Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bits and pieces

We have a lot of Mourning Doves dwelling in nearby trees. 
They're currently immersing themselves in spring, getting busy with building nests.

The Faery and Miss Pie are fairly enamoured with these sweet birds, calling 
our nearest one Mumma Tweet. Actually, all of them are called Mumma Tweet. 

I try not to give in, but some days at the shops, it's impossible not to buy something for the Faery. 
Five-year olds are pretty damned good at being annoying until you cave, right? 

Naturally, she chose the pinkest, most blingy pair of sunglasses. Naturally, I groaned.

On Sunday, neither of us felt like cooking. It was our two-year anniversary of being in the US
so it was an easy decision to go out and mark this with a family meal at the local diner. 

My sister saw this photo and said it looked like a scene from Twin Peaks - which is funny 
because it does (thank you, Instagram), but I hadn't even noticed.

It does actually rain here now and then. Really.

I'm always happy to see daffodils. If I could get my hands on some jonquils,
 I'd be in heaven. Love the smell of those.

As you can see, project DIY chair revamp is - ahem - yet to happen. 
Yes, I'm one of those people. All talk and ideas, but no action.

At least the chair is happy enough in the sunshine, 
and I have a nice spot to sit when I'm hiding from the kids
having a cup of coffee in the afternoon.

Hey, who doesn't love a bit of red tricycle action?

Wish I could say those small feet belonged to me, but no.
Miss Pie is the happy owner - feet and trike.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Two years in La La Land

It seems that only six months ago, I wrote about it being a whole year since we'd moved to Los Angeles, but guess what? That wasn't six months ago.

It was a year ago.

Meaning? We've actually been here for two years now.

Holy crap. I have no idea where that time went - none at all. It's flown even faster than our first year here. I suspect the fact that the Faery is in school five days a week may be somewhat responsible. Days are filled with more purpose now, and our social calendar looks much busier.

Not only has the Faery been busy with making new friends from school, so have I. This is good. Maybe it's just me, but as I get older, I get lazier and less motivated to make new friends. I like the ones I already have, thank you very much. Unfortunately, they happen to mostly live on the other side of the Pacific Ocean - a little tricky for hanging out together.

So, I've put on my cheerful face during school drop-offs and pick-ups, and made an effort to get to know other parents. I'd been secretly dreading the whole school mum/mom scene for a while, imagining snooty cliques of soccer mums.

Thankfully, I've been proven very wrong. Kids are great as a tool for meeting other people, right? Perhaps it's down to the nature of the programme that the Faery is enrolled in - dual language and heavy exposure to Korean culture - but the parents are far more open-minded, knowledgable, and embracing of other cultures than what I'd imagined (stupidly based on stereotypes of American adults).

Don't I feel foolish? But this is the sort of situation where I'm happy to be wrong.

Not only am I meeting more people - lovely, friendly people - but many of them are connected to this city in a way that's just so... well... L.A. baby. 

Three of the dads are musicians (one of whom spent over a decade in a band which even had a number one song in Australia, strangely enough, so he's been on many tours there). Several other dads work for the same animation company as J. One of the mums is involved high up the chain at Nickelodean Jnr, and I've seen her name in the credits of the Faery's current favourite show. Another mum is an in-demand hairdresser based in Hollywood, and modest to boot about it. It's only over time that I've coaxed from her the names of celebrities she's worked on - Katy Perry, Florence Welch, Kylie Minogue, and Britney Spears, to name a few.

I feel pretty uncool next to some of these parents, but I'm okay with that. It's purely my own perception of where I stand in the grand scheme of social pecking order - thanks to high school all those years ago. I know that I have a few things going in my favour, too. Being the "tall Australian mom" curries a certain amount of curiosity. I don't mind that.

I'm not even sure where this ramble is going right now. Mostly, I just wanted to acknowledge this two-year L.A. anniversary, along with how quickly time has passed. That mostly, my social circle here is expanding, and that's cause for a happy dance. That loneliness that expats feel at some point, impatient to know more people? That's quickly becoming a distant memory here.

A year ago, I don't think there are many people I would have missed if we were to pack up and head back home. Things are feeling more entwined now and I know with certainty that when the time comes to leave L.A. - whether it's two years from now, or in five years - there are people I'll be very sad to say goodbye to.

Still, what's that saying? It's better to have loved and lost, than not to have loved at all. I think it's the same with moving far away. Let new people in, even if the sadness of parting ways is inevitable. Otherwise, what's the point? To live life properly, it needs to be shared with friends - whether old or new.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Snow tripping

We're not really spontaneous. Sometimes, but not often.

Last Sunday, despite the looming black clouds, we decided to take a chance and drive to a recently discovered gem of a park. The sun was shining, but for how long?

As we headed north in the car, we noticed that some of the mountains were freshly capped with snow... finally. They'd been looking decidedly bare this winter, and the snow explained the sudden drop in temperatures those last few days.

While the girls played at the park, J and I kept glancing towards the mountains. We'd heard that the nearest snow fields weren't too much of a drive - maybe forty minutes. Should we?

Yes. Let's do it.

It was a cold day anyway, so our clothing was warm enough for a quick play in the snow. Unlike our last day trip to the snow (at Mt Hood in Oregon when staying with friends in Portland), I wasn't wearing Birkenstocks (in my defence, it was summer and we didn't know we'd be visiting the snow), so I considered this a win.

We just needed food, so made a quick stop at a nearby bakery for fresh bagels to go. Next stop - the Angeles Crest Highway, through the Angeles National Forest.

Not long after beginning our ascent, we glanced at the petrol gauge. Crap.

The tank was maybe an eighth full. We'd passed a petrol station a while back and suspected there wouldn't be any more stations for quite some time.

Never mind. We drove a little more, then stopped at a lookout point.

A quick run around, some snow balls thrown from the fast-melting snow patches, rosy cheeks, and a laugh at the similar antics of other families who'd stopped there as well - snowmen on car bonnets, anyone?

The sun disappeared, the clouds got darker, and small soft white circles began to fall. Snow or sleet - who the hell knew? This kind of climate is beyond my expertise.

Back in the car, chewy-licious bagels were passed around as we warmed up, then we turned the car around and began our descent. The downward drive meant we barely made a dent in our remaining petrol. Sighs of relief as we realised we weren't going to be stranded on a freezing mountain side.

Not a bad little outing, for what began as a trip to a park.

Hard to believe that only two weeks earlier, we'd gotten sunburnt in Malibu - California is wild, huh?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Once every now and then - not often enough - I stumble across a song which, in turn, steals my breath. When this happens, I want to freeze that moment of hearing it for the first time.

Last week, I was driving along a road which passes through the Verdugo Mountains. It was late afternoon, and golden sunlight was bursting into the car. The girls in the back were - for once - silent, worn out from a group play date. The radio was on and as the next song began, I recognised Johnny Cash's voice. The music was melodic; his voice was haunting.

As I followed the road's gentle bends, I absorbed the song. I didn't want it to end... and as soon as we got home, I hit up the internet to see what song it was.

Somehow, this song had escaped my radar when it was released - but being in my selfish mid-twenties at the time, I didn't have such an appreciation for Johnny Cash.

I sure as hell do now, though, and I present to you, Hurt.

If anyone could do justice to a cover of a Nine Inch Nails song, he was the man.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Fluff

As us teachers like to refer to filler activities in place of a more
substantial lesson, here's some visual 'fluff' - taken recently. 

Sometimes, I have fun pretending to get arty farty...

Linking up with: and then she snapped

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My sidekick

With the Faery at school, Miss Pie is now the main target
of my lens - whether we're out and about, 
or just hanging at home. 

I probably whinge too much about the toddler stage, but I 
also know that it's a lovely stage too. I remember when the Faery 
was my little sidekick in everything - my little shadow, 
my little friend. She still is, of course, but school steals
a lot of that time away from me.

School hours, I now have a new little sidekick
and she is seriously cute. Seriously active.
Seriously loveable.

*  *  *

And on the weekends?
There's lost time to make up for with my original little buddy.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Full moon over sunset

The other night, J and I had ourselves a bit of a date night. Sort of. It was a friend's birthday, and this friend was also performing in the Voodoo Lounge at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip... does it get any more L.A. than that? It sounded too fun to pass up, so we went along and pretended for a few hours that it was the olden days, pre-kids.

The moon was full, the sky was black, and Sunset Boulevard was brightly lit for us. We managed to get seats at the bar, listened to several talented acts, admired the window views of a sprawlingly lit metropolis below us, talked about non-kid related things, ate the tastiest burgers, licked our fingers, and giggled on our way out as we heard the screams coming from the downstairs venue (where a New Kid on the Block was performing)... grateful to be thirty-something. We drove back through the bright lights, cut through the winding back streets of Los Feliz, ogled at homes grander than we'll ever live in, and saw coyotes in the shadows. Magic. Then we arrived home, kissed our sleeping girls good night, fell into bed, and swore at the alarm clock six hours later.

Must do this more often.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Labels and denial

Only the other day, I realised something. In the twenty-six months since I was last employed, I haven't once referred to myself as a Stay At Home Mother (SAHM). 

When I meet people and they ask me what I do, I find myself saying that my field is teaching English to foreign students. Which is true, but it's been a while now. Why not tell them I'm a SAHM?

I guess I dislike labels, for a start. It's not like I grew up with rose-tinted visions of one day being a domestic goddess, patiently dispensing all that my children need, while maintaining an immaculate home and spending hours in the kitchen as I prepare dinners that would make Nigella Lawson proud.

Nope. I know that's not what being a SAHM is about, and that the reality is far more grotty. I'm living it.

However, I never held a desire to spend a large chunk of time at home, raising kids. I always wanted kids,  but I also have no problem with the concept of the kids being minded by family, or in day care, while I work an enjoyable, fulfilling job and contribute financially. I've never held lofty career ambitions either - I've only ever wanted a job I enjoy, even if it doesn't pay that well.

In the time between having the Faery and Miss Pie, I returned to work. Mostly, it was 2-3 days a week. I was very fortunate to work for a school (one of the few) with a flexible timetable, and one that job-shared. Initially (when the Faery was ten months old) my mother-in-law minded her. Close to her second birthday, when my workload increased and I began working more days, we put the Faery into day care.

In those days, I didn't view myself as a working mother. I'm not sure why, but I think I viewed the label of working mother as belonging to those who had the hard slog of working full-time. I had it easier than that... but I definitely wasn't a SAHM either.

I loved having 2-3 days a week with the Faery. For me, it was the perfect mix. Some days for the park and mothers group picnics, and other days for adult interaction and using my brain more.

I planned to do it similarly when I started (unpaid) maternity leave with Miss Pie: a year or so at home, then off to day care, while I work part-time.

Then J was offered - for the second time - this job in Los Angeles. We decided to accept. Not long after making that decision, just in case we'd had any doubts, the (Japanese-owned) school I'd been working at went bankrupt and closed down... just weeks after Miss Pie was born.

My plans for returning to my old workplace eventually? Down the gurgler.

Yet here I am now, dragging my heels about becoming gainfully employed. In my defence, it's been a little complicated - not being able to legally work when we first arrived, applying for social security numbers, work permits... accidentally leaving behind my entire CV and proof of qualifications in an unknown box in storage in Sydney (yeah, smart move, huh?).

And I'm still to admit that I'm a SAHM. That title weighs heavily around my neck, and one that I suppose I don't feel I deserve. That if I admit it, then I have to start doing a better job of that designated title.

But labels or no labels, I know one thing. I'm incredibly grateful that - unlike so many mothers - it's not a necessity for me to work. My little family's survival does not depend on it. The extra dollars would be more than welcome, and I'm sure my self-esteen would be better for it, but I've been incredibly lucky that we've been able to get by on one income - that in itself hasn't been easy, but it hasn't been impossible.

For now, just humour me with this first world problem of mine. I'll get over myself... eventually.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Having a swimming pool in our apartment complex has made us rather lazy when it comes to seeking out the beach. That, and the fact that I have issues with sand. Knowing we have to drive through about an hour of LA's finest traffic to hit the coast doesn't help, either.

Hailing from the east coast of Australia, it's not like beaches are novel to me. Our beaches are pretty spectacular - meaning even though I'm not really one for the beach, my standards are high nonetheless. I've been spoilt over the years.

Over the weekend, I surprised myself by suggesting we go for a drive, have a little adventure, and check out one of the beaches in Malibu.

I'm so glad we did. The weather was glorious, and we arrived nice and early before the serious stress of finding somewhere to park would have been an issue. Within ten minutes of arrival, we spotted dolphins out for a swim. That alone is hard to beat.

The water was still wintery cold, but that didn't stop the Faery (and eventually, Miss Pie) from running in and out of the pint-sized dumping waves... and for some reason, the sand didn't seem to bother me as much as usual. A sign, perhaps, that we should do this more often.

Happily, I had a great excuse to get serious with my 'real' camera again. That hasn't been the case much this year (I'm sure my camera is jealous of my iPhone) and is something I need to work on. I couldn't be happier with the shots I took yesterday.

At any rate, I have a feeling that the (northern) summer of 2012 is going to be a fantastic one.