwiches and a cake, and the kids went on the carousel til they were nauseous.

For Lucy's second we just went to the carousel.

No party, no fanfare, just a fun day out, but I have to admit I feel terrible. My second child, my recession child, is getting short shrift.

We had planned to go to Disneyland in lieu of a party. I'd taken the day off work, but it's just so ridiculously expensive, and after canvassing a lot of people we decided that taking a 2 year old would just be unfair as there would be so many rides she couldn't go on unless she was wearing platform shoes and a tall hat.

It was too late for a party, and quite frankly, Santa Barbara can get a bit mental when it comes to birthday parties. Pony rides, elaborate gift bags, hand-crafted and personalized cupcakes etc. and we were never going to go that route, but I'm starting to wonder whether she'll look back at our family photo archives and go - ahem, where are my 2nd birthday photos? I may have to photoshop her on to a Shetland pony.

To be fair, I think she had a wonderful day. We took a boat ride across the harbour, and the captain played her a birthday song. We had ice-cream on the wharf and went on the carousel. It was definitely a fun day, a family day, but not really special.

I tried making it a bit more birthday-ish and whipped up one of my patented disaster cakes. I outdid myself, even with my history. The bottom half would only deign to leave the cake pan in one-inch crumbs, so I used frosting to patch it together in to a cake-like shape and hid it all with the top layer and more icing. Plus Lucy had asked for 'bue' icing, but like a moron I forgot that creamy coloured frosting mixed with blue food dye actually turns blueish-green. A Cambridge blue, a Tiffany blue, if you're being generous. A bad bridesmaid dress aqua in all honesty. There are no pictures.

It was never going to be pretty having a birthday only two weeks after Christmas, and everyone always warns you that you don't try as hard for your second child. I knew they were right, I just didn't realize it would hit so hard so soon. Of course Lucy couldn't care less. She doesn't know that that bike she got was actually Anna's hand-me-down from the attic.

I did have the forethought to remove the 'Anna' sticker from the front of it the night before though.

She doesn't look too hard done by does she?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Swimming With The Fishes

A rare night out on the town in one of the tourist trap restaurants on the seafront. I was gazing at a huge cylinder of tropical fish, remembering how wonderful it was to snorkel in an ocean like bathwater, feeling the sun on my back whilst swimming face down following fish. Drifting with the tide, lulled by the ocean, perfect, relaxing, bliss.

Me: We need to go back to Hawaii.
LK: How long have we been married?
Me: Almost 15 years.
LK: Well, that's almost 15 years of me not going to Hawaii as often as I want.
Me: ---
LK: I'm just saying, circumstances, you know.
Me: --
LK: I'm not calling you a circumstance.

Friday, January 07, 2011


Lucy is turning two, and let me start by clarifying that I really do love her despite everything that is to follow.

I grew up with the nursery rhyme:

There was a little girl who had a little curl,
right in the middle of her forehead,

and when she was good,
she was very, very good,
and when she was bad she was horrid.

That could have been written for Lucy.

Here she is being Lucy the Good:

and here she is being Lucifer:

I swear she just woke up looking like that. Horns and all.

She is not a morning person.

When she's good, she's smiley, impish, and helpful. You can't help but love her, she is the quintessential winsome toddler. She will gaze with real concern at any of your scars and suggest you need a band-aid. She will always help you wash up and 'clean'.

She loves to sing, and she can really bust a move on the dance floor. She is always exhorting people to dance if she hears any music at all. Even a theme tune or a commercial jingle will see her strutting her stuff in front of the TV. She is desperate to join Anna's ballet class. When we drop Anna off Lucy will scream with frustration and rage (always fun). Quite why Lucy is not allowed to join in until age 3 *sigh* is beyond me, since all Anna seems to have learned at her present ballet class is a rather fetching sideways gallop. On one occasion towards the end of last year Luce and I arrived a little early to pick Anna up. We caught the end of some truly spectacular group sideways galloping, and then each girl was given a handkerchief to 'free dance' with. Lucy was already squirming and howling at this point, but before I could run away, the teacher handed Lucy a scarf and suggested she join in for the last dance. She was beside herself, tear-streaked and snot-nosed she out-balleted them all, twirling and prancing her little diapered butt off.

She got her way, and was happy. And that's Lucy in a nutshell really. Strong sense of self, willful, driven, however you want to put it, she is stubborn as hell and it's not pretty when life doesn't capitulate - as it very often doesn't when you're two and want chocolate for breakfast.

She has comical tantrums, looking at us in disbelief when we veto scaling the cupboards for treats. She will scream with rage, race off to a suitable piece of open floorspace, and then throw herself theatrically down. That's when you've got off lightly. Usually she chooses to grind you down by repeating the same phrase over and over and over and over, hoping to wear you down by attrition. It's annoying enough when you know the thing she's after (tandy = candy), but it's really hard when she starts yelling Dammit! Dammit! Dammit! Dammit! at you at 7:06am.

Turns out that Dammit = Gromit from Wallace and Gromit, and she would quite like to see that movie now, if you would be so kind.

She is quite a talker, stringing sentences together a lot faster than her sister ever did. Unlike Anna though, her vocabulary is not quite so extensive, and she finds it hard to pronounce words. She can't say a hard 'c' or 'k' sound, so wake up becomes 'wape up' and ice cream is ice peam.

She's doing the same inverse grammar thing that Anna did, so if she offers 'I hold you' or 'I read it', she's not volunteering, that's merely what she would like you to say to her. So woe betide the person who sits waiting for Lucy to read them Dora as that book will come flying at you in rage when you fail to start reading.

Her favourite book has been a Dora Halloween lift-the-flap for quite a while, although she's intrigued by all pop-ups and lift-the-flap books. The Dora Halloween book is packed full of hidden ghosts, so I think she naturally expects to find them in real life too. It's quite disconcerting when you walk into an empty room and Lucy turns to you to say 'ghost' in a knowing kind of way.

Or maybe she's like that boy in the Sixth Sense.

I really hope not. I can't imagine why anyone would want to haunt this 1978 stuccoed gem.

Lucy is a natural athlete. LK is quietly hopeful for another tennis star in the family. She has an arm like an outfielder, and the hand-eye coordination of a champion whack-a-moler. She is obsessed with balls, not a nice thing to say about your daughter, but it's true. She is also loves playing 'tennis' with a balloon, she could do that for hours. Want to come over and play? Please? My arm's getting tired. She is a tomboy, a runner, a climber, a sports fan.

She doesn't care what you think. We used to be able to stop Anna in her tracks with just the slightest stern tone. Lucy doesn't pick up on that, mainly because she's already a speck in the distance. She is fast. She is a woman on a mission. When she's become one with the curvature of the horizon, she may look back to see if she can still see you. If she catches you watching her, she'll take off running again. Oh how fun.

I know what you're thinking. 13-18yrs of age are going to be just a dream aren't they? Despite everything though, I love Lucy.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Life's a Beach

Happy New Year! I know I won't be the only one glad to see the back of 2010.

At this point I usually do a little round-up of the past year, but, having just spent a few days revisiting it all, I don't think I'll make you suffer through it. Last year in brief reads like a whiny collection of disasters. I sound bitter and frustrated, and however cathartic it is to write things like 'f&*$ you Santa Barbara' it doesn't really make good reading.

Instead I will take the advice of a friend of mine and celebrate the fact that against all odds, we're still here. What are the chances.

It's got to get better, right?

Well, actually no, but 2011 will definitely be a turning-point. It's going to be interesting.

The girls on the other hand are a constant source of amusement. As my Mum said "well, that was a bit of an adventure". She was describing a walk on the beach. We set off for a lovely New Years Eve walk, the double stroller piled high with pillow pets, blankets, snacks, drinks etc. We didn't look so much like a family out for an afternoon, more like we were fleeing an insurrection. If you have any knowledge of spending time with under 5s though, you'll know how critical that stuff is. Here is a picture of Lucy when we got down the 7,200 steps to the beach:

Being Lucy, having arrived at the beach, she wanted to go back up the stairs. She is a bit of a contrarion that girl. After successfully persuading her on the delights of a really low tide, she raced into a tidepool. Fully clothed.

Here she is minus her sodden shoes and tights. And Anna's outfit? Her dress sense is on a strictly don't ask don't tell basis these days.

She looks like Frank Sinatra in the 1940s with her skirt pulled up to her nipples.

Anyhoo. So Lucy got wet feet, but, undeterred she then raced headlong into yet another, even deeper tidepool, discovered that forward momentum causes problems when your feet are going slower than your head, and promptly swan-dived.

I don't know what it is about Lucy and complete submersion in 3 inches of water. She is obviously intent on mastering it.

Fortunately we had packed for such things, ish, and within minutes she was stripped and bundled in blankets and my Dad's sweatshirt:

Apparently feeling like her sister was getting too much attention, Anna was soon center stage. Do you notice that unicorn she's clutching in her hand?

Well, moments after we'd got Lucy bundled up, a rather hyper dalmation mix made a bee-line for Anna, grabbed 'Mystic' from her hand and made off down the beach with it.

The fact that we were traveling with two unicorns (Mystic and a unicorn pillow pet) may give you some idea of how much Anna loves unicorns. She will not be parted from them. Unless of course she is parted with them, and then her eyes get as wide as saucers and you can literally see her heart stop beating.

It was a mad few minutes of chasing that bloody dog up and down the beach while his owner (who had ski poles??) tried to get him to obey commands. With about as much success as I have with Lucy.

We finally did get Mystic back, at which point Lucy decided she'd had enough of wanting to be cozy in the stroller, that was much too restrictive, especially when everyone looked to be having so much fun chasing that doggy. She decided she'd much rather brave the 50ยบ and dropping ocean breeze in only a diaper. So this happened.

Well, that was an adventure!!