Friday, July 31, 2009

What a Year

We moved out of our house in New Jersey one year ago today. We'd spent the previous night eating pizza & enjoying the company of our neighbors. Donner Family, Tim & Lesley, Sideris Family -- we miss you!

Our departure from New Jersey was a mad dash to the airport when our scheduled limo driver didn't show up. Thanks to the goodness of Southwest Airlines and lots of desperate praying, we didn't miss our flight. . .but it was close.

We'd spent the first week of August in Missouri with my family. And then a very long flight (with a wonderful layover with Erika in Chicago) to England.

August 6th will make it a year in England. So much growing: Cami began school, Graham began school, Rose began to walk & talk. Jason has had a full year of being employed & has had some really great things happen professionally. Out of everybody in our family, I'm pretty sure I'm the one whose life has changed the least in the last 365 days. I suspect that that's because no matter where I happen to be living, I'm the one living it. But, if I have to pick a spot to be living my life in, West Yorkshire deserves top billing.

Just like one year ago today, Jason is on a plane. His flight just touched down in Seattle. He's spending a couple days with his family and then spending a few more days with his friends at a conference. We miss him. But on August 7th, his plane with land here in Leeds & we'll embark on the next year of adventures together.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Spoiler Alert

I was talking to an eleven year old this morning about the release of Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince. She explained that she'd already seen it, even though she hasn't read the books -- she'd rather watch a film than read the original source material.

She then told me that somebody important dies in the film.

I responded, "Yeah, that's a rather pivotal point."


"It's rather pivotal."

"It's not Pivotal -- it's Dumbledore!"

Monday, July 27, 2009

Not Everyone Looks at it that way

Jason was just musing about a babyhood memory of eating Melba toast. He said that thinking about some of his earliest memories made him wonder how Rose will feel about her memories of our current home.

He asked how old I was when my family moved from a trailer (yes, I came home from the hospital to a trailer) to the house where my mom still lives. "Two months. No, wait, they bought it when I was two months & moved in when I was four months old."

Cami interrupted, "You lived in a trailer! You are so lucky!"

Sunday, July 26, 2009

It Takes a Village. . . or Shopping

Jason will leave for the States on Friday, so I'm beginning to feel the "You are abandoning me!" stress. I give him all the guilt before he leaves & then end up generally having a pretty good week with the munchkins. (Which I do recognize is completely unfair to Jason.)

I learned when Cami was just a baby that it helps to have friends over for dinner most nights. Now that I'm completely outnumbered by the under-seven crew, it's absolutely necessary to have a daily excursion and a week's worth of suppers planned out before Jason goes. Otherwise, I would never survive.

This trip is a little bit different, because we've had a special house guest popping in-and-out for the past two weeks. Jason's elder sister Cindy is in the UK (she left our place this morning to spend the next few days in Wales) and will pop back in about 12 hours after Jason catches his flight. She's volunteered to be my built-in helper for a few days, for which I am most grateful (both to her & Nathan for extending his much-longer run of single parenthood). As she was talking to Cami this morning, Cindy said, "When I come back, we can do fun stuff together."

To which Cami replied, "Can we go to IKEA!?!"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Great Escape

Rose has started to pick out her own clothes. She'll find something she wants to wear, bring it to me or Jason, and demand to be dressed.

I'd already put a shirt on her, but we hadn't yet gotten beyond that point. Rose just brought Jason a way-too-big vintage pinafore that Jason's sister had brought from the States. But unlike the usual routine, she brought him the pinafore & then bolted for the door.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Reverence Begins with Me

We just had family prayer in Graham's room. As we were preparing, the older kids weren't exuding decorum, much less actual reverence. But Rose looked so proud (and made me proud) as she toddled up to me & Jason with her little arms folded.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Rose just used my leg to secure herself as she rappelled off the bed. Her face was so intense. Big eyes, a little bit fearful, looking at me with faith until her toes touched the floor. Then a big smile. "You did it!" I told her in that mommy-cheerleader voice that makes me annoyed with myself.

She toddled off happily squealing something that sounded very much like, "I did it!"

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Yan Tan Tethera

The way to count sheep in a field: Yan Tan Tethera.

It's Scots for one, two, three. It could also serve to introduce a waltz. Not that there was waltzing going on at the White Rose Festival of Scottish Dancing. There were more than 300 dancers enjoying a day outdoors in stunning, oh-I-want-to-live-there Harewood.

I didn't embarrass myself too badly. I hadn't realized how hard it would be to dance in a field -- more friction, less bounce.

I wonder if Cami & I were the only Americans to don Scottish dresses today. I certainly didn't expect to see at least three dancers of Asian ancestry (I'm a bit ashamed about this). It was pretty cool.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Faith Preceeds the Miracle(s)

Jason and I are taking steps to live within a budget and save a bit. Not the 10% savings plan that would happen in the ideal world, but something is better than nothing. With our financial lives divided between two continents & the exchange rate always in flux, it can get stressful. But as an act of faith, Jason finally opened a savings account here in England.

And then the blessings started to appear. I won a generous Abel & Cole organic fruit & veg box from Marie's blog contest. A friend gave me a bunch of fresh-picked lettuce, rosemary, & chard from her garden. Neighbors are sharing gardening seeds & seedlings which should produce yummies for us in the next few weeks.

We often have groceries delivered & Waitrose has been running a special discount on deliveries for the past six weeks or so. The more you use the service, the greater the discount on your delivery: 1st order saves 5 pounds, 2nd saves 10, 3rd saves 15. But something went funny with the computer system & my first order wasn't tracked. So my first two orders received the 5 pounds discount. By the end of the month, I'll have saved 35 pounds instead of the promoted 30.

Today's delivery came with a bonus: a double-pack of Kleenex. (Actual Kleenex, not Puffs or a generic.) When I called the customer service line to let them know, a friendly rep reviewed my order & let me know that I was welcome to keep & use them "with our compliments." We aren't needing them this minute, but I suspect that we'll find a use for them in the next few weeks. When we act in faith, our needs get met -- we're living better on less.

And we're seeing & remembering the blessings as they come. I'm going to keep my eyes open for more.

Bedtime Blushing

I was just cuddling Cami & Graham during the last stage of the "before bed" routine. I usually sing to them, in addition to stories. Tonight Cami helped me sing "Stay Awake" from Mary Poppins. It was one of the songs she performed this morning at her school's "Showtime Assembly," and I had noticed that she was fighting a yawn as she sang. It worked tonight to calm her down & induced a yawn or two as she relaxed.

She asked for "one more song" as I was trying to extract myself, so I started to sing "Kiss the Girl" from The Little Mermaid. It's been at least a year since she last saw the movie & I guess she didn't recognize the tune because she asked the title. I told her & sang a few more bars.

She interrupted with an arm covering her eyes, "Don't sing that, Mom. It's embarrassing me."

Building a Palace

I had a very vivid dream last night. I was in my maternal grandparents' house.

The house is enormous. It didn't look like it on the outside. It looked tired. It was one of those homes where everything happened through the back door. Three grey-painted wooden steps led up to the back porch & door. To the right of those steps were another tall set of grey-painted stairs leading up to the second floor. Once you got past the entrance & kitchen into the main living areas, though, it was huge. Big, big rooms with 12 foot ceilings. A place where opulence could have reigned. But it was poorly lit & was filled with papers and momentos from my grandparents' travels. As an adult looking back, I can see that there were treasures lost in the trash.

But in my dream it wasn't like that at all. The ground floor didn't really play a role in my dream. I knew my mom & sister Christel were there. But I walked up the majestic staircase (which had been impressive in reality, but not ornately carved as in my dream) & saw the top floor had been transformed. The three bedrooms upstairs had been emptied of beds & most furniture & luxurious emerald green carpet covered the floors. My dad, still old, but at least a decade younger than when I last saw him, sat at a 1960s modern white pedestal table tucked into a corner of the main room. The only other furniture in the room was a 1960s modern black leather sofa. Dominating the wall behind him was a photo of my mom, surrounded by smaller framed photos of family members. Dad seemed a little unsettled and told me he wanted to move the giant photo of my mom to the next room, but that it had been hard enough for her & Christel to place it the first time & they didn't want to move it again.

I asked where the photo was to go & he told me the next room. Gone were the matching twin beds & model horses from my mom's childhood. Two grand pianos sat facing each other, one's black lacquered surface needing a dusting & the other brown one drawing less attention to itself. Nothing in that room except the plush green carpeting, those two pianos, & a light. In that omniscient dream state, I knew where Dad wanted the photo of Mom place & I knew that he wanted this to be her special room. He was creating this palace out of her childhood home for her.

I walked out into the hallway & saw the door to the walk-in closet opened. I'd only seen that door opened once & it was when my Mom & aunt were sorting thimgs when my grandparents were moving to a care facility. Then Mom had told me as a teen she had turned that space into a tiny private bedroom for herself. Rather than being a narrow room, just big enough for a twin bed, it contained a smaller, but still intricately carved stair leading up to a place I never knew. I rushed back to Dad excited by the find. . . and to tell him that I was happy to inherit the house if there was ever a need.

Nothing else is clear. I don't know what to think about it. I can see all sorts of ways to interpret it. But I know that I want to build my family a palace filled with only the treasures that we treasure.

Monday, July 6, 2009


I mentioned in a previous post that I was sending out an application to return to the professional world. Somebody inquired where I was applying, so here's the answer:

Random House U.K. in their children's book division. I didn't get the job.

I'm fine with that. It was a super-long shot that I'd even get a phone interview. But, if anybody hears of a telecommuting Stateside job that seems like a fit for me, let me know. Or a U.K. job. Or anywhere else. It doesn't hurt to try.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Foreign Fourth

Happy Independence Day!

Friday, July 3, 2009

My Paradise

I was just doing a self-actualization exercise while listening to an audio book. The book is about personal finance, but the exercise was related to the emotions of being prosperous.

My responses are probably a bit different from what the author intended when she said, "Imagine having a gardener & cleaning lady." I'd love a self-designing garden & self-cleaning house, but I don't really want other people to be doing the work. I just want to be able to do the gardening & cooking at my leisure. (And even though cleaning isn't my favorite, just having a dishwasher could my cleaning lady.)

"Imagine your dream garden filled with favorite flowers, shrubs, & trees." I saw fruit & veggies growing. Strawberries, blueberries, & lettuces on the ground & fruit trees ready for picking.

"Imagine having a fun-filled vacation with your family at least once a year." As an eighteen year old, I felt awed by the beauty of Switzerland. I haven't been back, although I've spent the last 15 years wanting to. I cry a little when I think about how I won't be attending a missionary-reunion in Switzerland next month. And so I dreamed of a week at a Swiss chalet. Kids running HAPPILY on the grass, the mountains in the background. And me contentedly preparing an easy lunch of fresh lettuces, cheese, and fruit.

My imaginings all seem to point to wanting a simple home.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Walking to the Car

Graham: Mommy, is Baby Rose in the car?

Me: No, she's sleeping in her crib. Daddy is at home working in the kitchen.

Graham: What is he making?

Me: Philosophy.

Graham: I don't wike phi-wo-so-phy.

Me: What do you like?

Graham: I wike apple pie.