Kay's Gossip

This page was last updated on 2 February 2003.

An Alligator's Tale

For over 2 years I haven't had anything of significance to share with the world, but now, now... all I can say is that January the 24th, 2003, will live forever in my memory as a dark day indeed. When Jonathan first uttered those terror-inspiring words "You have a grey hair!" I was quick to dismiss them with a cheery "No, it's just paint!" (from my recent bathroom renovations). But alas! closer inspection revealed he was correct, and there were several more of the buggers. Middle age has begun.

Some other fun stuff has been happening. The weekend before Grey Hair Day someone stole our alligator fountain from the front garden, so I printed up a number of "Stolen Alligator" fliers and stuck them on power poles all along our street, thinking it more attention-catching than your average "Lost Dog" or "Missing Cat" poster. Apparently it was, because later that week I got a call from local journalist Chris Smith, asking and receiving my permission to run the story in his column on Sunday 26th. My hope was that some parent would see the flier or the article, recognise the alligator as their child's recent trophy, and drag little Johnny by the ear to our place to apologise and return the stolen item. Jonathan thought this highly unlikely. So imagine my delight on the Thursday following Grey Hair Day, when I opened the front door to find a young man on the doorstep holding our alligator.

"Is this your alligator?" he asked.
"Yes, it is" I said, "where did you find it?"
"Some friends of mine stole it, and I bought it from them for $5. I thought I ought to bring it back" he said. At this point I happened to notice his mother standing on the footpath, with her arms crossed and a very "we-are-not-amused" expression on her face.
"Well thank you, I really appreciate that," I said. "Can I give you a $5 reward for bringing it back?". I glanced at his mother again. She was slowly shaking her head. He glanced at her too.
"Uh, no, that's OK" he said hastily.
We are planning to leash the alligator with a chain to a large rock when we re-install him, to prevent his "escaping" again.

5 November 2000 - Edwin's Birth Story

I know you've been dying for the birth story and first photos...

24 May 1999 - Her beauty and her terror...

Rumours have been reaching us here in the West for some time now that my husband's ruminations and reminiscences elsewhere on this site have raised some ire and indignation on my behalf amongst our good friends. Matters reached a head recently with the publication of his Soapbox titled The Summer of Love which contained the phrase '"thrill" is not a word likely to find itself used in context with "Kay"' This produced quite a flurry of criticism, provoking Jonathan to respond publicly in a rather uncharacteristic Soapbox, The Cordelia Effect.

I realise that my long periods of 'silence' have probably contributed to your concerns, but rest assured they are the result of looking after a lively baby and not a sign of a downtrodden spirit. At Jonathan's invitation I often peruse his musings before he posts them, or as soon as possible after (I am usually asleep at the crucial moment!) and at times the discussion which results has prompted him to change a word here or a phrase there which I felt might have been construed as offensive to someone. At other times he has ignored my advice, as is his right. The only time I have ever objected to anything on my own behalf was the 'thrill' comment above, and we left it unchanged after our discussion satisfied me that it was not meant in a derogatory way.

Jonathan and I are very different people - what thrills him is not generally my cup of tea, and vice versa. I have felt breathtaking awe at the view from Mt Snowdon, when the mist lifted and the wind dropped to a profound silence, and revelled in the majesty of Yosemite and my solo hike down from its Glacier Point. I felt a thrill akin to fear when Tony and I snorkelled in a school of fish so dense they occluded the tropical sunlight. I used to love to bare my teeth in a feral grin against the sting of the winter salt spray as I kayaked around the choppy waters of Gunnamatta Bay. I grew up near the beach, and Dad taught me to love to dive through the waves or bodysurf them to shore - even better was to madly dodge the other swimmers as I hurtled toward the shore on my trusty surf-mat! I love the sea in all its manifestations. Or to sit on the verandah while one of those impressively violent Australian thunderstorms rages overhead, and the crack of the thunder is deafening... fast cars, loud music, they just don't do it for me (although I have to confess a love of really scary amusement park rides, and a secret desire to try skydiving for the ultimate rush). Nature, in all its grandeur and its glory, does it for me. I'm a poet married to an engineer and it shows in our different approaches to life, but we can choose to appreciate each other's different perspectives rather than lament the lack of commonality. Viva la difference!

I'm not really sure what other comments our friends are finding offensive on my account. All I can say is that I am not worried, so you needn't be. It is true that Jonathan did not provide the kind of support I needed during my labour, and that he expected too much of me in the weeks immediately following Merinda's birth; we have talked about this and he would concede both points are true. Our present situation is a far cry from those days, however - he appreciates how much I do, and I feel I could do more, which is a nice balance. I'm not threatened by Jonathan's reminiscences on past loves, it doesn't make me feel that I am suffering by comparison. After all, he paid me the highest compliment - he married me. And as he occasionally likes to remind me, he was all set for such a comfy bachelorhood, too....

Thrill-seeking mother gets her kicks with a baby in one hand and a saucepan in the other; looks forward to unpredictable a.m. feeds...

For all his good points, "tact" is not a word likely to find itself used in context with "Jonathan".... :)

I suppose you want to hear about the baby...

We watched Merinda play with her ear the other day. She twisted it, stuck one finger hard inside it, and dug her sharp little nails into it, all the while with a slightly pained expression on her face. I should point out that babies at this age are not aware of what their hands are doing. We amused ourselves by imagining that one set of neurons was thinking, "Ooh, what's this? It's an interesting shape, all sort of rubbery, and I sure can twist it around, huh?" while another, as yet unrelated, set of neurons was simultaneously thinking "Jeez, something is really hurting on the side of my head. I wish it would stop."

To help her make the neural connection between hands and brain, I have hung a big felt sunflower with a smiley face and dangly legs (a gift from her grandparents) next to her change table. For the last two weeks she has happily smacked away at Mr Sunflower's green legs at every opportunity. The intensity with which she looks at it, and the happy expression on her face, leave no doubt that she is engrossed by the interaction. It is not unusual for her to spend 5-10 minutes playing this way after a change. It is somewhat humbling to see your child's first coos and smiles reserved for an inanimate felt flower. To add a new dimension to her play, Mr Sunflower now has a soft rattle in the shape of a carrot affixed between (Mummy's little joke) his dangling legs. So now she is rewarded by sound as well as movement every time she smacks him fair in the root vegetable. May as well prepare the girl for the real world.

Lost count of the daze...

So it's been a while since I updated the Gossip page. What's two months and two days between friends, I ask you? Besides, you may have heard I've been kind of busy! Last Sunday we waved goodbye to the Hoyden (aka Aunty Cath) with a tear in the eye after her two week sojourn in Santa Rosa. I will be eternally grateful to her for giving up two weeks from her busy schedule to come here, helping us move, unpacking numerous boxes with good humour, taking no shit from my husband, teaching me baby-soothing methods including baby-dancing, and generally helping to restore my sense of humour and self-confidence.

Jonathan has already brought you up to date on Merinda's birth, possibly with more detail than absolutely necessary, so I won't add anything here. Those of you who know us well can probably read between the lines for my side of the story or have heard it personally from me. Suffice to say that when one's labouring wife says "I think I want an epidural", the phrase "I knew you'd do this" is not the correct response.

I have my small revenges. This morning I won free tickets to the movies in a radio competition by publicly announcing my husband's worst habit (and no, I won't tell you what I said, but guesses are welcomed). The DJ asks a question which women have to ring up and answer (anonymously) - the first two women whose answers match win a prize. The answers are recorded but not played immediately. Then he asks guys to ring up and guess what the correct answer will be, and the guy who guesses correctly wins a prize also. Then the women's answers are broadcast. I wonder how many of Jonathan's colleagues heard the Australian accent and the mention of a new baby and put two and two together? The chances are slim.

I am trying to discover the pattern in Merinda's schedule so that I can find time to update this page and answer email on a more regular basis. Fortunately, she does most of her sleeping at night. Unfortunately (or fortunately, from a sleep-deprived mother's point of view), so do I. I usually get one good 3 hour stretch out of her during the day, in which I try to fit a shower, breakfast or lunch, making dinner, and accessing the computer if I'm lucky. I'm told that as soon as I suss her pattern it will change so I'm trying not to rely on it staying the same!

Day 42 - Pining for the fjords...

The festive season is apparently upon us. Actually, the Christmas period officially started here even before Thanksgiving. I know that, because the weekend before Thanksgiving Santa Rosa had its annual Christmas parade through the centre of town. But for those who missed that early warning sign, there is now further evidence - Christmas trees are for sale. And what a selection! You don't have to limit yourself to any old boring pine from the local greengrocer, like you do in Australia. Oh no. You can choose from Douglas Firs, Monroe Pines, or any of half a dozen other varieties, all neatly displayed on previously vacant lots now full of illuminated white poles. Throw in a few inches of snow and we're talking gen-u-whine Norman Rockwell, folks. The funniest thing though, is that an even greater selection of Christmas tree species is available in artificial form in the Target catalogue. I thought artificial Christmas trees came in two varieties - green or white. Am I getting an education or what? We have also already seen several houses decked out in Christmas fairy lights in traditional American movie fashion, right down to the shrubs and trees on the lawn. I promise, the first house we see with an illuminated Santa's sled and reindeer on the roof, we'll put it in the photo gallery.

Day 41 - Mind the deer, dear...

The main north-south arterial through Santa Rosa, after Highway 101, is Mendocino Avenue. This road is essentially 5 lanes wide; 2 in either direction and a central turning lane which runs the entire length of the road and allows traffic from both sides to hang a left or do a u-turn without obstructing other motorists (very civilised!). Last night we were driving to birth preparation class along Mendocino when I saw what appeared to be two large dogs dashing across the road ahead of us. "Look at those stupid dogs" I was exclaiming (or something equally profound) when the third of the "pack" ran right through our headlights, clearly revealing itself to be a large deer! The three vanished into the vacant lot on our right. On the left, where they came from, are shops, houses and businesses, and behind those, the extensive grounds of HP. Running from the mountain lions, perhaps?

Day 39 - Beware of mountain lions...

The following is quoted verbatim from page 2 of the most recent issue of HP's staff magazine, The Vintage Press:
"All employees should remember that the Fountaingrove Site is located in mountain lion territory. Mountain lions have been sighted in the surrounding areas and on the site. The Department of Fish and Game strongly recommends exercising the following precautions:

* Do not run at dusk or before dawn
* Do not run alone
* Do not hike alone
* Go in groups, with adults closely supervising children

If you see a lion:

* Do not approach it
* Do not run from it
* Do not crouch or turn your back on it, stand and face it
* Do all you can to appear larger than you are and that you may present a potential threat to it (ie. raise your arms, open your jacket, pick up small children)
* If attacked fight back with sticks, jackets, or anything else that is readily accessible."

Why do I have this image of someone holding a mountain lion at bay by wielding a small child like a lion-tamer's stool? Just my sick mind, I guess.

Day 32 - My, what a big mortgage you have...

If you've read the late extra news on Vallejo Street, you'll know that our latest bid has been accepted. By early January 1999 we will be the proud parents of a bouncing baby mortgage, and a bouncing baby. At this stage it's anyone's guess as to which will arrive first. Actually, as the size of the loan we are taking is commonly referred to here as a "jumbo", it could be considered more bouncing than baby.

The tragic
Regular readers of this drivel will be relieved to know that a previously untapped source of the miracle spread Vegemite has been discovered, breaking a 4 day drought following a week of short rations. The life-saving supply was discovered at Food for Thought, a marvellous emporium whose ken apparently stretches beyond the borders of the United States and even outside Canada and Mexico. I expect to be a regular shopper there from now on.
Thank you to all those true friends who offered to rush a replacement supply to our door with no expense spared. You would have been first on our Christmas card list, rest assured. The fact that none of you thought of it in no way diminishes your friendship in my eyes.

Day 29 - Milk still fresh after 3 weeks...

What do they do to milk here? Irradiate it? When we moved in to this flat (3 weeks next Sunday), we found the relocation agency had provided some courtesy supplies... bread, orange juice, and a gallon (3.78 litres!) of milk. I tend to have milk on cereal and in tea, and that's about it. Jonathan won't touch the stuff unless it's disguised as a creme caramel. So it's taken me until today to reach the end of the gallon - and it was still perfectly fresh... spooky. Bread doesn't grow mould either, and tastes fresh for days. This must be why Americans age so well - it's the preservatives in their food.

There is a level of service here which is impressive and far exceeds the expectations of someone used to the "buggered if I know, mate" mentality of the average Aussie clerk. For instance, we have acquired a 1984 Subaru station wagon, worth about a grand here, which we need to insure. The first company we spoke to quoted us $550 for six months, purely for 3rd party personal & property, because they wouldn't take into account our international driving records. They say this is Californian law. So we decide to check. First I ring the DMV (the US equivalent of the RTA) to find out the mandatory amount of insurance required. The first person I speak to knows the answer! She's not sure about the answer to the 2nd question, though, about insurance companies accepting our OS driving records. But she suggests I speak to the State Insurance Board, and gives me their phone number to boot! They are able to confirm that some insurance companies will take our driving experience into account. He suggests I contact an insurance agency, who will represent a number of companies. He even tells me where to find them in the yellow pages! The first one I call rings me back in 20 minutes with an offer of $449 for twelve months. Now that's service.

Day 28 - What do you mean you don't have gas...

My worst nightmare has come true - the hospitals in this country don't use nitrous oxide for pain relief during labour. Dentists use it, but not labour wards. Go figure. Guess they think that your average woman here isn't qualified to self-administer. Too much chance of a lawsuit if we crack our ribs using it incorrectly, I guess. The only options are intravenous narcotic (so you have a nice quiet baby) or epidural/spinal block (so you can't push) or nothing at all. None of which appeal greatly. I was really looking forward to floating through each contraction on a nitrous-induced champagne-high. I wonder how easy it is to bribe a dentist?

Day 25 - Supplies of Vegemite running desperately low...

First off, let me make it clear that the colours used on Jonathan's Soapbox page in no way reflect the taste of the Webmistress. And it goes without saying that his opinions are, as always, uniquely his own.

Well I'm getting used to living here (especially to using the heated pool and hot spa every morning - luxury!) - 'here' being this apartment, not necessarily this country. That may take a little longer, as I still feel like I'm just on holiday (a sensation this minimally-equipped apartment contributes to greatly). I suspect reality will set in when our possessions arrive, if they aren't currently floating somewhere in the shipping lanes.

At least a place this small is easy to keep clean. For those of you who haven't heard by email, we are currently living in a rented one bedroom apartment (first month courtesy of HP) while we look at houses to buy. I don't expect we will be here for long after the baby arrives (lack of places to hide from the screaming being the prime motivation, I should think), although the bedroom is pretty large, and will fit crib, change table and feeding chair without crowding our bed. There is also a storage cupboard off the patio, about 1 x 1.5m, which we have taken to referring to as "the baby's room". Ha, ha. We have begun negotiations for the purchase of Vallejo St with an offer of $290K. We will keep you posted as to the response (although you may hear the owner laughing from there, I suspect).

When we arrived I was told by the HP relocation people that as Jonathan's chattel, I wouldn't be eligible for a Social Security Number, but that I could apply for an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) if I needed one for taxation reasons - for instance being Jonathan's chattel. Not having an SSN in the US makes you a sort of economic pariah - you need one when applying for bank accounts, loans, medical insurance, etc. etc. Shortly after our arrival, we went to apply for our California driver's licences, because you are not supposed to drive on a foreign licence for more than 10 days after moving here permanently. Sure enough, they want my SSN. Sorry I say, I'm not eligible for an SSN. Ah, they reply, but applying for a driver's licence makes you eligible. QED. And the HP relocation people promptly vanish in a puff of logic. Of course, it takes two weeks to get a SSN, and then there is another two week wait for a vacancy for the driving test, so the 10 day deadline goes out the window, but gee, who am I to argue with the might of US bureaucracy?

To send me email: kaybe@sonic.net

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