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!")