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.   

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The holiday celebration blog

I realize that many of the few posts I've written this year were recorded on holidays, my attempt to capture the importance of these ceremonial days and communicating to the world that we participate in the same world you do, even if we aren't there in person.
Today is, of course, American Thanksgiving, and in time-honored tradition, I stayed up late making "lesson plans" for the activity I would do in Blake's class.  It's a strange thing, celebrating a holiday not in the same location as your fellow countrywomen and men, in particular around the fact that no American children actually probably have school on Thanksgiving - that's the day they're getting to sleep in and have fun with far-flung cousins or friends while the parents drink too much wine and fall asleep in front of the Cowboys game.  We, on the other hand, well, we have to go to work, and school, and face questions about Thanksgiving being more important than Christmas, and do you give presents, etc.  Which are fine, and all, but it's not the same.
I was also doing some late-night baking to get a jump on the chores of the day, so by the time I turned in, it was really late, or really early, depending on how you choose to look at it.  It certainly felt late.  This morning was the cacophony of chaos that is characteristic of most of our mornings at the moment: protests about not wanting to go to nursery, not wanting to get dressed, not wanting to get up - sometimes even in that order!  It is very, very, very wearing on a poor sleep-deprived mama.

So while Noah should have gone to nursery so that I could concentrate fully on explaining the meaning of Thanksgiving to thirty 5-year-old's, as it was I told him he could be my "assistant" and the three of us headed up the hill to school.  About two minutes after we left the house, I realized I hadn't brushed my teeth.  That's what kind of a morning it was.  Fortunately my friend Jenny had some gum and saved me from hopefully being known as "Blake's Mom with the Bad Breath".
The kids were sweet and it was nice to be in their classroom and see them interacting.  They made some really fantastic turkey handprints and it was a joy to see their creativity, dedication to the task, cooperation, and general good-naturedness.  They're a cute bunch and I think they enjoyed my visit.  Noah was remarkably also well-behaved so I was super grateful that he got to participate.  I think he was proud of his getting to be there.
After an hour with the kids, Noah and I got to go off and get ready for the rest of the day, but we stopped first at a cafe for some QT.  He's going through a spell which is really difficult to understand, and he certainly can't explain it in much other than growls, snarls, fists, and tears.  In the little cafe, though, over his hot chocolate and my latte, things felt peaceful.  And that was a nice respite.

Then back out into the world of activity - to the butcher to pick up the turkey and the rest of the food, back home to start getting it all into the oven.  Before we knew it Blake was home from school, and then Matt got back from his business trip just after 6.  We got to Skype with Granny and Grandpa which was very nice and everyone is counting the days til they come for Christmas.  Bishy arrived around 6:30 and is going to stay the weekend, and after a pretty tasty meal (still can't get the timing right!), the rest of the house is asleep now - and I am very ready to crash myself.

If anything I think Thanksgiving Day is itself the gift - the chance for us all to take a moment to reflect on all that is good in our lives, and also remember those who are going through tough times, missing loved ones, or have less to be thankful for.  I feel I generally abide by a philosophy of gratitude, recognizing that there are so many things to be thankful for, mindful of, and attentive to [gack - scary sentence alert!  ending on all those hanging prepositions!].  I have been lucky to have the best parents ever who have always supported my choices and been great cheerleaders and friends, and I couldn't imagine life without Matt and the boys.  Not to mention the wonderful friends, family members and colleagues who make life so rich.

If I don't fall asleep before my head hits the pillow, I'll say my thanks and feel grateful for this day.  I hope you've had a joyous day whether you celebrated Thanksgiving or not.  Let's hope I don't leave it tuntil Christmas to do another post...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The only times Noah is quiet these days...

Yesterday afternoon was a throwback to the days when the boys would have a nap on the sofa and when I might just close my eyes to join them.  The best word to describe Noah right now is "cheeky" - he is just really working out how far he can push the limits and is very interested in getting his own way.  Examples from last week include vehemently wanting ice cream for breakfast to the tune of a 20-minute tantrum, and wanting waffles for dinner.  Waffles for dinner sounds fine, actually, but it was the way in which he was asking for them that was excruciatingly painful.

Yesterday, however, after being a little rascal for most of the morning and early afternoon, he finally fell asleep on my lap.  I was grateful for the peace and quiet and for the chance to enjoy him without all his rebel yelling. 

Catching up

Lately I've been wishing I were one of those people who could just spend the evening watching a bit of tv before going to bed at a decent hour.  I'm sure I could do that if I tried, but it just seems so much easier to manage to stay up late pursuing all these other interests that ultimately leave me feeling rather cranky the next morning.  As my body and mind revolt at the sound of the alarm clock, I imagine what life would be like if I'd just watched Strictly Come Dancing or X Factor and gotten 10 hours sleep.  If you do that, let me know what it's like...

Last weekend I meant to write because I had a lot of thoughts swirling around in my head following a day at Mumsnet's annual Blogfest.  Alas, I came home after a busy day of networking, listening, and feeling a little bit embarrassed at my lack of research, ordered a burger for dinner, and went to sleep.  The next day, still no blog posts emerged.  For that I can entirely blame Twitter, a place where I don't very often go, and now I know why.  Many aspects of Blogfest were about how to get your blog more attention, through social media avenues like Twitter.  Twitter and I, well, I've just decided we're incompatible.  It's like the time-sucking effect of Jewelbox, but without any prizes, rewards, or next level.  Actually, that could be quite a good app (someone's probably done it): a screen that appears after you close your Twitter app that would say, "Congratulations, you just spent 27 minutes scrolling!  Would you like to open Twitter again and see how many tweets have appeared in the time since you closed?  Because there are probably a lot, and I bet you could spend another 33 minutes if you wanted to round out a full hour of your life lost!"

I'm probably being harsh, but that's kind of what it feels like to me.  Anyway, that's ok - I now know I'm ok with not being there.  We were nearly late to school on Monday morning because of my pre-shower technology time, which is obviously not really acceptable.  So I made a vow that I'm going to leave my phone nowhere near my bed overnight and not check anything - news, email, Facebook - until everyone is dressed and ready to go, and only then if there's time.  Matt's much more disciplined about this than I am, so he's kindly let me move the actual alarm clock (actual alarm clock, these things could be obsolete in like 10 years!) to my side of the bed.

One of the highlights of the day at Blogfest was a panel discussion on "Cracking yarns and tall tales: how to tell a better story".  One of the panellists was Lionel Shriver, most famous for We Need to Talk about Kevin.  I had read and enjoyed that book - enjoyed it for the literary force it was, not for the subject - but I hadn't really investigated her or her background.  When she started talking, though, I had a quick check online and discovered she's from Gastonia, just about half an hour from Hickory.  Who knew?!  [well, Wikipedia did, which is how I discovered this].  Everything she and the other panellists said was wonderful, including "If you don't love it, don't post it."  I'm afraid I'm sometimes guilty of not following that advice.  They mentioned that in writing, you really want to make sure your audience's time is worth spending on reading what you wrote.  As if I need more guilt without worrying about you, my dear reader, and whether you think a post is worth reading!  Just kidding, I want you to get to the end and think that it wasn't a waste of your time. 

But if you don't, there's always tv instead.  I hear it's a great way to spend an evening...!  :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Is there any better feeling...?

...than finally hitting "order" on some photo project, either book or calendar?!  Such relief to be done with that activity, at least for another 2 months until my next round of Photobox credits expire just as Christmas approaches!

It's half term here, which should be relaxing but kind of feels just the opposite.  I had Monday off work, was working today, am off work tomorrow, am back in work on Thursday, and am off on Friday.  If you read that sentence again, you can commit it to memory as how NOT to plan a week using what limited vacation time you have left in the year if you want to feel at all like you're having a rest.  It's very stop-start on every front.  And, of course, Halloween is two days away.  I can't even go there right fact the only place I feel that I desperately need to go is bed!

Pretty leaves and sweet boys

Starting the Halloween prep over the weekend

Sunday night in the up good times!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Throwback Tuesday

Check out this dumpling, right about 3 years ago...almost too hard for me to believe! 
I would be more nostalgic if I weren't in a race against time to create a photobook - one that is basically nearly 3 years overdue in its creation. For Blake I created a lovely little square photobook of his first year, made just after his first birthday.  For Noah,'s been on my to-do list.  Thanks to the clever sales techniques of Photobox, I paid already for credits (at a big discount) to do Noah's book, but I had a month to create it.  The month runs out soon so I've been hard at work reviewing the best photos from Noah's first year.  He looks so different at so many stages - sometimes with a teeny head, mostly with a chubby face and often with Blake right nearby.  That's the wonderful thing about photos - they really can transport you right back to the moment.  Even if most of my moments back then involved really tired eyes and skin and generally bad hair! Here he is this weekend after borrowing his friend Flora's witch costume.  He has always had a joker side!

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why is saying "no" so hard?

On Sunday it was pouring with cold, hard rain, from the moment we woke up until late afternoon.  I kind of didn't get my act together to make it to church on time ("gets me to the church on time..."church on time"!, ah Modern Love), so I had to think of some other way to entertain the boys.  I'm not very good about staying in and tolerating their preferred indoor activities: wrestling, taking all the cushions off the couch and then sliding down them, demanding bottomless bowls of Cheerio's, eventually deteriorating into an all-out war that would stump even the UN.  My modus operandi is to get out and about - so we headed down to a soft play area in Brixton.  Where, of course, half the population of southeast London had also headed.  When it comes to pastimes driven by extreme weather conditions, it's hard to be original around here.

The queuing system was unique and entirely unsophisticated: I was given a slip of paper at the front desk with the number two on it (did that mean second in line, or that there were two of them who wanted to get in?), and then we went and loitered around the entrance to the soft play area.  I didn't even have to encourage the boys to peer longingly through the glass doors to make others feel guilty - they did that just fine without any prompts from me.  When some people finally left, we had to head back to the front desk because we hadn't yet paid, their theory no doubt being that people would possibly get bored of waiting, or their kid would have a meltdown from ball pit envy, so you wouldn't want to take their money until entrance was a sure thing.  Finally we could go in.  My socks were soaked from the walk from the car and the place was freezing, but the boys headed off into the expansive and complicated sets of nets and foam structures where they played happily for about 30 minutes without needing my assistance at all.  It was cool.

After picking up a KitKat for each of them from the vending machine - it was, by this point, probably lunchtime and they'd already eaten the healthy snacks I'd brought, during the time time while we were waiting to get in - we made an ill-fated stop at the local TK Maxx because I am in the market for some low-cost workout clothes.  [for those US readers, no, that isn't a typo, but yes, it's the same store.  Pretty much, apart from the "K" instead of the "J" in the name].  What a mistake that was.  Noah immediately found the collection of random toys and proceeded to present the one he wanted to me; Blake then did the same.  I had no choice but to say "no" - for one, payday was still a few days off and these were like £20 items, but the second, more important one, was that I needed to teach them a lesson.  That lesson being that sometimes, you can't always get what you want.  Man, this did not go down well.  There were protests, defense arguments about fairness, suggestions that these be early Christmas presents, howling and rolling around on the floor, tears, pretty much everything apart from acquiescence on my part.  I had to stick to my guns here.  In the end the best compromise I could come up with was to tell them I'd take a picture of the toys to remember what they were, with a possibility that we could further explore whether these would be appropriate Christmas toys.  I think you'll detect a tiny bit of disappointment on their faces in the photo (ha ha, just a tiny bit...!).

But, we got out of the store (no, I did not get any workout clothes; I was ridiculous to even think I might find something, let alone with those two in tow), and they both fell asleep on the car ride home.  Naps sure do often follow closely after these large tantrums, it must be noted.  Later that afternoon Blake made and decorated about half a dozen paper airplanes, at the cost of probably 1p a plane.  My goal has got to be to spoil them rotten with love, but make them understand that they can't have whatever they spy in a store that takes their fancy. Not, then, modern love, but momma love.  It's not always easy. 

Autumnal boys

Just some quick snaps from the boys looking sweet recently...

Noah does "Janice" from Friends

Noah has always been a bit of a cheeky rascal, definitely the less serious of him and Blake.  When they're not fighting, they really can make each other laugh.  And when Noah is really amused, you'll know it from his laugh.  Blake was being silly in the bath the other night and Noah voiced his appreciation.
It always reminds me of Janice, Chandler's girlfriend in Friends, but it doesn't annoy me of course.  I hope you'll find it funny too. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Learning daze versus learning days

I've had a pretty intense two weeks on the learning and development front.  I got the chance to co-facilitate a quarterly leadership forum at work, and I was hopeful, excited, and a little terrified at the prospect of leading a discussion on motivation and performance for our UK managers and leaders.  I had prepared, and I feel like I (at least) try to live and breathe the philosophies we would discuss on the day, but I still worried...would the words come out right?  Would they ask me questions I couldn't answer?  Would sweat stains on my new dress be a giveaway to my nerves?  Those are the sort of thoughts that can sabotage preparation and create anxiety, ones that I used to feel a lot when I was doing more training to our clients.  Fear of looking stupid or not living up to my perfectionist ideals.  In the end all went well, and if at any point I did look stupid, well, I didn't notice it in the audience.  I learned a lot in the process, nobody died as a result of good or bad advice, and I had a sense of accomplishment that left me feeling good and satisfied at my contributions. 

Alongside this event, my massive open online courses (MOOCs) were ticking along in the vast online learning ecosystem.  If I could change one thing about myself, a bad habit so deeply ingrained in me that I consider it in a similar way to my height or eye color, it would be to not be a procrastinator.  Even there in that sentence is the essence of how that force has a hold on me: I don't just procrastinate, I am a procrastinator.  Is there anything more cruel than the ability to torment oneself by continually putting off something until the very last minute, usually resulting in a sub-par performance and a ton of unnecessary anxiety and eventual exhaustion? 

The past weeks have felt like a real throwback to my college days, complete with deadlines, readings that have piled up, late nights and the myriad options that present themselves when faced with a choice to meet, or to avoid, a deadline.  So far, here's my summary of what's changed for me as a "mature learner":

Beverages: Back in the college days, my paper-writing "journeys" often felt like more of a situation created to encourage the purchase and consumption of unhealthy, sugar and caffeine-laden beverages, and convenience store snacks to be consumed between the hours of midnight and 6:00am.  A bit like credit card debt, I feel like I'm sure it took years for me to actually burn off those egg salad sandwiches and Doritos that I feasted on at the Kiewit Computer Center's cubicles as the rest of the more diligent student population slept.  And the drinks - sickly sweet and caffeinated so much that they eventually made my brain twitch with stimulation: flavored coffee from Foodstop, 500ml bottles of ozone green Mountain Dew, blue Gatorade for hydrating effect (never water, how crazy).  Red Bull probably hadn't even been invented yet.  My drink of choice as a mature learner (on study nights) has been red wine, on assignment nights - a nice cup of tea!  How's that for maturity?  Interesting how the college days had alcohol as a distraction, whereas in my latest learning it's integrated into the experience.

Distractions: college days included late-night bike rides around campus in my pyjamas in arctic temperatures (again, anytime between 11:00pm and 6:00am, ostensibly to "clear my head for thinking"); trips to Foodstop to purchase above-referenced caffeinated drinks and sustenance; Jewelbox; maybe a game of pong if I could twist anyone else's arm to join me.  For the mature learner, distractions have included catching up the two Downton Abbey Christmas specials that I missed, and browsing around in the Flickr group of my online self-portraiture course, Now You.  I have refrained from online shopping, and perhaps most remarkably, and mercifully, I have not once engaged in any of the Angry Birds, Bad Piggies, or Where's My Water? apps that I know are on the iPad. 

Deadlines: if there's one thing that has changed the most, it's got to be my attitude toward deadlines.  In college, these dates and times always had an arbitrary feeling to them.  [nb: I should add here, I'm sure that the deadlines were crystal clear, and it was me who applied the arbitrary sentiment to them, much to the angst of my fellow classmates and no doubt, the professors].  Whereas now, there's no messing about with the times you need to get your stuff handed in by!  Because everything has to uploaded, and not printed out and deposited into the professor's office dropbox, every submission will have a time stamp.  Quite remarkably, I submitted a final project for my Foundations of Business Strategy course several hours before the deadline of yesterday, midnight GMT.  And for my Organizational Analysis paper assignment, I submitted it before coming here to the blog - a whole day and a few hours before the deadline!  This last one is perhaps even more remarkable when I explain not just what I had to do, but what I had to avoid in order to get that one done.  The Organizational Analysis class is about applying different models of organizational theories (or is it different theories of organizational models? hmm, not sure now) and for the paper assignment we had to complete a paper that had been started using the massive online game World of Warcraft as the organization to analyze.  When I saw the topic, I am sure my eyes widened as a realized the temptation that lay teasing me from the screen.  You want me to write a paper about a computer game that I have never played before, but that I know I could probably be playing in about 5 minutes if I went and signed up for it?!  And 7 million people play it, but so far I haven't...nor have I even been tempted, until now?!  Sheesh, I could close my eyes and see those colored gem combinations twisting and hurtling down the Jewelbox screen like it was yesterday.  So I had a choice: get into method acting mode, go sign up to World of Warcraft "in the name of research", and write a much better paper because I had a much deeper understanding of the game, or just recognize that it wasn't the detail that mattered but rather the general understanding of how the game works, and get on with writing the paper.  There's no doubt in my mind that College Meg would have done the former, but the older and wiser learner in me applied reason and judgment, and turned to Wikipedia for what I needed to know.  In her Moranthology, Caitlin Moran had an assignment to write a piece about the game, so I knew it would be best if I just didn't go there - her take on it was very funny though. 

Connections: for all the amazing benefits of the online learning community, most of my recent work was done in isolation, save for a few tentative forays into the discussion threads.  The pre-recorded video lectures give me a sense of interaction with the professor, but that part is still one-way.  And here, I arrive at the conclusion that for all the ways in which I've grown as a learner in the 15 years since I started college, there's no substitute for those 4 years I had, and for the friends that I made, people who helped shape me and my experiences as a person, for life.  Although I wasn't always - ok, ever - there to study, I sure did enjoy seeing people in Baker Library.  I could usually find a willing accomplice for late-night fun (up to a certain time in the evening, at least, and no doubt those people had already done their studying).  And there was always a friend who would check up on me if I hadn't yet emerged from a post-all-nighter slumber, and wake me up by dancing on my bed to "Man in the Mirror". 

I heard this line recently from a Dr Seuss work that I wasn't familiar with, but it sure did bring a wry smile to my face:
“How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

How did it get so late, so soon...?

Monday, October 07, 2013

Another one about the library

Someone forwarded me this and I was blown away - the writer is NINE!  Amazing...

Today I went to pick up some books from the library that I had reserved online - it was like hitting the reservation jackpot.  Our pitiful library carries on in its temporary location, 2 years after numbskulls stole all the copper off the roof and therefore rendered it un-usable.  The library where we can currently go is really the "old library", while the neighbourhood awaits with hope the renovation of the "new library" by the backers of an arthouse cinema chain.  Now that really would be the ultimate!   

Here's what I'll be reading next...most of which were recommended during my recent creative writing workshop.  These join the stack of about 15 fiction and non-fiction recommendations on my bookshelf....too many books, too little time!

The hobbyist's life

I think it was my good friend Katie who once described me as a "hobbyist".  And I guess it's true that over the years, I have tried my hand at a fairly varied range of extracurricular activities, including amateur singing, creative writing, triathlons, and photography (to name the ones I can remember!).  Now, it seems, I have may have met my match in the hobbyist life, which for me is about being challenged and learning something new, but with an aim of improving and hopefully becoming somewhat decently skilled at the hobby in question.  I introduce you to the story of my adventure with African dance...

On our holiday in France this year, there was a clubhouse/bar at the caravan site where we stayed, and they featured an event each evening - karaoke, live bands, an appearance by a magician, things like that.  They even had a mechanical surfboard (of course I had a go!  If you must know, it was hard and I fell off after about 2 seconds, and I was too embarrassed to try again because I was the only adult who was trying it - it was being monopolized by the kids!).  Blake was fascinated by this nightlife scene and by the middle of the trip would be begging by the late afternoon to go to the bar.  "Lower your voice," I kept whispering to him urgently.  Although as I write that, I wonder if he was calling it "the bar" or something else - I may have to ask Matt to check if my memory is serving me right there.  A couple of nights there was a disco and there were a few songs which seemed very popular, in the way that songs can be very popular in the summers and ski seasons in continental Europe but be completely unknown to the rest of the world.  One of the songs that he really loved was one that I didn't recognize at the time, but which turns out I feel like I should have heard before: Shakira's Waka Waka which was the theme song for the FIFA World Cup in 2010.  You can listen to and watch it here
Anyway, Blake and I got pretty good at some of the basic moves - or what I now know as "basic moves" - and after dancing around the kitchen one morning after we were back from France, I thought to myself that maybe I would have fun doing an African dance class.  I should note here that I seem to really gravitate toward the work of all female performing artists who manage to make it big using only their first name (I'll throw Cher into the mix of the main one you'd guess, Madonna, and of course I do like Shakira).
Well, would you believe, that due to the miracles of the internet, I was able to discover, only a few moments after having this idea that an African dance class might be fun, that there was one starting up within a few weeks at a local museum that's only about a 10-minute drive away.   And that it was on a Sunday - so I would generally be free to attend provided I could get Matt on board to watch the boys while I perfected these energetic and vibrant moves.  I've just realized that I should blame this adventure on the internet. Surely before the web was so popular and pervasive, people would have ideas like this one, make a mental note to research it when they had time - maybe by looking at a community board in their library [love a post where I get to mention the library!], or something that required more effort to research - then promptly file the thought away to be forgotten about in light of more important and pressing matters to attend to, like laundry, or sleep. 
"I have no prior experience of African dance but the music and movement really look and sound exciting, and I love dancing in general," I wrote in my email enquiry.   All of which is, I might add, true.  Their reply included this: "You say you love dancing in general, which is a good start..!"
And I was signed up! 
The first class was 2 weeks ago but I had to miss it (I was on a creative writing workshop - see first line of this post).  So last Sunday I arrived at the class, slightly apprehensive but still excited.  There was a lot of mingling, smiling and general chit chat happening before the class as we waited for the instructor; one woman was stretching and I no doubt wondered to myself whether I should be doing the same.  We began with a warm-up; 10 or so minutes of imitating the instructor, this incredibly strong and agile man with a full head of dreadlocks; he had about 40 or so moves that just emanated innately - and strongly, fluidly, skillfully - from within him.  After 10 minutes I realized this was going to be quite a good workout, but it was somewhat as I'd imagined it - easy enough to follow and I was learning some funky moves.  The hard part occurred when the warm-up stopped.  We got some water, and then got into lines and things got all a lot more...organized.  As in, dance class style, which, I started to recognize, involved coordination among all of us to do the same the same time.  And of course it was at that point that I remembered reading that the final session of the class would be a performance.  Something inside of me kind of squeaked in fear as I suddenly understood that this was super hard, I had actually never really even been in a dance class before, and the one I picked to start with involved getting my cues to move from the beats produced by the live drummers.  Not even any words in a song as a cue from which I could remember to go down to a crouch, and then up into a cat-like style leap, and then land lightly on my left foot before going into a pivot from my right foot.  No, I had to get that cue from a drum beat.  Which the instructor described to us as "Chee dang ba, BA BA BA, chee dang ba."  The sweat on my back which had previously been from exertion quickly changed to a kind of cold one; Oh man, I thought, I am in over my head here.  I had a flashback to lesson 4 of my driving lessons here in the UK, the one where I broke down in tears because I had gone backwards in progress and was certain that I would never understand the interplay between the clutch and the gearshift in a manual car.  Strangely, that ended up being a reassuring thought, because as it turns out, something like 35 lessons later, I did manage to pass that driving test and can now confidently drive a manual.  Hopefully it would be a similar thing here...apart from rather than 35 more lessons, I only had 8. 

So overall, the lesson was a bit of an eye-opener.  To the fact that I had had a mismatch of expectations, and that the reality of it was going to be pretty challenging.  I was aching, sweaty, and slightly defeated.  But, I had to remind myself that all great artists have to start somewhere, and from within I was going to have to call upon my inner African warrior princess to get me through this.  The good news is, she's easy enough to spot: she's the one a beat behind the rest of her warrior tribe.   

Noah also demonstrated his innate rhythmic talents in a song and dance that still doesn't make much sense to me.  He has clearly inherited my coordination and rhythm.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Fall shadows

I've always been a fan of shadows, particularly at this time of year when the late afternoon sun casts such long - almost sometimes comedy style - shadows on the pavements.  The warm sun on my back is always such a nice feeling; only thinking about it now did I really realize that in order to get the shadow, there'd have to be the warmth that goes with it.

Today the boys and I enjoyed a walk out after school and nursery, and they had a great time whizzing up and around the ramp in front of the local church on their wheely vehicles. 
I love the action in Blake's shadow in this one!

Noah's just having a ball...
My way of being in the memory

When school started a few weeks ago, I had that feeling that I often have at that time of year, in those first weeks of September with the long summer days starting to get shorter, which is that I don't really like fall as a season.  Then the weather got a bit warmer and I had a thought - one that I had never had before - that autumn was actually a season to be liked, as it was a kind and gentle way of Mother Nature easing us into the cold and dark of winter.  Could you imagine how harsh life would be if we went straight from summer to winter?!

So, shadows, thank you for being there.  Today, for me, they meant late afternoon sunshine,  the chance to appreciate the contrast of color and darkness, and an opportunity to enjoy and observe a Monday afternoon with the boys. 
Here's another incredible set of shadows at work (or at play?!); I find this so beautiful!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Superheroes in the park

One of the amazing things that happens in our house is that whenever I go to the store, I always manage to spend about a third more money than Matt would even if he went out with the same shopping list. On this day a few weekends ago he even managed to buy Noah a new Superman costume and still came back with a receipt under £100. [When I referred to "amazing things that happen in our house", I hope you didn't get your hopes up!] The boys had a good time together and Noah made us all laugh by not being quite able to climb up this rope.  Blake is so big, I notice now looking at these. 
Where are your Superman muscles, No-no?!

Blake turns into superhero brother

They copied some sisters who were riding tandem!

What I've been doing while not blogging

I firmly believe that all things happen for a reason.  It feels like so long since I sat down here to write about the activities of our life expressed through the late-night workings of my mind.  Who would know where to start to try to recap the months that have flown by?  I just had a mental image of a dog, wearing sunglasses, sitting in the passenger seat of a car, its head out the window.  It's night, and the car's on a freeway, so I'm not sure the reason for the sunglasses.  I guess I feel a little like that dog I'm picturing - mouth open, tongue wagging, the world rushing by.  Is she having fun?  Or is she overwhelmed?  Maybe she's convinced her owner to take her out to a bar, like Spuds MacKenzie.  Advertising in the '80's that I can remember - Spuds was definitely a very effective campaign.

Anyway, on to some sort of point.  The summer was busy - well, I mean, what do I mean by "summer"? - the year has been busy.  We had a completely non-existent spring here in the UK, and by that I mean that it was just perpetually about 50 degrees into the end of May.  It was starting to get really depressing, and then suddenly, it got really really nice!  Enough to make people now refer to it as one of the "best summers ever" in terms of weather.  I guess that might not be not untrue, but we were really desperately owed something after the unpleasantness of April, May and June!

Am I really droning on about weather 4 months ago?!  This must be what happens when you lose momentum in writing, in particular on a medium that often read in the past as a regular reportage of daily events.  Back in July, I turned 37.  37.  A kind of strange age, a prime number (yuck), although now that I think about it, maybe I need to reconsider my interpretation of "prime" numbers being bad - maybe in fact they're good, like prime-time!  Yes, maybe I'm actually arriving into prime time!  This starts to get better.  What seemingly did happen when I had my birthday was that I decided to do a couple of things to really get some aspects of life - like my weight, my fitness levels, my overall command of a household - in check.  After our vacation to France, that is.  How anyone could be on a diet in France, I have no idea.  So we went to France, had a wonderful two weeks at a caravan site that was on the beach and also had access to pools, and then we came back and I started a "new year".  One of the things that I have vowed to do is to write more, and I am fresh from a creative writing workshop this weekend where I had two whole days of that.  It was wonderful!  I also, in France, finally got back into reading, a favorite hobby that had just deserted me for the first half of the year.  I had J.K. Rowling's A Casual Vacancy from the library, and really loved spending time with those crazy residents of Pagford during the 5 or so days I spent with them.  Our trip was the last-chance saloon for my reading that book since I'd already renewed it three times and most definitely had to return it when we got back.  I then picked up Donna Tartt's A Secret History from the clubhouse at the site, and felt surprised and pleased to discover that one unexpectedly.  Very dark and strange but pretty riveting.  Since we've been back I also really adored Eat, Pray, Love (I haven't seen it but people say the movie was awful; the book, however, is wonderful).  It had me craving gelato, wondering where my closest ashram is, and wishing I had done more traveling to faraway places when I'd had the spare time and spare money (ok, so I never had spare money; no need to regret then!).  Latest up is Caitlin Moran's Moranthology - she's a British writer/journalist and this is a collection of her columns; they are absolutely hilarious. There's one about an interview she had with Gordon Brown when he was Prime Minister and she basically gets there 20 minutes late because she underestimated how long it would take her.  So funny, and so real. 

So there you have it: I haven't been here on the blog because I've been reading. Selfish, I know.  But, then again, I'm back now, and one of the things that we talked about on the course this weekend was that reading helps make one's writing better.  I hope it all hasn't been wasted time.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Car wash, yeah!

A few weeks ago I took the boys through a car wash for the first time.  The footage is hilarious! 
Pretty good entertainment value for £5, and memories that will fuel laughter for a long time.

Ewoks and MOOCs

"Create a great day, because merely having one is too passive an experience."  That's the way Henry from Canada introduced himself in the introductions forum on the MOOC I've just started.  How true!

Have you heard of MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses?  I've just discovered them and I feel it's like being a nomad lost in a desert and arriving at an oasis.  There is basically all this free learning to be had through the MOOCs (check out for a great selection), and I am jumping into that pool right at the deep end!
Matt had mentioned them to me a while ago, and I'd seen the acronym but not really known what they were.  Turns out that it's really like going to college or graduate school, but without the distractions of the keg parties, the freshman 15, the late-night trips to the computer center to type out an essay (ok, not to just type out the essay, but to create the essay while typing, amidst trips out in the below freezing weather to buy Mountain Dew from Foodstop).  This is all hypothetical, of course; I'm sure your university or college experience was nothing like that. I'm currently learning the Foundations of Business Strategy through a course offered by the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, and today I began a course on Organizational Analysis offered by Stanford.  There are people from ALL OVER enrolled on these things - name a place and I'll bet you that someone has introduced themselves on the online introduction board as being from there.  Cambodia, Calgary, Chennai...all represented.  In a video wrap-up by the business strategy professor in week 1, he mentioned that there were 87,000 people enrolled in the course.  87,000!  All no doubt digesting the content from not only an incredibly dispersed geographic perspective, but from cafes, sofas, offices, libraries.  This is learning in 2013.  Can you imagine 87,000 people all going from Baker Library to Foodstop for a caffeine break all at once?!  Main Street would buckle.
I'm incredibly excited about what I'm learning on these courses, and I think it's a great test to see how I've grown as a learner since I did finish college over 15 years ago; a chance to see what it would be like to be immersed again in academia - of course some of this content probably only scratches the surface of the topics but the various ways of testing - quizzes, writing papers, assessing peers' work - seem pretty thorough to me.  And the only way you have to pay for it is through the time you spend on it, because of that well-known equation, time = money.  I am sure there is a whole flipside to the positives of MOOCs, viewpoints that would come from people whose livelihoods were or are grounded in full-time higher education, the version which costs money (of which two, at least, are readers of this blog - my Dad - to whom maybe my Mom will read this, and my friend Diana).  Di and my Mom remain loyal readers of this blog and if you're here and surprised to see a post, you have them to thank!
In other news, I have decided that I would really like to watch Star Wars, all 6 episodes, from start to finish, which has nothing to do with learning.  Or maybe it does.  I'm sure all great films have an educational element to them.  I'll report later on my journey to learn more from both MOOCs and Ewoks. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

To the two best fathers ever - Matt and my Dad, Grandpa John! 
And Happy Father's Day also to Peter, who's lucky enough to be at Clinton with Elizabeth, Mom and Dad - we wish we were there too...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

It's Mother's Day in the US today (not so in the UK, which always means I'm a little unaware of its arrival until it's actually the day!), so Happy Mother's Day to all mothers out there.  It's a wonderful blessing to be a mother, even if it's not always easy and pretty constantly exhausting - whether physically or mentally!  It's definitely the best job ever, and I certainly appreciate all that my own mother has done for me over the years, and to Elizabeth for raising Matt to be a good man.

We've had a full-on hectic weekend - with a visit from Chris and Anna and then a busy Sunday today (complete with the boys doing an extensive hair-drying session on themselves after a swimming trip).
I saw this cute idea on Facebook of an "interview" about what your child thinks of you as a mom, so I had Matt ask Blake these questions today - pretty cute.  He also drew this picture of a dinner scene between him and Granny Karla. 

I think it may have to be an early night, hopefully for us all!  I think I've earned an early bedtime...!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

May arrives, but spring still holds off

Well, tomorrow is May.  The 5th month of the year, but I can hardly understand where the first four have gone.  Life just carries on here at its hectic pace, and though the sun comes out a bit more than it was doing a few weeks ago, it's still fairly chilly and feels more like March than May.  Which is not entirely a bad thing in that I can still wear my winter wardrobe and not look like a complete fool.  Always look on the bright side of life...!
Here's a photo of the boys sporting hats made by Matt's cousin Emma - they are awesome hats.  Just wish they didn't seem so seasonally appropriate!

Monday, April 22, 2013

A few pictures from our recent trip

It seems like a very long time ago now, but we had a nice time in Nice over the Easter holiday.
Here are a few pictures for grandmothers (primarily, and Grandpa John) to enjoy!
 Noah pointing turtles out to Blake...
 Throwing stones into the sea...
 Noah finds something Blake is doing funny...
 No time to say cheese when you're hungry...
Blake helping Noah see a shark at the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco...

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

It doesn't feel much like Easter, what with the freezing temperatures and the constant threat of snow flurries.  Still, it has been nice to have some time off.  I realized late last night that I hadn't quite established what our Easter Bunny tradition was...and Matt said he didn't really think that he'd ever had any idea that the Easter Bunny came to visit in the same way Santa does.  So I left the boys their Hot Wheels chocolate eggs on the sofa this morning and they didn't seem to question that they came from anyone other than me!  I think both the boys have colds which is kind of a shame, but hopefully they'll get to recover with some time off school and nursery. 
We all then went to church - even Matt, for perhaps the first time since Noah's baptism - and then it was home for a lazy day.  I had spent a while trying to craft these Easter bonnets for the boys; you can see that they didn't go over all that well!  Anyway, hope you had a nice Easter wherever you are.  A day to be thankful for all the things we have in our lives!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Good cause #1

A few weekends ago, we were at Elizabeth's celebrating Blake's birthday with the family, and on Sunday I went out to get some milk and the Sunday paper.  I picked the Times, and in the magazine was an article about a Dorset family who had lost their teenage son (David, who went by "DD") to brain cancer.  I recognized the name of the mother (Sacha Langton-Gilks) as someone who our friend Mel had shared some Facebook posts about, in her efforts to increase the awareness of early signs of brain tumors through the HeadSmart campaign.  The boy's father teaches music at a prison, and when his prisoner students found out that the reason he'd been away was that he was spending time with his son during DD's last days, they decided they wanted to record a song in his memory.  The story reduced me to a bubbling tear factory, and it also made me want to help spread the word and help their campaign in memory of DD. 
The song is really lovely and since I've bought it (here, at or here for iTunes - go on, it's not a lot of money and will go a long way toward getting the message out, hopefully saving lives in the future if people can identify the cancer early), I've listened to it every now and again and it hasn't failed to move me.  It causes me to think about all the ways that mothers and fathers love their children, and about how fragile life is and how we must hug our loves one tightly and be thankful for every day and every moment.  It's also inspired me to think about the way social networking has changed the way messages are shared across the world, across groups of people who have never met but have common links and purposes, and across communities.  It's pretty amazing.  As are people who campaign tirelessly, overcoming grief and sadness to try to turn tragedy into something positive.  I admire the Langton-Gilks family and hope that "Song for DD" gets the coverage that it deserves.  Feel free to help spread the message by liking the "Song for DD" and Sacha Langton-Gilks pages on Facebook. 

The dawn of sesames

Have you ever wondered about the origin of sesame seeds?  I think you'll find that Noah has the answer in this song...and it's very simple!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Why I write

On Monday when I picked Noah up at nursery, I got a little talk about how they think he is ready for potty training.  It was about this time in Blake's life (about a month before his 3rd birthday) that we did potty training, so I think that they are probably right about Noah being ready.  He hasn't shown a great deal of interest in it, so far, but then again, neither did Blake.  Their main reason for thinking that it's probably worth doing is that he's dry much of the day when they go to change him.  That just caused me to think, "I wonder if he's dehydrated?" whereas they see it as that he's able to hold in his bladder and not just wet himself.  They're probably right.

So in that sense, he's probably ready.  Where he does also seem ready is in his awareness about when he needs to do a #2, and the privacy that he seeks when that moment arrives.  This weekend he actually went into some bushes in a pub garden when he needed to do a poo, protesting for me to "Go away, Mommy!" while he tended to his business.  Tonight he didn't want to try to sit on the toilet or the potty, but he did go to this little space between the living room door and the sofa, which was the cue that someone would have to change a stinky diaper in the immediate future.  However, what I remember from Blake is that there's a big difference between the *awareness* of needing a poo, and what happens when all that stinky stuff doesn't get contained in that ginormous diaper, and how messy that disconnect can be.

Blake and I had some fun tonight re-reading my blog posts about his potty training.  Some of the stories made him laugh which was one of the best feelings I've ever had about maintaining this blog.  It took us back to that moment, it allowed me to review what was going on at the time and how I handled it, and it proved - very importantly - that what was probably a very difficult time was equally something now that we don't sweat over much.  This, too, shall pass, as my mother says. 

I also discovered tonight that potty training Noah should perhaps be easier than it was for Blake, due to a self-nominated Potty Training Assistantship role that Blake will be performing.  He very quickly set about creating Noah's sticker chart - setting up 9 days across the top of a blank white piece of paper, by the end of which Noah *surely* will have mastered this all!  He then very kindly read to Noah while N lounged on his luxury potty chair.  Nothing came of it, but he did earn 2 stickers for trying.  I'm not expecting any miracles with this one whatsoever, but I guess it is good to start trying. In the meantime I think I'm going to make sure he's getting enough to drink during the day to fill up that potty when he's ready. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Has anyone seen Spring?

Sooner or later, when you're in the sort of gluttonous, couldn't care less relationship that I am in with all foodstuffs that are bad for me (chocolate, toast with butter and jam, mini M&Ms leftover from Christmas, imported Snickers Almond smuggled from the US since you can't buy them in the UK, strawberry PopTarts bought for the ramp of the monster truck cake), I was bound to ask THE question.  No, not that one!  (Am I pregnant?!) Definitely not that one!  But...I wonder if I have a tapeworm?  The answer is, of course not!  But it always seems a semi-logical thing to wonder about when you get to the point where you think, I'm probably taking it a bit too far now in terms of my utter lack of dietary discretion. 

Here's the deal.  Today is March 11; the location is London.  Daffodils are everywhere, and the late afternoons resemble less the middle of night as they do in January.  Surely spring is here?!  Surely not, Mother Nature replies with an evil cackle! Today we had temperatures of minus something (still can't figure out Celsius) and snow.  It was absolutely freezing!  The wind is rattling the trees outside, the drafts are creeping all around the house, I have a fleece and a scarf on inside, and I think those extra few mini M&Ms I just had might give me that little boost of energy I need to make it through the evening. 

Life continues on at the pace that leaves me simultaneously praying that the weekend will come quickly, and then immediately asking the question on Monday morning - Wait, is it over already?  I feel like a lot has happened that I haven't reported on...I'm going to work on that.  But for now, I might just have to have a small cup of hot chocolate and tighten my scarf a little tighter.  Spring isn't here just yet, and once it gets a bit warmer, I've got an exercise routine to get back on and a few wintery pounds to shed.  Wonder what other Christmas candy I have left over....

Sunday, February 24, 2013

An early birthday party

Yesterday we had Blake's party for his friends - fortunately a lot of the invitees from his school couldn't actually come which meant the numbers were manageable - probably a blessing since we were having the party at the house! I don't know if 2013 should be known as the "Year of Living Sensibly, or The Year of Living Dangerously" - but whatever the case, I did something I think I have never done before in my esteemed last-minute cake-making history: I went to bed early instead of at least starting the cake the night before the party.  As in previous years, we had the idea for the cake a few weeks ago, but nonetheless there was a lot of last-minute scurrying around for ingredients!  I was happy to discover a store that sells colored fondant icing (Sugarcraft Boutique on Lordship Lane) and that saved me a bit on next-day shipping costs!  On Friday, I was off work and both the boys and I had a pretty lazy day, going over to buy the icing and then going to the local pub for lunch. 
Blake had chosen his monster truck cake design but also told me that he wanted to help me make it - again, a change from previous years when everything was a surprise for him.  This year he just wanted the surprise to be for his friends.  Anyway, Saturday morning I woke up and got to work, and the result was pretty good, though there were a few things that didn't quite work from the original design I'd seen online (thanks, Dawn - I really appreciated your post!).  My black food coloring tracks didn't stick very well, and for some reason I'd been tempted to buy generic what-I-thought-were M&M's...turns out they were more like Smarties and as spectators, they looked a little big - M&Ms would have definitely been better!  Otherwise, I guess it worked and Blake seemed happy with it.

After the cake was done, I needed to blow up some foil monster truck balloons, so I thought I would head to our local party shop.  Think again!  I phoned up to double check they were there and the person who answered said they were just about to close because the owner didn't feel well.  Aaaah!  I got very lucky and found another place locally that was able to fill them up, so that was a major relief. 
The party was a success - there were only 5 kids in all - 3 big, 2 little -  and everything seemed pretty under control!  We played a few games, including "Pin the wheel on the monster truck", "Monster truck poses" (a bit like musical statues apart from your "frozen pose" had to be of a monster truck...don't ask me!), and the big hit - "Whose monster truck goes the fastest?"  They were pretty happy to get the monster trucks.  After the party wrapped up, Blake and I spent a long time - a good hour and a half - making one of his presents, a Lego 3-in-1 robot transformer thing. 

Today we have had literally the laziest day I can remember - Noah didn't get out of his pyjamas until about 6:30pm when we went for a walk around the block.  Instead of getting ready for church, Blake and I made his one of his other presents, a Playmobil robot machine thing, which ended up being a bit more complicated than it should have been, namely because I had inadvertently thrown away several packets of small pieces yesterday in the party fray.  So I had to rifle through the garbage to find them - but find them I did!  Note to self: next time, just put all the plastic bags back into the box and do not put them into the bin thinking they are empty! 

I had gotten dressed sometime around lunchtime but went straight into sweatpants, and Blake and Matt went out to the park for a quick excursion but it was cold and I don't think they stayed out long.  I'm not certain though because Noah and I took a nap on the couch; napping still remains one of the best things in life, in my book.  After the excitement of yesterday, I think I deserved it! 

And so, on with another week.  My baby will turn 5 on Thursday.  Five years old.  That's like a quarter of the way to 20!  Hard to believe in some ways, but not that hard in others.  We were looking tonight at some pictures on the computer of him when he was born.  It does seem like a long time ago, when I think back to that time of being so overwhelmed, so clueless, so exhausted.  Fortunately, after 5 years of birthday cakes, I can say I'm getting better at certain things. I still procrastinate at cake-baking, but at least this year I also got some sleep! 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

"It had better be a good one"

That's what I'm thinking, and what you may be thinking, about my first blog post in like nearly 2 months...most of the time in the past, when I haven't been able to keep up with the blog, I've at least been aware that I'm not keeping it up - and that bugged me.  This time, in all honesty, there have been weeks since December where I haven't thought of it.  When I would remember it, it wouldn't be with a thought of, "Oh, I definitely need to get back on there, writing and posting pictures!"; it was more like, "Oh.  Yeah.  I haven't written anything in a while.  I wonder if I should just stop doing it?"

And yet...

The start of the year has felt pretty crazy in terms of schedules and hecticness.  Come to think of it, that's just generally how life has felt since my blog post frequency trailed off back in May last year, when we started the work to our house.  Along with the chaos of that upheaval seemed to come a general inability for us to keep on top of much of anything; the blog was one of the first things that had to take a backseat to staying afloat in the sea of work, nursery, school, household chores, and all of the things that just seem to make the weeks pass by in a kind of "What just happened there?" way.

In a way, I kind of feel like today is a bit of a New Year's Day for me - even though it's February 17th.  Maybe I should just start celebrating Chinese New Year, and then that would be more in line with my lunar and internal calendar. 

I got back yesterday from a week in Boston, the second of two weeks that I have spent there this year.  In between I went on a course (one of those where you come out of it thinking, that would have all been useful to know 7 years ago when I started doing my job).  Mom has graciously spent the last month with us, looking after the boys while I have been away, and I know she is eager to get home and see Dad.  We got up this morning to get her on an early train to get the plane from Gatwick, and with clear weather and no snow (as has been the case for my last two trips to Boston, and Mom's arrival back in January), I made the stupidly incorrect assumption that the plane would be departing on time.  Mom and I headed off into the early morning London darkness over to Clapham Junction, where with plenty of time, she headed off to the train for Gatwick.  It was only when I had arrived back in front of the house that I happened to see on my phone at the online departures page at Gatwick - US Air to Charlotte was showing 3.5 hours delayed!  If there isn't an emoticon that would represent that feeling of helpless stupidity, lack of foresight, and inability to change the situation - I would be happy to design one.  It would be a bright red face with an enormous wrinkle on the forehead (frustration and angst), with handcuffs on clenched wrists (nothing to be able to do to change the situation!).  Poor Mom.  I then tried to tell myself that at least she would hopefully be there on time and is safe - so at this point, there's nothing I can do to change the situation apart from try to remember to think about checking the flight before we head off next time.  It all seems so clear in the light of day, whereas in the early mornig darkness of a quiet house, I guess we just didn't think to check. 

I guess the one good thing to come out of it thus far, is that rather than going back to bed - which I couldn't do (Blake had taken my spot in bed!), I have come to try to put my thoughts down here, which was my original intention with starting the blog so many years ago.  So, "it has better be a good one" maybe isn't the right thing to be wondering, whereas "What took you so long?" is perhaps a valid question.  Hopefully when Mom gets back today, if Dad should ask her that, she and I will both be able to say that being here now is the more important result.  Thanks, Mom.  I hope you can find some way of passing the time at the airport and that you'll get home before you know it. We love you!