Saturday, February 25, 2006

February 24, 2006

This is an excerpt from an email I sent to my family on both sides. I left out stuff that was to the family. Like all the I love yous and stuff. But don't take offense. I'm sure I love whoever's reading this, too! Consider yourself missed and loved.

Hello from England!

It snowed yesterday! It started out as little ice chips that melted as soon as they hit the ground and evolved into fluffy tufts of real snow that melted as soon as they hit the ground. It made me think of home. Then it just made me feel cold.

Someone said to me when I first got here, "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes." It's totally true! In one day it will be sunny, then rainy, then windy, then foggy. I like variation, so I'm enjoying it. Except when I didn't bring an umbrella on a walk to get the girls from school because, foolish me, I thought because it was sunny when I left that it would still be sunny on our way back. Tsk, tsk.

Our ward is having curry night tonight and I'm making green Thai curry. They eat a lot of curry here. I've heard it's because the food used to be considered so bland that it's sort of like a backlash--they went for the exact opposite. I love it, of course.

Cooking for the kids continues to be a "growing" experience. I'm enjoying it, but I'm not sure they are. I've made some vegetarian stuff for dinner at least twice a week at Tim's request. The other night I made some vegetable chili with brown rice and it looked and smelled really good...until I put almost two tablespoons of hot chili powder in instead of two teaspoons. The boys liked it, they said, their noses dripping and their eyes watering. We put lots of plain yogurt on it so it would be tolerable. I made a note in the recipe book to be sure to add mild chili powder next time. Then, even if I do make the same measuring mistake, it won't make them rue the day I entered the house and began cooking for them.

Bubble and Squeak. Saw it on the canned food shelf about a week ago. I started laughing and asked my dear spouse what in the heck that was! I told him we had to buy a can just because of the name. He said it's a term for leftovers that you pull out of the fridge and put together and eat with meat or something. I just like the name.

He also bought me a can of Mushy Peas. Haven't tried that yet. We had fish and chips last Saturday at my request. The fish and chips place is also a Chinese food take-away. They say take-away here, not take-out. Oh, and a "bap" is a roll you put hamburgers on. I laughed about that for awhile. Bap. What the heck?? It doesn't stand for anything. I don't know what it means. Well, I do. It's a roll you put hamburgers on.

Kathryn will ask for her vitamins the way I pronounce it and the kids will shriek, "NO! It's not VItamins! (long I) It's Vitamins! (short i)" So now she will say, "You say vitamin (long I) and I say vitamin (short i)." She does that with a lot of words now, like tomato and tomahto. She's sitting right next to me playing and I hear her mix in the American pronunciations for some words along with all the English pronunciations  My beloved husband's right. By the time she is 5 she'll have a very strange accent. Amerglish?

We go food shopping, not grocery shopping. Sweaters are jumpers. Tennis shoes are trainers. The garbage can is the rubbish bin. Compost is pronounced compahst. I still say compost. We recycle and have compost bins. I take it out to the garden (not the yard, of course) because the kids get grossed out by all the worms eating up the material we put in. We had a big debate about the correct pronunciation of parmesan. Do not say pants instead of trousers. If you do, you're referring to underwear and it could make for an embarrassing situation. I've done it. Don't do it.

Tim and I will probably be taking a long weekend for his birthday in June to....Venice. Um. Yeah. It's so close we can go for a long weekend. Amazing. For our summer vacation we'll probably go to Cornwall. They all love it there. I want to plan a fieldtrip to Bath to see the Roman ruins and I need to familiarize myself with all the other things we have around here. There's so much to see and do. I'm still trying to discover all the things to see and do in this house and garden...

I'd better go and make some lunch for Kathryn. She'll be off to nursery in an hour and then I'll have 2 hours to get some things done around the house before everyone comes home from school.

Hope you are all well.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

February 23, 2006

It snowed today! It started out as little ice crystals that melted as soon as it hit the pavement and evolved into puffy tufts of real snow that melted as soon as it hit the pavement. It made me think of home. Then it simply made me feel cold.

I probably overreacted tonight to our youngest having a temper tantrum and took her straight to bed where she cried her little eyes out. I feel like a heel. I worry about whether she is bonding to me or not. I worry about whether my love for the children that is very much like my love for my nieces and nephews will evolve into parental love and I wonder how that will feel different or how it will change me and how it will change how I feel about them. I worry that I don't understand it because I haven't given birth to any children of my own and will probably never give birth to any children of my own and that I'll never make the transformation that I so dearly want to make.

Sort of personal, but heck, when am I not? As my boss said once, if it's not coming out of my mouth, it's all over my face. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Oh, and...

I realized while talking to my just-turned-13 year old nephew that this was the first birthday of his entire life that I wasn't there to celebrate with him. I got a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as I tried to finish my conversation with him. It was my first really graphic taste of knowing what I'm missing at home. I wouldn't trade being here with my husband and family for the world, but there is no doubt that this separation is hard and will get harder in some ways. I think I've been too busy and bewildered to be able to think about it and I think I've decided to try to stay too busy and bewildered for awhile yet. It involves less homesickness...and less crying.

February 16, 2006

It's been AGES since I last wrote. I'm sitting on my bed getting ready to take my morning shower. The children are all home because it's half-term and they get to stay home for a week. I have been practicing the art of balancing "Gee kids, perhaps we should do a little cleaning and productive activity because that's the responsible thing to do," with "Gee kids, I've been waiting 20 years to do fun and crafty things with kids of my own so let's go crazy!" We've made Valentine's cards for each other, baked and decorated sugar cookies, played with salt dough and we're still going to make stained-glass cookies (the kind that you melt hard clear candies, um, I mean, "sweeties" into so they look like stained glass) and probably about three or four other things. By the time Monday rolls around, they're going to be begging to go to school. "Please Kari! Not another project!"

Speaking of crazy (go ahead and reread the first paragraph--it's in there) yesterday I took the three youngest girls to a place called Krazy Kids. (I just love the marketing genius of business owners who substitute the wrong letters in wrong places so you have to explain to your three year old who's learning to read that sometimes people spell things wrong on purpose because they think it's clever.)

You pay almost 5 pounds (I don't have a British pound sign on my computer yet) to get into this Costco-sized warehouse...well, probably more like half a Costco-sized warehouse, to let your children go "krazy." There are tables and couches set up so you can watch your little darlings climb up things, slide down things and throw things at each other. Luckily the girls had been there before so they knew what to do. I took along my "Everyday Parents Raising Great Kids" book, thinking their busy-ness would give me a few minutes to learn all things parental, but alas, the children needed things like slushies and bathroom breaks, so I only got a few pages read. Oh, and we call it "going to toilet" here. No polite euphemisms. Just say it like it is. You're going to do a "wee" in the toilet, so just say so.

At said "Krazy Kids", they have a concessions stand and it's posted everywhere that you can only consume food purchased on the premises. Of course, it's also posted that the average wait for your food is 45 minutes, but mummies line up to order anyway. They have a wonderful assortment of items on the menu like cod and chips, shaped cod and chips, chips in a bowl, and baked beans and chips. They also have jacket potatoes, crisps, BBQ (when available), and flapjacks.

Let me translate. Chips = french fries. Evidently, most things are served with them. You even dip your chips into the baked beans--another popular item here. Who knew that the simple (and evidently terribly tasty to the English tongue) baked bean could enjoy such a rampant following?

Jacket potatoes are baked potatoes. I noticed in Costco last night that they serve jacket potatoes with your choice of fillings including tuna, chilli (I spelled it correctly in British), and coleslaw. Yes. Coleslaw. Yum Yum. (And yes, COSTCO! And YEA! to that. But don't get the smoothie at our Reading Costco. It's not the red and luscious fruity thing from the American brother-store. No. Here it's a weak and pink artificial-tasting icy thing that makes you sad you spent a whole pound, 15 p on it. That p is for pence. Just in case you aren't Brit savvy yet.)

Crisps = potato chips or things that resemble potato chips or things that resemble thin, flavored styrofoam strips. Whatever. And kids love them. Just like in America.

Flapjacks. You thought you had me there, didn't you? Just wondering why they're serving pancakes at a kids' recreational facility, right? WRONG! Flapjacks are a sort of bar cookie thing loosely consistant of oats, sugar, and some other stuff. I think I'm expected to learn how to make them. I'm skeptical. Dubious even. I'd better find some recipes.

Speaking of recipes, trying new ones on five children of varying ages is...well...sort can I put it? Fun? Kind of? The boys are old enough to try to be polite, bless their hearts. The middle one sort of tries the food and then openly declares her distaste and the youngest ones just flat out won't put a morsel into their mouths. My beloved asked me to add vegetarian meals to our menu repertoire, so I have dutifully tried. So far, we've had "Shepherdess Pie" that consisted of so many different vegetables and beans I still can't remember all of them, topped with mashed sweet potato, and Vegetable Cous Cous in which I added too much saffron (not being an avid nor an experienced saffron user) and too many cinnamon sticks (though the recipe was doubled, so technically, I was correct). When I told Number 4 last night that we were having something from their old menu, she breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Finally! Something normal!"

At least I've mastered the old menu. Well...kinda. We didn't have enough creme freshe (sp??) the other night (and yes, you buy it in stores like sour cream and it's not something exotic you have to make on your own ala Martha Stewart) to make the chicken and mushrooms, so I added plain yogurt. I used plain yogurt all the time as substitute for sour cream in America. I thought it was a clever idea. I smiled as I added it thinking, they'll never know! Well. The milk solids in the yogurt decided to secede and showed up as tiny globs of white all through the mix. Then I added milk thinking I could even it all out, but it decided to join the yogurt rebellion making more and bigger globs. Then I added corn flour (aka cornstarch) to thicken it up and rescue the whole mess, but by the end, chaos and not so great chicken and mushrooms ensued. I think that was when I started crying and told Tim that I just wanted ONE meal to turn out! Just ONE would be nice! That I didn't want the kids to think I totally sucked as a cook! I had visions of them falling into the arms of their friends at school, weak from hunger, begging for something to suppliment the horrible slop they were suffering through at home. "Anything you can spare, mate-- anything! I'll take chips! Baked beans! A flapjack! Flavored styrofoam-like crisps! Anything!" I shudder at the thought.

Maybe that's why I'm making cookies this week. Lots of them. Sugar makes anyone a good cook.

Monday, February 06, 2006

February 5, 2006

My husband just picked up the peach-colored satiny belt tie from my bath robe and tied it around his head. He looks like an extra from the movie Xanadu. I can't stop laughing.

Friday, February 03, 2006

February 3, 2006

Went to an auction preview with one of my new English friends. She's German by birth, but now English by living arrangements. She's going to take me to cool places like Stonehenge. Suddenly Spinal Tap comes to mind. Hmmm...

Anyway, we're not going to the auction tomorrow because there wasn't enough good stuff. We'll go some other time and I'm really excited about it. We took an Albanian friend along with us who fed us a wonderful lunch. I met a new friend yesterday, an Italian woman who's lived her for 50 years named Nina. Short for Antonina. So cool hearing an Italian woman with an English accent. Italian/English. Anyway, very nice woman.

Random things:

Kids clothes are measured by age, not size. So the underwear will have a tag that reads Ages 3-4. So, like, what do fat or short kids do? I'm just glad they don't do clothes for adults that way.

People are weighed in stones. Women talk about wanting to lose two stone. Or wanting to weigh 10 stone. Or wondering if I can believe they weighed 14 stone at one time. I am bewitched and bewildered by this and just nod or shake my head, depending on what seems appropriate at the time.

They sell crumpets here. English muffins=sad and poor rip off of crumpets. I love crumpets. We don't buy them often because evidently I don't want to weigh 12 stone.

Organic is big here. Lots and lots of things are organic. We eat organic things. I think I'm becoming a hippie.

It's perfectly normal for a man you don't know to call you "love" and a woman to call you "mate".

There's a woman who has a daughter in the same nursery class as our youngest. She has a wonky eye, is really rather friendly and seems to know everyone with a child in the class. She brings chocolate to her children and has the quintissential (sp?) lower class accent with all the word choices you'd just expect to hear out of her mouth. Like "Dahlin" and "mate" and "nuffin". I am charmed. I smile like an idiot at everyone who walks by just because they're English and I'm happy to be here among them.

People have asked me several times now if moving here was a step down. Strangers. The man who sat in the little tiny chair across from me on parent's visit day at the nursery and called me love.

More later. Got to go pick up a child.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

February 2, 2006

It's week three of the Great and Grand English Adventure and things just get better and better! I am amazed at how the family relationships are evolving and how the kids are responding. I am truly loving being a stay-at-home wife and mother. I have all these cool cookbooks I've waited years to be able to use and I feel like a kid in a candy store deciding what to make next. I'm learning my way around the house, figuring out how to cook on the stove/oven ("cooker") that is about 2/3 the size of an American oven and in the kitchen that is half the size of my condo's kitchen (which is still for sale by the way, if you know anyone wanting a nifty little condo in Orem, Utah).

The books I've been stockpiling on child development and parenting are suddenly coming in handy. I'm so glad that my husband (still not used to saying that yet!) insisted that I bring my books. They're like little beacons of happiness for me when I see them and pick them up and fan the pages looking for information. They remind me of different stages of my life and of all the hopes and prayers and wishes I had that have now come true. I am still amazed every day.

I know I sound like a Pollyanna and I'm sure there are people out there shaking their heads and muttering under their breath, "Yeah, but you don't know what it's REALLY like yet..." but I don't care. I am incredibly happy and I don't see how this doesn't continue to get better. Yes there are difficult aspects to it, but the good stuff WAY outweighs the hard stuff. I am so grateful that these changes didn't happen until now because I know I wouldn't have appreciated the little moments as much as I do. Things like...

-reading the first Artemis Fowl book aloud to the three middle kids (Chris, Sarah & Hannah) while my husband puts our youngest to bed.
-finally getting Hannah to let me help her with her spelling homework and then, having her learn the words so well that she can't wait to get home to have random spelling quizzes with me before her weekly test in school. (I'm anxiously awaiting 4:30 today when I can go pick her up from gymnastics so I can find out how she did on this week's test. It's the first one since we started working on it. If she gets 10/10 she'll get a merit and she wants a merit really bad.)
-Tim calling me from work just to say hello.
-Kathryn telling me for the first time yesterday that she loved me.
-our oldest, Lizzie, chatting with me enthusiastically about all things personal, social and educational.
-tucking in the girls at night.
-getting Steve to laugh or smile that fabulous (and less rare now) big grin.
-making lunch for Kathryn every day before I walk her to nursery.
-driving practice late at night in the middle of nowhere with my husband, patient man that he is.

There are so many moments, so many things I can't even begin to relate that have happened. I need to write more. I need to make the time to write this all down because it is so fleeting and so quick and so everchanging that it's never the same day twice and if I don't stop to record some of this, it will be lost to me forever, and I can't have that. It's too dang cool to lose.