Monday, December 27, 2010

Slainte Mhah

Christmas is nearly completed.  I can tell it's nearly over because we are slowly but surely regaining our house.  The wrapping paper, cardboard boxes and curled ribbons are in the recycling bin.  The toys are slowly being put away and finally I can see the living room rug once more.  We've nearly run out of batteries and both my youngest & I have a lovely common cold that we'll generously share.

However, there's still random lego pieces waiting to remind you that it's not yet safe to tread barefoot in our house.  And there's still the scary-huge, Ferguson-recipe Christmas cake to remind you that there's still a mountain of edible ways to throw caution to the wind. If that cake had any more brandy, then instead of sitting in our Craig's List bargain cake stand, it would need a trifle bowl.

So it must be time to get ready for Hogmanay.  We have 4 friends scheduled to visit and so our house will double in occupants for the first week of 2011.  But it's worse, all of the visitors are ladies - so the inherent male dominance of the Tweddle household will be destroyed as well.

In LA we have a long Hogmanay celebration, with the UK being 8 hours ahead, we'll start by skyping relatives at 4pm.  Then we've friends and family on the east coast of USA to cheer on.  And finally we'll have our own midnight start to the new year.

For the 2009 Hogmanay, we'd been in the country for under 3 months and our belongings from the UK had arrived just days before.  For 2010, we had just bought our own tumble-down home, but still only had visas and I wasn't allowed to work or have a social security number.  This year, I will start with a work permit, a social security number and a stack of projects and commitments to work my way through.  With the date starting at 1/1/11 it feels like this year will be a new beginning - an American beginning.

In Scotland, we'd raise a glass and say 'Slainte Mhah'.  Pronounced something like 'Slan-jay Vah', it doesn't sound anything like it writes - a bit like me.  So I've just spent the last few moments searching for a link to where you can hear it said - I point you to 2 minutes 22 seconds into this video - (I hope you like rock).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

English Development II

My education in speaking Americanese, or more precisely Los Angelene, appears to be progressing more subtly these days.  Usually I'm understood.  Even though I don't think I'm speaking any differently, I manage to get the coffee I ordered and make appointments with relative ease.  Now, it's the nuances that catch me out.

Holidays.  In the UK, holiday means the same as vacation; though vacation would be some some kind of experience that 'Johnny Foreigner' takes part in.  The UK has bank holidays, Christmas holidays and doesn't differentiate the family summer holidays.  The word 'holidays' here however, exclusively refers to the scheduling of festivals and celebrations to induce the public sharing of insanity.  Bah Humbug! We had the same insanity sharing in the UK but, as with most things, the scale and depth are more extreme here.

Midday.  My latest find is that midday isn't considered as specific as noon is here.  Both are 12 o'clock back in the UK, and in Australia apparently, but here midday is a more fluid period in the middle of the day. Mind you, I don't think we use the word noon very often in the UK.  I think of noon as being like high noon and so I would expect to bring my duelling pistols to a meeting at high noon...  This is the wild west after all.

Just recently I found myself struggling to understand what was being said in a TV program. The accent and slang were sometimes unfathomable to me and yet the TV show was a Scottish reality TV program (this link is not for kids).  I suddenly started to understand how difficult some people find it to understand me.  Lynn and I are no strangers to not being understood.  In some of the posher areas of England it seems quite acceptable / common for people to feign that they can't understand a single word that is said with a Scottish accent.  My favorite retort was always, "I can understand you, so one of us must be stupid."  As I watched the TV, I realised that I was now residing on the stupid end of that comment...

I'm expecting that as I start to consider thinking, about maybe possibly, tentatively, looking for w*rk, that I'll start to discover a new set of new words that confuse and befuddle.  Till then, Toodle Pip!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Too busy to W*rk

We really have no time at the moment. So I should, obviously, be doing something else. Like ordering replacement windows, or more firewood, or making appointments with the dentist, or returning the wrongly sized sprinkler valve assembly, or building shelves in my youngest's bedroom, or redesigning the web-site for OneHourTheater.com, or considering how best to incorporate a blog for a pals' website, or fixing the broken moulding in my eldest bedroom, or... well you get the picture.  That's just the stuff I remember without really thinking and feel ok sharing.

Yesterday we received emails saying the USCIS have approved our work permits and that they are in the post.  I'm paralysed with the fear that I might have to w*rk in a j*b.  I can't think straight.

Maybe I should start with a temping agency, that way I could get the flavour of the American w*rkplace without the ties and baggage of a permanent position.  Maybe I should just talk to recruitment consultant and dive straight in...  Hmm.  I used to know a guy who w*rked as a recruitment consultant; he never placed anyone, always spoofed his appointments and moved job every 2-3 months before anyone noticed he was mostly at home sleeping or getting stoned.  Perhaps recruitment consultants aren't all like that.

I should spend time on my CV/Resume - I considered it unlucky before I got a permit to w*rk.  I should by a suit, or at least more long trousers/pants.  I should get proper shirts, even ties, shoes that aren't sneaker-ish...

Then again, I do seem a bit too busy to add to w*rk to my timetable.  And do I want a j*b that requires corporate attire and corporate attitude?  Didn't I get enough of that back in the UK?  And here the bureaucracy is even worse than back there, it would drive me mad.

I think I'll start on the shelves.

*- sorry for the expletives

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Serious about privacy?

I think the current notion of privacy is pretty much dead or dying.  I'd still like to keep some things private, but I think the measures I take really only help give the perception of privacy rather than actual privacy.

For example, I haven't mentioned the names of my boys on this blog.  You could easily find out their names if you wanted to, so why do I avoid naming them? Somehow, it makes Lynn and I feel more comfortable.  I guess by the omission of their names, I'm at least implying that I don't want to have a detrimental effect on their privacy.

A friend of ours doesn't have a Facebook, Twitter or even a LinkedIn Account.  She doesn't like the privacy implications and specifically worries about the effect that such accounts may have if she looks for a new employer.  As she works in the music business, you can probably understand her wariness.  

However, her privacy is lost anyway.  I recently updated our computers and found that the our photography software has facial recognition and can link to tags on Facebook.  I have 13 photographs of my friend's lovely face that were taken since we arrived in this country.  OK, so I'm not going to post these photos to Facebook, but others would/will.  

All this makes me think of a time, about a decade or so ago, when I had an idea about putting facial recognition into the public arena.  At the time, the software was kept for the exclusive use of the intelligence and security communities as a valued capability; some algorithms still remain that way.  It seemed to me that this was a mistake.  

If you want to know who someone is, why not have their parents, friends and colleagues create digital records for you?  You see a known bad guy talk to someone you don't know, search Facebook.  There'll always be a proud Mom or Dad.  Perhaps Mom will have posted a photo of the day their son graduated with a degree in microbiology.  Friends will probably have posted photos of where they've visited and people they hang out with.  There might be enough interesting data that next time they catch a flight, a more thorough time from the TSA would be prudent.

Should this scare us?  I don't think so.  Soon, if there are no digital records of someone, that will be the more interesting fact.  No friends? No parents or carers? No work colleagues? I think you're hiding something. You might duck out of photographs whenever you can, because you dislike your image or think they steal your soul, but I doubt you could be 100% successful at dodging every lens nowadays.

The key for me, is that if you are hiding your intentions and doing cruel or disreputable deeds, then there are fewer places to hide.  Obviously, the flip side is that as we lose privacy, we must as a society become more accepting of different cultures, views and practices.

Wikileaks is disreputable only because of their complete lack of balance.  I want to know what the European, Russian, Iranian and Chinese cables said.  When only one is exposed we see their nudity and notice their imperfections.  If we were all exposed together, perhaps the issues of our world would properly become our focus.

It seems to me that the secrecy of nations is similar to the privacy of individuals.  You cannot expect technology to erode the privacy of the individual and not have a similar effect on the secrecy of nations.  In the fight against terrorism and the tyranny of nations, secrecy is the biggest weapon of the protagonists we fight.  Secrecy allows terrorists and criminals to move freely, corrupt governments to remain in power and ultimately it erodes our modern society.

Wikileaks merely distracts us from the issues whilst we enjoy the titillation and search for who to blame.  Like the paparazzi standing outside an exclusive restaurant, their exposures would be worthless if the celebs freely posted accurate photographs themselves.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Seriously

I can't seem to write my blog at the moment.  I write, but I drift into seriousness every time.  When I complete a post, I find I have something unpublishable under the banner 'Damp Shorts'.  

Last week I wrote about feeling invisible.  I'd meant to write about I was now making a transition from trying to stay invisible during my childhood to keep out of trouble, through using invisibility to sneak through my earlier career.... only to be annoyed at becoming seemingly invisible in my Mr Mom role and now wanting to shake off all invisibleness and become a successful part of the American workforce.  However, it read more like the ramblings of a downtrodden victim.  And victim I am not.

Today, I found myself writing about privacy, secrecy and Wikileaks.  I was called for the end of needless secrecy and questioned Wikileaks' singular focus on America.  I want to see all the world's nations' cables. I tried to lighten it by shoehorning in a joke, but ultimately it was unusable here.  I think I just need to focus on why Damp Shorts was started in the first place. 

Perhaps all this seriousness is because I might get a work permit soon and I feel I need to use this part of my brain.  Though I wonder if it could be that Thanksgiving affected me.  The concept of the Thanksgiving seems wonderful to us.  You get the all the feast and goodwill, but without the pressure of presents.  For us this year, Thanksgiving was quite tough though.  Don't get me wrong we've plenty to be thankful for.  In fact, in some ways that's the issue.  

Lynn had time off from writing jokes for CBS, but also got a horrific deadline for a script polish she's been given.  So Lynn was squirrelled away in our guest room tweaking this movie script, whilst I tried to keep both boys amused.  We are thankful for the work, confident we made the right decision, but we all somehow feel like we missed out on the joy.  I think we need to be together to feel fully thankful and strong.

I built cushion forts, taught my eldest to make pancakes and crispy treats, watched lots of TV, played basketball and took my boys to the park.  

My highlights were when my youngest referred to me as "that man" and when he saw the new billboards for the movie 'Burlesque' and said, "Ew look, yukkie ladies!"  

Meanwhile my eldest wrote his first book report and we discovered that he can actually write quite neatly.  He's been hiding his neatest work from us, so that we don't expect too much from him. Now that's sneaky! 

Yet again I've really struggled to keep this post from straying into the overly serious.  Maybe I need another blog for the serious stuff.  But what would I call it?  Damp Logic? Stodgy Shorts? 

Suggestions please...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fun at the Gym

My Gym is one of the places, other than school or work, that we have visited most since moving to Los Angeles.

Our eldest was first to be invited to a birthday party at My Gym in Encino and he loved it.  So much so, he had his 7th Birthday party there.

His 6th birthday had been a far more dismal affair, we'd only really just arrived in the country and so we went to this place he'd heard of called Chuck E Cheese... [please note I didn't link to the cheese on purpose!]  I was told you should just stay quiet if you can't say anything nice...  So in order of niceness: the parking lot and that machine that draws pictures of you and the big mouse are the best bits of Chuck E Cheese.

My Gym is great for kids parties.  They get to run, jump, bounce, crawl, climb and pretty much be active in a safe environment.  There's even a 'safe' area for adults to wait, observe and shout 'encouragement' from.  Though mostly it's a time to compare war stories, share battle winning tactics and consider when it would be possible to schedule some 'no kids' time.

I was there again on Sunday at a 3 yr olds party.  We hadn't been for a while and I wasn't entirely looking forward to it.  My 3 yr old isn't exactly a team player.  He does what he likes, when he likes it.  On previous trips to My Gym with my youngest I've never been able to stay in the 'safe' adult area.  I'm always either trying to cajole the angry boy into a group activity or insisting that it's not ok to hold your friend down with a foot, whilst you wrestle the ball you wanted from his/her hands.  And then there's the tears when it's all over and time to put socks and shoes back on...

Sunday was different though.  My boy is growing up.  He played nice, he listened to the My Gym staff, he sat in a circle for the activities and he sat in the audience to watch the puppet show.  I stood and chatted to parents in the 'safe' area.  I watched other parents try to supply the cajoling for group actions and persuade short dictators to adopt a sharing policy.  My boy loved it and he loved being part of it.  And I actually had quite a good time too.

Obviously, he's still the same boy though.  When we got home he was back to his less cooperative self.  How dare I try to feed him such muck?  Vegetables!  How very dare I!  Can't I see the chocolate?  You just wait there, whilst I climb onto the kitchen countertop to get the chocolate down....   Dora the Explorer came to the rescue and Boots inspired him to scoff two bananas in short succession.

Perhaps, I'm trying to ignore his progression and development.  Sure it's easier when he's more cooperative and reasonable, but I don't want him to grow up too fast.  Where's the fun in that?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pandemonium

We took the kids out last night to Pandemonium: The Lost and Found Orchestra.

We were both hopeful that our boys would love the whole experience and worried that our youngest would completely sabotage such a huge production.  We were given our tickets from the lovely Glynis Henderson who we hadn't seen in years, so we wanted to be on best behavior...

As ever, we failed at just a little at the planning stage.  This time we forgot to check when the performance started and finished.  The performance started at 8pm, which is when I try to have my boys at least on the road to bed.  Last night they got to bed at 11pm; faces were washed, teeth were scrubbed but bath time was postponed.

To start with everything went well.  The boys were excited to be going out and my 3yr old kept confirming with me that he was going out too and that there was no need for a sitter.  They got dressed to impress, or at least not to un-impress.  My youngest even broke one of his intransigent rules; he wore a jacket.  Lynn got home on time, we left on time and arrived on time.  So far so good.

Stress was starting to appear whilst we were in the crowd waiting at 'Will Call', but still all good.

Then we entered Royce Hall.  The hall is absolutely amazing, it feels big and yet somehow enclosed.  I overheard someone say that it's been recently refurbished, whilst my youngest shouted, "I don't like it! I want to go home!"  I gave him cuddles and soft words and slowly we made our way to our seats.

In the 10 minutes we had before the show, my eldest nervously played with the folding chairs, my youngest repeated over and over, "I want to go HOME!" and Lynn tried to hold a conversation with Glynis  who was sitting a few rows away.

From the moment the show started my eldest was mesmerized and I knew that what ever happened next, this trip was worth it.  My youngest was immediately very scared, he hid behind his hands trying not to look saying,"Too scarey, I want to go home."  Then when the music got louder he put his hands over his ears saying, "Too Loud!"  I struggled to keep him quiet and was relieved when he wanted to move to Lynn's knee.

When the first piece finished and the audience stopped applauding, there was this amazing silence as the we all eagerly tried to anticipate the next sounds... "I WANT TO GO HOME!" was what everyone heard.  Once he'd realized the effect he'd had, my beautiful son tried it out between each and every piece of the first half.

I'm so glad that the show was filled with humor and that audience was so forgiving.  In the end, all his fear was slowly eroded and replaced with awe in the spectacle and sounds.  We all had an amazing night.  Right now I'm sure there's a bunch of 8 yr olds being bored with the details, and a bunch of 3 yr olds wondering why their pal keeps repeating, "music too loud, music too loud."

Poor planning can pay off in the end.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It Got Better and Continues To.

Bullying robs our children of their self confidence and hinders their discovery of their talents.

I'm going to confess.  I was a bully at school.  It was over 20 years ago and I bullied one school mate, Steuart Harrison.  I was bullied myself by many boys and didn't exactly have it easy, but that's no excuse.

Our High School was, I'm told, the first school in the UK to get CCTV cameras installed in the playground.  At the time I was there, the local area had the highest unemployment rate in the UK.  It was not pretty, and for some, it all felt hopeless.  I had two fist fights in my first two weeks; nothing I instigated and these were the first full-on fights I'd ever experienced.  My village primary school (equivalent to elementary and middle school) had less than 100 pupils and was a much more nurturing and fun place to be, so High School was a severe shock to us all. 

Steuart was odd as a child.  Actually he still is quite odd.  He was born in Papua New Guinea and arrived in Scotland aged 10, with an distinctly Australian accent and an amazing ability to mimic monkeys.  Difference amongst my friends wasn't something that was to be tolerated.  Steuart says I gave him his nickname 'Hinge Hand' - he was considered effeminate or limp wristed.  He isn't / wasn't gay, but that didn't seem to matter much then and it certainly doesn't matter now.

I think it was Steuart who gave me my nickname, 'Pizza-Face' as a means to 'help' me with my struggle with acne.  We definitely didn't get along and I was definitely mean to him.  And I did hit him too.  I even remember walking over to him and punching him in the face, just to show off to my idiotic friends.  

I do not know a single one of those idiotic friends anymore and I can't even remember their names, except for the most evil one - I heard that he became a bit of a drug dealer and then eventually moved to Thailand to sell brides.  I bet he's quite the charmer now.

I do still know Steuart though.  I love him like a brother.  A teacher helped turn us around from being enemies.  I can't say the teacher was particularly fantastic.  In fact, the one thing that started Steuart and I seeing eye to eye, was that we both agreed that the teacher was a complete imbecile.  We became the very best of friends, we both went to University in Glasgow and, along with others, tried to systematically drink the town dry.  He studied Architecture at the school of Art and I kept visiting him - there were only 2 girls in my class of 120 electrical engineers.... 

He lives in Vienna now and lectures in Architecture.  We're still in touch and still amused at how things turned out.  That was a difficult and nasty 4 or so years, prior to our almost 30 years of friendship.  

It could only get better if he moved closer to LA.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Scary Tuesday.

I wrote this on Tuesday.... and then kept checking the news in case I'd seen something of note....

I just collected my eldest from school.  He just turned 8 at the weekend and we all went to Legoland to celebrate, so the whole family is a bit tired - we don't travel too well and our 3 year old makes certain no one sleeps properly.

Yesterday, we received an email from the USCIS saying that they're sending us a letter requesting more evidence with regard to our Green Card application.  We don't know what they're missing and until the letter arrives we can only guess.

Today, we went to Van Nuys for  biometrical testing which turned out to be just finger printing and photographing.  I was half expecting DNA swabs and iris scans, so it was quite a relief to be so minimally measured.  Sometimes I think in the future there'll be computerized spittoons for everyone entering a country's borders.

As I drove the kids back to school, I noticed a young man being arrested at gunpoint.  It may be surprising considering where we live, but this is the first time I've seen this, since that guy outside my work on July 21, 2005 during the failed bombing attempt in London.  It made me a little nervous to be driving past such a scene with my family in the car, but life goes on and I shrugged it off - all British and stiff-upper-lip style.

When I went to collect my eldest after school, I had intended that we go to a store to buy some more Lego base plates.  The plan being, that if we can make a table dedicated to Lego, hopefully we can clear the rest of the house of those plastic foot-stabbing torture pieces.  However on the way, the traffic seemed a little slow and just after we passed a motorcycle store called 'Ultra Violence', I couldn't fail to notice the five police cars that were helping ruin at least one young man's day.  The way he was being treated, suggested to me that perhaps he was known to the officers as very naughty, or that he was known more intimately to the officers and I'd just witnessed some quite rough heavy petting. ;-)

Anyway, I figured that with the slow traffic and all the guns I'd seen today, we should just go home and leave the Lego till tomorrow.  So I turn right and then stop at the next set of traffic lights, waiting to turn right again and head home.  In the parking lot directly across from me, I see four young men with burgundy baseball caps have handguns drawn and are directing two men to lie face down on the ground.  There was no visible Police presence anywhere.  It was such an odd vision, both unusual and somehow familiar - this is North Hollywood after all.  I've probably even seen actors in pretty much those same poses, probably at that very same location... but there were no camera trucks anywhere - I checked.

The rest of the world seemed to be getting on with things, either oblivious or not caring that such a dangerous situation was unfolding only yards away.  I decided that it's lucky you can turn right on a red light here, cos even if you weren't allowed, there was no way I was waiting for some bizarre manmade lighting contraption to decide that it was time for me to remove my son from this place.  As I drove off I heard sirens and, in the DMV defined way, pulled over to the right, while a cop car sped towards where I had just left.

I didn't want to unnecessarily scare my son, but I had to tell him why we weren't going to get the Lego.  So I told him the truth, Dad was scared and we all know it's Dad's job to keep the family safe.


[Image from ImageShack.us ]

Thursday, November 4, 2010

3 Hour Workout

I think we've become different people. OK, yes I'm now in the Mr Mom role, so of course a lot has changed.  What I didn't predict is that I'd find myself instigating the purchase of gym equipment.

In my view, gymnasiums are places of torture and boredom, reserved for the incredibly vain and the terminally undiagnosed victims of the modern world.  An extreme view perhaps, so I'll try to explain.  I love exercise when it's social and uplifting and outside.  Inside, it starts to lose it sheen and the only way to keep the fun is to add playful competition - stopping short of actual competitive sports of course, which becomes tedious and meaningless to me.  To mindlessly slog away on a gym bike or elliptical, for me constitutes exercise with all enjoyment removed.  Sometimes, when I've been really down or overly self conscience, I tried using a gym, but even a 40" and expanding waistline never motivated me to ever go more than once a year.

In the UK, I was getting fatter every year.  I tried to add more walking in my day, attempted to eat healthier and was frankly desperate to reverse the trend, but somehow nothing really worked.  An unhealthy work pattern, too much travel and hotel food was taking it's toll.

Here in LA, it's a different story.  Sort of.  Initially, I lost a little weight which was probably just the effort being a new Mr Mom in a foreign land - I still had no time for any additional exercise.  Eventually though, I found some time and started to cycle a little around the flat San Fernando valley, then I discovered a book called Day Hikes Around Los Angeles.  This was a revelation for me, in the UK we'd probably call this hillwalking and it would normally involve goretex clothing, ugly boots, flasks of tea and stunning views of green hills and valleys.  Here it involves sun cream, cool cross training shoes, reusable water bottles and stunning views of an epic scale that are somehow familiar.

This summer swimming was a revelation, suddenly I had an exercise in my own backyard that I could do in 30 minutes and also build my confidence in an activity that I had never truly mastered in the UK.  I even found that I achieved something like a kind of meditative state whilst swimming.  I found that I could swim without really thinking about what I was doing and that gave me a time to clear my head and concentrate on what I wanted to achieve with my day.  In fact, swimming is pretty much responsible for me starting this blog.  I thought I'd keep swimming no matter how much the pool chilled.  I was wrong.

I decided I like my new 36" waistline - even though the stores here lie about the sizes of their clothes, my belt is now 4" tighter than when I arrived.  I seem to have gotten busier and if I get a job it's only going to get worse.  I need a means to exercise quickly and now that I'm sooo thin, I don't have the warming fat reserves that would allow me to swim the icy waters in our back yard.  Well that's my excuse, but it would seem silly to move to a place that has 95F temperatures in November, only to dunk myself into a Scottish winter experience every morning.

So here I find myself.  I've just completed a 3 hour workout on a new elliptical machine that is now in our garage / gym.  I've only stood on the machine for 2 minutes though - it took me 2 hours 58 minutes to build the darned thing!

I took great care building this machine of torture, after all I want it to be obviously in good working order when it appears on Craig's List in about 6 months time...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Only Walter is welcome here.

Walter
We've not just been experimenting with web video streaming.  Our friend Kim had us dog sit her pooch. Walter is a lovely, friendly, little guy and thankfully he doesn't have the issues of the book character.  He is also the only dog I have met and not been allergic to.  Sometimes, when he lies on my lap or snuggles next to me, I get worried that the hives and sneezing will start, but so far nothing.

I do love him and I'd dog sit for him again in an instant, but we are NOT getting a dog.

This isn't like the web streaming experiment though, right from the start Walter has been a joy to look after.  He likes it here, mostly due to the kiddy commotion and Lynn's weakness when it comes to his begging techniques.

I do love him and I'd dog sit for him again in an instant, but we are NOT getting a dog.

However, not all is well.  Firstly, I've discovered that Walter, for all his cuteness, comes with a cost.  There's the walks - apparently this is my job as the stay at home parent.  There's the letting him out for a pee - my job.  There's cleaning his yucky bowls - my job.  Picking up his sh*t - my job.  And my particular favorite, washing him after he's rolled and rubbed up in sh*t - absolutely my job.

I do love him and I'd dog sit for him again in an instant, but we are NOT getting a dog.

Yesterday, he was taken for a 3 hour hike with about 10 other dogs.  When he returned he was finished, a shadow of his former self.  He lounged about the house, following me when he felt he had to, but he was pretty much out of energy.  Now Walter could be with shedding a few pounds and he's not alone there.  So I took him for a brisk 1 hour hike round Fryman Canyon this morning.  He's now completely asleep at my feet as I type this - not even the postman could stir him now.  Doggy boot camp has begun!

I do love him and I'd dog sit for him again in an instant, but we are NOT getting a dog.

Walter is not like normal dogs and I think there can only be one like him.  He's a rescue dog, but he's got none of the attitudes that such experience can cause.  In fact, recently he was suffering with a bit of tummy trouble and so the vet had a look at him with x-rays.  There was nothing odd in his tummy, but he has a bullet lodged in his hip.  I hate to think that someone shot at him, I prefer to think he took a bullet trying to shield his owner.  If he could talk, he tell some crazy tales no doubt.

I do love him and I'd dog sit for him again in an instant, but we are NOT getting a dog.  NEVER.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Guilt & Love

Without you these would have stayed empty.
I just had that horrible feeling.  I pressed 'publish' and instantly felt sick.  I'd written in my last post that "I organized pretty much everything for the show" and, of course, that's not true. It made me think of all people that helped us and I instantly felt I'd done them a disservice.
  • John Jack at the Stella Adler, allowed this whole project to get off the ground in the first place.
  • Rochelle at the Stella Adler - basically told me how to do everything.  
  • Our friend and neighbor Kim, proof read and improved every piece of drivel I wrote for the flyers, website and program.
  • Carter, our amazingly generous friend, supplied all the equipment to web stream and film the show. His guy Chris set up the lights, the sound desk and the huge back sheet scrim.
  • Martin, despite his punishing schedule, donated the most marvelous whisky known to man.
  • Jason, a new friend, donated the lovely wine.
  • Our friend, Debs, wrote the press release and painstaking updated every listings site with the show's details.
  • The fabulous twitter pals who tirelessly re-tweeted the show's details.
  • Myra, last but not least, told me what was really needed to provide drinks after the show.  She was going to take the production photographs and run the bar... and then our tech was unable to do the run, so at the literal last minute, Myra saved the day and ran the lights and sound cues.  A wonderful lady to whom we are seriously in debt.

In short, I'm not cut out to be the stereotypical Hollywood Producer, I still feel guilt and shame and love.  So to the very idea that I could be a Hollywood Producer, I use the words of Douglas Adams, "So long and thanks for all the fish".

New Job Title

For the past few weeks I've been obsessed about trying to get audience for Lynn's play.  Everything, including this blog has had to take second place.  By the end of it we were all happy it was over, especially our boys.

I organized pretty much everything for the show, apart from the artistry which is Lynn's domain.  I cobbled together the website, configured the payment engine for tickets, manipulated the artwork for the website & printed materials, investigated printers, handed out the postcard flyers, designed the programs, hunted for donations of wine, etc.  It was a lot of work and it was quite stressful knowing that if I failed, Lynn would find herself performing to tiny audiences.  It was only when chatting to the Stella Adler students that I discovered my role had a name.  It hadn't occurred to me that this was the job of the producer.

In the end, we got good audiences, 50-60 each night for 3 nights on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday in Los Angeles whilst there was a rain storm - not a bad result at all.

I found it most exhilarating calling the start of the show.   Basically I'd 'open the house' to get the audience seated, ensure Lynn is on stand-by, ready Myra in the sound & lighting booth, shut the doors and then the pre-show music fades...  I'm not certain why I found it such fun, perhaps it's the control, but I think it was the feeling of something actually beginning.  The producer's tasks all seem to be about planning and preparation, calling the start of the show is immediate.

The Stella Adler Theatre proved to be an excellent location, with a great stage, wonderful acoustics and solid technical set up.  The location is great too, situated on Hollywood Blvd, right in the middle of the nonsense at the cross section with Highland.  Which leads me to the conclusion that I have become not just a producer, but a 'Hollywood Producer'.  So I'm now off to buy some huge cigars.  Let's do lunch sometime, I'll get my people to talk to your people and other such clich├ęs....

Or perhaps I'll just get back in the kitchen and make dinner.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Short Shark Shock

Our 3 year old was playing with a toy shark, whilst he should have been eating his breakfast.  He's started talking to his toys and shark is no exception.

"What is it shark?  .... Oh, you want to go under the water?" he said and then plunged the shark under the table.
He then turned to me and said, "Oh no!  Where's shark gone?"
I replied, "I think he's under the water."
A grin emerged and he informed me, "No Daddy, He's under the table!"


Silly Daddy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dressing up.

I saw a pair of fabulous shoes the other day, they were a kind of high wedge.  Elegant and rustic, all at the same time.  I'd just met the wearer of the shoes at another of those Brits in LA breakfasts, so I felt comfortable enough to say how much I liked them.  However, that started one of those discussions about whether women wear such sexy shoes to attract men or whether it's just for their own personal pleasure.

Discussions like this are potential minefields for men.  In the past, I would have said that I agreed that, for most women, they choose their clothes and shoes for themselves without any thought of men.  But I might not have perhaps entirely believed that view, I'd maybe, perhaps, have just said it to avoid any, er, difficulties.  Weak or just pragmatic? Anyway, now that's changed.  I didn't just say it, I meant it.  

Being the stay at home parent, everyday is casual, dress-down Friday and I've loved it.  When I was out working, I'd always avoid wearing a suit if I could.  The only time I'd really care about my appearance was when I was out looking for, err, em.... I'm talking about before I met Lynn, I had needs!  

I'm pretty much in shorts and a T-shirt every day, so now I'm much keener to spruce up a bit when I go out.  Nothing drastic, maybe some long trousers, occasionally a shirt, sometimes even a suit.  I even wore my kilt to a gala once, though I suspect that the effect a kilt has on American ladies, is something best enjoyed before any marriage commitments... and I thought men were meant to be the ones objectifying!

I still can't fathom the female psyche, but being the stay at home parent, I think I have lost a number of my lazy assumptions or prejudices.  It's difficult to define them all, prejudices tend to be hidden from their owner; disguised as facts, or jokes, or stereotypes.  I'm clear with this one though, women dress in a way that they like, and they do it for their own self image and happiness.  As much as men might like to think that killer heels and tight tops were all chosen for their viewing pleasure, that only really exists in a certain sort of gentlemen's establishment, and true gentlemen would never frequent such a place.

It's not just female to care about your appearance.  Sure, my friends that are parents of girls, say that school free dress days are their recurring nightmare.  Boys tend to follow styles and fashions in their teens and twenties as they strive to fit in or rebel.  However as an adult, in the absence of employer or client pressure to follow accepted norms, you decide what makes you feel good about yourself, and sometimes that means dressing up.  

However, I shan't be wearing heels anytime soon.... they don't look right with my kilt.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Motorcycle Emptiness.

I'm losing it.  Truly.  I can't remember the last time I rode a motorcycle.  I'm beginning to dream of it more and more.  Sometimes I watch the MotoGP and can't really remember what it was like.  Especially that feeling of getting a corner right.  Enjoying being leant over, with the feeling that both wheels are firmly planted and ready for the increase of power as you exit the bend.

I came to riding on the road late.  I think I was 26.  Old enough to know better and young enough to try not to.  I rode bikes in the fields that surrounded my house from about the age of 10, so I knew it could hurt and I knew what it was like to lose grip.  The first bike I bought was a red Suzuki RF600F, a tame'ish 147mph 'sports tourer'.  I rode that bike to work every day and pretty much all over England.  I also went on longer trips to the famous Le Mans race track in France, Jerez in Southern Spain, Assen in Holland and Barcelona.

I even rode through some freezing cold London winters.  In fact, I once rode home in snow; I just rode slower with both feet down.  Snow is not for the novice, but it was still loads of fun.  At one point I slid slowly, both wheels locked and traveling at a speed that a snail would be ashamed of, into the back of a London bus!  I giggled all the way, knowing I was going to hit it, but also knowing I'd be fine and that no one would notice, except me.

I wonder if I will ever have a bike again.  The LA driving experience doesn't make me want to get in there and start mixing it with the sedate stoners and the charlie chargers.  In the car, last year, I had 3 accidents in two weeks.  Each time I was stationary; the first two were mere bumps in car parks, where I had the misfortune to actually watch someone drive into my car.  The third was a guy who just drove straight into us, while we sat at a red light; once he'd beaten down the airbag, he just drove off at speed.  I followed, till he went left through the next red light.  His registration didn't match the car, so he seemed to be experienced at this caper.

But I still miss it.  It's wrong to be reckless with your life when you have responsibilities, but surely that  applies just as much to every time we eat fatty, artery-clogging food, as it does to the risks of my motorcycle passion.  Motorcycling gives me focus; for me, it's almost like meditation.  In fact, when I think about it, the way Lynn describes what stage acting does for her, pretty much applies to what motorcycling does for me.

I dream of the canyon roads.  Give me corners, smooth tarmac, steep mountains and mild weather.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Home Comforts

Tuesday,  I went out for breakfast.  I know, the sheer decadence of it, how dare I?  Lynn told me to go and so, yet again, I obeyed.

The 'Brits in LA' facebook group holds a breakfast meet every Tuesday in Cecconi's on Melrose.  We've been living here for almost 2 years and, most of the time, I feel foreign and sort of misplaced.  It's just a subtle feeling, nothing particularly concrete.  Even the sights that have become familiar, are still somehow overseas.  So having breakfast with British folks was really an interesting experience.

Before going, I wondered whether I'd feel more at home or more displaced.  In the end, neither.  It was truly refreshing to understand and be understood.  British humour is very different for American humor - we even spell the word differently - and so it's a release to not worry so much about offending, or confusing, anyone with sarcasm.  Somehow, I couldn't face getting the Full English breakfast though, so perhaps I'm not so British anymore.

What was really invigorating was that the 'Brits in LA' aren't normal.  Not that they are odd, just that they all have an interesting story to tell.  It's not an easy move to make, coming over here, and so everyone's had a voyage of discovery.  There are quite a few actors and the like, but pretty much, you sit a table and meet interesting people doing all sorts of work.  This time I met a  race car driver and now Speed commentator, a veterinarian hospital manager and an 82 year old actor.  I felt a kind of strong camaraderie from the experience, but it didn't feel like this is home yet, and it didn't make me homesick for the UK either.

On a different note, at the weekend we went to two music gigs, first was The Gotan Project at Club Nokia and second was Belle & Sebastian at the Hollywood Palladium.  Both concerts were fantastic.  Even the support bands were great; General Elektriks and Jenny & Johnny.  The nights were very different in form, but they both had an unexpected effect on me.  

An audience having a great time is pretty much universal. We could have easily been at the Shepherd's Bush Empire or Earls Court in London and we would have had pretty much the same feeling.  We don't get to go out too much, and even when we did we rarely went to see bands.  So it was a surprise to feel so much at home in an unusual setting.  

I'm going to regret saying this, but we need to get out more.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

No!

I'm busy.  It's great.  I get to hang out with adults again.  Sometimes, I think I over exaggerate the trials that my boys inflict on Lynn and I, and sometimes, I look at old videos which I'm saving for my boys embarrassment.  I've replaced the video on this one, but the sound tells the story well enough.  Janey Godley is a wonderful friend; she's a comedienne, writer, podcaster and scary lady you can sometimes see on LA's public transport system...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

No sleep till...

Please excuse me, I might be a little grumpy today.  I had less than 5 hours sleep.  I have a headache that feels like I've got some kind of solid knot inside my head, just behind my left eyeball.

Our youngest, wouldn't sleep again.  The last time he got out of bed was about 11:30pm and then he was up at 5am.  What ever I want him to do, he will not.  When I got him home yesterday I made some homemade pizza.  Whilst it was cooking he wanted a cookie, I said he had to wait till after dinner.  He walked over to the kitchen, used a cupboard door handle as a foot hold, pulled himself up onto the countertop, stood up and reached to get the box off from on top of the fridge.  We fought.  He only ate half a slice of pizza in protest.

There was thunder and lightning here last night and so we fought about why the TV was off. (Back home, I remember lots of people having everything that was plugged in, fried beyond repair).  We fought over story time, toothbrush time and inevitably sleepy time.  This morning we fought again over the TV - only good boys get to watch TV at breakfast.  We fought over socks and shoes, we fought over sun cream, we fought over leaving the house and we fought over me leaving him at pre-school.  Apparently, he and I have our own little Fight Club going - though the 1st rule of this Fight Club seems to be, don't talk to Dad about Fight Club.

Meanwhile, I've been getting acupuncture and have been given a bunch of herbal pills to cleanse my liver - apparently that should help reduce allergies.  12 huge pills and 2 small garlic ones - Bleuch!  They make me dehydrate a little and that makes me grumpy too.  I wonder, would it be unethical or just pragmatic, to look for a herbal remedy that would make my boys sleep more soundly?

If I don't find a solution soon, I'll be putting a lock on our bedroom door and starting to sleep with earplugs.  Actually scratch that, it'd be too dangerous.  Unsupervised, I'm pretty sure he'd be on the internet looking up the Anarchists Cookbook for ideas.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Prattle.

I'm one of those people who listens.  I also, often wrongly, assume people know what they're talking about and that gets me into trouble.  I can go very quite if I can't reconcile what's been said, with what I believe to be true.  Like anyone with an academic background, I find myself questioning my beliefs and experiences, looking to see who might be misguided or where I might need to modify my hypothesis...  So I go very quiet indeed.

Whilst I'm quite, the person I'm with, tends to get nervous and talk more.  It can be quite intimidating to be silent.  High pressure sales teams use it a lot to get you to sign on the dotted line.  In counseling, it's used to nudge a person to talk about their issues.  So some people can find me rude or assume that I don't rate them  or that I'm bored with them.  Really, I'm just thinking.

Sometimes I'm envious of those who can comfortably talk.  I remember working really well with a friend, Rob, on a consultancy job.  Rob finds solutions on his feet, talking through everything.  Sometimes he talked absolute drivel and it became my job to stop that, but he'd also cover every, almost unthinkable, aspect of the problem.  With Rob talking, I could think and together we forged some pretty good answers - and unlike most consultancy projects, we even improved something!

My wife is like Rob, but with bells on.  When we're out with anyone, I have to get the drinks or order the food.  She seemingly can't stop talking.  When she returns from a meeting or night out, I need to set aside a good hour for the debrief.  When I go out, I return to the questions I failed to ask and the subjects I failed to mention.

Last night we ate really late.  We have some lovely visitors staying and whilst I got our boys to bed, all Lynn had to do was phone for some Thai food....

Friday, September 24, 2010

Procrastination

I'm sitting outside a Starbucks in Culver City, Lynn's got the day off and she's in a meeting across the road. I drove her here, because I knew she'd be a bit stressed with the meeting and driving is still a pretty new thing to her.  I also thought  I'd be able to just sit a read some of those library books I got recently.

My problem is procrastination, I think.  Or maybe it's indecision, I'm not sure.  One of the challenges of not having a day job is knowing what to focus on any any particular time.  I used to think that was tricky when I was working, but at work it can be quite easy and totally unemotional.  Your boss says jump, you say ok. If your boss isn't saying jump, then you look at what you said you'd achieve and then make it happen.  I know there's intricacies in my argument, like if your boss is an overly ambitious idiot, with no clue whatsoever as to how to achieve anything and keeps overloading you with tasks that are counter to your agreed targets / logic / common sense / reality....  Hmm, I like not having a day job a lot.

Still, the issue exists.  What to do first and how long to do it for?  At the moment I juggle websites, graphic design, event planning, child care, family chef'ing and there's this blog of course.  Somewhere in that I want to make time to research and write a book.

I spotted a book at the library that was all about procrastination, but I didn't take it out.  No, I wasn't procrastinating.  When I skimmed the book, it seemed to be saying that procrastination is all about shame.  It said shame holds everyone back from taking action, that if you search your mind for what made you feel unworthy and ashamed, then you can put those feelings to bed and start to take action.  It seemed to me to be a book of self justification.  We all have a childhood that was not our choice, but once you're an adult, it's time to move on and make your own choices.  It annoys me that I procrastinate.  Sometimes it annoys me enough to take action.  It doesn't annoy me enough to feel like I'm a victim and I don't need seek out someone or something in my past to blame.

What I should be doing, is designing postcard flyers for Lynn's show.

What would like to be able to do, is read those library books to help inspire me to start sketching out my book.

But I sit here outside Starbucks in Culver City, with a backpack full of library books, typing this blog.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Procurement

I've always had a problem buying things.  I'm cheap, so I always wonder if there's a better deal and I'm too analytical, so I'm always wondering if someone makes a better one.

It's bad enough when I'm buying for myself, but when I have to buy things for Lynn I'm hopeless.  It's very rare she gets a surprise birthday gift.  I need to know what she wants beforehand - I'd hate to waste money on things she doesn't need or want.  I can try to pretend that it's about not wanting her to feel obliged to wear or use something, just because I bought it for her.  That argument doesn't really wash though.

I used to think this was a male attribute, but then we spent one Christmas away from home.  That morning I watched as a lady who'd asked for and was expecting a pasta maker, received a gorgeous piece of jewelry.  Clearly that guy knows how to buy for his wife.  I'd probably have got a cookbook to go with the pasta maker...

In my defense, I'm normally ok on the day to day.  Sometimes she even gets flowers.  I know they have to be simple and cheerful, so I usually get sunflowers.  Our eldest likes nothing better than delivering flowers to his Mum.  And gadgets, I'm always the one sorting what ever she needs to get her writing done, from automatic backup devices to sourcing the correct software.  Not exactly a strong defense, I know.

On Tuesday, Lynn started emailing me lists of tasks again - Lynn hates Tuesdays and she likes to spread the joy.  One task stuck out.  She wanted me for go to a discount shoe store and buy her a new pair of trainers.  I can think of no task more horrifying.  Too much choice, too many bargains and there's too much pseudo-technology in sports-style footwear.  I think I spent over 2 hours looking at ladies shoes and still phoned Lynn twice with questions.   Still, I did buy 2 pairs of trainers and she says she's happy with them.

At school pick-up, I moaned about my email of tasks and buying the shoes.  One of the Moms looked at me incredulously and said, "And you did it?!  I want to know what Lynn's feeding you to gain that level of control."  So I can't be all that bad and besides, that Mom is assuming that Lynn does the cooking...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Advice on the advice to advise?

I went to the library twice last week as there's a project I'm really keen on.  I'm loath to mention it, as I recently watched a TED talk on how sharing you're goals makes them less likely to actually happen...  

Anyway, I'd like to write a book.  Now that I've said it, it'll probably never happen but I'm going to try to keep focused on it.  My current motivator is that I'd like the book to create virtual a smoke screen, in time for when I receive a work permit.

I've talked to friends about what I should write and I keep getting pulled in many directions.  Should it be a memoir, tracking me from leaving work in London till either starting a new career in the US, or taking me to the point where we decide things are better this way round?  Or maybe a self help book for Dad's in the same position as me?  The latter gets the most support from our female pals.  Apparently, stay-at-home husbands are the latest fashion accessory for high achieving women... and I could even include some of my lovely recipes in the book.  Ouch!  My previous strategy for convincing Lynn that I shouldn't go back to work seems to have backfired.  We're eating takeout food from now on.

The first step for me was to start reviewing other people's books.  Though on reflection, starting this blog was probably the first step. Though at that point I had no book-based intentions at all - just damp shorts.

My book will probably be about the swapping of roles that Lynn & I have enjoyed / experienced.  To start with, I thought I'd read a bunch of the parenting self-help books.  Firstly, I thought they might help me in my day-to-day life, and secondly, the structure of this type of book might help give me some pointers.  I've mentioned before that I'm cheap... so I went to the library.  

Most of the parenting self-help books are about how to cope with the first few years of your child, in particular there a loads of books aimed at new fathers.  After just a few moments staring at the shelves, I started yawning and my eyes started to wander.  I noticed, "Ten stupid things Men do to mess up their lives".  It's uncomfortable reading, but compelling, a bit like watching a race car crash.  In fact, parts of it read like a factual description of my twenties and early thirties.  Obviously, I took that one home.

Then I spotted a book that I just had to have.  I was worried the librarian might look at me strangely, but I needn't have stressed.  "Confessions of a slacker wife" is mine till Oct 7.  This was my dirty little secret, perhaps I could learn some shortcuts and cunning strategies.  Unfortunately I'm struggling a bit with this book.  It's not as much fun as it looks - perhaps that's the title for my book right there!

In the end I took out 7 books, all of which were either self-help guides or were related to the psychology of husbands.   I think you can get too much advice and that's become my aim.  I want to get so much advice that it all merges into a white Gaussian noise, that way I'll become able to totally disregard it all and do my own thing.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Back talking to Adults.

With the boys at school and pre-school I am now able to get out and about.  Rashly I said I'd be free at this point, well the feeling of freedom has not been long lasting.  Lynn waited a day.  She gave me a day, and for that I thank her.  Then I started to be drip-fed my tasking notices. I understand her method, if I'd seen the entire list, I'd have lost all sense of humor.

First priority is making Lynn's show happen.  [Oct 18th, 19th & 20th at the Stella Adler Theatre, Hollywood - tickets are available from www.OneHourTheater.com]

So I've now seen the theatre, a lovely space with a very large stage and raked seating.  Their speakeasy bar room is fabulous, with its old revolving bookcase entrance and virtually nothing touched since prohibition.  The main hurdle for me though, was meeting other adults.  I was more nervous than usual and talked like a budgie, hopefully they understood enough to get the gist.  As well as the Stella Adler theatre folks, I've managed to meet up with friends who helped us before with whisky and production equipment. So I've even been eating lunch... in restaurants that don't have a kids menu.  Ahhhh!

Just as I was thinking that I was not really with it, one of my pals said, "So are your boys with a sitter?" Now I could dwell on how the brain made the association that I'm always with my kids - it certainly feels that way so it's an acceptable approximation.  However, my friend has 2 kids too and so clearly knows that they're at school during the day.  I put it down to people being overworked at the moment.

Perhaps, contrary to popular opinion, this working lark rots your brain far more than being the primary parent?  However if that's true, then work appears to have inflicted some long term damage on me..

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

8 minute blog.

Why 8 minutes?

Because that's how long I've got till the homemade pizza is ready.  I seem to be trying to do too much.  Clearly I got too excited about what I might be able to achieve once the boys were back at school.  I have from about 9am, when I leave the preschool, till the 3pm school kick out time.  That may appear reasonable, it is 6 hours after all.  It never seems to be long enough though.

I alway end up collecting my 7 yr old from school at the last moment.  I tend to take him home for an hour, so he can do any homework - or just have a bit of peace before we collect his noisy brother.  Inevitably, I also use that hour to finish off some things.  Yesterday, I used that time to try to make sense of the school's magazine fundraiser.  I still have no clue.

What I do know is, that I was supposed to donate the addresses of all of my friends and family, so that my son could receive a prize.  Is this normal here?  In the UK, I expect there would be a riot if you were asked to disclose other people's personal information without their explicit permission.

The prize was a chocolate-smelling calculator.  I just couldn't bring myself to give away the addresses, so now I need to source a chocolate calculator...

Acht that's 8 minutes... and my youngest has just told me that he's swallowed Spiderman... must dash!

Monday, September 13, 2010

English Development.

I've been here in LA now for nearly 2 years and the locals still struggle to understand my speech patterns.  That's still an improvement.  When I first arrived, understanding me was beyond a struggle.

Here are my top 3 misunderstandings:

1.  Once, I ordered a skinny decaf latte for Lynn at Starbucks and she was given a chilled vanilla latte thing.
2.  Maytag sent me a card to rate their service and addressed it to Mock Twagel.
3.  I was chatting to a guy at the checkout of Trader Joes for quite a while, mostly about London.  Then I told the guy that my card didn't seem to be swiping properly and he replied, "I know, but eventually you'll get so used to the hot weather, that you'll think it gets, like really cold in the winter."  At least I think we'd been talking about London, now I can't be certain of the conversation he thought he'd had.

Now I'm starting to get push back from friends in the UK.  Apparently, I'm using American words and my accent is weakening.  I don't think that's a bad thing.  My boys are growing up here, so why confuse them when their at home?  It's confusing enough here, without having to speak differently to your parents.  I should know, my parents are English and brought me up in Scotland.  At school I was ridiculed for my English accent and then at home I was told to lose my low class Port Glasgow brogue.  So I'm no stranger to feeling like the stranger.

Our 7 yr old spoke full-on Californian after a week at school.  He uses the word 'dude' without the irony or self consciousness that a Londoner should.  We used to ask him to say "Harry Potter" when we were in London, just so we could marvel at his London accent. "Arry Pota."

As for younger chap, his first use of an American accent was with the phrase, "I caan't!"  The rest of the time he mostly sounds a bit Shrek-like.  His pre-school teachers were always asking him to say, "Donkey!"  In fact, his main preschool teacher last year was an Essex girl, so no wonder his accent is still very mixed up.

Lynn's had a much easier time of it.  First of all she's had voice training, and second she gets to practice every day at work.  However, if she ever gets time off, then by the end of the week she's talking like she's back in Cumbernauld.

And so to my latest error/conundrum...  Theatre has only one spelling in the UK.  Here, it seems as though 'Theater' is for movie theaters, but not for arty plays where it is 'theatre.'  Though some folks tell me that 'Theater' is the building and 'Theatre' is the dramatic piece.  In fact, it's a bit like when I asked lots of people for the rule at 'Stop' signs, every time I asked I got a different answer.  All the different answers, have kept 'Stop' signs really exciting for me.

So I've set up www.OneHourTheater.com because I was completely unaware and just assumed 'theater' was the American spelling.  Maybe I should have called it OneHourTheatre.com or 1HourTheater.com or 1HourTheatre.com.  I still don't know.  So I figure I'll say I'm  just following a 'do it first, and ask forgiveness after' philosophy.

I had thought I was doing ok with writing American, but the spell checker can only help color your text with American spelling, and now I realize real humor is contained in the dual-meaning of words.  Rubber, fag and jumper to name but a few.

So I thought I'd start a list of the words I'm having to use:

Diaper - it's a nappy.
Line - it's a queue.
Eggplant - it's an aubergine
Hood - it's a bonnet.
Trunk - it's a boot.
Truck - it's a lorry.
Attorney - it's a blood sucking.... sorry lawyer or solicitor,
Cookies - they're biscuits.
Crib - it's a cot.
Mom - she's called Mum.
Popsicle - I think it's rude.
Loser - he who gives up...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Car Trouble

I wonder if this'll work. I'm sitting in a small waiting room for kids at a car dealership. My car is upset, apparently over 2 hours upset. Mind you nothing could be as upset as I expect to be when this is done. Over 2 hours in a small cell with always-on Disney channel and always-on 3 year old. So I type this on my phone and can hardly read the text - expect typos.


This dealership is clever. Their kids waiting room has an xbox, Sony playstation, Nintendo gamecube, various toy tables, a TV and all is contained in an almost sound-proof glass cell next to a Starbucks. I'd get a coffee, but I don't think caffeine would help and I dread what would happen if I give him cake!

Just the other day I saw a 'secret' car. It was all covered in cardboard to hide it's shape and finer details. I was just thinking "What kind of idiot would do that to a car?" when I spotted it had 'manufacturer' written on the registration plate. The car itself looked particularly average and I think they'd have made it much less noticeable if they took the cardboard off and got it a bit dirty. So I guess I witnessed a clever car manufacturer trying to get their dull new model noticed. I'll add a photograph when I get home, you never know it might be a newest most exciting 'Green' car - it's certainly no 2 seater sports model.

Tomorrow preschool starts so I'll be free again, and hopefully the car will be working too. Now I say free, but actually there's a ridiculous amount of tasks that haven't been done whilst the boys were on vacation. Lynn's going to do a run of her 'Heart & Sole' play in October and I need to make it happen. In preparation to designing a new website for the shows, I tested my backup of lynnfergy.com - i.e. I irretrievably deleted the entire site by accident!

It seems to me that I seem to be missing appointments and breaking everything I touch. Can I blame it all on my boys?



UPDATE: In the end I was waiting 4 hours and 15 minutes for my car and here's the cardboard one:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Beware child working above.

It's been another few days of tantrums.  There's been a lot on and my 3 yr old has really had to work to get center stage.  Lynn's back at work and my 7 yr old has just had his first day back at school today.

There are hazards every where you go with an unruly 3 yr old.

Staples placed those candy-containing helicopters things at toddler eye level, next to the line to pay.  The line was long with the other struggling parents - who were also ticking off their child's 'back to school list' at the last possible moment before school starts.  I'm slightly surprised that between us we had the organizational skills to even form a line.

This time I can't completely blame my little monster.  Staples should know better and, when they look at the state of their stock of helicopter candy things, I hope they "embrace this learning opportunity."  It was clear to me from the damaged display and the grubby, broken candy that my boy was not the first to attempt to fight for these things.  It was even clearer to me that there was no way I was paying for one either.  I coped, but only just, by promising cookies in the car.  There was still some 'difficulty' but the cookies scam was working.  Then we got to the checkout.  MORE helicopters and this time, M&M helicopters!  All reasoning was lost at this point.  Somehow I held him, dodged most of the blows and stopped him from vaulting the checkout.  I even managed to pay and leave with both children.

Sometimes you just have to go to Target,  though I've managed to significantly reduce my Target habit due to my boys' help.  The eldest is convinced that Target only exists as a means for him to manipulate us into buying him more toys.  And my little monster seems to love nothing better, than to either run off or lay on the floor thumping his fists and feet on the ground, shouting his disgust at not being given free reign.  Yesterday, he hatched a new plan...

First he bided his time and remained calm.  He sat in the cart and pretended to fall for the, 'We'll all go to the park for a picnic after this' ruse.  Then when he saw the Handy Manny toy set he wanted.  He waited just a little longer.  He asked politely to get out from the cart.  Then, the moment his feet touched the ground he was off.  I had had a suspicion this would happen, but I was prepared and not too worried as the toy was high up, on the second from top shelf.  This proved no problem at all to the resourceful little monster.  If you remove the toys on the shelf you can reach, then you make space to use that shelf like a ladder...  In not time at all, i.e. in the time it takes Dad to haul your 7 yr old brother over to you, it is very possible to get what you want and then leg it down the aisle.  What got me, was that he also had the cheek to avoid running and just walk with purpose... making me look like the crazy, demented one!

I couldn't remove the toy from him without risking breaking it, so I waited till checkout time.  He helps by placing items on the conveyor belt...  I 'helped' by removing the Handy Manny toy and placing it on top of the handily tall refrigerator.  Too tall for my boy?  No.  If you stand inside a stack of Target baskets and then balance on the edge of the top basket, then a short monster can reach all the way to the back of the top of the refrigerator.

I left it till the last possible moment before removing the toy from his grasp.  I know it was the last possible moment, because the guy at checkout had just accused me of letting my boy steal the toy.  I did prevail, but my 7 yr old took a blow to the face from Handy Manny and I had to leave with 2 screaming boys.

There are hazards every where you go with an unruly 3 yr old, but mostly he's the hazard.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Post Planning Postulations.

There's only one party planned for today and I've completed the school supplies list for my 2nd grader, so I'm now in a reflective mood - reviewing my planning glitches.

**WARNING**, I can get incredibly duller when in reflective mode - read on only if you have a strong will and a chemical stimulant...

In the nearly 2 years I've been the primary parent, the stay at home Dad or family organizer, I've tried lots of methods to try to plan better.  Clearly none have been perfect.

My first attempt at a planning system was based on me being straight out of the workplace.  I used a Google calendar which I shared with Lynn so she'd know what was going on too.  Unfortunately, Lynn was totally new to an ordinary workplace and so she never looked at it and I didn't much either, as I was generally out and about setting up home in LA - we arrived with only 8 suitcases, so there was much to do.

Next, I decided to go retro and try to use a diary - the Institution of Engineers and Technology sends me a lovely one every year.  Predictably, I lost this.

Third time lucky, I tried the huge wall-planner.  It worked best.  I'm generally home and Lynn generally asks me what's going on when I'm home.  The only slight technical difficulty was that, the moment I left the house I didn't have a clue what was going on.  Also, the aesthetic value of the huge wall planner was minimal - to the point that it was always in danger of being moved to somewhere less obvious and therefore less useful.

So at the moment, recurring appointments get entered into my blackberry and parties, visitors and meetings with Immigration Attorneys go on the huge wall planner.

Eureka!!!  That's it, I've suddenly hit on the problem.  We moved house and the huge wall planner is no longer in the kitchen.  Hmm.  Either I need a smaller wall planner or a bigger kitchen.  Cost Benefit Analysis suggests smaller wall planner, however Feasibility Analysis suggests that a bigger kitchen would be more acceptable to significant stakeholders.  I wonder which will win?  I predict a bigger kitchen and the wall planner stays put.

Someday, no doubt, we'll all have built in screens in the palms of our hands and tiny living computers fused into our very being - but we'll still have to choose where to focus our attention at any one point.    

You see that's where the problem really lies, it's not that the information can't be made available.  It's that when I'm focusing on the something important and immediate, or something immediate and interesting, I don't always notice...well, anything else at all.  Like the time I focused on taking my 7 yr old on the Metro to see Olvera Street on his day off and totally failed to remember that it was also a half day at preschool.  Ever been 2 hours late for picking up your child?  Not my finest moment.

So the planning mistakes are just a symptom of my time management issues needing resolved.  If only I could remember the name of that library book I once read, something about managing your time so that you gets others to do all the work whilst you can put your feet up and lounge around.

I do so love a good bit of reflecting. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Poor Planning Prevails.

I'm on a roll now.  About a month or so ago, my 3 yr old received via my email some party evites.  Two of his pre-school class mates were turning 3 and having parties on the same day.  The thought of two parties in one day made me just a little scared, or so I thought.

Later we discovered it's also birthday time for one of our new friends in LA.  Her plan was cocktails on Friday, which we couldn't make, so Lynn organized that we'll all go off somewhere interesting on the Sunday.  As Sunday gets closer, I'm mentioning the parties to Lynn and we realize that we're now double-booked.  We felt bad, but the 3 yr old wins the day and we postpone our friend.

Sunday comes.  9am: I re-examine the evite to find the precise address of the first party.  Address is fine, but the party was yesterday!!  Oops, so I check the details on the other party.... also yesterday!

Lynn wrote the apology emails and I haven't looked to see what she called me - I don't think reading them would help my 'self image'.  Have you noticed how LA is seeping into psyche?  I did get one of the replies though, which said not to worry - she'd arrived a week too early to parties before.

At this point, I have 2 obvious options.

Option 1: Start saving for therapy for me and my boys.
Option 2: Move back to the UK and disguise any past 'difficulties' with bad weather and good beer.

Preliminary analysis of these options is not good. Option 1 requires a level of planning and forethought - an area where I have proved myself to be lacking.  Option 2 has already been attempted for 21 years and didn't prove to be a suitable long term solution.  [Note: In the UK aged 16 you can drink wine or beer with a meal in restaurants, so I'm not really as old as you might think...ahem.]

School starts on Thursday, so it's only going to get worse.  I've already added to my calendar, 'School Spirit' days, vacation t-shirt day, 'Green and Gold' day, a coffee morning and something called 'Trunk or Treat'.

Anyone want to bet how many times my kids will miss an event or are wrongly dressed this school year?