Monday, March 31, 2014

Daddy Matt'll make you jump, jump

For the past couple of weeks, Blake has decided that he was a bit of a non-conformist.  It started a while ago, now that I think about it; I picked him up a few times after school and he had the sweatshirt of his uniform inside out.  Over time, he's gradually shifted so that he wears his sweatshirt under his polo shirt, which is now the item that's turned inside out.  I had asked his teacher about it when he first did it, and her reply was something to the effect of "He's an individual, so he can do what he wants."  I thought, at the time, that her response was very empathetic, and liberal in its appreciation of his individualism.  Since then, I probably really haven't had the energy to try to convince him otherwise, and generally it kind of all looks like a sea of blue and red anyway, so I wasn't too concerned.

One of the characteristics of our week is that Matt, due to his rather crappy commute - and frankly, due to his ease at waking up in the morning which I lack - leaves the house sometime between 6:30 and 7:00 each morning.  That leaves me about an hour to get myself and the boys ready to get out of the house, which feels like no easy feat.  Blake has always been pretty responsible about getting himself dressed, so when I take stock of everything a few minutes before we need to leave and see that he is wearing clothes at all, that feels like a result.  Usually, the situation several minutes before we need to leave, and creeping into several minutes after we need to leave, is that Noah is still in his pj's and shows no sign of interest in donning day attire.  It's all kind of exhausting.

Last week was different. Matt worked from home on Friday so he was around to attend to the morning activities, and at some point I overheard a strong conversation with Blake about the direction of Blake's clothes.  Matt wasn't having it, so I went down to see what the rationale was.  Matt's points were fair, if a little  generous in terms of Blake's influencing abilities: "All the other kids will want to do the same thing, and then they'll have fights with their parents who won't want to let them.  And then if the parents do let them, then the whole class will be wearing their uniforms wrong and the head teacher will get wind of it and it will come out that Blake started it."  Oh, ok...well, when you put it like that, I guess I do understand why it might not be such a good thing to encourage his free-thinking.
Anyway, Blake went to school with his uniform looking as it should.  He came home with it looking as it should too, so I guess Matt's words had the desired effect. I couldn't help but think of the 90's rap duo Kriss Kross and wonder if their parents had had similar debates with them about how they wore those baseball jerseys and jeans.  Probably not. Here's an assortment of some other odd outfits we've seen in the past few weeks...

One half of a modern-day British Kriss Kross:
 The tie wouldn't be that strange apart from this was what he chose to wear to swimming on a Saturday morning...
 Very fetching with the red wristbands...
 Noah goes incognito...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Giving up, or taking charge?

Shrove Tuesday came and went last week, and on Wednesday evening I realized that I hadn't yet decided what I was going to be giving up for Lent.  I was having this internal discussion with myself as I raised a glass of red wine to my mouth, so giving up alcohol was evidently out.  As was sweet stuff, sugar, and bread, all of which I'd had at some point during the day.  Maybe I'll do one of those things where I give up a negative feeling, I thought.  I then had some more wine and then forgot about it for the rest of the night.

The next day, I decided that I would try to have 40 days and 40 nights free of Facebook (though by this time it was Thursday so it wouldn't even be a month by the time I got around to committing to this!).  I don't think I'm necessarily as addicted as I could be to Facebook, but I probably do spend an awful lot of time in there, truth be told.  Sometimes posting, of course, sometimes reading and commenting on what others have posted, sometimes, I imagine, searching for something that is going to pop out of the screen at me and say, "Thank goodness you're reading this - because if you weren't on Facebook this very instant, you might very well miss this very important thing that is going to change your life in the most amazing way possible!!!"  Yeah, surprisingly, I haven't had anything like that happen.  Yet.  That said, it does provide a lot of smiles and a sense of connectedness to many people who are very far away, so I do very much appreciate what it does.

Nonetheless, I thought about what I could possibly do with that time, and decided that really it would be a challenge and therefore a good thing to try to give up in Lent.  I had to check in on a few things to make sure that if someone tried to get in direct contact with me via Facebook, that I would at least get a message in my email so that I'd know about it, and finally on Sunday, I put a message up and changed my profile picture to "Gone Fishing".  We'll see how it goes.  So far, over the weekend I managed to finish two books (The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, and Gold by Chris Cleave - I'd recommend both of them), and finally started my training for the triathlon I've signed up for in August.  Coincidence in productivity?  Probably....

I'm pretty sure that I won't cheat on looking, and I imagine that I'll be pretty ready to see what's going on in the FB universe when Easter rolls around, but I look forward to having some of that time back.  And maybe, just maybe, spending less time in FB will encourage me to spend more time here, which is where I'd like to be when I'm online.

This was the funniest image I found when I was looking for good ones to go with this post!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Now Blake is six...

“But now I am six. And I'm clever as clever. And now I think I'll stay six now forever and ever.”
A.A. Milne, Now We are Six

Two weekends ago, we became the proud owners of a six-year-old.  I suppose owners isn't really the right word, is it?  Maybe the reality is that we're just renting our kids - it's definitely not ownership especially when you realize how quickly they're growing up, Blake being a perfect case in point!

It's not every day that you turn six, and as has tended to be the pattern for the past couple of years, Blake celebrated his birthday not once, not even twice, but three times over the course of a week or so!  First off we had a small family thing when we were visiting Matt's brother and family in York over half term.  But there was singing, candles and cake, so it was definitely celebration #1.  Then on the Friday of his actual birthday, he (or maybe it was I, which would be typical of me to suggest something that didn't really need to happen) wanted to invite the older girls from the street over for pizza.  I strayed from calling it a party, instead thinking of it more as a "Friday hangout" - Noah liked the term "pizza Friday".  At any rate, it was a really good time: the boys plus five of the older (ages 7-13), cooler (they get to play outside on their own) girls enjoyed Papa John's pizza, a good chat around the table about who knows what, and then several games of hide and seek before coming back for some store-bought cupcakes.  It was over in about an hour and was the easiest hour of recent memory!  And the boys clearly loved it, as the selfie shows!

Then on Saturday was his party with his aged friends, which was a bit more hard work but we came out the other side ok!  I had to intervene early on so that Master Yoda was treated with the level of respect he deserves (initial inclination was to use the cardboard cutout as a boxing shadow!), and we were very thankful for the Death Star pinata which took the kids nearly half an hour to bash apart!

One minute they were just enjoying themselves...

 The next they had rushed off to play hide and seek, and I was left to enjoy a peaceful cup of tea!

 They may have given Ellen the idea for the Oscars on Sunday....!
 Saturday's cake - not my best, but it seemed to pass...
So all in all, quite a number of celebrations for the six-going-on sixteen-year-old.  Of course he won't stay six for ever, but he does think he is clever and all things considered, is a very good boy.   Now, on to Noah's birthday in just a few weeks now...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Not quite road-ready!

Noah got invited to a birthday party today where there were go-karts for the kids to try out. His "driving" was pretty hilarious! After a shaky start he did get the hang of it but the first few seconds were just hysterically funny to observe!

Saturday, February 08, 2014

If you listen to only one song today, make it be...

Pharrell Williams' "Happy"

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why all my favorite people are ending up with metal in their mouths...

Welcome to the first post of 2014!  Dances with Lyons into its ninth year...hard to believe how much has gone on since that first post back on New Year's Eve in 2005.
It feels kind of strange having had a blog that long, given how much the world of technology, communication, and social media has changed since then.  When I first started writing this, I'm pretty certain that "social media" wasn't a known term.  And now, it kind of dominates the way in which we talk to, connect to, stay in touch with, and learn from one another.   #crazy
(related, Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake's hashtag clip really makes me laugh)

This post is actually going back to basics for me, to fill my loyal readership (yes, all four of you!) in on the inner workings of our lives and to make a connection to something I see happening in the world beyond ours that strikes me as interesting.

The topic today is therefore - metal in the mouth!  I had to take Blake to the dentist on Tuesday for part two of a 5-part journey to eradicate his mouth of cavities which have crept up on us like some cartoon style robber in the past 6 months.  I won't go into the whole saga, but we found out late last year that his poor little sweet baby teeth had six or seven cavities, and because he had been complaining they were hurting him, it definitely had to be taken care of.  Matt took him for his first filling two weeks ago when I was away on a work trip, so Tuesday was my first time to see how brave he was in the chair - getting just a local numbing anesthetic in order to get a crown on one tooth and being SUCH a brave guy.  I was really so proud of him.

The dentist and I hadn't talked about it - and I probably made an assumption based on what it was costing - but the crown is silver.  And when I realized that that big silver crown (and not a more subtly-shaded, porcelain one) was going into his small little mouth, my heart sank.  Blake loves laughing - I mean, he's a kid and he has a lot of fun, and I just had an image of him laughing a big wide-open-mouthed laugh and his friends teasing him about what that big honkin' chunk of shiny stuff was where his tooth should be.  After it was all said and done, I asked the dentist in my attempt at casual: "I guess you don't do white crowns?" and got an explanation related to the difference between crowns for adults and children and how really (at least here in the UK, I should add), they use silver for kids because of what they'd have to do to get the tooth ready for a porcelain crown.  It was firmly planted in his mouth, so there wasn't much I could do about it at that point, except to give Blake lots of praise for how well he'd done and remind myself that no pain is way better than any possible teasing he might get at being a 5-year-old whose teeth don't look the way they started off.

So on the bright side, his teeth will stop hurting him, and thus far it looks like he'll get to keep them - having them extracted could have been a worse fate.  Hopefully he'll keep laughing with a huge wide open mouth and nobody will take too much notice.  I guess it was just a further reminder of how each day, he - and Noah - gets bigger, less like a baby and more like a grown-up child.  I'm sure I'll blink and he'll be getting fitted with braces.  But also just that sense of wanting him to not ever be harmed by the cruelty of words, or to stand out for being different in a way that he's not comfortable with.  And even now, as I write that, I think - hang on, I do want him to be different, to make his own unique mark, to not conform, to be known and recognized for his gifts and talents.  But, I guess I want that without any of the meany teasing!  Just like any other parent, then, I'm sure....

And, if ever it's nice to get some reassurance from one of my favorite people - even if I've never understand the concept of grills, at all! - if Madonna wants to have a mouth full of metal, then surely Blake's having a couple of silver crowns is not the worst thing. 

Maybe in a few weeks all the kids at his school will be begging their parents for silver in their teeth...let's hope not for their sake, of course. Things are very different in our kitchen since this diagnosis - we've massively reduced the amount of sugar and sweet things the boys can have, and thus far they've both done really well.  But still, it isn't fun.

In the meantime, I'd encourage brushing and flossing - and always, always keep smiling!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Happy birthday, Dad!

Today is my wonderful Dad's birthday - it always comes at a point in December where I rue my lack of organization at getting a card sent, but the good news is we will be ready and waiting to see you here in just TWO more sleeps!

We can't wait, and will celebrate your birthday then. 

Sending lots of love in the meantime (having to do it this way since your phone is busy!) and always...

Love you,

Champagne tribute

When I first drove into our road over four years ago to meet the real estate agent for the viewing appointment at our would-be house, I fell in love with the road.  It's a totally normal London street at first appearance, with lots of terraced houses connected to one another and running up and down both sides of the street.  There isn't much front yard/garden in front of the houses to speak about - so in that sense it barely resembles the house in which I grew up - but for whatever reason on that August day in 2009, the quiet midday street felt like the most neighborly place I'd ever been to in the UK. 

After falling in love with the road, and managing to convince Matt that we should buy the house despite its imperfections, the reality of the impression I'd had about the "neighborhood feel" turned out to be actually true - our street has hosted some wonderful events, from annual Big Lunch gatherings where we get the road closed so that all the residents with our potluck dishes can enjoy lunch outside together on all our various picnic tables and chairs; to Olympic parties; to birthday celebrations; to Christmas drop-ins where the whole street was welcome.  We celebrated the Queen's Jubilee together and have hosted street bazaars to raise money for local charities.  We recently became a "Play Street", which allows us to close the road for several hours to traffic once a month in order for the kids to get their bikes, scooters and games out and play outdoors.  The sense of community has always been incredible, and the neighbors are fun, generous, caring, supportive, and loving.  I didn't think there could be anything bad that could come out of having amazing neighbors.

Turns out, there is something...and that something happened yesterday when I found out that one of our dearest residents of the road, the life and soul of the street, a caring and generous wife, mother, educator and friend, passed away suddenly on Friday.  She was only a few years older than me.  I have been fortunate in my life, I know, to have not had to deal with too much loss, and certainly not in a long time and not of people who were taken well before their time.  In that sense, her death is so difficult to fathom, not only because it is so sudden and unexpected, but also because of the gaping hole that her loss will leave - in the lives of her husband and two daughters, in the communities in which she lived and worked, and in our hearts.

Three weeks ago she and her husband were sitting at the very table where I am writing this, at the end of the "Mo'town" party Matt and I hosted for Movember.  We were just chatting about work and life - she was hopeful about a forthcoming good review by Ofsted of her older daughter's school.  She was a caring professional, a deputy head teacher at a primary school in east London.  She was generous with her time despite the demanding obligations of her job, and she shared freely her affection for life and other people.  I can so easily picture the warm smile she wore when she'd greet the boys in the street, and she offered us the use of their house while they went away on a week's break when we were having our renovations done last year.  She just walked over with a spare set of keys and told me to make ourselves at home; many people's own blood relatives might struggle to make that offer.  Her sense of humor and fun was a constant, along with her dedication to her friends and her family. 

Her fervor for living came out when she hosted parties and got to bring her Spanish background into the fare - making massive paellas for the street events, or Spanish omelets, or homemade quince jelly to go with Spanish cheese as she did three weeks ago.  Everything could be washed down with her trademark sangria (if she was hosting), or champagne (her offering to a party if she was a guest).  She kind of was "champagne" - sparkling, glamorous, a celebration.  And now she's gone.

The timing feels particularly cruel, as it would for anyone who has to deal with loss so close to holidays.  While most people gear up for that "most magical" time of the year, her family is now going to have to deal with losing the most important person in their lives.  I can only imagine their sadness.

As I figured out how to break the news to the boys, doing a bit of research on hearing what a 6-year-old might be worried about upon hearing of the death of someone they know (I figured Noah was still a bit too young to understand much), I stayed strong and didn't well up while I was talking to them about it.  I mentioned that the girls and their dad might need our support and help.  Blake thought for a minute, and then he got an idea: "Maybe we could get them a robot Mum!"  He was clearly trying to think practically about all the things that mothers do, bless his heart, but there will be nothing that can replace Marga.  Of course much of my sadness is no doubt fueled by my contemplation about how unpredictably and suddenly life can be taken. I look at the boys and wonder how Matt or I would cope if something was to happen to either of us.  Hopefully it won't, but this is the thing: it could.  And that's just scary as hell. 

And so, I continue to cry, to feel sadness and shock, to wonder if somehow, it might all turn out to be a big mistake, and not really true.  I looked back at pictures tonight of some of our street events, and it's impossible to contemplate any of them in the future without her.  Our street's champagne celebrations have lost their bubbles, the sparkle.

Rest in peace, Margarita, though somehow I bet you'll not rest if there are friends to be made, a community to build and surround yourself in, and sangria to be shared.  We love you and miss you so much already.