Saturday, December 16, 2006

Also Saturday, 16 December 2006

We attended the stake Christmas Concert this evening. It was an event. Beautiful music, good friends, the spirit of Christmas spilling out all over. The best part was watching Tim play the organ. Sure I'm already nuts about the guy, but there's nothing more attractive than a man passionately playing a musical instrument. At one point, I looked up at him, caught his eye and we both smiled. Then he turned toward the organ and flashed this shining, bright, radiant grin of pure joy. It was a moment for me. It was like seeing him again for the first time, seeing how wonderful he is, how kind, how intelligent, how talented, how quietly strong. Then I thought how amazing it is that I get to be married to him.

It's almost been a year and I still haven't taken it all in. It's like I have short-term memory loss sometimes and I forget that we're married and not just dating (though I'd really have some repenting to do if we weren't married...) It was that sort of feeling I had last night, watching him and feeling such deep affection and love for him and then realizing with a jolt that I'm married to him.

Believe me, I don't wear rose-colored glasses and he isn't perfect. Maybe it's just a little easier for me to appreciate the good things and overlook the frustrating things because I married later in life. Or, it could be that we've only been married a year and we're still putting our best fronts forward. Could be, but I doubt it. Definitely not in my case! He really is the man he appears to be. That's what I find so very appealing about him--his genuineness and authenticity. What you see is what you get. He doesn't have hidden agendas or act any differently depending on the company he's with. He doesn't speak negatively about people and he doesn't judge. He is innocent in so many ways and yet so knowledgeable and savvy in others. He is perfect for me.

That's the remarkable thing about relying on God. If I'd been left to my own devices, I never would have chosen someone like him. In fact, the relationship that I was in just before I met him was with exactly the kind of man I thought was right for me--and it would have been all wrong. I was incredibly sad when it ended, but had such peace from God that it wasn't right for me, that I was comforted. Then my husband came along and it all fell into place. I had so many spiritual reassurances that this was right for me that I couldn't deny it then and could never deny it now. I discover more and more wonderful things about him the longer I know him. And he continues to treat me with the same kindness and love and deference that he did from the beginning. He's so consistent, even coupled with my own inconsistency.

I feel like I'm gushing and I probably am. I'll try to write again when I'm feeling really frustrated with him, just to balance it out. I'm sure it will happen at some point...

Saturday, 16 December 2006

Kathryn was pointing to naturally-occurring holes in her carrot saying those were the worm holes. I reassured her that I would never feed her food with worms in it and she looked up at me, nodded and said, "Otherwise you'd be a witch."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Sometimes it feels like I'm just borrowing someone else's life for awhile and she'll be back to pick it up later.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thoughts on Thanksgiving Eve Eve, 21 November 2006

A friend of mine reminded me that this Thursday is Thanksgiving in America. I keep forgetting.

I never did quite make up my mind this year about what to do about the observance of this holiday that I've celebrated every year of my life with family and friends, now that I'm living with family and friends who have never celebrated it.

I thought about making Thanksgiving dinner but it seems kind of pointless since Thanksgiving Day for me would be sending the kids off to school and Tim off to work like normal, spending the morning trying to squeeze a very big turkey into a very small cooker, slaving away all day making a huge dinner, only to have the family come home to grumble that they don't like sweet potatoes and why would anyone put marshmallows on top of them and pumpkin pie is so gross that no one should even try it and what is Thanksgiving anyway and why do they have to sit around talking about why they're thankful since Lois and Clark reruns are on now and they want to get on with their homework anyway.

Tim was very supportive of keeping Thanksgiving for my sake, but it really doesn't make any sense. It's a whole lot of work for not a lot of payoff. My American friends all have other plans and our house is so deconstructed that inviting the American missionaries over for dinner isn't feasible. I'm trying to feel something about this but it doesn't "feel" like anything. Sort of like phantom limb pains. Trying to feel for something that isn't there.

Thanksgiving Day used to be waking up a little later than normal with a big yawn and stretch, smiling, feeling well rested, the sun streaming in the windows, padding into the living room in my pajamas to catch the end of the time-delayed broadcast of the Macy's Day Parade, making the cranberry sauce, listening for the pop of the berries as the heat swells them to bursting, showering and getting ready at a leisurely pace, driving five minutes to my parents' house where everyone is already gathered, Dad carving a turkey--possibly a smoked one, table set with cool Pilgrim or turkey-shaped candles, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes topped with toasted marshmallows, corn, peas, mandarin orange jello, green salad, cranberry sauce, oyster stuffing and regular stuffing, rolls from Shirley's Bakery, real butter, raspberry jelly, olives and other tidbits, then prayer by Dad in his deep, resonating voice, shuffling of plates as parents dish up food for youngsters, appreciative mmms and ooohs and this-is-so-goods, then talk of what we're thankful for, table clearing, cream whipping, pie cutting, casual conversation and clean-up, talk of what to do the next day, everyone backing out of going to the Spanish Fork Christmas Craft Fair except Mom and me, talk of Christmas decorations and parties and gifts and Santa, more pie, some leftovers, and then the drive home...

...to my empty house. To contemplate Christmas and how to get through it gracefully yet again, deciding whether it would be worth it to decorate my condo since I was essentially the only one to see it, wondering what to get for my parents and my siblings and their families, feeling foolish and selfish and guilty because I again felt incredibly sad that there wasn't anyone to buy something special for me, wondering again if this year I should spend the night at my sister's house watching her kids open their presents enjoying the excitement and Christmas morning giddiness but secretly feeling a little like a holiday voyeur, contemplating again whether I should just avoid it all and travel out of town for Christmas, feeling vaguely numb, wishing with all my heart and soul that I had my own husband and my own family to have Christmas with but knowing that the odds weren't good.

And so, as has happened so many times during the past year, I am again face to face with the quiet yet disquieting question of whether I would go back to the way things were. Would I give up being here with my husband and his children, in this house that I didn't choose, in a country I wasn't born in, with people who are strangers to me, in a culture that is foreign to be able to celebrate this Thanksgiving with my family in the US?

Yeah, right.

We'll do Thanksgiving next year. We'll have a better kitchen...and a place to plug in my nifty new food processor. Maybe we can keep the kids out of school and Tim can take a holiday from work. That would be cool.

And they'll love pumpkin pie. You wait and see.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Saturday, 11 November 2006

Hannah brought home a permission slip a few weeks ago to join the school choir. I thought it was a great idea and signed it posthaste.

After her first practice I read the lyrics she brought home of the songs she's singing. They include, "...then men came with all their greed, destroyed the forests, thought of their need..." Most of the songs are of a similar bend.

Now I grit my teeth on Tuesdays and bite my tongue to stop myself from saying to Kathryn, "Hannah isn't coming home with us right now. She's at Environmentalist Propaganda Choir. I'll pick her up later after the brainwashing and indoctrination is over for this week."

I don't think Kathryn will be attending "choir" when she reaches Year 4. Not unless I become a white-male-hating-tree-hugging-vegetarian granola girl before then.

Does "A snowball's chance in Hades" mean anything to you??

Friday, November 10, 2006

Thursday, 9 November 2006

Hi. My name is Kari and I'm a Dr Pepper-aholic. (Now you're supposed to say, "Hi, Kari!")

I am hereby forced to confess that if they had a 12-Step program for Dr Pepper drinkers, I would be morally obligated to join. Why? Because I've read a little of A.A.'s Big Book and scary enough, I have behaviors that parallel those of alcholics. Seriously. I'm not kidding.

1. I keep a "medicinal" bottle of Dr Pepper in my bathroom at all times in case of migraine.

2. I have drunk and replaced said "medicinal" bottle too many times to count.

3. At times I have hidden bottles of Dr Pepper for later consumption. And then I've consumed it.

4. After I drink the Dr Pepper, I smuggle the empty bottles outside (hidden in plastic grocery store bags) and then I bury those empty bottles of Dr Pepper underneath other rubbish in our outside garbage can so no one will see them.

5. I breathe a sigh of relief after my first sip of Dr Pepper and I feel better.

6. I drink Dr Pepper socially.

7. I drink Dr Pepper alone.

8. I drink Dr Pepper when I'm stressed.

9. I really do believe Dr Pepper isn't good for me and that I shouldn't drink it but I still do it.

If this isn't a cry for help, nothing is. Maybe I should to start my own program: Dr Pepper Anonymous. I have a feeling it would be very popular in areas settled by Mormons. Then again, because many would consider it a "legal" addiction, it probably wouldn't. So what's a DP addict to do?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Notable Things About Today:

1. I ate my first mint KitKat bar here. The Christmas Season is upon us.

2. I wore my first Remembrance Day poppy on my sweater after my husband bought it for me at B&Q (like Homebase) and stuck it on me.

3. I got the Polly Pocket Cruise Ship at Costco that Kathryn thought might be a cool thing for Santa to bring to her--not for 37 pounds (which is why I hadn't purchased it before today)--but for the low-low price of 20 pounds! (including VAT) Am I good or what??

4. I ate my first Chicken Bake at Costco. Well, half. The other half went to my American friend who, like me, believes Costco to be sort of like an American Embassy...a sacred piece of American soil.

5. The builders showed up again today, stayed all day, and worked all day on our house. That's four working days in a row, folks. (Thurs, Fri, Mon, Tues) Gotta be a record. My, my, my. Ain't we the luckiest people?

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Today's contestants in the daily "Why in Heaven's Name Did You Bring Your Mangy and Possibly Dangerous Mutt to My Children's School?" Unofficial Dog Show:

One muscular Boxer, uncropped ears, not very tall, choke collar yanked tight

One very nervous, very gray, very thin, very tall Greyhound

One wild-eyed, rusty-coated, ADHD Springer Spaniel (like that's so unusual for a Springer)

One illegally-unmuzzled Pitbull probably being passed off as a Staffordshire Terrier so people won't report the owners to the authorities

One scraggly, nippy Jack Russell Terrier urinating on anything standing still for longer than a minute

One not-so-scraggly, yet still nippy Jack Russell Terrier

One black Labrador Retriever, complete with a bad licking habit

and...

One black Cocker Spaniel. My veterinarian daddy has a theory about the mental state of black Cockers. The news isn't good. Unless you like being bitten.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Saturday, 4 November 2006

Guy Fawkes Day is tomorrow, so of course we've had a constant barrage of fireworks since sunset this evening. November 5 is Guy Fawkes Day, the day they celebrate the thwarting of a plot to blow up Parlament by said hothead, Guy Fawkes. He was drawn and quartered for it, but apparently that isn't enough of a punishment as they also burn him in effigy every year as well. I pity any decendents. Big bonfires are lit, people get drunk, parties are thrown, fireworks are lit. It's a wonderful day...er...evening. I hear. I haven't experienced it as yet.

The thing that makes this kind of interesting is the fact that it took place over 400 years ago. 1605 to be exact. And we Americans are so in awe of celebrating Independence Day, with it being over 200 years ago and all.

We ain't got nothin' on the Brits.

Monday, October 02, 2006

1 October 2006, Sunday

It's been so long since I've written that I almost don't know how to do it anymore. I'm hoping it's like riding a bike and that it will come back to me just because I'm trying again. Of course, I didn't learn how to ride a bike until I was eleven and then had lots of bike accidents while I was on my mission, so perhaps that analogy isn't really the best. Or perhaps it will be disappointingly accurate. Who's to know??

First off...listening to LDS General Conference here in England is very much not the same as listening to it in the good ol' US of A. I'm used to a quiet two hour pajama clad lounge on the couch interspersed with padding into the kitchen for a snacky during the Tab Choir singing interludes. No such thing here. We get dressed up and go to the chapel for delayed broadcasts or evening live feeds. No day off. No watching in my pajamas. Well, I could do, but I think the members of the stake would look at me a little askance if I showed up in my jammies. Maybe. Then again, they might figure that it's one of those crazy American things.

Speaking of crazy Americans, there's a twenty-ish American girl here who married a Brit who has decided to take on a full English accent. I mean, this girl sounds just like the real thing. I was so confused meeting her because someone said she was from the States but she was speaking like a Brit. Our conversation went something like this:

(Me) "Oh, so you lived in the States! Where did you live?"
(Fake Brit) "Ah yes. My parents still live in Roseville." (That's in No Cal)
(Me) "Wow! My brother lived there! Do you think they'd know your parents? Did your parents move there from here?"
(Fake Brit) "Uh, no. I'm from there."
(Me, Confused) "So...you lived here and moved there and moved back?"
(Fake Brit, flustered and trying to get away from me) "No. I'm American. Nice to meet you... (as she wandered off)

Yeah. So I found out later that she like hates everything American and wants to be all English and stuff. She and her husband gave lovely talks in stake conference a few months ago and I sat there listening to her thinking about how she much she bugs me. I can't see her without feeling bugged, and I see her at every major church event. Saw her this very evening as a matter of fact. I don't know why she bugs me and I wish I could stop feeling bugged but it's like I've got this strange fixation with her and why she decided to eschew all things American and pretend to be a Brit. I don't think she visits her homeland much or they'd laugh at her. Luckily, my American bestfriend here is bugged by her, too, so I don't feel so odd.

Whew. What a relief. This writing skill thing seems to come back when you use it. Cool.

So, on to throwing my first ever Princess Birthday Party. Kathryn turned four a few weeks ago and I threw her a bash. I forgot to bring the Princess Party sounds CD, but besides that, it seemed to go well. I found this absolutely fabulous Cinderella dress up dress complete with fur lined tiara and gaudy fake jewels. She was in heaven! The thing even had a hoop sewn into the bottom so it flared out like a real ball gown. I swear she looked regal, holding her arms up, delicately lifting her little skirt so it wouldn't get dirty. I invited nine little friends, seven of which showed up. There was one extra little girl whose mother asked me to let her come with her sister, but that's another story.

Anyway, one of my friends here who should be a professional children's party giver let me in on some secret websites that tell you exactly what to do, so I felt prepared. My friend had some great ideas, too. First, they decorated their own paper crowns with stick on jewels. Then they played pin the flag on the castle. Then there was Pass the Parcel, an English favorite. There is a main gift in the middle of about 20 layers of tissue wrapping paper. Each layer has a little toy wrapped with it. They sit in a circle while music is played and when the music stops, the lucky girl holding the package gets to rip off a layer. And so it goes until the final gift...which, the birthday girl won, which wasn't supposed to happen. Ah well. They all got little toys.

So then, food. They ate little sausages, sandwiches, veg and fruit on plates sporting the faces of the more famous of the Disney princess. You got your Cinderella, your Belle and your Snow White. Then there's the cups and napkins, all pink and covered with same said princesses. After food, Mommy Kari pulled out the Costco cake decorated with a princess and cut it all up and sent it home with the little darlings. My sons were horrified that I wouldn't make a cake from scratch. I wasn't. I didn't have time. And the Costco cake was very cute and chocolicious. I love Costco cakes...

The little princesses were all very well behaved, except for mine. When birthday girl was eliminated from a spontaneous game of "Queen Says" (think Simon Says with me at the helm) she proceeded to have a little tantrum and then sequestered herself to the other side of the cultural hall. The other mommies there assured me that this behavior was perfectly normal and to let it go, so I did. She rejoined us a little later and all was well.

All in all, I'd say it was a success. A lovely time was had by all. And Kathryn got some pretty cool loot out of the whole thing.

I must retire. Tim has been asked to be an early morning seminary teacher and his first day is tomorrow. He's just finished prepping and is now ready for sleep. So am I.

Will write more later...but not too much later, I assure you. Thanks for rambling with me.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Thursday, 24 August 2006

It's a proven fact that I write more on Thursdays. I have no idea how to interpret that, so I won't.

It's time to add to the list of "Things I Find Odd About England" or should I say, "Things That I Find Myself Shaking My Head About in England" or maybe "Things That I Find Charming and Quaint in England". Naw. They all sound a bit condescending. So...

More Things That Are Interesting to Me About England

1. Names of places that are so charming they make me believe in fairies and want to prance with unicorns. Examples: Merryhill Green, Chazey Heath, Purley on Thames, Heron's Water, Bluebell Meadow, Windermere and Isle of Thanet.

2. Names of places that are so strange that someone had to be dumb, drunk or born in 1358 to come up with them. Shropshire, Winnersh, Icknield Road, Sonning Eye, Thetford Mews, Lousehill Copse, and King Charles Head. (King Charles was beheaded. Thus, this is a pub named after the head--and the head only, mind you--of a beheaded king).

3. Names of places that are unintentionally funny. Toker's Green, The Mount, Sheffield Bottom, Play Hatch, Woosehill, Butts Hill Road, Studland Close, Surley Row, Kibblewhite Crescent.

Tim has been on holiday since Wednesday so we've been taking some day trips. Our first outing was to Avebury Stone Circle, the less famous cousin of Stonehenge. It was rainy and drizzly and it was fun. This main circle is huge with some smaller circles inside. More bang for your buck than Stonehenge if you ask me. Heck, you get to walk amongst the stones and actually touch them in Avebury. No stone snobbery there. No such luck at Stonehenge. They keep you firmly behind the ropes, thank you very much, like someone's gonna topple one or something.

And...Avebury has some interesting history. In the 1700s the people around there were really freaked out about witchcraft and since circles of big stones are obviously related to the devil, they went about breaking them up and using them for construction purposes. Luckily, a hundred years or so before that, when the people were freaked out about witchcraft they just buried the stones and so, in the 1930s, archeologists found them and put them back.

One stone got its revenge, though. Under its toppled mass they found the remains of an unfortunate barber (he had his scissors and medical stuff with him) who was either helping to take the stones down (wretched man) or was an innocent bystander with a poor sense of placement. My theory? Witchcraft. Pure and simple. Cursed stones.

The next day, which would be Thursday, we went to Whipsnade Zoo. (I was going to add it to the list of odd names, but thought that would be redundant.) This was the first time the kids got to see elephants, tigers, lions, bears, etc. in the flesh! It was really a fun trip. Kathryn said, "When I see the lions I want to stroke them because they like me." I had to gently explain that the nice kitties would savagely tear her whole arm off in a single bite it she got anywhere near them. Hey, this girl has no fear. I had to keep her safe somehow...

We are going up to the Preston/Blackpool area tomorrow to visit Tim's father so that will be another part of the country I get to see. We'll stay a few days, take in the sites, hit a few castles and the Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Don't get any funny ideas. It's an amusement park kind of area. The tallest roller coaster in England is there, so I will be, too. Tim hates roller coasters but the kids will come with me.

Through Amazon.uk (one of my best friends ever!) I purchased travel guides to England and London by Rick Steves, lovable travel nerd, and by The Rough Guide. I'm really getting into reading them. I am inspired by a friend of a friend, an American who is doing some postgrad work here and is checking things off her list. I've already seen Stonehenge so at least that's taken care of! I'm going to deliberately add Avebury to my list just so I can check it off. (And also so that I don't offend any of the evil stone circle gods still lingering there who taunt and torment those who do not appreciate the majesty of The Circle...)

Okay, a funny thing about our jaunts is that I have to buy a thimble and a magnet at every place we go. Years ago my mom started buying thimbles for me (I liked to sew when I was a kid...)every place she went. I had a huge collection of foreign thimbles and had been nowhere! Well, girlfriend gots the fevah now because I can't leave a travel destination without purchasing a little porcelain momento of the site. It's strange and pointless, but it makes me laugh, so I do it.

The magnet is homage to my friend Ginger who told me that she buys one every new place she goes. She'll be happy to know that our refrigerator is now graced with the likes of a laminated dawn photo of Stonehenge and a lovely and vibrant resin cast of a Venice gondolier.

I'll let you know all about Blackpool (and maybe Liverpool!) when I get back. Love to all...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Friday, 18 August 2006

Yesterday we saw Lizzie off at Heathrow in a tearful farewell as she jetted her way to Canada for her second year of university and her first year away from home completely. This set off a chain of events, one of which is 12 year old Sarah moving into Lizzie's now vacant room. There were three little girls in one room and now there are only two (aged almost 9 and almost 4) .

I picked Tim up from work yesterday (a first!) and said to him, "Honey, we have Czechoslovakia in our house." He looked at me like I'd been dipping into the cooking sherry and so I explained it thusly: "When Czechoslovakia had the strict communist overlords, all ethnic groups were united hating a greater evil. When the communists left power, all hell broke loose and everyone started killing each other. And so it is with our three little darlings. Sarah was sufficiently bossy to keep Hannah and Kathryn under control. Left to their own devices, Hannah has tried to assume the Head Honcho of the Room role left vacant by Sarah and thinks that Kathryn should now obey her every command. Kathryn ain't havin' any uh that. Sarah is happily sequestered in her neat-all-the-time private digs and thus, out of the war zone. Hannah and Kathryn are duking it out, vying for power."

Funny to watch. Sort of.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

.Monday, 14 August 2006

Today after getting Kathryn all buckled up in the car I said, "Okay, let's go Honey Bun!" She said, "I like when you call me Honey Bun." I said, "What other names do you like me to call you?" To which she promptly replied, "Patsy."

Patsy?? I just laughed. It came completely out of the blue. I had no idea where that came from as we've never called anyone in our family Patsy before. Later Chris put it together for me. It's the name of the pig who hides pumpkins in the Halloween book Kathryn is currently addicted to. Who could have known??

Monday, August 07, 2006

Monday, 7 August 2006

Seeing how out of balance I was forced me to reevaluate and as a result, has brought me a little more to the center. I feel like myself again. I can have fun but can also set up expectations that are a little more realistic, for me and for the kids. Once again, pain has been the teacher. Discomfort invites the search for relief, which in turn brings new insight and growth. I am still learning to set realistic boundaries, but I think that will be a lifelong process for me. I just need to remember who I am and how I function and not keep trying to do things the way I think they're supposed to be done in someone else's universe. My way is just fine. And that means not being a Nazi. Although sometimes I still feel like the Gestapo. Like when I have to make the children log off the computer because they haven't gotten dressed or eaten breakfast. Well, like when I have to make Hannah get off the computer because she hasn't gotten dressed or eaten breakfast, specifically.

At least I didn't get angry. And I didn't allow disrespect. And I'm still in a happy mood. I think that's a good enough start for a Monday morning.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Thursday, 3 August 2006 (again)

I thought writing about boob cake would make me feel jovial and it did for a few minutes but I must admit to feeling a little melancholy at the moment. Maybe it's a combination of having to redo the final condo sale papers that have apparently been lost in the mail(which cost 40 pounds just for the notary fee), the fact that I've gained 7 pounds over the last few weeks, the slow progress of our building project (and that I, non-technical girl had to point out that they'd forgotten to leave a space for the window which makes me worry that they're forgetting other, more important things like wall reinforcements or plumbing) and seeing a bunch of pictures of my family in America last night that Lizzie took at Christmas last year that I hadn't seen before. Maybe it's the ripple effect of selling my condo, knowing that someone else has moved into my place and that I have no other space that's mine but this house anymore. Or maybe it's simply this growing fear that I've taken on more than I can chew.

I try my best not to overthink things, but that's like telling myself not to breathe. Maybe I've just read too much. Kathryn is going to be four years old in a few months and I have facts (probably skewed) running through my head about how critical it is for bonding to take place in the first three years and I panic thinking that I have to do this all perfectly or I'm going to screw her up for the rest of her life. I know I'm too serious and too controlling and too somber right now. I have moments where I feel like my old silly self, but they are few and far between lately. Last night Hannah said to me, "Why are you being so mean?" as she stomped off to bed. Why AM I being so mean? Why can't I relax and play and let myself enjoy this? What the hell is wrong with me?

I make tentative comments around other mothers trying to feel out whether what I'm going through is just normal parent stuff or whether I should be concerned. Sometimes I'm reassured and sometimes I just feel more stressed. Right now, I just want to stay locked up in our bedroom where the windows are open and the sky is cloudy and blustery and gray. Or is that grey?

Oh, and don't call anything tan here "khaki". They'll laugh at you and wonder why you called their trousers poo.

So I guess you could say I'm having a khaki day. And, I guess you could say, I really will get over it. Soon enough.

Thursday, 3 August 2006

I was in Tesco the other day food shopping with my American friend Steph, and as we were passing through the cakes and breads aisle (it had to be done) she gave a yelp, dashed over to the third shelf, grabbed a box and flashed it at me. Busty Boobs cake. I kid you not. Cakes in the shapes of boobs. Naked ones. Nipples and all. I'd put them at about a double F if I were forced to guess. Right there in the middle of a perfectly normal grocery store. Right there where anyone could see. We had a 4th grade giggle, shook our heads and continued on our quest for non-naughty foodstuffs.

It's different here. Baring skin isn't just for the grandly pregnant nor just for the badly tattooed. It's for everyone. Even pastries.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Thursday, 20 July 2006

Writing a new post does at least one thing for me; it reminds me what the date is. Time passes so fast I can't seem to keep track of days. Like yesterday. I knew Kathryn had a drumming workshop in nursery but I thought it was on Thursday the 19th. So I didn't pay the fee and didn't pay much attention until I got home from Oxford (!) Wednesday afternoon and she told me she'd been drumming. Turns out it was on Wednesday the 19th, not Thursday the 19th. She drummed anyway. I paid them today. I blamed the fact that I'm American. I wonder how long I can get away with that excuse...

Okay, Oxford. Holy Cow! It made me wish I'd been aware of the broader world around me when I was a teenager. It didn't occur to me that I would want to go to any other university but BYU (foolish me). Except, well Utah State, of course. I would have LOVED to go to university at Oxford if only for the beauty of the campus and the city! Since all my friends are brilliant, any of you who might have the slightest chance of deciding to do post grad work, do it at Oxford! I'm not very far away and it would be SO cool! I could live vicariously through you which I'm sure would strengthen our relationship. And you could smuggle me onto campus and let me into the ultra cool reading room, which again would strengthen our relationship.

What was my deal as a teenager? I wasn't savvy then. I didn't understand what education really meant. I wonder now if I've ever really challenged myself intellectually. I don't think I ever made myself really work hard in school. I always tested well and was told how intelligent I was, but I wonder if that made me complacent. I don't know. I still want to finish my education, but even saying "finish my education" sounds dumb because shouldn't we always be learning? So, I guess I mean my formal education. I hear the conversations of my writing friends and read their writing and am so blown away by the vast knowledge bubbling around in their very active brains. I am in awe of those who are truly educated, thinking people.

For the uneducated, Oxford is made up of 35 separate colleges. Each of the colleges is like a separate campus, though they're pretty close to each other. And, within each college, all subjects are taught. So in Oxford's Jesus college, for instance, they have professors in all the areas like mathematics, English, etc. Most of the colleges surround a square and they each have their own church tower (I believe). The students are taught in tutorial situations so there's a lot more one-on-one time. Their terms are eight weeks long and very intense. Did you know that there is one college at Oxford called All Souls college that is simply for thinking? If you're accepted, you spend three years thinking and at the end you are expected to produce work that will have an impact on the world. How amazing is that?? And how brilliant would you have to be to get in?? I think 14 Nobel Prize winners went to school at Oxford and many of the prime ministers. For me, I would be so taken with the setting, that it would be enough for me. And I'd flunk out. Probably.

Dumb stuff...I fell and hurt my shoulder a few weeks ago. Just when it gets feeling better, I do some other dumb thing that makes it hurt again. Like lifting a huge pot of boiling water wrong, like bending down to get something low in the grocery store and then smacking my shoulder on the trolly (cart) handle, or today, tripping on the rug in the hallway after cleaning up the broken salsa jar that fell out of the back of the minivan onto the driveway and wrenching my shoulder when I couldn't catch myself because I didn't want to get salsa on the wall. Like I said, dumb stuff. I don't think it's ever going to get better.

Newsflash. Major milestone moment. Hold onto your hats folks--I think I'm finally committed to living in England. I've done it. It's happened. I've had my hair colored and cut. She came to my house, she did my hair and I'm okay with it. They do hair here and they do it well. So I'm okay. And I still have good hair.

Gotta go make dinner. Real life intrudes on blog life once again. Hugs all around!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Friday, 14 July 2006

I'm having an "I-Suck-As-A-Parent" Day. Of course I shouldn't use the word "suck". That's part of why I'm a bad parent. Maybe I should title today the "Why Am I Entrusted with Six Children?" Day.

But, as often happens, I have not enough time to write about it right now. Just imagine that today no one likes me and I'm grumpy. There you go.

I'm due at the Teddy Bear Picnic at Kathryn's nursery and then to the Mentions Assembly for Hannah where she will demonstrate some really kickin' gymnastics moves before her peers, so I gots to go.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Tuesday, 11 July 2006

Okay, so this morning was my first ever attempt as a parent to provide a costume for a child. It's Anglo Saxon Day and our 8 year old, Hannah, was desperate for something to wear. I told her to put on a top and some shorts (because whatever we came up with, I wanted her to at least maintain some semblance of dignity) and then we braided her hair, wrapped an old brown duvet cover around her, draped the end over her shoulder, pinned it with an old gold broach (a must have for the well dressed A.S. woman) and voila! Instant Anglo Saxon Girl! Sure it looks like a modified Greek toga, but Hannah was happy and that's all that matters, right?? I told Tim that I really, really need a sewing machine, but quick...can't go through this again...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sunday, July 9, 2006 "The Beginning Anniversary"

My first Svithe! (Thanks, th.!)

Today is the one year anniversary of what I think of as The Beginning of the Relationship with Tim. Things happened on this day a year ago and in the following weeks that left no doubt in my mind that my relationship with Tim was not happenstance or chance, but was instead, a direct result of Divine Intervention. I am absolutely convinced that a kind and loving Heavenly Father, who was mindful of us both, brought us together at this particular time.

It is hard to believe a year has passed. It's also hard to believe how quickly everything happened when I look back on it. On this day last year we wrote to each other on our private emails for the first time. The next day, we instant messaged for the first time. A day or two after that we spoke on the phone for the first time and that Friday Tim sent me a dozen beautiful red roses with a romantic card. I kept that card in my planner and looked at it every day thereafter. I think we instant messaged and spoke on the phone every single day after the first time he called until he came to the States for our wedding.

A month from tomorrow is the one year anniversary of our first date. We were engaged six days after that. It didn't seem fast at the time, just very natural and right. I didn't even have to pray about it, I think because I'd been praying so long for guidance and for the right man to come into my life that I knew it when it happened. I remember telling my parents that if this one wasn't "it" I would pack up and move to Tibet because there was no way anything could feel this right with anyone else.

I look back on that time and the twenty years of waiting for it to come and I think it's sort of like childbirth. They say that once you have the baby in your arms you forget the pain. Now that I have what I've longed for all my life, a wonderful husband and children, it's not that I've forgotten the pain, it's just that the pain seems worth it. I would never want to go through it again, mind you. I'm not stupid. But I also wouldn't want to trade all the things that I learned and all the ways that I changed and I would never, ever in a million years want to trade being married to Tim and mothering our children.

I guess I'm sort of the stubborn type. I have to feel pain to be willing to learn and to change. Well, it appears that way, at least. I remember hearing somewhere that pain shouldn't be wasted, meaning that we shouldn't let whatever we can learn from our experiences be lost in the morasse of anger or revenge or bitterness. Instead, we should be grateful, learn from those experiences and move onward--wiser--toward better things.

I felt pain during my time single. Sometimes it felt like the loneliness would eat my alive, even though I have a wide circle of friends and a supportive and loving family. I love them all. I enjoyed my life, my friends and my family. I attending family gatherings through the years and loved being an aunt to my nieces and nephews. I rejoiced when the people I loved got married and when babies were born to them. I celebrated birthdays and baptisms and watched Easter Egg hunts and basketball games.

But in the last few years, after such a long period of being the only single sibling, even family gatherings became more and more difficult. It felt like I was watching the years go by with no significant changes in my life. I learned so many things during that time and I changed quite a bit, especially in the last few years but I felt that I had nothing to show for it. While my siblings and friends got married, finished school, bought houses, moved away, moved back, had babies, etc, etc, I was still in my little condo, working every day and wondering about the purpose of my existance.

I tried not to compare my life to theirs and I did my best to progress as a human being. I struggled with feeling self-imposed guilt over possible mistakes I may have made and wondered if there were places I should have been or things I should have done. I struggled to see myself as faithful when I would leave church early sometimes because I couldn't sit through another Primary program wishing I had a child up there singing songs and fumbling over not-so-memorized text.

Over time I worked through most of those things and came to believe (at least 90% of the time) that the way my life had played out was God's plan for me and that I needed to let go and trust Him. I also eventually had to turn my desire for marriage and a family all over to God, deciding finally that if I was supposed to marry, it would have to come from God because I'd done all I knew how to do. I simply didn't know where else to turn.

I determined to make some changes, to focus positively on Plan B: completing my education, becoming a psychotherapist, buying a house, planning some European travel and continuing to enjoy my family and my wonderful circle of friends. I went to school part time for a year while I continued to work full-time and looked forward to the day when I could quit my job and finally build a career doing something I felt I was intended to do. My sadness and loneliness did not go away but at least I had a purpose for my life.

Then, Tim came along. Out of the blue. He slid into my life so quietly and naturally that I didn't break a sweat. So many things I'd learned about good relationships seemed to be happening with him, that feeling of deep affection, quiet contentment, and most of all, peace. The progression of our relationship spoke volumes to me of Heavenly Father's knowledge of our individual personalities and our most closely held hopes and desires. I am also convinced that He prepares us for the things He has in store for us, that no experience is wasted if we allow it to teach us and that He will guide us in all things.

The most significant lesson I learned is that I can trust God. I also learned to be grateful in all circumstances because some of the events that took place in my life that were the most painful were the very things that prepared me for this specific situation. We do not see all things and we do not know what Heavenly Father has planned for our lives, but I can tell you this: you will never go wrong if you trust Heavenly Father and believe that all things that occur in your life are meant to bring you closer to Him. It's not easy and oftentimes, God's way "doesn't look good on paper" but there's no more secure way to go through life than to trust Him.

The End.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Thursday, 6 July 2006

This is an edited version of an email sent to family. Some repeat of information, but I don't think anyone will mind, right?

It's hard to believe time has gone by this fast, but Tim and I have been married for six months now. In some ways it feels like I've always been here and in some ways it feels like I'm barely getting used to it.

Tim and I traveled to Venice for his 45th birthday in June. We had 4 days and 3 nights in Italy. The funny thing is, the flight was about as long as going from Utah to California. Things are so much closer here. Venice was amazing. We bought a couple of good guidebooks before we went and had a lot of fun reading about places as we saw them. I especially like the Rick Steves' guide. You know the guy--the lovable travel nerd on public television...

We stayed in a place he recommended. It was very nice. A family dwelling (for a very rich family!) built in the 1500s. Of course, most things in Venice were built in the 1500s. One thing he said was that Venice is crowded and touristy and has been for about 400 years, so just get used to it! I'm fascinated with the fact that the Venicians sank a million trees into the lagoon to build on. A million! They deforested some parts of Italy because of all the trees they used! Anyway, it's a fact I tell everyone who asks me about the trip. I don't know why, but I feel compelled to share strange pieces of random information.

I felt less foreign in Italy than I do in England because every other person in Venice was American! It was nice, actually. Ohhhhh...and the gelato. MMMMMM....scrupdillyicious!

Needless to say, my passport is looking ever so much more interesting, even if it still says my maiden name, not my married name. I'll have to take care of that soon. That and my 2005 taxes... Yikes.

It looks like my condo may have finally sold! Keep your fingers crossed for me. While it will be really nice to have that little issue put to bed, there's a part of me that's a little sad, giving up my last tie to the US and selling the last thing that is really mine. It's a good thing, though. I told Tim that in poker terms, this means I'm "all in".

The kids are doing well. Lizzie is home until August 17th, at which time she will be flying to Edmonton to complete her second of three years of university as an exchange student. I think she's planning on heading down to the states for holidays and such. She's finished her first year with great marks, so she's pleased and we're pleased for her. It's good to have her home.

Steve finished his A level tests and we haven't received the results yet. They don't really have a graduation ceremony of any kind, so I'm not quite sure how to celebrate this with him. Make him a carrot cake?? He'll be taking an art course during the next year until he goes on his mission because most universities here don't allow you to go for one year, then stop for two years, then return. The stake president here requires that all missionaries earn a good sum toward their own missions, which I think is fabulous, so Steve will be getting a job soon also.

Chris is finishing the year and doing well. He is deciding right now what to study for his A levels. Such pressure--deciding at 15 what your educational path will be!

Sarah has just finished a series of outdoor skills classes and she's had a great time with that. School seems to be going well for her, even if mixed with the normal preteen drama and angst.

Hannah continues to take horseriding lessons and loves them. She seems to be really good at it. I'm always happy to hear the other, more knowledgeable mothers say good things about her riding. Then I don't seem so obviously biased.

Kathryn is such a bright and happy girl! She is at the beginning of my favorite age--the three to four years old time. She will say the funniest things, like all 3 and 4 year olds do. I need to carry a notebook with me to write them all down. She has started saying her own prayers and will thank Heavenly Father for just about everything under the sun...pigs, the sky, stars, horses, the wind, new shoes, Skooby Do...

Since summer hit, I've been amazed at the number of people who believe that any sized arm is worth baring. Tank tops abound. Oh, and tops that don't quite cover the belly. And the bellies can be quite sizable. I've even seen 8 or 9 months pregnant bellies naked for all eyes to see. A strange experience the first time. It's like a train wreck. You almost can't pull your eyes away from it. Not that a pregnant woman isn't beautiful, mind you. I'd just rather not see her child-swollen abdomen naked, thanks. In some ways it's cool that you don't have to be the perfect size here to wear whatever you want. It makes me feel better...and yet...

Then there's the tattoos. Wearing of summer clothes has led to, inevitably, the baring of arms and backs and stomachs and legs all covered with tattoos of every shape and variety. And I'm not talking about the men here, folks. I am fairly unflappable, but the size and dimensions of tats on these women is flabbergasting. And they're not even good quality ones. I've seen prison-made that are better. Well. On TV.

We planted six courgette (zucchini) plants in our garden. They're just now coming up to maturity finally. All will benefit from our bounty, I fear. I'm sure people at church will start avoiding us once the Great Zucchini Giveaway! begins. There will be lots and lots of zucchini bread. Anyone have a great recipe they'd like to share? I'd love it! and any other zucchini recipes, please.

I tripped over a hidden brick today and gave my right shoulder quite a slam. The GP sent me to have it xrayed, fearing that I may have fractured the humorous (sp??). I'm happy to report that it is not broken, but merely sprained. I'm glad I brought the Percecet with me...

Tuesday we had a genuine 4th of July barbecue!! It was with some American friends, an Australian friend with her Brit husband, the bishop and his family who lived in the states for 8 years and the missionaries. It was great! I made Mom's potato salad and we grilled hot dogs and all that. On Monday, we were invited to a "Pre-Independence Day" celebration at a lake some friends manage. They had American flags up and everything. They made the Americans sing the Star Spangled Banner and they bought us root beer. It was a treat! They don't like root beer here because they say it tasted like an antiseptic "Germaline". We had a great time both nights. I swear, I've made more potato salad in the last two weeks than I made in all of my life up to now.

I'm doing really well. I'm really enjoying England. It's beautiful during this time of year. Well, frankly, I haven't seen an ugly time yet...

Love to all!!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Monday, 3 July 2006

It really does make more sense to write the day, the month and the year, in that order, doesn't it? More orderly. Everyone else does it. Why not Americans? My ex-boss Paul does it. It used to annoy the heck out of me, but now I sort of admire his maverick spirit.

What do chewed up gum and dog poop have in common? Both of them are left in copious amounts on every conceivable pathway by inconsiderate morons!

That is all.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

July 2, 2006...or 2 July 2006, whatever. Sunday

I do find comfort writing what day of the week I'm writing. I'm not sure why. It's like knowing the day of the week makes me more in control somehow. But it doesn't. Not really.

Several of my friends have taken to writing Sunday entries that th. has coined a term for...Svithes. (Look at his blog for an explanation. I have no idea how to link it, otherwise I could be very cool and have a highlighted word HERE that would take you directly to it. Dang this high-falutin' technology!) I would like to write my very own Svithe in a minute but first, I must digress and make reference to a happy part of my day today. Then after that, I'll be all churchy and stuff, okay?

So, when I left America, I brought with me a year's supply of my Franklin Planner pages. Say what you like about them pro and con; I for one can no longer function without one. I'm just not that smart. I've had one for 20 someodd years now and I find its presence comforting. Sort of a security blanket for adults. ANYWAY...come to find out, my lovely leather Classic-sized version is just too dang big to carry in my bag (US translation: purse). Now that I don't lug a carry-on to work everyday, it's just not practical to keep it with me at all times.

So, in an effort to adapt, I converted to a small version of a "planner" here and I tried my very best to be happy with it. I bought some memo pages, some dividers and even an address book insert. I gave it a go. February through May, I did my best. Then, I could stand it no more. After weeks of secretly perusing the Franklin Covey website online shopping pages (UK and US) I finally confessed to Tim that I couldn't take it anymore, that I needed to spend a wad o' cash to get me some Franklin that would fit in my bag. (The "Compact" version.) I told him I'd found a binder/insert combo that saved some $$ but it was still a nice chunk o' change. (That should be pound signs, but I haven't converted my laptop to British yet.)

Anyway, in typical generous Tim style, he told me, "Whatever you want, dear." I clapped my hands like a child on Christmas morning and flipped open the laptop so fast it made his head spin. I spent at least an hour just looking at every gadget and form and cool accessory that Franklin Covey could produce. I ordered my new planner and pages and felt such a sense of relief. After they arrived (while we were in Venice) I had the most wonderful time putting everything into the soft leather binder, looking at every divider and organizing the daily pages. Thinking about it now makes me happy.

ANYWAY, the catch was...the pages didn't start until JULY!! Can you believe it??? I've had to wait about three weeks to use it. I've looked through it every day, adding significant dates and appts and birthdays and anniversaries, all the while, longing for the time when I could pull it out and make notes and know what was going on. Well, yesterday was the day! And today was the first time I got to pull it out of my bag at church and make notes of all the announcements. I feel so organized. I feel so much more in control. Sure it may be an illusion, but it's an illusion I can live with.

ANYWAY...Kathryn has just charged up the stairs and announced that it's dinnertime and I'd better come or I'm not going to get any food. So, later for the Svithe. Now Tim is calling so it really is time...

Thursday, June 29, 2006

June 29, 2006 Thursday

I received a very good, very funny email from a great friend and in it he mentioned that he'd observed that the blog entries have become less frequent as I've become more comfortable with my surroundings. I don't know if I can use that excuse. I think I just started to become a little self-conscious about writing down all my thoughts and all the little details about my life here assuming that they were interesting to someone other than me. I felt a little self-indulgent, really. But, evidently I need to push those thoughts aside and once again become a more regular blogger. Because really...how could I ever really and truly be used to all of this and why wouldn't it be interesting to others? Hmmm??

Women here are tougher than women in the US. I see more bicep tattoos on women here than on men in the US. And they say shut up to their kids more frequently and with much more fervor than I ever witnessed in my previous life in the US. Perhaps I notice now because I wasn't a parent then. Perhaps it is because I didn't frequent school yards where many parents gather until very recently.

I can tell I've adapted because during my visit to England last year before I was married, my husband was getting petrol (see???) and I ran into the nearby Tesco grocery store to get us drinks and I remember thinking it was sort of a dive. I just shopped at that very same grocery store a week ago and thought it was actually quite lovely and was a little surprised that I ever thought it was lowly.

Did I tell you that even in the most posh food stores you are expected to bag your own food? The patient cashiers will generally open several bags for you and wait for you to catch up bagging if you get behind.

They don't have pickle relish here. They have stuff they call "pickle" and stuff they call "relish" but neither one resembles good ol' Nalleys.

Due to a private request, I will elaborate on The Wall O' Cheese that is present in every food store here. Let's start with the cheddars, shall we? They are white, not the neon orange that Americans are accustomed to. The mild is more like a really nice medium and they have a grade called "strong" cheddar or "mature" cheddar that is really tasty. The kids and Tim like sandwiches made out of it. Sidebar: they think it's weird to have both meat and cheese on a sandwich. One or the other should be sufficient, don't you know...

So, the cheeses...there are cheeses from Lancashire, Cheshire, and just about every other "shire" in England. (And please pronounce that "shure", not "shire". And Gloucestershire is Glostur. Don't question it. Just accept it and go on with your life. I have.)

There's a section of Mozzarella that includes buffalo, fresh, Italian and some mixed with other things. There are cheeses mixed with cranberries or herbs, smoked cheeses and at least eight variations of Swiss. They do not have Monterey Jack, though I found some that tasted a bit like it. There's a smoked cheddar called Applewood that I like quite a bit. I have yet to try them all, but I am doing my best to. The cheeses we consume the most of, much to your disappointment, I'm sure, is mild cheddar and the big bricks of mozzarella we get at Costco. Kathryn calls it scrunchy cheese. Or was that squidgy cheese? I can't remember. I must take notes the next time I'm near a Wall O' Cheese to give a comprehensive list.

And they still don't sell Ortega chilies here.

Speaking of Kathryn, her prayers have taken on a very stream of consciousness quality, now that she is saying her own. They contain a mix and variety of every element known to human life. Today in succession she thanked Heavenly Father for pigs, for the people who don't have any food and for the sky. She often mentions horses, especially Magic and generally asks after she's finished, "Wasn't that a beautiful prayer?"

Tonight we read a version of Red Riding Hood that she's requested so often she can recite all the words. She giggled and laughed as I paused and she would fill in the last few words of each sentence. As I leave her room at night, Kathryn has taken to flashing a huge smile and saying, "See you in the morning, Mommy!" That's too cool for words.

Tim just called me from downstairs and reminded me that I had potatoes boiling on the stove. I put them in...oh...about two hours ago--and promptly forgot them. I was so proud of myself for thinking ahead for tomorrow for the potato salad I'm making. Maybe we'll have mashed potatoes instead. Dang it! At least the sloppy joes will be good for dinner. I think. I'm getting a slow cooker recipe from the internet. What's to mess up there?

I have to go and put the potatoes in cold water. Perhaps they can be salvaged. Perhaps I will have to start over. So much for thinking ahead.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

27 June 2006 Tuesday

I should be embarrassed by how long it's been since I've written, but heck, I didn't bring any new writing to FOB for about...well...at least 8 months at the end I think, so this is just a little, itsy, bitsy pause.

Alright. I am. Embarrassed.

So much has happened that needs to be written about and yet, with the additional knowledge that my sisters are most likely aware of this blog now and may even be reading as we speak, I think about the idea of a blog and the idea of anonymous complete exposure and I wonder if there isn't a better way. I mean, the sad thing is, I really want people to read what I write. That's part of the reason I write, right? But then again, as the name implies, I am often too darn revealing in what I say, or at least a little too personal. "TMI! TMI!" I imagine some readers (all 2 of them) shrieking as they cover their eyes in an exaggerated and (let's be honest) overly dramatic gesture of revulsion and dismay.

But, what the heck. Anybody could be reading this and do I care? And...do I need to copyright this to keep someone from using it to make the heaps of money I should make from spilling my guts all over cyberworld? (Because oh, so many people are lining up to steal my words and ideas, don't you know.) And how does one copyright one's musings that one has willingly thrown out into the public eye with no sense of remorse or intelligent thought?

I'm just saying...

Now I must go pick up the girls from school. As usual, I have run out of time and haven't even begun to start to write about what I really intended to write about....VENICE!!

I'll get to it. Maybe even before I forget what it was like.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Thursday, June 8

Out of the blue, Kathryn looked up from eating her muesli this morning (she likes to call it rabbit food) and declared, "Pencils don't work on your face." She promptly put down her spoon, picked up a convenient pencil, commanded, "Watch!" and attempted to draw on her face. She's right. Pencils don't work on your face.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

June 7, again

About half the time she addresses me, our youngest has taken to calling me "Mommy" with an exaggerated O. I'm okay with that. Here, usually they say Mummy. It feels right that there is an English Mummy and an American Mommy. I'm starting to get what it feels like to be a parent. And I'm starting to get used to being called Mommy. Pretty cool, both things.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

It's suddenly warm here in England and I've never witnessed so many bare arms that really should not be...and bare bellies. Fat ones, thin ones, pregnant ones, too. I realize that the fashion has moved away from pregnancy tents toward form-fitting tops, but I hadn't realized that baring one's baby-filled abdomen was a fashion "do". Who knew?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

May 21, 2006 Sunday

Okay. You know the weather in England is fickle if very rarely the weather report on TV is correct. You also know it's fickle when you can lay on your bed and look out the skylight on the left and see blue sky and look out the window on your right and there are dark gray rainclouds. I swear it happened only moments ago. I swear.

Okay. More England stuff. There are pedestrial crossings called Zebra Crossings where you have to stop always for people who may be crossing. They're called Zebra Crossings because the poles are black and white striped. There are also little round globes of light perched on top of them. That has nothing to do with them being called Zebra Crossings. The lights, I mean.

The stoplights here flash yellow between green and red both for stopping and going. So, you can start moving before the green light if it starts flashing yellow. (My husband is learning the art of messing with me. He just read the part about zebra crossings and turned to me and said, "And these are called Pelican Crossings." I said, "They are not!" and he just started laughing. He says to look it up on Google but I refuse to give him the satisfaction.)

Cash registers have lids that pop up like a hinged jack-in-the-box when the transaction is over and they need to deposit your money in the till. And also, their tills are different, stacking paper money on it's edge rather than laying it flat. Also, credit cards are slid into little machines small side in. Not long ways. And you have to have a pin number for your credit card, not sign anything.

At the local Boots drug store, there was a place to que for paying for your purchases (we say "que" here, not "wait in line"--an economy of words to be sure) (and of course, I'm sure I'm spelling it wrong...Katya??) and there was this very futuristic, female, Soilant-Green-you're-entering-into-a-death-chamber-but-I'm-going-to-guide-you-in-with-my-very-calm-and-soothing type of voice that would say, "Cashier number three please. Cashier number two please. Cashier number six please," and everyone would just quietly comply. Imagine it with an English accent. "Cashe-ah numbah threee pleez." I was sort of scared my first go. I got over it.

Did I tell you about Squash? It's a highly concentrated liquid that you mix with water, 1 to 4. Everybody drinks it. Apple & Black Currant seems to be a popular flavor at our house. So is Tropical and Summer Fruits. The Peach and White Grape is kinda not so good and I'm not too big on the Orange and Mango either. You can get squash in varying degrees of fruitiness. High fruit is what we buy. It's 50% fruit juice. Don't ask me what's in the other 50% because I'm sure it's not good for us.

It's already time to put Kathryn to bed. Lately, every prayer she says, including blessings on the food, she thanks Heavenly Father for a horse named Magic that she road once at our friend's house probably a year ago. Last night during her bedtime prayer she said, "Thanks for my horse, Magic that is in a stable in Newbury." And then, without opening her eyes she unfolded her arm and pointed above her head to the left and said, "Which is over that way." I laughed. (Yes, I had my eyes open during her prayer. So sue me.)

After she was all tucked in I told her I would come back and check on her later. Kathryn told me she only wanted Daddy to check on her that night. I asked her why. She said, "Because I don't like you." I asked her what made her like me sometimes and not like me sometimes and her reply was, "Sometimes my brain doesn't like you. The red part of my brain doesn't like you and the blue part of my brain likes you." I smiled and said, "Oh, I see..." I started to leave and she said, "Wait! I need to give you hugs and kisses!" I told her I didn't think she wanted to because she didn't like me. "But I still have to give you kisses!" she said. Good to know that not liking someone is not a good enough reason to withhold physical affection. Hmmm...maybe that's why I stayed single for so long...

Ground beef is called mince. You can buy canned cake. There are very few cake mixes for sale here. In the US, there's a veritable smorgasbord of name brands and flavors of cake mixes. Here you're lucky to find three or four...boxes. Here, people make "sponge" (cake) from scratch. Mmmm...no. I'd rather have a good old-fashioned mix, thanks.

It's very common to drive on the opposite side of the road because the streets are so narrow and if there are cars parked on the street, there is only room for one car. You have to be very careful to look ahead and duck into any small spaces between parked cars to let people through. Drivers seem really courteous here. They let you into merge sooner than US drivers and they wave to acknowledge you when you pull off for them to pass. Almost every single time.

Picking up kids from school is like walking through a daily dog show. People bring their canines of all varieties and I know not why. I've seen almost as many breeds at this venue as I did when I worked at my father's veterinary clinic. Honestly. I've seen everything from greyhounds to jack russells (oh the ubiquitousness of jack russells here...) to great danes to bichon frisses. I once spotted a very powerfully-jawed pitbull and steered my children out of his reach. I'm surprised they don't have a problem with fighting or biting. The kids all seem to take it in stride.

We are close to starting our extension/remodeling project on the first floor. It will be really, really nice to have that finished. I think it will surprise no one who knows me that I am most looking forward to the dishwasher. Although having more than three feet of counter space is also a big selling point for me. Oh, and storage space for such exotic cookware as, say...our baking dishes? Yeah. Looking forward to that, too.

Got to get the children into bed. Will write again soon. Seriously. No, I'm not kidding. Stop laughing. I will. Really! Bye for now...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I'm sequestered in our loft bedroom with the sounds of my husband cutting and nailing wood echoing in through our window and I'm feeling guilty. This is significant because it is symbolic of a personal struggle I have balancing "real" work and activities that I am afraid are considered "electives" in my life.

"Real" work is physical. It has a definite beginning and a definite end. You can see what you've accomplished after it's finished. There's also generally movement involved. You will often get sweaty doing real work. Washing and folding laundry is real work. Vacuuming is real work. Scrubbing out the toilet is real work. Weeding the garden is real work. Sewing and cooking is real work.

On the other hand, you remember electives in school. Subjects you could opt to take for your own pleasure. Stuff that doesn't take physical labor. Stuff that you can sit on your butt and do. Like reading. Like writing. Like thinking. Like planning. Stuff that doesn't make you sweat. Well, not stinky sweat, anyway. Certainly not comparable to "real" work, right?

See? That's my dilemma. I want, nay NEED to read and write and yet I struggle with setting aside time for it without feeling deep and abiding guilt that I'm "wasting time".

Someone tell me something that will make this okay, that I need to read and write and that it's okay to read and write and that somehow I can equate it with "real" work and not see it as an elective!

I think this stems from my childhood. Mom would tell us not to watch TV, to "...go read a book!" which I happily complied with. Then, she'd spot me reading and tell me that if I had time to sit around reading that I could spend the time cleaning out the fridge or folding some laundry or doing something else useful.

Help me break this psychological barrier. Help me now. Please.

(My husband isn't much help. I asked him to validate that it was okay for me to write and he sweetly said, "As long as it's something sensible...")

Saturday, May 13, 2006

May 13, 2006

I haven't written in ages and it shows. My thoughts are slower and I'm not as observant lately. I don't even know what I'm going to write about and that's kind of a problem.

But, the good thing is...McDonalds here has a Ham and Cheese Toastie. They also have a Chicken Tikka deli sandwich, but because they don't serve them after 9:00 pm, I don't know what they taste like but I suspect it tastes a lot like the Indian curry I feed my family on a regular basis. I do, however, now know what a Ham and Cheese Toastie tastes like. Don't bother, okay? And, I got a banana shake instead of a vanilla shake. Who knew McDonalds even had banana shakes?? Fries taste about the same. But they don't automatically give you ketchup here. (Or "tomato ketchup" as my children call it. Because one can never be sure that if you ask for the nonspecific name of "ketchup" that someone might try to slip you some kumquat ketchup or something.)

I know all this because after attending a lecture by none other than Stephen "Sharpen Your Saw" Covey, my dear Tim and our Sarah dashed over to the Big Old Mickey D's and ordered some very naughty food. I felt sick by the time we got home. I feel better now.

My husband just popped a piece of Turkish Delight Cadbury candy bar into my mouth. Oooo. Perfumy.

So, today I've tried several new things. Ham and Cheese Toastie. Turkish Delight candy bar. McDonalds banana shake.

And, to top it all off...we now have a personally signed copy of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families.

Who could ask for more?

(Except for maybe cracking open that little jar of Bloater Paster. Now that just screams "Party!")

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

April 26, 2006

I know now why I was not born a pioneer. I would surely have died on the plains. Even if it was in the middle of summer. And if I rode the whole way in a wagon. With plenty of food. Reason? I am not stoic. I don't even think I qualify as having a stiff upper lip. Pulling myself up by my bootstraps might hurt and what's the good in that? Those women had to work really, really hard setting up camp, washing clothes, making food, birthin' babies, and they did it every day. Well, not the birthin' babies part, but definitely the rest of it.

And today's equivalent? Seriously, there are parents who never show weakness, never act like they're ill and never, no never stay in bed more than one day, even if they're feverish and heaving from both ends. Not I, said the wussy whiner (me). I am not one of those diehard, no pain, never-let-'em-see-you-sweat kinda gals. If I'm sick, I'm in bed. Case closed.

(By the way...how the heck do they do it??)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Clubs and Why I'm Never In Them

When I was young, my two older brothers made a smashing duo. They did everything together. The oldest liked to be the boss and the younger didn't mind being bossed. They played army together, built forts and shared a room. They even had a club, complete with complicated handshakes, whispered passwords, top-secret codes, and camoflauged hideout.

Truth be told, they formed many clubs and I don't remember being a member of any of them. Maybe it was the whole boy versus girl thing or maybe they didn't think I could keep the secret hideout a secret (I'm not sure from whom, but it's the principle of the thing, right?) or maybe I just didn't possess that all important and, for me, perpetually elusive "coolness factor". I just didn't get it. Whatever "it" was.

Like the time my oldest brother held an auction. I think they were raising money for their Green Beret Club or their Football Club or their North Camino Alto Club or one of several hundred other incarnations of the many clubs they created. For whatever reason (so they could buy gum, I think) my brother felt the need to infuse the club coffers with much-needed cash and, knowing the value of a dime almost from infancy, he decided he was going to cash in and clean house at the same time by selling a few personal items.

He laid out his wares and invited us (his three younger siblings) to take a gander. I perused and touched--as allowed--and decided I wasn't interested in much. I didn't have a need for green plastic, partially-melted toy army men (don't ask) or an old Oakland Raiders jersey with a slight tear at the elbow. In fact, the only thing I did have my eye on was the bright, shiny, silvery tin of imported kippered snacks. Of course, I had no idea what a kippered snack was, but I knew it was food. I also knew it had to be opened by twisting the ingenious T-shaped marvel attached to the side all the way around the oblong tin, and being a gadget girl from early on, I simply had to give that key a turn.

So, the bidding for other items began and ended without much of a flurry. Then, with a dramatic wave of his arms my brother held up the final prize.

"And now! We have the final item!" He swung the tin under our eager eyes. "These delicious kippered snacks come all the way from," and he pointed to the label, "Norway!"

"Ooooo!" we prospective bidders whispered at once. Our eyes grew wide and we nodded to each other. He then went on to describe in great and luscious detail the smokey flavor, the firm but soft texture and the delightful aroma. I had to have that can. Even if I had hated fish as a kid, I still would have had to have that can.

"I'll start the bidding at 25 cents," our young auctioneer began.

Someone said "Okay. 25."

"Do I hear 45??" he called again with more enthusiasm and more volume.

"45!" came the response with matching enthusiasm and volume.

"65??" he asked.

"65!!" one of the others yelled back.

I think I shouted out 75 before he even raised the bid. Auction fever was taking hold.

Soon my youngest brother dropped out and it became a heated back and forth between the two remaining bidders, me and my second oldest brother.

"Who'll give me 80 cents??"

"80!!"

"90?"

"90!!".

My nemesis nervously counted his coins and took a few fertive glances at the snacks. It was getting a little too rich for his blood, but dang if he didn't want that fish and dang if he didn't want to beat me!

"$1.00!!" he shouted

"$1.25!!" I countered.

"1...30!"he stammered hopefully.

At my final bid of $1.45 his shoulders slumped, he slowly shook his head, and he pocketed his woefully inadequate pile of change.

"The winner!" my oldest brother yelled as he handed the coveted prize to me. I took the can with glee and without an upward glance began the fascinating opening of the can.

"Well?? Where's my money?" my oldest and, coincidentally, toughest brother demanded.

"What money?" I asked after hearing the satisfying final turn of the key as it popped off the tin and released the much-touted smell of fish. Some of the juice dripped onto my fingers and I licked it off.

"What do you mean, 'What money'? The money you owe me! The $1.45!"

"Oh! I have to pay for this?" The first fillet slid on slippery fish oil onto my waiting tongue. I started to chew, oblivious to the pommeling I was about to receive. "I just thought you had to keep saying higher numbers and you got to keep it. I didn't understand why he," I gestured toward my now also very angry second brother,"stopped." And I reached in for another salty, smokey taste of the sea.

Frankly, I don't remember what happened next, but I do remember crying.

I just didn't get it. Unfortunately, not much has changed. I still often see things at face value, missing the subtleties of social rules and social intercourse. And, more to the point, I still don't get invited to be in clubs.

I realize that statement may seem out of place considering that I'm now over 40, married (finally) and a parent of sorts, but much to my surprise I find myself once again in the situation of my childhood. Thriving clubs have already been formed and they do not include me. There's the English Social References Club, the United Kingdom Pronunciation Club, the Very Cool Accent Club, and most importantly, the Already Established Family Club and the Children's Coalition Club.

The first few I don't really mind not being a member of. I mean, that's my parents' fault for birthing me in the US of A, right? But the last two I really do care about.

As with childhood clubs, the Established Family Club and the Children's Coalition Club have complicated handshakes, whispered passwords, top-secret codes and camoflauged hideouts, but they're much more subtle and much more difficult for me to read. Just when I start to think I get the nuance of a head bob, or understand the underlying meaning of a coded story, the response I get indicates that I am yet again the confused wannabe. Then I start to worry, that as before, I'm simply not cool enough for them.

I know I'm the adult, and most of the time I think I act like it, and lots of the time I'm not bothered by the subtle things I don't understand, but sometimes I am. I don't have this collective family consciousness and I don't have the secret decoder ring that gives me access to their minds and thoughts and hearts. What I do have is a really good husband and really good children who are just doing what husbands and children do and doing what they as a family have done for years. And sure, we're beginning to have shared memories, though it's only four months' worth. But I have hope.

In fact--keep it under your hats--but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'm correct in the tentative assumption that I think I may actually already belong to a club, and a very exclusive one at that. Sure I have to get the complicated handshake down pat and, sure there are secret greetings and top-secret code words, but I think I may actually know them already. This club is so exclusive that it will only have two members. All I have to do is get confirmation from the club president and I'm in. I hope, I hope, I hope I'm in! I mean, afterall, I do kinda sleep with him.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

April 23, 2006 (but really April 14)

I wrote a family email that I forgot to post here too, so I'm sorry that I'm behind on updating, but here's a little something, edited especially for you! I will write another blog tomorrow. At least, that's my plan...

April 14, 2006:

I guess I can start with Driving News. As you know, I've been taking lessons and...(drum roll, please) I made my maiden solo driving flight a few days ago taking the girls to the chapel for a Primary activity! It was very exciting to actually be driving independently again, even if for a short jaunt. The girls were convinced we'd all be dead by the end, but no, no fatalities. I did really well until a friend pulling out of the church parking lot waived and smiled encouragingly (recognizing that I was actually driving on my own). I smiled, waived back, saw a car coming from the opposite direction got flustered and...stalled the car. Ah well. At least we didn't die. I drove the boys to a Young Men's activity yesterday and stalled trying to pull out of our drive and then again trying to pull in. Didn't stall at the church though, so that was an improvement... sort of... I guess. I also drove when Tim and I went food shopping at Sainsbury's Tuesday night. I'm just a regular Mario Andretti...NOT!

Tim has today, Good Friday, off and Monday, Easter Monday, off as well. We went and saw Ice Age 2 with all the kids except our oldest last night. It was a good family outing. I went and got popcorn for the kids and was surprised to be asked, "Sweet or Salty?" I knew that the kids put sugar on the popcorn at home but I didn't know that it was a regular thing in the theater (or Cinema as we say here.) I chose sweet just for the novelty of it and was glad to find out that the kids prefer it.

Tim and I realized about halfway through the movie that Kathryn is still too young to sit through an entire movie in the theater so we'll probably stick to our traditional Friday evening Movie Nights at home for awhile. I think the others enjoyed it though. After we got her to bed we ordered take-away (take out) from a fish and chips/Chinese food place we like and then watched the movie "Big Fish" at home. I hadn't seen it before. It seemed particulary poignant to me.

It's rainy and gray and I think I feel a little quiet and sentimental. It's the Easter weekend and it will be different for me. No Easter Egg dying and hunting, no dinner at Mom and Dad's, but that's okay because it will be my first here with giving giant chocolate Easter eggs to the kids (the tradition here) and me making Easter dinner for my own family. I think I feel more reflective this year... I still haven't quite figured out what to make, though leg of lamb is the odds-on favorite at the moment. We have a rosemary tree growing in the garden (I swear to you...it's so old it's a tree!) so we can use that for the lamb.

What else... Tim and I are going to London next Friday evening to see The Producers on stage. I'm really excited about it. I haven't been to London except to fly into/out of and drive out of/into Heathrow so it will be cool to see.

Sarah's birthday is next Saturday. She's turning 12 and is really anxious to start the Young Women's program. I think she's also anxious to figure out whether to like me or not like me due to her age and the obvious stepmother thing. I swear it changes daily...sometimes hourly.

What I knew would happen is happening...things are not so strange to me anymore so I'm getting less able to tell what's distinctly English. Things don't feel quite so foreign to me. I think that's a good thing, but it makes for less interesting posts!

Frosted Flakes are called Frosties here. I guess that's different.

Saw a beauty shop/day spa today called "Pampers". I laughed because it was this really posh looking shop. Little do they know that they named their high-class business after a brand of American diapers (nappies)!

Also, saw a sandwich spread called "Bloater Paste". Evidently a bloater is a kind of fish, but I had to buy a bottle just because it made me laugh out loud.

Cinnamon rolls are unusual here, so I've made the Clone of Cinnabons recipe (thank you to my sister!) several times and they've been very popular. I'm getting a reputation. First they raved about Spinach Dip (and I've been asked to print out the recipe for everyone) and now cinnamon rolls. Oh, and the enchiladas are also a hit. Who would have thought that easy things would be impressive...

If you don't understand what someone has said, it's rude here to ask, "What?" You should say, "Pardon?"

School pictures are taken as family group shots with all the children of each family at the same school in the same picture. A couple of weeks ago I ordered copies of the one with the youngest girls. My first school picture order!

Our county, Berkshire, is pronounced Bark'-sure (roughly). Just so you know.

Okay, so I guess I do still see differences...

And, just to whet your palate for more good stuff to be posted...I HAVE BEEN TO STONEHENGE! and Salisbury Cathedral (anyone familiar with the Magna Carta?) and that play in London and Buckingham Palace and saw (or correctly, heard) Big Ben and walked through Piccadilly Circus and rode in the Tube and walked through the posh part of London and, to top it off, am finally, this very evening, feeling better after experiencing what I think is possibly food poisoning for the last 36 hours. Yea!

Thanks for all your comments. I love them. They make me happy. I get them as emails. That also makes me happy. Hugs and kisses all around!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

I hoped it wouldn't happen and I thought that maybe it wouldn't but it has. I'm homesick. It hit me hard this morning right after Kathryn started crying that I hadn't made her cereal right and that it was soggy (because she had chosen, against my counsel, to go find her slippers first before eating it) and Tim asked her if she wanted new cereal. Something broke. I was angry and I slammed cupboard doors and I "made" new cereal and I stomped upstairs to our bedroom and started to cry.

I'm tired and I can't seem to sleep well and I've got itchy red excema on my hands that won't go away and my hair hasn't been cut since December 21 and I have a closet the size of a junior high locker and I don't know where to put the little that I did bring with me and I miss the things I didn't bring with me and I say words wrong and I can't drive and I don't understand cultural references and I don't get to dye eggs and be at the family Easter Egg Hunt and dinner this year and we don't dye eggs in England and we don't give Easter baskets and I'm missing all my nieces' and nephews' birthday parties and I don't get to be at my nephew's baptism and I'm cold and I'm chubby and I miss my friends really, really, really a lot and I miss going to movies and going to evil and yet so convenient Walmart where I can find storage containers and kitchen rugs and yarn and the brand of deoderant that I like that won't give me rashy armpits and seasoned salt and 4 oz cans of Ortega chilis and green salsa and normal napkins and Crisco and butter that's marked the right way and I miss being with people who like me all the time. I miss laying on my comfy couch and vegging out watching Grey's Anatomy and Gilmore Girls and I miss the mountains and I miss watching Conference at home in my jammies and I miss running over to my parents' and sisters' houses for quick visits. I miss my family. I miss FOB and FOB parties. I miss my work friends and I miss my student employee friends and I miss my A Lot BYU parking sticker and the conveniences of The Wilk. I miss knowing what people are saying 99% of the time and going to the chiropractor when I need to. I miss feeling comfortable and in control of my world.

On the other hand, I'd miss England with its history and old and new buildings and twisting, winding roads and Stonehenge and green (even in winter) countryside. I'd miss creme fraiche and lemon curd and strange but charming items like mushy peas and Bubble and Squeak. I'd still have a condo full of lot of stuff that I didn't use very much and a kitchen that I didn't cook in (even if it is bigger than the one I have now) and lots of time by myself wondering what to do with my life. I would miss cooking even if it doesn't always seem appreciated and I'd miss trying to organize so many things into so many small places. I'd miss the adventure of learning to adapt and try new things and see new places. I'd miss the accents and the shops and the new foods and the places we can travel. I'd miss my new friends and really feeling part of a wonderful ward. I'd miss Grand Mal tantrums and the crying about cereal and arguing about bedtimes and nagging about chores. I'd miss the merry-go-round of housework and the miraculous regeneration of endless laundry. I'd miss spontaneous gifts of pictures and cards with three-year-old writing that spells K-A-I-R. I'd miss goodnight kisses and scratching backs at bedtime and reading Artemis Fowl aloud and being teased by teenagers. I'd miss our peaceful bedroom and Ray Mears Survival videos. I'd miss Family Home Evening and I'd miss taking up an entire row at church. I'd miss talking about the future snuggled up in bed. I'd miss holding hands in the B & Q hardware store and I'd miss being kissed and held and touched. Most of all I'd miss being loved more than I ever imagined possible and loving well beyond my natural capacity.

I miss elements of my old life and there are some elements of my new life that are difficult for me, but at the end of the day (a saying lots of Brits use) I am where I should be. At the end of the day, I'm also exactly where I want to be as well.

Monday, April 03, 2006

And...

I had this really lousy dream this morning that my sisters (who weren't my really my sisters)were all talking about me saying I was neurotic and then my husband (who wasn't my husband yet and wasn't even my real husband) started telling me about the women he'd dated while we were engaged and I was running around all freaked out and upset trying to storm out of the house, but was unable to flee the House of Betrayal because I couldn't find my planner anywhere and I just couldn't leave without my planner because I couldn't live without my planner. It was really, really yucky. It was one of those dreams where you wake up feeling all the emotions of the dream even though it isn't real and I started to question whether I really am neurotic and then I told Tim that I'd had a really awful dream and I just had to know if he'd dated anyone while we were engaged and he smiled and said, "Not to my recollection," and then hugged me and then I started feeling better.

I still need to know if my sisters think I'm neurotic though.

Monday, April 3, 2006

I guess that writing once a week is going to have to be sufficient. I think of all the things I need to do and get to do and wish I could write more and probably need to write more since writing keeps my head on straight, but at this point, it doesn't look like that's gonna happen. Maybe I'll have to get more efficient with the housework...or turn the children into slave laborers, whichever comes first.

For all the bossing around I used to do at work and for all the bossing around my sisters claim I did as a child, I don't think I'm too good a bosser anymore. I remember my mom saying once that sometimes she just wished she had the time to do everything herself because she hated arguing and trying to get someone else to do it. I feel the same way. But there isn't enough time in the day for me to do everything and not have help. But I'm not my mom.

Yesterday we had company over for dinner, a family of 6 in addition to our 7. I really love these people and was excited to have them over, but as well planned as I thought I was, time was running out, things weren't finished, kids were sitting around instead of helping and I found myself getting tense and stressed and short with everyone. I had just snapped a little at one of the girls when I suddenly thought of what my sibs and I used to say around the holidays, "We must be getting ready to have a really fun time because Mom is in a really bad mood!" But I'm not my mom.

Our church's General Conference was held this weekend and because of the time difference and the lack of KSL here in England, we got dressed in our Sunday clothes to drive to the stake building (which happens to also be our ward building) to watch a time-delayed broadcast of the Saturday afternoon session that began at 1:00 pm. Tim and the boys had already been to the church to watch the time-delayed broadcast of the Priesthood session at 10 am.

As I watched Conference with my husband and children for the first time, I felt particularly attentive and particularly responsible. I thought of all the things I should be doing as a wife and a parent and felt this need to start organizing family scripture study and other means of connecting our family with God on a daily basis. We do family home evening and family prayer, but I was feeling that I wasn't doing enough. Then we heard talks about marriage and missions and other gospel topics and I knew I wasn't doing enough. I didn't feel it in any guilt-ridden sort of way, just a calm feeling that I needed to be more organized and figure out ways to help the children understand more about God and to connect with Him personally.

I also thought about all the programs and charts and personal interviews and family early- morning seminary we had before we were old enough to go to the real early-morning seminary and other things Mom did when I was a kid and how I felt so frustrated sometimes that it seemed like church was more important than anything else. I vowed at the time that I would not do that to my kids when I grew up, but now I think I finally understand why she did those things. I think I understand that she did all those things because of her desire for us to choose good things and ultimately, to choose to follow Jesus. I want the same things for my kids. But I'm not my mom.

My mom posted an email today to the family about Easter dinner next Sunday and an Easter Egg hunt for my sibs and their kids on Saturday. Mom has this way of remembering and planning and putting together these events that lends a sense of continuity and reliability and cohesiveness that brings our family together in a really good way. She never forgets a birthday or a big event and always seems to give the perfect gifts. When we were little, for our birthday month she used to post pictures of us growing up and write little descriptions below the pictures and write things about us that were cool. I looked so forward to my birthday month every year to see what she would write about me. She did lots of those kinds of thoughtful things. But I'm not my mom.

While I was getting what actually turned out to be a good dinner on the table yesterday, I was talking with my friend about how I was acting and she said, "What is that saying? Mirror, mirror on the wall, I am my mother afterall!" I guess in some ways that's true. When I consider all that my mother is, maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Monday, March 27, 2006

March 27, 2006

It's rainy and windy outside (or wind-ing as our youngest puts it) here. I just got home from walking her to school so I thought I'd take a few minutes to write.

Okay, well...I had my first driving lesson last week. I've been driving with Tim, but this was the first official lesson. I came home and thought I was going to ralph. I didn't stall and I didn't wreck and I wouldn't have been too embarrassed if anyone had caught it on tape, but I did feel like I was 16 again and stressed to the max!

Driving is so different here. Even the way you use the steering wheel. You cannot cross your hands over or let the steering wheel whiz through your hands when you've finished a turn. You have to feed the wheel from hand to hand and keep them at the 10 and 2 positions. Everything is so basic again, like starting all over driving for the first time. The instructor said that a new driver can take up to 6 months to be able to drive well. Yikes. That's not what I wanted to hear! Anyway, it's a new thing to learn but I hope I'll get it soon.

A new family from America moved in a few weeks ago. They were next door neighbors of my brother and sister-in-law, if you can believe that! And I'm totally jealous of the wife because she started driving the minute she got here. She has an automatic here and drove a stick all the time in the States, so she just tools around the city with no problem. I'm starting to weigh the benefits of begging for an automatic car versus the humiliation of having to admit that I need one...

Now I'll take you through a very basic thing: Grocery Shopping: First, like I mentioned before, it's called Food Shopping. If you were to go with me to Waitrose, our food store of choice, we would grab a trolley outside (not a cart) and enter the store through a slowly opening automatic door. The trolley is a wonder of movement, having four independently rotating wheels. That means you can move your trolley from side to side, forward and backward, and even kitty-corner if you so choose. It sort of threw me at first, like the trolley had a mind of its own and wouldn't go straight. Now I just let Tim drive. It solves everything.

Anyway, the produce is on display in sort of bin-like containers. There is a wide variety and the produce is good. We buy mostly organic veggies. I think I've already told you that zuccinnis are corgettes and aubergines are eggplants.

Then we pass what I affectionately call The Wall O' Cheese. Forget mild, medium and sharp cheddar. We've got regional cheeses, cheeses from specific farms, cheeses mixed with herbs and fruits, cheeses made from lots of different kinds of milk that came from different animals and lots and lots of variety.

I told Tim that I needed some Swiss cheese once. He asked, "What kind?" I stared at him with a blank look and fell into confusion. Was I supposed to know the answer to that? What kind?? "The kind with holes!" I replied. He showed me like 8 different types of Swiss cheese and said I needed to choose. And, to complicate cheese matters, just beyond the prepackaged section we were in, there's a deli counter that has wheels and wheels and blocks and chunks of even more cheeses.

More items of interest: Eggs are not refrigerated here. They wait in their nifty cartons for you to pluck them from the shelf. And, we don't refrigerate them at home either. It reminds me of Thailand sort of.

Marshmallows are white and pink. Don't know why. And they don't come in big jumbo packs or in the miniature size. They're actually better tasting than the ones in the US because they're not as airy.

Chocolate is better here. Sorry to have to break it to you. Yummy. And all kinds of variety.

Also, "chips" here are french fries. Chips are called "crisps". So there's an aisle of "crisps" with interesting flavors like Lamb & Mint Jelly and Chicken. I'm not kidding. I kinda want to try them, just to say I did. Of course, I want to try everything, if you must know. I walk down the aisles of Waitrose slowly, scanning the shelves. It really is fascinating. Tim's been really patient with my experimentation.

One of my latest quests is to find a suitable substitute for Crisco. They have "vegetable fat" and lard and margarine (pronounced marjareen, of course). I tried to make our family's never-fail choc chip oatmeal cookies and they just spread out all over the pan. I was disappointed but decided there just HAS to be a shortening that will work, and by heavens, I'll find it.

Oh! and I made a gingerbread cake last night. This is the thing. The recipe calls for molasses. Molasses here is much stronger than treacle so I used treacle. Well, treacle is much stronger than the American version of molasses, as evidenced by the almost chocolate color of the cake, and so, I find myself looking for something that will work that isn't molasses, but is.

There are loads of different kinds of sugar. In the States, ya got yer basic white, brown, dark brown and powdered. Here you have castor (very fine crystals for baking), granulated (larger crystals for drinks and cereal), demerara (even bigger crystals that are slighty brown like a very light brown sugar), light soft brown sugar, dark soft brown sugar, and I'm sure a few more that I haven't discovered yet.

Speaking of sugar, I made the Clone of Cinnabon recipe a few weeks ago. I thought I was going to score big points with everyone, especially Hannah, our resident sweet tooth, but no. I picked her up from school that day and she asked what we were having for dinner. I told her and then added, "And guess what? I made cinnamon rolls!" to which she turned around and with a scowl on her face said, "Can't you ever make anything nice??" Evidently she hates cinnamon. I had to laugh. The surefire win wasn't surefire at all. Isn't that the way of things?