Sunday, May 27, 2012


We have been stable for so long. In our beloved San Francisco home in our perfect neighborhood. Spending winter and summer weekends at our place in Tahoe. Sure, jobs have changed, kids have grown, we have made new friends, but fundamentally we have been grounded for a long time now.

This year things are changing.  Really changing profoundly for the first time since I got on flight VS019 with my two suitcases and headed out from Heathrow into the unknown that was San Francisco.

Part of this change means that this weekend we are preparing our Tahoe home for sale. Last night, just like countless Friday nights past, we packed up the car, picked up burritos and headed west on I80. We arrived at the house late and I carried the sleeping children into the house. This act of lifting first Geekygirl, then Geekyboy from their car seats, carrying them into the waiting house and lowering them into their beds is one which never fails to trigger the "poignancy of the passage of time" button in me. "How did you get so big?" I think to myself every single time. The weight of each child gets greater and greater as the weekends have built into years while my arms still vividly remember both of them as featherweight babies.

Today we drove over the mountains to Reno to pick up a U-haul truck. I still remember the first time I saw the Sierra Nevada range. My English country sensibilities quite flabbergasted by the vastness, by the sheer scale of this edge of California. Today every curve of the road is familiar, the mountains still breathtaking but now part of the fabric of my world. I have watched the seasons pass over them year after year. I always think, when I coast up and down the freeway in my powerful car, of the pioneers who navigated here in horse drawn wagons. People who left everything behind in search of a new and better life. I like to imagine that I would have done that, had I been born there and then, instead of now. That I was always destined to be a Californian.

The realtor brought people to look at the house as we were filling bags and boxes for relocation, recycling and rubbish. It seems so very recent still, the day that Geekydaddy and I went house hunting with this same realtor. So many moments in our lives get lost in time, but the day we saw this place first, back in 2004, sticks brightly in my memory. We knew, the minute we walked in, that despite the walls decorated with stuffed animal heads and pelts, and the table devoted to fishing lure construction, that the place was meant to be ours. So many happy times, and a few hard ones too, if I"m being honest, have passed since then. I've been re-reading my old posts, and have linked a few Tahoe related ones here, here and here.

Mountain weather is a good analogy for life. We have desires, hopes and plans but can't rely on many of them actually coming to fruition quite the way we pictured them. Last weekend we basked on our sunny deck,  all bikinis and paddling pools, but this weekend we awoke to snow, and steady flakes have been falling all day putting pay to our desire for a farewell barbeque. Our lives are changing. We're taking a path that we didn't plan for or choose, but that nevertheless will offer opportunity.

Analogies have been filling my head. Through the whirling storm against the windshield wipers I considered the analogy of life as a snow globe. We have been given a good shake up over the last few weeks. But when a snow globe restores itself after an upending, the scene returns to where it was before. Perhaps a better analogy is a kaleidoscope. The basic components of our family and life remain the same but they are being twisted and shaken into a new form. Our life will be new, it will be different, but it will still be beautiful.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

growing up

Geekyboy doesn't want to grow up. He tells me so occasionally and quite poignantly. I think he knows that he has to eventually and that it won't be as good an experience as the here and now of being four years old. Every now and again he will sigh, look at me and say "mummy, do I have to grow up? I don't want to grow up."

I suspect this reluctance to accept the inevitable progression through life is part why we have one big hold out issue with his maturation. Ready for a confession? Geekyboy, who is almost four and a half, still asks for a pull-up to poop in. He has gone on the potty precisely once, and was not enamored of the experience. (He jumped off too soon and got a little poop on the bathroom floor). We talk a lot about him getting to be a big boy, big enough to use the toilet, or even the throne-like potty chair I got especially for him, but he always replies "But mummy, four is not a big number. It's actually quite a small number". Which is hard to argue with.

His sister talks a lot about what she might like to be when she grows up. She is proud of her new grown up teeth, of her ability to read. She loves being six and can't wait to be seven. Kindergarten was awesome and first grade will be even better. While Geekygirl ponders the relative advantages of veterinary medicine over restaurant ownership as career options, Geekyboy will state "I want to be a giraffe when I grow up", or "I want to be Mama Odie" (from 'the princess and the frog). He doesn't quite yet seem to grasp that though we do grow and change quite dramatically as we age, we can't switch species or turn into animated characters.

It was after a lovely lunch out with the kids that I got another insight into his funny little mind. We had been having a conversation about growing up, when he turned to me and said. "I don't want to be anything when I grow up. I just want to always be Geekyboy".

I realized then that the concept of growing up to be a man like his daddy is so alien and unimaginable to him that in his mind it is just as reasonable that he might one day turn into a giraffe. I explained that he would always be himself. That all adults were once little children, and all little children become adults. Boy to man is a journey wrought with challenges though, so perhaps geekyboy is wise beyond his years in wanting to slow down time. It is hard for me to imagine him grown. I can only hope that the sweetness, sensitivity and openness he has now at four survive intact as he grows into his adult personality.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Birds, bees and puppies

It was a parenting moment that I knew was going to come, but still, I was not quite expecting it. I should have been. The children have always been very interested in nature, animals and life itself. We have recently been reading a lovely book about mammals an animal and asking me to guess what it is, using various definitions of the members of the vertebrate class of life, such as "it drinks it's mother milk" "it comes from an egg", "it has scales" or "it is warm blooded". Being a biologist myself, I am delighted with their fascination and with their precocious knowledge. Though I admit to being shamefully stumped when asked if fish were warm blooded. I'm not sure. If anyone knows, please feel free to enlighten me!

So I shouldn't have been surprised really, when, over spaghetti and hot dogs, Geekyboy asked me "When will Geekydog have a puppy grow in her tummy?". I explained that since we didn't have a boy dog, she wouldn't be having any puppies. Geekygirl then asked in all innocent curiosity "Why do you need a boy dog to make puppies?"

I froze for a second. Then decided that this was a good a time as any for an explanation of the mechanics of procreation. The kids already know how babies get out, but had not shown any curiosity about they got in until now. Having one child of each sex means that they are familiar with basic anatomy at least, and the fact that I was talking about dogs made it more of a biology lesson than a personal story about what mummy and daddy get up to. It went quite well. Geekygirl's eyes widened as I explained but she accepted the concept without shock or horror. I asked her if she had any questions. Being a San Franciscan born and raised the question she came out with was "but what about kids with two mommies? How do they get a baby?". So we ended up covering sperm donation, IVF and regular sex all in one evening!

I hope this is the beginning of many conversations we have with the children about sex and relationships. Though I had all the basic information I needed about my body as I grew up, subjects like desire and sexual exploration were off limits as a dinner time conversation topic in our Catholic household. The rules were clear, we were to remain virginal until we married a nice Catholic boy, preferably after graduating college. There won't be so many external rules for our kids, but I want to instill certain values. Respect yourself. Respect others. Take responsibility for your health and your feelings, and those of your partners. Enjoy yourself while you figure it out. And know that you can come to us with absolutely any question, worry or fear that you may have.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

there goes another year

It has been a long time since I wrote anything. If you are still reading, thanks for hanging in there! Life just hit that level of busy where blogging fell off the priority list. I last posted just before the kids birthdays in February. I found myself blocked while trying to write the annual 'there goes another year ' update. Much as I love when others write endearingly of their growing children, and much as I adore my kids, I found myself unable to come out with any sincere or satisfying happy birthday posts. The fact that they turned 6 and 4 within a few days of each other and that the intervening time was filled with a business trip to Japan and China, that their fairly elaborate party was two days before I left, and that I had to generate 60 home made valentine cards for them to take to school/preschool before leaving for the trip made the week too overwhelming to write about. The fact that we survived it, and that everyone had a wonderful time has to go down in old fashioned memory, and a couple of facebook status updates, rather than in insightful prose.

What has pulled me back into writing again is that we are spending the weekend in Monterey, exactly a year from the last time we made this same trip. I'm running in a marathon relay with my co-workers (I run seven miles, not a whole marathon, I hasten to add), and brought the family down for a little mini break in this idyllic California tourist town. We are in an identical motel room, I think it is actually the room next door to the one we had last year, we ate an identical breakfast at the same Denny's restaurant (waffles. Geekygirl actually had waffles for 4 of the 6 meals we ate on the trip!) and spent another beautiful day at the aquarium. We dined at the same Mexican restaurant we went to last year with the rest of my co-workers, and again I got up at 4am to catch the bus to my relay race starting point, wondering again what on earth possessed me to sign up for this venture.

I'm not a very "in the moment" person. My head is usually recreating the past into ever rolling reinvented versions of the future. On the "Meyers Brigg", if you are familiar with that personality type tool, I'm an extreme "N', iNtuitive, living in the world of possibilities and connections, and not at all Sensing, grounded in reality and concrete things. The only time I get peace from my mind is when I run. There is something about the simple awareness of lungs, heart and muscle connecting with air and ground. Noticing the adrenaline kicking in and lifting my old joints into fluidity. Feeling the sun prickle my skin as the sweat rises. (In California. In Scotland it was the biting, icy wind). It was training for this event last year that reignited my dormant running addiction, and I feel quite satisfied that I'm going into it this year feeling strong and trained.

It was running that started me blogging. Analyzing events and retelling them to myself as stories in my head as I ran, I realized that I wanted to write them out so that I didn't lose all these moments to time.

I have used running to meditate through a lot of changes this year. Coming full circle back to Monterey in what seems like the blink of an eye has me turning them over in my mind again. Geekydaddy quit the business he was trying to start and took a new job, one that he loves but that makes huge demands on his time and mental energy. Geekygirl started Kindergarten at a wonderful, but challenging inner city school that makes demands on mine. My company merged the San Francisco office with the one in San Diego into a "one company/two locations" model, bringing with it the stress of forced change, rivalries, opportunities and the logistical issues of working with people in an office 500 miles away. I have become a regular on the Virgin America early flight from SFO to SAN, and the children now have more toys from that city's airport gift store than I had ever thought possible to buy.

The kids were delighted to be back here in Monterey. For them it is a treat, pure and simple, and they are thrilled with the novelty of a trip away from home, tinged with the familiarity of a place we have been to before, a place of happy memories. It was a weekend of simple pleasures. Time with mummy and daddy. Motel beds to jump between, jellyfish to look at, sand to play in, french fries and waffles to eat. Sure, mummy and daddy spent part of an afternoon working in the hotel room fending off dive bombing bed bouncers, but all in all it made for a lovely family weekend. I'm fascinated that the kids have both hit that age when they will form permanent memories. Forty, fifty or more years from now they will still remember this motel room in Monterey, and these trips to the amazing aquarium, much as I remember the little hotel in Maidencombe with the swing in the garden and the too deep swimming pool, and the red sandy beaches of Torquay from the holidays of my childhood.

That's what this blog is about for me. Preserving memories, feelings, moments in time. There is always something to write about. Recently I have felt that I haven't had time to write well enough to justify posting, worried that I will throw down posts that I cringe at years later, but I have decided today that doesn't matter. Writing it down is what matters. On that note I hereby apologize in advance for any mindless drivel that appears here in the near future.