Saturday, 29 December 2007

6 Days













I love the time between Christmas and New Years. I always lose track of time. I never know what day of the week it is. We stay up late watching old films on television or DVD. We play with all the toys we've gotten and taken advantage of the empty mornings and afternoons to indulge in true leisure activities. We sleep in late and read our new books in bed. We stay in our pajamas as long as we can.


On Thursday we had lunch with Marc's Aunt Mary and Uncle John Marc's cousins, Simon and Nikki (and her husband, Kevin) joined us as did Mary's mum, Dorothy, and Mary's brother, Mike. There were 4 generations represented. Lunch was a buffet and there were more than 6 puddings to choose from including my favourite Queen of Puddings! I think I had seconds on the lunch buffet and thirds at the pudding buffet. The children played games with the adults including one never ending Neighbour Beggar card game between Seb and Simon. It was never clear to me who won the game of Frustration. As always it was a relaxing afternoon off for me. John makes a wicked gin and tonic!


On Friday we went to the cinema to see Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium. The children had their own little boxes of popcorn and drinks and sat silently engrossed in the film. It was a fun and magical story although Dustin Hoffman's character got on my nerves towards the end. He seemed to be playing an older Rain Man. Natalie Portman was lovely but my favourite chracter was the little boy played by Zach Mills. He was fabulous!



Today we have a long walk planned through the Great Park. The sky is cloudless bright blue and the air is very crisp. We will need to bundle up but the fresh air will do us good!



PS In case you haven't noticed I received a fabulous digital SLR camera from Father Christmas and have been snap snapping away at about 80 photographs/day. Photobucket is loving me!

Friday, 28 December 2007

Motherhood Quotes

A mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary."
- Dorothy Canfield Fisher


"Motherhood is like Albania-- you can't trust the descriptions in books, you just have to go there yourself."
- Marni Jackson


"My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it."
-Mark Twain


"Being a mother is like taking your heart out of your chest and watching it walk around."
- Author Unknown


"There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one."
- Jill Churchill


"I want my children to have all the things I couldn't afford. Then I want to move in with them."
- Phyllis Diller


"Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to 'jump at de sun.' We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground."
- Zora Neale Hurston


"A mother is someone who dreams great dreams for you, but then she lets you chase the dreams you have for yourself and loves you just the same."
- Author Unknown

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Crackers


Here in the UK they have this quaint little tradition of Christmas crackers at the dinner table. These are not the crackers you eat with cheese. They call those biscuits. (Don't ask!)

Before you start eating dinner you pull open your cracker with your neighbour. They open with a bang (pop from a wee bit of explosive).

Inside you find a brightly coloured paper hat, a little plastic toy (unless you buy very expensive crackers), and a very corny joke.

Everyone puts on the hat for at least 1 minute. Some forget they put it on and wear it for the entire meal (Marc). I hate all the waste but my children love them and I've been warned that it just ain't Christmas without the crackers.

I've collected this year's jokes.

Why can't you play cards in the jungle?
There are too many cheetahs.

What lives at the bottom of the sea and shivers?
A nervous wreck.

What do you call a musical fish?
A piano-tuna.

What are false teeth like stars?
They come out at night.

What's worse than a giraffe with a sore throat?
A centipede with sore feet.

What do you call an elephant that flies?
A jumbo jet.

And my personal favourite......drum roll please......

Where are the Andes?
At the end of you armies.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Ice Skating

We took the children ice skating for the very first time ever!

Wet Christmas

The heavens opened up and the rain poured down. While all you on the other side of the Atlantic (and no doubt other parts of the world) enjoyed a white Christmas, we here in the UK enjoyed a decidedly damp Christmas.

To be honest, we hardly noticed.

We had a glorious day and here's the evidence!

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Excitement of Christmas Morning

I loved this article especially since my sister and I spoke on the phone at 5:50 this morning when I awoke and she was just getting ready for bed. I always awake before my children on Christmas morning.

Christmas Recipe

1/2 cup Hugs
2 tsp Kisses
3/4 cup Smiles
4 cups Love
1 cup Holiday Cheer
1/2 cup Peace on Earth
3 tsp Christmas Spirit
2 cups Goodwill Towards Men
1 sprig Mistletoe
1 medium size bag Christmas Snowflakes

Mix and Enjoy!

Best Wishes

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all . . .


and a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great, (not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country or is the only "AMERICA" in the western hemisphere), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, or choice of computer platform of the wishee.


(By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.)

Monday, 24 December 2007

Happy Birthday Abigail!


Four years ago this morning Abigail entered my life. It was not an easy day. It was both a great joy and the darkest day of my life.

Uncle John had pronounced in early December that he just knew this baby wasn't going to wait for 2004. I replied I just wanted to get through Christmas.

But that wasn't to be.

I had been waiting for her arrival since my waters had broken on 22 December. I hadn't gone into labour and on the evening of the 23 December 2003 the doctor told me I would have to have a c-section the next morning.

I was expecting this. Sebastian had been safely left with Uncle John and Auntie Mary and we knew Christmas would have to be put on hold.

The process had changed quite significantly since I had Sebastian just a few years earlier. The epidural was administered in the operating room and within a few minutes Abigail was delivered into my arms. She was gorgeous.

They took her to a side of the room and cleaned her up and delivered her back into my waiting arms. I was never going to let her go.

Unlike with Sebastian they did take me to a separate recovery room and I held on to Abigail for all my life in the recovery room. She took to my breast immediately and ate like a champion.

Marc and I were the beaming parents of a beautiful little angel.

Marc decided to leave me alone so he could go tell the world of waiting friends and family of our newest member. He needed to grab a bag from the car.

Whilst he was gone and midwife and doctor entered the room asking if Abigail had been grunting the entire time. I said yes. They frowned. I held her tighter.

The nurse pried her from my arms and examined her. Then the doctor examined her. Then they told me they needed to take her away. I said they needed to wait for my husband to return. They said they needed to take her now. I asked them to please wait. They said no. I couldn't move. I still couldn't feel my legs from the epidural.

Marc returned to find me wailing and without our daughter. They wheeled me into the Special Care Unit and there was my daughter in an incubator with little tubes. They let me hold her which wasn't an easy thing to do with all the tubes.

She was the most adorable little bundle you could possibly imagine.

We fought long and hard over the next 4 days to get the hospital to release her. She struggled to breastfeed but only because they were giving her glucose and they kept saying my milk hadn't come in. I very patiently explained it wasn't going to come in if they didn't let me feed her. I was pumping for England hoping my milk would come in. I would make the long walk and down 3 floors to feed her or attempt to feed her every 3 hours. I was drugged to the max on morphine so I felt very little pain but I was exhausted.

Then she got jaundice. Of course she got jaundice. She was locked up in a basement with no sunlight.

Marc and I entertained the idea of kidnapping our own baby from the hospital.

And then they released me from the hospital and told me to go home. Without her. My heart was being ripped out from my chest. I couldn't breath.

But my son needed me at home. He hadn't even got to have his Christmas. So I left.

I went home that night and Marc and I returned to the hospital every 3 hours for the feeding. I didn't want anyone but me holding her or changing her nappy or feeding her. The darkest depth of my misery was when Marc and I were returning home from our 3 am feeding and the nurses were complaining about Abigail's jaundice. I felt like they were never going to let me take her home. We'd been told every day tomorrow but tomorrow never seemed to come.

I felt like I had made a horrible mistake just letting the nurse take her from me that very first time. I should have never let her go.

At that precise moment, I fell into the deepest darkest black hole. I told Marc that maybe we should just leave her. Clearly, I couldn't take care of her and if we left her at the hospital there would surely be someone who could do a much better job.

Marc stopped the car in the middle of the road and held my face as I sobbed. He said there was no one who would love this baby as much as us and no one equipped to take as good of care as us. We would get that baby no matter what.

I got home and went to bed. Marc stayed up the entire morning never once going to bed. He researched jaundice inside and out (thank God for the internet) and by the time he roused me to return to the hospital for the next feeding he knew more about jaundice than the nurses at the hospital. His commitment to our wee little girl inspired me to fight on.

On the morning of 29 December the doctors had at last returned from their holidays and the first real doctor took one look at my daughter and said get this healthy baby out of here. I could have kissed that woman!

Today that little girl that we fought so hard for is 4 years old. She is a bursting bubbling mischievous cherub. She makes us laugh. She's clever. She loves to dance and sing. She's got an imagination to rival JRR Tolkein. She loves kisses and cuddles.

And we love her more than we could possibly ever imagined. I am so proud to have the honour of watching this little girl grow.

The Royal Channel

I love the way the Royal Family appears to adhere to tradition and still be a trend setter. Despite being saddled with ancient traditions and protocol, back in the late 1700s they were the first of British families to bring a Christmas tree indoors from the outdoors and decorate it lavishly. The Queen's crown includes 4 pearls from Queen Elizabeth I's crown. Now that is history.

But time doesn't stand still.

The Monarchy has launched The Royal Channel, their very own YouTube Channel. You can watch all the Christmas Day messages (including this year which will go up as soon as it is broadcast live).

Her Majesty is so hip!

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Christmas Know Me

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping with lots of ribbons (really not very climate friendly)

2. Real or fake tree? Fake but only because dogs, children carpet & cats just don't mix with real trees!

3. When do you put up the tree? Dec 1

4. When do you take the tree down? Jan 2

5. Do you like eggnog? Yes.....the more rum the better

6. Favorite gift received as a child? cannot remember any gifts received as a child except a snuggle bag all 5 of us received. Mum must have found a bargain!

7. Hardest person to buy for? Anthony, my brother-in-law

8. Easiest person to buy for? Abigail....I can't stop myself!

9. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Croqueted ear-warmers that looked more like nipple warmers. But, it is the thought that counted.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail, hand addressed with personal message to everyone (otherwise what's the point?)

11. Favorite Christmas Movie? Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

12. When do you start shopping for Christmas? all year long

13. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes but not anymore!

14. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Prime Rib, popcorn balls

15. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Coloured, lots of them

16. Favorite Christmas song? Oh but there are so many....The Christmas Song (aka)Chestnuts
Roasting on an Open Fire, I Wonder as I Wander, Blue Christmas (Elvis), Do You Hear What I Hear, Over the River and Through the Woods (we used to sing this on the way home from Nanny's).......(My husband hates Christmas music!)

17. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Home

18. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers? Yes + Rudolph

19. Angel on the tree top or a star? Used to be a star, then my son made an angel when he was in Nursery and that has taken pride of place for the last 4 years

20. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Miss opening pressies Christmas Eve with Nanny and my Dad's family but we started a new tradition a few years ago and give each other new pajamas on Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning we rip in with a vengeance

21. Most annoying thing about this time of year? So many ideas, so many parties, so much alcohol, so much great food, so little time, so close to New Year's resolutions.

22. What I love most about Christmas? Seeing the magic through the eyes of my kids, knowing that they believe in Santa (a large, bearded, old man who delivers presents to all the children in the world from a flying sleigh powered by reindeer all in one night). Blind Faith! I love it!

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Early Christmas Present

Marc & I gave our family an early Christmas present last night when we took possession of our new family piano. New to us anyway. And not exactly a gift.

Sebastian had done so well at his piano recital I felt the dear boy deserved his very own piano. Running next door to squeeze in practice on the neighbour's piano was proving difficult. I was keen to ensure we didn't inconvenience anyone which isn't the easiest of things when you're trying to get a 6 year old to practice piano in between everything else he does.

We approached the music store with confidence. The music teacher had assured us that a keyboard was fine as long as the key were piano weighted. I thought 70 or so would be more than adequate. Ooooops!

We missed a zero. We went home.

We started where all discouraged stated: eBay. But even there the keyboards were was beyond our budget. And then I thought, hey, I know tons of people trying to get rid of pianos.

Proper pianos! Who in their right mind would spend loads of money for a keyboard (technically an inferior instrument in my twisted mind) when you get could a piano for free?

We scoured the classifieds and found the perfect piano. One of Marc's customers is a moving company and they agreed to pick it up on Friday afternoon and deliver it to our home.

This piano is nearly 90 years old and requires some tuning. It has been lovingly played despite being a bit dinged and scratched.

We moved it into the dining room and picked up the children at the child minder's. It took the children a while to discover it. But Sebastian's eyes lit up when he saw it.

He immediately sat down and started playing jingle bells. He was thrilled to have "his very own piano" and told us that this was a great present.

I love the sound of a child playing music in the home. And now that child is mine and it is my home. A great gift indeed! To us as much to him and Abigail!

Web 2.0 Bubble

The Next Survivor Series

Six married men will be dropped on an island with one car and 3 kids each for six weeks.

Each kid will play two sports and either take music or dance classes. There is no fast food.

Each man must take care of his 3 kids; keep his assigned house clean, correct all homework, complete science projects, cook, do laundry, and pay a list of 'pretend' bills with not enough money. In addition, each man will have to budget in money for groceries each week.

Each man must remember the birthdays of all their friends and relatives, and send cards out on time. Each man must also take each child to a doctor's appointment, a dentist appointment and a haircut appointment . He must make one unscheduled and inconvenient visit per child to the Urgent Care (weekend, evening, on a holiday or right when they're about to leave for vacation).


He must also make cookies or cupcakes for a social function.


Each man will be responsible for decorating his own assigned house, planting flowers outside and keeping it presentable at all times. The men will only have access to television when the kids are asleep and all chores are done.


Each father will be required to know all of the words to every stupid song that comes on TV and the name of each and every character on cartoons.


Each man will have to make an Indian hut model with six toothpicks, a tortilla and one marker; and get a 4 year old to eat a serving of peas.


Each man must adorn himself with jewelry, wear uncomfortable yet stylish shoes, keep their nails polished and eyebrows groomed. The men must try to get through each day without snot, spit-up or barf on their clothing.


During one of the six weeks, the men will have to endure severe abdominal cramps, back aches, and have extreme, unexplained mood swings but never once complain or slow down from other duties.


They must try to explain what a tampon is for when the 6-yr old boy finds it in the purse.


They must attend weekly school meetings, church, and find time at least once to spend the afternoon at the park or a similar setting. He will need to read a book to the children each night without falling asleep, and then feed them, dress them, brush their teeth and comb their hair each morning by 7:00. They must leave the home with no food on their face or clothes.


A test will be given at the end of the six weeks, and each father will be required to know all of the following information: each child's birthday, height, weight, shoe size, clothes size and doctor's name. Also the child's weight at birth, length, time of birth, and length of labor, each child's favorite colour, middle name, favorite snack, favorite song, favorite drink, favorite toy, biggest fear and what they want to be when they grow up.


They must clean up after their sick children at 2:00 a.m. and then spend the remainder of the day tending to that child and waiting on them hand and foot until they are better.


They must have a loving, age appropriate reply to, 'You're not the boss of me'.


The kids vote them off the island based on performance.


The last man wins only if...he still has enough energy to be intimate with his spouse at a moment's notice.

Friday, 21 December 2007

A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there lived a beautiful maiden.

Along came a dashing young Knight and asked her to marry him

The beautiful maiden said "NO!"

And the beautiful maiden lived happily ever after and went shopping, dancing, camping, drank whole bottles of wine, always had a clean house, never had to cook, did whatever the hell she wanted, never argued, didn't get fat, travelled, had many lovers, didn't save money and had all the hot water to herself.

She went to the theatre, never watched sports, never wore friggin lacy underwear that went up her bum, had high self-esteem, never cried or yelled, and looked fabulous all the time.


The End

Thursday, 20 December 2007

After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell

This is the debut novel from Ms O'Farrell and I am stunned. It's not so much the story. That's fairly predictable.

Spoiler Alert! (Skip the next paragraph is you are going to read book)
Woman doesn't feel part of her family as a girl. Fights with mother as a teenager. Finally falls in love as a woman. Husband dies tragically. Woman mysteriously ends up in coma. Woman comes back from coma after estranged father-in-law appears at bedside.

So, it all seems like it would be sappy and syrupy. But it's not. What makes this book so extraordinary is the way the story is constructed. The author jumps back and forth across time and location but you never feel lost. I never once lost my place or struggled to figure out where I was.

I am hoping for more from this author. I hope as she finds her feet she writes with more depth. I want to know her characters more. Other than the Alice and her grieving I never quite understood the motivation of any of the characters actions. Why did Alice's mother, Ann, commit adultery? Continuously for over 30 years? Why did her husband put up with it? Who were her sisters? What did the father-in-law feel when his son chose his shiksa over a nice Jewish girl?

This is a quick and compelling read. It filled the niche in my reading requirements before I embark on next moth's book group selection. I recommend it if you don't want to have to think too hard.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Oprah Again

I've had my ups and downs with Oprah. Sometimes she gets it and sometimes she soooo doesn't.

In the December 2007 issues of her O Magazine, she finally lost it. I always am so hard on myself when I read or listen to Oprah go on about how to throw the perfect party or buy the perfect jeans. Oh sure, she can hire help and if I had her money I could spend hours and hours scouring the stores for the perfect fitting pair of jeans.

Frankly, I don't and I can't.
She always she seems to know things for sure. I don't. What I knew yesterday isn't always what I know today. My memory is failing.

In Oprah's What I Know For Sure column (the very last page of the magazine), Oprah had a melt down. Not a screaming hysterical melt down but certainly a I am juggling too many balls and I just dropped them all sort of meltdown.

I have these meltdowns all the time, most recently just a few days ago.

My heart hurt when I red about Sophie, Oprah's dog, struggling with her health and the loving tender care she lavished on her. But to see Oprah admit that it had all caught up with her and she was full up just proved to me everything is not all that it appears to be. Some of her things didn't get done. Her dog didn't die (thank goodness). She isn't having a lavish party at Christmas. She doesn't have a Martha Stewart Christmas planned. Even with all her "people" she is just struggling to keep her head above water.

Swim Oprah Swim!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Grief

Grief is a horrible emotion. You have no control over its power. It feels like a dark cold cloud of paralyzing vapour that invades your blood stream and courses through your body and mind at irregular intervals.

I remember when my grandmother died. After I had hung up the phone I walked outside into the cold of the February air and knelt down on the cold brick of my back patio. My entire body shook as a primitive shriek of loss escaped out of my mouth. I moaned from inconsolable pain and the tears fell unburdened down my cheeks, my neck and rested in the bowl of my clavicle.

I was there for a long time. My husband, my neighbours, my children stood on the outside of my grief looking in knowing they were powerless to take it away or to do anything to diminish its grip on me. Marc simply put a blanket over me and let me be. It was one of the most touching things he has ever done.

The next day we flew out of Heathrow to Denver. Marc took care of the children as I sat weak and bewildered in my assigned seat. Without warning and without grace the tears would drip out of my eyes despite my stoic instructions to stop.

Not until I got to Denver and I embraced my sister did I feel any strength return to my soul. Until that moment I was unsure of how I could possibly stand. But she took from me and I took from her and somehow we got strong enough to hold up my father.

There were many dark moments in those next few weeks and there are still many gray days even these years later.

My grandmother was old. She had lived a full rich life. She had left a legacy in her children, her grand children and her great grandchildren. She had done what she came to do. I found comfort in that.

Not everyone has that luxury. Many of my friends have lost a loved one during this holiday season. Some of those have not lived long enough to complete their legacy and the holes they leave in our lives are larger than others. There is nothing to do but stand on the outside with a blanket to cover them when they get cold.

In this moment, I believe WH Auden said it best:

Funeral Blues
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever; I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood,
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W. H. Auden

Dissertation Interview

Yesterday I was interviewed by a young woman from Algeria. She is working on her MBA in International Studies and her dissertation is about women leaders in business and the alleged glass ceiling.

I enjoyed doing the interview. It gave me an opportunity to think about my career and the choices I have made. It gave me some insight to the impact those decisions and those around me have had on my current career trajectory.

I don't know if I helped or hindered her. I don't know if I proved or disproved her theories.

I do know that my career has never been the same since having children. I also know that I am glad it isn't.

Monday, 17 December 2007

One Thing After Another

This morning was the first full day of school holidays and we didn't get off to a very good start.

Sebastian woke up complaining of excrutiating pain n his neck. He had obviously slept in a position which created a sever crick in his neck. He couldn't walk. He couldn't even get himself positioned properly to do a wee.

We gave him some children's ibuprofen and put a wheat sock warmed up in the microwave around his neck. He was clearly in no shape to go out especially since we couldn't even get him dressed.

So I took Abigail to the child minders. Because we were behind schedule and the child minder's children are still in school she wasn't there and we had to wait for her to get home.

By the time I got to work there were no parking spaces left and I had to park offsite and wait for the mini bus.

I had missed a meeting due to my late arrival and spent the rest of the day struggling to catch up. I stayed behind schedule, never did catch up, had to rescheudle a meeting for after my return and left the office in a bit of a rush to pick up Abigail and swap Sebastian from Marc to me so Marc could get some work done.

When we got home I realised that I had forgotten to pick up a package at the post office so off we went again. I drove into Windsor and tried to park behind the post office. A man there said no parking. I explained that I had a sick child and couldn't leave him in the car far from where I was. He was rude, told me he didn't care and just walked away.

I tried to park close by, got out of the car and ran into the office. After waiting in the queue they informed me that I had to queue in the main office around the front. I couldn't leave the children in the car that long and I burst into tears.

A very nice women seeing how distressed I was then volunteered to stand by my car and watch the children whilst I ran in. When I got into the post office the queue was out the door and down the road.

That was enough for me. I decided to call it a day.

I headed back to the car, thanked the lady who had shown me some kindness and the grace and patience to sit with my children, and went home.

I will just pick up the package tomorrow. Because I am now on holiday!

Clay Art

Both of the children brought home some artwork made from clay.


Sebastian made a clay model of the Nativity. That would be Mary in blue and one of the three kings in gold next to Joseph. Poor king lost his crown which is propped up next to him awaiting repair. I love the little faces Sebastian has drawn on the characters.


The next piece by Abigail and is entitled Hedgehog. A very realistic portryal, if I say so myself. I reckon this could go in gallery.

The last but certainly not least piece is a diwali candle holder done in a vibrant pink accented with some stunning glitter. Just what every home requires.

No insurance could place a value on these pieces. They are priceless.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Party Carousel

Phew....I have sat down for the first time in about 5 days! I am sure that it is Saturday morning but only because my children are home from school and I do not have to go to work. But in just a couple hours I will be out the door again.

Our former neighbour, Gill, is treating me and the children to a production of Monster Hits at Norden Farm. We are so looking forward to it.

Last week was an endless carousel of Christmas parties, at work, at school, with friends. I had several evenings where I didn't get home before 1 am. We danced. We drank. We ate. We laughed. We have more than excessively done the Merry bit.

The company Christmas party was one of the best I've been to. My company is not renowned for throwing great Christmas parties but we outdid ourselves this year and just about everybody hit the dance floor for several hours! I doubt we were very productive the next day.

The children had Christmas parties on Thursday at school and Sebastian was sad to see one of his classmates, Hannah, go. She and her family are moving to Australia. Hannah and Sebastian have sat next to each other at their work tables since Reception and have grown quite close. Sebastian shed a few tears when he was unsure who he will work with in the New Year. Abigail was in her element partying the morning away at school. She talked a mile minute telling us all about that evening.

One of the biggest highlights of our Christmas celebrations is always the Carol Service at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle. The children spend the morning of their very last day of term at the service. One is struck by the sheer beauty of the architecture of the chapel and then the vast history contained within those Gothic walls simply overwhelms you. And then the children begin to sing. And it is magic. The last verse of O Come All Ye Faithful never fails to bring tears to my eyes. The choir is stunningly talented. It is one of the few times I see a chapel of that size and grandeur packed to standing room only.

My last day in the office is Monday. I will have some time off dedicated to shopping and holiday preparations. We've got still more parties to attend. Our babysitters are loving it!

And hopefully, I'll have a wee bit more spare time to pontificate here. Be safe in your holiday celebrations and remember only 9 more shopping days left!

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Happy Birthday Marc!


Today is my boy toy's birthday!

He is 34 and doesn't act a day over.....uh 16!

Seriously, today my husband is one year older and I love him! He keeps me young and makes me old.

He is your stereotypical English eccentric and if I can't find him in the house he is in the garage trying to blow it up with his biodiesel concoctions.

He teaches the children obscure facts and scientific trivia.

He makes me laugh.

Happy Birthday, sweetheart!

Monday, 10 December 2007

Denver Shootings

What in the world is going on over there?

Do y'all need me to come over and sort you out?

These tragedies are happening with increasing frequency. Last week it was Omaha. Next week __________?

What is going to be done to stop it? That's the question I'd be asking, Hillary, Rudy, Barack, John and all those other blooming idiots, if my vote counted! (Since I vote by proxy, I found out they don't count my vote - how sad is that?)

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Christmas Plays

Friday was an action packed day.

We started off the morning with Abigail's very first Christmas Performance. They combined the morning and afternoon nursery classes for the very first time. All the children were so excited they were bouncing. Of course the audience of more than 60 grownups put a wee bit of fear in them as they stood up on the stage. But that didn't stop them!

There wasn't a dry eye in the room by the time they had finished. It is an incredibly humbling experience to see these children just crack on. They've grown so much physically and emotionally since that first day in September. They've made friends and the teachers have provided them with a safe environment in which they have clearly built their self confidence.

Sebastian's performance as The Donkey in The Shineyest Star was that afternoon. This was his very last Pre-Prep Nativity Play as his career in Pre-Prep will be over in July. And it was his best!

He was one of three funny men playing the animals in the stable. They were masters of comic timing and everyone was laughing hysterically!

We were not allowed to take photographs or video the performance (all very professional, this is). I have ordered the professionally produced DVD and hope to have it by next week. If possible I will give you all a snippet of his comedy routine.

That evening was the Year2 Parent's Christmas Celebration at The Riverhouse. A great big Thank You goes out to the class mums who organised it. The venue was beautiful, the food delicious, and the drinks plentiful. I spent most of yesterday recovering from a few too many of those drinks.....

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Starring Abigail



These precious little children sang their hearts out in front of an audience of more than 60 people.

All of these children are only 3 or 4 years old. This is their first year in school and they go half days. They have learned the accompanying sign language as there is a hearing impaired girl in the afternoon class.

PS In case you struggled to spot her, she's the blonde little girl in the front row in the middle with her hair in plaits (braids). She is wearing a cream dress with a floral pattern. She is singing and signing very enthusiastically.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Omaha, NE

Is everyone in Omaha present and accounted for?

Christmas Art




The season is in full swing as we churn out the various pieces of holiday art work courtesy of my budding artists.

This weekend we hope to tackle the building of one gingerbread house.


PS That would be Gill helping the children spread glitter here, there and everywhere!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Rollover Beethoven

Q&A

I just love these.....if you've got a blog put your answers on there. If you don't get one or leave reply in comments!


1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Yes, a horse

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? I cry all the time.

3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING Yes

4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? Roast Beef

5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? 1 Son, 1 Daughter

6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? yes

7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Who me?

8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS no

9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? yes

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Capn Crunch

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? no

12. DO YOU THINK YOU'RE STRONG? yes

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia

14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE? Smile

15. RED OR PINK? pink

16. WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? my weight

17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? My Grandmother

18. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? Brown trousers, no shoes

19. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? lasagne

20. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? E O Chan Brazilian Carnival music

21. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Periwinkle

22. FAVORITE SMELLS? the sea, fresh sheets, my children after a bath

23. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? Maria

24. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? Yes, we go back a long way

25. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Baseball

26. HAIR COLOR? Blondish

27. EYE COLOR? Green

28. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? I should.......

29. FAVORITE FOOD? Lobster/Sushi

30. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy endings

31. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? Whale Rider

32. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? brown

33. SUMMER OR WINTER? Summer

34. HUGS OR KISSES? Hugs

35. FAVORITE DESSERT? Bread and Butter Pudding

36. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? Out of the Doll's House

37. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? 2007/2008 Calendar

38. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LATE LAST NIGHT? nothing

39. FAVORITE SOUND? children's unbridled laughter

40. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? Rolling Stones

41. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? Maldives

42. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? listening

43. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Omaha, NE

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Happy Blog Birthday!

http://bookburger.typepad.com/bookburger/images/2007/05/07/first_birthday_news_image_tcm185308.jpg
Today my blog is 1 year old.


I never could have imagined the journey this blog would take me on.


I've formed numerous new friendships. I've reconnected with misplaced friends and I've lost one. I've helped new friends find each other.


I've explored my life: past, present, and future. I've documented the life of my children in excruciating detail. I explored the experience of motherhood.


I've been published on Time.com.


I've learned a lot about myself and others.


I've vented about my career.


I've had ups and downs. I've suffered writer's block. I had writer's diarrhea.


I've bored you to tears and made you laugh out loud.


I wouldn't change it for the world. And the words will just keep coming.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Hunting Unicorns by Bella Pollen

On my continuing quest to understand the British psyche I was given this book. It was going to give me an insight into the aristocracy

Maggie Monroe is an American journalist for a fictional hard-hitting current affairs show Newsline, not I imagine to be not unlike 60 Minutes. Independent and fearless, the more cutting-edge the story, the happier she is.

She must not be very good at it because for reasons which are never clear she is given an assignment to investigate the decline of England's ruling classes. Not the exactly famine, genocide or war she was hoping for.

Meet the Earl and Countess of Bevan, eccentric, maddening and with family secrets to hide including Daniel, their eldest son and the part time narrator. He is portrayed as funny, attractive and hopelessly alcoholic. And Daniel's responsible brother Rory, to whom the responsibility of the family inheritance has fallen when Daniel dies in a drunken stupor. Rory is angry, self-mocking and strictly teetotal.

Rory becomes Maggie's guide to the landed gentry of the English countryside. They both allow their stereotypical judgements to colour their relationship. Soon, however,Maggie finds herself torn between her journalist habits of making a story be what you want it to be through clever editing and coming to terms with a greater understanding of the tradition, history and responsibility of the former ruling class.

I loved and hated the book. I was relieved to read at the end that the book originally started as a screenplay because it allowed me to forgive the obvious Hollywood scene setting and stage directions. The back and forth of the never ending conclusion was driving me crazy.

But buried beneath this slickness is a touching story which I found witty and hilarious. Pollen does a great job of switching vernacular between the American and English turn of phrase, particularly when Rory is speaking. I had vivid pictures of the characters in my mind and could see this turned into an excellent romantic comedy. I was horrified and somewhat amused to learn that some of the tales are allegedly true stories.

The book isn't going to win any prizes for literature and it won't find a permanent place on my book shelf. But I recommend it for a quick, funny, insightful read.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Developmental Milestones

I used to hate it when people would tell me to enjoy every minute of my children growing up. They tell me it all happens so fast. I would think to myself buried under mountains of laundry and dirty dishes exhausted from school runs and sleepless nights. This business of growing up can't happen fast enough.

But it does. And not in the way you think.

Oh sure, they learn to feed themselves. They learn to walk. Together you figure out potty training. and you send them off to school. One day they will leave home and more than likely start families of their own.

But these are the big milestones, the ones captured on video cameras and stacks of photographs. They pass through these developmental milestones and we brag to our friends and families.

But the milestones that pass far too quickly are the every day moments that just slip through your fingers. The ones where if you are not paying attention can completely escape your notice. the ones that once gone will be missed the most.

This morning my children got themselves bowls of cereal and glasses of juice whilst Marc and I slept. They didn't need our help at all.

This evening we sat down as a family to watch a film. I didn't have much hope. Most of our film viewing is either films suitable for the children and bore Marc and I stiff. Or the grownups find the films interesting and the children are bored stiff after 20 minutes.

Tonight we watched Whale Rider. Together. As a family. The children were gripped by the incredible story. Both asked us questions when they struggled to understand the subtleties of this poignant film. Sebastian gave us a rousing film review when it was over.

Our Christmas tree went up this afternoon. Marc hates decorating for Christmas and I have for the past 6 years done this tradition on my own taking extra care to make sure the children didn't break anything.

Tonight Marc put up the tree and hung the lights. I got out the boxes of decorations and Sebastian and Abigail got busy. In no time all the decorations were on the tree. Oh sure, I had to redistribute the decorations a bit to ensure there were some on the top but by and large they did it themselves.

The tree is beautiful and I was happy and sad at the same time as I watched them at work. Happy to see them having so much fun and doing such a beautiful job with boundless enthusiasm; Sad that we are one step closer to that point in time when they will have trees of their own.

There will come a time when Sebastian will no longer kiss and cuddle me with such wild abandon. There will come a time when Abigail doesn't tell me everything that happens during her day.

This afternoon our family posed for our 2007 family photograph. The photographer was a family friend who was trying out some new lighting. She was doing this for us as a favour and in return we were letting her get used to her new equipment. My children didn't complain. They pretended to be models and posed endlessly for her. They were polite and funny and charming. I was proud to be their mother.

I am relieved that I will have these photographs in years to come. They will remind me of today, a day when my children reminded me to enjoy every minute of my time with them. It doesn't last forever.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Cruising the Fax

When I was in high school every Saturday night we would head for the Fax. This would be West Colfax Avenue between Sheridan and Union Boulevard.

You could count on the girls wearing the smallest outfits and as much makeup as their mothers would let them out of the house with. And the boys would have the cars cleaned and polished.

We would collect gas money to cruise up and down the street east to west and back again all through the night until our curfews. The street was absolutely gridlocked between the hours of 8 pm and 11 pm. If you were a local you took a back street.

All the high schools were represented: Lakewood, Green Mountain, Alameda, Bear Creek, Arvada, Golden, Jefferson (if you were really unlucky!).

I met my first long term boyfriend, Troy, on the Fax. He had a red Toyota pickup. He was with his mate, Danny, who was later shot in the line of duty when he was a sheriff for Denver County.

I used to cruise with my girlfriends, Ev, Kerry and Susan. Susan was with me when I met Troy.

One time Susan and I decided we would stay out all night. We told our parents we were staying at each other's homes and we headed for the Fax. What we hadn't appreciated was that at 3 am everyone else had headed home and the Fax was a lonely place at that time of the night. We ended up sleeping very uncomfortably in her car that night.

After 5 years of the chaos the police cracked down on the cruising. And I don't think anyone cruises anymore. But I learned to talk to boys on the Fax. And it will always hold very fond memories for me.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Chicago's Alleys

Chicago is a fascinating city. It was one of the first big cities I ever traveled to as a young adult first let lose in the big wide world. It is home to my beloved (if ultimately unsuccessful) Chicago Cubs. The people of Chicago are scary and friendly in equal measure at the same time.

Scariest for me has always been walking the streets of Chicago. I've walked the streets of New York at all hours including the wee hours of the morning and never felt fear the way I've felt fear at just about anytime on the streets of Chicago, specifically down the alleys of the city. But it looks to me like Chicago is looking to make a change.

Read this story about what Chicago is doing about their alleys. I love it. Even if you believe those crazies (Janell and Joe) and think global climate change is a bunch of malarkey, you can't argue that everything Chicago is doing isn't a great idea!

Go Windy City!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Beaver Scout


Tonight Sebastian took his oath to be a Beaver Scout.

Beaver Scouts is the branch of Boy Scouts aimed at 6-8 year olds. He is a member of the Old Windsor Chapter.

He promised to do his best, to be kind and helpful and to love God.

Colfax Avenue

One of the things I miss most about living in the USA is getting a copy of the Sunday New York Times delivered to my home. I used to spend an entire week sorting my way through the vast volumes of news the paper delivered.

When I moved to the UK, I looked into getting the paper delivered to me here. The cost was exorbitant and I wouldn't have received the paper until midweek. Both reasons proved enough to prevent me from doing so. With the advances in the digital world and the internet I used to subscribe to the paper online but this was back in the days when I had to pay for the service and the download time made it an excrutiatingly painful process.

How much this has all changed! New York Times abridiged edition delivered to my hotmail account every day. Free!

This means I catch up on the news from my hotmail account in short spurts equivalent to reading the headlines without any of the annoying adverts.

Imagine my surprise when I found that my beloved Colfax Avenue in Colorado had made it to the headlines. I blogged about this infamous stretch of road in two different blog posts: one about my Hardest Job and one about my First Job both of which were located at two differnt locations but both on Colfax Avenue. Nice to read somethings never change and everything changes.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Eton Mess

Here is the story behind Eton Mess. The recipe uses ready made meringues and I'm not sure I'd trust a recipe from Wikipedia.

If you want to do the meringues yourself here is Delia's recipe for Eton Mess. She's an excellent cook and I reckon this would be fabulous.

The one I had replaced the strawberries of summer with bananas which are more readily available at this time of year. I reckon you can use just about any fruit. It also had some very fine lime zest which added an interesting tang to the sweetness of the meringue.

Whirling Weekend

You might have noticed I didn't post to my blog this weekend. It wasn't for a lack of desire or ideas. It was time. Normally I post early in the morning before the children are awake or late in the evening after the children have gone to bed.

Several things happened this weekend that prevented that from happening.

  1. Friday evening was the Christmas Party for the parents of the Nursery children (Abigail's class). Let's just say that when we realised what time it was the clock had long since chimed midnight and we were well and truly going to turn into pumpkins. Our neighbours were babysitting out of the kindness of the heart and we raced home. This was not easy to do given the vast quantities of wine we had drank. We had a brilliant time and our BIG THANKS go out to Megan and Rosie who worked very hard to get it organised. I highly recommend The Tower at The Harte and Garter Hotel in Windsor as a party venue for a large(ish) group of people. We were 16 and they handled it very well. The setting was lovely. The food was delicious. The requisite holiday menu was not shoved down our thoughts and we were left to choose from a delightful selection of meals. the conversation was delightful and intriguing. All in all, a great night was had by all, I believe.
  2. Saturday we ran into Windsor at the crack of dawn to get some Christmas and birthday shopping done. We struggled to find a few things we were looking for and had to try several different shops with no success. Sebastian is still missing grey trousers/tights and grey shirt for his donkey costume for the Nativity Play.
  3. Abigail went to a birthday party for a friend of hers and apparently ran around like a crazy banshee. When she got home she promptly fell asleep in the arms of her father without having a bath.
  4. Saturday evening Marc installed a server for our home computer use. This should allow me to share files between my Mac and PC making it easier for me to use photos and videos here on the blog. Well, that's the idea anyway....I'll let you know if we ever get it working properly.
  5. Sunday morning we were again up at the crack of dawn and fast and furiously wrapping Christmas gifts for Marc's extended family. They are spread out all over the place (eg, Liskeard down in Cornwall, England, Norway, and Cambridge, England) making it very difficult to get together at Christmas time. For the last 2 years, we have arranged to meet up the last weekend in November, have lunch together in a pub, and exchange our Christmas pressies. That's all well and good if you are super organised and have managed to complete your Christmas shopping in November. I can never manage this. So we wrapped the last of the gifts in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday. We didn't return from out journey until 6 last night. We then had the mad dash of ensuring Sebastian completed his homework for Monday morning. He was a whirling dervish!

Which pretty much sums up the weekend. As we didn't quite manage to get any laundry done this weekend, neither of the children had completely clean uniforms this morning. I've decided I don't care!

Rumours of a Hurricane by Tim Lott

As a American expatriate I am always on a mission to understand the native inhabitants of this fair island. I am in equal measure delighted and befuddled by their behaviour.

My husband finds my behaviour amusing but is uncertain if my actions are uniquely me or something endemic to the the entire population of the US of A. Hard to say, really.

Part of my daily life is spent trying to navigate the waters of the cultural differences between the Americans and British.

A while back a member of the Thames Valley American Women's Club (of which I was on the board as their newsletter editor), gave me this book. I finally found it at the top of my pile and decided to see if I could fit it in before I had to get started on the next book group selection.

Rumours of a Hurricane is set in the tumultuous period between 1979 and 1990 in southern England, specifically London. Margaret Thatcher is being elected to Prime Minister as the novel begins.

The main characters are Charlie Buck and his wife Maureen. They are climbing the social ladder and navigating the rocky seas of the massive cultural change that occurred in Great Britain during the 1980s including the destruction of the labour unions, the rise and devastating fall of the property market, the effects of the implementation of feminism and the emergence of a belief in the dream that any man/woman could run their own business. The decade is easily one of tumultuous change.

But Charlie and Maureen are just trying to make it through. They start the decade in their early 50s. Their marriage is flawed to begin with leaving the couple to turn away from each other in the face of the changes . Charlie brings a suitcase of family history and a drinking problem to the journey which impairs his ability to cope with the changes. Maureen regains her power too late to repair her marriage having made too many bad choices. Their son Robert is lost in the chaos.

The title refers to an hilarious (although only in hindsight) event when a BBC weather man reported that rumours of hurricane in southern England were highly exaggerated which turned out to be unequivocally untrue. In fact, the hurricanes wrecked widesprea havoc. This is used in the book as a metaphor for the tendency during that decade to underestimate impact on people's lives of the events happening all around.

This book delivers a searing and insightful look into the psyche of the British people, particularly the inhabitants of the southern half of the island. I had tremendous sympathy for the characters and found their struggle to be real, horrifying and incredibly sad.

The novel is funny and heartbreaking. Lott is a talented writer who captures characters in a humane and vulnerable way without descending into sickly sweet sentimentality.

I couldn't put the book down. I read it morning and night in every moment of free time. My Facebook addiction suffered. My blogging suffered. My family suffered (not really - just seeing if you're paying attention)!

If you seek an understanding of the British, read this book. If you want a funny look at the 1980s in Great Britain this is the book for you. I highly recommend it! I am now going to go away and find more novels by Tim Lott.

Friday, 23 November 2007

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

My former neighbour, Gill, dropped round a whole load of books. This was on the top of the pile and on the top of my list. As soon as I completed last month's book group selection, I picked this up and devoured it.

The story is set primarily just before, during and immediately after the First World War in a grand English country house to the east of London. The characters are the upstairs moneyed classes and the downstairs staff devoted to service of the upstairs. The story is narrated by Grace, a lady's maid who was sent to work in the house by her mother when she is only 14. Grace tells the story as a 99 year old preparing for her imminent death but wanting the truth of a tragedy at that grand house in 1924 to be told.

I find tales of this era to be utterly fascinating. I thought the book was well researched and nicely written. OK, so it wasn't the most intellectual of literature but I'm not a snob.

There were some elements of the story that weren't quite believable. For example, the entire story is told from Grace's point of view as she lurks around the house and over hears conversations from beginning to end. Rarely does anyone notice and certainly no one tells her to go away.

I also found it entirely improbable that after many years as a lady's maid in the 1920s a young woman with no formal education would then go on to university as a mature student to get a PhD in archeology. Call me crazy, but I don't think so!

On the other hand, this book had a real sense of history and the descriptions of the clothing, food, and countryside were very visual. I liked the characters although some were too stereo typical and could have had some more depth. But Grace was a sympathetic character and I really loved Hannah and how she developed as she grew older.

The book dragged a bit in the middle and at 600 pages some smart editing should have been done. But the last 100 pages is so riveting I couldn't put it down. I have read that others predicted the ending. I certainly didn't and was a wee bit confused and couldn't figure out who actually did it. (Don't want to spoil it for y'all.)

This is a great fun book although at 600 pages I wouldn't call it a quick read. You don't have to think much and the story of Grace growing older juxtaposed with the story of her growing up is enjoyable.

I recommend it as a holiday read!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Data Breach

The British government has really messed up. We are included in the 40% of the population with children whose personal details have been lost. Man, I'm angry!

A Thanksgiving Video

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is truly the most blessed of all holidays. And one that goes quite deep into my heart.

There is no commercialisation of the holiday. No consumerisation, although I am a bit surprised the American retailers haven't figured out a way to suck our money out of our wallets. There are no gifts to be bought, given, expected or obligation to give/receive.

This is a holiday focused on purely being thankful. A chance to be grateful for all we have and to consider those who have less. A chance to ponder all that you have to be thankful and express that around a table of bountiful food typically made up of items native to the Americas, eg sweet potatoes, maize, turkey.

The Thanksgiving dinner is different in every family but every family has traditions. Whilst every dinner may consists of individuals different items, those items remain largely the same year after year after year.

For many in America, it is more important to return to the family home on Thanksgiving than it is on Christmas day. For that, I am grateful. And we wish we were in the states with our American family. I miss my family most of all on this day.

This year I will do 2 Thanksgiving dinners. Tonight I will prepare a small turnkey breast with some quick Stove Top stuffing (thanks to Janell), some mashed potatoes, green beans and a small sweet potato pie. Dessert will be the requisite pumpkin pie.

We do not have Thanksgiving in England so my children are at school and Marc is working. Tonight Sebastian has swimming lesson at 6:30 and since they don't get home from school until 4 we won't have time to do a big dinner. Sebastian might sink in the pool if he ate too much!

I have taken the day off but that is more in protest to the English not having a Thanksgiving than anything to do with preparing a meal. You might think this is a bit lonely but I enjoy this time of solitude to meditate on all that is around me.

Saturday will be the full blown shebang. I'll cook a proper turkey. I'll do the tortilla roll-ups for which Nanny was famous. I'll do celery stuffed with cream cheese and green olives. I am the only one in my family who eats them but I can't bear a Thanksgiving without them. I'll make proper stuffing with water chestnuts. I'll also have another excuse for more pumpkin pie. Marc would be quite happy to eat just the pumpkin pie although I do remember the very first time I served it up to him. I had to coax him to take a very small bite.

Our table will be set with our wedding china which I believe always scares the living daylights out of my children. This is a healthy fear.

One of the very first Thanksgivings was in 1621 at Plymouth Plantation. I love this story. I am grateful for the help of the Native Americans for I believe history would have had a very different outcome without their support. I am disappointed in the ending. I am ashamed that famine, disease, the theft of their land and general appalling treatment by the forefathers have left many of the Native Americans in a dreadful existence today.

But I am grateful. I am healthy. I have 2 beautiful children. We have a lovely warm, and comfortable home. We are not hungry. We are warm and we are dry. We are not afraid to walk out of our homes and speak our minds. We can read and write. We have so much which enables us to be so much. We could make do with so much less.

Before Thanksgiving we will bow our heads and give thanks. Sebastian said his lunchtime prayers at school in the dining hall for the first time a few days ago (or so he tells me) and he is very excited to say the prayer this evening. We will do as we have done for decades in my family and go around the table asking each to give thanks for what they are most thankful for.

I am most thankful for those sitting around the table with me and sharing our lives together, growing up and growing old. I couldn't ask for any more.

And today, when there are so many others who have so little, I say thanks to all of you for helping to make my life that much richer.

Spade a Spade

I've never been known to mince my words. And whilst everyone else is busy not talking about the elephant in the room, I am renowned the world over for speaking up loudly and clearly with "What about the elephant?"

This has gotten me into trouble on numerous occasions and more often than not has endeared me to others. I've had numerous managers tell me I shouldn't speak so freely and openly. It never stopped me. I've known acquaintances who have not become friends because they couldn't deal with my forthrightness.

At the end of day, a spade is a spade. I call it as I see it. People can count on me to give them my honest assessment.

Yesterday, I found out that the team I manage at work returned some of the highest scores in employee engagement in all of IS across our entire organisation. We scored first or second highest in all categories. I was thrilled to bits.

Employee Engagement measures an individual's satisfaction with their work and their manager, commitment to the organisation and general happiness with the work and their prospects for the future.

I'm not sure how much of our high scores has to do with me. I try to encourage an open and transparent environment. We have passionate debates and disagreements. We are all so different and every person brings different strengths to the team making us a powerful force to be reckoned with.

I trust them to continually strive to do their best and they trust me to have their backs. I make sure that we have as much fun as possible under what can be described as stressful, stifling and conflicting pressures. I hope they feel I take the heat for them. I stand up for them (even to senior management higher up the food chain than me).

I'd like to say thanks to my team for being the amazing team that they are. They give me their best and inspire me to do my best for them. They are all individual heroes who work together to create a superhero team and make an astonishing contribution to the value of our organisation.

I'm proud to work with them. I hope they are happy to work with me!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Hind's Head

Remember The Fat Duck?

Last night my new boss took his new direct reports out for a bite to eat. We ate at the pub that is run by the same chef that runs The Fat Duck. The two restaurants are even next door to each other.

I so wanted to be super impressed with the food given that it is much more affordable. But it was just ok. The side dishes of vegetables were fabulous but my shepherd pie was just good. I've had loads of shepherd's pie at loads of pubs and I wouldn't say this was the best I've ever had.

The Eton Mess I had for desert was to die for though! Dessert is always my favourite part of a meal anyway.

The best part though was that we got to know our leader a bit more. He got to know us a bit more. And that was the whole point. Mission Accomplished.

Writer's Block

I'm having writer's block. I don't know what to write about. Ideas?

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Brith Days

I've been doing some catching up on my blog reading and November has included quite a few birthday posts. It stuck me as a bit odd that we celebrate the person that has been born.

Why?

It's not as if they did anything remarkable that day.

I say we should celebrate the mothers that did all the hard work on that day and for 9 months prior to that day and for years and years afterwards.

When you become pregnant, another human being has taken over your body. The first 3 months a woman is exhausted and cranky. In many instances she is sicker than a dog. The second 3 months she frets that she won't be ready or won't be a good mother. The last 3 months she gives over her body to grow to an enormous size and suffers numerous inconveniences including but not limited to heartburn, sore feet, sore back, sore hips and random weeing in her knickers.

The skeleton of a woman can tell you if she has had children because having a baby causes permanent irreversible bone damage/degradation.

And then comes the actual day of delivery. Mom endures great pain. I mean, GREAT pain. Whether vaginal or c-section they both hurt. A LOT!

Then she has a baby for which she has no formal training or qualifications. Breast feeding is not easy and the hormonal imbalance following pregnancy can drive a sane woman barking mad. Milk is followed by weening is followed by mashed food is followed by finger foods is followed by non choking inducing food is followed by everything they see they eat. My son is currently eating me out of house and home despite being only 6 years old and my daughter only eats white food.

A woman doesn't sleep soundly for years afterwards. Late night feedings are replaced by midnight nightmares followed by curfew violations and dodgy boyfriends keeping them out until the wee hours of the morning.

So if it is your birthday, go out, celebrate with your friends and family, enjoy the cake and ice cream. But don't forget the one who got you here. All mothers need to celebrate birth day for getting through it and making it thus far in the journey of parenthood!

I Met a Man on the Internet

As far as strange things go, this might just be one of the strangest things to ever happen to me and my family.

I've been doing this blog for nearly a year now. On the back of this, my sister started one and my extended family (Janell and her crew of siblings) proliferated too many to link to here. In a stranger twist of fate, one of my sister's university/college roommates/sorority sisters (Leah)decided to start one.

Now hang on for this. Leah has married a man named Adrian. 'sbest friend and best man at his wedding is a man named Joe. Joe would regularly comment on Leah's blog and you could count on us disagreeing. Before I knew what had happened Joe was a regular visitor to my blog.

Inevitably, Joe disagreed with what I wrote and would express himself passionately all over my comments. Other regular visitors to my blog assumed I knew Joe. He visited Janell's blog and her family's catalogue of blogs. You can see the passionate opinions he has incited on the current post about my new boss.

So, the really strange thing is I barely know Leah. I've never meant Adrian. Joe has met my sister because she was Leah's maid of honour and Joe was Adrian's best man but they aren't buds and haven't really had more than a 10 minute conversation. But Joe visited my home Friday evening.

Yes, you read that correctly. A man I had never met and vehemently disagrees with me on just about everything had dinner with me and my family in our home. How does this happen, I ask myself (and you are probably asking me as well)?

Joe works for an international company and just recently gained responsibility for the patch that has an office near our home. When he found out he was going to be in our neck of the woods (so to speak) he dropped me a note and we arranged a time to get together.

Janell will be pleased to know that there was no physical violence. We didn't even have a single argument. We marvelled at the photographs of Joe's beautiful family and his homes (both soon to be old and soon to be new). We ogled his technology gadgets. We giggled at his Americaness. We shared a meal of traditional English curry take away. We drank more and stayed up later than we should have. We got up way too early and met up for coffee and a whistle stop tour of Windsor and the castle. Then we dropped him off at the airport.

My husband is revelling in telling people that "my wife and I had a man over that we met on the Internet." I've asked him to stop saying that.

Joe will be returning to England on a regular basis and he is more than welcome to visit us. We hope he brings his family one of these times and stays for a wee bit longer than a couple of hours late at night. We hope to show him a bit more of my adopted country.

Anyone else planning a visit?

Friday, 16 November 2007

Performance

The ballet performance last night was enchanting. All dancers did a fabulous job and Sebastian was very pleased with his performance.

I was over the moon. This little boy stood up against convention and stood amongst all the girls. To my eyes he was the brightest star. I couldn't have been prouder. He worked really hard and you should have seen the concentration in his eyes. Look at the exquisite 1st position of his feet in the photo.

He can even skip. Finally!

He was exhausted when he got home after 1 rehearsal on Tuesday night, 1 birthday party, 1 rehearsal and 2 performances last night. Go Seb!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

New Boss

I've got a new boss. It is the 4th new boss I've had in the space of 14 months but who's counting?

The top dog's first day was last week when I was in France. Bad luck, bad planning, bad karma - whatever!

The first day I was in France I got an email asking for a meeting with him the next day. I emailed back stating this wasn't possible and why, despite already telling him this on several previous occasions. We scheduled a get together for the day I returned.

I knew I would not be on my best form. I knew I would be cranky, tired, grumpy and generally not my usual charming self. I was worried.

I think it is so stressful to have a new boss. You've got to figure out who they are, how much or how little information they want/need. You've got to figure out if you trust them and if they trust you. You've got to figure out if you would follow them off a cliff or if they would throw themselves in front of a speeding train to protect you and your decisions.

So you dance. You build a relationship in a sometimes hostile environment. You try to assess what others think. You try to be not quick to judge but fast enough to not make any mistakes. You try to make sure he doesn't look like a fool to his boss which after all is what we're all trying to do.

You want to be noticed but for all the right reasons.

This is stressful.....and exhausting. I've been in the office at my normal silly o'clock every morning. Tonight I even stayed well past my witching hour of 3 pm to attend one of his meetings.

Marc helped my out by doing the school run which in itself is a bit of a nightmare this week. Sebastian is preparing for his first ballet recital which is scheduled for Thursday evening. He is the first and only boy to ever perform in a St George's School ballet recital. He has a duet with Amy which he has been practising since summer term last school year.

Tonight was a rehearsal from 5-6. So Marc had to pick Seb up at 3:40, pick up Abigail, take them home, change Seb's clothes into his ballet kit, supervise homework completion, feed the children and deliver Seb back to school before 5. I then picked up Seb at 6 and went home to clean since once again my cleaner didn't turn up - second week in a row and I am having a meltdown. Dinner will be grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for Marc and I!

Children now in bath tub then off to bed. I think I will follow shortly.....ah, just a few more emails! Gotta impress the new boss!

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

Someone warned me not long ago to avoid books that had won the Booker Prize. Apparently, research had proven that past winners really aren't actually very good books. It seems the books are over indulgent cerebral rubbish that try too hard to impress. They typically end up on book shelves half read.

I have to agree. And it would have been easy to put this book on the shelf half read.

But then I would have missed the part of the book that was actually worth reading.

I have a philosophy that says "Finish the book you started." A bit similar to "Go home with the one who brung ya." Ok, not really but I like that saying that! One is good manners. You figure out which.

I figure you've started a book because something compelled you start it. The description of the plot on the back cover (although we have seen previously how misleading that can be), or a recommendation of a friend, or the cover art, or a review by a so-called "literary critic".

This book I finished purely because it was the book group selection for November. Now it is true that I would not have chosen this book and I honestly would have preferred to read others from my pile. but I've made a commitment to the book group to show up and discuss the book. to do this I have to have read it.

I would have liked to have discussed this book in depth. I think it would have understanding to my understanding of the book. Reading the recommended questions opened by eyes to a couple themes which I think I missed entirely mostly because I wasn't liking the book very much until I got to the second half. By that time, I had forgotten everything I had read in the first half.

To make matters worse only 2 of us in the group actually read the book so discussion was futile.

I think the book was about class and how class is imposed differently in every culture. The book focused on England, India, and America. But I think you could examine class in just about every culture and see some common themes.

The book also raised some interesting points about globalisation, westernisation, and immigration. I just am not sure what those points are - although I do imagine them to do interesting if I could ever bottom them out.

I struggled with so many characters. I still can't figure out the relevance of Noni and Lola although I can guess they are representatives of the middle class. But I don't think their position in the story actually emphasised how powerful (or not) the middle class are in all the the relevant societies.

Verdict: Give it a miss.

Book Group: With several of the group absent and only 2 completing the book, it's hard to say what the book group thought. Not much, I guess!

NEXT BOOK: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I am really looking forward to this!

Analytical Mind

My analytical mind wanted to solve the mystery of my unpredictable blog traffic. I may have just found a causal relationship between the number of posts I write and the traffic I experience in any given month.

I have realised that the number of posts per month is nearly directly related to higher traffic, ie the most posts, the more traffic. This doesn't make any sense to me.

I check out my blog roll (blogs I read) on a daily basis. So if there is more than 1 post on any given day I read them all on the one time I visit that day. I rarely, if ever, check a blog more than once/day.

There are only 2 blogs that I take an RSS feed from straight into my email box (soon to be just 1). Everything else goes into my pageflake. My pageflake takes forever to build so I only load it once and once I've caught up I shut it down.

So if I post more than once/day do you come back to read? If so, how do you know I posted more than once? How many of you subscribe to my blog using the RSS feed? How many of you don't know what an RSS feed is?

Monday, 12 November 2007

The Vikings

Sitting round the dinner table tonight we were asking the children what they learned at school.

Abigail was very pleased with her swimming lessons which started after half term. She thinks she could swim the English Channel given the opportunity. We don't disagree.

Sebastian announced he is learning about the Vikings. Marc asked him what has he learned. Sebastian proceeded to list off an amazing litany of Viking trivia. After 20 minutes of Viking facts we decided we had heard enough.

I wonder if that is just what he learned today or if that is what he has learned over several weeks. Either way it is an extraordinary achievement.

If he learned it all today, I can't believe he remembered it all.

if he learned it all over the last couple weeks, I can't believe he remembered it all.

I can't remember to take my mobile phone with me when I leave the house or pick up my children after school. And yet he can remember that the Vikings burned their ships.

How does he do that?

Sleeplessness

I don't sleep much to begin with so when I miss a night's snoozing I get extra grumpy.

Friday I went into the office expecting some colleagues to have sent me 2 pieces of finished work. One I never received and I couldn't reach him on the phone. The other sent me something but it wasn't what I wanted. Both items were needed for a meeting I have tomorrow.

Last night I sat up most of the night tossing and turning agonising over these 2 missing/inaccurate items. I would read to take my mind off of it and as soon as I got sleepy I would turn out the light and lay my head down. within 5 minutes I had to turn the lights back on and return to my reading because my head started spinning with all the things I needed to do on Monday morning.

I hate that!

This morning I was up at 5 am and out the door by 6:30. I was in the office before 7 am. I spoke to both colleagues this morning before 8:30 and we had completed both items by midday. I had absolutely no reason to stress out last night. But I didn't know that then.

I'll sleep like a log tonight. I hope.