Monday, December 24, 2012

So this is Christmas

There are years, and this is one, when you are just not really ready for it to come around again. But when you have a house full of excited, precious and yes, really very good children, you just have to pull it off properly.

The last door on the advent calendar is open. A snowman. "I knew it would be a snowman, mummy", Geekygirl told me at 6am this morning, completely confident that I would want to be woken to hear the news of what was behind the last little cardboard door.

"you see there wasn't a snowman yet, and there was bound to be one, so the last door had to be a snowman." She seemed satisfied that order had been established in the universe.

The cookies are baked (thanks Betty Crocker for your mix, and Vons for your neon food coloring and gold sprinkles. New years resolution to drive the extra 10 minutes to the organic store is firmly in place, but for now we will enjoy our radioactive sparkly treats). The Christmas cake is also baked, and that actually was an effort in organic cooking. The assembly of the ingredients alone involved dragging the kids around half the markets in san diego, and the collateral purchasing damage of the trip included skating reindeer tree ornaments, a tray of holiday cupcakes, wooden nutcracker characters, and two giant Mylar holiday balloons.

Half of the cake has been safely dispatched to England in lieu of our presence around the Christmas table, and it did turn out quite nicely, I have to say, thanks to mum's advice to soak the dried cherries I had to buy to replace the glacé. A frustration of American living is the inability to find proper ingredients for Christmas cake.

There are 9 (who taught these kids to count?!) carrots to be eaten - or possibly returned to the fridge- along with both a pink sparkly snowman cookie, a slice of the cake, and an innocuous glass of american milk rather than the traditional sherry, sitting by the quite enormous and fabulously eclectically decorated douglas fir, the biggest we could fit in the new house

Stockings are hung. And we have assured the kids that yes, Santa knows we are now living in San Diego.

Over the past two days we have watched both "the polar express" and "Santa paws", both of which reduced me to tears but got us all firmly believing in Christmas, and have settled upon Piers Brosnan as Bond in 'tomorrow never dies' for our Christmas eve movie.

Just as we were finishing up stories, geekygirl lost a tooth, too. So tonight will be pretty magical down here in San Diego.

Merry Christmas to anyone still reading!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Life's a beach

Not everyone loves the beach. We all do in theory and in pictures. What is more soothing, what gives a more powerful sense of longing, a sense that if only you could just be there the world would make sense, than a photograph of a pristine beach? In reality the beach is unpredictable, there might be miles of smelly seaweed, rough water, a jellyfish bloom. It is very sandy in reality, and that sand scrapes between your feet and your sandals as your walk home,  and more importantly those of your sensitive, whiny kids, meaning that they end up walking barefoot on the sidewalk and you endure glances from passers by who look at the barefooted children and assume lackadaisical parenting choices or extreme poverty. The sand gets in your car and your carpets, lugged home on rock collections and poorly shaken towels.

I don't mind though. I rather like that my house is covered in a thin layer of fine silver pacific beach and that occasionally I feel it gritting between my teeth. That my car has an aura of being perpetually on holiday, with damp towels in the trunk, sand on the carpets and shells in the cupholders, makes me smile as I drive errands and go work. I commute past the beach every day, even though it takes five minutes longer than the freeway option.

I've been here in San Diego for three months now. I still haven't sorted out any weekend enrichment activities for the kids. They need gymnastics classes and swimming lessons. I dream of piano and dance classes. But have yet to get further than a few stolen moments of googling such opportunities during my work day. Instead, when the weekend rolls around, we invariably just pack up some towels, some snacks, put on our favourite swimsuits and head down to the nearest shore. Guilt at my parental laziness aside, I would challenge anyone to argue that this isn't enriching for everyone.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Del Mar Days

It seems fitting that today, as I scrubbed off the remains of my Maui pedicure, I noticed a trace of black creeping up the nail on the toe I stubbed while climbing the rock pools with Geekyboy. I'm painting my own toenails, for the first time in a long time. Half arsed home pedicure a badge of my self imposed single parenthood, now that I don't have the ability to just pop out and get my nails done on the weekend.

I knew that it would be hard, taking on essentially full responsibility for the children. I just hadn't realized which bits of it would be the toughest. The practicality, the keeping the house tidy and the kids organized hasn't been too bad. I have a new homebodiness about our little place, I'm quite proud of how I've put together the rather shabby little rental house here in Del Mar. I may have used an excess of teal in the decor (who doesn't love teal, there are so many pretty shades and it's so San Diego with its essence of ocean?!), but the organization systems I restarted our lives with, involving multiples of labeled sterilite containers, gives cleaning up such a satisfying feeling of returning order to the universe that I do it quite often with something close to pleasure.

The emotional part of lone parenting is the hard part. Geekygirl especially is testing my limits. I know, intellectually, that she is anxious and worried. She isn't a kid who does well with change. She is able to tell me this sometimes, but more often she slips imperceptibly from regular defiance into a raging tantrum more appropriate for a three year old, and I struggle to bring her back to the world without being kicked or bitten. In the past two weeks I have physically carried her into school and left her screaming in the principal's office (because the only pair of leggings deemed acceptable for school were not dry - I miss school uniform!), and at bedtime have had to have her in time outs where she sat and screamed "mommy you are killing me" so loudly I expected the police to show up at the door.

Weekends are long. Today the mood started out badly; the roku player wasn't working so I didn't get my extra hour in bed while the kids watched "Pinky Dinky doo". It looked up as they joyfully tucked into the promised weekend breakfast of chocolate chip waffles with chocolate syrup (though the diabetes researcher in me cringes at how far I have fallen), and it hummed along happily as we tackled the promised activity of the day, painting ceramics at one of those "paint your own stuff" places in the mall, but then it crumbled dramatically when none of the restaurants we tried served anything acceptable for lunch and I refused to take the kids to the swimming pool (we went the day before). I carried my howling 45lb six year old across the parking lot in 80 degree heat as she bit down on my shoulder like a miniature vampire.

In full fury still when we returned home, she proceeded to tear her bedroom apart, upending every carefully labelled bin of stuff all over the bedroom floor.

Then we put it all back into place together, as she calmed down, and eventually came to me with a proper apology. Well almost a proper apology. It was followed by a request to go out for dinner "I'll even try something new, mummy" she promised. I wasn't sure whether it was the best parenting decision to agree to this after the appalling behaviour of most of the day, but I was tired of crappy food. Decisions like this are now mine alone to mess up, so I drove the kids to fancy downtown Del Mar, to a nice Italian place with an ocean view, where we had a lovely meal. The kids were buzzing after the gelato so we quite spontaneously decided to walk down to the beach. We found a free concert going on, a scene of families dancing and picnicking along to classic rock against a backdrop of surfers and beach volleyball.

Moments like this evening, of watching the sun slip into the ocean, watching the children glow in the warm evening light, feeling the salty breeze sift the warm air and the sand between my toes, I can imagine that we can be happy here. I can feel, for the first time, even fortunate to have been given the opportunity to try it.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

hello goodbye i love you

I think that is what "Aloha" means.

Not content, apparently, with moving to the beachy San Diego lifestyle, the Geekyfamily are vacationing in Maui this week too. I feel like a beach junkie. The move down to San Diego was pretty tough, but I'm proud of how we handled it. We're settled-ish now. Finding a new normal and getting into a SoCal groove. I've almost got out of the habit of carrying sweaters everywhere.

Long before our world was thrown into disarray, we had spontaneously booked a family holiday to Maui. Our first proper "summer holiday" in fact, rather than a whirlwind relative visiting tour (no offense intended to lovely relatives who may be reading and whose hospitality we have much enjoyed in the past!). We debated the wisdom of going, new job for me, new expenses, more disruption. Perhaps it would be more stressful than relaxing, we wondered.

You can see from the picture that the wondering stopped as soon as we got here. I'm dreadful at just being in the world. My mind is always racing ahead or pondering back. The islands are perfect for slowing time and disconnecting from the outside stuff and reconnecting with the elements and with what's inside.

I wish I could just be in the world the way children are when at the beach. That I could run back and forth from the waves to the shore for hours, filled with purest glee, like Geekyboy can. That I could spend all morning bobbing like a cork in the ocean then all afternoon paddling around the pool until my fingers were prunier than prunes, like Geekygirl can. I did all of this today, I was almost there. But I had this blog post percolating in a corner of my mind most of the time.

I was marveling at the perfection of the day. Beaches are always wonderful, children always have fun, even when the water is chilly, the sand has scratchy pebbles, and piles of fly infested seaweed assault their nostrils, but the beaches here in Maui are beaches from dreams. The water is the clearest, sparkling, dappling blue, with flashes of silver fishies under the gently breaking waves. The beach slopes gently, no sudden drop offs that leave you suddenly out of your depth. It is bracketed with rock pools perfect for exploring. The sand is not only silky smooth underfoot, it also forms solid, satisfying castles. The weather is perfect. Warm, but not stifling, with just enough breeze and humidity to  mingle the scents of plumeria blossoms and ocean spray into an aroma uniquely Hawaii.

Thoughts flashed by as I tried to just be in the world. Chasing the children along the shallow shorebreak. "Wish I had time for a pedicure, my toenails look shabby. Why do we women have to spend so much time on ridiculous grooming? When did unmanicured toenails become embarrassing? Wish I hadn't spent so many years worrying about how I look in a bathing suit. Every year I'll look worse than the year before, so I'm going to be happy with how I appear right now. The 70 year old me will look back fondly on this 41 year old body. Forty one. I'm forty one. Midlife, give or take a year or two, I expect. If I'm lucky. How do I want to live the rest of my years?"

I once read that as parents we have become obsessed with setting our kids up for a good future, with figuring out what they should learn (Mandarin or Cantonese? Yoga or Tai Chi, Modern Dance or graphic art?), when what we can really give to them that matters is something more elusive. A happy childhood. I'm one of the lucky ones in that I really did have that myself. The beaches of my early childhood may have been those of the north east and the south west of England, beautiful, but at the time littered with crisp packets and fag ends, and so bracing that we built sand castles in our winter coats, but still they formed the foundation of happy memories.

As I watched my little pale skinned kids slowly bronzing through their factor 50, delighting in the pure sensations of sand and water, I felt satisfied that this week we really are providing them with those happy memories, burned by ultraviolet into their synapses. Like the new freckles that have sprung from the activation of the pigmention genes in their skin, something tangible about this experience will remain with them even as time marches on.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


I often feel trepidation when I see an article, like the much commented upon piece in last week's Atlantic magazine, suggesting that women can't have it all. Don't buy into it, I tell myself. Just work harder, be better organized, eat healthier, do more yoga, you can be a supermom and a rising star in the office too. But as I read through this article (its a long one but worth reading through) I felt stabs of recognition. She points out that being a full time working mum is probably too hard for most people to do. She compares us to people who work full time and also run marathons, but points out the other people don't look at us with the awe they reserve for marathon runners.

I'm not as successful yet as the author, Anne-Marie Slaughter, first woman director of policy planning at the State Department, but I do put in long hours on someone else's schedule. My weekends combine laundry, errands, grocery shopping and household tasks with wholesome fun family activities, as weekdays are tied to the office. Like the author, I have a supportive husband, particularly when it comes to taking over when I have business travel, but like I her I have come to realize that this is necessary but not sufficient. The lion's share of the sundry but critical tasks; finding summer camps, laundry, weekend classes, buying clothes, laundry, getting hair cut, making dentists appointments, laundry, keeping the social calender, buying birthday gifts, and did I say laundry?, all default to me.

The article gratified and validated me, in a way. By reading it I recognized that I am actually pretty awesome. The fact that I have more than just kept my head above water for the past six years, that I've had success at work, that the kids are strong and happy and doing well, and that I have even contributed a little to the community through the PTA and the preschool parent steering group and I have fought my figure back to its pre-baby dimensions, give or take a droop here and there, puts me in a fairly elite group of women. The fact that I am disappointed in myself that I haven't yet had time to train for a marathon or take up triathalon makes me see that perhaps I expect a little too much of myself.

It also made me feel very tired. The kids are 4 and 6. I am still working relentlessly. I plan on doing this for many more years, since I love what I do, but I'm only just starting to realize that as the children get older they actually require more, not less of me.

In preparation for this move to San Diego I have a little hiatus from the nine to five (more like eight to six) of office life. I have no actual office to go to at the moment, and though I have to keep up with email and call into the occasional meeting my main 'job' is to get us situated in our new location. Suddenly having a bit more time on my hands is disorienting. I now recognize that I've been on a treadmill for years. A smooth, steady predictable one, thanks to expertly executed routines, but one going at an unforgiving pace. Any unexpected hitches would surely have sent me flying off the back and grappling for the supports, but there haven't been too many. Now it has slowed down temporarily and I'm breathing a little easier and looking around a little more.

I've taken Geekygirl to a movie, Geekyboy to the petting zoo and myself to the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibit at the De Young. I have taken bags of old clothes to goodwill. I have brushed the dog almost every day. I still seem to spend an inordinate amount of time doing laundry.

We are starting a new life in San Diego, and I'm going to try and set the treadmill moving a little more slowly. I'm going to take afternoons off to go to the movies with the kids. I'm going to use my vacation days. I'm going to hire a nanny/household helper so that I don't have to do laundry all weekend. I'm only forty one. I have long career stretching ahead, there will be a lot I can achieve in the next fifteen to twenty years, but at the moment I have two amazing little kids, and we will be living in one of the most child friendly and beautiful spots in the world. Season passes for legoland and sea world, here we come! And just perhaps a triathalon training program too.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Entropy is the measure of the number of ways a system can be arranged. A system with high entropy is one with disorder, and all systems trend towards states of high entropy. I find it reassuring to know that the natural state of the universe is chaos. It's not just my poor housekeeping.

I was thinking of entropy as I embarked this weekend upon the mammoth task of sorting out the children's toys bins. Now, I have a natty IKEA arrangement of plastic bin shelving, optimistically labeled "dolls", "vehicles", "animals" etc but in reality, whenever I clear the floor of toys, I sweep everything into random bins, so what we actually have is a state of extreme disorder. Tubs filled of pet shop animals, stuffed animals, squinkies, superheros, bits of lego, brio, playmobil, matchbox cars, dolls clothes, my little pony grooming tools, polly pocket ice cream sundaes, mardi gras beads, hair clips, plastic food, maps from the zoo, playing cards and home made valentines. To my shame I even found a melted and reformed packet of chocolate buttons lurking in one of them the other day.

Since "entropy is proportional to the natural logarithm of the number of possible microscopic configurations of the individual atoms and molecules of the system" (thanks wikipedia), I was even pondering if it might be possibly to mathematically describe the state of the children's bedroom, and identify the probability of a child being able to find (for example) the tail light of a lego safari jeep in the morass of plastic.

I know some people who manage to keep every kit in its original state, never losing even a single puzzle piece or a playmobil persons hair. A friend of mine who falls into this category even sells this cool product which can indeed do wonders for organization if you actually put your toys in it, and put one thing away before playing with another. I suspect though that anyone who has more than one child, and who, when the children are quiet and occupying themselves prefers to get on with some adult activities like blogging or lying on the couch drinking wine, often returns to a previously organized room to find that the kids have decided that all the puzzle pieces, barbie shoes and lego cubes are food for the imaginary raccoons that live in the linen closet, and have mixed all these items together in a pillowcase.

This weekend I tipped everything the kids own into a giant pile. The pile resembled those bundles of plastic flotsam floating depressingly in the ocean. I was quite horrified at how much plastic crap we own. I spent several hours categorizing everything, tossing quite a lot of things in the trash, and restoring order to chaos. Entire kits were made whole again. I even found the tail light of the lego jeep.

I realized as I sorted that our stuffed animal collection is quite out of control. The main culprit has been my frequent business travel. I got into the habit of picking up a gift every time I went away, since my trips were fairly infrequent. In recent months though, I have been going down to our San Diego office twice a month or more, and the collection of plush aquatic and zoo animals from the SAN airport shop has grown exponentially. I've alluded previously to big changes afoot in the geekyhousehold, and this reorganization is a prelude to this change. The increasingly frequent trips to San Diego were a foreshadowing. My company has closed its bay area office, and made me an offer to move to San Diego. This weekend's clean up was performed in preparation for a big move.

 Two career families are often faced with hard choices. Statistically, women more often choose to forgo opportunities that require relocation in favor of keeping families together, and this likely contributes to the stark attrition of women in the upper echelons of organizations, as mobility can be key to success. Faced with this decision myself, I can understand the dilemma.

But for many reasons, and not because I don't want to be another depressing statistic, in a few short weeks the kids and I are moving south. Since Geekydaddy's job is in the bay area he is staying up here for the time being, and will join us only on weekends. I still can't quite actually believe that I am going to leave my beloved San Francisco. I can only hope that we are not moving towards chaos and that I can continue to keep my head above water in our new environment. Wish me luck!

Sunday, May 27, 2012


We have been stable for so long. In our beloved San Francisco home in our perfect neighborhood. Spending winter and summer weekends at our place in Tahoe. Sure, jobs have changed, kids have grown, we have made new friends, but fundamentally we have been grounded for a long time now.

This year things are changing.  Really changing profoundly for the first time since I got on flight VS019 with my two suitcases and headed out from Heathrow into the unknown that was San Francisco.

Part of this change means that this weekend we are preparing our Tahoe home for sale. Last night, just like countless Friday nights past, we packed up the car, picked up burritos and headed west on I80. We arrived at the house late and I carried the sleeping children into the house. This act of lifting first Geekygirl, then Geekyboy from their car seats, carrying them into the waiting house and lowering them into their beds is one which never fails to trigger the "poignancy of the passage of time" button in me. "How did you get so big?" I think to myself every single time. The weight of each child gets greater and greater as the weekends have built into years while my arms still vividly remember both of them as featherweight babies.

Today we drove over the mountains to Reno to pick up a U-haul truck. I still remember the first time I saw the Sierra Nevada range. My English country sensibilities quite flabbergasted by the vastness, by the sheer scale of this edge of California. Today every curve of the road is familiar, the mountains still breathtaking but now part of the fabric of my world. I have watched the seasons pass over them year after year. I always think, when I coast up and down the freeway in my powerful car, of the pioneers who navigated here in horse drawn wagons. People who left everything behind in search of a new and better life. I like to imagine that I would have done that, had I been born there and then, instead of now. That I was always destined to be a Californian.

The realtor brought people to look at the house as we were filling bags and boxes for relocation, recycling and rubbish. It seems so very recent still, the day that Geekydaddy and I went house hunting with this same realtor. So many moments in our lives get lost in time, but the day we saw this place first, back in 2004, sticks brightly in my memory. We knew, the minute we walked in, that despite the walls decorated with stuffed animal heads and pelts, and the table devoted to fishing lure construction, that the place was meant to be ours. So many happy times, and a few hard ones too, if I"m being honest, have passed since then. I've been re-reading my old posts, and have linked a few Tahoe related ones here, here and here.

Mountain weather is a good analogy for life. We have desires, hopes and plans but can't rely on many of them actually coming to fruition quite the way we pictured them. Last weekend we basked on our sunny deck,  all bikinis and paddling pools, but this weekend we awoke to snow, and steady flakes have been falling all day putting pay to our desire for a farewell barbeque. Our lives are changing. We're taking a path that we didn't plan for or choose, but that nevertheless will offer opportunity.

Analogies have been filling my head. Through the whirling storm against the windshield wipers I considered the analogy of life as a snow globe. We have been given a good shake up over the last few weeks. But when a snow globe restores itself after an upending, the scene returns to where it was before. Perhaps a better analogy is a kaleidoscope. The basic components of our family and life remain the same but they are being twisted and shaken into a new form. Our life will be new, it will be different, but it will still be beautiful.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

growing up

Geekyboy doesn't want to grow up. He tells me so occasionally and quite poignantly. I think he knows that he has to eventually and that it won't be as good an experience as the here and now of being four years old. Every now and again he will sigh, look at me and say "mummy, do I have to grow up? I don't want to grow up."

I suspect this reluctance to accept the inevitable progression through life is part why we have one big hold out issue with his maturation. Ready for a confession? Geekyboy, who is almost four and a half, still asks for a pull-up to poop in. He has gone on the potty precisely once, and was not enamored of the experience. (He jumped off too soon and got a little poop on the bathroom floor). We talk a lot about him getting to be a big boy, big enough to use the toilet, or even the throne-like potty chair I got especially for him, but he always replies "But mummy, four is not a big number. It's actually quite a small number". Which is hard to argue with.

His sister talks a lot about what she might like to be when she grows up. She is proud of her new grown up teeth, of her ability to read. She loves being six and can't wait to be seven. Kindergarten was awesome and first grade will be even better. While Geekygirl ponders the relative advantages of veterinary medicine over restaurant ownership as career options, Geekyboy will state "I want to be a giraffe when I grow up", or "I want to be Mama Odie" (from 'the princess and the frog). He doesn't quite yet seem to grasp that though we do grow and change quite dramatically as we age, we can't switch species or turn into animated characters.

It was after a lovely lunch out with the kids that I got another insight into his funny little mind. We had been having a conversation about growing up, when he turned to me and said. "I don't want to be anything when I grow up. I just want to always be Geekyboy".

I realized then that the concept of growing up to be a man like his daddy is so alien and unimaginable to him that in his mind it is just as reasonable that he might one day turn into a giraffe. I explained that he would always be himself. That all adults were once little children, and all little children become adults. Boy to man is a journey wrought with challenges though, so perhaps geekyboy is wise beyond his years in wanting to slow down time. It is hard for me to imagine him grown. I can only hope that the sweetness, sensitivity and openness he has now at four survive intact as he grows into his adult personality.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Birds, bees and puppies

It was a parenting moment that I knew was going to come, but still, I was not quite expecting it. I should have been. The children have always been very interested in nature, animals and life itself. We have recently been reading a lovely book about mammals an animal and asking me to guess what it is, using various definitions of the members of the vertebrate class of life, such as "it drinks it's mother milk" "it comes from an egg", "it has scales" or "it is warm blooded". Being a biologist myself, I am delighted with their fascination and with their precocious knowledge. Though I admit to being shamefully stumped when asked if fish were warm blooded. I'm not sure. If anyone knows, please feel free to enlighten me!

So I shouldn't have been surprised really, when, over spaghetti and hot dogs, Geekyboy asked me "When will Geekydog have a puppy grow in her tummy?". I explained that since we didn't have a boy dog, she wouldn't be having any puppies. Geekygirl then asked in all innocent curiosity "Why do you need a boy dog to make puppies?"

I froze for a second. Then decided that this was a good a time as any for an explanation of the mechanics of procreation. The kids already know how babies get out, but had not shown any curiosity about they got in until now. Having one child of each sex means that they are familiar with basic anatomy at least, and the fact that I was talking about dogs made it more of a biology lesson than a personal story about what mummy and daddy get up to. It went quite well. Geekygirl's eyes widened as I explained but she accepted the concept without shock or horror. I asked her if she had any questions. Being a San Franciscan born and raised the question she came out with was "but what about kids with two mommies? How do they get a baby?". So we ended up covering sperm donation, IVF and regular sex all in one evening!

I hope this is the beginning of many conversations we have with the children about sex and relationships. Though I had all the basic information I needed about my body as I grew up, subjects like desire and sexual exploration were off limits as a dinner time conversation topic in our Catholic household. The rules were clear, we were to remain virginal until we married a nice Catholic boy, preferably after graduating college. There won't be so many external rules for our kids, but I want to instill certain values. Respect yourself. Respect others. Take responsibility for your health and your feelings, and those of your partners. Enjoy yourself while you figure it out. And know that you can come to us with absolutely any question, worry or fear that you may have.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

there goes another year

It has been a long time since I wrote anything. If you are still reading, thanks for hanging in there! Life just hit that level of busy where blogging fell off the priority list. I last posted just before the kids birthdays in February. I found myself blocked while trying to write the annual 'there goes another year ' update. Much as I love when others write endearingly of their growing children, and much as I adore my kids, I found myself unable to come out with any sincere or satisfying happy birthday posts. The fact that they turned 6 and 4 within a few days of each other and that the intervening time was filled with a business trip to Japan and China, that their fairly elaborate party was two days before I left, and that I had to generate 60 home made valentine cards for them to take to school/preschool before leaving for the trip made the week too overwhelming to write about. The fact that we survived it, and that everyone had a wonderful time has to go down in old fashioned memory, and a couple of facebook status updates, rather than in insightful prose.

What has pulled me back into writing again is that we are spending the weekend in Monterey, exactly a year from the last time we made this same trip. I'm running in a marathon relay with my co-workers (I run seven miles, not a whole marathon, I hasten to add), and brought the family down for a little mini break in this idyllic California tourist town. We are in an identical motel room, I think it is actually the room next door to the one we had last year, we ate an identical breakfast at the same Denny's restaurant (waffles. Geekygirl actually had waffles for 4 of the 6 meals we ate on the trip!) and spent another beautiful day at the aquarium. We dined at the same Mexican restaurant we went to last year with the rest of my co-workers, and again I got up at 4am to catch the bus to my relay race starting point, wondering again what on earth possessed me to sign up for this venture.

I'm not a very "in the moment" person. My head is usually recreating the past into ever rolling reinvented versions of the future. On the "Meyers Brigg", if you are familiar with that personality type tool, I'm an extreme "N', iNtuitive, living in the world of possibilities and connections, and not at all Sensing, grounded in reality and concrete things. The only time I get peace from my mind is when I run. There is something about the simple awareness of lungs, heart and muscle connecting with air and ground. Noticing the adrenaline kicking in and lifting my old joints into fluidity. Feeling the sun prickle my skin as the sweat rises. (In California. In Scotland it was the biting, icy wind). It was training for this event last year that reignited my dormant running addiction, and I feel quite satisfied that I'm going into it this year feeling strong and trained.

It was running that started me blogging. Analyzing events and retelling them to myself as stories in my head as I ran, I realized that I wanted to write them out so that I didn't lose all these moments to time.

I have used running to meditate through a lot of changes this year. Coming full circle back to Monterey in what seems like the blink of an eye has me turning them over in my mind again. Geekydaddy quit the business he was trying to start and took a new job, one that he loves but that makes huge demands on his time and mental energy. Geekygirl started Kindergarten at a wonderful, but challenging inner city school that makes demands on mine. My company merged the San Francisco office with the one in San Diego into a "one company/two locations" model, bringing with it the stress of forced change, rivalries, opportunities and the logistical issues of working with people in an office 500 miles away. I have become a regular on the Virgin America early flight from SFO to SAN, and the children now have more toys from that city's airport gift store than I had ever thought possible to buy.

The kids were delighted to be back here in Monterey. For them it is a treat, pure and simple, and they are thrilled with the novelty of a trip away from home, tinged with the familiarity of a place we have been to before, a place of happy memories. It was a weekend of simple pleasures. Time with mummy and daddy. Motel beds to jump between, jellyfish to look at, sand to play in, french fries and waffles to eat. Sure, mummy and daddy spent part of an afternoon working in the hotel room fending off dive bombing bed bouncers, but all in all it made for a lovely family weekend. I'm fascinated that the kids have both hit that age when they will form permanent memories. Forty, fifty or more years from now they will still remember this motel room in Monterey, and these trips to the amazing aquarium, much as I remember the little hotel in Maidencombe with the swing in the garden and the too deep swimming pool, and the red sandy beaches of Torquay from the holidays of my childhood.

That's what this blog is about for me. Preserving memories, feelings, moments in time. There is always something to write about. Recently I have felt that I haven't had time to write well enough to justify posting, worried that I will throw down posts that I cringe at years later, but I have decided today that doesn't matter. Writing it down is what matters. On that note I hereby apologize in advance for any mindless drivel that appears here in the near future.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday is back!
Link up here

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Party Karma

My calender for this weekend was blissfully empty. Given that it is bracketed by day trips to San Diego on Friday and Monday I was grateful. I've nothing against San Diego, indeed it is very pleasant down there, but it is rather a long commute.

I had the ability to be spontaneous, but was lacking in inspiration, so I just I took the kids to a new playground near our house. This was, until recently, one of the shabbiest little spots in the neighbourhood, a dirty sand pit with a flaky metal climber and a couple of hazardous swings. Back in my pre-kid days it was the spot where I would meet up with a rag tag bunch of dog owners on a Friday night. We would share wine in paper cups, and let our dogs wrestle in the sand pit. Now it is full of serenely beautiful couples toting gorgeous children with the kind of complex Bay Area ethnicity that will render them unlikely to ever be checking a single box on the census forms.

We were heading home, enjoying the January sun, when we saw a bouncy house being inflated. Though I recognize that having a party at a local park is a fun and economical way to celebrate,  I always get a sinking feeling when our chosen play spot happens to have a party going on.  My kids love bounce houses. Ordinarily quite satisfied with the slides and swings, they will mope and whine and ignore everything on the playground, itching to bounce with the party kids.

As I walked past it I noticed a few kids I knew flying down the inflatable slide, Then a few more. Then I spied several families who I know really well, who waved and beckoned as if they were expecting to see me. I realized I was looking at most of the parents and children in Geekygirl's class.

Geekygirl tugged at my sleeve. "Mommy, Jasmine gave me an invitation last week, to her birthday!" she said. I didn't recall digging any such item out of her backpack, though on reflection I haven't actually emptied the backpack for several days. I then vaguely recollected an email, and a face book invitation to this exact occasion. Such serendipity on the back of such scheduling failure! Still, I was un-made up, barely respectably dressed, and of course without a gift for the birthday girl. I confessed to the hosts that I had totally forgotten about the party, and they of course insisted that we stay. Geekygirl had set out that morning in a tutu and tights, and was quite appropriately attired. Perhaps that is a good strategy to adopt. Always dress as if you might unexpectedly find yourself at a birthday party.

Or perhaps a better strategy would be to get important social events into my calender. This faux pas falls on the back of two recent "booking the babysitter for the wrong night" mistakes, and one "showing up for a party on the wrong day" disaster. I am really quite well organized in the workplace, but haven't seemed to translate that over to my social calender. Do you think my friends will think it strange if I ask them to send me outlook calender invitations for anything they expect me to show up at?!