Saturday 30 June 2007
A police officer parked the car just outside our driveway, got out of the car and started to walk up the path to our back door. I yelled at Marc that the police were here. He yelled back, "What? I thought you said the police were at the door." "They are", I replied.
I ran downstairs putting on my dressing gown (robe) as I went. I realised when I reached the ground floor that the children were up and quite merrily watching morning cartoons on the television. A policewoman was just knocking on the door when I reached the kitchen.
I pulled open the door fearing the worst: a body was found in the lane or some such horror flick scenario. She asked me "Everything ok here?"
"Well, if you don't count the fact that it is 6:30 am and there is a police officer at my door, I think everything is just fine and dandy." I hesitated.
"It's just that we had a 999 emergency call from this address about 45 minutes ago and we've tried to ring back numerous times but the number is engaged (busy). As a matter of course, we visit to ensure everything is ok" the police woman replied.
I thought well isn't that nice. "But no one called 999 from here" I countered.
"Do you have children?" she asked with a smile on her face.
"Yes, but they are watching television." I replied
"How long have they been doing that?" OK, now this is a tough question. If I admit that I'm not really sure because they got themselves up out of bed, came downstairs, and turned the television on, does that make me a bad mom? Is this an arrestable offense?
"I'm not exactly sure", I hedge.
She requests that I check all the phones in the house. The ground floor phone is ok but there is clearly no dial tone. I go up to the landing on the first floor and find the phone is just resting on the telephone table and has not been hung up properly. I hang it up and return to the kitchen.
Meanwhile, Abigail has engaged the police woman in conversation which is making me a bit nervous. I ask Abby "Have you been playing with the phone?"
Since Abigail hadn't quite yet learned to lie she turns to the police officer. "Yes!" she giggles and runs away.
I proceed to apologise profusely for wasting the time and resources of the emergency services. I offer that if they would like to lock up Abigail to teach her a lesson they should feel free. The police officer laughed. I was only half joking.
Friday 29 June 2007
Bailey was due to get the snip this morning. We dropped him off and returned to our car. Just as we were pulling away the vet nurse came running out to tell us they can't operate because Bailey has diarrhea. He didn't when we left the house. But he does now.
We loaded Bailey back into the car, took Abigail to Pre-School, and me home to get my car so I could go into my office.
I had a meeting in my diary for 2 pm but none of the people I was supposed to be meeting with had the meeting in their dairy. So I met by myself. Most productive thing I did all day!
I picked up Sebastian at school, started to drive off and Marc rings to tell me Joy (Jamie's mum) is trying to reach me. She's stuck in traffic on the motorway miles away and could I please take Jamie home with me? I back into the parking space and go get Jamie.
On my way home the traffic is a nightmare because there is an international dog show going on in Windsor and Jackie, the child minder, rings to see if I've gotten lost. I tell her I'll be right there!
Thank God it is Friday! I just want to go to bed.
We take Bailey into the vet between 8-8:30 this morning and pick him up this evening after 5:30.
Now allegedly I will get back a calmer more manageable dog. I can only hope for a miracle.
This is a routine op. Like humans, however, even routine ops carry a degree of risk. So, say a wee prayer to Bailey. Balls, no more!
Thursday 28 June 2007
Whatever Mrs Jones said, it worked. Seb later informed me (over dinner) that Mr. Jones gave him a power pill which clearly gave him strength. Not sure what that really was but to be honest, I simply don't care. It worked. Seb came in second place and he was on top of the world. he was as proud of himself as I was of him. Not for doing so well. But for not giving up. And to come back and still give it his all!
The next couple races were team races: relay sack and egg and spoon. Seb is a good team mate. Just look at that concentration on his face during the bean bag balance on your head race.
There are loads more photos to be seen over on Flickr.
Seb looked at Abby and said "You know, Abby, when you get big you're going to have a hairy China."
Wednesday 27 June 2007
Not long after I moved here, Tony Blair took over as Prime Minister from John Major. I was all a bit confused. I wasn't very familiar with the political process and it seemed very odd that one day power could pass from one person to another without an election and without a coup d'etat, neither of which has occurred.
10 years on and I am only slightly more familiar with the political process. I know that in elections you don't vote for people but parties. I hoped this would put an end to the cult of charisma that has infected modern politics in many western nations. But it hasn't.
I know that the Prime Minister has to call an election every 5 years and whichever party gets the most votes gets to stay in power. But Labour still won the last election and Tony Blair could have chosen to stay as the party leader and thus could have remained the Prime Minister.
Luckily, he's decided he's had enough. And now Gordon gets a go.
It's all done with the typical British lack of fanfare. No big ceremony. All behind closed doors. Albeit with the Queen accepting one resignation of the outgoing and one acceptance of the incoming, today we have a new captain at the helm.
He promises it will be different. Don't they all? Oddly, Brown has declared another election will be held nex summer. I love the fact they just call elections willy nilly.
Big thanks to Lucinda for doing the organising! An extra big thanks go to the mere 5 dads who turned up. You'd think the rest of our children didn't have fathers!
John & Mary babysat Sebastian & Abigail which they loved. They would rather John & Mary put them to bed every night, I believe!
Only a few more weeks to go until the end of term on 6 July. I can't believe another school year has flown by. The summer diary is already getting filled up. We've got a couple weeks holidays planned and Sebastian and Abigail will be spending a week with their Granny down on the Isle of Wight. Abigail has become fascinated with camping so we will be doing a spot of camping down on the Cornish coast. Sebastian is excited about fresh pain au chocolate from the local bakery when we go to France for a week!
Sebastian is scheduled for a football camp, a tennis camp, and a drama camp when they will be performing The Sound of Music. This is going to be great fun!
The rain has stopped today and I've served up ice cream cones for the children. This is the eternal optimist in me. If we pretend it is summer maybe the weather will get the hint and the sun will start shining.
Tuesday 26 June 2007
In Germany we visited Heidelberg. As we walked around the grounds we pretended we were in The Sound of Music and sang The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music from the top of our lungs. People stared. We giggled.
We ordered the seafood platter. This was a multiple tiered extravaganza of seafood. We marvelled at the size of it. And then we drank the wine. And a bit more wine. Not entirely sure how much of the seafood we ate.
Apparently, she sat down on a sofa and started looking at a book about the Rolling Stones. Then she decided she was going to be sick. I'm not sure how she managed it but she found her way to the toilets at the top of the bookstore on the 2nd level (3 floors up). I paid for my books and was looking all over for her. I was starting to panic and had even left the bookstore and scoured up and down the street. I returned and thought I would try the toilets (isn't that where you always find missing women?).
Steph spent a good part of the afternoon in the showering crying over her ruined shoe and how much she was missing her then boyfriend, now husband, Anthony. She wrote him a couple of very sappy love letters, which I think he still has and does use occasionally to blackmail her.
We left Belgium the next day (looking worse for the wear) and returned home to Dusseldorf. Steph returned to the USA the next day. We still laugh about these stories. I hope our children will one day as well!
Monday 25 June 2007
For all their repression and corruption, the Pahlavi kinds pursued a secular version of modernisation that included a liberal view f the role of women. Reza Shah, who became monarch in 1926, forbade women from wearing the hijab or chador in public. Under his rule a new civil code was approved giving women the right to ask for divorce under certain conditions and raising the marriage age for girls from 9 to 15. Girls were also to receive the same education as boys.
Under his successor, the last Shah of Iran, women were given the right to vote and stand for election. In 1968 a Family Protection Law, divorce hearings were transferred from religious to family courts, polygamy was limited, and the marriage age for girls was raised to 18. In 1975, women gained to right of guardianship over their children after the death of their husband (a right us western women take for granted).
But then came the Islamic Revolution of 1979. And everything changed. The Family Protection Law was annulled. Just like that. Overnight.
Women were forced out of jobs and barred from being judges. Legal age of marriage forr girls reduced back to 9. Segregation in education and the workplace was introduce. Women even have to sit at the back of public transport. Mothers' rights of custody in divorce were curtailed. Stoning to death for adultery became common.
With the institution of the mullahs, the plight of women has improved slightly. Paradoxically, Islamic strictures have undermined many of the values they were meant to uphold. Before the Islamic revolution, traditional Muslim families didn't let their daughter ago to work, school or university for fear they'd be corrupted. Once the compulsory hijab, segregation and other moral rules were instituted, the outside world seemed less threatening. girls poured out of their homes.
20 years ago the female literacy rate was 30%. today it is 87%. The law of unintended consequences also occurred when the mullahs, responding to Saddam Hussein's attack on Iran in 1980, banned contraception and told women to go forth and raise martyrs.
The consequence was a massive baby boom: two-thirds of Iran's 70 million people are now under 30. Far from a nation of martyrs, the mullahs created millions of angry young people who;'d rather check their email, listen to Western rock music and watch pirated DVDs than die for Islam.
Iranian girls are the world's blog queens, renowned for their spicy mix of politics, dirty jokes, acid comment and worries about their weight. Realising their mistake, the mullahs have executed a rapid U-turn.
Contraception is now freely available.
Sunday 24 June 2007
6. Baseball doubleheaders
5. Barefoot running through the grass.
4. Naked children splashing in the pool.
3. Cooking everything on the BBQ outside and never turning on my Aga.
2. Freshly cleaned linen waving in the breeze hanging on the line.
1. Sitting on the back porch eating dinner and drinking with friends whilst watching the children chase butterflies and fireflies until the daylight disappears (which this far up in the northern hemisphere won't be until well past 10:30 pm!).
But those are just the top 6. There are so many more things I love about summer: the bells of the ice cream truck, Pimms & lemonade, thunder/lightning storms, camping, sailing in a hooley, polo, Wimbledon, Henley Rowing Regatta. Oh, this list is endless.....I could go on and on and on. I wish summer did!
Saturday 23 June 2007
It rained Thursday evening from about 7 pm throughout the entire night until after 8 am Friday morning. It was inevitable then that Sebastian's Sports Day would be canceled. No one knew if the rain would start again during the day and they skies certainly looked like it would. And the playing fields would certainly be wet and muddy.
I had arranged for Abigail to go with us and told Jackie, the child minder, that she had the day off. With Sports Day canceled though I would work from home so I didn't lose a day of annual leave so I rang Jackie and asked her if she could still take Abby. She could. I am so grateful so is flexible and understanding!
Seb wasn't all that gutted about the cancellation. He's wee and not a sporting king. There are some children in his class that are nearly twice his size and are very sporty. They tend to win the ribbons. He's just happy to take part and have fun. I swear. He'll tell you himself, usually to make me feel better that he didn't win anything and I don't want his size to make him feel small. But I don't think it bothers him. Yet....
Marc dropped Abby off at Preschool and Seb off at St George's. I got some work done.
Seb had a birthday party that had been scheduled to start as soon as sport's day was over so he left school early (with the school's permission of course). I had to make arrangements for Jackie to keep Abby late. I took Seb to the party (Happy Birthday, Hannah!) and had a chat with the mums.
Hard to believe one can relax in a play zone. A few years ago I found them noisy and very stressful. Now I sit with a cup of tea, turn off the ambient noise of children playing and screaming and listen to the mums chat. It can be and was very relaxing.
Marc had left his keys in the house so he was locked out. I swear it's like having 3 children!
I picked up Abby at Jackie's and went home. Marc got take away from the local pizzeria for him and the children. I ate sensibly and recovered my healthy eating stance after the conspicuous consumption of Ascot!
Thursday 21 June 2007
OK, so my experience wasn't great and I was so disappointed as I had been looking forward to it virtually all my life. It was in my top 50 things to do before I died. And I never wanted to do it again. I hate it when that happens.
But the years have moved on and I've become ever so slightly more English which means I know how to approach these occasions. And the racecourse has had a serious renovation. In fact, they didn't have races there for 2 years whilst the refurbishments were being completed.
First, if it is raining, don't go. Or bring a large brolly (umbrella). The weather forecast for tomorrow is sunny with some showers. Guess that's the brolly for me.
Secondly, secure the best tickets you can afford or better yet, get corporate hospitality. I am a guest of Microsoft this year and my invite is a very generous thank you for my participation in their European Utility Forum in May. Funny, I thought the trip to Rome was payment enough!
Thirdly, go with people. And make sure they make you laugh. I am going with a woman named Pip, who is the Microsoft account manager for my company. She also happens to one of the funniest women I know. I mean, the gal kick boxes for god's sake. She is witty, clever, and good fun!
Fourth, wear the right shoes. If it is raining they will get muddy so they better be disposable (read don't spend an arm and a leg). You will be doing a lot of standing and walking. This is where the dilemma is. Ladies Day at Ascot is a lot about what you wear: the hat, the shoes, the dress, the handbag. I don't really care. I mean, I've got a dress, well, actually a skirt and top. I've got a hat. I've got the hand bag. And I've got some shoes. But let's face it, my feet are a size 1 (UK) and a size 3 (US). My options are limited. What shoes I will wear is my first consideration when buying an outfit. So I'm afraid my feet will be killing me by the time I get home. And I can't pack my slippers in my handbag because it is too dang small. Oh, curse fashion.
Fifth, hire a hat. Do NOT buy a hat. You can really only wear it once if it makes a big enough statement. So hire one. There is the most amazing hat hire shop in Datchet just down the road from us. I love going in there. My mother went with me once and she was in awe. I've got the best hat in the world. I can hardly wait to put it on. Let's just hope they are looking at the hat and not the shoes!
Sixth, (boy I've learned a lot over the years) study the racing form before you go and bet early. After many summer evenings at the local race course in Windsor, I've figured out how it works and it wasn't nearly as hard as it looked. It just looked so dang intimidating. But now I'm older and wiser and a whole bunch more confident. Study the racing form before you go. Otherwise you are dipping into socialising time. And you can't be doing that! Then bet. Walk on up to the bookie. Tell them your horse name and number. Tell them how much you are betting. Tell them what you are betting the horse will do, eg win, each way (1, 2, 3 or 4, depending on the number of horses racing). That's it. If you are chicken, go to the tote. it's a whole lot easier but not nearly as exciting. Bet early if you fancy a favourite. Bet late if you're confident in a long shot.
Lastly, pace the champagne consumption. You start at 10:30 am and you've got to last the entire day. Racing doesn't end until after 6 pm. To make matters worse tomorrow evening is the Parent's Evening at Sebastian's school. I won't be entirely sober when I get there but I must be upright.
OK, so that's the game plan for today. I mustn't forget my camera. For those of you in the USA, if you'd like to follow along with the racing action, go to the website and listen to the podcast. If you are in the UK, watch out for me on television. I'm certain my hat will catch the attention of the cameraman. Photos to follow!
Wednesday 20 June 2007
We had a Scottish friend, John Craig, round for dinner. Steph didn't say much throughout most of the meal. She was helping me clear the table and bring out dessert when she asks me "So why do you speak English to him but he answers you in a foreign language?" She hadn't understood a word my mate was speaking. Of course he was speaking English just with a very heavy Scottish accent. I nearly died laughing.
The first weekend she visited we set off for Paris. We took the overnight train and arrived at Gare de Nord at 5 am. We checked into our little hotel and set off to explore.
I've been to Paris loads and I love the city. The architecture, the history, the food, the wine: everywhere you turn there are treasures to be found. I love sitting in a cafe and just watching the people.
We raced around in the August heat. It was 100 degrees or more whilst we were there and we made sure to stop at every public fountain and drip our toes in with all the other tourists.
We saw the Eiffel Tour and the Arc de Triumphe. We got lost (more than once) in the Louvre. We marvelled at Notre Dame (my favourite cathedral in all the world).
We went out for dinner on Saturday night to a fabulous restaurant. No one could quite understand the menu. French menus can baffles even the most fluent of French speakers. My then-boyfriend, Glen, ordered salmon. when it came it was very few very thinly sliced pieces. He thought he was going to starve and we shared our meals with him. Turns out, his was all you could eat and they just kept bringing him more. At least none of us starved!
We drank loads of great wine with dinner and then proceeded to spend a great deal of time in a cafe drinking more wine. Steph just couldn't believe her luck. At about 4 am we decided we might just maybe find our way back to the hotel. But first we needed to find a taxi.
We had decided amongst ourselves that Stephanie probably spoke the best French. She had just finished 4 years of high school. Whereas I had graduated high school 10 years earlier and had clearly forgotten everything I had learnt, especially after vast quantities of vin blanc et vin rouge!
Glen hailed a cab. I told the driver where we were going and he told us how much. I thought this was a fair amount but Stephanie, buoyed my the new found confidence of spurred on by lots of vin, she starts negotiating. In French! Flawless French. I tell you, she speaks better French drunk than she does sober. Well, at least that's how it sounded to me.
We got home and the next morning over our Cafe au lait et croissant le petit dejeuner, we discovered we paid this taxi the equivalent of about $20 to take us clear across the city. Wow, that Stephanie drives a hard bargain!
On Sunday we took the late afternoon train back to Dusseldorf. We had a very odd experience as we all settled down into our seats for the return journey with our books. Steph stared out the window waiting for the train to leave the platform and her index finger pad just suddenly split open and started bleeding. I have this photograph (which of course I can't find right now) of her holding up her bleeding finger looking extremely forlorn. God only knows what that was all about. But it has stuck in my memory. And hers. After forgetting her at the airport, it is the first thing she recalls about the trip!
Tuesday 19 June 2007
Now I realise I might be biased. but ask anyone who knows her and they'll tell you the same.
Let's start with her laugh. It's beautiful. And infectious. And when you are around her you laugh a lot: with her, at her, at yourself, out loud, proper belly jiggling, tears rolling down your face laughing. Sometimes it is at what she did. Sometimes what she said. Sometimes it's just the way she looks. Not that she is funny looking. She is just funny.
Then there is her inner beauty. She sets the standard for being non-judgmental. She is honest and always gently (or not) points out when I'm not being my authentic self. She teaches me lessons in acceptance every day.
She is a great mother. She gave me a book called Babywise which basically taught Marc and I how to survive our first 6 moths as parents. We couldn't have done it without her. She gave us amazing tips on how to use a naughty step effectively.
When Stephanie graduated from high school, I was living in Germany. As a gift I gave her a ticket to fly out and stay with me. At 6:05 in the morning just as I was getting out of the shower the morning before I thought she was due to arrive, my phone rang. Steph was on the other end, crying wondering why I hadn't picked her up at the airpoort. I explained that she wasn't due to arrive until the following day. She indignantly replied that I was clearly mistaken as she was AT the airport in Dusseldorf. It was her very first trip outside the USA. She spoke no German and had to beg for change and instructions on how to use the phne. She was only 18. She could have killed me.
We have done numerous road trips all over the place. We drove around France that summer and stayed in some of the worst places. Then all over Belgium and stayed in some of the best places (after having about 3 too many bottles of wine). Do you remember falling down the stairs and tripping over the cutlery trolley? We sang songs from The Sound of Music on the hilltops of Hidelburg (I know it should have been Austria but we were close). We drove across Wyoming and South Dakota, through the badlands to Mount Rushmore. We drove across Colorado to Missouri.
Steph and I have a lot in common:
- We both LOVE sushi
- We both married tall men
- We both love being mothers but constantly struggle with the balance of keeping ourselves intact
- We love cooking
- We love reading
- I'm super duper controlling; She is so laid back she is horizontal
- I'm a morning person; She is a night owl
- I am hyper organised; She is the last minute queen
- I am a baseball nut; She is a hockey fanatic
I have so many memories of time spent with my sister: taking a break from Christmas shopping and making up stories about the lives of fellow shoppers, her bachorlorette party (my mother is still angry with me), celebrating the Stanley Cup victory with the Colorado Avalanche, clubbing until the wee hours of the morning during my single days, her showing me how to give Sebastian a bath in our bath tub when he was a baby (without me having to get in with him), drinking coffee in the morning when the house is still quiet. I could go on and on and on and on.
I remember when I bought her her very first Louis Vuitton handbag. You would have thought I had delivered her the second coming. It still fills me with joy when she wears the diamond and pearl necklace I gave her for her sweet 16.
One of the best things my sister and I ever did was write a eulogy for my grandmother's funeral. It was the hardest thing we've ever done. Our husbands supported us with endless cups of coffee and watched us practice until we could do it without breaking down sobbing. I wrote. She edited. I remember standing up there next to her. I started off with a wobble in my voice but ended strongly. She started off strongly and then faultered midway through. Without each other, we couldn't have done it. That's pretty much how I feel about life and my sister. Without her, I don't think I could have made it this far. She is my go-to person for advice in just about everything! She's an expert at childcare advice and without her my children would still be taking a bath with me and not eating solid foods.
Today is Stephanie's 33rd birthday. I love you, sis! I miss you so much it aches. Hope you have a glorious day!
Monday 18 June 2007
I needn't have worried. We all walked back over the road to the school. At the classroom door, Abigail turned to me and said with a wave "Bye Mum!" I told her I'd come in with her. She looked at me like "If you insist......" I followed her around as she touched everything in the room and talked with her new classmates. I bent down to reassure her that I was still there and she asked me if I would please leave.
So I did. The tears didn't start until I walked out of the school.
It amazes me how steep the dependence curve is. Abigail is just 3.5 years old and yet she can already walk, talk, and wee in the toilet. She has independent thought and makes friends using social skills of her very own. She knows how to negotiate and manipulate. She knows how to charm and how to amaze. She'll be fine.
I on the other hand spent a great deal of the morning feeling redundant. I sought solace in multiple cups of coffee thinking she might not want to return home with me. And then she ran across the room and wrapped her arms around my neck and took my hand to cross the road. Nothing has ever felt sweeter.
Ever since having children I've been carrying around a few extra pounds. OK, a lot of extra pounds.
I weighed about 9 st (126 lbs) before I had children. I always had a little tummy on me (genetic carb intolerance or so I'm told) but I liked my figure. I could always find something cute to wear, whatever the occasion. I always felt sexy. I wasn't afraid of the swimming pool or beach.
When I got pregnant with Sebastian, I ate for England. Whole jars of green olives would disappear during my midnight cravings. I binged on Cherry Garcia.
I had read that it was bad to diet when breast feeding and believed the lies about breast feeding ensuring my weight loss. I lost a few pounds here and there just before I got married although quite frankly, I didn't try all that hard.
Then I got pregnant with Abigail. And the weight just dropped off. I was sick for the first 4 months of the pregnancy and for almost all of it couldn't stand the smell of food cooking. I ate loads of salads and fruit. During the last trimester my appetite returned with a vengeance and I ate everything in sight. I focused my attention of bread, butter and cheese. At the same time. In vast quantities.
Post-pregnancy and in the throes of toddler mummyhood, I ensure my children are well fed. We make our own bread. I bake cookies, cakes, and pies. And eat them. I skip breakfast because I am usually running out the door in a morning frenzy with a large cup of cafe au lait in my hand. I grab a bag of crisps (potato chips) and a cheese sandwich with a diet coke for lunch nearly every day in the office. If I'm at home I have a baked potato with loads of butter and sour cream. Dinner is the square meal of meat, potato, veg. Or something similar. I never serve ready made meals but that doesn't necessarily mean what I prepare is much healthier. I eat until it is all gone because I hate being wasteful. I nibble bowls of popcorn with butter after the children have gone to bed nearly every night. Or chips & dips. Or cheese & crackers. I don't drink enough water.
Abigail is 3.5 years old and I'm nearly the heaviest I've ever been. I say nearly because 2 years ago I decide I needed to get my act together. I trained for an 8k run and watched my diet and lost 3 st (42 lbs). I ran the race and immediately went back to my old ways. My increased metabolism (from the running) meant that I kept it off for a while. But I found myself with the same old clothing dilemmas went I went to buy my dresses for the Summer Ball and Ascot Ladies Day. Even though I loved my dress, I would have liked it better on me if I had been 60 lbs lighter. I put myself on the scale and I'm just under what I weighed when I started training for my run.
My sister recently blogged about her health check. She is going to go carb free. Despite my protests that death is inevitable (which obviously she took on board), she is right that we don't have to die of obesity related disease. And I want to run with my children. And I want to feel sexy again. and I want to buy groovy hip clothing like I used to.
There's woman in my office who works for me who has lost 5 st (70 lbs) since January. She looks fabulous. Everyday she sits down next to me and I marvel at her ever shrinking figure and her ever expanding confidence.
So a few days ago, privately I started making some changes. In my food choices. In my activity level. In my attitude.
Now, I need to go public 'cause I'm gonna need a lot of support! I've got some weight targets and I want to see a change in my energy levels. Now some of you are frightened of what I might be like if I had more energy. Trust me, this will be a good thing! I'll try not to bore you with my constant struggle and if I seem a bit grumpy, please accept my apologies in advance. I'm aiming to run that 8k race again in September. I'll keep you posted!
Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, a Time magazine journalist, who does the most relevant blog for my demographic, has sent me a whole load of books to review. I volunteered on her blog to review 1 book, Scream Free Parenting which had been sent to her. Instead today I received 4 bookes including the original commitment. And wholly unexpectedly my payment has been a complimentary signed copy of the book she wrote, Remember Me.
OK, so I won't be retiring anytime soon but I did very nearly buy this book off Amazon just because I really like what Lisa writes on her blog. And the subject of Remember Me is fascinating: Death. Besides, my copy I couldn't have bought of Amazon. Lisa wrote me a wee little note. She even spelled me night correctly!
Now it has just dawned on me that I have 5 books to read. My dream future could be at stake. Oh the pressure! Deep breaths.....I can do this!
Sunday 17 June 2007
TKR tells the story of men in Afghanistan and A Thousand Splendid Suns tells the story of the women: the mothers, the daughters, the wives, and the friendships.
I found this book a bit more predictable than TKR. Maybe I am more familiar with the plight of women in Afghanistan because it has been covered more in the media. Or maybe because I am a woman, I've been more interested and therefore read and listened better. The plight of the men in TKR was a completely foreign notion to me. But the degree of beating and subservience of the women was astonishing. I cannot even begin to imagine having no control over your life. What they must endure would kill me in 5 minutes flat.
My heart broke for these women. The idea that your father could be killed and because there was no man in your family to walk you to the market, you simply couldn't go breaks my heart. Or that you could be married off to a man 30 years older than you and this was OK because you needed to eat. Or be abandoned by a father simply because you were an embarrassment and he would rather see you sleep on a street outside of his house. The lack of identity and sexuality in Miriam after her marriage is unbelievable.
When I first started reading I was frustrated because the characters seemed so shallow. But as the story unfolds, you discover the depth and strength of the characters, not unlike how friendships and relationships develop. The relationship between Laila and Mariam is beautiful. They literally save each other every single day from complete and total despair.
There are a few plot surprises which I don't want to give away but much like TKR I couldn't put the book down. And Hosseini is a master at conveying the details of physical space. I could picture in my mind's eye every place these people walked.
Afghanistan has all but disappeared from the headlines. And these people (both men and women) still live in horrific conditions both physically, mentally, and spiritually. Hosseini does a great job of informing the world about the plight of his people.
I encourage everyone to read this book! And if you haven't read TKR, start reading it TODAY!
Sometimes your steps are very fast.
Someday when I'm all grown up,
Saturday 16 June 2007
Last night was the St George's School Summer Ball. The theme was Arabian Nights and the venue was the Home Park of Windsor Castle, ie, the Queen's back garden/yard.
Early in the day, the skies turned dark grey and the heavens opened up. The rain fell in sheets. Luckily, the weather cleared within an hour and the sky was crystal blue by the time we arrived by cab at the Town Gate.
My husband looked so handsome in his monkey suit, ahem, I mean dinner jacket! I had a bit of a panic the day before when I tried on the outfit I originally planned to wear. It was brown and I looked like a big turd. I wasn't going to make that mistake again! I power shopped and found a cream coloured chiffon cocktail dress that was beautiful.
Security was a bit strict and everyone was told to bring picture ID. The name on the event ticket had to match the name on ID. Everyone was security checked before we arrived. Once there, everyone looked beautiful with their own interpretation of what evening wear is. The dresses were stunning. The bling was fun. Hair was big.
We arrived for a champagne reception with the amazing castle looming large above us. The objective for the whole event was to raise money for musical instruments for the school so that students can try out various instruments before their parents have to make an investment and buy something their children later discover they don't want to play.
Champagne flowed freely and we bought an envelope from the Tree of Hope for £10. I won a free gym introduction and fitness programme at the Windsor Leisure Centre. I'm paranoid so I think it was fixed and someone is telling me I need to workout!
The venue was the marquee tent which has been constructed for the Travener's Cricket match and sponsored by Emirate's Airlines. It was nice of them to let us use it. The members of the PTA and parents had decorated it very nicely. The bouquet centrepieces were stunning! Wish I'd won that raffle!
Year 1 had quite a good showing. We had over 5 tables of parents. No bad going really. I reckon, if anyone's counting, that our year had more parents than any other year!
We did a round of heads and tails. In the end only one man and 4 women were left standing. And the man won!
We were left to eat our dinner which was quite an improvement on the meal we were served 2 years ago but seriously can you really serve hot delicious meals for 400+ ? To be honest, it was a bit bland. I did my best and stuck to my carb free diet despite a starter of a tart (I scrapped off the filling and ate just that). I didn't touch my bread which was nothing short of a will power triumph and my potatoes went back to the kitchen. I even maintained my determination during pudding. I gleefully ate my creme brulee and scrapped the chocolate mousse of the pie crust base.
During coffee and chocolate we were enticed by numerous auctions. There were some fabulous temptations: private tour of the royal mews by one of the Queen's grooms; carriage ride in the royal grounds, river boat meals for four. All in all the school raised over £10,500. That's a lot of musical instruments!
We continued to consume wine (although apparently they had run out of champagne!) and were entertained by a belly dancer. OK, so this just made me feel very inadequate!
Then the dancing started! I danced til my feet hurt. OK, so my feet were hurting before the dancing even started....can no one make a comfortable but sexy shoe for a woman with size 3 (USA) foot (size 1 UK)? But the DJ was great and everyone was having a boogey. Even my husband got out there and did was he thinks is dancing. Bless him!
By 12:30, the music stopped. The bar closed and the taxis were called.
We left in the with the stunning tower of Windsor Casstle a lit up just for our benefit (honest!)
Friday 15 June 2007
11 of us were scheduled to meet up at The Orange Tree pub in Richmond at 6:30 pm. James and I were meant to take the train from Windsor to Richmond but when I spoke to him he informed that he would be catching the 18:23 train. I'm not entirely sure in what world James thinks a 18:23 train will get him to Richmond by 18:30 but I didn't want to leave my colleague, Carol, waiting alone at the pub so Marc agreed to drive me the alleged 25 minute journey so I could be sure to get there by the time Carol's cab was due to arrive.
We left the house just before 6 pm. The traffic was gridlocked all the way there and I was the second to last to arrive followed by Carol whose cab was stuck in similar traffic! Even James arrived long before I did at 7:15.
It was meant to be a gorgeous summer evening but of course the weather wouldn't cooperate and we were dodged with rain the entire evening. Luckily, it did stop each time we moved pubs. We enjoyed a few drinks at a pub on the river Thames and had dinner at Strada. the food was OK but I wouldn't recommend it to a friend and I doubt I'd go back.
We had loads of fun chatting and getting to know each other a little better. We all tend to work hard and in dispersed office locations. We really only get together as a team for one 1/2 hour meeting weekly. These tend to be all business. Short and sweet. So it was nice to chat with colleagues outside that serious setting and have a laugh.
I work with a good group of people. They are very clever and passionate about their work. They make me better than I would be without them.
I arrived home far too late to be called sensible!
Thursday 14 June 2007
First things first: she had to get a passport. One thing that always amazes Europeans is that so many Americans don't get passports as soon as they are born. I try to explain that with a country as big as America, they don't really need to go outside of their national borders to have a holiday. Pretty much every thing you can possibly want to do on holiday can be found somewhere in the 50 states. They usually wisecrack a response back like "except history beyond 250 years old". which I have to give them.... I try not to defend a whole country. I am just 1 American. I can't possibly represent a nation of 360 million.
Secondly, she got on the airplane and arrived at the airport in Germany. A day early. OK, a day earlier than I thought she was arriving. It was early morning and I was blow drying my hair (getting ready for work) and my boyfriend, Glen, answered our phone. I heard his side of the conversation which went something like this:
- Hi, Steph!
- Where are you?
- What are you doing there?
- How long have you been there?
- LaDawn, when is you sister arriving?
- To which I reply, Tomorrow morning.
- No, she's at the airport now
- To which I reply, But she doesn't get here until tomorrow.
I could hear my sister crying down the phone, "Come get me! NOW!!" He did.
I took the day off work and spent it apologising to my sister. I'm still apologising.
She didn't speak a word of German. She had to beg for change. Had to ask for help to dial the phone number. The phones were way too different for her to figure out. And the instructions were in German.
She still has not forgiven me. She insists I forgot her. I maintain that I just got the days a bit wrong.
Wednesday 13 June 2007
So I got fed up with my domain host and a few days ago switched to "the largest domain host in the UK". And today, the redirect went down again!
To make matters worse, our broadband service went down a short while later.
I couldn't blog. And you couldn't read. I hope you weren't as frustrated as I was. If you were, I am very sorry.
Advice: bookmark www.clare-panton.blogspot.com !!!!
The Girls tells the story of twins, Rose & Ruby, conjoined at the head as they near their 30th birthday. Ruby writes 2-3 chapters for every 1 that Rose writes. Their voices are very different and this is meant to illustrate how different they are as individuals despite their shared bodies.
It tells the story of the people around them and their relationship with each other. The book focuses mostly around the people who adopt Rose & Ruby after their birth mother abandons them. Uncle Stash & Aunt Lovey a couple already in their 50s when they are born take the girls into their home and dramatically change the course of their lives . And this is my major complaint. I got a lot about Uncle Stash & Aunt Lovey and the other peripheral characters but I don't get enough of the relationship between the girls. There is a very bizarre story of the family's trip to Slovakia which doesn't give much to the story. Then there is Ruby's baby girl which she gives up for adoption. It all seems so contrived.
I get the feeling that the research for the novel didn't include talking to many conjoined sets of twins and that the author felt the need to add people that she could empathise with to pad out the story. There was so much potential for the stories premise. So much more could have been written about what it means to be a twin. About what it means to be a sister. About what it means to be so connected. Instead I got a very sappy, superficial, bizarre tale of Slovakia.
Book Group Update: KR couldn't make it. M & I were in complete agreement in our assessment. Everyone else felt it was an easy read, not very intellectually challenging. Not depressing after the horrific tale of A Sunday by the Pool in Kigali. We all felt we should perhaps challenge ourselves a bit more.
Tuesday 12 June 2007
I vomited at the Leisure Centre whilst waiting for Abigail to finish her ballet lesson.
I'm humiliated. I'm embarrassed. I want to crawl under a rock and die.
I am going to go eat Reese's PB Cups and watch junk TV before I go to book group.
Go read another blog.
Monday 11 June 2007
I picked up Seb and Hetta, one of his school mates, at school. I dropped Hetta off at her home and picked up Abigail. We went home to pack our swimming kit for Seb's swim lesson. We walked in the door to discover that Bailey had diarrhea all over his cage and the floor just outside the cage. He had obviously worked very hard to avoid soiling his own bed but didn't seem to care one little bit about my pristine kitchen floor.
As I was cleaning the mess up, our neighbour, Simon, popped round with the package. He dropped it on the counter and left obviously disgusted with the smell!
I finished disinfecting the kitchen and got our swimming gear packed. Whilst I waited for Marc to arrive home I opened up this box to find Mac & Cheese, Goldfish crackers, instant iced tea and the creme de la creme - Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I sang for joy! I can't even begin to tell you how delightful this was.
Clare & Michael - You are simply the best! Can hardly wait for your visit in September!
Sunday 10 June 2007
Abigail rode on the Old Windsor PreSchool float and their nursery rhyme was Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary. Abigail was one of many ladybirds (aka ladybugs, depending on which side of the Atlantic you live). There were flowers, bumblebees, butterflies, spiders, and scarecrows. It was beautifully decorated. I am envious of people who are so creative. Mostly I'm just glad their children go to Abigail's PreSchool.
We dropped Abigail off at 12:30 and went to get Sebastian's haircut (Steph - you will be relieved!). He looks so handsome. We used to fight with him each time we went. He would cry and fidget. He hated it. My little boy has grown up. He sat in the chair duly checking out every angle of the proceedings in the mirror. He never fidgeted and only complained once about the itchy hair clippings. He told the lady exactly what he wanted. When she was finished, he tipped her.
We returned to our home to grab lawn chairs and raced to the parade route. We made it just in time and I raced to take photographs. We got in the car and parked over by the recreational ground and positioned ourselves and our lawn chairs at the end of he route to catch it all again. I took loads of photos. You can find them all here on Flickr.
That is Abigail's childminder, Jackie as the Queen of Hearts. Her daughter, Georgina is the farthest on the right sitting.
This is our village bobby on the beat, Nick Preston. He has served our village for 25 years. He knows everyone and everyone knows him. It really makes a difference knowing that he's watching out for you!
We proceeded to the recreational grounds for the announcement of the float winner. Our little Abigail's float won The Grand First Prize! I know it was all because of one little ladybird that was just as cute as can be.
There were loads of stalls to see all raising money for the various organisations in the community: Scouts, Brownies, Women's Institute, the local boy's football club. Some had games, or bric-a-barc to sell. It was all very well done.
We rode some fun fair rides. Sebastian loves the bumper cars and Abigail really enjoyed the rides which is quite a difference on last year when she screamed blue murder. This year she squealed with delight. Her big brother took quite good care of her.
Abigail loves getting her face painted (which Sebastian hates) and she became a tiger (dressed as a ladybird) for the day.
We enjoyed all the typical fair food: candy floss (cotton candy), chocolate covered marshmallows, and ice cream.
We took a break and sat on the grass with Jackie (the child minder) and her family whilst the children tried their feet at some football games. They both won some prizes (more chocolate) but I think they had some help and some partial judging.
We returned home exhausted from the sun and fun. What a GREAT Saturday!
Saturday 9 June 2007
I packed a picnic for a family of 8 despite only having a family of 4. I always over pack picnics. We met up with a couple families who live in the village and some whose children go to Sebastian's school. Good thing I over packed as a couple didn't bring a picnic. So I served up the whole lot of them. I love feeding people.
The children ran around and wore themselvess out playing with loads of other children.
The donkeys raced and it seems the jockeys were able to stay on better than they did last year. The dads in the group kept the children fired up about gambling. They would read out the names for the next race. The children would pick their favourites. And the bets would be placed. A couple people won a couple pounds. But mostly our money went to benefit the community and charity.
The part I loved most about the evening was how everyone knew everyone else. Our little group grew and grew. We saw the children's childminder. We saw Sebastian's riding coach. We saw the osteopath on whose table my water broke.
We watched the sunset which was spectacular. Abigail was the one who brought everyone's attention to it by pointing to the sky saying "Look, the sky pink." She wasn't joking!
Everyone put on their jackets for the fireworks display which is fabulous. On the village green, set to music, fireworks light up all the spectator's faces. The children cry out "Oooooh" & "Aaaaah!" right on cue. Abigail, who isn't exactly fond of fireworks, covered herself (head and all) with a blanket, laid down on a girl's lap and stayed there the entire time. that's her under the blanket in the photo! Seb cuddled up to me and put one ear against my shoulder. And then put his hands over his eyes. OK, maybe I shouldn't take my children to fireworks displays....but I love them!