Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Optimistic Party Planner

Plans a garden party for her children's birthday in February. Even in San Francisco February is one of the soggiest months.

After days of rain, she refuses to cancel the much anticipated bounce house, even though every other client of the company has done so. She believes the single weather forecast that predicts scattered showers over the four that say it will be raining stair-rods all day. She wakes to the sound of birds tweeting, sees a sliver of blue and feels sure the weather will change. Much like her cat, who tries every window and door, seemingly believing that surely one of the windows in the house will miraculously exit into a dry world, she ignores the overwhelming evidence pouring from the sky.

With just hours until party time she becomes despondent and angry at the weather. She wishes she had insisted upon renting an indoor party space instead of going to the effort of having people to her home. The kids, already anxious that their party will be spoiled by the rain now have a grumpy, snapping mother to contend with too. Then the cupcakes arrive. She puts them out on the table, along with the big cakes. Her coworker surprised her with two beautiful home made cakes for the party, and just looking at them, she is floored by the kindness of others. The children are so excited about the cakes, the balloons and are eagerly anticipating having their little friends to visit. She pulls herself together.

The optimistic party planner sends a note to her guests that the party is on. She takes up the carpets and sends her husband out for a giant tub of play-do. She sets up activity stations around the living room and hopes that this will entertain fifteen children in her 1600 square foot house.

And it does. She learns that all children really need to have fun is a bunch of other children and a hefty dose of pizza and cake. Watching geekygirl give her best friend Will a tour around the house is priceless; "this is our bathtub, we take baths here with all these bath toys" she tells him, very seriously. She is grateful to be in her own home, glass of wine in hand. The indoor party places frown upon bringing in beer or wine for the adults, I suspect, even though it goes so well with a slice of cake. There is a cozy intimacy as parents relax while children play cacophanously, the rain still hammering down outside.

Geekygirl and geekyboy had a wonderful birthday party after all, and the optimistic party planner collapsed with relief after pulling it off. She may have downed a couple of extra glasses of wine after everyone went home, too.  I fully expect she will cross her fingers for fine weather, and do it again next year.

Silent Sunday. Pig in translation. So cute, so delicious, so not vegetarian

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone after several cocktails in Tokyo

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Geekyboy turned three on Friday.

My little baby has irrevocably turned into a little boy.

You are such a personality. Everything you say is delivered with a comic head tilt or dramatic gesture. Your range of expression, both in your vocabulary and your mannerisms are so mature now, and so funny.  I see the spark of a comic actor in you, you love to see a reaction to everything you say and do.

You are exploring language with more sophistication every day. Asked which pajamas you would like to wear, you rejected your 'monkey pirates' ones as "too piratey". Inventing your own adjectives at three is an impressive feat, and the pride with which you delivered this pronouncement, knowing quite well it would amuse me, was just delightful.You delight me every day.

You are still so untainted by the world and its expectations. You like nothing better than to wear a dress and some pink high heels. "Today I am going to be a girl" you declare. Or sometimes "Mummy, today I'm a boy in a dress".

You are my cuddler. Your hugs are increasingly being delivered battering ram style, but despite your now advanced age, you still love to be kissed and smooched. In times gone by I would probably have been accused of babying you and turning you into a mama's boy. I'm so relieved that we live in times where I can adore you openly rather than withholding my affection for fear of doing you some kind of mysterious psychic damage.

Three can be a tempestuous age.  I see your fierce temper and stubbornness getting stronger along with your study legs. Yet you still have a sweet compliance running like a seam of gold through your personality. "NO!" you will declare, when asked to wash your hands or clean your teeth "But you have to get the germs off" I reason, and most of the time you will tilt your head, reconsider and sigh "Ok, then".

You are growing up and away every day. I was reminded just this weekend that tiny boys grow too fast; the father of one of Geekygirl's classmates was playing with you, and remarked on your sweetness, remembering the days when his boy, now five, was as small and cuddly.

I hope your sweet nature carries into your adult personality. I worry about how hard it must be to transition from being a little boy to being man, with all the responsibilities and lack of support that can come with adulthood. I think adult men sometimes get a rough deal, they carry a large weight of expectation as they grow up; to be providers, to shoulder burdens and not to show weakness. I know that you are going to be a wonderful man, funny, kind and very handsome. For now though, I'm going to enjoy every moment of your being three.

Happy Birthday Geekyboy

Sunday, February 20, 2011

After the rain

A silent Sunday post

Silent Sunday

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

Thursday, February 17, 2011

love for sale

No sooner have I got through the nagging anxiousness that permeates Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas yet another holiday creeps up on me. Maybe I find the Valentines madness excessive because its mid February arrival coincides with both of the children's birthdays, or maybe it is just because it feels like another excuse for the card and candy companies to hoodwink us into yet more wasteful spending. I suppose I should be thankful that we are not Chinese, at least we don't have the lunar new year celebrations to throw into the mix.

Still, I'm a joiner and not a renegade when it comes to this type of thing, but I just couldn't bring myself to endorse the packets of Disney or Nickelodeon preschooler themed cards for the preschool classroom card exchange.

My long buried inner artist was channeled, and we cut potatoes into heart shapes, and stamped out some home made cards.  I was amused to see Geekygirl carefully select a card with the most hearts, five, for one little boy in the class, and equally carefully ensure that another boy got a card with only one. I'm hoping the recipients didn't notice this subtle declaration of preference. Geekyboy's cards I wrote myself, though he did put the glitter on them, and over most of the surrounding area.

Geekygirl actually wrote the names of all her classmates and signed her own name on all fifteen cards. There may have been cupcakes and bribery involved in that achievement, I must confess. I wasn't sure how many of her classmates would be writing their own cards, but I sure didn't want Geekygirl to be the only one who didn't.  As it turned out many but not all the kids signed their cards themselves, but very few kids wrote the recipients name too, so I think we overdid it a bit with our home made, child written cards. I confess that I compare the handwriting of the other children to Geekygirl's whenever the kids exchange cards like this. I was ridiculously and secretly gratified to see that she seemed to be one of the best.

Her cards were at least presented in a plain old ziploc bag with a drugstore Hershey candy. If I had gone the whole hog and offered organic home made free trade carob cookies in valentine cellophane I may have faced ostracization from the other parents for overreaching.

On valentines morning I arrived at preschool with two children, two sweaters, two sheets and blankets for naptime and no valentines cards. I had carefully put them right in front of the door the night before to make sure they didn't get forgotten, but I must have stepped over them when I put the kids in the car, since when I drove us all back home to fetch them they were still sitting right there.

When I picked the children up they had big papers bags that they had decorated with hearts filled with valnetines from their friends. At home Geekygirl pored over them, telling me who gave her which one, so excited by the little pictures, pencils, stickers and of course candy. The cynic in me I softened a little. Preschoolers get pleasure out of such simple things. I pinned all the little cards to a ribbon and festooned our mantle with them. They look rather sweet alongside all of the Chinese New Year crafts that came home last week, I have to admit.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Today our little girl is five years old.

Geekygirl, you are amazing and precious. The little girl I always dreamed of. So very much your own person now, I cannot imagine ever being without you. Our house, our whole lives really, are now merely a stage for you and your brother to learn and grow within.

Such a presence. So self contained. Full of questions, but also full of facts and ideas that you have sopped up like a sponge, and confidently spout back to us. Stuck in a snowy traffic jam for two hours a few weekends back, you managed to talk non stop for the entire time. You have such a command of language, we love to listen to you narrate as you play. Fairy or princesses; paleontologist, alien, spacegirl or explorer; superhero, horserider, scientist or pastry chef. You seem so free from limitations, so creative in your dreams.

Every time I watch the movie "Mamma Mia" , one of my favourites, I reach the scene where Meryl Streep sings "slipping through my fingers", on her daughter's wedding day and I expect to be irritated by the maudlin new song, but every time I find myself in tears of recognition. How can you be five today, my little girl? A quarter of your life at home with us is passed already. Ten, fifteen, twenty, and you will be off into the world. I hope we have done well by you so far, have given enough of ourselves to you, by bringing you into our hectic lives.

I hope you will always be as curious, confident and as joyful as you are today at five years old. I know you will be as smart and beautiful. And judging by our ritual birthday shopping trip, where you rejected your former favourite store, cheap and cheerful "The Children's Place" for the sophistication of Nordstrom, you will be very well dressed.

Happy birthday, darling girl

february magnolia

a silent sunday post

Silent Sunday

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Contagion hits San Francisco

Have you ever wondered what your neighborhood would look like after the outbreak of a lethal virus pandemic?

We got to find out today, since the movie "Contagion" was filming on our street!

The crew covered the streets with fake garbage. I have a tatty old chair in the garage that I've been longing to chuck out, Maybe I can add it to one of these garbage piles?

Apparently all the children in our neighborhood school have been wiped out. I got a little teary looking at the fake memorial wall. I don't think this is going to be a feel good movie.

Don't you think Geekyboy would make a great extra, as the plucky sole surviving street urchin?

You can see why our neighborhood gets chosen for the movie scenes, we do have a stunning view, which contrasts well with the mounds of infected waste.

you never see all these overhead wires in the film scenes though, maybe they edit them out?

I missed the actual shooting of the movie scene and apparently Jude Law, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet are starring in the film, and were here today. Still I was lucky be to be home at all. I'm staying with Geekyboy, as he is a little bit sick.

After being on that set amongst all the memorials to little children, I keep taking his temperature and hoping he doesn't have a lethal pandemic virus!

They are still clearing up the mess.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lessons from Mary Poppins

I bought the children the DVD of "Mary Poppins" for Christmas. The movie has since taken over our lives. So captivated by the music, the story and the characters, they insist upon watching it almost every weekend, and given that it guarantees us almost three hours of peace, I indulge them. I downloaded the soundtrack too, so we listen to those wonderful songs every day as we drive to and from preschool.

I've always loved the film, a BBC staple over the Christmas and Easter Holidays and I have seen it many many times. That film, "The Sound of Music", and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" must have been the only films that the BBC had the rights to back then, they were played so often. Still, getting reacquainted with Mary and Bert, and Michael and Jane and their gloriously neglectful parents has been fun. The movie has prompted all sorts of wonderful questions from the children.

They are fascinated by the fact that all the characters are played by real people; almost all of the movies they have seen to date have been animated. I have been explaining the concept of acting; that the person on the screen is a real actual human (in these days of sophisticated computer animation it can be hard to tell, when you come to think about it), but that "Mary Poppins" isn't a real person. She is an imaginary character played by an actress called Julie Andrews, who has been in lots of other films, playing other characters. I look forward to when they are old enough to watch her as the lovely flippertygibbet Maria in, "the sound of music". Though I remember as a child myself not quite believing that she was the same person as Mary Poppins.

They are intrigued by the clothes that the characters are wearing. I've explained that the movie is set in England a long time ago. I decided not to go into the deeper details; that it was made in 1964, but set in 1910. Considering this made me realize how time compresses as we spiral away from it. 1910 and 1964 are such distinctly different times, but, historically challenged as I am, I would struggle to define the differences between the years 1810 and 1864. I expect the early part of the twentieth century will merge into a muddle of flappers, hippies and yuppies in the minds of the generations to come.

They are baffled by Dick Van Dyke's accent (as is almost anybody who watches the film, really), conscious as they are of the differences between how I speak and how they do. Geekyboy, who had already been channeling his inner cockney, has perfected Dicks rendition of "Its a Jolly 'olidaiy with Mairy", adorably apalling accent and all.

Geekygirl is becoming very interested in aging and the cycle of life and death. Is "Mary Poppins dead in real life" she asked me. I had a quick google, then reassured her that Dame Julie Andrews is a sprightly 75, still alive and kicking. "What about the children?" she asked, and I realized that those sweet young actors, immortalized in film, must be adults in their fifties now. I wonder what they are doing now?

The kids have memorized the music, and can often be found marching around the house using one of my scarves as a sash, singing

"Cast off the shackles of yesterday!
Shoulder to shoulder into the fray!
Our daughters' daughters will adore us
And they'll sign in grateful chorus
"Well done, Sister Suffragette"

Which has afforded an excellent opportunity to teach them about the rise of women's rights. That Mrs. Banks left her kids with a strange chimney sweep while she went to her rallies doesn't sit quite right with me, but it does illustrate the ongoing issue of affordable, flexible childcare. The movie was way ahead of its time, really. The father gets the weight of the movie's disapproval for not spending enough time with his kids, whereas the mum, fighting the good fight for future generations, is treated much more kindly. In fact it is probably one of the least sexist Disney movies made, despite being filmed in 1964. I wish they would sell Mrs Banks dolls in her "votes for women" banner, alongside the ubiquitous princesses.

Sunday, February 6, 2011