Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My Faery

Tomorrow, my first baby starts school.

In some ways, it feels like a huge milestone... yet it also seems as though she's been barrelling towards this day since her birth.

My first baby, who - instead of crying when she was born - looked up at my face after she was placed on my chest, and studied me intently. An old soul peered at me through her eyes, like we'd met before.

My Faery, who was speaking in sentences at such an early age. Despite her baby face, people always expected her to be older, because of how well she could speak.

My Faery, whose personality is one big paradox. Incredibly innocent, but also mature beyond her years. How is that even possible?

My Faery, who has such a sensitive soul. An ever thoughtful, kind, considerate little girl with an amazing awareness for others' feelings.

My Faery, who's had to learn the meaning of adaptation over the last twenty months - more than many adults do in a decade of living. First of all, becoming a sister (sharing J and I after having us to herself for three and a half years), then moving to another country and leaving all that she'd known and loved - in her short little life - behind.

My Faery, who possesses a runaway imagination. Books are devoured, and I can't keep up with her output of drawings. Empty boxes, toilet rolls, odd-shaped plastic packaging - in her eyes, they are all potential toy homes, robots and rocket ships.

My Faery, with her heart-shaped face, a light splatter of freckles under wide blue eyes and across her tiny nose. White golden hair with unruly waves, and the most stubborn cowlick to boot... have I mentioned how stubborn she is, too?

I watch her in awe, and study her features, amazed at this beautiful creature. She's sweet, she's smart, she's healthy and - I hope - happy.

I couldn't ask for more.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Golden Oldies

It's taken a while, but I finally get it.

Now I know how care-free it feels to be driving alone, with some favourite music blasting away. In the past, given my lack of driving confidence, I've usually preferred no music when it's me who's driving. Music felt distracting. Also, with two little people in the back of the car - oh, say 98% of the time - things tend to get noisy anyway. On those rare occasions where I'm alone behind the wheel, I've savoured the silence in the car - just me and my thoughts.

Lately, 'just me and my thoughts' don't seem to cut it, though. Last weekend, when I was making an escape for a few hours, I impulsively switched the radio on. Lucky for me, J had it tuned in to a station he'd already discovered and likes - KROQ. Even luckier for me, the station was having a 'Nothing but the 90s' weekend.


It must be a sure sign of ageing - being reduced to fits of bliss when hearing songs from 'way back'. As a kid, I remember how happy my mother would be listening to songs from the 70s, when we were in the car. The Doors aside, I remember thinking how daggy and old those songs were - songs that weren't as old (then) as the songs I found myself belting out to on Sunday.


If anyone cares to join me in a trip down memory lane, here are some of the songs from KROQ's playlist that had me smiling like I haven't smiled in a long time:

Ah, sweet youth...

Most of our CDs are boxed into storage back in Australia. Many of our favourite albums are on our iTunes library, but we never got around to putting them all on. I wish we'd been a little more organised in that respect, but hey, the internet is a wonderful thing in the mean time, right?

What songs take you back?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Double D

As promised to myself, ages ago, I finally got around to treating myself and went bra shopping last night.

What an epic mission.

A few weeks ago, when our budget didn't allow for such folly, I cheekily went into Victoria's Secret and got fitted anyway. I was child-free for a few hours, and thought why not? It'll save time for when I actually go bra shopping later.

I was so wrong.

The assistant measured me, and told me I was size 34DD. I was more than happy to hear that, given I was a DD pre-kids, before two pregnancies and three years of breastfeeding.

Armed with that knowledge, I went back last night and spent a good half hour, painfully selecting a few bras in my size. It took longer than I thought because whenever I saw a style I liked, I couldn't find a colour I liked in 34DD.

Turns out 34DD is not so easy to find nice bras in, even in Victoria's Secret.

Eventually, I made my way into a fitting room, only to be horrified once I began trying on the bras.

First, what the hell is wrong with the fitting room lighting in those stores? It was suitably dim, yet somehow, every dimple and vein in my skin was highlighted. Did I look hot in those bras? No siree.

Secondly... back fat? Wtf? When did that happen? Deep breaths. The bras do feel rather tight... 

Turns out I'm not a 34DD after all. The assistant handed me a 36D to try on, which fitted okay-ish. I pointed to a little spillage at the sides, and suggested to her that perhaps I need a 36DD, but she told me the wire would go too high under my arms, and a D would be better.

Back to the drawing board, I left the fitting room to choose a new selection of bras. This time, different colours were available, and again, not all to my liking, so it took me a while.

Armed with my new selection, I returned to the fitting room. No more back fat, but each of the bras gave me massive spillage at the sides - more than the initial 36D I'd tried on. Unattractive, and uncomfortable. I called in the assistant - who, thankfully, was different to the other girl and seemed to have more of a clue.

Turns out I'm not a 36D either. Definitely a 36DD.

I had to start all over again. Different colours, and all that. Turns out DD, in any size, has less variety.

In the end, I settled on just one bra. An hour and a half it took me, to buy one mother-effing bra. A very pretty bra - no less - but only one bra.

I am so glad I didn't have to do that with small kids in tow. I'd have lasted ten minutes - praise the forces that be for night time shopping!

But next time? I'm buying online. At least after trying on over a dozen bras, I know my size for sure. Clicking on a few little boxes has got to be easier, and surely the big warehouse will have all the colours/styles in DD. That's what I call a win.
This is not me...    (Photo source)
I think I fill out my Victoria's Secret bra 
better than any of their models do -
no tissues or chicken fillets required.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pandas and polars

While we were on our little holiday down the coast, we visited San Diego Zoo. 

We loved it, and it didn't feel as massive as I'd heard it was. Although we didn't see everything that day, it wasn't because of the size. We just took our time and stopped often, knowing we'll be back to see more another weekend. We walked the entire length at one point, and it didn't seem to take that long. It didn't feel any more sprawled out than Taronga Zoo in Sydney.

As I was waiting in line to see one of the pandas, I overheard a couple of people behind me, talking on their phones - saying how big the zoo was, and how much walking they'd had to do. I had to hide a smile. I get the impression that there's a large portion of the American population who dislike walking. Or aren't used to it. 

As for the panda? He was the first one I've ever clapped eyes on in real life, and the word cute doesn't do justice. He was so round and soft-looking... I just wanted to curl up into him for snuggles.

Our year's membership is just the incentive we need to force us off our bums one weekend, and return - I'm looking forward to it already.

Whose idea was it to give the kid some Coke? (not mine...)

Up close and personal with my first polar bear...
by far the coolest sight.

Floating foot of a sleeping Faery, coming back from the zoo.
Nothing says 'road trip' more than a car floor scattered with road maps.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Please enter

In past posts, I may have referred to the health care system here, and how I'm not a fan.

Last week, I made an appointment for something that wasn't urgent, but I'd been putting off for a while. Women's business. Naturally, there were slim pickings for times that suited me (ie not having to drag both girls along). Three weeks from now, I should be sorted - a whole month after I made the appointment, for what is essentially a basic check-up.

Yay American health care.

As I was making lunch for a suddenly-starving Faery today, my mobile phone rang. I didn't recognise the number, but answered anyway.

There was a pause, I almost hung up, then a pre-recorded message greeted me.

"Hello, MJ. This is an important announcement from Kaiser-Permanente. For your patient notification, please press one, or you can retrieve your message at any time."

Kaiser-Permanente is the stupid health insurance company we are with (as provided through J's workplace), and has us by the short and curlies. I'm unimpressed with them because our options seem pretty limited - we can only see doctors in their medical centres as it seems the more independent practicioners don't accept KP. Thankfully there is a centre close by, but as mentioned before, I can never get an appointment when truly needed without waiting. It's quite ridiculous.

So, being KP, I thought I'd better quickly listen to the message, in case it was about a change to my appointment.

I pressed one.

"Please enter your patient medical record number, followed by the pound key."

Really? The message isn't just waiting for me after all? I scrambled to find my purse so I could grab my KP membership card -

"The number you have entered is invalid. Please check the number and enter it again."

Sheesh! Give me a chance to find my number, why don't you? I located my card, and entered its number.

"The number you have entered is xxxxxxxxxx. If this is correct, please press one. If this is incorrect, please press two."

Oh my god. Just give me the frigging message already - YOU were the ones who rang ME. I pressed one.

"Please enter your date of birth, followed by the pound key. For example, if your date of birth is January 12th, 1973, enter 01121973, followed by the pound key."

Aaaaaghh! I entered my date of birth, and pressed the hash key.

"You have entered xxxxxxxx. If this is correct, please press one. If this is incorrect, please press two."

With an almighty exhale, I pressed one... to receive a general message about the importance of having a pap smear, and if I have not already done so, I should make an appointment as soon as possible.

Oh the pain.

If I hate bureaucracy and the American health care system, I think I detest automated phone prompts equally - especially when I didn't even make a bloody phone call in the first place.

How. Rude.

(Meanwhile, the Faery almost passed out from hunger.)

I also hate having to call customer service, and this perfectly illustrates why.

I'm glad I found that. I needed a laugh...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Subtitles unavailable

Without getting into the pros and cons of kids watching TV, lets just say that I belong in the 'whatever gets you through the day' camp.

Some days are easy. I'm in a groove, I'm relaxed, and I'm on fire - in terms of entertaining the Faery and Miss Pie. Stimulating their little brains, and all that. Other days... well, the TV is my saviour.

When the Faery was a toddler in Australia, we figured out which shows were okay for her to watch.

By 'okay', I mean the visuals, voices, or songs didn't leave me wanting to bash my head, repeatedly, against a wall, and start downing glasses of wine at 10am. Shows such as Hi-5 had that effect, so that one was definitely avoided. If you're not from Australia, I dare you to click on the link. The off-key singing and costumes will make you want to vomit... not really selling it, am I? I also try to minimise exposure to Dora The Explorer, for my own sanity.

Shows that we liked (or weren't horrendously offended by) over the years were:

- Play School 
- The Wiggles
- Bindi: The Jungle Girl
- Sesame Street
- Go Gabba Gabba
- Curious George
- Pingu
- Thomas & Friends
- Maisy
- Pocoyo
- In The Night Garden (seriously, what substances had been imbibed by the creators?)
- Peppa Pig
- Shaun The Sheep
- Fifi & The Flowertots
- Charlie and Lola

(Photo source)
Okay, so some of these still left me wanting to bash my head, but not as violently.

A large portion of the shows are British, because that's just how it seems to be in Australia - more British children's shows than Australian or American. As annoying as some of these shows were (hello, Fifi) I didn't mind having them on in the background because their accents were so lovely - especially the ones with regional voices. I always have time for a Scouse or Yorkshire accent.

Moving to the US, I realised we wouldn't have access to quite a few of the Faery's favourites any more. I was fine with that because as long as Sesame Street and Curious George were around, I knew I'd have a babysitter for at least an hour or so a day when needed.

I learned very quickly that Barney & Friends brought out the worst in me. He was banished.

For a while, our cable package included the Nick Jr channel, and a whole lot of old favourites from back home were available to us again. Joy! However, that joy turned to disappointment when I noticed that many of the British shows had been dubbed with American accents.

It's nothing personal about American accents, but I can't help wonder why this was done. Some head honcho of some company, somewhere, decided that American children may not understand British accents, perhaps? If so, give me a break - that's underestimating the intelligence of kids. Or maybe it was done for their parents' benefit? Who knows.

Shows such as Peppa Pig - where the voices are mostly from the south of England - have been left alone. However, Thomas & Friends, Fifi & The Flowertots, Maisy, and Bob The Builder (with voices from the north of England) have all received the dubbing treatment. It's a little sad, really. They had the best accents.

We no longer have Nick Jr. We only have one of the PBS channels that airs Sesame Street, Curious George, and a handful of other small children's shows. Before we stopped getting Nick Jr, I recorded a stockpile of some of their better shows on the DVR... but thank god for Netflix and it being able to stream Yo Gabba Gabba to us. That show has saved many a day.

And as I type? Miss Pie is ensconced in a Maisy DVD that I'd forgotten about, and have only just dug out.

Thank you Netflix, and thank you DVDs.

Sunday, August 14, 2011



I know, what was with the dorky haircut? Do I look like Andy Warhol's love child, or what?
Blame it on the 80s, I guess.

(I remember my mum being furious with the hairdresser)

I was five.

In kindergarten, and from the look of it - my winter uniform.

I don't have any photos of my first day at school, but they must be floating around somewhere.

It's a rite of passage, isn't it?

The first day, out in the front garden.

Clad in a new uniform, purchased one or two sizes larger - to guarantee it will fit for a year.

Likewise, shiny black shoes - empty at one end, leaving room for growing toes. Big feet on scrawny legs.

(Maybe that was just me)

Anyhow, this experience is a given for most Australians, given our public schools' love of uniforms.

A few weeks ago, my Faery turned five.

In a few weeks' time, she'll be posing for her first-day-at-school photos.

Without a uniform.

I'm a little sad about that.

No over-sized uniform. 
No shiny black shoes.

One thing's for sure - her bag will look huge on her.

It's not the same, though. 

From the time she was born, and I began to imagine her starting school, it was always with a school uniform - it was before we'd even entertained the idea of living in the US for a few years.

Not having a uniform has its own advantages - no stressing on Sunday nights about what hasn't been washed or ironed - oh wait, I don't even have an iron.

(I never claimed to be a domestic goddess)

Lucky I won't be needing one, then.

So, regular clothes it is. She's so fixated on her favourite clothes that she'll probably want to wear the same two or three things, over and over.

Not that different to a uniform, really.

Still, looking at the new autumn clothes arriving in stores, I feel the need to go and buy a cute preppy outfit for the Faery to wear on her first day.

Something with checks. Preferably pleated... although there is the lack-of-iron issue. Hold the pleats, then.

And long socks are a must.

That's if she'll let me.

I'm sensing that a uniform would be harder for her to argue with. There's a lot to be said for having no choice.

Whatever. All I know is, it's going to be the end of an era, and the beginning of a completely new one for the Faery.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Banking on some art and soul

Here's a little secret.

I love myself a bit of subversion.

No one would ever really put me in the rebel boat, but I have a lot of strong opinions and ideals - mostly all in my head. I'm just too lazy to do much about it, really. Sad but true. I did rock my Doc Marten boots that I wore back in the 90s, though.

Last night, I saw a brilliant documentary, although I'm wondering how real it actually is. Perhaps the whole story was a set up, but it was nominated for Best Documentary at this year's Academy Awards, so I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt. Besides, the main 'character' of the film appeared to be so crazy, that kind of shit can't be made up.

The documentary I'm referring to is Exit Through the Gift Shop. If you like a good story, interesting (read: nutty) characters, and - like me - a bit of subversion, do yourself a favour. Watch it. It's almost worth it alone just for the lilting Welsh-accented narration (courtesy of Rhys Ifans).

The aforementioned features were all great, but what really got my juices going were the images of street art. They appealed very much to the inner artist/rebel in me (who never sees the light of day) - especially the work of Banksy. Clever social commentary, and all that.

I'm not going to pretend that I'm hip and have been following him all these years... but his name definitely rang a bell last night, and I'm guessing that perhaps he was blurrily on my radar when we lived in the UK. Whatever.

The term 'street art' doesn't really do him justice. What he creates is art, pure and simple. I won't waffle on with interpretations and discourse because I did enough of that when I studied Fine Arts to last me a life time.

Instead, I'll leave you with some of my favourite images of Banky's work.

Extra special because it was painted on to
the Israeli West Bank barrier... ballsy
 (Photo source
Likewise with this one
(Photo source)
Who doesn't love stained glass?
(Photo source)
(Photo source)
(Photo source)
Poor Thomas
(Photo source)
 I want someone to throw me some flowers
(Photo source)

I think I may have a new hero.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Last week, we spent four days in a beachside town, on the northern outskirts of San Diego. The town was called Encinitas, and was just what we needed to recharge our batteries.

Time slowed right down. Although we were still on the northern side of the US-Mexican border, there was much that reminded me of our time in Mexico, eleven years ago. I loved the proliferation of taquerias that dotted the coastal highway near our hotel. Those places are the real deal, along with small Mexican-run grocery stores, where tortillas are sold by the weight. Best of all, no one was in a hurry. When we were in Mexico, we joked about how laid back everyone was. It didn't matter what the situation was, no one hurried, and we'd say "Mañana, mañana" (tomorrow, tomorrow). It felt similar in Encinitas.

Our accommodation - arranged at the last minute due to unforeseen events - was a basic roadside hotel. The kind where you park your car just outside your room. It was fun, though. I was worried about all four of us in one room (hadn't done that since first moving to LA when Miss Pie was eleven weeks old... at eighteen months, she's a different sleeper) but the girls were fantastic. Our room was pretty much just a place to sleep, anyway.

Day time was for hanging out at nearby Moonlight Beach:

Day time was also for visiting San Diego Zoo - somewhere I've wanted to go for many years. We ended up getting a years' membership, so that we have an excuse to head down south again. It was actually better value, and it meant we didn't stress about rushing around and trying to see everything on one day. Knowing we'd be back one weekend made it much more relaxing.

We had close friends also staying in Encinitas. They had organised a house swap from where they live in Oregon, so late afternoons and evenings were spent at the lovely house they were staying in. Our kids all played together like they'd only been apart a few weeks, and we got to eat (and drink) up a storm, heading back to our hotel each night at an ungodly hour.

It was perfect.

Now it's back to real life, and the ho-hum of domestics. Outside, it's hot, and without the cooling ocean breeze that we had in Encinitas. We didn't get to run off to Las Vegas, for reasons I won't bore with. Let's just say not all the necessary conditions were in place. I'm disappointed, but we had such a brilliant time last week that I'm (kind of) okay about it. We had a local date night, so it wasn't a sad ending.

I do want to close my eyes, though. Open them, and be back in our little Encinitas hotel room. Everything was simpler for a few days (well, except the part about trying to do everything around a toddler's need for a midday sleep).

Sun, warmth, fun, great company, tipsy late-night conversations, kids dancing... must do it again.

PS - How adorable is Miss Pie, and how spunky is the Faery? She got her first case of sunburn (oops) but she now has the most golden-coloured skin to die for.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Burning London

There were grand plans to come in here, wax lyrical about our little beach holiday, and share photos.

I will do that... but not today.

It doesn't help that I have the end-of-holidays blues. My little holiday had me walking on a high for a few days, but reading about the current London riots has sent me crashing back to earth - with a heavy thud.

Yes, I've whinged about my not-always happy time in London, but I would feel upset to read about these riots in any of the cities I've called home. Riots are riots - ridiculous.

I simply cannot comprehend the mentality behind such stupidity - why these people are incapable of thinking for themselves, and why they feel the need to destroy what's not theirs. What planet are they on?

Seeing the images, reading accounts, and hearing about it from friends, I'm grateful that we lived in - and experienced - the UK when we did. It was never a utopian experience, but a decade ago the economic and political climate was surely better than it is now.

I guess that's what happens when large groups of society would rather vote for reality elimination show contestants, than vote in a government election. Smart, huh? Much more chance of being stuck with an unpopular government. My take on it is if you didn't vote, tough shit. Suck it up and move on (just like in the US, voting is not mandatory in the UK.... I know - I was surprised, too. Australia seems to be in the minority on that one).

Don't even get me started on the looting. Such opportunistic scum - "I'm angry because someone was shot dead by the police in a different part of the city... I know, smashing windows and grabbing a plasma TV will make me feel so much better!" Is that how these people think? Or, more likely, there's an absence of thought process.


We had our share of drama and close calls with the Real IRA bombings and when we lived over that side of the pond. In July 2000, I was leaving for work one morning - only to see our street being evacuated by police. A bomb had been found on a major overland railway line, which carried all westbound overland trains out of London. This line ran along behind our row of houses and flats, and the bomb had been left under a nearby bridge - less than 400m from our backyard, I kid you not. Thankfully, the police used a controlled explosion on it, and no one was hurt. It was a worry, though.

Then in March 2001, I was brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed when I heard what I thought was a single clap of thunder. Odd, I'd thought. It turned out to be a car bomb explosion, outside the BBC Television Centre in White City - roughly 3km from where we were living.

In August, another car bomb went off, in Ealing Broadway - only 1.5km from us. Ealing was where we went to do our groceries and most other kinds of shopping, rent videos (back in the day!) from Blockbuster, and I'd even belonged to a gym near the station. That last part is hard to believe, I know.

J and I had been married at Ealing Town Hall - that same year - so Ealing holds a lot of memories for us. It was part of our 'hood.

After those explosions, we were a little nervous, but had always been aware of bomb threats (the first thing we'd noticed when we arrived in London was the lack of rubbish bins at the tube stations). We carried on living as normal, and the men behind the bombings were eventually caught.

It's a little like moving to Los Angeles. You know there's a chance of an earthquake but you try not to dwell on it.

At the end of 2003, we returned to Australia. In July 2005, London was changed forever by a series of suicide bombings, all in one morning. I'd had various connections to two of the bomb locations - nearby work, train line changes... I didn't sleep that night until I knew all my friends were okay. I can't even begin to imagine the horror of that day.

But back to Ealing... the most recent riots took place there overnight, and it's been surreal to see images of cars alight and buildings damaged. Ealing isn't a rough area. It's quite gentrified, and if riots of such force can happen there, they can happen anywhere. The thought chills me.

Summertime in London. It's the loveliest time to be there... but also seems to be when people go bonkers...