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


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


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


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]

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 because I was completely unaware and just assumed 'theater' was the American spelling.  Maybe I should have called it or or  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 - 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.