Thursday, 31 December 2009


I feel compelled to write once more before the year ends and since I can't think of any particular topic, I thought I'd share some conversations the kids and I have had this year:

We had company over for dinner tonight and the kids decided to wrestle over the package Mrs. Crimbles Coconut Macaroons that we had gotten for Christmas. I know you'll be shocked and surprised when I tell you a glass of Crystal Lite got tipped over. A nearly FULL glass of RED Crystal Lite. In front of the company. I had only seen it happen out of the corner of my eye and from my observation, it look like Logan had caused this dining disaster. I went over with a paper towel, which upon arriving found it to be completely inadequate for the job. I asked Hannah if Logan had tipped over the glass and she said (in front of company), "No. I did. I'd like to say that Logan did it, but it was me."

Yesterday morning, I fixed the kids some eggs for breakfast. After having crammed a shovel like portion into his mouth, Logan sneezed. Twice. I could see it was going to happen and I wanted to say, "Cover your mouth!" but I knew it would have been too late. I wanted to cover his mouth with my hand, but self preservation paralyzed me. Luckily, I had JUST washed the table cloth so the eggs had a hygenic place to land after they were propelled at 100+mph from Logan's mouth. Of COURSE I was annoyed! I scolded Logan for not covering his mouth when he sneezed. Ever the peacemaker, Logan wanted to make good our relationship and offered this olive branch: "Mommy, I no pick my nose." I thanked him for reminding me what a great kid he actually is.

Last anecdote is from the archives, but it really is so astute a portrait of me, that I have to share it for posterity. Hannah was just little, probably around two years old. She would do stuff that was naughty and she knew better but she was two, so she HAD to do it. You know, normal stuff, like putting her teddy in the dish water or throwing random things from the balcony. I would tell her, "Hannah! That makes me so angry! You're making me crazy!" After one particular 2-year-old thing she did, I became cross with her which upset her and made her cry, "Mommy angry! Crazy!" Which immediately made me laugh at the razor sharp analysis of her demented mother.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

A Christmas Story

I realize that all my previous posts have attempted humor, yet I'm going to take a moment to share a less frivolous story from my childhood--a time when I discovered the meaning of Christmas. I wrote this story last year when I was asked to speak in church, so I'll share an excerpt from that with you:

The “Christmas Spirit” is an elusive thing. It is entwined in traditions and baking, decorating the house and wrapping gifts. While living in England, we embraced the novelty of having our children involved in Christmas Nativities at school. Another facet of Christmas was developed when I lived in Mexico where Navidad meant Posadas. Bright, colorful paper lanterns, piñatas, music, friends and plenty of wonderful food welcomed the coming of the Christ child. It was in Mexico that I had my first real Christmas experience. It’s one more layer of what Christmas means to me.

When I was 12 years old, our family moved to Mexico. My three sisters and I had to learn the language by listening, practicing and making mistakes that brought laughter to those with whom we were trying to converse. The first year, I couldn’t speak one word, however, by the second year, I could understand most everything, and by the third year, I could chat away with anyone.

During that third year, our last one in Mexico, my family came to know Elisa’s family. It was quite common in the late ‘70s to hire help and Elisa was a lady who lived nearby and would come by everyday to cook, clean, do laundry—whatever my mother needed. Elisa had a large family and her young husband would find employment as a construction worker, an abañil, the humblest and least paid vocations of the time. One day I visited Elisa’s home, located in a vacant lot very near our large, two story, five bedroom home. I had never seen anything like it. The entire house couldn’t have been bigger than 15’ x 15’. It had dirt floors and the walls and roof were corrugated tin. The family bed was in one corner while the wood burning stove was in another. I noticed some out-of-date advertisement posters from my father’s work used to insulate the interior from those thin metal walls. Despite the difficult conditions, her home was immaculate. The dirt floor was tamped down hard and swept clean, the bed was made, and their one dilapidated dresser held the entire families' clothes; there was no clutter anywhere.

In December of that year, my mother came to us and explained that Elisa’s husband had been out of work for quite some time. Her family was managing because of Elisa’s income as our housekeeper, however, there would be no presents that year from El Niño Dios, the Baby Jesus. Mom asked us if we would be willing to allocate some of our Christmas budget on buying gifts for Elisa’s family. We said we would, but selfishly, I suggested we shop at the discount store. Mom took us shopping and we picked out gifts for each of Elisa’s 6 or 7 children. I picked out a large plastic dump truck and to my eternal shame, I will always remember saying to my mother, “This is good enough for Pedro.” During our shopping spree, my mother also picked out something for Elisa and another small gift for her husband, an act I very much begrudged; after all, Christmas is for children, not adults and buying two more gifts for them was taking away from money that could be spent on me.

We took all our purchases home and wrapped them with bright paper, colorful bows and curly ribbon, carefully putting a tag on each so everyone would get their rightful gift. Mom explained we couldn’t very well ALL go to Elisa’s little home with the presents, so on Christmas Eve, she put the gifts in an ENORMOUS bag and then put some of my father’s shirts on top to hide the vividly covered packages. She drove to Elisa’s home and took the large bag inside, telling Elisa that she needed these things washed before Christmas. At first, Elisa didn’t realize that my mom was simply trying to sneak something past the children who were curiously peeping at their mamá's employer. She just respectfully murmured, “ Sí Señora.” Never once did she complain that it was late afternoon Christmas Eve, or point out that she didn’t have a washing machine and it would take hours to wash everything in that bag by hand. To clue her in, Mom moved away the shirts, allowing Elisa a glimpse at the gifts inside. Confusion gave way to gratitude and then to tears as Elisa cried, “I will have it done for Christmas Señora!” Mom left her there with the "laundry" and later that evening when all the children slept, dropped off a bicycle that my little sister had outgrown for one of Elisa’s daughters.

When my mother returned and shared the story with us, my heart was stricken with remorse. I wanted to go back immediately and buy nicer presents. I wanted to spend all my Christmas money so that Elisa’s children could have a stunning Christmas. Of course, it was everlastingly too late. That is when I learned what Christmas really means--sharing with others, blessing those around us without thought for oneself, losing ourselves in the service of others.

Each year since then, I relive that Christmas. When I begin the yearly foray into innumerable boxes of tinsel and holly, Pedro’s plastic truck reminds me to make sure that spirit of giving from the heart is part of our Christmas traditions.

David O. McKay declared: “True happiness comes only by making others happy—In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service."

Please know that I am wishing the true spirit of the season to bless your lives. Merry Christmas, dearest ones.

Monday, 14 December 2009


We've used AFN (American Forces Network) or just local TV for all but the last year and a half of our lives. No TiVo, no DVR, no satelite--none of that big city stuff for our family; just "on" and "off".

HOWEVER, now that we are in Ah-mer-EE-ka, we are so luvin our Dish TV with DVR. We record things and pause the program if we need to visit the loo, then we get to FF through the commercials or RW if we missed a critical moment on iCarly. It's been a life altering experience.

So, on our way to school today, we were listening to the radio station that has been playing Christmas music 24/7 since Thanksgiving. When I turned it on, there was an EPIC tune playing that Hannah really liked. She asked me if I could RW it so we could start it at the beginning. I explained we were listening to the radio, not a CD, therefore I couldn't rewind. This was a concept that took a little time to grasp. She quizzed me on the veracity of my statement. I tried to explain that the radio station played music whether we listened or not. Tragically, I likened it to the TV, where shows continue to play even when we turn it off. Fatal comparison. I was grilled as to WHY on the TV we have command of the FF and RW and yet not on the radio. I had no answer. I'm pretty sure she thinks I'm lying...

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


Hannah came down with a really high high you ask? I really don't know because the new thermometer I bought this month to replace the two I lost doesn't work anymore. The Mom-ometer in my hand assessed her at 103 degrees, at least. Motrin and Tylenol weren't helping much and she spent the entire day listlessly on the couch declining all invitations to eat.

Jonathan spent the whole of the night before waking every 2 hours because he was miserable and needed to make sure his mother was kept apprised of the situation.

Michelle had to drive 70 miles away this morning to get her military ID issued, so I stayed home with both kids after taking Logan to school at 7:15.

Hannah was feeling so poorly she wanted me to sit by her, but I HAD to clear up the kitchen before sitting down and then stayed there for hours as I stared at the messy living room and agonized over what a disaster the bedrooms had become. Sometimes, worrying about when I was going to find time to look for some critical paperwork for refinancing the house helped to distract me from those uncomfortable thoughts.

Nearing 11:00 a.m., Jonathan was rallying and I invited him to come in the front so I could mow the lawn. That lasted 10 minutes before I had to take the tear streaked lamb inside and cuddle him. The lawn mower is still waiting for me.

After Michelle returned and laid down with Jonathan for his nap, I started dinner and made another attempt to clear away the debris in the kitchen. Then it was time to pick up Logan. He came home starving. A hot dog, a banana, a Popsicle and several cookies were not enough to tame his hunger before dinner was ready.

When Jonathan awoke, he had wet the bed, so the sheets had to be washed and I didn't remember to make the bed until it was bed time, of course.

Ever have one of those days?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Einstein, Oracles and Tickles

Soooooooooo, Logan has reached the magical age of five; supposedly the age Einstein was when he began talking. Anyone who had ever heard Logan's odd speech would tell me not to worry, and would trot out the story about Einstein. However, the Speech teacher at school is itching to work with Logan because he defies "normal" speech abnormalities and she is looking forward to the challenge.

To illustrate: On the way to school the other day, Logan told me that his sacred guru Mrs. Brown, Kinder teacher and Oracle of all Wisdom in the Universe, would give him a tickle if he did something or other (that part was unclear). I repeated back to him what I heard: "Mrs. Brown will give you a tickle?!" That sounded fun. I began to imagine Mrs. Brown giving a friendly tickle when the kids had accomplished something wonderful (or whatever).
"NO. A TICK-oo!" Happy imaginings abruptly ended. I ruminated a bit more on the part of his story I thought I had understood and wondered what the Great and Powerful Mrs. Brown (actually pronounce Mist-oo Bwown, a la Logan) would give that would make him sound so happy and in addition sounded like "tick-oo". As I'm rummaging around in my head, he continues to correct me by repeating "tick-oo" several more times, just louder in order to break through my barrier of ignorance.

Now, I'm not sure I can take credit for translating "tick-oo", because Hannah was in the car with us and she is the best interpretor, bar none, of Logan's language. The point IS, we learned that Mist-oo Bwown would give Stickers to anyone who mumblemumblemumbled (we never got to deciphering that). Eureka! It's like translating parts of the Rosetta Stone. There is so much satisfaction that comes when we have a break through.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Things That Matter Most

Yesterday afternoon was the PTA "Country Fair" fundraiser. There was a silent auction, cake walk, ring toss games, candy hunts in haystacks as well as a chance to guess how many popped corn kernals were in a large jar. Whomever guessed closest would win the popcorn AND the $20 bill tucked inside. Each of my kids paid 50 cents to take a turn, recording their guess before wandering off to find friends, buy snow cones, eat candy and in general, contribute to the chaos. Logan complained several times that he wanted to eat that popcorn, not understanding the whole concept of throwing money away for a good cause. Hannah scored 2 liters of A&W root beer in the ring toss (which then became my responsibility to lug around), Logan's buddy won a cake in the cake walk, but Logan's victories were all rewarded with bite size candy--to his bitter dismay.

Just before the Fair came to a close, the winner of the costume contest was announced (Hannah was insulted when her name wasn't called) followed by the popcorn guessing winner (drum roll please). There, in front of all those parents, children, and teachers, LOGAN'S name was called! His guess was 400 and the actual amount of popped corn was 407.

Logan was lifted up to claim his prize and when the judges handed over the coveted jar, he realized he was finally being given the longed for popcorn. The lid was immediately ripped off as Logan stuffed his mouth with the long denied snack. The $20 was not even on the radar!

We got home that night and celebrated by watching an X-Men cartoon and eating popcorn for dinner. I'll have to take the discarded twenty and save it for another day.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Strings Attached

Today Logan stayed home from school because he had a slight temperature. However, Kim and John are visiting from England and we had already planned to visit San Antonio, so Logan had to come along.

Remember that drought I've been complaining about? Well, since John and Kim arrived from England, it has done nothing BUT rain. So our little hiatus to San Antonio was done between thunderstorms. We visited The Alamo and La Villita then had lunch in the Rivercenter mall. We couldn't ride the river boats because, apparently, they don't run unless the weather is dazzling. Logan was SUPER well behaved during this whole expedition, which made not putting him in a bag and tossing him in the river quite easy.

On our way out of the mall, Kim wandered into a boutique and we, her entourage, followed behind. Inside this little store, Logan amused himself sedately by looking at all the bulk jewelry. He found a large silver heart on a long chain and begged me to buy it. To him, it was the definition of stunning. I asked him why he wanted this necklace and he said, "So I can give it to you, Mommy. It has a love on it." How could I deny him (especially since it was under $10)?

Once the purchase was made, I handed him the necklace and he held onto it during the ride home. After the hour commute, he placed the necklace over my head and told me, "I bought this for you Mommy!"

Now, in case you're dabbing your eyes at this touching display of sweet affection, let me just tell you that he threatens to take it back any time I scold him for misdeeds. Really, the lovely necklace was given conditionally on my behaviour. I've almost lost the priviledge of ownership three times since it's acquisition.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Sage, Not Just For Stuffing

Remember back in February when Hannah was being considered for the Gifted and Talented program before I ruined any chance she had by not being able to fill out the application form? Well, I had been advised that we wouldn't know if she was accepted until August, when school started.

So, here we are, the middle of September and since I hadn't heard a word about Hannah being accepted, I assumed she hadn't. Whatever. Then Hannah showed up yesterday and told me she is in the Sage program. She explains not everyone can go to Sage, just special kids. Teasingly, I ask, "You mean only the dumb ones?"
"No!" she denied emphatically.
"Only the TALL ones?" Again, I offend with the width and depth of my ignorance.
"No Mommy, only the smart ones," she explains, using very simple words so I could understand; knowing with a surity she'll never have to worry about bumping into me at a Sage convention. I asked her when she started going to Sage (a.k.a the Gifted and Talented program) and she informed me, "Since last school year."


Trying not to interrogate her, I asked why she hadn't told me that she had been going to Sage since arriving to Texas. She told me she hadn't known that not everyone got to go. That seemed a reasonable answer--since everything was new to her when she arrived, she didn't question one more new thing. From the Q&A that followed, I learn her first Sage meeting had taken place on Tuesday and that they meet twice a week. During their first meeting they played a get-to-know-you game that consisted of telling two truths and a fib about yourself. Everyone then tries to guess which was the fib. Here were Hannah's 3 things:
1. I adopted a grandfather in England
2. I have never seen a live snake
3. I lived through an earthquake in England

Can you guess which one is the fib?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Souped up Superman

Since starting school three weeks ago, Logan has come home and spontaneously brought up Halloween on several different occations. He has shared with us how excited he is about it and how much he is looking forward to the actual event (I’m doing a rough translation of his animated diatribe consisting of mangled syllables and semi-formed words). This is hugely amazing because Logan is more of a "here and now" sorta guy, so it's exciting to see him bringing up and discussing future events. This morning was one of those times. After he reminded us once more about the finer points of Halloween, Hannah suggested he could be Spiderman (AGAIN--for the third year running). I had other plans. Last week I had gone to the Mega Gi-normous Shop and found a Superman pajama (it even had a cool cape that can Velcros on) which could SO double as a Halloween costume. Naturally, I bought it; I mean, who wouldn't? My plan was to wait until October before showing Logan the costume/pajama, but the moment seemed right and I brought it out for his immediate approval instead. OH! the joy!! Unfortunately, he couldn’t try it on because we had to go to school. No worries, Logan took custody of his new super suit and hung it in the closet.

Twelve hours later, it was time to get ready for bed. Logan lost no time taking off his mild mannered school clothes and replacing them with his Superman jammies looking ever so pleased. When I went in to kiss him goodnight and have prayers, I found my mini man in bed dressed in his fabulous new pajamas--with orange swim goggles placed neatly over his eyes. This swim goggle thing has been happening now for about three nights running, but the Superman costume really pulled the look together. Having seen the ensemble, I’m shocked that Marvel Comics hadn’t thought to outfit Clark Kent’s alter ego with orange tinted swim goggles. HUGE over site on their part.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


Now, I'm not going to name names in order to preserve some sense of dignity and anonymity, however today one of my offspring (mind you, I have four) made me laugh at a darling language faux pas.

We had been discussing if it had actually rained that day. It's always exciting to see a little precipitation, especially since Texas is in year two of a severe drought. Having just spent the last three years of our lives in England where rain is a given, we have come to appreciate that horrid, messy, depressing weather as the cooling, refreshing, quiet phenomenon that it is.

Sadly, today's rain was puny, just a few drops really. Un-named offspring said, "It's not really raining right now, it's just slobbering."

Giggling at the mental picture the phrase created, I caught myself and then soberly asked, "You mean drizzling?"

Friday, 4 September 2009

Texas Wildlife, Up Close and Personal

Living in the hill country affords many pleasures that city dwellers don't even know they are missing. For example, the twinge of delight one feels when driving up and finding deer grazing on the front lawn; or when walking the dog at night and realizing that Orion's Belt and the Big Dipper are just out of arms reach. Another amazing perk of country living is this--if I decide to leave my curtains open, nobody's gonna walk by and witness the state of my undress. It's a win-win situation for everyone involved, I assure you.

howEVER...There are one or two drawbacks. The first goes back to those lovely deer grazing in the yard. Those blasted beasts eat EVERYTHING you plant, so unless you have 10 foot fencing surrounding the entire perimeter of your property, don't even bother planting anything besides cactus and sage! Whoa--sorry...I sorta blacked out there for a second...Anyway, as I was saying, there can be some challenges unique to living outside the city. I experienced one of those when I forgot to close the garage door last Friday night. No, there weren't burglars passing through, it was much, much worse. A potential vandal took up residence in the garage. The dog apprised me of the situation Saturday afternoon. At first I thought a field mouse had gotten in. Then, getting on my hands and knees to look under the storage shelves, I saw it was WAY bigger than a mouse. Probably a cat. Then came the smell. We all know what looks like a cat yet smells like a prison outhouse in the middle of August, don't we? A large skunk was in my garage with a dog harassing it and boxes of things I haven't unpacked innocently sitting right at ground zero. Luckily, I was able to get Doggy in the house before we had to torch the garage and all its contents.

How was I going to evict our pungent little guest? Google, baby, Google. Here's what we learned. Skunks are nocturnal. They will leave when night falls to forage for food, so just leave the door open, sprinkle flour on the ground and once you notice his little footprints exiting, you will know he has gone. Oh, yeah, and I forgot one other minor detail...they carry rabies. But, not to worry. If you do happen to get bitten by a skunk, catch it and save the brain so that the hospital can rule out whether or not you are going to die of hydrophobia.

I figured you'd like to know, just in case...knowledge is power, after all.

At night fall, I closed the garage door hoping fervently that Pepe had already gone. Of COURSE I didn't put down flour to see his little foot prints, that's what clever people do.

That night, I tossed and turned and I could smell that unique aroma particular to polecats. Waking early (3 am), I crept to the kitchen and slowly opened the door leading to the garage. The light had been left on and as I peeked inside, there he was, sniffing about, probably wondering where the escape portal had gone. I'm going to tell you something right now: Mr. Disney took liberties when animating the cuteness of skunks. Or perhaps because we haven't developed Surround Smell in theaters, we can't really appreciate how undesirable skunks actually are until we see one eight feet away inside our enclosed property. Slowly, ever so slowly, I closed the door and went outside where the car had been parked. Using the remote, I opened the door from a safe distance. Of course, the pandemonium of opening another dimension caused our friend to duck and cover. I waited, hoping he would smell the fresh air and trot out. Apparently, fresh air is not as important to skunks as it is to the human race; he out waited me. Eventually, I left the garage door open, closing it just before daybreak. And no, I didn't put down any flour, so quit asking!

Here we are, a week later and I'm guessing our little wildlife refuge is closed--at least until I forget to close the garage again.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Blurred Gender Lines

We spent a month in Wyoming this summer frolicking in their ever so do-able 80 degree heat while our fellow Texans wilted during 40 consecutive days of 100+ temperatures.

Before heading back to the scorched lands of Texas, I bribed the children with $1 each to spend at Dollar General if they behaved while I shopped at a department store. When we finally arrived at that promised dollar Mecca, we wandered up one treasure filled aisle and down another as the children clutched their money tightly and contemplated how they could possibly choose only one item from that spectacular establishment.

Having seen all that China had to offer, Hannah decided on a realistic looking plastic cockroach invisibly connected to fishing line that you could pull across the floor to frighten the unsuspecting. Logan couldn't seem to find the perfect item until the end when he saw something wonderful. Something so amazing he literally shouted for joy at the very sight of it. He called for me to come witness this incredible find. I am sure you are dying to know what could cause my rough and tumble five year old son such euphoria in order that you might buy one for the little boy in your life, aren't you? It was a baby doll. A sweet, soft bodied, plastic headed baby that he cradled lovingly to his heart.

So Hannah bought her cockroach and Logan bought his baby; neither one questioning the gender lines they had just kicked to the curb.

Monday, 1 June 2009


I know this is an old story for some, but others of you may never have heard it, so I'm writing it for you. The rest of you may be excused.

In March of 2007, my daughter Michelle and her husband and brand new baby boy came to visit us in England. In the event you don't want to do the math, Logan was two and Hannah was five during their visit. I, of course, was 34…but that is neither here nor there.

Before they were to leave, we decided to take an overnight trip to London and see the sights the weekend before Michelle and company were to fly back to the States. We did the tourist thing and rode the Big Red Bus, loitered in front of Buckingham Palace in hopes of meeting the queen, stared at the London Eye, waited for Big Ben to chime, and rode past Parliament pointing and snapping pictures.

Of course no tour of London could be complete without going into the city's famous department store, Harrods. The Men Folk took Hannah and escaped to go exploring on their own. Michelle and I took our baby boys and decided to survey the Egyptian Room and see if there was ANYthing we could afford in any of their apparel departments (there wasn’t). As we meandered rather aimlessly through acres of frighteningly overpriced items, we came to the lingerie floor. There was a display of 5 scantily clad female mannequins forming a circle facing outwards. These mannequins were not behind a glass window, but rather in the middle of the wide hallway. Logan was walking at this point and as we all passed the display, Logan strayed behind gaping at the plastic models. I noticed right away he wasn’t keeping up with us and went back to fetch him. As I got closer I heard him say under his breath, “wowww.” Then he walked into the center of the mannequin's circle, carefully appraising their artificial derrieres and uttered again, but this time much more meaningfully, “WOWWW.” We entered the store that proffered this display and I discovered Logan to be deeply appreciative of the aesthetic detail given to each and every lace and gauze covered number. He came across a blond that was reclined in a hammock-like garden swing wearing a filmy little teddy that I certainly would wear if I had a bed swing in my garden. Logan stared intently at this indisputable work of genius before giving a long drawn out, “Woooooooooww.”

Now, I’m guessing he either has an artist's eye, or else he's a perv. Only time will tell.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Misery in Texas

Not to belabor the point that Texas is really, really different from anything my children have ever experienced, but I wanted to relate a novel incident that Hannah and Logan found excruciating, painful and maddening. I figure their new found misery is good for an amusing anecdote . That doesn’t make me a bad mother…it doesn’t!

It all started Friday afternoon when we went to Gramma’s house for a quick “hello” before heading to the pool. Hannah and Logan went outside and ran through her overgrown back garden while Mom and I visited sedately in her air conditioned house. It had been raining recently so the weeds had gotten over 6” tall. After about 15 minutes, Hannah came inside complaining she felt itchy. I told her to wash her hands, arms and face to get rid of the pollens and allergens that were aggravating her. She reappeared a few minutes later damp and miserable. She was still itchy. Now, I KNOW there isn’t poison oak, ivy or anything of that ilk in my mom’s yard, so I was sure it was from running in the tall grass. We left and went swimming, itching forgotten for the moment.

That evening, Hannah and Logan were scratching like hound dogs, so I looked at the aggrieved areas. Small, angry welts were visible, and I explained to Hannah she had gotten mosquito bitten. She insisted I make the accursed itching stop. Immediately. I told her that I had nothing in my arsenal of over the counter drugs to keep bug bites from itching, but we would go in the morning to buy some anti bug-itch lotion. Right after breakfast, we went into town (that's a 45 minute drive folks) and asked the chemist what we could use. She showed us some topical lotions that I all but snatched from her hand and busted open right there. I applied this heaven sent solution liberally on both kids to relieve their hellish torment. OH. MY. SWEET. HEAVEN! Do you remember the Wizard of Oz scene where the Wicked Witch gets doused with water and it acts as an acid, melting her flesh and bones? This anti-itch stuff had the same effect on the children. “IT BURNS!! IT BURNS!!” they shrieked as they thrashed about agonizingly on aisle four. From then on, there was that tortuous deliberation: “do we scratch endlessly or sting momentarily for some relief?” By Sunday, both kids had scabs where their numerous bug bites were. Can I tell you how attractive that looks with bobby socks and a skirt? Sunday night, Hannah begged to know how long the itchy torment lasted. I assured her that by the end of Monday things should be much better.

Here we are, Wednesday evening; the living nightmare commonly called mosquito bites has passed. Hannah counted 18 spots on her legs and arms that were causing all her agony. Logan can tell you about the "bug wif wings" that he doesn’t "yike" because they eat his blood since he’s so yummy. We have a clear understanding that we should not play in the tall grass and to always use insect repellant before spending time outside, a new but important preparation now that we live on planet Texas.

Monday, 18 May 2009

La Familia Nostra

My oldest daughter, Michelle, is here with her little Jonathan, who just turned 2 in February. It's been so funny to see how my children interact with their little nephew. Logan gets all possessive about toys and things he cares nothing about and hasn’t EVER played with from the moment he ripped the packaging from them. Hannah became all antsy that little J was playing with her empty, plastic, unbreakable Easter eggs. She was worried because he was opening them and she was afraid they would all get lost. I pointed out we were in the house and if they got scattered, we'd just pick them up; looking for them like, well, like an Easter egg hunt. She gave me the look. You know the one I'm talkin' about--the classic, Daughter to Stupid Mother look.

Jonathan is little and so he is still very physical about expressing his heartfelt needs, a lot like Logan used to be up until about 3 weeks ago. If necessary the J Man will hit, pinch or pull hair to get what he sees as clearly and irrefutably his. Michelle consistantly encourages him to be nice and I keep assuring her that Logan used to be the same way so she doesn’t worry unduly. See, for the last 3 years, I’ve had to stay within arms reach of Logan for fear he would cause severe bodily harm to anyone who dared play with a toy he might eventually find interesting. Thankfully, now,when JJ hits him, Logan just comes to me and complains about it instead of clocking his 2 year old nephew.

Earlier this week, all the kids were goofing off together and somehow JJ stepped on Hannah's head and his shoe slid down her face and onto her ear. When Michelle and I arrived to the crime scene, Hannah began crying and holding her ear. I knelt at her side giving her the "Poor little bunny" routine while Michelle flew straight to JJ's side telling him to kiss Hannah and say he was sorry. JJ stood there looking down at Hannah writhing on the floor, crying and holding her ear, as mom and grandmom hovered at her side. So he did the only thing a guy could do in such a situation, he aimed his Power Ranger blaster at her and double tapped her between the eyes. I guess one day he’ll be a good veterinarian by the way he just assessed the situation and then lifted the toy gun to put her out of her misery, right? I'm thinking vet, not anything dark and sinister...You too, right?

Eventually, Michelle was able to coax Jonathan to kiss her and peace was restored…for the time being.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009


Since Dan is away and the kids are so young and have absolutely NO pocket money, I knew Mother’s Day would go by pretty much unobserved. I resigned myself to this reality and was just going to soldier on.

Hannah had been out of school up until May 7th (Thursday before Mother’s Day) due to the whole swine flu thing, but she came home on Friday asking what we were doing on Saturday. “Probably just going grocery shopping, why? Is there something you’d like to do?” I asked, without really wondering at all. She then changes the subject and asks me, “What do you really like Mommy?” I thought about it awhile and answered that I’d really like some gold hoop earrings to match the necklace Daddy had given me. So she asks if we can go to a store on Saturday that sold earrings. She explained that she wanted to buy some earrings to save until she had her ears pierced. She anxiously asked if she could buy herself (meaning, “Will you buy me?”) a pair of earrings. I was uncharacteristically amenable so the subject was dropped.

Saturday, we went to a super discount warehouse store that sells everything from vacuums (of which I bought one) to groceries but most importantly, jewelry. When we got to the Bauble Department, Hannah wanted me to show her some earrings that I liked. See, she was planning on wearing these particular gold hoops when she was about 46, so if I picked out something I liked, then ipso facto, she would like them when SHE got to that exalted age. So, we looked through ALL their earrings and came upon a plan. I would pull out the earrings I liked and then Hannah could pick from those chosen. I found 3 pair that I liked equally as well and then left Hannah to make her decision while I chased down her brother who was not nearly as engrossed with earrings as we had been.

All throughout the remainder of the time we were at the super discount warehouse store, Hannah would whisper to Logan and then cover his mouth insisting, “DON’T TELL!!” when he tried to share these privelged details with me. At check out, Hannah needed to use the rest room; I told her she wouldn’t be able to take “her” earrings with her. She looked devastated, so I suggested she give them to the cashier. As I loaded groceries (and vacuum cleaner) onto the conveyer belt, I peeked over at them and saw Hannah whispering conspiratorially with the cashier.

On the way home, Hannah wanted to know if she could wrap a “birthday present” for Logan, even though his birthday is not until June. She, Logan, a roll of wrapping paper and the cello tape disappeared into her room. After a time, a sign appeared on her door that stated: Mommy, Keep Out Until Tomorrow!

I treated myself by staying up late to make a cheesecake and watch a DVD, anticipating sleeping in the next morning. Logan had wandered into my bed sometime in the wee hours and was still in dreamland, when Hannah came in and dashed any hope I'd had of sleeping late. You see, the children take turns waking me early each Saturday (I'm nearly certain it's in retaliation for me waking them for school at 6 a.m. Monday through Friday). Hannah climbed on my bed wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day. Out came a lovely card she had made in school as well as a suspiciously familiar little box wrapped in gold . The scrap of paper taped to it read, “Happy Mother’s Day love Hannah and Logan”. When I opened it, of course I was absolutely STUNNED to find a pair of gold hoop earrings! Hannah was literally bouncing with pleasure at having surprised me with a Mother’s Day gift that I really wanted! My Mother’s Day? In a word, perfect!

Friday, 1 May 2009

Zebras and Whatnot

Now that we live in the Republic of Texas, things are just different. Like for example, from roughly the end of April onwards, you can’t go outside to play after 10am until about 7pm…too hot and humid. Any kind of time in that weather makes you feel like you need to kill someone, anyone, right away. Also, when you need to drive into actual civilization, it's wise to take provisions as you'll be on the road awhile.

Now, I had about five days from the time the movers delivered our furniture to when Dan would be arriving. During that time, I needed to unpack strategic boxes that would get the house livable, but not add clutter. It was inevitable that during some of that time, I would have both kids hanging around while I decided what to unpack and then where it belonged. Luckily, we live in the hill country and there is a reserve behind our house with a little stream running through it providing endless entertainment for the kids. They’re just to stay away from the "crick" (for my English friends, thats Texan for "creek" in case you're not fluent in hick) because of the water moccasins a.k.a. cotton-mouth snakes. They’re poisonous so we’re not to play with them. It's just something you get used to reminding your kids when they go out to play--goes to the statement about things being different here.

After having left the kids to their own devices for some time, Logan comes into the house complaining about Hannah, a zebra and something about his pedal car being dirty. Since I could not understand what he was on about, I followed him to the door to see if I could find some sort of context clue that would help me decipher this deranged statement. As I step out the front door I am stunned to see the hind leg of a deer on the walkway. It was just the bones and a hoof, so no fleshy, gory stuff was left—unless you consider skeletal remains gory stuff. Hannah was standing there and I asked WHERE the deer leg had come from. That was really code for "What is this THING doing here!?" but mostly, my kids can't decipher code yet, so she just answered the actual question, not the implied one. She told me she had brought it to the house from the reserve. The horror of contemplating the quantity of germs on that bit 'o carcass overwhelmed me and I moaned, “OH Hannah!” She assured me that she had used a stick to bring it up to the house but it kept falling off, so she put it on Logan’s pedal car to drive it the rest of the way over. That way I might have the privilege of viewing it, see? It really was an excellent specimen of the hind leg of a deer, but I kicked it off the walkway anyway and made Hannah go wash her hands. Then I handed her a rag and the 409 and told her she needed to clean Logan’s car. I think Hannah now knows she is not to put animal remains on her brother’s car…I don’t think I had ever spelled that out before. Do you see what I mean about things here just being different?

Oh, and just so you know, Logan STILL calls out "ZEBRA!" when he sees deer grazing in the neighborhood.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

First Day of School

This is a funny story, I'm just not sure I can write it funny. I'll give it a go and we'll see if it loses the giggle effect in the translation...

So, here we are, back in the U.S. after one taxi, 3 airplanes, 1 tram, 2 three hour layovers, and one joyous 3am reunion in San Antonio.

We arrived in Texas on a Sunday and Hannah started school the following Thursday. When I dropped her off at the reception area, she was whisked away to be tested before being assigned a class. I arrived to collect her at 2:45, and the school receptionist told me that after having been tested, they decided to place Hannah in Mrs. Johnson's class. She explained rather cryptically that it was a more appropriate place for her since there were students at a similar level as she in that particular class...uh...ok. So in the car, on the way home, I asked Hannah how things had gone. She told me that she was asked to read aloud, which was hard because she is used to reading to herself. And there were some very hard words...words even harder than "eclipse"! Then, they went on to do maths and there were these numbers with arrows (?). As she was trying to explain this mathematical function, I'm scrambling around in my head trying to figure out what would second graders be doing with numbers and arrows? After a few moments, the light came on and I realized she was talking about the "greater than" or "less than" symbols. This is not a math symbol used in England. They also did some worksheets that had pictures of American money and she had to add it up. She told me it was difficult because she couldn't flip the coins over to see how much they were worth. "Okaaaaaaay..." I'm thinking, "so she tanked the reading portion and was clueless on the maths portion...(sigh)." Hannah was still talking and I fought to focus on what she was saying. Something about coloring in the bubbles. She didn't know about coloring in the bubbles. Since I had that "Wha?" face on, she went on to explain that if there was a question and you had to choose either a), b), or c), then you had to fill in the bubble that corresponded with the correct answer. "ah-HAAA! a scan tron sheet!" my nimble brain concludes. So now the cryptic message that the receptionist had given me earlier begins to take form. What she was loathe to say was really: "They have placed Hannah in a remedial class...Mrs. Johnson is a special ed teacher," I brace myself for that eventuality.

The next day, Hannah comes home with a paper I must fill out that asks silly questions like, "My child is mature beyond her years" and I'm supposed to circle 1) dumb as a rock 2) average Joe 3) freakin' genius! (ok, maybe I'm paraphrasing, but you get the drift). I circled all the number twos and sent it back to her teacher. Monday, she comes home with aNOTHer form with a handwritten note in the corner that read, "please fill out this side." OK. I read the form title: Application for Gifted and Talented Program. Hannah pipes in just then, "Mommy, this paper needed both sides completed" I turn it over and sure enough, all the silly questions regarding Hannah's ability level are there with all the number twos circled. Do you see the irony? They want to test the kid for the gifted class and her mother can't even fill out a form without assistance? It's her mother that belongs in the remedial class, folks!

OK. This is the place where you are snickering at my idiocy or still waiting for the punch line. If this isn't funny, it's because I'm still in my special ed writing class...

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Gratitude, not an occupational hazard

It was Hannah’s last day of school in England last Friday, so the teacher allowed us to have one hour for a going away party. Two weeks earlier, a friend of hers had a party before she moved to Dubai. Hannah and I talked about what games she would like to play and I said it would be fun to decorate Valentine cookies since the next day would be Valentine’s Day. She conceded that we could include that as an activity, but she really wanted to do musical statues and a blindfold game as well as musical chairs. I told her we would play a new game to England that is played a lot in America. Fine.

The night before the party, I stayed up until 11:00 making the sugar cookie dough. The next day, my friend Tina and I are rolling out dough and cutting out heart shaped cookies and baking them one pan after another like demented bakers. Kim and John were going to arrive that afternoon, so I really felt the need to have the house be a bit tidier, but there was still so much that needed to be done! Heroically, Tina went upstairs to clean the bathroom while I made 3 pounds of butter cream frosting. Finally, at 12:30, I arrived at school with four bags of goodies for the party. I set up the tables and chairs and placed cookies on precut pieces of wax paper, scooped out the frosting into individual little tubs, measured out all the candy which we were going to use to decorate the cookies. The kids come in and we partied for a solid hour. We decorated, we jammed to a CD, which incidentally I had bought the day before so Hannah wouldn’t be embarrassed to have her friends listen to the lame Disney music we listen to at home. We awarded prizes, handed out heart shaped lollies to all her class, cleaned up and finally started home.

Feeling I needed to allow Hannah the opportunity to praise and thank me for the amazing send off I had provided for her, I nonchalantly asked her if she felt her party was as nice as her friend’s from 2 weeks ago. Terminal move, people. Never. Ever. EVER give children the opportunity to voice any kind of gratitude because it’s just not going to happen until you are old, gray, deaf and courting dementia. Very casually, Hannah answered, “No.” Just that one word--“no.” So $40 and 8 hours of manic planning and executing of said party later, I get a negative review worth only 2 letters. Do you know how few points that is on Scrabble?!

So, if I can give any word of advice to the unsuspecting: Do NOT go into parenthood thinking that as you bless the lives of your family, they will sing your praises and shout Hosanna! when you alter your world for their benefit. Not gonna happen folks…now you know.