Monday, December 28, 2015

Operation Santa

You know that awkward moment when someone gives you a present you weren't expecting? It happened to us this Christmas. And the unexpected gift giver was Santa. No, not the Santa that is TLOML and I and a Target spree. Another, mysterious Santa.

The backstory: Lady P and I wrote a letter to Santa a couple of weeks before Christmas. I did the writing, she dictated. 'A candy cane, a lollipop, and a book of Gruffalo songs' she said. 'And a bicycle?' I suggested. 'And a bicycle', she agreed. It probably goes without saying that these are all items either she has had her heart set on for a while, or we had decided to give her for Christmas. Or, happily, both.

We walked together to the post box to post the letter, addressed to Santa at the North Pole. I didn't put a stamp on it. I wasn't expecting it to go anywhere. I just wanted to kill half an hour, expose her to some fresh air, and build up a little Christmas anticipation. I thought no more about it, except to remind her a couple of times of what she'd asked for, as I went about my Christmas shopping.

On Christmas Eve a cardboard box arrived, addressed to us, with this postmark:

Inside were a lot of parcels, addressed to someone called 'Fran', from Santa. I immediately said 'these aren't for us, there's been a mistake'. But TLOML urged further investigation. Some of the gifts were wrapped but others were in a gift bag so we could see what they were. A lollipop, a candy cane, and a Gruffalo toy with a companion mouse. Basically all Lady P's dreams come true.

I googled Operation Santa. It turns out it's a scheme whereby someone - who presumably is not (like most of us) saying 'Oh I wish I had more Christmas shopping to do' - can adopt a letter to Santa. Someone adopted Lady P's letter and decided to go nuts with it. Which is really very generous and very sweet. And the fact the gifts were addressed to 'Fran' can be put down to my appalling handwriting, on that letter I never expected to be read.

And yet. The thing is, we already had most of the gifts she asked for covered. And Lady P is far from needy. The gifts we were sent from Operation Santa were both more than she needed and worth more than those we donated to the local toy drive. So I feel guilty. I made the best of it, by stashing the toys for her birthday and donating the rest. Be careful what you wish for, middle class parents. Your wishes may come true and you will be struck down with guilt and a surfeit of gifts.

I hate to sound churlish. And she will absolutely love those Gruffalo toys, so we're very glad of that. Also the lollipop. They are surprisingly hard to find. I had tried CVS, Rite Aid, Vonn's, Ralphs and Whole Foods in search of one. All I could find are large bags of lollipops - who buys those?! - or large lollipop shaped cookies. I just wanted one big, special treat lollipop. We were going to end up giving her the one they give away at the dry cleaners, until the parcel arrived.

I think next year we'll do all our Christmas shopping and then put on the letter to Santa anything that isn't easy to buy in Hermosa Beach. Since some dear soul out there takes such great pleasure in fulfilling kids' dreams, let 'em at it.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Gingerbread Construction Success

Glad tidings of great joy! This year our gingerbread house stayed standing! It looked pretty good too.

TLOML and I had a little help this year, as Lady P decorated some trees. She did ask several times if she could 'just eat it?', which was a fair question, to which we said no. Not yet.
But after last year our fears of collapse meant we didn't decorate till Christmas Eve. So she only had to wait one day. And the house only needed to remain upright for 24 hours.

In short, I think we have perfected the strategy.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The limits of Lady P's imagination

Lady P's imagination is running wild right now.

The downsides are the occasional bout of night terrors, and her concerns about someone called 'the woo', who apparently lives under the headboard of her bed.

The upside is that she is constantly entertaining herself.

She can play Doctor with a chopstick and some salad servers as her surgical equipment. Two boxes are her 'robot shoes'.
'I'm wearing my robot shoes' 

This workout equipment on the greenbelt near our house is alternately a seesaw, and her house - so you have to knock before entering.

Cushions are stepping stones. The cardboard tube from the roll of Christmas wrapping paper is a horse, and sometimes a broomstick.

Most inanimate objects can be talked to. The turtle candle holder on our outside table gets a blow by blow account of cars passing by. Her toy moose is instructed to watch her jumping. And her favourite, 'Doggie', apparently insists on being cuddled during the scary bits of The Gruffalo's Child.

Yet, despite reading the story, moving the stupid thing every night, and telling him if she's being good in a stage whisper, she has absolutely no interest in communicating with the Elf on the Shelf.
Me: 'Look, that cheeky elf is eating a banana chip!'
Lady P (apathetically): 'Uh huh'.
The popular seasonal bribery is just not working on our Lady P. And while exasperated, I am equally proud of her contrariness and independent thinking.

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Tale of Five Trees

The two beautiful tall palm trees we had to remove, because they were touching the overhead power cables (as I whined about a couple of months ago).

SoCal electricity sent around a crew to do it, slice by slice, as they shimmed down on their crampons with a chainsaw and a machete hanging off their belt. It was surprisingly quick: moments later our house looked bald.

The two large potted palms we replaced them with.

They are not as tall or as beautiful, but they will give us some of the dappled shade and rustling leaves that the old palms used to provide. The earnest dude at the garden centre whose advice we asked said they wouldn't be happy in the pots after about 10 years. When pressed though he conceded they wouldn't look unhappy.  To be honest, at the risk of sounding callous, even if they're crying on the inside so long as they put on a brave face and look good, I'll be satisfied. In the hope that in ten years time we have a proper garden to plant them in, we went ahead and bought them. So far they don't look too unhappy.

And finally, the one proud, perfectly shaped Noble fir we bought last weekend, and decorated to the strains of Silver Bells.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

On hoaxes, bomb threats, jitters and career suicide

There were lots of jitters around Hermosa and Manhattan Beach schools last week. On Monday, Wednesday and again on Friday a bomb threat was dialled in, targeting the local high school. The one Lady P's preschool is right next door to. On Monday and Wednesday the school was 'just' on lock down. Urgh, just typing that makes my stomach flip. On Friday they closed the high school, Lady P's Montessori, and the elementary school on the same campus.

I bemoaned these events in a 'this country!' way to my sister, who reminded me that when we were growing up various buildings were sometimes closed because of IRA bomb threats. None of the threats ever materialized in our home town, and I don't think I was particularly scarred by the existence of those threats.

Still, I was away from home during those first two threats last week, on a work trip to Florida. Reading about bomb scares when you're far from home does not help soothe the jitters.

Now I'm in Florida again and my goodness those jitters have spread big time: all the schools within the LA Unified School District were closed down because of another bomb scare. Our local schools are not in LA USD (in fact we moved here because LA USD has such a poor reputation) and remained open. But still, when 700,000 students are sent home it's hard to feel entirely comfortable with Lady P being in the classroom. And it's not like she has finals to sit for. But being the parent away from home, and knowing as I do that TLOML has an overwhelmingly busy work schedule, I didn't really want to call him up and suggest we (he) kept her home.

Fortunately for my peace of mind, he got the jitters too, and picked Lady P up early from school so she could spend most of her day with our former nanny. I know, I know, the whole thing was probably a hoax and she was perfectly safe at Montessori. But still, it's nice to know she's nowhere near a school today.

I'm heading home tomorrow and planning a significant change of lanes on my career path. In a totally unsurprising, mother-of-a-young-child move, I've decided I want to travel much less (okay, not at all), and I don't really care if that means sacrificing my career goals. Being home would not stop the jitters, but it would make it much easier to act on them. And if Lady P is at all disturbed by the changes to her school schedule, the 'lock downs' and the half-empty classrooms, it will be nice to be around to soothe her jitters too.

Happily, of course, Lady P is completely oblivious. Long may it stay that way. In which case I can use the time I no longer spend travelling doing fun stuff like baking cookies.