Friday, October 31, 2008

a tale of two halloween costumes

This year I made the executive decision that Geekygirl was too young to really care what she dressed up as for halloween, and that we were too busy to take her out on a weekend to a costume store to select one for herself. Instead I picked up a cute 'bumble bee fairy' costume in Target well in advance of halloween, congratulating myself on avoiding the usual last minute scrambling through the sale racks for something suitable, and finding something that she would like, since she loves insects. Well she used to love insects. The costume was tried on and approved , and even enjoyed and worn last week to our local 'pumpkin walk'.

But rumblings of dissent had started a few days earlier. On the way home from daycare one day I heard "Sean is going to be a dinosaur for halloween. I going to be a kitty". The daycare teachers must have planted the seed that children get to choose what they want to be for halloween, rather than have constumes thrust on them by their parents. I must have a word with them about that.

"I thought you were going to be a bumble bee fairy?" I replied. "I want to be kitty" she retorted. "Hmm, a kitty would be a nice costume, maybe next year" I said mildly, hoping to diffuse the desire.

But every morning and evening Geekygirl would look at her pretty bumble bee costume sitting on the shelf and say "Whats that Mummy". The reply was always "That's your bumble bee fairy costume for halloween". And every day she would reply "I don't want to be bumble bee fairy. I want to be kitty to Halloween." Each day the fantasy seemed to get more vivid: "a fluffy kitty", "A pink fluffy kitty", "A pink, fluffy kitty with a long tail". It was amazing to me to see how she was envisioning herself in a kitty costume, that she had a vivid mental picture of how she wanted to look. But what was I going to do about it?

This was a real parenting dilemma; on one hand I wanted to encourage my daughter's imagination and share her fantasy, and get her a perfect kitty costume. On the other hand she already had a costume and I didn't want to over indulge her and teach her that she can have whatever she asks for at the drop of a hat. I decided not to hunt for another costume. But I found myself nipping out from work to buy lunch at places that "just happened" to be next to target, or Walgreens, or toysRus, and popping in "just in case" they had the perfect cat costume sitting on the rack. But no luck. I was resigned to persuading her to be a miserable bumble bee fairy, when I recalled a post on our neighborhood parents Yahoo group a week or so back advertising a kitty cat costume for sale. I hunted through my email trash, found the message, called my neighbor and sure enough she still had the costume for sale. We stopped at her house on the way home and I picked up the costume. Geekgirl was thrilled. "Its pink and fluffy!" she exclaimed from her carseat. On further examination "It has ears!", and then a few moments later "It has a LONG TAIL!".

The kitty costume has been worn every night since we got it. Geekygirl is throwing herself into her cat persona, scratching and licking her paws, and is so excited about being a kitty at daycare today. My trip to Barcelona was mercifully canceled so I get to enjoy the holiday with the family. Now, if only the rain will let up by tonight, maybe this will be a perfect halloween after all!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

the kindess of subaru dealers

Like the working mum protagonist of 'I Don't Know How She Does It' by Allison Pearson, I have a constantly running list in my head of tasks to be checked off. This morning top of the list was 'take car for service'. At 147,000 miles our trusty subaru outback deserves a nice oil change once in a while.

The morning started off OK, out of the house by 7.45, at the dealership by 8.30, at the rental car office by 8.40, on track for being in the office by 9.00am, when a fatal flaw in the plan was revealed. Item 103 on my mental list "replace old expired drivers license in wallet with brand spanking new one that arrived last week in the mail" had not been checked off. The rental company shuttled me back to the Subaru dealership, where I called my boss to let him know why I would not be in the office, and prepared to wait for three hours with only a back issue of Marie Claire for entertainment.

Just then, Howard the mechanic and now my hero, stuck his head around the waiting room door and provided me with a shiny new Subaru to borrow for the day! So I made it to the office after all. Now I'm just hoping they don't find anything too expensive wrong with the car.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

halloween twins

The Halloween season has begun in earnest. Our costumes got their first outing at a party hosted by my friends K. and J. prior to the neighbourhood 'pumpkin walk'. Carved pumpkins are placed in the community garden, and kids and adults get to enjoy a bit of spooky fun.

K. and I met when we were heavily pregnant in a baby care class at the hospital where we delivered. In retrospect it was quite funny, a class full of professionals in their late 30's being taught by a sweet Berkeley mom subtly emphasising her co sleeping/babywearing/cloth diapering philosophy, to diaper plastic dolls and put them in slings. The class must have been effective, since our girls survived and thrived on our mothering (despite being diapered in disposables and sleeping in cribs. We did at least carry them in slings.) Two and half years later we and our little girls are fast friends.

And we did not plan our costumes together, honestly!

Monday, October 27, 2008

garden party

One of the reasons we have parties is to force us to tidy up. Saturday was spent in a whirlwind of organizing. Geekdaddy was in charge of shopping for last minute necessities (who knew that Whole Foods refuse to sell maraschino cherries because they consider them unwholesome?. Party poopers!), making the marinades and setting up the bar. I tidied and cleaned, using the opportunity to get all the toys into their respective organizer bins (dolly's clothes, baby dollies, toy pots and pans, vehicles, legos, baby rattles, soft toys, puzzles). While geekybaby took his morning nap, and Geekgirl was ensconsed with her Charlie and Lola DVD I got the whole place ship shape, with enough of the aesthetically attractive yet inviting toys displayed to entice the small guests, but not so much hideous noisy plastic tat on display that we would horrify the childless guests.

Then I heard a gasp of horror from Geekydaddy, returned from his garnish gathering. Geekydog, who up until now had been treating the new yard with respect, had attacked and uprooted one of the newly planted euphorbias! Dirt and roots covered the previously perfect patio. And to add insult to injury, we found that orange geek the cat had peed on the kitchen counter. We think the nasty beast was expressing his anger that he was unable to get to the salmon skin in the counter top composting bin.

We cleaned up after our errant animals in time for the first guests to arrive. My mood was much improved by Geekydaddy's most excellent pina coladas, The barbequed chicken and shrimp were just perfect, and a great time was had by guests both large and small.

Though we are realizing that the decorative pebbles our garden designer used between the patio slabs, though they do look very stylish, are not the best choice for a garden frequented by toddlers, especially toddlers whose parents are drinking pina coladas. Inspection of the lawn the next day revealed that the pebbly contents of the patio had been collected and rolled down the slide into a big heap in the grass!

Friday, October 24, 2008

happy birthday to me

Tomorrow I turn 38. In honor of this momentous day we are having a little party in our newly remodeled backyard. This seemed like a good idea two weeks ago, but now I'm wondering if my advanced age would be better celebrated more quietly and cheaply, with a dinner, a bottle of wine and a day spent of getting on top of the laundry piles threatening to take over the closets after my weekend playing hooky in Vegas.

But the evites have been sent, the yard has been professionally weeded and mowed, two climbers are assembled on the lawn for the small guests, the bar is stocked for the big ones and paper plates and extra lawn chairs have been found. (Why is it so hard to find lawn chairs in San Francisco in October? It drives me crazy that the stores are full of winter coats and christmas decorations, when it is "indian summer" season here, and 85 degrees outside!)

So I guess we are having a party! Cheers.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

a sweet sibling moment.

I know that siblings can have very different personalities, and that being related to someone doesn't mean that you will get along well with them, but I do hope that my two kids will become close, and enjoy each others company. I love my own two siblings; of course we fought as children, but most of the time we got along really well, and do to this day. I want this for my children too.

To this end, avid reader that I am, I got hold of 'siblings without rivalry' by adele faber and elaine mazlish. I rave about this book to other parents, because there have been so many occasions where I have used their advice, and been amazed by the effectiveness. They believe that your parenting style can affect how well your kids interact with each other (Though make no claims to make them love each other all the time!) I was reminded again of how glad I am to have read this book during a little exchange with geekygirl last night and this morning. To put this in context I have just returned from a weekend in Vegas for the bachelorette party of a dear friend. The kids were home alone with dad, and despite remaining in their pyjamas for 48 hrs, had a pretty good time without me. Mummy's attention is at a premium now that I am back, though.

Last night I was drying geekygirl after her tub, when she said to me

"can we put geekybaby away?"

My natural instinct (after laughing a little) would be to respond with a "no, he lives here too, and he's your brother, you love your brother, right?"

But primed by "siblings" who tell you that all of your childrens' feelings are acceptable and should not be denied, and that by allowing the very natural negative feelings about each other to be voiced, the kids ultimately get along better, I empathized instead: "it can be hard to have a brother sometimes. Do you wish it could be just you and mummy and daddy?"

"Yes", she nodded, "can we put him away?"

"Where should we put him?" I mused. "In the cupboard?" That idea was met with approval. I decided to test the deepness of her desire to be rid of her brother and asked "Should we leave him at daycare?". "No" said geekygirl emphatically, "I want to put him in a cup." "The cupboard?" I corrected. "No, a cup, a big cup." she replied, and with that rather adorable mental picture formed, we left off the conversation.

This morning, when we went in to get geekybaby up for the day she requested to give him a big hug, as she often does. This time she kissed him between the eyes and said "I love him soooo much"!

And my heart melted, of course!

Monday, October 20, 2008

a meme for me!

My friend followthatdog at from mosh pits to mashed potatoes,(and also from stage dives to station wagons) tagged me for a meme. I get to tell you 6 random things about me, and I get this lovely award! Thanks, Followthatdog.

1. I wanted to be a vet, but I didn't get good enough 'A level' results to get into Veterinary college. Instead, I ended up developing drugs for people!

2. When I was about 18 months old I but my tongue almost in half, falling over while running away from my mum and dad who were trying to put me to bed. The hospital staff couldn't see what had happened through the blood and swelling, and determined that I had damaged my front teeth, so they removed two of them, one big front tooth and the one next to it. Then they realized that actually it was my tongue that was damaged (as my parents had told them in the first place). So I got to grow up with a gappy smile until my adult teeth arrived. And I still have a scar in my tongue.

3. I love horses. As a teenager I loved horses more than people. I wore my horseriding boots to school, and managed to put a drawing or description of a horse into every into assignment.

4. I love cars, but I didn't learn to drive until I was 30.

5. I met my husband at a 'bad taste clothing party'. I realized as we continued our relationship that he had not been in costume at the time.

6. The older I get the worse my music taste gets. I frequent a radio station that plays 80's big hair music like Journey, Bon Jovi, and Bonnie Tyler, and I sing along in my car at the top of my voice!

The tradition is to pass on the love, so I send it to:




Friday, October 10, 2008

the last kid at daycare

It has been an extremely busy week at work, so I've picked the kids up later than usual every day (except Wednesday, music class day, I did manage to get out early that day). But for the rest of the week I have crawled up the peninsula in rush hour traffic, barely making it to daycare by 5.45 rather than my usual 5.00pm. They have not quite been the last kids there, at least. I know someone has to be last, but I always feel awful when it is my kids, particularly when they are some of the earliest to arrive, too. They are always playing happily when I finally rush in, but I think it worries Geekygirl, watching other parents come, other kids hug their parents, grab their lunchboxes and wave by bye, while the class shrinks, the sun sets, and she is still there. Even Geekybaby, at 8 months, starts to watch the gate hopefully if I'm later than usual, gets excited whenever a small blonde mummy comes in, then disappointed when it isn't his.

Last night Geekygirl asked me "are you happy when you are at work, mummy?". I wasn't sure what to say, but figured we are teaching her to be honest about feelings, so I answered honestly "Yes, I am happy at work, but what makes me most happy is to be with my Geekygirl". "Are you happy at School?" I asked. Her response was "I'm happy when I'm with my mummy".

Being tugged in all directions is just part and parcel of being a working mum, feeling guilty to be the first person to walk out of a meeting, then guilty for being the last mum to get the kids. The pressure to stay at work is not even coming from above; I'm fortunate to work with women and men who also juggle work and family, and understand the demands of small children. I put the pressure on myself, since I don't like to leave when I feel my contributions to a discussion are valuable. Its all internal. Where do I really want to be? Debating the finer points of a biological mechanism revealed by our latest experiments, or home with the kids, early enough to read some stories and play before dinner and bathtime? The answer is that I want to be in two places at once, of course. I guess human cloning is the only answer to my dilemma.

At least it is Friday, it's going to be a beautiful weekend in the city, so maybe between tackling the laundry overtaking the closets, assembling the new bookcase purchased to help us keep on top of book clutter, grocery shopping and picking out hardware for the new guest bathroom we may get to have a bit of fun family time.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It's raining, it's pouring

Coming as I do from a rather damp little island called England, I'm still not quite used to our California seasons (we have two, the wet season and the dry season). Last weekend we took a trip up to the mountains, where the temperatures are dropping, and I realized rather belatedly that the kids had no warm clothes. One frantic dash around Target later I packed a bag of sweaters and fleecy pants. Geekygirl was very excited about our trip, and I warned her that it was going to be raining most of the weekend.

"Rain like on the tellytubbies?" She asked me.

I was floored for a moment, as I realized that she probably doesn't really remember experiencing rain. When did it rain last? Maybe in March? Six months is a long time in the mind of a two and half year old. Her concept of rain is a fleecy, bottom heavy alien(I think it was Tinky Winky) being followed around a TV screen by an animated cloud!

I guess she is a true Californian!

It did indeed rain up in the mountains, and Geekygirl was not impressed with it at all "my face is getting all wet" she howled, and insisted on sitting under the cover of the stroller rather than stomping through puddles like a proper English child. I think we need to toughen her up!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

photo day

One of my favorite fundraisers at daycare is 'photo day'; they bring in a photographer and we get lovely pro shots of our kids (admittedly with hokey 'seasonal' background props), and part of the proceeds go to the center.

I'm not usually too fussy about what the kids wear on regular school days, I try to make an effort for birthday parties and music class, but can swallow the feeling of "why is my child the scruffiest urchin in the room?" if it means we actually get out of the house and to the desired location almost on time.

But photo day, well that is on their permanent record, so I do like them to be dressed attractively. This morning Geekydaddy got Geekybaby up and dressed. I feel that we have a very egalitarian approach to parenting in our house, but even an incredibly involved, hands on 'co-parent' like Geekydaddy does not have 'photo day today' seared on his mind, and a cute outfit planned out days in advance. I just don't think it is a father thing. Except of course in two father families, where I can envision serious conflict over whether junior should sport an edgy 'urban baby' look from Diesel, or a wholesome, preppy J crew outfit. According to my 'adorable photo moment' plan, I redressed geekybaby in his Old Navy linen printed shirt and kahkis. At least he, at seven months, has no opinions on his clothing.

Geekygirl is a different story. Not only did I want her in something cute, but I wanted it to go with what her brother was wearing, for the must have cute siblings together picture they offer, in order to extract more cash from us. My options were severely limited by the renewed vigour with which we have been pursuing potty training (big girl undies were worn to daycare this week!). Many acceptable outfits were in the laundry basket. But we found something reasonable, her only clean pair of leggings with a pretty pink tunic, worn proudly with those big girl underpants.

It was not a usual morning, our garden remodel team were round to do the final walk through. In all the excitement poor Geekygirl wet her pants. This left me with the dilemma of having no more clean leggings for her to wear. Trying to convince her to wear jeans or a dress with 5 minutes to leave the house felt insurmountable. In desperation I pulled a pair of leggings from the laundry basket (not peed on, just regular once worn grubby, I hasten to add) and grabbed the cute corduroy Osh Kosh tunic that went with them. I don't think she saw me, I hope not, if she did my frequent argument of 'you can't wear that, it is in the laundry' is not going to fly anymore! This was actually the outfit I had wanted her to wear had the leggings been clean, so I was quite satisfied with how the outfits turned out.

I discovered when I picked the kids up today that though Geekybaby was photographed today, and they did the sibling shot too, Geekygirl gets her solo photo tomorrow, Guess I'd better go and do some laundry!