Thursday, October 28, 2010

Remember us?

Oh it's been another very long time since I wrote. For lots of reasons, starting with my ex-company changing their mind about supporting my move to the UK to my having to find a new job and then getting ridiculously busy with getting ready for the move and then dealing with the aftermath on the other side I just haven't felt much like doing this. But then I heard that Nonna was demanding an update so here it is.

We've been back nearly 2 months now, and aside from the fact that we're STILL camping out in our own house while customs take their sweet time picking through our container we're pretty much settled back to life in the UK. We're getting towards the end of Autumn and when the sun is shining we're reminded of what a beautiful country we live in, lots of green and trees turning red, yellow & gold. I'm back to driving a little car with gears and finding how much I love driving again as I zip around town and through the English countryside listening to Radio 2 (I'm officially middle-aged according to The Telegraph) and thoroughly enjoying life. The stress of corporate America has been lifted - no more politics and the nasty corporate games that management play with their staff and no whispering about who will be next on the chopping block. I've landed a consulting job with a great bunch of intelligent, kind and considerate people that allows me so far to mainly work from home save the odd swanning into Richmond or pootle up to Marlow - well OK the swanning to Richmond involves a 2 minute train change at Clapham Junction, Europe's busiest train station as it so proudly boasts, but once you're in Richmond it's lovely.

Of course what you want to know is how's Leah doing? After a rocky start to nursery (not daycare anymore) where she cried nearly every day when we dropped her off she's got a lot better, she still hesitates when we drop her off there but she soon settles down and is busy all day. Without fail she's delighted to see us and always shouts 'I had a good day at school' within 2 seconds of our seeing her - so much so we've started to wonder if her teachers prime her for it at 5.15 every day. We've seen some interesting side-effects to joining nursery, sometimes it's the toys she snatches away from us, the way she shouts 'No!' and 'Go Away!' when she just wants to be left to do her own thing uninterrupted. She's also gone through a fear of giants that had us checking kitchen cupboards every night, as well as some interesting philosophical conversations 'Mummy, spiders aren't scary are they?'. What's been particularly entertaining the last few days is the absolute nonsense she thinks she can get away with telling us. Tonight I got 'Mummy, I ate a frog today at school' and 'there was a giant at school today, he sleeps in the net in the corner'. We also heard about Archie who told Leah off yesterday for not sleeping, and today it was poor Linda's turn as Leah told us 'I don't like Linda Mummy'. After a few questions it turns out Linda is one of the teachers who had told Leah not to climb up on the table.

Leah's also become fascinated by the weather (she is British after all), in particular whether there's going to be a storm with thunder and lightning and each day swings from 'I don't like storms' to 'I like storms' although she'll also say 'I've never seen a storm' so who knows. I'm betting anything that the minute we do have some thunder she's going to announce that she doesn't like it although I really hope that I'm wrong. The early evening darkness is also confusing her and she seems to think that darkness = time to watch telly mama although again, I'm pretty sure that if I followed that logic with = time for bedtime it wouldn't go down too well.

We've had a great time catching up with old friends and it's been lovely to just hang out with them as every time we'd seen them over the last 4 years that dreadful feeling of 'this is it for another year so make the most of it' would be hanging over our heads, so the simple things like taking our kids to the park, an impromptu brunch or a meet up at the local swimming pool has been very sweet for having not done it for so long. One of the biggest pleasures has been seeing Leah with my best friends daughter, last time they met (and actually the first time they met) was over a year ago, Leah was just 1 and Julie was nearly 2 and they were worlds apart, now the 9 months difference isn't such a big gap and from Julie's first visit where Leah rushed her upstairs to show off her room which was shortly followed by intermittent loud bangs on the ceiling as Julie taught her to jump off the bed, they've been great pals. We took them swimming together, both in their armbands, both turning blue because we were stuck in the cold adult pool, but then both wrapped up in their towels eating bananas afterwards and holding hands while finally dressed (of course both mothers still shivering in towels).

We're enjoying fish and chips, pub lunches, watching Leah splash in puddles by the river, wrapping up warm but eating ice cream, feeding the ducks (and the aggressive swans) BBC Breakfast, Chris Hollins (Ruth), Kate Humble (Paul) and we've replaced the insane Tea Party with the loony Tories (although more frighteningly this lot are running the country). But we're grateful for iTunes so that we can watch Glee & Parenthood and of course for FB so that we can keep up with our greatly missed US, and US-based, friends.

I won't promise to post another update soon, you wouldn't believe me anyway.....

Da Family

P.S I know I haven't really mentioned him, but Paul's doing well too!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cupcakes and friends

Our beautiful bean - the little blip on the screen in late 2007 - is now 2 whole years old. We celebrated on a beautiful sunny San Francisco day with cupcakes, bagels, croissants in Golden Gate Park with two of Leah's pals; Ellie and Ruby and their parents. After three cupcakes Leah was able to chase down every single bird within a mile radius and only stopped running when we strapped her into her car seat to take her home. Following a couple of hours of playing with her new toys - in particular her Thomas the Tank Engine wooden railway set which was gender-balanced with her pink tea-set it was time for a nap. We think she may have been dreaming about those trains because she was up very quickly and back downstairs to continue playing. We managed to pull her away for pizza and pasta at Amici's followed by running riot at Borders Books our indoor / outdoor playground.

A very simple but in many ways perfect day.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The latest obsession

We've been living with the Thomas / Toby / Rosie / Percy obsession for quite some time now but these last few days have seen a disturbing, and definitely nerdy extension to this obsession. We're accustomed to bringing home books on trains from the library and just recently Leah's been very taken with the railroad (railway) crossing signal.

'What's dat?' she shouted last night in bed pointing at the book and then looking up at me expectantly. I explain that it's a railroad crossing and that it's to stop the cars from crossing the road when the train goes by. 'Ray-road cwossin?' she repeats. 'Yes Leah, a railroad crossing.' To help her understanding I used my arms to mimic the barriers coming down while 'ding ding dinging' for added effect, then used Rosie to demonstrate the train going by and then 'ding ding dinged' as the barriers / my arms came back up. Leah was rapt!! 'Gain, gain' she yelled absolutely delighted...10 MORE TIMES!!! By the end of it Leah was raising her arms up and down and dinging and 'Rosie go by' and clearly having a whale of a time.

I managed, with a huge amount of protesting, to extract myself from her room and hoped that she'd think no more about it but of course first thing this morning she wanted me to continue with the demonstrations. Enter You Tube. What a fantastic invention. Within seconds I'd found a video that perfectly illustrated what we'd been discussing complete with 'Thomas' - she could not have been happier.

So ladies and gentlemen, I bring you Strasburg Railroad - #475 and #90:

For a special treat, click on 2GUNBOY's comments under the video to learn more about the type of signal lights that are used at this particular crossing.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Reliving the pre-baby days

I'm going to skip over the fact that it's been 2.5 months since my last blog post and jump straight in as if nothing were amiss.

There, you didn't notice a thing did you?

Today was Paul's birthday. For the last goodness knows how long he has tended to celebrate his birthday on his own and usually going to see a film that I would never go and see (Indiana Jones, James Bond, that kind of thing) and usually because I've had some work commitment or other. Well there was definitely no work commitment this time around and having had a bit of a stressful last month or so I decided to take the day off and we'd relive our former baby-free days by dropping Leah off with the nanny and going exploring. A little heartless perhaps to ship the kiddie off and celebrate without her but then she's nearly 2 and just these last couple of days has been experimenting with running-dive tantrums. After 3 tantrums and one 'naughty corner' by 7.30am this morning any regrets at ditching her were gone and I gladly waved goodbye and sped off home to collect Paul.

Possibly the headiest moment of the day occurred immediately when we realised that it would take us all of 5 minutes to get ready to go. No snacks, diapers, sippy cups, spare clothes, toy for the car, clothes-wrestling, shoe-tying, hair combing and clipping, oh crap we forgot her strollering. Just 'I've got keys, I've got the camera' and we were out.

We headed out north over the Golden Gate Bridge determined not to say 'this is the last time that.....' for the whole day. We thought it would be a nice idea to head along the 'scenic' highway 1 where there are apparently exceptional views of Mt. Tamalpais, various valleys and the Pacific coastline. I say apparently and I use 'scenic' because today the fog had come all the way down to the extent that we couldn't see anything past the side of the road so no scenery just an awful lot of twisty turny road that went uphill and downhill and in and out and round and round. After 30 minutes and nowhere near enough miles I was ready to barf. We pulled over at Stinson Beach and I desperately fought the urge to lie down flat on the cool wet sand and instead hunched over and kept very still. We attempted to enjoy the misty atmospheric scenery but a crazy guy in a Bobcat kept scooping up sand and piling it nearby, and the smell of the diesel from the engine to a nauseous girl was nearly more than I could bear. You know when you're stuck on a boat, feeling sea-sick, and you can smell the diesel of the boat engine - it was exactly like that. Blleeuurrgghhh. Luckily I tend to often feel sick but not often follow through and so it was that I managed to retain my stomach contents and head indoors for a cup of coffee and celebratory coffee cake. Incidentally if there are any knowledgeable folks out there - is American coffee cake cake that you eat while drinking coffee as opposed to cake that tastes like coffee? I've eaten countless coffee cake while being here and never tasted any coffee at all.

When I was sufficiently recovered we continued on our journey north to Point Reyes Station, momentarily considering the 42m detour to the lighthouse only to simultaneously say 'naaahh' and head up to the quiet and fairly yuppy town that is PRS. We parked the car and proceeded to pootle about as only the child-free can, popping into bookstores, gift shops, boutiques and downright weird stores without a care in the world - bliss! We picked up a t-shirt for Paul and some ridiculously expensive hand-made pasta for Leah because it had rainbow stripes in it and when enough time had elapsed since the coffee cake settled down in the sun to a relaxing lunch of burger for Paul and scrambled eggs with feta and spinach for me:
Feeling replenished and refreshed we continued on our journey north towards Bodega Bay. As Paul is such and avid film buff I was determined to show Paul the schoolhouse from The Birds even though he displayed very very little interest in seeing it. We passed through several quaint little American outposts with those little windmill things that I don't know the name of but always make me think of the Waltons, To Kill a Mockingbird and all those other stereotypes (must take a photo of one or Google it so that I can get the name). We missed our turning. Well, when I say missed what I mean is Paul discounted it as the right turning despite being designated driver and definitely not being designated navigator. But anyway we were kind of glad that we did because we got to see some fabulous coastline enshrouded in heavy mist - very Hitchcockian a la Rebecca:
I suppose this coastline could also have been used in The Birds, and I should probably now confess to not having seen The Birds despite my mother going through extraordinary lengths to track down the DVD after we visited Bodega a few years ago - sorry Mum. Anyway, I have seen Rebecca many times and this is what it reminded me of so there.

We then jumped back in the car and drove through the tall eucalyptus trees and over to the tiny town of Bodega where the church and the schoolhouse are located. I almost didn't recognise the house (not because I haven't seen the film but because it's been done up) and looks positively smart these days.
We managed to get in the way of an American family shooting a home movie with their 3 kids recreating scenes from the film with the help of a stuffed toy seagull and now two Brits trying to blend into the background and sticking out like sore thumbs. True to his actions all morning, Paul wasn't really bothered and couldn't really remember much of the film either (hmmm starting to wonder if he's seen it at this point), but we ticked the box and then set off across wine country over to the 101 and back through the city in time to pick up Leah from her nanny who had nearly had a nervous breakdown after looking after two 'horrible' nearly 2 year olds for 10 hours.

We took a huge risk, knowing that Leah had been a monster in the morning, horrible for most of the day, and clearly very tired on the way home to go ahead with the cupcake birthday cake plan and sing Daddy a Happy Birthday (Leah refusing and screeching for the cake the whole time):
Still it was a lovely day and really nice to be able to take our time and remember the two of us from the old days.

As a sign-off - a tribute to The Birds from a too short-lived British sketch show:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The joy of a conversation

Yesterday morning, once Leah had signalled her awakening with the usual, impatient 'Mama!!' I picked her up still in her sleepsack, and brought her downstairs. Still holding her on my hip I went through the usual routine; opened the fridge, took out the milk, put the milk in the bottle and the bottle in the microwave, all the while giving Leah the usual running commentary on what I was doing. However this time, when the microwave pinged, Leah said 'No milky, juicy'. So startled was I not just by the 3-word sentence but more by my daughter clearly articulating what she wanted without the use of gestures and grunts, I grabbed the nearest sippy cup to hand and passed it to her. Leah took a quick slurp then said 'No water Mummy, juicy!' Who cares about whether grape and peach juice is an adequate substitute for milk first thing in the morning - my daughter was communicating clearly and asking for what she wanted, I would've given her a sippy cup full of Coke if she'd asked for it.

Of course it made me wonder how often has she wanted something other than milk first thing in the morning :)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ode to SF Public Library

I'm sure this moment has happened to nearly everyone who is a lover of books and recently it happened to me, a little late in my life it's true, but of course better late than never.  I've fallen in love with the public library system.

When we moved to our new apartment we realised, with some interest, that there is a branch of SF public library right on the corner of our street, a mere 60 seconds walk away (if you don't get distracted by the multitude of toddlers, babies and dogs and of course Philz coffee between our place and there).  We thought that it might be worth seeing if there was a toddler story time at a convenient time for us but were far more interested in the huge Borders book shop that is a 2-3 minute walk from our place.  How short-sighted we were!

Yes there's a toddler story time, and once you get passed your British squeamishness for 25 minutes worth of song singing and a mere 5 minutes of story telling it's a really lovely set up.  All the parents and toddlers are in a brand spanking new room, removed by a outdoor terrace from the hush of the main library.  The toddlers have little mats to sit on on the floor while parents can sit with them or up on chairs and the person who leads the group is bright, shiny and enthusiastic without making you want to stick your fingers down your throat.  We go whenever we can on a Friday evening and Leah alternates between quiet acceptance, bolting for the door and actually quite enjoying herself (today she actually quite enjoyed herself - probably because she had a little friend to show off to). 

Our library is one of around 25 libraries in the SF system (although several are closed for renovations).  Our library is not yet 4 years old, it's small but it's pristine, it's nestled between the wonderful Philz, and a little 'creek' with pedestrian walkway where Leah can run pell-mell without fear of bolting into traffic (rare in the city believe me) with the added bonus of spotting the occasional seal or pelican. You can also see at least 2 or 3 'choo-choos' on a ten minute jaunt along said walkway and if you go just one block along you get to see the Giants baseball stadium in all its glory:
(not my photos)

But none of this is why I love the library.  Here's why I love the library:

I can sit at home, log into my online SFPL account, search for a book across the 20+ libraries in the system and if I find the book I can request it be delivered to my little branch.  I get an email telling me when the book has arrived and I can stroll over there in seconds where the book sits on a shelf with my name on it and pick it up.  I can go to the self-checkout-scanner thing, scan my card and the book and walk out.  I can then read it and return it, or I can renew it online several times if it's taking me longer to finish - which if I took advantage of my full 50 book limit I would no doubt need.  When I'm finished, I stroll back over, pop it in the deposit box in the wall, and stroll home.

And it's free!!! Absolutely free!!!

My last couple of requests were at my library within 2 days.  Beat that Amazon!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

My very active weekend

Just popping in to share some photos from my so far very active weekend. Yesterday I met up with my pal Ruby for our first ever Soccer Tots class. I've been practicing like crazy at home and Izabela has been taking me to play with some other kids so I was raring to go. This is me getting a bit of a warm up before the class started:

My dad reckons Ronaldo's got something to worry about but I prefer to think of myself as more like a mini-Giggsy although dad says Wales has to be third on my list of countries to play for. It was all pretty exciting, we got to dribble, score goals, stack cones and hit Erika with pool noodles (not quite sure what that had to do with football but figured I'd give it a go anyway). Here's me and Ruby in our smashing t-shirts during our 'water break'.
Do you like our new shoes? Very cute aren't we?

Today we both got taken to a gymnastics class in the Presidio. I waited patiently while mum and dad ate their breakfast in the car parked opposite the Golden Gate Bridge like a couple of old people and then got to join Ruby in this huge gym that was full of soft and bouncy things to climb over, under and through. It was fantastic!

Here's me crawling through a tunnel of lions doing my best ROOAAARRR face:
and ever since I got to have a go at hanging from a trapeze a few months ago I really enjoy hanging off things; usually it's the climbing frame in the playground but I particularly like the dining table at home and at Kylie's which freaks mum and dad out a lot. Here's me on the hoops:
Pretty impressive huh? We got to throw ourselves all over the place for 45 minutes while our parents hovered around us as always. Strangely enough all four of them were complaining about being tired afterwards when they didn't even do anything - apparently looking after us can be pretty exhausting. Ha! I wonder what they have planned for us tomorrow...