Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Butterflies and dinosaurs

One of the loveliest things to come out the Faery's school experience so far is watching her new friendships blossom. There is one little girl, N, who she is enamoured with, and N is equally besotted with the Faery. N is beyond adorable and sweet. When the two of them get together, it's like instant fireworks. Alone, they are both fairly quiet kids, but together they bring out something special in one another. They each adopt funny voices, move in comical ways for giggles, and slap each other's butts while cracking fart jokes. They even have nonsensical words that none of us really understand.

Equally great is that I adore N's family. Her parents are very much on the same page as J and I, and they also have a little boy who is a similar age to Miss Pie. Their home is exactly the kind of home we've been dreaming of and they are warm, welcoming people. We've begun doing family hangouts together, which I always enjoy.

Over the weekend, we all hit the Natural History Museum together. There is an ever-changing butterfly exhibit from April to September, where people can wander through as the butterflies flutter about - perfect for little girls. There is also an incredible display of dinosaur skeletons - something J and I haven't really had much of an opportunity to see at museums in Australia. I think of the eight of us there, J was the last one to finish looking at the dinosaurs. Kid in a candy store. And on a creepy note, there were several massive rooms, filled with life-sized dioramas of wildlife in all their taxidermied glory. Good times.

Yesterday, I was finally able to have a go at volunteering in the Faery's classroom - only two weeks before school finishes for the summer, but better late than never, right? I've been wanting to do it for a while but the reality of having an active, destructive toddler have meant I really needed to wait for J to  miss a morning of work to mind her. She's simply not the sort of kid that can be towed along to these things and expected to play quietly.

Anyhow, it was worth the wait. Watching them as they pledged their allegiance to the American flag - lisps and all - followed by a rendition of the The Star-Spangled Banner (man, that song has some bastard high notes to reach) was so sickeningly cute that I briefly forgot my discomfort about the Faery having to pledge loyalty to a foreign country.

Being the first day back after a long weekend, the teacher had them sitting on the carpet and talking about the things they did. N was the first one to talk, excitedly sharing: "I got new glasses! And me and F went to a museum! And we saw butterflies! And we saw caterpillars! And we saw dinosaurs! And we saw a sabre-toothed tiger!" I could hear great gulps of breath between her exclamations.

While I was there, I had a chance to look at the classwork on display, ahead of Open House tonight. The back wall was filled with posters created by each child, with an accompanying photo of themselves. The theme was who they like playing with. The Faery had drawn a picture of her and N, and written I like to play with N evry day. She is nis and prity. I like hr. Further along, I saw N's poster: I like to play with F cuz she is my best frend. I can't tell you how that warmed my heart.

It almost makes me wish I was five or six years old again. Almost, but not quite.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Capturing spring

So far, spring has meant a renewed love of the water.

It's meant bright new dresses, dimpled elbows on show.

Impromptu picnics on dry grass.

Daydreaming in warm sunlight.

Friday afternoon sundaes.

Sunshine and being too cool for school.

Explosions of purple everywhere I turn 
(I adore the fact that LA has jacarandas -  
just like Sydney).

*  *  *

This post was inspired by MamaKat's writing prompt
Share a picture that you think captures Spring for your family this year. 

Let's just overlook that fact that I couldn't stick to a single photo, okay? Ta.

[Click here for link]

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On the move

After the Big Move here - for a long time - I was unable to deal with the thought of moving again. It wasn't just that we'd made an international move with a newborn and preschooler, but only months prior to that, we'd had to move house in Sydney. I was 35 weeks pregnant with Miss Pie and Sydney was one hot bath of humidity - or maybe it was my pregnancy.

At any rate, I was in no hurry to move again for a while.

The apartment we found here ticked most of our boxes. Fridge, washing machine and dryer included; open living space; outside patio space for the kids to play; no staircases (I sensed that lugging bags of shopping up from the underground parking, along with a young baby and stroller was going to be complicated enough - let alone having extra flights of steps to deal with). The complex is in a convenient location - J cycles to work most days, and there is a supermarket on the next block. It doesn't feel like we live in an apartment because in the complex, all all the apartments have their own entrances - even the upstairs ones. There are no grimy hallways, just paved walkways and gardens.

So far, so good... but not completely.

Our apartment - being on the ground level - is located immediately adjacent to one of the main security gates into the complex. People slam that motherfucking gate from 6 am most mornings, as they leave for work. Consequently, the Faery and Miss Pie start the day early. As for Friday and Saturday nights, it gets pretty noisy out the front too. Even more annoying is the number of visitors (and residents) who think it's perfectly acceptable to call out over the gate for one of us to come open it, like it's our duty. Umm, no. I've become pretty good at ignoring unfamiliar faces at that gate.

We're a little bit over the constant human traffic past our place and lack of privacy (the guest parking is right beneath us, and the lift is just on the other side of the gate). Of all the various buildings in this complex, we ended up in the busiest section.

We're more than a little bit over our sleep's quality being dependent on the upstairs neighbours. Their living room is directly above our bedroom, and their front door and stair case is right next to the girls' bedroom. Whether they're gangsters (true story) or hyenas (also true), we haven't had much luck.

Time for a change, then.

We've been keeping our eyes open for different place within the same complex, but didn't want to pay a whole lot more than we do now. We figured there was no rush, and that when the right place came along, we'd move.

Two weeks ago, we found it - ready to move in at the end of June. It's in a much quieter section of the complex. It has its own external flight of steps (it's above a ground floor apartment) and has two levels. One of the other reasons we wanted a change is that, currently, the girls' bedroom is right next to our living room. The idea of entertaining friends in the evenings has always been a bit daunting - as if we'd be disturbing the girls. The new apartment layout means our bedrooms are upstairs, away from the living space.

(I just need to find some friends to entertain now - joking)

We'll still have a patio, which will be smaller... but at least it's private. We won't have any noisy morons above our bedrooms to keep us awake. Also, now that Miss Pie is bigger, the idea of stairs isn't scary any more. The stroller and groceries are still going to be a pain, but we'll manage. And bonus? A truck will not be required for the move. Just a shitload of going back and forth with some rented trolleys. A few mates to help with the furniture, and hopefully it won't be too bad.

Incredibly, it'll only be $40 a month extra - despite having being almost 200 square feet bigger (whatever the hell that is in metric).

I'm a little amazed at the amount of stuff we've accrued in our two years here. Some serious spring cleaning is order, which I've started making inroads into - trying not to feel too mean for throwing out three large bags' worth of prechool artwork... and counting.

I'm looking forward to being in a bigger, quieter apartment... but I still hate moving. Desperately wishing there was a cheat sheet for it, or at the very least, some family members to materialise out of thin air and whisk the girls away for a day or two.

Luckily, I have the knowledge that we've survived much bigger moves.

It's going to be fine.

Monday, May 14, 2012


I found myself walking past a large square the other day, flanked by several corporate headquarter-type buildings. It was an area that I usually drive past and pay little attention to so when I noticed the steel sculpture - shining brightly under the midday sun - and nearby water cascading down an elegant water feature, I detoured into the square.

Feasting my eyes on the warped reflections and lines of the sculpture, I cursed myself for not being the type of person to carry her camera 24/7. I should have had the foresight to bring my camera to the gym, right? Instagram was going to have to do.

Anyhow, I began lining up shots and role-playing at being arty farty. It only took about ten seconds to feel as happy as the proverbial pig in mud... when an overweight, cross-eyed security guard approached me and asked me to leave as I was standing on private property.

Really? I gestured toward the street I'd been walking along. I gestured at the broad expanse of paving and lack of signs, barriers, fences or gates to indicate this was private property. I explained I was a passerby who'd just glimpsed this sculpture from the street, and had simply walked over to appreciate it from a closer perspective in what I'd assumed was a public space.

My words fell on deaf ears... because, you know, thirty-something year old blonde women in their gym gear have been known for their dangerous ways in the past.

I left peacefully, but it didn't take long for the cloak of indignation to wrap itself around me. Each footstep closer to home, the more pissed off I became.

This is why: I'm a big believer in public art; something that everyone can have access to and enjoy. Whether it's murals, graffiti, sculptures or performances - that stuff makes me happy, and I'm sure millions would agree.

What the hell is the point in having a beautiful sculpture in a large open space, that only the nearby office-workers are privy to? One that can be easily glimpsed when passing by on the street, but may as well have barbed wire around it if the plebs want to have a closer look? I've been asking myself this for two days now, and I still can't think of an answer.

It's just plain rude. And I am now determined to return for further 'viewings'...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Reality for now

Much of the time, I forget that we're in America. The rituals of daily life here have become as normal to me as the routines I had in Australia. The little differences that once seemed more glaring are now barely noticeable...

...and then something will happen that stops me in my tracks - reminding me that yes, we're on American soil now, and we have been for a while. Living life with unmistakably American touches.

The most recent of these moments was when I collected the Faery from school the other day.

She'd been strawberry-picking on a 'field trip' (my internal monologue will forever say 'excursion').

On a yellow school bus. My daughter, riding yellow school buses for 'field trips'. Childhood doesn't get much more American than that, right?

Moments of realisation like this begin as though I'm watching scenes unfold from someone else's (American) home videos, and then it dawns on me that this is our reality for now. Our photo albums include shots of palm tree-lined boulevardes, wintery Christmases, s'mores being assembled over campfires, squirrels, Halloween festivities... and yellow school buses.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Memory lane

When my tank's a bit low and I feel like I should write, but have nothing interesting to say, it's always a good time to hit up Mama Kat's writing prompts. This week's options had one prompt that jumped out at me immediately.

"List your top 10 favourite things about summer growing up" 

(Sorry, Mama Kat. I had to spell favourite the way I've been conditioned to... it's nothing personal)

(Photo source)

1. Frangipanis

Walking along streets, trying my best not to step on or squash the fallen ones which covered the footpaths (impossible!). Gathering. Inhaling. Pinning in my hair. Frequently.

They are still one of my favourite flowers and I miss them. Surprisingly (because the LA climate is ideal), I just don't see them in the gardens around here. I need to make it my mission to find a little tree in a nursery somewhere, and regain a little frangipani magic.

2. Water play

What Australian childhood was complete without time spent frolicking under the sprinkler, with cool wet grass beneath feet? Growing up, our home didn't have a pool. Our neighbours did - and many hot days were spent at their place - but when they weren't home, our sprinkler came out. It makes me a little sad that because of water shortages (understandably), many kids these days don't know this simple joy.

Another favourite activity was wetting the trampoline then bouncing and sliding all over it. This was back in the days when trampolines weren't padded to within an inch of their life, and the springs were completely exposed. Usually, there were at least three kids piled on for this slippery fun, because this trampoline in question also belonged to our neighbours... along with a shed/cubby house, swing set, air-conditioned rumpus room, spare bicycles, roller skates, hula hoops, and a Commodore 64. We owned none of those things. I don't really need to mention that my parents saw little of me during school holidays, do I?

3. Icy confectionary

Streets Banana Paddle Pops. Tearing the wrapper open at one end, and blowing inside first to help the paper lift off. I remember when they were about 30c, and I'd convince my mother to buy me one as an extra treat instead of a 15c lemonade Wiz (although I loved those too). I shudder to think how much they cost today today.

4. Thunderstorms

My fear of loud thunder was something I got over at a pretty early age. In place, I grew to love the approaching rumbles of thunder in the distance, my excitement matching the frequency and intensity of the storm as it got closer... or disappointed if it never passed directly overhead. I loved the electricity in the air, and the sense of everything being right on edge. It was permission to enjoy a little (perceived) danger.

There seemed to be a lot more storms when I was a kid, but I think that's because of an uninterrupted childhood in Sydney - since then, my adult years have been spent in a number of other cities which sadly lack thunderstorms as a meteorological feature. Sydney... I can always count on Sydney to put on a good show at the end of a static, humid summer day.

5. Cheese & pickled onion sandwiches

Bliss. I am somewhat of a seasonal eater - there are foods that I tend to only crave or think of during certain seasons. My father passed on his love of these sandwiches to me when I was young, and to this day, nothing screams Summertime! to me more than cheese and pickled onion sandwiches. Even better, when accompanied by....

6. Schweppes beverages

Specifically, lemon cordial or lemonade. Cold, with tiny drops of condensation running down the glass. My dear grandmother always had a bottle of lemon cordial in her pantry, and the blue-labelled lemonade in her fridge. In those days, they were a treat for me, but she always let me have as much as I wanted. As an adult, those drinks have been staples in my own kitchen during summer... so you can guess how excited I was recently when I found cans of Schweppes lemonade in a nearby Indian grocer's. I bought one, and sipping at it was a lovely link to my Aussie summers.

7. Extended holiday visits

Each school break, I usually went and stayed with my grandmother for a few days. She was widowed and only lived twenty minutes away, but it always felt like a little holiday. Summer holidays were the best because sometimes I stayed a week or two, and was spoiled rotten. Instead of being lost amongst the chaos of four kids (I'm the eldest), I relished the attention from her, and she spoiled me rotten. Trips to her local shops always saw us running into her friends, and she would show me off proudly to them. I felt special when I was with her.

8. Endless reading

I was never a particularly active kid. Many a day, my mother would throw her hands in the air and ask why I didn't want to be playing outside - especially on such a lovely day? I was much happier curling up with a book. 

9. Cicadas

The deafening song of cicadas will always be the soundtrack to my childhood summers. Even better, they were probably the only insect that didn't send me running and screaming if I encountered one. In fact, I was able to pick them up without any drama. There are no other insects I can say that about.

10. Not feeling the heat

Was it just me? I don't recall ever feeling aware of being hot and uncomfortable - except at night on the absolute hottest days, when I couldn't sleep. Summer was my favourite time of year. The older I get now, the more I seem to feel the heat (and suffer) so have sadly begun to prefer spring. It feels somewhat traitorous to the ten-year-old me.

*  *  *

There are some great things on this list, and I would be so happy if my girls have similar memories or associations one day. At the very least, their internal archives for life in LA should also provide distinctive memories. It will be interesting to chat with them in twenty years' time about their own childhood summers.

(Click here for link)

Monday, May 7, 2012


Like all two year olds, Miss Pie is more than just a little in love with trains right now.

Most mornings begin with her watching an episode of Thomas and Friends. That in itself always seems like a bizarro start to the day because when the Faery was that age and equally enamoured, she also had to watch Thomas... but in Australia, the original (British) version is aired - narrated in beautiful Liverpudlian tones.

I have sweet memories of my youngest brother watching the show, riveted, way back in the 80s - when the stories were narrated by none other then Ringo Starr himself. I think it's why I've always had a soft spot for anyone with a Scouse accent. Here, the show has been dubbed into American accents, and the Fat Controller has been renamed Sir Topham (PC madness, if you ask me). It's... different.

Anyhow, I digress. Yesterday we took the girls to Travel Town - a place we discovered a few months back when we attended a birthday party there. Perched on the edge of Griffith Park, surrounded by hiking and horse trails (oh, and a freeway), it's an outdoor museum, showcasing old steam locomotives. Many of these can be climbed on to investigate. There's a miniature steam train ride, and a plethora of picnic tables with BBQ grills.

For a cheap outing with train-obsessed little ones, you can't go wrong - there's nothing like hearing a little voice repeatedly exclaiming "Wow!". We'll be back.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May Day

Yesterday was a special day - J's and mine anniversary. We've been together a long time, and I feel incredibly lucky that we still love being around each other, and share the same goals.

Since moving to LA, our last two anniversaries have been spent at home. The first year, we were brand new in town and yet to find a babysitter. Last year, our babysitter had to cancel at the last minute. This year? I made sure, confirming many times with our current babysitter. I wasn't taking any chances.

Dinner out, just the two of us, is a rarity. We don't really buy gifts - it's not our style - and I was excited just to be eating in a restaurant, sans small children.

After the babysitter arrived, we kissed the girls goodbye and headed down to the car park. I noticed J had reversed the car into our spot, which neither of usually bother to do. He commented that he'd washed the car in his lunch break, and I felt silly for not noticing the absence of dirt.

Once we were in the car, J told me he'd even cleaned the glovebox, and to have a look inside. I thought it was odd that he wanted to me look, but when I opened it, there was a little blue box inside:

Surprise! I just got luckier. 

I'd been admiring these key necklaces since the first time we set foot inside a Tiffany store (purely for a fun browse, as you do) but I was not expecting a gift at all... let alone this.

He's a keeper - but I already knew that.

Our evening was spent in Old Pasadena. Even though our favourite coffee is there, we hadn't been in for at least six months. Silly us, as it's a great area to wander around. Naturally, coffee was our first stop, followed by dinner at an Indian restaurant that had been recommended to us. Again, silly us - we hadn't eaten at a proper curry house since we were in Australia... and we both love curry.

With full bellies, we strolled a few blocks and peered in windows of now-shut bars and shops (the trouble with going out on a Tuesday night). Champagne bars with chandeliers, gothic taxidermists with peacocks, posh diners with red velvet curtains - Pasadena has something for everyone.

With happy hearts, we headed home.