Thursday, December 29, 2011

What I wore Wednesday (or "i'm too old for stripper heels")

I just discovered a great blog by an American mum and feminist living in the UK.

She has a linky for "what I wore Wednesday" (because even feminists care what they wear).

I'd been looking for the opportunity to blog about my outfit choice for our company holiday party, and couldn't resist joining in.

I have become completely addicted to the classic Diane Von Furstenburg wrap dress. Thanks to a steady supply of barely worn ones showing up on eBay I now have quite a collection, and I chose this racy little backless number for the work party, (with strategic spanx and a solid backless bustier for added dancing confidence). Going backless to the party was a last minute gut decision. I took a chance that I am now well respected enough at work for my scientific and strategic insights to reveal to my peers and superiors that I have a large tattoo of the San Francisco skyline across my shoulder blades.

To complete the look I picked up this seasons must have; spangled platform stiletto heels, footwear that can only be described as 'stripper shoes'. It was a good do, and as the wine and music flowed I shook my stuff out on the dance floor as if I was twenty five again. My knees, however, are forty one, and ever since the party they have been feeling rather decrepit. I am rather annoyed with myself for tweaking my knees before ski season has even got started and I suspect knee injuries are an occupational hazard in the world of the exotic dancer.

I got so many compliments though, including a heartfelt expression that I looked way too glamourous to be a pharmacologist, that it may have been worth it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Looks like we made it

I wasn't sure, this year, if we would get here. To a peaceful Christmas eve in the mountains, with the presents found, bought, delivered, wrapped and waiting to be put under our eclectically decorated tre.

With two cats and a dog and two kids all safely transported across California to the beautiful, though almost snowless mountains.

With gifts from from us to others actually chosen with thought and care, though mainly shipped by amazon,  nestled under other people's trees. Although the photo books I made well advance for shipment to the Grandparents mysteriously disappeared, leaving me digging though ever more bizarre places (my company's dry cleaning closet being the most recent) as I began to believe I had only imagined that I had ever even seen them. They finally appeared last night as we packed the car, in a hidey hole beneath the extra set of back seats. They will not be arriving until the new year.

With a dare I say almost perfect fruit cake sitting proudly on the counter.

The marzipan figures are rather amateur compared to to the creations of some of my facebook friends (seriously, some of you should bake for a living), but the kids are quite happy with my creation, especially the tiny marzipan avatar of the dog gamboling in the snow.

Our tree, however, is a perfect story book fir, a thickly prickly deep green cone. It is decorated with a mixture of gorgeous danish filigree ornaments (thanks to my mother-in-law's excellent Christmas taste), and a hotchpotch of other items; precious preschool offerings, some wooden jungle animals, the mini mirrored disco balls I picked up in the Haight a few years back, my beloved disembodied cat heads, a variety of spangled vehicles and, the new additions, a couple of crocheted octopi from a recent craft fair.

The children love the tree so much. Already they remember the familiar ornaments from years past, unravelling the paper towels I wrapped them in the previous January with delight. Geekygirl is now a very opinionated decorator, and Geekyboy, just shy of four, looks at the tree reverently, and says "it is so beautiful, mummy".

The past few months have been so very busy. A new job for Geekydaddy has meant he is home past eight every might. Real school for Geekygirl is bringing homework, PTA and other obligations. Stressful changes at my work have been occupying my mind and my time.

Halloween hit, and since then I have barely had time to breathe, slamming things into my to do lists and checking them off, hardly gaining satisfaction from completing one task as so many more were waiting, but snatching breaths of pleasure and tiny moments of zen, along with family photos, whenever I could.

It seems that we have made it here, intact, to the end of the year. The last window of the advent calender has been opened (the fact that I remembered to bring it up here a miracle in itself), the rice pudding portion of the Danish "ris alamande" is prepared, waiting to be whipped into a fluffy delicious dessert that is unrivaled by any English pudding. A slice of cake, satisfyingly moist and perfect at that first cut, is waiting for Santa. The children, thrilled to have a seemingly endless eight days free from their regular routines. have made paper chains which are cheering our windows (Thanks Grandma and Grandad) They were so happy and relaxed today that they actually asked to go to bed.

 And I have even completed this blog post, which feels in itself like a great big sigh of relief.

Happy Christmas, everyone.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sayonaru Scoobaru

Last week I had a bittersweet day. I replaced my car. It seems peculiar to be sentimental about a vehicle, but Scooby, the 2002 Subaru Outback wagon, has been such an integral part of our lives that its hard to imagine life without him. We bought the car, shiny and brand new, before we were married, before we had the dog or the kids. Before I even had a proper job.

The 202,000 miles on his clock delineate the great waves of life we have lived since then. A measure of the life of a family in miles.

I watched my brand new sparkling diamond engagement ring cast rainbows on his dashboard as I drove to my first proper job.

We sat in his warm leather cocoon as we debated whether to buy our Tahoe cabin.

We filled his trunk with cases of wine as we scoured the wine country planning our wedding.

We collected Geekydog from the animal shelter, her happy dog laugh misting up the windows as we transported her to a new life of dog luxury.

I screamed through the last part of labor with Geekygirl as we hit every red light crossing town, fearing that she would be born right there on the back seat.

I nursed both kids (pulled over and stationary of course), in his passenger seat on many a trip to the mountains.

I locked two year old Geekygirl inside, prompting the most critical test of my negotiating skills to date.

We transported cribs and changing tables, then toddler beds and sectional furniture back from Ikea in his spacious interior.

We transported a dazed and pathetic Geekydog to and from not one but two knee ligament surgeries.

We negotiatied rain, hail and snow storms with sleeping kids and pets all held safe in his steel embrace.

The miles represent hundreds of ordinary journeys to work, to get groceries, to get up and down from Tahoe. Some of those miles were the extraordinary moments; first days at school, interviews for new jobs, unexpected trips to the ER, and bringing new babies home.

I drove the car for the last time last week, down to the dealership, where we left it to its fate. It was a sunny day, and the wood and leather of the steering wheel felt warm, worn, and oh so familiar under my hands. 202,000 miles of hands sitting at ten to two. I felt disloyal, as if I was taking a beloved old dog to the pound. I started to understand why some people keep old cars on blocks in their driveways forever.

We traded it in for a brand new Subaru Tribeca SUV. It is fantastic.  A sleek dark indigo blue, with a pristine rich smelling cream leather interior (Though cream may not have been the best choice for a family car, I am already realizing). It is eerily quiet and rattle free, the engine smooth and powerful and the stereo as clear as a bell. I think we are going to have a beautiful relationship. But I'm still not quite over the other guy.

This isn't really a Thansgiving post, its just that the holiday has given me time to write. There's nothing like mulling over ten great years though to feel almost overwhelmed with things to be thankful for. The least of these being really good cars.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

the holidays begin wth halloween

Halloween heralds the arrival of the whole holiday season here in the USA. Fall and winter and their collection of holidays just run right along into each other without stopping for breath. The orange of fall slowly deepens to the red of Christmas as the pumpkiny-ghostly themed tableware and knickknacks morph into the pumpkiny-pilgrimy items only to be supplanted in the aisles by poinsettas and snowflakes. When I'm feeling happy and energized I love the costume hunting, the various parades, parties and community events. I enjoy the holiday card making and the anticicpation of special food and presents. When I'm tired, all of this seasonally prescribed fun seems to expand into into a relentless list of 'to do items' to be stuffed into the giant gant chart in my head. Perhaps I should start making actual gant charts for the holidays, that way I might avoid paying rush shipping for last minute presents and everyone who should get a present or card from us might actually receive one before January. Anyone know of a good "microsoft project for mothers" iphone app?

This halloween, however, I exceeded even my own expectations by getting the kids costumes well in advance and getting everyone to their various events and parades with all costume bits intact. Nobody got sick, and Geekygirl obliged me this year by choosing her halloween alter ego (Tinkerbell) many weeks in advance of the day, and for possibly the first time in history not changing her mind at the last minute. Geekyboy got it into his head that he wanted to be "max's red robot toy from max and ruby". Of course the creative mum who prioritizes her children's wishes over her demanding schedule (my alter ego) would have jumped to this challenge. The mum who prefers to order costumes online while sitting in her office (the actual me) suggested to Geekyboy that he be Plex the Robot from "Yo Gabba Gabba" instead, since this costume could be conveniently purchased with a single click.

I'm always rather jealous of families who manage to persuade their kids to take part in a themed extravaganza. One of my friends boys was an incredible miniature Elton John,and she, in an amazng feat of creativity, was his piano. My kids were delighted with their off the shelf costumes though, so I should quell the "I'm not superhalloweenmom" guilt. In fact Geekyboy so embraced his robot persona that he would answer only to "Plex" while in costume, and insisted on walking in a special and rather adorable robotty way for the entire parade. I suspect the boy may end up on the stage.

Selfishly, I ended up reviving my long dormant creative talents for my own costume. We have a party at work every year with prizes for creativity. We have a fun crowd, but recent changes have left people rather despondent. Our group decided to try and bring back a bit of the fun. Inspired by this brilliant video (warning, it may only really resonate with you if you spent six years of your life as an impoverished graduate student or postdoctoral research fellow), we did our own "lady gaga wears lab wear" team extravaganza, complete with dance routine. We won. I was really quite pleased with the way my latex lab glove dress came out. It made me a little nostalgic for times when my actual hairstyle was not dissimilar to this wig, and when I went to clubs wearing outfits that were not all that different either. I was also very grateful, as I wandered the neighbourhood trick or treating event that evening, still in costume, to live in warm, accepting San Francisco.

Happy belated Halloween!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cabernet, Callouses and Contrast

We are well into the school year now. Geekygirl has settled in remarkably. Most days her dad drops her off, and I pick her up from the afterschool program. We have fallen into a new routine, and are moving though our days with calm competence again. Mostly. Our little schoolgirl has become very goal oriented. There seems to be fierce competition amongst the little girls to get across the monkey bars on the playground climbing frame as fast as possible. The advanced kids, I'm told in awed tones, can even skip every other bar. To this end Geekygirl has developed thick callouses on her palms, and assures me that she is one of the best at the bars. I'm glad all those gymnastics classes were good for something!

Our school places a lot of emphasis on reading and writing in the early years. As a school that is struggling with test scores still, they need to focus on the basics. Every morning they have a 'writers workshop' and these efforts, a picture described in the child's own words, are put together to make a book. Geekygirl is an academically inclined child, she loves to read and write and will spend hours with markers, paper and stapler making her own little books even at home. I noticed an additional callous today building on her index finger, from holding her pencil so often.

The first of these books came home not so long ago. I was proud of Geekygirls careful and descriptive illustrations, and glad to see how happy the representations of us family members looked in her pictures. Then I looked more carefully. On three of the five pages mummy looks particularly cheerful, and on each she has a large glass of wine in front of her, as exemplified below!

This started me wondering about all the details of our lives that the kids teachers become privy to.  I can understand why therapists use art to find out what is going on in a child's mind. An observant kid like geekygirl puts so much detail into her drawings, and they give away all sorts of clues about our lives.

This past weekend we had a fundraiser for our school. I'm one of those "personality types" that gets seduced by an idea without thinking about the actual effort involved in pulling it off, which is why I and a couple of other parents ended up running a street carnival aided almost exclusively by some of the fifth grade kids.

Our school is undergoing a demographic shift; the younger grades are a mixture of "people like us" and poorer families, but the fifth grade is comprised exclusively of kids from the nearby housing project (council housing to folk in the UK, if it is even still called that). After the event finished, three of my helper team asked me to walk them home. Laden with pumpkins and other goodies that we gave them in thanks for helping, I walked the short few blocks with them enjoying their self satisfied happiness from a day of being both helpful and rewarded.

There is a dividing line in our neighbourhood that most of us don't cross. Charming tidy houses and clean tree lined streets streets abrubtly give way to rough grassland scattered with broken glass and ugly concrete barracks. The only thing we share is the million dollar view of sky and bay. As we crossed that line, my helpers called out to another kid, perched like a meercat on top of the hillside, "is it OK to go home?". He said that it was, so we continued down into the development, between  washing lines and empty fast food bags, between cheery hellos from young mothers and scowls from sterotypical gangsters.

They pushed open a battered door, beckoning to me "Can you acks her if we can come back with you?" I had promised them earlier that I would take them back up to the street fair once we had dropped their loot at home. The tiny house had nothing. Bare kitchen counters, bare walls, bare lineoleum floors.  A single couch in front of a huge flat screen TV, blinds drawn against the sun and the view. A young woman sleeping on the couch with three young kids bouncing all over her, the kids happy to see their sisters and a visiting stranger. I asked her if the girls could come back with me, and she raised her head an inch, asked them not to be too long, then lay back down. My kids offered me a soda, and we headed back out together. I wondered, after seeing their home environment, what kinds of pictures they drew in school.

I  hoped that by going to our local public school we would get a chance to help the kind of people that I don't usually meet. America, perhaps more than Europe, becomes very socioeconomically segregated as we move through life. I know people with all sorts of origins and ethnicity but almost all of them went to college and most to graduate school. I don't think I know anyone who grew up in a housing project. There are two Americas, and one of them is not a place where you would want to be. Here in San Francisco they are right on top of each other, and one of the only places they do meet is in our public schools. I'm glad I took those girls home, but I'm discomforted by the stark contrast between their lives and ours, and fear that the gulf is to wide to be bridged. How do we, as a society, get bright kids like these out of there?

I'm not really asking you for answers, just sharing my thoughts, but if you have any, please do leave a comment.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Silent Sunday

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone because my daughter has commandeered my laptop

Friday, September 16, 2011

the tyranny of time

Never enough hours in a day. Never enough days in the week. This sums up our life and I suspect the life of all working parents.

Today I was struck by the importance of even tiny increments of time. Fifteen minutes lost or gained can dictate the whole course of a day.

Biological science experiments are divided into precise chunks of time. Experimental protocols state precisely how long cells must be incubated with test drugs, how long they must be spun in the centrifuge, how long a reaction must proceed for before it is stopped and the result read out. If you ever visit a biology lab you will see harried scientists with timers clipped to their jeans chugging down too hot coffee during the precise 5 minute break they have between steps in an experiment. Once you start your experiments you can't just stop half way through and continue the next day, either, so if something is going to take four hours from start to finish you need to organize your day accordingly.

On Thursdays I take the kids to gymnastics class. It is one of the high points of their week, and mine too, but it starts at 4.30pm. With our new double drop off kindergarten and preschool schedule this requires me to leave the office at or before 3.55pm at the very latest to arrive at class almost on time. My working days are split between desk work and lab work, and my experiments sometimes fall on gymnastics days. Seemingly insignificant issues can throw the whole day out of whack. Needing a sharp pair of scissors to open the box of 96 well plates, and taking five minutes to locate one; needing to restart the computer controlling a critical instrument, there is ten minutes lost; having an urgent email to answer, that's twenty more minutes gone....

Today at 3pm I realized that this dribbling loss of little bits of time meant that I no longer had time to run my experiment and get out in time for the gymnastics class. The experiment was very important for a project, a project with its own timelines and deadlines, and it also utilized a very precious human tissue sample, one that had been donated by the family of someone who had died, so I felt a strong obligation not to waste this gift. I had to do the experiment, and if I did there was no way I could get the kids to the class any less than twenty minutes late. I tried to justify that missing one gymnastics class isn't a big deal, but to them, it is. I have disappointed them before, showing up at school and having to tell them that actually, mummy is too late to take them to class. They struggle to understand what I could have been doing that mattered so much. I send a message that I don't want to send; that my work is more important to me than they are.

The story has a happy ending. I don't work in a vacuum, I work with a team of other scientists, most of whom are also parents. I've learned, rather belatedly in life, to ask for help when I need it. My coworker finished my experiment for me, and I made it to class.

I'm blogging via the free wifi at gymnastics class now, watching the kids with half my brain, blogging and responding to the ping of my work email with the other. Stealing a fragment of  time back for me.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years

I heard about it from Geekydaddy. Back then we were cohabiting, not yet married, though we were already living in the home we still have here in San Francisco. He called me from his drive to work, and I turned on the TV in time to see the second plane hit. My mum and dad were visiting from England that week, and on the morning of September 11th 2001 they were at the San Francisco Airport, waiting for a flight to Las Vegas. They watched the events unfold on the airport TV monitors. They were efficiently bused back to an eerily quiet city, and wondered about the wisdom of being dropped off downtown amidst San Francisco's skyscrapers. I took the shuttle to work, everyone sitting on it in uncustomary silence, watching the sky, waiting and wondering whether our iconic American structures too were destined to burn.

Sometimes it doesn't feel as if ten years have passed since then, but other times it feels as if we live in a different world. Especially when traveling by air. International travel always had fairly rigorous immigration and security, especially at Heathrow, but do you remember domestic US air travel before 9/11? When, if you didn't have bags to check, you just walked into the airport and strolled right up to the gate to check in? There were no security checklines, and you could carry whatever you liked in your carry on bag. Your non traveling companions could walk you to the gate and kiss you goodbye right as you boarded the plane. Geekydaddy would meet me at the gate, often with flowers hurriedly purchased at the airport shop designed for just that purpose, when I arrived home from a conference.

When I moved out to San Francisco back in 1996 I was invited to ride in the cockpit for part of the flight, courtesy of a friend of my fathers who worked for the airline. I can't imagine my children will ever get to do that. The children are seasoned travelers though. For them it will always be normal to remove your shoes at the airport, to walk through body scanners and to pack tiny ziploc bags of miniature toiletries. We all moan about the inconvenience, but to be honest, I have got used to it. Perhaps it has already saved us from other acts of violence. We probably never hear about many of the near-attacks that are prevented.

No amount of security can protect us from idiocy though. Southern California should have been on a code red idiot alert last Thursday, when someone flipped the wrong switch and inadvertently sent the whole of SoCal into the dark ages. We are so dependent upon the flow of electrons through our world. When there is no power there are no ATM machines, credit cards are useless, cell phone service is patchy and gas pumps don't work. I was standing at the self check in machine, ready to fly back home from what was supposed to be a day business trip to San Diego when the screen went blank. A long line began to form behind me. My scheduled flight time came and went. People started to mutter and wonder if something more ominous than a simple power outage might have occurred, this anniversary being forefront in everyone's minds. Twitter reassured me that there was no foul play, so I found a taxi to take me back up to my company's office in La Jolla so that I could join the rest of my stranded colleagues. Our admin staff back in SF got us booked into a powerless, but fortunately not drink-less hotel, but there was no way to get flights rebooked while the airport was still without electricity. I was fortunate to be with our company president, an amazing woman who I always want to be with in any crisis situation. She found a cab with enough gas to drive us to LA, and had enough cash on her to pay the fare. The amazing admin staff, working overtime back at mission control in our SF office, got us booked into the LAX Hilton, and on flights back to SFO the next day.

This was a minor crisis, a mere adventure in the grand scheme of things. Even the children were unphased by the news that Mummy would be back a day later than expected. I showed up at work the next day in a snazzy LA souvenir T shirt, having been reminded that so much in our lives is beyond our control, and is instead in the hands of the randomness of chance. From now on though I will always carry cash, and have spare pair of knickers in my handbag.

Monday, September 5, 2011

clothes maketh the woman

I consider myself a feminist. I like to be admired for my intellect, my scientific insight, and my hard work.  Often I find myself wondering why I also care so much about my appearance. I worry too about projecting this onto my daughter. Geekygirl is a gorgeous kid, and people tell her so. Peggy Orenstein in "cinderella ate my daughter" raises concerns about teaching our daughters that their value lies in part or at all in their looks, that this will set them up for eating disorders and poor self esteem, but the ugly reality seems to be that no matter how much we wish it were not so, looks do matter.

I'n my profession, I'm a scientist in the biopharmaceutical industry, looks are probably less important than in many others. There could even be a downside of appearing too "bimboey". I wonder sometimes whether I should cut my hair, embrace my natural brown locks rather than spending a fortune on blond mane maintenance at the salon, and relax my rigorous figure-maintaining salad eating and exercise regimen. Science is a forgiving career, personal grooming wise. I was recently at a party filled with the other, more glamorous bookend of our industry, pharmaceutical sales reps, and felt distinctly dowdy, though I was secretly delighted to be proclaimed by one "way too fabulous to be a scientist".

Finding that balance between looking both attractive and intelligent consumes far too much of my energy and money. Before business trips, mental energy time that should be spent pre reading slides and brushing up on science is devoted instead to preparing what to wear, down to what type of underwear will provide smooth support for my aging bum under my nicely fitted but not too tight slacks, without causing me to have to keep adjusting them all the time (these are great, in case you are looking for such an item). I spent far too much time coming up with a formal yet feminine style for my trip to Japan last year. I was pretty happy both with how the trip went professionally and with how I looked though, I have to say. So much so that I snapped this shot of myself in the hotel room mirror!

It was with great interest, that I read this quite old article, which points out that there is no neutral work ware for women. hair up, hair down, short, long, every style says something about you and how you see yourself. High necks, a touch of cleavage or an eye popping bustier. Make up or no make up. Everything makes some kind of statement, whereas a man in a pair of grey trousers and a blue or white shirt, as long as both fit him and are vaguley clean and pressed, blends in to the background. Men can choose to stand out, of course, with jewelery, exposed chest hair or flashy shirts and ties, but most don't even have to think about the image that their clothes project.

Changes at work leave me back in the world primarily of men. Nice men, don't get me wrong, but people who tower over me, leaving me with the dilema of whether to wear comfy flats that leave me a head and a half below the conversation, or to rock shoes like these babies, which give me an almost eye level experience with our senior team, but walk a fine balance between 'executive' and "stripper".

It took me until I was about 27 to become reasonably happy with my own physical appearance. I spent most of my teen years designing elaborate hairstyles and eye make up techniques to detract attention from my too large nose, and most of my twenties worried about my weight, despite only ever skirting the edge of the overweight BMI category. Now I've hit my forties the brief period of being vaguely satisfied with my appearance is passing, as the spectre of aging looms and lures me, a scientist who really should know better, to spend stupid sums of money on tiny pots of expensively packaged face cream. I run and do pilates, not just to keep my blood lipid profile healthy, but to ensure I still fit into my slim pants. I get great satisfaction from looking slim, pretty and sexy, and feel miserable when my skin flares up in dry scaly patches, when the bags under my eyes reveal my age or when my tummy wobbles over the waistband of my skinny jeans. I really don't understand why I feel this way, since what I look like has no bearing at all on how well I parent my kids, do my job, or live my life.

In hope of understanding more about this issue, I picked up  two books exploring this very subject. The first, The Beauty Bias : The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law, by Deborah Rodes, explores the unpleasant reality that attractive people are more successful, especially women. The author speculates that this is a form of discrimination that should be legislated against, and exhorts women not to buy into it, to stand firm and age gracefully. She also accepts that there is an uphil battle for change while men are in charge, since men just seem to prefer pretty women. The second, The Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom by Catherine Hakim takes this thesis further and offers a different solution, accepting it as brute fact of life and encouraging women, indeed everyone in all walks of life to use their looks, their "erotic capital" as she coins it, to get ahead.

I'm still distilling my thoughts on this complex topic, but I would love to hear yours.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The first week at Elementary School

It seems like just yesterday I blogged about embarking upon the dreaded San Francisco Unified District school tours. We found out which school we got into back in March. Then the rest of the year frisked right by and the beginning of the school year hit us. Geekygirl is a kindergartener, with two full weeks at her new elementary school under her belt. She loves it. She loves her uniforms, navy and white, though I failed to calculate the number of possible permutations and combinations a creative girl can consider when she has five different bottoms and three different shirt styles to choose from in the morning. When you add in the fact that they are allowed to wear legging or tights of any color under their skirts we still end up taking quite some time to get ready of a morning!

She has made new friends already, and she loves her teacher. She even loves the afterschool program. I was a bit worried about this. In her daycare/preschool all the families had working mums (or two working dads), so I had comfortably avoided making her aware of the concept of a parent who stays home and picks up the end of the school day, which is early afternoon here. A lovely friend who also has a kid in her class, and has a more flexible schedule than mine is going to take her home one day a week though (thanks P!), to give her a bit of a break from school.

Which brings me to why I'm loving the school. The community. One of the reasons the district changed the application policy for the schools this year was to try and make them more part of the communities they were located within. Not everyone has been delighted with this new policy, but I love that when I drop off at school I see the same families we play with in the playground, kids that I went to mummy and baby classes with, and mums I remember being pregnant at the same time I was. There are also families who live in the less affluent part of our neighborhood who we otherwise wouldn't interact with. I love that the school is so close to our house.

Admittedly, most of the families I know are in the much lauded Spanish language immersion path at the school. We are not in that program, we are in the regular General Education English language track. I did a fair amount of outreach into our parent community over the past year, and for the first time a decent proportion of this class also is from "our side of the tracks". A bonus of this not being one of the popular schools in the city means that there are only fourteen children in Geekygirl's class.

 As part of my rallying effort I had asked the kindergarten teacher at the time to meet with prospective parents. This lady, a thirty year veteran teacher, spoke about assessing each child's needs and grouping the children according to ability to ensure all children progressed, rather than teaching to the lowest common denominator. This gets called "supporting differentiated learning" here, and apparently it isn't philosophically supported by all schools. The teacher we met with retired over the summer though, and the teacher of this years K class is new.

The only nagging concern I have is whether she will be able and willing to meet the needs of all the kids in the class. There are kids who have had no preschool, kids who don't speak English well, and kids like Geekygirl who can read and write already. She seems really lovely, but I would like to have a conversation with her about this concept without sounding like a pushy parents who is convinced her child is a genius. Any suggestions?!

Happy back to school, everyone!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Silent Sunday

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Silent Sunday

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen

Despite never having lived in the country, Geekydaddy is Danish, courtesy of his Danish mother, and of the queen of Denmark who granted his citizenship plea when he turned 18. His mum and dad have a cottage on the coast, an hour or so from Copenhagen, and that is where we spent a week of our vacation.

Rural Denmark must be the greenest place on earth. The grass, when examined closely, proves to be interlaced so thickly with leafy chartreuse moss that it is more moss than lawn. Mushrooms sprout in the shadows. It is a damp country. For the week that we were there though, it was glorious. The white sandy beach with its shallow gentle water a veritable Danish riviera. Every day the kids frolicked in the sand and water. "The sand is as soft as snow" Geekyboy exclaimed on his first trip down to the sea.

We consumed our annual supply of omega 3 fatty acids with a daily herring lunch. As I posted on Facebook, you know you are in Denmark when lunch consists of pickled herring, smoked herring, herring salad with some smoked mackerel to add variety. The children didn't touch the herring, I hasten to add. In fact they universally turned their noses up at lovingly prepared food on both sides of the North Sea. Thank goodness jarred pesto sauce and dried pasta are internationally consistent products, otherwise they may have starved. They did relish their "frigadella" (Danish meatballs) and British sausages, at least.

A trip to Denmark wouldn't be complete without an outing to Tivoli, the wonderful old theme park right in the center of Copenhagen.
Geekydaddy turned into a child as soon as we walked through the gates. This was a paradise from his own childhood, and he couldn't wait to share it with the kids.

Our kids hadn't even been to a theme park before. We haven't made the trek to Disney or lego-land. We may have to now, because they loved Tivoli. Even Geekyboy, usually cautious, wanted to go on the rides. Our favourite was a peculiarly Danish ride "the magic Suitcases". Riders sit in a car shaped like an open suitcase and are carried through animated scenes from Hans Christian Andersen stories, some rather strange and sinister, others very beautiful and charming. I noted that the lovely "little mermaid" scene consisted of several stylized topless mermaid statues complete with round perky boobs with bright red nipples. Can you imagine such a thing in Disneyland in a ride intended for preschoolers?! I do love the Scandanavian attitude to the human body. We had planned a sensible early exit from the park, but Geekydaddy begged and pleaded to keep the kids up too late and to stay for longer, so we fed the kids some more sugar to keep them going long past their bedtime.

This trip is probably the first that Geekygirl will really remember well. She was only three the last time we traveled with her, and she has some flashes of recollection but not many.  At five, this trip will be written into the mystery that is permanent memory. Holiday memories burn brighter than others, I think. Maybe because they are more photographed and talked about. Maybe because we pack so much experience into those few weeks away from our usual routines. I have vivid and happy memories from my childhood holidays. This trip is the beginning of a holiday memory collection Geekygirl will carry with her forever. I'm glad it was such a good one.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The squeaky stair

I'm not sure when the second from bottom stair in my parents house started to creak, but it has done so for as long as I can remember. My mum and dad purchased our family home brand new, in 1973. At the time the little estate was at the very edge of the small and rather shabby market town, built on the first of many farmer's fields sold to developers. They still live there; its now much farther from the edge of the town, and the town itself is now an attractive local destination filled with gastro pubs and designer shops. The interior of the house is much tidier and more stylish too, and the garden a veritable magazine piece. The stair still creaks though.

My mum's footfall on that step, bouncing up and down those stairs, epitomizes home to me. I have lain in bed, upstairs, waiting to be kissed goodnight, for a glass of water, to be roused for the school bus, illicitly with a boyfriend or just innocently drifting off to sleep alone, and that creak has meant mum or dad were on their way up or down. I jumped over that creaky step if I came home late, trying to be quiet, though I'm sure mum was still awake, she never slept until we were all safely home.

Our first port of call on our recent holiday to the UK was mum and dad's house. Warmly welcomed, the children were cool. They don't know their grandparents well, how could they really with the miles that separate us? Geekygirl especially can tell how much I want her to like them, and being her contrary self decides that therefore she won't. I was sad that they didn't show their adorable selves very often, but instead met my parents kind efforts with a sullen, grudgy compliance. Still, we explored my childhood haunts and many wonderful attractions that didn't exist when I was a child, and they had a wonderful time. England has become so child friendly, even child centric, it seems, since I left. Family farms and adventure playgrounds galore.

The wall next to the staircase in my parents house is a family gallery. Arty shots of me and my siblings, wedding snaps, and precious portraits of long passed family members, some perhaps the only photos ever taken of them, and certainly wearing the only shoes they owned, adorn the walls. Geekygirl, her ascent halted by the disconcerting squeak of the stair, stopped to look at them and was fascinated by a sepia picture of two curly haired toddler girls and a baby boy. She was incredulous when informed that one of the pretty little girls was Grandma. It seemed almost impossible to her that Grandma used to be a little girl. That I used to be one too, a skinny gap toothed creature in the gallery, she can barely grasp. This sense of continuity, this home with its trail of family, is one of the reasons I wish we could bring the kids 'home' more frequently.

That, and to preserve the lovely English accent both kids seem to have adopted during the trip.

Silent Sunday

 for more silent sunday entries go here
Silent Sunday

Sunday, July 31, 2011


We are on holiday. You would think that would give me the luxury of lots of time to post, but contrarily the whirl of events and family catch ups combined with disoriented children and the fact that I can't seem to stop logging on to work have left me blogless.

We are having a lovely holiday. Just not finding a lot of down time. The trip is almost over and I have only read one of the nine books I optimistically loaded onto the kindle.

I have many blog posts forming in my head, including how I learned that I would rather take a transatlantic flight with a chimpanzee or a baby goat than with a three year old boy.

The trauma of the long flight is fading, though the return journey looms closer. We are currently in Denmark, a very green, quiet and deliciously relaxing place. If only someone would tell the children that.

Normal blog posting will resume when I return to real life and ironically will have more free time!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone.

Silent Sunday

For more go here

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Junior Genetics

One of the challenges of having two full time working parents is finding time for all of the enriching activites that kids seem to require these days. One might argue that children don't really need to learn kung fu, ballet, softball, Chinese calligraphy, flower arranging and soccer at the age of five, but as we all know, this is the norm these days. In fact even when I was a kid my parents signed us up for lots of extra curricular classes. I took ballet, modern dance, brownies (girl scouts for american readers), flute, piano, band, swimming (stroke classes and synchronized) and horseriding as a kid and I enjoyed it all very much. I would like to offer the same to our kids, but most of these classes are in the early afternoon, not conducive to working parents schedule. Preschool offers music class, soccer and zumba which helps assuage the guilt a little.  I confess though that I do not know what zumba is. I must be the only mother on the planet who hasn't tried it.

We can manage one activity a week. When geekygirl was small I braved a music class. We toyed with ballet and with swimming on the weekends, but have now settled on gymnastics. This is for purely practical reasons. The gym is 2 minutes from home, and on the route home from preschool, and they have concurrent classes for toddler boys and five year old girls. I leave work early every Thursday and sometimes we even make it to class on time and remember the bag with their gym clothes in.

Both kids love it. I enjoy watching them too. It soothes away the stresses of a work day to sit and watch the kids concentrate on their tumbling and jumping, looking so proud of themselves when they achieve something spectacular, like a swing or a somersault over one of the bars. I have noticed improvements in Geekygirls strength and coordination since she has started the class too.

Geekyboy also seems to have fun with it. He can't, however, pronounce the word 'gymnastics'. He calls it "genetics".

I can't help but wonder what other parents must think of me when he proudly announces that he is going to genetics class. I'm secretly waiting for an over eager mum or dad to ask me where one can sign a three year old up to study advanced biology.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I love to ride my bicycle

When I was a kid a bicycle was my first taste of freedom and independence. All the children who lived in our cu de sac would gather on our bikes and ride around our streets engaged in elaborate games. It took me a while to learn to ride a bike, though. It wasn't until Father Christmas clanked in a couple of brand new shiny bicycles for my sister and I one Christmas eve, the kind that folded up in the middle with a hinge for easy transport, (I guess this was before people invented bike racks?), that I mastered the art of riding without stablizers. I must have been at least 9 years old.

Our San Francisco home, being situated on a hill so steep that it is used for the 'street louge' event when our city hosts the “X games”, is not an ideal place for teaching kids to ride bikes. Our Tahoe place however is perfect. We have a long, smooth wide tamaced driveway ideal for bike practice, the streets are quiet, bikes, pedestrians, dogs and kids have right of way over cars. The community up here feels a like going back in time, to how I imagine America was back in the 1970's. It isn't unusual to see a bunch of dusty children, not much older than 7 or 8, flying around on bicycles, unsupervised except by a galumphing golden retreiver with an American flag bandana around its neck.

I've documented here our struggles helping Geekygirl learn to ski. Our first attempts at teaching her to ride a bike were similarly difficult. I optimistically bought a cheap little bike with stablizers last year but she showed little interest in it. Geekygirl is not a child who can be persuaded to try something difficult if she reslly doesn't want to, so the bike languished in the garage. This summer I was determined to get the kids velocepidal. We splashed out on a decent brand of kid bike with smooth pedalling action. 

Shopping for these bikes made me wonder about the 'genderization' of everything. When I was a kid I don't recall bikes being quite so obviously “Girl” and “Boy”. As a parent with a child of each gender I would very much like to be able to pass down these expensive items, but we ended up with a purple bicycle with a basket and pink handlebar streamers for Geekygirl (it is at least decorated with dragonflies rather than princesses, and Geekyboy is quite envious of the streamers) and a black and white motocross style one for Geekyboy. 

Geekygirl was thrilled with the bike, but still unsure about riding it, and as usual our efforts at encouragement caused her to become self concious and refuse to try. I decided just to sit out in the driveway, reading and half paying attention to her. I love to watch geekygirl play. She takes off into imaginary worlds, narrating out loud the story that she is participating in. She was on some kind of mission that involved climbing the rocks when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that she was on the bicycle.  "The girl needed to take some cookies to her friends house, so she got on her bicycle and zoomed there" I heard her say. Sure enough she got on, pedalled a few feet then hopped off, parked it and skipped off to the imaginary friends house. She came back, rode a few more laps of the driveway, then hopped off again.

I remembered, watching her, how my own childhood bicycle doubled as a pony, a broomstick, or a magical silver deer. Seeing her incorporate hers into into her games reassured me that she would come to love riding it.

Sure enough, by the end of the weekend she was even confident enough to ride in the 4th of July bicycle parade, an event of such wholesome, sweet all-Americanness that it makes me nostalgic for the American childhood that I didn't even have.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Guest posting at "book week"

Please pop over and read, and do read all the other wonderful posts that Tasha has gathered together.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Silent Sunday

For more go here
Silent Sunday

Saturday, July 2, 2011

potty powerless

Geekyboy has discovered irony. He must have done, or why else would he have peed on the couch while watching "Potty Power"?

I was warned that potty training little boys could be hard. I had been under the impression that Geekygirl had been quite difficult to train in this respect, and that I was now an expert in these matters, but I now take all my complaints back. If you ever think you know anything about kids, just have another one. This will set you straight and remind you that children are individuals, damn them, and they can't be reared to any kind of formula. When it comes to potty training, Geekyboy has proved to be  recalcitrant.

He can recognize California, Texas, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Maine on a map of the USA (he and I are about on par with our recognition of the states. The squareish states in the middle of the union all look the same to me.) He can spell his name and count to twenty. He does still think one and one make eleven, so we have some work to do there, but he is clearly a bright boy.

He doesn't understand his own body though. He can sit on the potty for twenty minutes, and three or four stories (which makes it just about impossible for me to get in to work at 8.00am these days), with nary a trickle produced. Three minutes later we will find him standing in a lake of pee. "Make it come out Mummy" he shouts with frustration while sitting on the loo. 

I had an escape from this madness with my annual trip to the American Diabetes Association scientific sessions last week. This year it was in San Diego which is one of my favourite conference locations. A short hop from home, but with much  warmer weather. I broke out my summer dresses and strappy sandals, guzzled cocktails with abandon (not during the conference sessions, I hasten to add) and probably to the bemusement of my co workers I was as giddy as if I was on a tropical vacation. A full time working mum has to get her kicks where she can find them.

This was my first business trip with my newly acquired Kindle. The only downside of traveling with an electronic instead of a paper book is that it has to be turned off during take of and landing, leaving me itching for any kind of reading material. Browsing that catalog of the bizarre that is United Airlines "Sky mall" magazine. I came across this.
 I am not sure whether to be encouraged or depressed that people can potty train cats more easily than I can potty train a three and a half year old.

On returning from my trip (I'm not sure who is more delighted to see me when I get back from these trips, the kids, the dog or my husband) a victory had been reached. Geekyboy's patient and ingenious preschool teachers devised a strategy. They sit him on the toilet with his feet in a bowl of warm water, and simultaneously give him a cup of water to drink. A full week of this ritual and he seems to have got the hang of actually peeing on the loo.

He still doesn't seem to recognize when he needs to go, so we need to be vigilant, and as for pooping, lets just say we won't be getting rid of the diaper pail any time soon. Any other potty advice very much welcomed, wise blogosphere (and of course wise family members!)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Nobody's city but our own

Once upon a time a twenty five year old post doctoral scientist arrived in San Francisco, a city she had never before seen, with all her worldly belongings in two suitcases. She had a university research position lined up, just enough cash to cover her expenses for a couple of weeks and a bed in a roach infested youth hostel. Her first few days in the city were spent apartment hunting. She got fantastically lucky. You see she didn't just find a place to live, she found a home. She found the kind of friends that are like family. Friends who became connected to each other the way the rickety back stairs connected their apartments. Friends who got to know each other the way you can only when you are young, unencumbered and have hours to lose drinking and laughing and telling stories. 

There is a new musical playing in San Francisco, a show based upon the "Tales of the City" novels by Armistead Maupin. The opening scene, set in 1976, introduces us to twenty five year old MaryAnn,  from Cleveland Ohio who is seeking an apartment. She finds a home, and a group of friends at 28 Barbary lane on Russian Hill and the show tells the entwined stories of these fascinating people through some quite brilliant songs, including "Nobody's city but my own".

 My only experience of the city before moving here was through this series of novels. They have a special place in my heart, maybe they even drew me here. The friends I found, the life we led back in the late 1990's in our cool but tatty victorian apartment building paralleled that of those fictional characters. Not just in the partying and dating, but in the warm and genuine nature of the bond we shared. I love my city. Despite being far too far away from my family in England, it is truly my home.

I bought tickets to the musical as soon as they went on sale. I blogged about my anticipation. Last weekend we went to see the show. Followthatdog and her family came down from Seattle, as did our friend Chihuahua. Work and family took them both up to the pacific northwest a few years ago, but their hearts are still in San Francisco. Stan still lives here. We went out for a fancy dinner, and then we went on to the show. Gussied up and liquored up, it felt just like old times. We felt like old timers when we realized that the last time we had been to this restaurant together was when it opened back in 1998. Over fine wines and gourmet seafood we rehashed our own beloved stories. Legends of memorable nights whose details I will not embellish here on this public blog.

The show was perfect. The company even better. My professional and parent circles are great, but I put up a little barrier with people I have met later in life. There is a lot that my newer friends don't know about me. I temper my language, and think before I throw out a caustic barb (well sometimes!)  There is something so wonderfully rejuvenating about being with people who know each other through and through. People who will always love you, no matter what you do or say.

Followthatdog and I put our grown up parent personas back on the next day and extended our homage to San Francisco by taking the children to visit Alcatraz. It was a picture postcard day, all the more perfect since we have had unseasonally appalling weather this spring.

Chugging across the bay, the familiar yet always breathtaking views of city and bridges surrounding the ferryboat, Geekygirl announced with certainty "Mummy, We live in the most beautiful city in the world." I realized what a gift I have given them. The city of San Francisco, to make their very own.
Little Dog, Geekygirl, Big Dog, Geekyboy.
Made in San Francisco.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tea Party

My blog has always been just a place to write. I'm very fortunate in that I have a great day job and that blogging can be purely a hobby. I have no need or desire to make money out of it. But we bloggers are apparently "new media". We are influential in our little spheres. I have personally checked out products recommended by other bloggers, even purchased things, so I can see how this is changing the marketing world. Last week I got my first invitation to a press event. It was for a local children's clothing company, one which happened to have been started right in my own neighborhood, and one that I already know and love.

I couldn't resist the opportunity, so I persuaded Geekydaddy to take the kids to their gymnastics class and I went along. I felt a little weird with my "Geekymummy" name tag plastered across my chest. At "official" events in my professional life I usually I have a badge with "Dr My Real Name" on it, so I was a little unsure of how to project myself publicly in my alternative identity and without my scientific credentials to hide behind. I got the hang of it though, and met some lovely and interesting people, like Normalarkey, the Drifter and the Gypsy, and FrogMom.

Tea Collection make gorgeous children's and women's clothes. I first came across them years ago, when looking for a baby gift for a friend. Our little local florist also sold trinkets and select children's clothing items. She stocked items from Tea, and I was always drawn to them for their interesting prints, the use of colors other than pink and blue and their use of soft, natural fibers.

I learned at the event that the florist store was actually their very first outlet, so I must have been one of their early customers! They are now featured in Nordstrom department stores, so have clearly come a long way. I also learned that the company is called Tea because Tea is something that is universal across cultures. One of the unique things about the collection is that each season they pick a country, visit it and use the culture as inspiration for the prints and styles of the clothes. This fall's collection was inspired by Mexico.

The clothes were just gorgeous. I love that Tea choose a wide color palate for their girls clothing rather than relying on pinks and purples. Their T shirts and hoodies are even, gasp, unisex! The outfits are perfect for San Francisco because they are made for layering. Geekygirl always mixes and matches clothes, wears her dresses over the top of shirts and leggings. She will also only wear soft stretchy things with elasticated waists. Obviously she is not alone since Tea tailor their stuff to exactly this type of kid. The boys clothes also draw from a wider color pattern than is usually seen for boys and again I found the essentials for my sensitive little flowers; soft fabrics and elasticated waist pants. Pants that your kid thinks are sweatpants but that a mother isn't ashamed to put on him for a fancy party.

When I got home Geekygirl tore into the swag bag. She loves this soft cotton jersey sun dress that was inspired by a piece of Mexican pottery.

This was my first official event as a blogger, and I really enjoyed it. Thanks to the lovely women at Tea for inviting me. This post isn't sponsored, but they did give me a bag of free stuff! You can find them here, on their facebook page and they even have a blog. How can a British expat not love a company called Tea?!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Thursday, May 26, 2011

old lady

Geekyboy has taken to calling me "grandma". "I'm pretending you're my grandma" he tells me, then proceeds to yell "Grandma" across the playground.

Our choice to live here in San Francisco means that the kids don't get to see either of their actual grandparents very often. Perhaps the poor child is grandparent deprived.  His obsession with the TV show "Max and Ruby", in which the grandma (a bunny) is a featured character and the champion of the little boy bunny Max may also have something do do with it.

Whatever the reason, I'm getting a bit pissed off! I have seen a few heads turn, probably wondering, since he is calling me "Grandma", if I was a teen mother when I gave birth to his mother or father. Well I hope that's what they are wondering, maybe I look plenty old enough to be his grandma. After all, it is biologically possible and there are forty year old grandmothers aplenty.

Insult is being added to injury by my new "Kindle".  I have the version that is super cheap because it displays advertising when you are not reading on it. It keeps showing me adverts for anti aging face potions.  Maybe this just reflects the target market of a generic Kindle reading demographic, but I'm taking it personally. And wondering if I should invest in some. The sands of time seem to be catching up with me.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mystery Blog Swap

Julie, over at "The Sardine Tin" put together a "Mystery blog swap".  Pop over there to see who else is participating.

My mystery guest wrote a wonderful evocative post. Can you guess who it is? Can you find my post on someone else's blog?

Even if you don't want to play, do enjoy the guest post, I know I did:

Guess who? A memorable day in the life of a mystery blog swapper.

Climbing out of our beds very early, my husband and I really couldn't help grinning like idiots at each other, we were on the holiday of a lifetime and this morning we were booked on a heli-hike across the Fox Glacier.  Gathering at the shop in town we were shepherded to a creaky old bus and taken to the yard where two helicopters stood waiting. My first time in a helicopter! My stomach coursing with butterflies we were all given nailed boots to wear which were seriously heavy and everyone tramped out in a clatter to the helicopter.  Our guide Jason, who honestly looked about 16, helped the pilot allocate our seats in the helicopter, I was placed in the front and my husband behind me and we were off.

Rising up into the air looking over the stunning countryside of South Island New Zealand, Mount Cook gracefully towering over the Southern Alps, word fail me as I try to describe how I was feeling, anticipation, excitement, yes but they really don't cover it.  As we followed the river up into the mountains they opened out into a valley displaying the bright teal glacier glinting in the sunshine. It was at this moment that the pilot decided to do a left hook to show us the valley at close hand and I really do mean close hand, suddenly we were almost upside down, I honestly thought my time had come and we were going to crash into the rocks below! From behind me a hand gripped my shoulder, yes, the other half thought so too.

The end however, was not nigh, the helicopter straightened out and the guide was wittering on in my headset about some waterfall or other whilst I fixed a smile on my face which was closer to a grimace but served it's purpose in keeping my breakfast in my stomach, a useful tip I learned from watching CIS.  I had my eyes shut for the rest of the flight and when we touched down on the glacier a matter of minutes later it took every ounce of will power I possess to make my legs move out of the helicopter down onto the treacherous ice.

 Hunkering down on the ice next to the other half whilst the helicopter left my eyes were streaming with silent tears, he gave me a big hug and we pulled ourselves together enough to listen to Jason telling us about the glacier and it’s movements, his hopes of finding us an ice cave.  We set off slowly, 15 extra pounds of boot on your feet and legs that feel like jelly don’t make for fast movement when the floor is solid ice.  Picking our way along, making sure each foot has a grip before you move the next one, the silence and majestic beauty of the glacier can’t fail to touch you even whilst you are quaking in awe, slowly my legs shored up and my trembling became minimal enough to enjoy our surroundings, the beautiful deep teal blue of the glacier is still one of my favourite colours.
 We walked along an ice ridge high between bottomless crevasses and waited whilst Jason cut stairs in the ice to help us down to an ice cave which we took it in turns to peer into and take photographs, we chatted to a couple from Australia about the flight and they confessed to have been scared ridged too, it is a relief when you realise it wasn’t just you and I got my dare devil mojo back just in time to have a good clamber around in the blue ice tunnels  before we had to slowly make our way back to the landing site, hunkering down again whilst the helicopter landed to take us back to solid ground.
 I did think once we returned to the town of Fox, that I might never get in another helicopter again, a week later though we were once more in the air being thrown around by another pilot who thought it was funny to scare the tourists rigid as part of the Queensland triple, Heli, jetboat and rafting day and guess what – we both laughed in the face of the assumed danger...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

waxing lyrical

The kids are starting to listen carefully. I now understand that old adage "little pitchers have big ears".

We watched Mamma Mia for mothers day.

"How come she doesn't know which of those three guys are her daddy?" asked Geekygirl.

"Oh, her mummy liked them all a lot, they were all such nice guys, that she couldn't tell" I scrambled in reply. Which was a bit of a cop out, but better than saying "well her mum was a bit of an old slapper".

I guess that is why the movie is rated PG13, but I had assumed that the actual plot would fly over the kids heads and they would just enjoy the music. Note to self, more careful vetting of movie plots in the future.

I have been running into the same issue with song lyrics. I prefer not to listen to kids music in the car so I have put together an eclectic playlist of things I like, things they like, and things I thought I liked until I had listened to them 200 times and would now rather chew off my own hand than listen to again ("party in the USA", I'm talking about you.) The list includes several numbers from "Glee" including that great Journey cover "Don't stop bleeding" - as it is sung in our car.

I have a bit of Lady GaGa, some child friendly JayZ, the aforementioned Miley Cyrus number, some Train, some Abba, but the Glee covers are the favourites. The songs have caused some interesting conversations,  a memorable one being "Mummy, why does he want 'Jessie's girl'?"

The latest was

"Mummy, why does he like 'fat bottomed girls'?"

We have done a good job so far of teaching the kids that people come in all sorts of sizes, so I wanted to be positive; "Maybe because they are squishy?"

Geekygirl: "Mmm, maybe fat bottoms are nice and soft. Mummy, I have a tiny bottom and you don't have a fat bottom, but P's mummy has a really, really fat bottom"

The lady in question does indeed have a spectacular rear. She is also a friend of mine. She is a woman confident in her shape and appearance, but I am crossing every finger, indeed every bone in my body that Geekygirl does not serenade her with an A Capella version of "fat bottomed girls" the next time we see her at preschool.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Silent Sunday

More silent sunday here
Silent Sunday
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, May 14, 2011


One benefit of being a mum with a job is that the example that I set for the kids. Geekygirl has always assumed that when she grows up, she too will have a job. For the longest time she has had one particular career in mind.

Her dream started one Sunday morning while we were eating our ritual "Home baked from Trader Joe's" chocolate croissants. If you have never tired these breakfast delicacies, I highly recommend that you do. We threw them into the shopping cart one day, doubtful that a frozen pastry could conjour up the true deliciousness of a genuine "Pain au chocolat", but once I tasted their puffy, crumbly bittersweet chocolatiness I was transported back in time. They evoked mornings in French campsites, when two little girls would get up early to run to the bakery van, practicing their French by ordering "un Baguette, deux croissant et trois pain au chocolat, s'il vous plait".

One morning, with a mouthful of chocolaty crumbs, Geekygirl asked us "Who makes these? I want a job where I can make these for people". There began her dream of becoming a pastry chef with her own patisserie. Over the past few months it has become quite elaborate. She will have a small shop, which she may or may not live above. Her brother will have a restaurant next door that serves only vegetables, to counteract her sweet offerings. Customers will have to go there first, eat vegetables, and only afterwards will they be allowed a pastry. She will drive to her pastry shop in a yellow "smart car". She will serve dog cookies and dogs will be allowed in (I didn't break the news that the California health code doesn't allow dogs in establishments that serve food). She will be serving these cookies, our house specialty since my trip to the "Sanrio" store in Tokyo, so we had better start negotiating a licencing deal.
As suddenly as it arrived, Geekygirls ambition switched gears. She developed her first cavity, an event perhaps not entirely unrelated to her love of chocolate. Her dentist is a fierce, fabulous woman with a deep compelling voice, a pristine office filled with toys and state of the art electronic entertainment, and a tiny fuzzy, impossibly adorable little dog who sits on the kid's laps. Overnight, Geekygirl decided that she wanted to be a dentist instead of a pastry chef. I'm trying to persuade her to keep the patisserie business too, if only to drum up customers for her dental practice.

What do your kids want to be when they grow up?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Silent Sunday

a Silent Sunday post
Silent Sunday

Saturday, May 7, 2011

helter skelter

"When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride." (Helter Skelter; Lennon McCartney.)

The days and weeks are going past too fast. California winter to California summer in one week with a trip to Chicago slammed into the middle of it. I'm all discombombulated.

The Easter weekend summed up the entire season in Tahoe by being cold and stormy. We braved the lifts, since we had guests determined to ski, and were glad that we did. Despite blizzard visibility at the end of April when we were expecting sunshine, beers and bands on the deck and the sight of teenagers skiing in bikinis, the fresh powder made for nice skiing. Geekygirl has transformed into a skiing daredevil, seemingly overnight. "I am faster and better than you, mummy" she informed me casually.

Monday was our semi annual advisory board meeting at work, and I was presenting data for the first time since I've taken this new job. I was almost hobbled by a dysfunctioning Maddona style headset mike, but I think I did a reasonable job. Tuesday I headed out to Chicago for the second time in a month. You know you are traveling a bit too much when the guy in the O'Hare airport gift shop recognizes you and points out which items in the store are new. Around midnight on Wednesday I was back at SFO, and Thursday, despite mentally being somewhere between Central and Pacific time, I was back in the office.

Sunday was the day of the Big Sur Marathon Relay, an event I had signed up for months ago as part of a team of coworkers, so we garnered enough energy to pack up the car and head down the coast on the Friday night. In startling contrast to the previous weekend this one was stunningly bright and warm.

We stayed in Monterey, and took the kids to the incredible Monterey Bay Aquarium for their first time. It turned out to be a wonderful family weekend. I'm not sure which the kids enjoyed most, the aquarium with its sea horses, sea otters, sharks and jellyfish or the motel room with its two double beds, close enough together that they could leap from bed to bed squealing hysterically when they should have been sleeping.

On Sunday I got up at 4.15am to be bused to my relay start point along with several hundred other equally insane individuals. I ran 6 miles along the most beautiful stretch of coastal road in the world, and felt on top of the world.

We all slept extremely well back in our own beds on Sunday night, despite the kids plotting to move some of our beds closer together so that they could continue their bed bouncing fun. You can only imagine how big the laundry pile was after a week like that. I think this weekend I might just crawl into one of those solitary flotation tanks for a day, especially if I can find a volunteer to come round and do my washing.