Saturday, October 29, 2011

More than awkward

After yesterday's efforts, I thought I couldn't feel any worse today. Surely not.

One of J's colleagues (I'll call him A) was having a barbecue today, so we made the 40 minute drive to his place. Along the way, we picked up another colleague, who needed a ride. I'll call him V.

*  *  *

Less than five minutes after getting in the car, V mentions that he's going to do the driving test next week, and asks if I've taken the test yet.

I'm tongue-tied, really not wanting to talk about driving tests. "Um..."

"... She just booked her test yesterday." Thank you, J. That much is true. I did book a test yesterday. No one needs to know it won't be my first time. It's not really lying...

I feel grateful to J for coming to the rescue. The conversation that follows is mostly V noting how he'd heard the test was ridiculously easy, and me forcing cheerful sounding replies.

*  *  *

About half an hour after arriving at the barbecue, I finally sit down in the lounge room to eat a burger - as happens when chasing a toddler around. J and I usually take shifts eating at these things. Now, it was J's turn to chase.

My eye casts around the room, taking in the Halloween decorations.

I look up and see the host, A. He adopts a sympathetic expression, and says "Sorry to hear you failed the driving test."

If there'd been music playing on a record-player, the needle would have screeched to a resounding halt.

I feel V's eyes on me. "You've already taken the test, then?" 

Feeling like I'd just been busted telling a massive lie, all I could manage was a nod. My mouth starts going dry, and the burger I'm eating is rendered inedible.

The only people in the room I know - and not that well - are A and V. That doesn't stop the others from chiming in, though.

"You failed the driving test? Seriously?"

"How did you manage that?"

And the final person - I don't remember his name so I'll call him Dick (because, well, he's a dick) wags his fingers in my face. Only inches away, "BAHAHAHAHAHA!!! You failed your driving test? What did you do? It's so easy! You drive every day, don't you? How did you fail? What happened? BAHAHAHA!"


I squirm. 

I feel five sets of eyes on me, waiting for me to answer. I can't even look at anyone properly. My vision blurs as I try to blink away tears.

I glance around, hoping that J is nearby and will swoop to my rescue with a nicely timed smartarse comment aimed squarely at the maturity level of these guys... but he's outside, toddler-wrangling.

In true cliché, I want the ground to open up and swallow me.

Despite wanting to yell at everyone for being so rude, possessing zero sensitivity chips, and to just shut the fuck up, I stammer out a few words about my nerves just getting the better of me, and attempt to continue eating. 

Dick is like a dog, though, and won't let up. He keeps on about it, and I pretend I'm not bothered, but I can feel the lump in my throat getting bigger.

Ultimately, I don't like making scenes. I wait another minute or two - until I think I'm going to explode - then disappear to the bathroom to calm down. Once safely inside, I splash cold water on my face, and observe angry red blotches creeping over my neck and chest. I've never seen blotches like that before; not unless wine was involved.

Eventually I emerge, bi-pass the lounge room, and head outside. I can handle ribbing from close mates and family, but not from people who are practically strangers. Grown men, acting like fourteen-year olds. Rude.

*  *  *

Ever met someone who rubs you the wrong way, immediately? Well, in addition to laughing his arse off at me, Dick continued to irritate me by 'accidentally' bumping up against me one too many times throughout the afternoon, asking if I'm Swedish (which I'm normally flattered by, but in his case made him look even more stupid - I mean, c'mon, Australian and Swedish accents are nothing alike), and making consistently moronic remarks in general. Dick. He was somewhat inebriated, but I don't care. I was glad to go home and get the hell away from him.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A little bruised

Finding it hard to smile this morning, so when I saw the lovely comments from new visitors - about my last post - it made me smile. Cheered me up more than anyone could know. So, thank you.

Why so glum this morning? I fucked up my driving test. Yay me.

Everyone has their Achilles' heel, and mine would appear to be tests - no matter what they're for. So many of the exams I had to take in school and university resulted in temporary chunks of memory loss, where words and names danced on the tip of my tongue without fulling revealing themselves, until after the exam was over. I was one of those students whose true capabilities were only clear with ongoing assessment tasks, rather than exams.

Driving tests have kind of been the same. When I was eighteen and did my first driving test, my nerves got the better of me. Going down a hill in a 60 km/h zone, I went slightly over the limit. Oops. My driving teacher knew all the local testers, and when he saw who had tested me, he reassured me that this particular tester was notorious for failing most people on their first test, and that next time, odds were someone different would test me and I'd be fine. I felt a little better, then two weeks later... same tester. Thankfully, I showed him. Pride can be a pretty powerful motivator.

These experiences have been a huge factor in why I kept putting off going for my test here in LA. Having an Australian licence isn't enough, and the Californian DMV makes everybody do the driving test to get a Californian licence, even people who have only moved interstate. Technically, once a person becomes a Californian resident, they are supposed to get their licence within ten days - unless they happen to hold an international diplomatic drivers' licence. Which would be rather convenient, right?

I've been a Californian resident for nineteen months now. Oops. I have my work permit. I have my Social Security number. I even got around to taking the written drivers test back in July, which I actually passed first go.

(When I took my Australian 'knowledge' test, it was on computer. Instead of being referred to as 'the written test', it was referred to as 'the computer test'. Because it was on computer. Duh. Back in 1993. The written test at the Californian DMV I went to? Pencil on paper, with a real live human being to mark it in my presence. It's 2011 now - they might want to have a look at what technology is available these days. Just sayin'.)

So, with our current visas up for renewal in a few months, J pointed out to me the other day that I should take the test soon, before we have a mountain more of paperwork which could hinder the process. I could put it off no more.

And I fucked it up. Not monumentally, but my nerves got the better of me. Surprising, right? Little things here and there, which in general are not an issue. Today, they were.

My ego has taken a bit of a bruising, because I know I'm a better driver than what I was this morning. If I thought I wasn't a decent driver, I would not be getting behind the wheel - most days - with my treasured girls in the back seat.

Hell, I know I'm a better driver than many of the drivers here who seem to frequently ignore that thing called an indicator. I don't cut people off, which also seems to be an accepted practice. Bitter, moi?

But I have no one to blame this morning except myself. I am mad as hell at myself, and embarrassed. I had no intention of even writing about this, but then I realised I always feel better when I've had a verbal or written vomit, which is kind of where blogging comes in handy.

Until today, I was feeling pretty good in general about how far I've come with my driving here. Okay, so I still avoid freeways, but I was a less than confident driver when we moved here, and the thought of driving on the opposite side of the road filled me with terror until reality of life in LA stepped in. I didn't want to be stuck at home all day, every day, and LA is such a sprawl that to get just basic errands done, a car is pretty much a necessity.

That drive-test horse shall be ridden again, soon (I've already made my next appointment). Stay tuned.

For now, I'm going to have a small pity party. Just for today. I shall blame PMS, and I shall pity myself in style.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I'm not really one for making lists, unless something major in my life requires it - like moving overseas. Oh, I have plenty of lists in my head; they just rarely make it on to paper... which is why, when I saw this writing prompt (from Mama Kat's Losin It) it seemed like the perfect way to spend a drizzly morning inside. It gave me flashbacks to my classrooms as it reminded me of the classic EFL writing tasks I'd set my students, to practise their present perfect tense.

(Click here for link)

Twenty-two things I've done (in no particular order)

1. Seen the sun rise and set over the Pacific Ocean.

2. Moved home thirteen times.

3. Taken belly dancing classes.

4. Made mistakes.

5. Picnicked on camembert, baguettes, and wine outside the Sacré Coeur in Paris.

6. Cried over accidentally-thrown-out artwork.

7. Poured a thousand pints of beer in London.

8. Dabbled in a little French, Italian, Irish Gaelic and (now) Korean.

9. Had my nose and belly button pierced.

10. Experimented.

11. Photographed donkeys in Mexico.

12. Created human life.

13. Dyed my hair red.

14. Swum at beaches on three continents.

15. Consumed vast quantities of chocolate.

16. Feasted on tapas in Barcelona.

17. Rescued frangipanis from the ground, and worn them in my hair.

18. Given birth.

19. Welcomed in a snowy New Year in Sweden.

20. Married my high school sweetheart.

21. Nourished my babies from my own body.

22. Inhaled the alpine goodness of the Swiss Alps, and thought of Heidi.

Mexico, 2000

Monday, October 24, 2011


Yesterday, we decided to take advantage of the fact that it wasn't stinking hot first thing in the morning, and went for a hike. The spot we chose is called Wildwood Canyon. How pretty does that sound? There are different routes that vary in difficulty and length, but we chose a short leg - we wanted to avoid having to carry the Faery if possible. We saw some deer before we'd even parked the car, but the only other wildlife we saw during the hike were lizards and birds. Plenty of crows (I've never seen so many crows in my life as I have since coming to LA), but the hawks and eagles were shy. Most of the landscape was just scrub - we passed only one tree for shade.

We had no idea how much smog was around until we reached our looking point. Ugh. It was lovely to be above all of that. Below - in amongst that smog - is part of Burbank, in 'The Valley'. To the south (if this photo was extended to the left), we could make out the tops of the skyscrapers from downtown LA, but they were very hazy. Without the smog, they're easy to see - even in my neighbourhood.

It was a bit of a hard slog for the Faery. By the time we stopped for photos, her face was red and dirt-smudged, whispy golden strands of hair flying around her face. Dishevelled and cute. Next time, though, we might get the babysitter for a couple of hours one late Saturday afternoon. It'd be good to catch a sunset, minus hot complaining children. Oh, and minus the smog.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Who's that girl?

This is what happens when an adult - who rarely goes out - attends a
showbiz party at a club in Hollywood.

Who is she? I barely recognise her.

She looks like she knows how to have fun. How to laugh.

(Some may draw the line at squatting dancing over a large golden
 egg on the dance floor, but she thought the egg was fair game)

She looks like a bit of a lush

She looks like someone I used to know

The truth is: she was tagged on Facebook in about a dozen photos from the party. 
In most of the photos, she is seen clutching glasses of wine.

The truth is: she only had three drinks all night. 

The truth is: she was mostly caught up in high spirits, 
not the beverage kind.

The bit about having fun, though? That was true.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Damn other people's kids.

The Faery has been super excited about a visit from the Sugar Sprite Fairy. She doesn't care about her sugar haul getting taken, because she loves the idea of a new toy. It's brilliant.

Then the other day, she was playing with some kids that live in a nearby apartment. The other kids are similarly aged, and she adores them, but there are also times where it ends in tears because they have much more dominant personalities than hers, and she gets frustrated. This was one of those days. She came running home, in a flood of tears.

"Mum, they said that the Halloween Fairy isn't real! And they said I'm a baby! WAAAAAAAAH!"

Okay, so she can be hypersensitive and cry at the drop of a hat - these kids have figured that much out - but I was furious with them for not letting her believe in that fairy.

She looked heartbroken, so I told her the other girls were wrong and it was silly of them to say that to her. She continued bawling.

I added, "You know why they think she isn't real? Because she only visits children who believe in fairies."

The Faery looked up at me, her blue eyes as wide as can be, and hot tears spilling out. "But I do believe, Mum, I really do!" She nodded her head vigorously.

I told her that the reason I knew this for a fact was because the same fairy visited out friends in Portland after last Halloween.

The Faery smiled, and exhaled in relief.

Am I going to hell for telling such lies to her? I should be feeling bad about it, but I don't. I want her to have some magic in her childhood.

After all, how many people need therapy because they were encouraged to believe in the Easter Bunny, or Santa Claus?

Having said that, I'm dreading the day she comes home from school and announces - courtesy of the schoolyard grapevine - that they aren't real.

I want to bottle her innocence, and keep it forever...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Feline plans

Remember the chair I reclaimed from the side of a road?
The one I have plans to fix up nicely?

Looks like Emily also has plans for this chair.

A place to plan the demise of her human captors.

Actually, that evil expression is just a yawn...
...but we should consider it a warning.

For now, sleep beckons.

(Speaking of cats, I'll be attending a crew wrap party and screening for Puss In Boots tomorrow... yippee!)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sugar Mumma

Come Halloween, there's going to be a lot of sweet stuff in our home.

This is bad news for my thighs. Very bad news.

Our apartment is in a secure complex, so the only trick or treaters we got last year were other kids that lived in the complex. I'd conveniently forgotten that minor detail when I was in Costco yesterday... and bought a massive bag of chocolates.

I made sure this mix had choccies that we all like. The mix I'd bought last year included chocolates which we hadn't tried before - we weren't expecting to have so many left over. It turned out that I didn't like a third of them. Ever tried Whoppers? They're a cheap and nasty tasty version on Maltesers. Mmm... Maltesers.... The rejected fun-sized Whoppers languished in the pantry for far too long, before finally getting thrown out.

It took a long time for the Faery's Halloween bounty to be consumed. Being new to Halloween last year, I found out about a week too late about the Sugar Sprite Fairy, Halloween Fairy, or whatever it is that other families call her. This is where the fairy comes in the days after Halloween, and exchanges a large part of the confectionary haul for a toy.

I wish I'd known sooner. Instead, after the sugar-high frenzy during the first few days of November, I restricted the Faery's intake to no more than one a day. After a few months, she stopped living for her chocolates, and only asked once or twice a week.

Sometimes, I sneakily dipped into her haul for bribe supplies.

Sometimes, I sneakily dipped into her haul for... me.

(Hey, I never claimed to be awesome at this parenting gig.)

How long did it take for her haul to deplete? Until early July. I kid you not. Eight months! And it wasn't even a large haul because she was scared of the dark and didn't want to trick or treat for very long.

I cannnot go through that again. Far too much bargaining and sulking when the 'treats' were withheld. Oh, and an accompanying toddler's bounty thrown into the equation this year, too.

Yes. The Sugar Sprite Fairy will be making a visit.

Then my next dilemma will be where to hide the exchanged haul of treats - because someone will have to eat them when the kids are in bed.

This is bad news for my thighs. Very bad news...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Once bitten...

Pop culture's obsession with vampires is nothing new, and I've had my own bit of fun over the years.

Interview with the Vampire was the first movie that had me swooning over Brad Pitt. It had people raving about Tom Cruise's performance, which wasn't really much of a stretch when you think about it. Egomaniac plays egomaniac (amongst other shared attributes) - easy.

Another source of vampires that I've enjoyed is True Blood. Oh yeah, lots of eye candy in that one. Eye candy and Southern accents - can't go wrong, really. I began in the Team Bill camp, but shifted to Team Eric as soon as Alexander Skarsgård cut his hair. Mmm... Eric...

There's a camp element to True Blood that I appreciate - the show doesn't take itself too seriously. Sadly, I'm a season behind, and must rectify that as soon as possible.

The big vampire franchise that I haven't been able to get into is Twilight. As a thirty-something year-old, I just can't relate to chaste teen romances any more. There is so much that seems wrong to me about Twilight. I mean, vampires that do venture out during daylight hours, their skin protected by special make-up? And have no fangs? Puh-lease.

My curiosity got the better of me one night, a few months back, and I watched the first movie. It didn't win me over. Clearly, I've become one of those 'oldies' because I really don't see the appeal that Robert Pattinson has over the hordes of teenage girls. To me, he just looked like an actor with a kittenish face, wearing lipstick. Nothing sexy, or even handsome, about that.

A reliable source informed me that I shouldn't go near the books. I trust her judgement very much, so will take her word for it that I'd hate them. I thank her for saving me the trouble.

I have to confess here that I haven't read the Sookie Stackhouse novels (from which True Blood is based), or even any Anne Rice. No one could accuse me of being particularly immersed in the world of vampires then. I think I attempted Bram Stoker's Dracula once, but got bored and gave up.

So why am I rambling away about vampire films and books?

I recently saw an ad on TV, which made me think about how mainstream vampires have become.

I mean, really, Revlon? That's the best you can do to make me want to buy your lipstick? You want me to fantasise about someone biting me? Even the font used is a blatant Twilight reference.

Know what effect this had on me? I had to buy some new lipstick yesterday. I've been wanting a red one for an upcoming party, and haven't actually owned a red lippy in ten years - true. However, I steered clear of the Revlon section and bought a different brand. Sorry Revlon... (actually, I'm not).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vintage love

Before I ramble on about my latest project, let's get one thing straight. This is anything but a Mormon Mommy blog. As much as I fantasise about fixing things up, DIY and I do not have much of a history together. The last time I repainted something I rescued from the side of a road was about six or seven years ago. It was just a small side table - something that a three-year-old could have painted with ease.

So when I was walking the Faery home from school yesterday, and saw a lonely old dining chair sitting on a nature strip, outside an apartment building, I wasn't sure what to do... but something about that chair was calling me. I saw potential.

Only one problem - we were early into a twenty-minute walk home, in 30ºC heat, with Miss Pie in the stroller, because J had the car. No way could I grab that chair. When we got home, I rang him up and begged him pretty please to swing by that street on his way home, and if he didn't think the chair was a piece of junk, could he pretty please toss it in the back of the car and bring it home.

Five hours later, J walked in the door, carrying this chair. I was genuinely shocked that nobody else had already reclaimed it. As soon as I saw it again, it felt like I was welcoming home a new friend. There's a bizarre pull towards this chair - I'm even experiencing déjà vu as I type this sentence... spooky.

Anyhow, maybe I've been spending too much time on Pinterest, but I have grand plans for this chair. A completely new colour - perhaps something bright, like turquoise or yellow - and some cheerful new fabric to reupholster it. A pretty chair for the girls' room.

Naturally, I know nothing about such a process, but... how hard could it be? This is what the internet is for, right? Okay, so I don't even own a pair of plyers right now (moving overseas will do that - I've yet to reacquire many things we didn't bring with us). But dammit, I'm making a trip to Home Depot very soon.

(A little secret: I'm not bad with my hands. I used to top the class with my woodwork projects, many years ago. I like using my hands. I even used to daydream about doing some kind of carpentry course. Maybe I will one day, when I live somewhere that actually has the space for a little shed out the back. I'd be in heaven.)

So why am I writing about this? I figure that if I declare my intentions in writing now, the chair will spend less time languishing on our back patio. Blogging about it will force me to pull my finger out, and actually get started on this project much sooner than I would otherwise. I'm a procrastinator by nature, but I can also be obsessive about completing certain tasks, once I've begun. Just ask J how late I went to bed after assembling a dollhouse for the Faery's last birthday. Must. Finish.

Happily, this chair is as sturdy as they come. According to the label underneath, it was made by Stanley Furniture, in Virginia. I love that it wasn't from a cheap labour factory in a third world country. Even more impressive - my Google research tells me that the average dining chair from this company retails between $500-$800. Each. I realise that kind of money is normal to some, but I can't - for the life of me - imagine spending so much money on a single chair.

I get the impression this chair was sitting in someone's garage, alongside other DIY projects. The tiny splatters all over it are not from dirt - they're golden flecks, the casualty of another project. I pledge a better outcome for it.

For now, this lovely chair is sitting just outside our back door. Every time I walk past and catch a glimpse, I smile.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Still green

Apparently it's autumn. Gone are the patriotic red, white and blue themes in the shops. Gone are the end-of-aisle displays for s'mores ingredients. No more cheap punnets of raspberries.

Instead, the shops are kitted out with garlands of bright orange leaves and pumpkins, and are all about apple cider, and flavoured cafe lattes with names such as pumpkin spiced and cinnamon gingerbread. Halloween decorations are beginning to breed, and mornings out and about will see people wearing their uggs with pride.

I have no doubt that elsewhere in America, trees are actually turning orange, and the days are much cooler now... but LA is yet to receive that memo. Here - it's still green. It's still very warm during the day. Today, half of my clan went for a swim. Summer? Not gone yet, people.

Last year was my very first proper Halloween. I was a little eager, and carved out several jack o'lanterns one week before the big day. They were pretty damn fantastic looking, if I may say so, especially for a first timer. A couple of days later, the mercury hit 30ºC, and my beautiful jack o'lanterns - still kept inside, not outside - began to curl in on themselves, slowly imploding. White furry mould began to grow inside and regretfully, I threw them away and started again.

This year, I won't make the same mistake. In fact, with such a fearless, ahem, 'adventure-seeking' toddler around, I may pass on the carved pumpkins altogether. I'm pretty sure they'd only end up being moved around, sat on, licked, squashed, and whatever else Miss Pie thinks would be fun.

In the mean time, I need to sort out Halloween outfits for the girls. Martha Stewart I ain't, so they're going to be a mix of what we already have lying around, and store-bought. I love the small kiddy costumes in the shops, and I love the idea of adding to a growing dress-up box. It even makes me just a little green with envy. I'd have loved to have had an assortment of costumes when I was a kid... but I'm happy to live vicariously through the Faery and Miss Pie. That's what kids are for, right?

Friday, October 7, 2011


Along with ridiculous steps to access information, or retrieve some phone messages, it would appear that receiving recorded phone messages is the norm here in the US of A.

Every Sunday night, my mobile phone rings and I'm cheerily informed, via recording, of "important announcements" and reminders from the principal of the Faery's school, regarding the upcoming week.

Twice in the last few days, my phone has rung and - despite not recognising the number - I've answered it.

Instead of a real live human on the other end, a recorded female voice has greeted me: "Hello, I have a call for you. Please hold while I connect you."

Several moments of muzak passed, then, "All of our representatives are currently busy with with other customers. Please wait for the first available..."

I have no idea what she said next, because it was at that point I hung up. Both times. I don't know why I expected something might be different the second time.

But really, is that the best they - whoever they are - can do to get my attention? Seriously? I wonder what the actual success rate is of interacting with people who are dumb enough to wait around? Or don't have anything better to do?

Listen, if you are going to call me and interrupt whatever toddler food fight I'm busy diverting, you'd better bloody well have something of interest to tell me. Nope? You want me to sit on hold? I have a response for that - it starts with "F" and the second word is "off".

Time to go back to ignoring the numbers I don't recognise, and letting voice mail catch them - although somehow I don't think these people will be leaving a message. It's funny how I never get messages from them.

Perhaps some companies believe that leaving an air of mystery will give people hope that they're sitting on hold so that they can be told they've won a million dollars.

Oh crap. I hope they weren't trying to tell me I've won a million dollars.

Unless I really have. But they'll have to try harder...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011



Spiders and I are not friends. I think as I get older, the way I react to them gets worse. You'd think it would be the other way round - desensitisation - but nope.

Something I've loved so far about living in LA is the lack of spiders to deal with. Maybe there seems to be more of a contrast because our apartment here is fairly new and lacking cracks and holes, whereas in Australia, we'd always lived in much older homes. But in general, Australian creepy crawlies win hands down over American ones.

So the other day, when I was about to open our patio gate and saw this stripy red spider, my heart jumped up into my throat. I had no idea what kind of threat it posed - I mean, look at it. Its colours and markings scream to back the fuck away, right?

Being an Aussie, I've been conditioned to expect the worst from spiders - given the lovely variety of venomous ones that exist across our continent. However, that doesn't explain J's rather casual Buddhist approach of capturing and releasing them outside. I love him, but he's a freak. These things need to die if they're on my turf, and - preferably - someone needs to do that dirty work for me.

J wasn't home and I needed to know what I was dealing with, so I grabbed the camera (for perspective, the bar it's perched on is 2cm wide).

Then began my task of googling spiders - no easy feat, when my physical response to every hideous image on the screen was to break out in a sweat and almost vomit. No exaggeration.

After feeling a whole lot of queasiness, I finally found it - a Phidippus adumbratus (some call it a red back jumping spider). Harmless, apparently. The jumping bit, I don't like, though. Also - I challenge any Australian to relax around a spider that has red back in its name.

Call me heartless, but I'd have probably dumped half a can of insect spray on it, like I would in Australia... but we didn't have any. A situation that (gasp!) would have been unheard when I lived there. Toxins be damned.

I guess you could say I have arachnophobia...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Universal truth #9

Bubbles will always get kids excited. There's the thrill of the chase, and nothing else as satisfying as popping 'em. Mastering the skill of blowing them brings a sense of achievement, as does the ability - for some toddlers - to catch them on their tongue. Mmm... detergent flavour...

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Miss Pie is obsessed with hats at the moment. Actually, she's obsessed with any item of clothing that she can attempt to put on herself; hats just happen to be the most readily accessible. Paper bags will do, too. She raided her sister's dress up gear the other day, found this headband, and insisted, "Hat!" 

Who could argue with these blue eyes?

It's a shame she's probably going to be our last babe. We make pretty damn cute ones.