Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Swing with a view - one day in August

August 29th was a breezy but bright day in San Francisco. We had a quiet day. Our only outing was to the local playground.

On this same day  Josie, Sian and Eva - travelled to Bangladesh to see the work Save the Children
I'm sure what they saw would contrast greatly with the pleasant happy scene at our playground.

"I want to swing facing the view, Mummy" Geekygirl asked. So she did. It must feel even more like flying than usual, when the playground is on the top of a hill and the whole of the Mission district out to Twin Peaks is quite literally at your feet.

A post for the gallery.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Two worlds combined

The weekend was a great success. Most importantly the birthday boy had a wonderful time surrounded by his friends. The children had a good time too, and didn't break anything or hurt themselves. The weather was good, the house was perfect, the food excellent, the cocktails and wine plentiful and the poolside banter was wry and stimulating.

Yet I came home exhausted. Keeping track of the needs of two small kids in a strange house was wearing. What with snacks, naps, diapers, incessant demands for help with puzzles or playdough, sunscreen or armbands I felt that barely managed a sip of cocktail, a page of my book, a scrap of conversation without interruption.  I felt a gulf between the life of a parent and that of the child free. Most of the guests were childless, either by choice or because they just haven't found the right time for a family yet. All of them were quite lovely with the kids, and did play with them and entertain them extensively, but still, it is mummy they come to when they need something and need it RIGHT NOW. Its only the parents who have to curtail the evening high jinks knowing that morning will come around way too early and way too loudly.

Geekydaddy feels this difference in lifestyle acutely, and though we didn't speak of it directly, I tacitly gave him the weekend "off" kid duty by agreeing to him playing bartender. Once he knew that the house had a poolside bar he procured his mixology supplies and spent a good part of each day muddling up delicious beverages. To his credit he did spend the rest of the time playing with the kids in the pool. I knew this division of labor would leave me as the one to make sure the children were not dehydrated, hungry, overtired, over-televisioned or burning in the sun.

As I drifted in and out of conversations wondering where I had put my drink down, I envied, just a little, my friends who are only answerable to their own needs. We are all about the same age, but having kids forces you to grow up in a different way.  I found myself longing, selfishly, for a few days away just with Geekydaddy, lounging by a pool sipping cocktails. But then I kicked myself and realized how lucky I am to have such great and dear friends, friends with fabulous children of their own, friends who ensure that my kids are welcomed and catered for on their own special occasions and who tell me how wonderful they are at every opportunity. And of course, a husband who can mix a mean mojito.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Friend weekend.

The first time I met him was shortly after I moved into my room in my first apartment in San Francisco. He was my downstairs neighbour in the six unit building, and that afternoon he was standing on the rickety back deck, knocking on the kitchen door. He was dressed for running, and had come to see if my roomate wanted to come for a jog with him. She wasn't home, but I borrowed her running shoes (which seems like an odd thing to do, now, considering she and I were still virtual strangers, but at the time we didn't bat an eyelid.). He proceeded to crucify me on a very hilly run, though I was determined not to let it show.

So began my time with the people I consider my first San Francisco family. Like the inhabitants of Armistead Maupin's Barbary lane the residents of Walter St supported each other through crappy jobs and dubious relationships. We drank a lot of wine, and we laughed more than I ever have before.

Ten years later he was the first visitor geekygirl had in the hospital, and now he is a favourite uncle, dropping in for dinner or drinks, often providing the food and culinary skills too, and embracing the mayhem that is our home.

We are grown ups now. Well we were technically grown ups then, we were in our mid twenties, but we didn't feel or act particularly grown up. This month my old jogging partner turned 40. This weekend the whole gang is getting together to celebrate our dear friend.

Were ensconcing ourselves in a huge house in the wine country. Those who have kids are bringing them along. Our car is laboring under the weight of wine and food and anticipation. i cannot wait for us all to be together again.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone on the road

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A memory. A post for The Gallery

We had been on a day trip with the brownies, my sister and I. My dad has just collected us from the bus stop.

I remember those shiny Clarke's shoes I was wearing, and those knee high socks. They had lacey holes. I'm the one in the brownie uniform, remember the milk chocolate brown colour? And the yellow tie and silver clover leaf badge?

I remember the blue gingham dress my sister is wearing. It was mine first.

I remember when dad's hair was brown, and I remember that cagoule (it was olive green).

I don't remember much about the day. Apparently the bus was late back from the trip and in those bygone days before cellphones (I estimate the photo was taken in about 1977), my mum and dad just had to wait, hoping that nothing had gone amiss. I expect that is why dad has such a big smile on his face, happy to have his girls back safely.

I do remember who took the photo, my mum's college friend Maureen, who captured many lovely moments in our family's life in impromptu black and white.

And I remember where the photo hangs, in a gallery of family snapshots, on the stairs in my parents home, where I grew up and where they still live. A house full of happy childhood memories, which, now grandchildren have arrived, are being created all over again.

Thanks Mum and Dad!

posted for the gallery. The prompt was "a memory"

Thursday, August 12, 2010

a leader amongst preschoolers

As I entered preschool to pick up the kids yesterday the associate director beckoned me over. "I just have to tell you something", she said. "Your Geekygirl is a born leader". I know that she has a vivid imagination and a knack for storytelling, but I was amazed to hear what followed. Apparently she has taken to telling her own stories to her friends. She sits in the outdoor book corner surrounded by ten or twelve other kids, and tells them stories. Long, complex stories that she pulls out of her imagination. The other children listen, rapt and quiet, only speaking to interject the odd idea or offer suggestions as to the direction of the tale Geekygirl is weaving. She is a miniature Scheherazade.  The teachers stand quietly and marvel at her, and yesterday and they called the associate director over to watch her in action. They have never seen anything like it.

I love how enthusiastic the teachers are about personality traits that back in the UK might be viewed a little differently. I suspect that back home she might be deemed a "bossy boots" and that "leadership qualities" in preschoolers might be seen as an irritant rather than a bonus! UK readers, please do correct me if I'm off the mark. Besides, she is a bit of a bossy boots, actually.

This observation of my daughter's budding leadership skills came just as this article showing that personality is formed by grade school was making the rounds on twitter and facebook. The article, followed by a lunchroom conversation with one of my lovely new co workers (incidentally also a Brit, there are actually four British women scientists in our group of twelve people!) reminded me of the television documentary series "seven up". Based upon the old Jesuit saying "Give me a boy until he is seven and I will show you the man" it follows fourteen children, aged seven in 1964, through their lives. In the last one they were all 49. There is one chap in particular who came to mind. Tony, who at seven was so full of enthusiasm that he words tumbled out at breakneck speed, who wanted to be a jockey, and who ultimately became a cab driver. The last I recall he had moved to Spain, and he truly did show the same optimism and joy for life that we saw in him at age seven at every stage of his life. The personality he had at age seven was essentially the same.

So if this bodes true then we've got a little leader on our hands. I feel the heavy mantle of responsibility. I won't be able to say, when she gets into trouble, that she was influenced by the wrong crowd. She's probably going to be the one leading your kid astray. I apologize in advance. My challenge is going to be to direct her powers for good. I'm hoping for a future head prefect, president of the school council, or  class valedictorian, (whatever that is). I'm dreaming fondly of my daughter the CEO, or University Provost, Inspiring teacher or International peacekeeper (though given her current propensity to throw playground bark chips at kids when they won't play with her dampens that one somewhat). As long as she doesn't start her own cult, or turn into California's version of Sarah Palin, then I'll be happy.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Summer escape

I often get awestruck comments about the blue skies in my photographs, but I'm going to let you in on a grubby little San Francisco secret. It can be really cold here in the summer. Our maritime microclimate brings a bone chilling fog, which managed this past week to make us the coldest city in the Northern Hemisphere. Colder than Anchorage. Or Leningrad. The stores down at fisherman's wharf must have sold a lot of cable car emblazoned fleece hoodies this summer.

When summer hits the city we flee to the mountains. On a Friday, tired and not in the mood for packing up the car for the 180 mike drive, I question whether it is worth it. It seems like such an effort. We ask ourselves the sane question as a chunk of change sufficient to send us all to Hawaii gets sucked out of the bank account ever month

Then we have a weekend like this. When I fill with pride and love watching my little girl learn to swim with her dad. When I marvel at the kindness of a little boy, about seven years old, playing with my son all afternoon in the sand, patiently letting him 'help' with a sand creation of great complexity.

I've heard that the greatest gift you can give to your kids is a happy childhood. Every weekend we spend up there I feel as if we are living in a perfect childhood memory. I hope the kids feel it too, because if they do it is worth every penny.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone on the drive home

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

playtime at "the gallery"

We are so lucky in San Francisco to have lots of beautiful playgrounds. I was thrilled to find and old favourite from my childhood, the "witches hat" roundabout at one. A slightly safer version  than I recall from my youth, mind you!

A post for the gallery