Monday, June 12, 2017

Trade-offs and the trip home

P's annual English immersion experience is over for another year. Now she's four the time in transit is an awful lot easier and the whole trip even more fun. She loved riding the tube and double decker buses, making friends with our friends' kids, playing with her cousins and all her quality time with my parents and sisters. She did some dam building on the beach, saw a jousting display at Leeds castle, petted lambs, and played a lot of elaborate games with her cousins in granny's garden.

It wasn't all about P. We enjoyed a week's holiday in Kent with the friends we used to holiday with pre-parenthood. It was just like the old days but our afternoons drinking wine and chatting in the sun now have a backdrop of children arguing over whose turn it was on the swing. Pretty blissful, as it goes. The week in Kent did rather squeeze our time with my family, and meant a couple of fewer days in London, but it made the trip feel more like a holiday. Quality time with fewer people than we might otherwise spread ourselves thin trying to see:  that's the trade off. Life, it seems is all about trade-offs, and making a deal you can live with. We traded an easier, more secure life in the golden state for our beloved London - with the sweetener of a return trip every year. Now the key is to get the balance right on those return trips. We can never do everything, or see everyone, but I think we made the best of our limited time.

P did pretty well at blending in as a Brit, I thought. She ate Scotch eggs and proper bangers with relish and went on walks in the rain without complaint. There were, however, a couple of giveaways. I had to remind her what a nettle was a few times (of course, she could school her British peers in earthquake safety but that's not nearly as useful as nettle-awareness when you're negotiating the playing fields and country lanes of Yorkshire). And as we pulled up outside my sister's beautifully proportioned, terraced, Victorian townhouse she commented that 'the houses are all stuck together!' adding that in her opinion, this was 'crazy town'. Perhaps one day she'll have her own blog about transatlantic differences. 

Now we're home, back into the routine of work, and play, and the sunny beach life. It ought to get easier to return. After all, I am more settled here, bolstered by more places and people I love with each passing year. But London's grip is tight: I still suffer a little bereavement every time we leave. Nothing a Tuesday taco and an afternoon watching volleyball under a perfect blue sky won't cure, I'm sure.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Welling up at the drop of an (English) hat

It's right and proper and only natural that I would miss dear friends and family from the UK, and be commensurately sentimental when I see them again on our annual trip back. And I think it's understandable that I feel a tug at my heart strings when I experience some quintessentially English scene, or eat something which evokes my childhood.

And even a Brit would find this scene somewhat heart-stirring, I think.

But sometimes I wonder if I've taken my indulgence in missing the UK, and my sentimental delight on reconnecting with my roots, a little too far.

Things which have made me well up with joy on this trip so far include:

1) Wearing shorts and a cagoule (even the word 'cag' made me emotional) on a partly sunny, partly rainy day.
2) Sainsbury's, and Boots, two long standing British retail brands I'm absurdly attached to. Which is akin to an American being soppy about Vonn's.

3) This menu outside an average looking restaurant, with its rarebit, ox tongue and quail. Especially knowing that the asparagus is probably only on the menu for about a month.

4) A pub landlord being slightly gruff when we showed up 5 minutes before the end of lunch service.

Before you know it I'll be crying with joy when the waiter neglects to bring me water after the third time of asking, or I have to dry laundry on the bannisters.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Good times are around the corner

Not that these times right now aren't good. But they are not without their challenges. For months I've been working long hours in a chaotic team, where goalposts move daily, nothing is ever entirely clear or fixed, and the emails and IMs and Slack messages and texts JUST DON'T STOP.

Like most parents with day jobs I want to do a good job - but in as little time as possible. I actually really want to do great work, and go above and beyond what's expected as often as I can. But not as much as I want to do the school run.

These last few months P has watched more hours of TV than I care to count, so I could clear my email inbox. TLOML has done the morning routine almost every day - the pancake making, hair braiding, driving to school and talking about the day ahead stuff which is mundane and sometimes wearing but just basically the stuff of life. I'm working in the evenings so often I haven't made bouillabaisse for months. I know. It's bad.

It's not just family life that has suffered, but also my health: I have skipped many workouts in favour of actual work. Which is not a very South Bay thing to do, and that behaviour absolutely needs to stop. And I'm living on toxins: I have never so frequently felt an urgent need for espresso or gin (sometimes at the same time) as these past few months.

Here's the good news: it's about to end. As of today. My last day in the crazy job. A new, calmer job begins on Monday. With a sane, calm, clear team and reasonable hours. And in the month ahead we have opera tickets, a night away at Terranea, a trip to the UK, and absolutely no plans to work nights and weekends. Hurrah!

PS I might churn out the odd blog post again too. Lucky you ;-)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Adulting

A lot changes when you become parents. We knew this. But if you'd have told me five years ago, that I'd consider a school fundraiser to be a good night out, I would have hoped you were dead wrong.

In fact TLOML and I pride ourselves on the fact that we have proved wrong those friends who said 'you'll never enjoy a leisurely coffee with the Sunday paper again'. We do just that, every Sunday, thanks to Disney. Our lives don't completely revolve around P. Oh, who am I kidding, of course they do. Still, we make time for ourselves and each other, we manage to enjoy a steady stream of happy hours, dinners with friends, and date nights with cocktails, or opera, or dinner, or all three.

Rarely is there dancing, however. (Well, there was that one time the New Yorker was in town. But we were in jeans and flats, in the spit-and-sawdust Hermosa Saloon, and someone on the dance floor was wearing a beanie hat. It wasn't exactly high glamour). And equally rarely am I wearing heels. And never, not since P came along, has there been dancing whilst wearing high heels. It's partly just because that's not how Hermosa rolls. Locals consider you dressed up for dinner here if you wear jeweled flip flops with your beach dress.

This time last year, when we saw a lot of people our age wearing heels and cocktail dresses/ suits, tottering into a marquee in downtown Hermosa Beach, we were intrigued. Who were these people? They looked like our demographic. Only more glamourous. It turns out the one event in Hermosa Beach that people do get dolled up for is the Hermosa Beach Education Foundation annual fundraiser. We diarized that event right away - even though P won't actually be in the Hermosa school system for another year or two - and I'm so glad we did.

I wore sequins and gold heels. TLOML wore his nicest suit with his spiffiest shirt. All the brightest stars in the firmament that is Hermosa parents of K-8 children were there. We mingled with neighbours and people we see around town, and bid at the silent auction, and enjoyed quality booze and food from some local eateries, and danced. Oh we danced our socks off! To covers of Warren G, and Journey, and every other 80s and 90s act in between.
 A rare sighting: Hermosa mums in heels

We felt we were adulting pretty hard, to be honest. An education foundation benefit? We're really doing this! When we tottered out of there, TLOML carrying the two chairs we won at the auction aloft, we decided not to go on for a drink because the chairs would be a bit cumbersome. Also an adult choice. On Monday I met the education foundation president to see if I could get involved. Which is also pretty adult of me. What have we become? A couple of settled-down, community-minded parents, that's what.
Whooo hoooo! Where next?!
I'm happy to say that despite all the changes in our lives, TLOML and I still know how to tear up a dance floor. Even better, thanks to the Hermosa Beach Education Foundation, we might still get to do that thing. At least once a year.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Ski bug

One of the great things about living in LA is that we are within a couple of hours of a snow topped mountain. Which means that anyone with flexible working hours and a car can decide on a whim to head out of town for a last minute ski trip.

One of the bad things about living in LA is that there are a lot of people with flexible working hours and a car.

We've been meaning to head somewhere for some snow all winter, but had rather let the perfect (the dream of a week in Jackson Hole) be the enemy of the good (a couple of days somewhere closer to home).  There's been so much rain recently even humble, relatively low lying, Big Bear had snow. Some snow. More than last year at least. So when a friend texted on Wednesday to say 'Heading to Big Bear tomorrow - want to come?' we said 'Yes'.

It became clear that we weren't the only people with that genius idea, right about two hours into what should have been a three hour drive. Two and a half hours later, we arrived to the grotty condo that was the best option available at the last minute. We chose it because it was walking distance to the base, and thank goodness we did because the traffic the next morning rivaled the LA rush hour.
The traffic was so bad we weren't the only poor souls walking (the horror!)
Oh, and did I mention it was also the LA Unified School District AND the Orange County School District's annual 'ski week'? That is, the week they extend the Federal Presidents' Day holiday to create a week of school so all the kids of LA and the OC can head up to - yup, you guessed it, Big Bear.

Consequently all the ski lessons were booked. But I think she had a much better time larking about with TLOML and her buddy than she would have done in a lesson anyway. TLOML - along with our ski instructor friend and her able snow-plougher child - gave P some coaching in the basics.

At first she mainly wanted to eat snow and 'climb the mountain'.

After TLOML had towed her up and down a shallow 20 foot slope a few times she was getting interested. Sort of. With a bit of whining and some 'I want to dig with my skis' and 'Please can we make a snowman' thrown in.
Then I took her to watch people getting on the chair lift.
That was the moment her love affair with winter sports began.  She wanted to get on that chair lift so badly she even followed instructions, and made a half hearted attempt to learn how snow plough.

So they got up there and made a couple of runs down the nursery slope together. Then we gave up on the endeavour because, of course, the queues were too long with all the other schmucks who had come up from LA at the last minute. A hot chocolate and some long-awaited straightforward playing in the snow followed. P is now officially into it - loves the mountain and can't wait to go back.

Which is good, because we are going back next week. This time we booked in advance - and not during Ski Week - and this time she's doing proper ski lessons. Let's see if her new love affair will endure.