Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Day (and a Compliment) to Remember

Thursday, 27 August 2009

We went to our (Jason's & mine) favorite spot: Bolton Abbey. We took a different road to get there, seeing other bits of Yorkshire that continue to create that "Wow--look at that! We are so blessed to live here!" feeling for me. When we arrived at the Abbey, we learned that we couldn't hike to the yet-unexplored Valley of Desolation because there was grouse hunting going on in the area. So, we opted to hike further along the River Wharfe than we had before.

We picnicked on these neat built-in seats until the on-and-off again rain motivated us to move 20 feet to a thicket of enormous oak trees. There we made friends with some ducks.

After lunch, we also made friends with a pair of humans.

Paul & Ruth were walking the trail at a faster clip than we were, so we stepped aside. But when they heard our accents that gave them reason to slow down. Jason won points for being from Montana -- a favorite hiking spot for them. Paul wanted to talk to Jason about all the neat things they'd seen while traveling in Montana. They wanted to show us the kingfisher (which we saw!) that lives along the river. And Ruth played tickle-tag with Graham.

It turns out that Ruth is nurse at hospice center for children. I was surprised (although I shouldn't be) when she told me what a happy place it is. The children who are there as patients get to play all summer long with their siblings who come to visit. She told me that one of the visiting siblings wrote a song the day before about not wanting to return to school next week -- nothing groundbreaking, but so true to the heart of every kid who wants summer to go on forever.

The nurses don't interrupt those magical moments to administer medication -- they just make sure that the meds get given "sometime." Childhood happens now, not on schedule.

And so Ruth & Paul didn't disapprove of our three getting all messy as they spontaneously waded in the River Wharfe & built a mud pie out of sand.

Paul expressed amazement at "how confident" Rose was about walking out into the water with Cami & Graham. She was just trying out something new.

And he told me that he didn't believe me for a second when I described my parenting style as "benign neglect."

Girl Power(ed)

Cami, Rose, & I took the training wheels off of Cami's bike on August 18th. (This is the second bike Cami has removed "stabilizers" from -- she took apart her little bike in New Jersey about 18 months ago.) Then I took all three kids to the park. I fear Rose got bounced around too much from her perch in the hiking backpack as I ran, trying to help Cami stay upright.

She's pretty good. She went as far as 50 feet after I let go.

Rose in Ruins

Hiking in Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire, is beautiful. It's a picturesque little town with fabulous views and a great 13th century church ruin that makes an ideal picnic spot. Rose liked this alcove. She is just the right size.

I Wish I could tell

It's unfortunate that I've made the decision not to share funny, yet tasteless, anatomical comments that the kids make. We had a good one today.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Blasting Bovine

Cami pumped her arms in the air with joy on learning the following conversation earned her a blog point:

Cami: "How long will it take us to get there?'

Me: "About 90 minutes."

Cami: "90 minutes! That's longer than it takes for a cow to walk from Otley to Missouri!"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

They have a fan

Cami just called me into the bathroom as she was finishing her shower.

"Mom, you know John & John who do the podcasts [aka They Might be Giants]?"


"They are really nice. You remember all those games they made on the disc with Fibber Island? It was really nice of them to make those for all the little children."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Graham Makes the Cake

My big boy on his four year old birthday.


It's really satisfying to pull these from our tiny garden. It's a happy little buzz. Too bad I didn't realize how easy it is to grow potatoes for the past six years or so.

Not Scared

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Shopping Advice

I'm a kitchen accessories addict. I loving finding nifty dishes, tools. But I had to leave many things behind on our move across the Atlantic, so I haven't indulged in my habit for more than 18 months. But I killed our Olive Garden -style cheese shredder. I've used that for cheese & for shredding potatoes & zucchini (the zucchini was the murder weapon). But now I have no way of shredding things. I suppose I could use a box shredder, but it doesn't appeal to me. And I'm not ready to buy another food processor. So, I'm wondering where do I buy the original processor: where to find a food mill?

Ad to the Point

Cami just saw an advertising photo for lipstick.

"Are they just show offs? To make people want them?"

Monday, August 10, 2009

Taste Bug?

We are instigating all sorts of dietary changes -- hopefully for the healthier. Jason made some apple-cinnamon oatmeal which Cami pronounced "yucky" before she'd even tried it. When she finally did try it, she again announced that she didn't like it. "It's my taste buds. They don't like it. It's because a taste bud is an insect."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sharing a dream

Last Sunday I had an older adult give me some unsolicited advice: now is the time to buy a house.

After making some gentle noises about how "now wasn't the time for us," I finally had to be forthright and say that we don't have the funds for a down payment & so buying a house just isn't something we can do right now. My directness was dismissed with the same disregard as my more subtle comments earlier in the conversation. "Oh, you don't need 20%. Only 5%. Before the crisis you could get 100% financing. People are so desperate to sell, you can get a loan."

The conversation has been weighing on me for a week. In part because the "advice" felt very intrusive. I don't feel comfortable talking money, especially when the bottom line reads, "I can't afford that." But mostly I keep dwelling (like the pun?) on the fact that I do want to buy a house. Not with a white picket fence, but someplace where Graham can go outside & watch the slugs, where Rose can eat rocks, & Cami & I can garden. When I look at decorating books, I'm drawn to the places where natural materials & natural light prevail. I dream of finding some wreck of a building -- a factory, a barn, some derelict house that's been neglected for a century -- and creating a home with soul.

A family I know here has a gorgeous home out in the country. It's a house that's beautiful, quirky, and interesting. It used to be a barn & it's situated on a working farm. The family who owns it converted it themselves. The mom of this seven-children family once mentioned that as a young family (when they only had three munchkins & she was my age), they lived in a not-so-nice area of Leeds. Her husband is now a property developer. And I wonder: will they teach me how?

Taking a Poll

I started another blog. I call it the Writer's Notebook after the spiral-bound that all advanced composition students were supposed to carry when I was an undergrad. I never did keep such a book. But a few months ago, I felt it was time to start putting on virtual "paper" the images in my head.

Most of the entries are of interesting people I've seen on the street. Or of unique things I've heard. And a couple entries are transcriptions of hand-written notes I've taken while attending a lecture or of good pieces of advice.

Is anybody interested in me making it public? Anybody want to join me in creating an electronic writing club?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fabulous Four!

Happy Birthday to You,
Happy Birthday to You,
Happy Birthday, Dear Graham-boy,
Happy Birthday to You!

My little guy is now four! As I heard him climbing down the stairs from his room, I began to sing. He climbed into my lap for a cuddle. "How old are you Graham?"

"I am four! I'm inviting you to my birthday. And Daddy. And Rosey."

Graham has the distinction of having been born on Jason's & my fourth wedding anniversary. So, today he has officially been a part of our family for half of the time we've been a family.

Now, without further ado, here are four (plus a few) fun things about Graham-man.

1. He loves slugs & snails. He's on the lookout for snail shells whenever we go. Yesterday he watched a slug slowly ooze across the pavement in front of our house for 15 minutes. He has three favorite jokes, two of which are interconnected:

Why did the snail move out of his shell? Because he wanted to be a slug.

Why did the slug move into the snail's shell? Because he wanted to be a snail.

2. He loves to make & decorate birthday cakes. All week I've asked what he wants to have for his special birthday meal & he always answered that he wants birthday cake with chocolate frosting & m'n'm decorations.

3. Graham loves numbers. He climbed into bed this morning to cuddle with Jason. "How old are you now?" "Four. So, next I'll be five. But when I'm 99, then I'll be 100."

4. He loves water and sand and machines. Dump trucks and sandboxes, water toys & machines. His chosen birthday adventure: the "water park." He wanted to spend the day playing with the water screw that powers the paddle wheel at Otley Park.

The sun is shining on my brown-eyed boy.

PS. The birthday festivity photos will go up later. I've been up since 5:30 a.m. & I've got to sleep.

Return of the "Native"

When I was in high school, I read Thomas Hardy's Return of the Native. During a class discussion, the teacher pointed out that the novel takes place over a year and a day. He then asked why that was significant. I responded that if the novel had concluded in a single year, it would have been "too perfect."

Jason returned home to a land not-so-far from Egdon Heath this evening. He'd been in the States for the past week, visiting family & attending a philosophy conference. Returning today kept our reunion from being too perfect: tomorrow, 08/08/09 is our 8th wedding anniversary.

Welcome home, husband o' mine.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Happy Anniversary

The kids and I spent the afternoon with friends at the park. It was a bright, warm, sunny afternoon. The munchkins played, rode bikes, and had a picnic at the park. So different from one year ago when I struggled with a stroller, luggage trolley, and jet lag through the Manchester International Airport.

Thank you, Kate & Natalie, for being my friends. Thank you Suzy & Asher, Jacob & Pepper & brand new Baby Emma, for being Cami, Graham, & Rose's friends.

Thank you, England, for being our home.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Score: Graham 2 Cami 1

Jason's out of town, but his sister Cindy is here helping me for the next two days. Since Cindy is a medieval scholar and we are in England, there are places to visit that are relevant to her professional pursuits & are interesting to the kids. So, today we went to Skipton Castle -- a good place to spend a rainy day. Although we "natives" had been to the castle before, today we stumbled on a bit of luck which made the castle even more interesting. There was a group of historical re-enactors giving us a glimpse of castle life in the Elizabethan period. I didn't get to spend much time with him, but I was fascinated by the letter-writing actor with all his quills, pens, & seals. And he kindly gave Cami an authentic quill which she used with my dipping ink this afternoon.

Graham won a blog point when he stole the water bottle & declared, "I want to fill up the bird bath." The "bird bath" was the christening font in the ruin of a medieval church.

Then Cami demanded to be included on a post for saying something funny. She got her wish about 20 minutes later when she begged me to expand her budget at the gift shop. "Mom, it's a real fake crown!"

On the drive home, though, Graham pulled ahead in the score. I asked Cami if she is English or American. "English." Then I asked Graham & he responded, "Both."