Sunday, April 26, 2009

what would Ariel do?

I'm not sure when the "Disney Princesses" formed a posse, rather like the spice girls but with less cultural diversity, but these days the pervasive pentangle of Sleeping beauty, Cinderella, Beauty, Jasmine from Aladdin, and Ariel the little mermaid, are unavoidable to the parents of a three year old girl.

I'm not a particular fan of these ladies, but neither am I fanatically against them, despite their subliminal message of submissive, slender, girly pinkness. I expect that the children's obsessions will wax and wane, but a parents disapproval can only act to fire the flames of longing. I recall many Thursday nights, secretly watching "Dallas" at a more permissive friend's families house (The immoral show was deemed unsuitable for us), since being able to discuss the intricacies of Bobby's relationship with Pam and Jenna was essential for joining the crowd at middle school.

We have not purchased any of the princessy merchandise, or seen the movies, but it seems they are popular at preschool. The first I heard of this was during dinner

"We don't speak with our mouths full" I remind.

After chewing, swallowing and restarting her sentence I hear "Ariel wouldn't talk with her mouth full".

"No indeed" I concur.

"And Ariel wouldn't spit. Or throw food"

"Ariel would behave nicely at the table" I say.

"But Ariel doesn't go poo poo in the potty. Ariel goes poo poo in the ocean"

I didn't have an answer for this one. I guess Ariel may have good table manners, but she can't be a role model for our struggle with toilet training

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Air travel, anniversaries and attacks of vomiting

The geekyfamily have just returned safely from an exhilarating, exhausting and stomach content expelling trip to my homeland, England.

The occasion was the Ruby Wedding celebration of my lovely mum and dad, but any trip to the UK, rare as they are for us these days, must be filled to the brim with catch up visits to as many friends as can be squeezed in, so we had a packed schedule. We arrived on the Thursday, on the overnight flight from SFO to Heathrow. Geekdaddy managed to negotiate the roundabouts and highways driving on the other side of the road, and we made it to my parents house, always such a pleasure to visit since it is also my childhood home. Well, since the ejection of us kids, it has transformed into a far more elegant and well furnished version of the home I knew, complete with a floral masterpiece of a garden my mum should enter into competitions. All the old toys we knew and loved are still there though, and the kids felt instantly at home and got stuck into playing the fisher price A frame house, with all its tiny bobble headed occupants.

Friday the kids were settled enough with Grandad and Grandma that we had the luxury of leaving them in their capable hands. We took the train into London to meet up with my college friends. It had been so long since I had been in the city, the place where I went to study at age 18 and as well as learning a lot about Biochemistry, began my adult journey through the world of love, friendship, heartbreak and hard partying. We had a wonderful evening of good food and great stories. Either our eyes are failing, or we all still look fabulous. I'm voting for the latter. The kids did great, the only incident arose from an American/English translation. Geekygirl told grandma she wanted to go to the potty. Grandma heard instead that she wanted to go to the 'party'. And told her that she could go tomorrow! My confused daughter exclaimed "but I need to go pee pee", at which the misunderstanding became apparent and thankfully no accidents ensued!

Saturday was the day of the party. We spent the morning visiting my brother and his wife's elegant, charming new home, and preparing the powerpoint slides and speech we planned to give that evening. Back at my parents again the whirlwind of party prep was in full sway. Finally we were ready to go. Geekygirl, adorable in her lemon yellow party dress, having recovered in the nick of time from her travel induced constipation which almost threatened her attendance at the event. I was dressed up in a lovely silk dress and heels, and had just scooped up Geekybaby, handsome and sweet in ironed shirt and corduroys, when he calmly threw up what seemed like everything he had eaten in the past week all over me and himself.

What to do? Well after coming all this way, we had to go to the party, just five minutes walk away. We washed him and me down, found fresh clothes (Thank goodness for a glamourous looking cheap gold top from target I had thrown in at the last minute, and my black work trousers). Once there we ensconced the vomitty one with his dad in the darkened lobby with a roll of paper towels, and then took it in turns staying with our sick little boy. Geekybaby is such a trouper, he was quite calm and relaxed as long as he had someone to snuggle, and dozed off between bouts of sickness and yucky diapers.

Geekygirl and her cousins had a whale of a time, fueled by cake and disco music and my brother the fairground ride (never start spinning small kids around at a party unless you plan on doing it all night). Though the lack off attention from her parents combined with all the excitmenet led to a wet pants incident, and a change into the only spare clothes I had, her brothers dinosaur T shirt and leggings! By the end of the party Geekybaby was better, and even socialized a little before we staggered home. The only family member still in his or her original party outfit was Geekydaddy.

It was a wonderful occasion, family and friends of my parents all gathered to wish them well. I only wish I been able to enjoy a little more of it.

Sunday was a wonderful family day, my sisters three girls (aged 5, 3 and 10 months) and our two ran riot around the house, raiding the chocolate biscuit tin and becoming best friends, breaking up, and become best friends again every 30 minutes, while we adults indulged in wine and lunch and conversation. On Monday the bone chilling British drizzle was broken by a lovely sunny day, which was just as well since we had planned a trip to a local farm/childrens playground with my sister and I's oldest friend, Lucy, who grew up a few houses away and now has two girls aged 4 and almost 2. We ran around after our kids and caught up on each other lives in snatched moments of conversation between petting sheep, preventing kids from eating sheep food, and supervising them hurling themselves down the most fantastic helter skelter, an entertainment that would surely be banned in the US due to potential lawsuits.

The weekend would have been perfectly completed by the lovely takeaway curry we enjoyed that night, had geekybaby's vomitting disease not infected me and kept me up all night regurgitating it. Exhausted, but no longer throwing up, we set off for the airport, the children so sad to leave this newly beloved haven that is Grandma and Grandads house.

We were all checked in and ready to head through to the waiting are to collapse and let the kids terrorize fellow passengers, when a security alert has us evacuate the terminal! Fortunately I had one set of small toys not yet broken into, and was able to keep the peace by offering some Dora the explorer action figures and some of grandmas sweeties to our superb junior travellers. Whatever happened it was soon over, and we were led back in as efficiently as we were herded out. And 11 long hours and many watches of "Dora saves the ice princess" later we were back in San Francisco.

I'll end this post with my favourite moment from the speech my siblings and I gave at the party. Here's a picture we showed of my sister and I with my folks spending, and I paraphrase what my sister said "one of many weekend afternoons spend sitting outside a pub. Of course if it was raining my parents would go into the pub and leave us in the car, with a bottle of fizzy pop and a packet of crisps and strict instructions not to touch the handbrake"

Saturday, April 11, 2009

why every mum needs a dog

Dogs often get the short end of the stick (or no stick at all) when a child enters a family. In that new parent's sleepless, hormonal fog the precious, helpless infant seems so very vulnerable, and dear fido, previously viewed as a harmless goof, is suddenly seen as a germ ridden, slobbering, dangerous beast with big teeth. Many good dogs end up in shelters (or worse) in the first few weeks after a new baby arrives.

We were fortunate that our dog, who came to us from an animal shelter in Oakland, reacted with gentleness and acceptance to our children from the day they were born. She is invaluable for cleaning up under high chairs, and for providing endless amusement for the kids as a walking aide, face licker and hide and seek partner.

As well as this, Geekydog is now an essential in my parenting tactic armory. You see Monsters, which lurk in the darkened house across the steet, are afraid of dogs. And Geekydog is an expert monster sniffer outer. And bugs (particularly those daddy long legs ones, which can sometimes fly into the face of a small girl, inciting terror), are delicious to dogs. If a little girl is afraid to go to sleep because there might be a leggy bug lurking behind the curtains, Geekydog can be summoned and will 'eat up' the offender.

I have taken advantage of Geekygirl's love of our dog in a new way, too. At the moment she gets angry, when things don't go her way, when her sleeves are too tight, or a puzzle too tricky. And her way of dealing with the anger is to hit out at the nearest person, or to scream ear penetratingly loudly. Screaming is preferable to hitting, I suppose, but it is not ideal. We're working on an emphatic "I'm angry", a foot stamp, or another satisfying yet PG rated exclamation.

When she screamed this morning because her socks were uncomfortable, Geekydog came running, anxious about the noise. I was inspired, and said "Look at poor Geekydog. Dogs have very very sensitive ears, sensitive enough to hear those bugs flying in your room. Screaming really hurts her ears. Much more than it hurts a person's ears. Look how worried she is about your screaming, I think her ears hurt." Geekygirl was instantly contrite, and hugged the dog, stroking the offended ears. I'm hoping for a breakthrough on the screaming. And I'm thinking other ways to use her love and respect for our dog to our advantage. After all, the beast needs to earn her keep, the amount of hair I'm swept up from the floors this week!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

New shiny shoes

With spring comes the need for new sandals for the ever growing tiny feet. Geekbaby, now walking sturdily, needed his first pair of "real shoes", and Geekygirl has been looking a bit odd in boots with shorts, and is not allowed to wear her Crocs to school (the playground bark gets inside them), so needs some sandals.

Nordstrom is our store of choice for kids shoes. the kind assistants, the broad choice of brands, and of course the fish tank make it unbeatable.

Geekygirl is turning into a bit of a shoe maven. And who can blame her, really. Shoes are so satisfying, such a reflection of personality, they are a fetish of mine, even though my tastes have been sobered in recent years. Even before I had or even contemplated children, though, I was drawn to children's shoes, so cute and colourful and delightfully small.

So our excited girl ran over to the shoe displays, and I directed her to the table of shoes in her size range. I picked out a sturdy black soled purple Keene brand shoe and a slightly girlier but sensible looking pink Ecco sandal. I looked over at my daughter and saw her mesmerized by the sight of another sandal. A metallic pink one by Lellikelly, encrusted with sequined flowers, resembling more a mermaid's jeweled comb than a piece of footwear. "Mummy these ones are so beautiful" she said. And I couldn't disagree, they were indeed adorable. Whoever designs these things has got inside the mind of a three year old girl, for sure!

So we asked for the three shoes in her size. The funky clunky Keene ones seemed to fit quite well, and Geekygirl did a few laps of the store, but only under protest, declaring "these ones are not comfortable". Next we tried the sparkly ones, and before they had even touched her foot she declared "these ones are really comfortable, Mummy". A run about confirmed her hopes, the shoes seemed to fit well. "I want these ones please, the other ones are not comfortable" she said.

The funny thing about the cognitive skills of a three year old, is that though they can use words to get their own way, and even tell lies, they are easily caught out.

I asked my daughter "Are the purple ones really not comfortable, or are you just pretending that they are not comfortable so that we will buy you the sparkly ones?"

Without hesitation she replied "I'm just saying that they are not comfortable because I want the sparkly ones"

I'm hoping that this little girl who will only wear one brand of underpants because all the others are "scratchy" is not yet capable of saying that a beautiful shoe is comfortable when it actually feels like pincers clawing at her toes. I think that denial probably kicks in during the teen years, evidenced by my deformed feet, for years squashed into shoes I bought back when my priority for shoe buying was a cute, fashionable shoe off the sale rack, not a shoe that fitted my foot.

She skipped around the store, so pleased with how her feet looked. "My friends have these" she declared. Can we really be dealing with peer pressure already?!

We hesitated. Her desire for these shoes was so tangible, but I had not really intended to buy her something so frivolous looking. This was a dilemma that touched me deeply. Their is nothing more poignant to my mind than a little girl being asked to take home a comfortable practical pair of shoes when she really really wants that ones that make her look like a princess. The sales assistant jumped in to help (help my daughter, that is) by pointing out the sturdy rubber soles and strong leather straps of the mermaid shoes.

I considered buying her two pairs, but then realized that actually getting her to wear anything other than the sparkly ones would require the kind of diplomacy I'm just not capable of every morning. So we bought them. Geekygirl wore them home with delight. And I have to admit, they really do look adorable.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

hair dog season

Here in the bay area it can be hard to figure out exactly what season it is. If you landed here from another planet or awoke from one hundred years of sleep in January, June, or October you might find very similar weather. But a surefire way to know that it is spring in our house is the presence of tumbleweeds of dog fluff, hairballs roll across our wood floors, stick to our shower wet feet and appear in our cereal.

Other than the dog fur plague, Bay Area old timers such as ourselves can tell spring is here since we have noticed that it is getting lovely and warm, warmer than it usually is in the summer, in fact, reaching the 70's during the day, with clear fog free skies. Our yard, landscaped at the end of last year, is coming into its own, and another sign of spring, my jasmine, is beginning to bloom. This inspired us last weekend to have our first barbeque of the season, after spending most of the day outside in the backyard (yes, its a tough life, I know!).

Now one thing many non parents do not appreciate is the sheer lack of time to oneself a working parent has. This became apparent when I decided to peruse recipe books for barbeque ideas. I realized that we had three brand new untouched recipe books on our shelves, all generous Christmas gifts from friends and family who recalled the great love of all things food and cooking related that Geekydaddy and I share. Despite calling to me occasionally from the shelves, in the time between now, the end of March, and last December, I had not found a moment to read them!

We fondly recalled lazy Sundays spent reading the paper, scanning recipe books, then shopping and cooking gourmet meals. But between playing with the kids in the bright sunny newly landscaped garden, and fending snotty fingers of the glossy pages of the new cookbooks, I did manage to select an excellent marinade for our Arctic Char and tried a recipe for grilled zucchini with fresh mint both of which turned out very nicely.

I admit to a certain sense of pride when our three year old eats barbequed fish and zucchini with relish, and declares it "really yummy. And it will make your bones grow".