Friday, June 22, 2012

Here's How Thankful I Am

Do your kids write thank you letters? I know it's the bugbear of every child and every party, yet it is nice to acknowledge that that thoughtfully wrapped gift didn't just disappear in to the void. If my Aunty can get a gift to Anna from Switzerland, then we can get a thank you to her as well. At some point...

When Anna was little I used to transcribe emails from her, asking carefully staged questions like "Dear Aunty X, thank you for the Y, the thing I liked most about it was....."

It was always funny to see how she saw fit to fill in the blanks. Sometimes I edited. When you see what happened below, you'll know why...

Anna is now at the age where she can put pen to paper herself, and as long as we just do one thank you letter a day she doesn't get overwhelmed. She sits at the table, and I sit across on the couch and shout out requested spellings. The other day she had taken a break from writing her magnum opus "The Spooky Old Pickle" and she was writing a thank you note to her friend H.  There she is above, deep in concentration. H's Mum was kind enough to get Anna a gorgeous swimming costume and the first two books in a horse series - something obviously very dear to Anna's heart.

This is what she wrote:

Dear H. 

Thank you for the swim suit and horse books. I wear the swim suit to camp every day. I love the horse books and have read them both. Tell your Mom to go get me the other ones.

Love, Anna

You can lead a horse to water.......

Fortunately Robin is a good friend and has a good sense of humour, because hell yes I sent it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Now We Are Seven

A tiger Mum makes every waking moment a learning opportunity. If you want to have a birthday, then you have to make your own invitations.
Yes, that is how we spell Saturday in California.
After hosting a birthday party for one of my girls, it's always me that feels like I've aged a year not them.

Birthday parties are hard work.

This year Anna did me a huge favour by requesting a bowling party birthday. She'd gone to one earlier in the year and it's all she's thought about since. This was one of those parties where you pay a set amount per child, you get a party room and an attendant, and you actually get to sit back and enjoy the fun. I may have only thrown a few birthday parties since becoming a Mum, but I do know that the ones that are the most enjoyable are where there's

a: no house cleaning,
b: an attendant,
c: the mind-numbing effects of alcohol
or d: all of the above.

Bowling may not seem like a no-brainer for a seven girls aged between 3 and 10, but it was a blast.

How does a 3 year old bowl?

With the help of an alligator of course.....

Pity me at your peril, fools. This gator and I are going to dominate....
If it wasn't for her penchant for 1960s pink satin birthday dresses, this girl would be packing up and moving to Milwaukee to drink PBR and bowl every night.
Clearly having quite a lot of fun.
Then it was time for cake, presents and a sack of tokens each for the arcade. I may have nicked a few tokens from the more gullible children to have a go at the wheel of fortune, but as has been proved many times, I am not the fortunate one. I won four (4) tickets. My oldest daughter.....798 tickets.

Hitting the jackpot on her 7th birthday. You can't write this stuff......

She traded all those tickets in for 700lbs of candy, and she has not stopped bouncing since.

How much did all this cost? Well, according to the bill it was eleventy hundred dollars priceless.

And that was just LK's bar tab. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathers Day

LK caught in the act of fathering his children.

Wait....that didn't sound right did it?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Disneyland in Pictures

The faces tell it all.....which is a good job, because apparently when I take a camera to Disneyland, all I take is close-ups of my family. We could have been anywhere. Anywhere selling ridiculously overpriced stuffed animals.

Their faces never lost this expression for 12 hours.
Oh lollipop. How I love you.

Those bubbles were terrifying.

It's takes a real man to carry this around for 8 hours.

I have never seen Lucy 'coy' before, until she met a real live princess. Personally I thought Sleeping Beauty was a bit saccharine, and Anna's dress is the one that kicks ass.
Am I the only one that gets Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella mixed up? 
No, they don't serve booze to the general public at Disneyland, so we had to refuel at the Rainforest Cafe. This  Coronarita, for the record, was INSANELY good. Or maybe we were just ready.

Poor Lucy getting a bit squashed here.

Yes that is a baby pegasus.

$200 to enter the park - and only because we 'pretended' Lucy was still 2.

$700 in plush toys.

Monday, June 11, 2012


I'm terrible at keeping secrets, which is why the fact that we're planning on heading down to Disneyland this morning for Anna's 7th birthday is killing me. Fortunately it's a very last minute decision otherwise we would have given the game away days ago. Even LK almost blew it last night by saying 'which car do you think we should take tomorrow, the red one gets better gas mileage' quickly covered with 'but either will do on that short trip to school!'

Nice save LK. Swift.

We'd offered Anna the choice of Disneyland or a party for her big day. I think she chose a party because of the opportunity for extra presents, so she elected to go bowling, which my iphone insists on translating to 'boweling'. Nothing says happy birthday like an invitation to bowel with a bunch of small children. I was quite glad at the time, because Disneyland in June - on the week that most schools finish for the summer didn't sound like my idea of fun. But, due to a too-good-to-be-true break in LK's schedule, we're now heading down to LA to join the rest of Southern California in that Pirates of the Caribbean queue. Sorry, line.

This time of year is birthday-tastic in the Aliblahblah household. It has been non-stop.  LK's was a real winner this year. He's always hard to buy for, because what he really wants is either a Honda S2000, a fully loaded camper van, or gin. Nothing price-wise in the middle. That's why I was chuffed to bits to find a groupon for glass-blowing, something he used to do many years ago in college. Not quite a gift with paperwork from the DMV, but fun and a little different - plus we now have four beautiful pieces of glass  just itching for the girls to break them:

Still, I wanted to make him feel special on his birthday, particularly as he was going to be putting in a looooong day at work. I woke up very early and on a whim decided to sneak out of the house and go and get him surprise early morning bagels and coffee.
What a nice wife.

Of course, it would have been more helpful if I'd switched off my 6:30am alarm before I snuck out of the door. When I returned twenty minutes later, bagels in hand, LK was sitting blearily at the computer having had a rude awakening AND found his wife had mysteriously left him in the middle of the night.

He never said whether that was a good or a bad thing.

It was only later that day that I remembered another surprise birthday present I'd planned to get him. A big berry manzanita bush, a junior version of one we both think is beautiful at the local Botanic garden. I'd popped up there a few days before his birthday to pick one up. I also managed to sneak in a quick photo op - because our botanic garden is too beautiful not to share.

So, midway through his actual birthday I suddenly remember the manzanita hiding outside on our bedroom balcony. I immediately called LK to let him know he was such a lucky bloke there was yet another surprise present waiting for him at home.

"I know" he said "I watered it yesterday".

Big Berry Manzanita

So, not exactly a genius when it comes to surprise birthdays. I bet you can't wait to find out how the girls responded to their Disneyland surprise. Any guesses?

Monday, June 04, 2012

Sitting Pretty

Watching all my fellow Brits braving the downpour at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee was a good reminder of how we take weather for granted over here. Want to play tennis outside a week next Thursday? No problem. Planning an outdoor party, a night in a roofless tent or a two hour run? The weather won't ruin it - because it's not going to rain until at least October.

But before you start thinking it's all daily margaritas by the pool over here, consider the downside to so much sunshine.

I know this may be hard to take if your four day Jubilee weekend now has a severe case of rising damp - but there are real difficulties with living in a warm climate. I'm sure you can agree that having to apply thick gloopy sunscreen to two small children several times a day is no picnic, but the real challenge is maintaining that perfect pedicure. I know. Hard times.

Every second shop in Santa Barbara is a pedicure place. Everyone (and I'm including a lot of metrosexual men here) get a pedicure at least every couple of weeks. Open toed shoes are part of the Santa Barbara lifestyle. Several of my co-workers wear flip-flops daily. Having nude toenails means you're just not trying hard enough. You're practically letting yourself go, and the California lifestyle is less about fun in the sun as it is about relentless self-improvement. You will be judged for your barren toes, so you'd better be a triathlete or a hippy to wear flip flops with bare nails.

-- Interesting aside -- my Aunty used to be a nurse and when she was in training in the 1960s they told her if a woman came in to the hospital with painted toenails they would ALWAYS test her for syphilis. How times change --

In an effort to prove I was syphilis free training for my run meant that for over six months I remained without a pedicure. They advise you to buy brand new shoes when running, for the sake of your knees. LK bought me a brand spanking new pair of Sauconys - but I'm not sure I exactly broke them as much as they broke me in. I had developed a perfect road-map of callouses on my feet. I nurtured them, knowing that each callous meant one less blister on my next run. A pedicure was out of the question.

It was inevitable - the way to celebrate finishing my half marathon was to go and get a pedicure, and I took Anna with me. It was a big treat. She's had her nails done once before, with a group of tiny ladies for her sixth birthday party nearly one full year ago. Leaving her twelve months between pedicures meant that Anna had come up with an elaborate and much mulled-over pedicure plan. She presented the poor Korean lady with four nail polishes - she wanted red and turquoise on alternate toes, each with a different glitter top coat. I could sense a big tip was in order, and that June, our pedicurist thought I had more money than sense (only wrong because I don't have any money either).

I chose to go for a very deep navy colour, that the elderly lady next to me seemed fascinated with. There I was sitting next to my six year old who was getting multi-coloured alternate nails, but no, she was fascinated by my Boots #7 Navy polish. "Well" she said "that's bold, where did you find that colour, it's very.......impressive". Impressive? Not a word I'd usually associate with toenails, but then, maybe I've actually achieved self-betterment through toenail polish. The American dream.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Widow Maker

Can you see how lethal this thing is? Can you spot the hidden danger?

I know, the idea of a bike trailer always made me nervous. I'm not the best on a bike to begin with:

Only I can make a quiet bike ride and a tree into an 'extreme sport'.
LK was adamant though. When the girls were small, he wanted us to be able to go on family bike rides down to the beach, and he would tow them in the bike trailer.

I thought it would be a bit like those mothers you see with pushchairs thoughtlessly flinging their children out in to moving traffic before they'd even stepped off the curb. I thought cars wouldn't see the trailer, that my two tiny daughters would be hurtling along in an aluminium and canvas frame below eye-level of even the tiniest European car.

I was wrong. The bike trailer worked a treat and no-one hit us. Unfortunately the girls HATED it. Strapping the two of them together in such close proximity to each other, both wearing over-sized mushroom-like helmets was a disaster. I've searched our photo library looking for a photo of the two of them in it - but it doesn't exist because there was never a point where one or both of them wasn't screaming.

So the bike trailer sat unused by the side of our house. Until I decided it was more than time that we sold it in a garage sale.

Who would have thought that would be the dangerous part of the whole exercise?

Look who had made a comfy new home in our bike trailer:

A massive black widow spider.


Preventing my curious, scientifically-minded 6 year old from 'taking a closer look' was hard. Persuading them both to go inside while I - no spider-lover myself - disposed of it was another thing. Taking the time to get a photo, convinced it was going to lunge at any minute (they do not really lunge - or do they??) was testament to how badly I need blog content dear readers.

Eventually I 'guided' it with a trowel in to a huge jug of water (to slow it down and/or drown it). Keeping my eye on it, doing the front crawl around its watery prison, I carried it as far away from our house as possible.

I know they're everywhere over here, but to think one had been living where we were strapping our kids down (albeit a few years ago) just gives me the willies.