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.