Saturday, February 14, 2015

All the Young Dudes

In my first year of college, my friend Diana and I, during an attempt at avoiding a Humanities 101 essay or exam (or both), set out to create a definitive mix of music, capturing different genres, eras, and artists.  Imaginatively, we called this 4-cassette creation "The Definitive Mix".  I don't even know if I still have a copy, but it seemed to feature more Credence Clearwater Revival than was probably necessary, and possibly was more reflective of Diana's album collection than my own (likely because I didn't probably own very much music then....still don't, preferring the pop track "du jour" that I can hear on the radio).  One of the songs on it was Moot the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes", which I'm pretty certain that I was only hearing for the first time as we were concocting the mix.  That was the nature of the creation.  It must be noted, that in the Definitive Mix's defense, the alternative to making this musical extravaganza was a proposed through-the-night drive from Hanover, NH to Hamer, SC, home of the I-95 roadside tourist trap, South of the Border.  Common sense prevailed, and the Definitive Mix won out.  We must really have not wanted to write those papers...

I thought of "All the Young Dudes" yesterday as we had to trudge into central London for a 7:45am appointment at the US Embassy to renew Noah's passport.  The last one he had featured him as a round-headed, chubby-cheeked infant, and apparently immigration officers want an easier life where they can actually recognize the person standing before them as the same one peering out of the navy-colored passport book.  Fair enough, I guess.  We endured the 2.25 hour wait, not so much an excursion of wading through red tape as being caught stagnant in it, while the busy people behind the glass windowed office reviewed our paperwork before allowing us to declare that it was all true, what we were saying in the request of the passport.  Yes, his middle name is Thomas.  Yes, he is 3 feet tall.  And so on.  Finally, we got to go, out into posh central London, where honestly we don't excursion too often.  Noah had dressed himself in his button-down shirt, jacket, and black trousers, with high-top sneakers completing his latest look.  As he and Blake pranced around these fancy streets, wheeling in and out of the elegant entryways of the homes of the privileged and the hedge funds, I couldn't help thinking what little dudes they are, each in their own way.  Noah is our fashionista; Matt thinks he will always be the one who will want to wear the "right clothes" and look a certain way.  Blake is of course his own person, focused more on fine food as featured on the Food Network (Guy Fieri remains an idol), but less on how he looks (apart from being particular about the width of his trousers, slim and skinny being the only allowable cuts).

They sure are sweet boys, and as we sat down to a late breakfast at Cardinals cafe, I was grateful for the chance to be around these dudes, before they get too cool to spend time with their Mom and Dad.

Scrambled eggs on toast, featuring what must be about 4 eggs!

Nothing says "dude" like a disco pose like this one...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The comfort of routines, and the discomfort when you're out of them

There's a funny thing about routines, and that is how useful they are.  What is pretty not so funny is the chaos that ensues when routines get disrupted, or when you try to get yourself - or, more importantly, your children - back on to them after a break.
This morning, a mere 4 or so hours after I had finally gone to bed last night, Matt headed off for his Monday morning return to work.  Fortunately thanks to some other night owls on Facebook I was reminded of the fact that we were in the midst of the "supermoon" last night, and I have to admit that the moon was very bright last night, and I'm glad I didn't miss that.  Long after the moon had started to wane this morning, not many of us were awake in the house - and so finally at about 8:50 I had to go wake the boys up for their first day of camp.  Blake instantly decided that he didn't want to go, but Noah seemed pretty up for it.  After a lot of coaxing, cajoling (me), whining and delaying (Blake), we finally got out the door.

The camp is really lovely - held at the local prep school and full of lots of great activities: swimming, gymnastics, a bouncy castle, art, etc, and Blake had been there before at Easter, so it was a bit of a surprise when he had a massive meltdown saying that he didn't want to go.  It was a big 'un: crying, screaming that he didn't want to stay, begging me to take him with me to work, turning around and trying to open the door to go back out, clinging on to me when I finally finally had to leave.  I was surprised that he was willing to kick up all that stink in front of the other kids (all sitting in a circle while they were getting their names called to go to the first activity, staring wide-eyed at the drama!), but it sure didn't bother him.  Noah, meanwhile, had just gotten right into line with his age group and trotted off, sporting his totally ghetto London baseball cap which he convinced us to buy him a few weeks ago (pic below on day of purchase).

Anyway, finally one of the staff suggested to Blake that he could go help set up the games outside, to which he begrudgingly agreed, and I was able to make my escape.  When I picked them up at 4:00, it was like it had never happened and the girl said he was absolutely fine the minute I turned my back.  The things they put us through!

My dilemma is now how I can get myself back into my exercise routine, with a sprint triathlon to do in a mere 3 weeks.  I was doing really well before vacation but now it's all fallen apart.  A bit like my young man did earlier.  Guess there's a reason to get a routine and stick to it...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Black and blue and dog poo too!

We got back yesterday from two and a half weeks in the US, a very good summer vacation with lots of activity and good memory-making up and down New England.  In the coming days I'll try to post some pictures of all of the fun times.
This weekend has been kind of tricky on the internal time clock front, as we tried to adjust to being back on BST.  Interestingly, the UK still is on British Summer Time even though the air has a distinctly autumn feel to it - some of the chestnut trees are starting to turn brown, and the afternoon air had that nip in it that makes you feel that the summer is fading fast. Let's hope it's just an adjustment from New England heat that is making me feel that way.
Today we all slept til noon, which does not bode well for anyone getting to bed at a decent time tonight in advance of a Monday morning wake-up call for everyone.  After several hours of laziness, we went to the local park, where the eagle-eyed Noah spied some wild blackberries in the greenery near the entrance.  His eyes were recently tuned to this sight from a few days ago, when we went blueberry picking in New Hampshire with Lela and LT and the kids. 

There were a few small blackberry patches in the midst of all these blueberries, and the boys enjoyed adding them to the collection. 

After some time on the swings today, we came home to get our Tupperware to go back to do some collecting, and the boys did a really amazing job at picking those suckers!  I remembered the time (described here) when I took Blake down in his stroller while I picked, and he slept.  This time the boys seemingly could have gone on finding berries forever.  As it happens, that possibility became quickly unrealistic as I kept smelling dog poo, and upon further inspection we realized that Blake had stepped in some.  A surefire way to end a wild berry picking expedition!  He then saw that he had some on his shirt (as if having it on your shoe is not gross enough!) so off came his shirt; and then of course, Noah wanted his off too.  So there I am herding two shirtless kids toward the car, when Blake decides he wants to go and get a few more blackberries from the original bramble we started at.  Would you freaking believe that he then stepped in *another* pile of dog shit!?  We finally got to the car with him wearing his shorts and one Croc.  That's how we roll in our urban idyll. 

They wanted to make jam when they got home, which Matt valiantly did, only to realize, after he had put everything in refrigerator to set that in spite of boiling the jars to sterilize them, heating a bowl in the oven to keep that part sterile, and all these other things that you might be prone to skip, he'd forgotten to boil the blackberries for 8 minutes, apparently a crucial step for the pectin to be released from the fruit and for the jam to set.  "Don't worry," I cheerily said, "there are more blackberries and we can always go back!"  Next time, if there is one, I will be on high alert for any signs that other animals had been there before us. 

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!