Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A flying visit

The first year that I lived in LA I returned to the UK no fewer than eight times. Sometimes for a few days, sometimes for a week or two. Sometimes on a whim, sometimes for a good reason. Sometimes with TLOML, sometimes solo. I stayed pretty well connected with my friends and family. There are plenty of people I saw just as frequently that first year in LA as I had done when I lived in London.

These days, trips back home are planned far in advance, and heavily itinerised.  It's too far to go for Lady P to handle a short trip. So we go for a couple of weeks or more in the summer, and pack in as many friends and family as we possibly can.

When my parents and sisters started planning a trip to London in February I didn't plan on joining them. Not at first anyway.

My mum is getting an MBE. Which is kind of a big deal. My parents and my three sisters will all be together in London celebrating. And I think what really tipped me over the edge was my dad asking me for restaurant suggestions, and the thought of them all together for my mum's big day in my city, and me, thousands of miles away... I couldn't stand not to be a part of it. TLOML told me 'You have to go'. And he's rarely so dictatorial, so I think he really meant it.

One last minute flight booking later, and I am London-bound. Abandoning Lady P and TLOML for five days while I live it up in my old stamping grounds. I'll spend a couple of days with my family, and another day or so catching up with a couple of good friends, trying not to fret too much about the friends (and nieces and nephews and so on) that I won't get to see. It could be a bit of an exercise in frustration, because the time is so short, but I'll take what I can get.

Every time I say that I miss London and the seasons, TLOML says 'Go! Go now, while it's cold and dark and rainy!'. Well, it's 26c with glorious clear blue skies in Hermosa as I write this. And it'll be 9c and rainy in London when I land. Despite that, and much to TLOML's bafflement, I'm pretty excited.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Resisting peer pressure

'You do you', the trainer at my gym says, as I manhandle an empty bar bell while all around me women are thrusting 75lbs above their heads. I do. I do me.

And Lady P, most of the time, does Lady P. I hope her resistance to peer pressure remains strong as her birthday approaches. Now she's at pre-school, it's quite the event.

For her sugar-free birthday celebration at school we have to make a board about her. The brief is a bit vague but TLOML told me the other day he saw one that had been framed. I also saw a sparkly one once. I have used felt-tip pens, stickers and photos on a white foamex board to create something I am proud of. And as I was making it, TLOML said 'One of the things I love about you is how you didn't change your plans when I told you about that framed wooden birthday board, you just stick to your guns because you don't care about impressing the other mums'. Which I think is known as damning with faint praise, but I'll take what I can get.

We are similarly resolute in our attempt not to impress anyone with Lady P's birthday party. Barring one, all the birthday parties her classmates have thrown so far have been big dos. Hosted at indoor play areas with inflatable slides, trampolines, and (my favourite) a brilliantly messy art materials, they involve 30 odd kids, pizza and cake, giveaway bags full of plastic toys that delight a toddler and last about five minutes. The whole shebang costs as much as a flight to London and I'm just not sure Lady P needs us to throw her such a party.

So we're shrugging off the tyranny of an almost-three year old's social life, and going with a very small party at home, at which we will open up her toy cupboard, serve some goldfish crackers and fairy cakes, and hope that Lady P thinks it's the best party ever. I have consulted her about it and all she seems to really care about is that the balloons are red. Which they are. So, we'll do us and hopefully everyone will have a jolly time.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The all new South Park

All hail, the advancing gentrification of 'South' Hermosa.

I'm not sure whether a town that's only two square miles merits a North vs South demarcation, but ever since we moved south of Pier we noticed the invisible line. Yes, the Strand down here is still lined with multi-million dollar bling pads, but a few blocks east of the beach there are far more renter units, scruffy old beach cottages and yes, that sad excuse for a park I posted about last year.

Finally, our end of Hermosa has a beautiful park all of its own. The new South Park is open, and it's pretty amazing. There's a tot lot, a long slide down a little hill that has 'sensory huts' on top of it, a roundabout that can hold about a dozen kids, a climbing net, and a strange see-saw. Oh, and rocks, and sandy areas, and a 'dry creek bed', and just all sorts of cool spaces for kids to run about in.

 South Park was absolutely packed last weekend, and I think it might be a place where Lady P gets to know some of our neighbourhood's kids. It's also a big step up from her former outdoor playspace, the workout station she wistfully called 'the seesaw'..
'The seesaw' at the end of our street: no longer the best park in our 'hood

... or hunting for Gruffalo caves on the greenbelt which was my go-to solution for those times when I felt she needed to play outside for a while but couldn't be bothered to schlep to the beach.

Now we have an incredible park just 5 minutes walk from the house, we feel very spoiled. Lady P is delighted and I'm sure will spend many happy hours of play and adventure there. And I'm sorry that we're so prosaic, but we think it might have increased our property value too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

No-one's going to give me 5 stars in TripAdvisor anymore

We try to be good hosts. When family and friends visit us for the first time, we like to show them the sights.

When we lived in Malibu we always took guests into Santa Monica, mooching around the canals in Venice, for a drive and a shop in Beverly Hills, a hike by the Hollywood sign, and so on. Now we're in the South Bay we can easily get into Downtown LA for cultural and culinary experiences, or drive down to Long Beach, or take a bike ride to the Marina.

But if you have such a good time that you decide to return, be warned. We may not go quite so far on your second visit. By the laws of diminishing returns and thanks to the lure of Hermosa Beach, returning guests are lucky if we even drive a couple of miles south to Redondo Pier. After all, we reason (/post-rationalise), there's nothing wrong with just hanging about in Hermosa Beach, enjoying the life of a Hermosa Local.

Our most recent guest, Lady P's godfather, was the perfect example. We only left Hermosa Beach once in ten days. For the rest of the time, we worked out together every day (very Hermosan), walked to downtown Hermosa for lunch, or drinks, and generally just enjoyed some quality time. As far as I'm concerned it's the perfect holiday. I hope he - and any future returning guests - agree.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Progress report: Lady P

We had Lady P's first parent-teacher conference last week. Yes, providing a progress report on a toddler seems ridiculous to us too, but since Lady P is our favourite topic of conversation we were really looking forward to it.

We weren't completely disappointed. Only a little. Unfortunately for TLOML's 'Tiger Dad' ambitions, Lady P is not off the charts, genius-level. Instead she is pretty much where she should be in most academic areas. To be more precise, she's a smidge ahead of the curve - enough to satisfy her reasonably well-educated parents, not so much we have to worry about paying for college five years earlier than planned, nor the social trauma that I suspect accompanies child genius levels of attainment. Sadly this means she is still some years off being able to read alone and therefore amuse herself for any length of time

The best news came in non-academic areas. First of all, her manners and socials skills were heavily praised. I was delighted. Like all middle class Brits I have been drilling 'please' and 'thankyou' into her since she could speak. I don't think people do that so much here. Which isn't to say that Americans are rude, but just that the social norm of politeness doesn't always include 'yes please' ('sure' does just as well) and 'no thank you'. Despite that Transatlantic difference I believe basic old fashioned politeness goes a long way anywhere, so was very pleased to hear that Lady P is ticking all the boxes there. She's kind to her classmates and gets along with others too, which is good to know. God knows what happens to kid who at two years old is falling out with their peers - by the time they're a teenager I imagine they're really battle weary.

But the crowning glory was her performance in 'food prep', which is an area her teacher said she needed to work on. Food preparation at Montessori might include choosing different chopped fruits to put into your own fruit salad, to give an example. Apparently, Lady P is not very good at waiting till the permitted time to eat her prepared food - instead she scarfs the ingredients as soon as she can get her greedy little hands on them. We nodded gravely in support of 'working on' this. But as we left the conference congratulated ourselves on raising a daughter who sees something she wants to eat and grabs it. What more important life skill for a toddler is there?