Sunday, 23 December 2007

Bad Nativities

I just came across this site and the sequel today. Horrifying, hilarious, and mesmerising all at once.

Basically, it's made of awesome.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

My Town

I live in a pretty small town, in a pretty small county, in a pretty small country.

Because I'm American, I often get people asking me in surprise, "Why would you want to live here, of all places??!" They are surprised by my answers.

I like it here. I like the river running through the town, I like the pedestrianised town centre with the different markets on different days of the week, I like the low-floored buses so I can wheel my buggy right on board without folding it down.

But mostly, I like how multicultural this town is. We have Sikh temples, a huge Italian population, and a burgeoning community of Eastern Europeans. My children go to school with other children from vastly different cultures, and the teachers celebrate everyone's religious holidays. The kids learn other languages and how to cook native foods. My Eldest Child is friends with a little girl who only knows a few words of English, and this girl loves my daughter. I've seen them interact, and it is absolutely amazing to watch.

I am an immigrant, and I live in a town of immigrants. I may not be surrounded by other Americans, but I see these people on the street and in the corner shops, and we have a connection. I feel like I belong here, in all my loneliness.

I say loneliness, but it's not a heartbreaking or even upsetting feeling. I just feel alien sometimes, like when a group of people share a joke from their childhood that I can't take part in -- I didn't grow up here. I've lived in this country for nearly a decade, and I still come across slang or turns of phrase that I haven't heard before. Someone may ask me where I'm from, or how long am I visiting for, and I have to stop and remember that I'm not a native. I will never fit in completely.

Perhaps I like this town so much because it feels like we are living on the Island of Misfit Toys. Maybe the Poles and the Italians and the Indians and the Americans all mismatch, but we all mismatch together, and the end result is a thing of beauty.

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Monday, 10 December 2007

Recipe for fun!

Do you want to enjoy the holiday season even more than you already are? Well, I can tell you how!

First, take a long walk on a cold afternoon to the post office. Make sure you have a baby in the buggy and two walking children "holding" onto the sides of the buggy.

When you get to the post office, ensure that you get into the slowest and longest line in the history of mankind. That will definitely start the festivities off right!

Oh, and if you aren't stuck standing next to the candies, crisps and chocolates, make sure you get the employees to change the layout of the store for you! Nothing is more fun than standing around while your children attempt to grab and open all of the tempting treats surrounding them!

Don't forget to ply at least one of your children with lots of drinks before you stand in line for 20 minutes so she can perform a little wee-wee dance to entertain everyone in the queue!

When you finally get to the front of the line, and you find out that the main reason you were at the post office in the first place -- to send a package overseas -- is now out of the question because said package will cost you over five times the worth of the contents, don't forget to laugh at life's little ironies!

And don't forget to get into the other queue to pay for the crisps that you bribed your children with, because the lady behind the counter can't ring up the crisps. That's the post office desk only, of course.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, 8 December 2007

What should have gone into my Christmas cards this year.

Happy Holidays from the Cookie Clan!

2007 has been an eventful year, in that we added a new family member at the end of 2006 and are still adjusting to the "glorious" chaos that all three of them bring....

Baby Child is coming up to a year old and is already showing a strong personality. She is a proficient walker and climber, so don't turn your back! She'll be standing on the back of the couch in two seconds flat! She's got a knack for stealing her siblings' toys and pulling bits of tissue out of the toilet, too. Her crowning achievement of the year, however, was when she managed to dive head-first into a full bath. We've already enrolled her in the local gymnastics club!

Middle Child, as always, is a happy kid, with a strong personality. We've only been trying to potty train him for 11 months! He just doesn't mind sitting in his own excrement, and who can blame him? Almost anything is more interesting than sitting on the pot. He's also developed a milk sensitivity, so we now have to buy three different kinds of milk to feed the family. Funnily enough, his recent diagnosis of "glue ear" is connected with dairy sensitivities, so all those times I've plied him into obedience with a pot of yogurt has increased his hearing problems! He has been referred for surgery to fix his ears, but with the NHS waiting lists, we may not be announcing his surgery until next year's letter!

Eldest Child started school this year, and along with her homework, has also brought home the attitude of a 14-year-old. She is currently perfecting her eye-roll, hair flip, and foot stomp. The door slam, well, that skill is already perfect enough, thanks. She's starting to read independently, so we look forward to taking her to local parks where she can sound out the graffiti on the slides!

Mr Cookies is still working in London, and working long hours to boot. It's a decent enough job, but the unpaid overtime is the best part, we think.

Mrs Cookies is picking up odd-jobs here and there, trying to work around the kids' schedules, but is finding it difficult to sound professional over the phone with screaming children in the background!

Here's wishing you a happy and healthy 2008.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Raisin "Chorus Girl" Cookies

So, I didn't get an actual speaking part in the musical, but I'm in the chorus and that should be good fun. I have to admit, I was kind of disappointed. I thought my audition went well (I made everyone laugh, you know, in a good way), but I think my American accent is a hindrance in these sorts of situations. Ah well. It's been so long since I've been in a show, it's just nice to get back into it again!

The real bummer is that I have to learn many, many more songs as a chorus girl than I would have if I had gotten the part of Peep-Bo. Ho hum! My singing voice will certainly improve, and maybe next time I'll be able to audition for a show that requires American accents! You never know....

Friday, 30 November 2007

Shapely Prose

So, there's this blog called Shapely Prose, that I think is very enlightening, and want you to go check it out. NOW.

As it is the last day of NaBloPoMo, (and we will not speak of the Missing Day) I also wanted to thank my readers for reading -- of course -- and commenting and joining in with the spirit of November writing month.

I think I'll do this next year, but don't quote me on that. I may go for NaNoWriMo instead. I live on the edge.





Thursday, 29 November 2007

What I should have posted yesterday. Now today.

Last night was another pre-audition rehearsal for The Mikado. It went much better this time! There were less people, and as I was already slightly familiar with the music, I found it easier to keep up. I got complimented on my singing voice (wheee!) and I learned a little dance number to "Three Little Maids." I also taped some music so I can practice at home, and I'm enjoying learning the songs.

It should be really fun, and I'm so excited to join in! This is something I'm doing just for me, and the sole object is to have a good time. Awesome.

You've got to be kidding me!!!

I can't believe I forgot to post something yesterday. Three days to go, and I LOSE!!!!


NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

:)

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

So. Tired.

Well, I don't have a sore throat, but I'm certainly suffering from a disease of some sort. Pounding head, exhaustion, coughing. Blergh. Nothing serious, but nothing enjoyable, either.

Mommas don't get sick days.

Monday, 26 November 2007

I've never been so intimidated in my life!

I don't have a bad singing voice. Really! I can hit the notes, read music (kinda sorta) and I sing nursery rhymes regularly with my children. That does not make me a coloratura, apparently. Who knew?

Seriously, those people can sing. It was beautiful, sitting at the back, listening to everyone go at it in parts and everything. I started getting the hang of the music a bit, and I've come to the conclusion that I would be happy with a chorus part. I've never been in this league of performing on stage before -- always having been a big fish in a small pond -- so it would be great to just observe the more experienced cast members do their thing.

I hope I'm at least good enough for a chorus part! Eeep!

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Friendly little tip.

Say, for instance, you are auditioning for a musical tomorrow night.

Say, you wake up the morning before with a sore throat. NOooooo!

You try to think of home remedies to soothe a sore throat and prevent it from getting worse. You remember that a friend of yours swears by gargling with TCP.

Whatever you do, DON'T TRY IT.

Gack, I hate my very existence right now. Bleergh! Barf!

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Thanksgiving Dinner

Being in England means that Thursday was just a normal working day for the husband. No big deal; we just celebrated turkey day today! We got together with another American family, and we had a great time. Our children are similar ages, so they ran around like loons and thoroughly enjoyed themselves while the adults chatted and ate too much.

I was a baking and cooking fiend this afternoon, and I am quite proud of my achievements. My green bean casserole was "magical" (thank you, AllRecipes!) and while the mini sweet potato pie/tarts were a pain to make (I doubled the recipe and ended up making more than 60), they were a big hit with everyone, so that was cool.

We only observe Thanksgiving every other year. It was a good one this year, but I'm glad we get a reprieve next year. It's a lot of food, and you feel obliged to eat more than you normally would. It's not Thanksgiving if you don't have second helpings -- it's just a normal meal, and what's special about that, right?

Friday, 23 November 2007

Eeek! Lice!

Luckily, not on my child. Thus far. Fingers crossed. Touch wood. Cross eyes. And anything else that will (a) bring luck and (b) prevent infestations.

I am slightly freaking out after receiving a letter from the school saying they have a confirmed case of lice in the student population. They failed to say which class/year this child is in, so I really don't know what the likelihood is of my child getting lice. Nonetheless, I am combing her hair thoroughly each night just in case.

We now own a zapper louse comb -- killing the buggers with a small electric shock that is harmless to small children -- and a traditional louse comb. The zapper can only be used on dry hair, so the regular comb is used in conjunction with wet and heavily conditioned hair.

She is getting a hair cut tomorrow. If she gets lice, I am not going to be combing through long, thick hair. Short, thick hair is bad enough! I am slightly surprised that she's not freaking out at the idea of bugs in her hair, biting her scalp, but I shouldn't be. This is a girl who loves spiders and will talk to them like little babies when she finds them in the bath. She was reduced to tears when Middle Child squashed a spider one afternoon.

The upside of these preventative lice combing sessions is that she has beautifully soft, tangle-free hair. Until tomorrow morning at least!

Oh, and any tips on remaining lice free would be greatly appreciated. As would anti-louse karma!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

My little Stitch

Perhaps you've seen the movie Lilo and Stitch.

Perhaps you remember the scene in which Stitch is frustrated because he is nowhere near a large city so he creates his own miniature city with Lilo's toys, and then proceeds to crush and destroy everything as if he's a 40 foot beast.

Now hold that image in your mind and imagine a young baby, innocent of face. She has just recently begun walking, so her gait is still unsteady. She sees a small rug on the floor, with pictures of roads and buildings on it, something that Middle Child enjoys driving his cars upon.

Baby Child homes in on this rug. Several grunts escape her lips. She lumbers forward -- stomp! stomp! stomp! She growls like a primeval creature and begins to crush and destroy everything in her path. Smash! Kick! Grrrrrr! She aims carefully, and sits squarely on Middle Child's hands and/or head. Middle Child shrieks and runs away, in fear of his life.

Satisfied with her efforts, she climbs into my lap for a cuddle.

I have created a monster, and she isn't even 11 months old yet.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

To my Mom.

I've been thinking a lot about single mothers recently. My parents divorced when I was only 12, and for most of my teen years I lived in a single parent household with my two younger brothers. During that time, my mom worked nights, put herself through university and gained a teaching degree so she could support her family. We were poor, but never really felt it. Life was hard, but she was home when we were home (one of the main reasons she went for a teaching degree), and she was very involved in our lives.

I don't know how she did it. I struggle to get through most days, and due to the husband's long working hours, I often feel like a "single" parent, but at least I have someone to turn to during night wakings and on weekends. At least my kids have a father who is there every morning to play with them and read to them.

In an ideal world, I would have grown up with married parents, but my mom did the very best she could and I'm in awe of her efforts. She shrugs off any compliments, saying, "You do what you gotta do," but I want to say how impressed I am of her, without being interrupted.

Thank you, dear mother, for always caring for me, always listening to me, and always sacrificing for me. I hope I can be that kind of mother to my children, especially when times get tough. You've been a great example and I feel very blessed to have you in my life.

Monday, 19 November 2007

You know what I love?

I love passing the buck to my husband, getting him to change the poopy diaper, to only find out a few minutes later that the other child in nappies has soiled herself.

Sigh. Now it's my turn.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Saturday, 17 November 2007

It's supper time.

On this day, six years ago, the Mister and I got married. Let's give a rundown of our relationship thus far:
  1. Together for 8 years, married for six.
  2. Three children, all under the age of five years old.
  3. Lived in three homes so far: a studio flat, a two bed house, and a three bed house.
  4. Currently on our third car.
  5. The Mister has changed jobs once.
  6. No serious injuries to report, but Mister has been diabetic for two years.
  7. We are still happy and healthy.
Life is good, and to celebrate, we went to see Little Shop of Horrors at the local theatre.

It was a blast! The theatre was tiny and the acting was gloriously amateur. I enjoyed it immensely and my only regret was that I didn't get the chance to audition for the show myself.

I will be auditioning for their next show -- the name of which I cannot remember -- next week. Woohoo! I would love to be in a musical, so this is exciting for me.

I auditioned for a play about a year and a half ago, but didn't get the part. It was disappointing, sure, but also fortuitous because I ended up getting pregnant just a few weeks later and would not have been able to take part anyway. There is no baby on the horizon for me this time around, so it's time to give it another shot.

I'll let you know how things turn out!

Friday, 16 November 2007

Barbie and Ken: An Outfit for Every Occasion.


Your Barbie will be be the best-dressed doll in town with these easily-knitted patterns.

Why spend hundreds on outfits for Barbies and other similar sized dolls? These versatile patterns are the perfect way to inexpensively create a fun and attractive wardrobe.


These also make great gifts! Or keep them for yourself and enjoy the pride of creation.



Finally! A way to save hundreds of pounds on my Barbie and Ken clothing collection while "enjoy[ing] the pride of creation"!

Come, sit down with me and bask in the glow of my creation.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Knitting High Fashion

A friend of mine explained how to read knitting patterns to me today. This is good, because now I can understand the following: K1, yo, sl 1, K1, psso, rep across.

Yeah, that's right. I have the knowledge. Fear my kneedles!

Ahem. Anyway. Apparently there is a vast amount of free knitting patterns on the world wide web, and I've found some Barbie clothing to knit for Eldest as a Christmas present. I figure, the clothes are small, so should be quick and easy to knit in time for the big day.

What I didn't reckon for was the amazing quality of these patterns, and the beautiful clothes they create....

This little number is a bridesmaid dress. Of course! The holes in the skirt plus the matching "hat" give it away! Frankly, I'm a little disappointed that I didn't come across this pattern six years ago when I was planning my own wedding. Such a wasted opportunity.


Every doll needs a "Lace trim dress". Perhaps the tiers of lace are there to represent the wedding cake that Bridesmaid Barbie is attending? Perhaps the dress is the cake.
This outfit isn't so bad, as far as puffy tartan-esque designs go. What disturbs me is that I can't figure out if Barbie has been posed with her back facing the camera but with her head turned around.

Cute jumpsuit. Can anyone explain to me how Barbie is suffering from cameltoeitis?

This jumpsuit looks very practical. Say, for instance, when you are clearing debris from the side of the highway while chained alongside your closest inmates friends.

I will be knitting several pairs of these "Bell bottom pants" for my daughter's dolls, because anything that makes Barbie's butt and thighs look that huge is a thing of beauty to be treasured forever.

"Knit native american #1". I cannot tell you how disappointed I was to find that this was the only version available. The "#1" was very misleading, and I really wanted to see a Ken doll dressed up to match this ensemble.



There are several cute patterns available, too, so I'll keep you up to date when I've finished the first dress. I am really tempted to make a day-glo orange jumpsuit, though, just so I can play Convict Barbie games with my child. (Of course my kids will grow up to be normal, functioning adults... why do you ask?)

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Double posting today, because I can.





Our message board: The Vegetable Patch


Hosted by Runboard.com

Mmmmm. That's good eating.

One of my favourite websites is Allrecipes. It is full of great recipes, practically anything you could think of, and they are all rated. The higher the number of ratings and number of stars, the better and more trustworthy the recipe.

I'm American, living in the UK, and I love getting recipes that I remember when I was growing up and don't have access to anymore. Sure, I grumble a bit at the difference in ingredients (some things just aren't available over here), but I'm able to substitute for the most part.

One of the best aspects of this website, however, is the recipe reviews written by site members. Most of the time they are along the lines of "Wow! Great recipe! It's a keeper!" or "Yuck! I can't believe this got so many stars! It turned out awful for me!". Sometimes, however, you can find real gems. The kind of reviews that give blow-by-blow accounts of how they made this fabulous dish, and all of the changes they made to the recipe. Invariably, at the end of the review, they will exclaim, "What a great recipe!", but by the time they've finished fiddling with it, the original recipe is nowhere to be found.

To whit:

great oatmeal cookie. I did make a few changes. First used splenda instead of white sugar to cut the sugar amount (used the brown sugar as stated). I also accidently used nutmeg (thought I grabbed cinnemon)- still added cinemon and it was good. Also had no raisins only cran mix (nuts/cran/choc) and the cookies were still good. I only baked for 8 minutes. I think this is a cookie that you really can't screw up.

Let's be honest here, Dutchwife. The cookies you made weren't even close to "Beth's Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies". They weren't even raisins in them. A basic ingredient, I would have thought.

Oatmeal raisin cookies are my favourite baked treats. Maybe I'm getting a little defensive; I'm sure "Dutchwife's Spicy Oatmeal Nuts/Cran/Choc Cookies" were delicious in their own right.

Dangit. Now I want cookies.



Tuesday, 13 November 2007

I'm a loser!

I had the chance to go out with friends tonight, but I decided to stay at home in order to watch the recent episode of Heroes.

TV instead of socialising. I have no excuse for having no friends, I really don't.

But the episode was awesome!!

Monday, 12 November 2007

Time for a Meme.

30 years ago I....

Wasn't even a twinkle in my parents' eyes!

25 years ago I....

Was 18 months old and probably wreaking havoc like most toddlers do.

20 years ago I....

Was just starting the first grade. I had a great first grade teacher, Miss Menermeier. She fascinated all of us, because she suffered a hedge clipper injury as a child and lost the tip of her finger.

15 years ago I....

Was starting middle school! This was the year of learning how to work lockers, change classes every hour, playing the clarinet, and liking boys!!1!!

10 years ago I....

Was driving the Dink, my lovely yellow 1982 Honda Civic. I was a drama nerd in high school and loved every minute of it.

5 years ago I....

Was a few months pregnant with Eldest Child. The husband and I were in the process of moving out of our teensy weensy studio flat and into the shoe box two bed house we were to live in for three years. I was also throwing up a lot.

2 years ago I....

Was just moving into our current home. Life was hectic and veeeeery stressful; it's much more difficult to move with two toddlers underfoot than it is while pregnant. The new house is twice the size of the old place, and that took a long time to get used to.

1 month ago I....

Was recovering from Middle Child's birthday party the weekend before. That was a lot of work, and it took several days for the kids to come down from their sugar high. Middle child constantly demanded cake for weeks afterwards.

1 week ago I....

Was feeling nervous about my job interview.

1 day ago I....

Was feeling good about how the weekend had gone.

1 hour ago I....

Was putting the kids to bed.

And right now?

I'm trying to get this done so I can spend time with the husband!


Happy Monday, everyone.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

A day of remembrance.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.


John McCrae

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Birthday party craze.

Eldest child went to her school friend's birthday party today. She came home with the following:

  1. A little plastic watch that she won in a party game.
  2. A conical party hat filled with sweets from the frog piñata.
  3. A party bag from the entertainer, filled with "magic tricks" (read: goofy crap that isn't worth the plastic it's made out of), sweets, and little notebooks.
  4. A party bag from the birthday boy filled with more sweets, a piece of birthday cake, and a glitter-covered pencil that is now shedding glitter all over the house if you so much as glance in its direction.
I am absolutely astonished. With the cost of hiring a hall, hiring an entertainer, feeding twenty children and providing party bags for afters, that party must have cost a fortune. I've heard of extravagant parties for children, but so far I've been lucky enough to keep my kids from getting any ideas of their own.... this was the first birthday party she's been invited to this school year, and I really hope the other mothers don't get into a competition with parties, upping the ante with every one. There are 30 children in Eldest's class; I can imagine the party bag situation could spiral quickly out of control.

Before today, I had vague ideas of a homemade pizza and cake party, or possibly an all girls fairy princess party (wherein they could make their own tiaras and magic wands or something). It all depends on if Eldest child is still associating with boys at that point. Right now she makes friends with anyone regardless of gender, but I'm sure the boys-are-stinky phase will kick in soon enough.

Now I worry that she will see all of her friend's parties and want the same thing. She wouldn't really enjoy an entertainer or (eep) a clown forcing her to be the centre of attention all afternoon. She is very shy in front of crowds and never performs in front of an audience.

Maybe I can start a revolution in children's parties! Home grown, simple games, and a relaxed atmosphere. Well, a relaxing atmosphere is probably aiming too high -- I'll settle for surviving the afternoon with my sanity intact. As long as I am not forced into buying each child their first car as a parting gift, I'll be happy.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Busy busy

Tomorrow is going to be hectic. I got a table in a school fair at the last minute, from 8am to noon. Eldest has a birthday party to go to in the afternoon, and we have a church activity in the early evening, that I am helping with.

I have to do some cooking and baking for this church activity, and I haven't even gotten started on it. I may cheat and buy some crusty brown bread rather than making the stuff, since the activity is themed on the life cycle of wheat. Technically, I should have lead by example and ground it into flour myself, baked it, sliced it, and made sandwiches with it. Who has time for that? I certainly don't. This week has flown by, and I just haven't had the time or inclination to bake bread. I even bought the stuff where all you have to do is add warm water! I would have probably ruined it, anyway. I am rubbish at baking bread.

I think I'll just cheat and buy some bread, make cheese sandwiches, and call it a day. No one will even notice the difference, I imagine!

Thursday, 8 November 2007

A surprisingly good day, with a sad realisation.

Today was one of those on-the-go-every-second sort of days. Once we dropped Eldest off at school, we were out for the rest of the morning, then had friends over for lunch, dropped Middle child off at nursery, then went to Eldest's school for a parent-teacher literacy meeting where I also set up an Usborne book stall. (no orders, but plenty of leaflets handed out)

I came home with Eldest and Baby for a few minutes and then we went out to collect Middle child (who stayed for after school club to give me time to sell!sell!sell! my books), so when we were all home again it was 4.30pm. I managed to throw together an easy, quick dinner, so we had a chance for a leisurely bath and story time tonight before sending them off to bed at 6.30pm. All three of them were barely standing up straight, they were all so tired.

So yes, busy day, but enjoyable. I didn't have the computer on all day, which is a rare event. Normally I have it on for one reason or another, and I'm usually drawn to it like a moth to a flame if there is ever a lull in the mayhem. Once the kids hear the squeak of the desk doors opening, they are scrambling over my lap or pressing buttons, or generally doing everything in their power to be a nuisance and grab my attention.

They didn't have to do that today, because I was giving my attention to them. I knew that I had a problem with wasting time on the computer during the day, but I never contrasted my normal routine with a computer-free day. Now that I have, I see that days like today are better. More fun, more peaceful, more relaxed.

We have been tv-free during the day for the entire week, and it's been going very well. I think I shall go computer-free during the day from now on, as well. Okay, almost computer free. If the kids are at school/nursery, and Baby is taking a nap, I'm happy to waste some time on the net or something. Otherwise, I think I'll give it a miss.

How long do you think I'll last? We could set up a betting pool. I promise to be honest! (but can you truly depend on the word of an addict?)

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Clerkin' it up.

Well, the interview went well! I am now a Clerk to the Governers of Local Lower School, My Town. Woo hoo!

I am really glad I bought the suit now, because regardless of the impression my clothes made on the interviewers, I felt very smart, professional and grown-up wearing it. I used large words and made myself sound intelligent. I took myself by surprise really, because I am so used to reading Dr Seuss books and talking about bodily fluids all day. I actually have a brain in there somewhere!

My new boss (!!) told me I have all the skills they want for the position "in abundance." How cool is that! This has really made my day. The job isn't high paying -- meetings only take place a few nights a year -- but it's something to add to my resume and keep me sharp. Plus, they provide free training and this could lead to another clerking position with more hours at some point in the future. Who knows?

My first interview in four and a half years, and I was offered the position two hours later. Not bad!

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Heroes rules!


Thanks to the magic of the internet, we watched the most recent episode of Heroes tonight. I was getting really impatient and slightly disappointed with the past few episodes, but tonight totally rocked. I loved how the feudal storyline completely paid off in the last few minutes. That was classic Heroes fare, right there.
I think our good man HRG is coming completely unhinged, and it is wonderful to watch. I listened to an interview on TWoP with Jack Coleman, and he is not only a great actor but seems like a cool person, too.
My only real disappointment was how Hiro magically became goofy again when he put those glasses back on. He was all serious and calm in the past, but as soon as he came back home (and suddenly couldn't see without his futuristic eye wear), he was the man-child Hiro again. No! What about in the first season when he was all "Save the cheerleader, save the world" with Peter Patrelli on the train? That's the Hiro I want to see.
Writers, take note. My opinion matters.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Dude, clothes are expensive!

I don't buy clothes very often, but when I do, I shop at Tesco or Matalan or something cheap and cheerful like that. I have young children, and clothing stays looking nice for about two seconds before their grubby little hands create stains.

But, I have a job interview on Wednesday (eep!), and after much dithering, I decided to go for a suit jacket and matching trousers at Debenhams. The jacket was cheap, compared to the others on the rack; only £30. The trousers were quite reasonable, I thought, at only £18.

Still. Combine the two and we're talking fifty quid spent on clothes solely for myself for a job that I may not even get. And -- keep this a secret between you and me, will you? -- I signed up for a store card to make the purchase. Yes, I opened up a dreaded store card account with massive interest. I don't ever shop at Debenhams, and don't plan on making a habit of it, so I figured I could pay it off quickly and not ever use it again.

Famous last words, right? The clothes fit me so nice, it was pretty amazing. I didn't have to try several different sizes or styles and the trousers are very comfortable. I guess paying extra for clothing means better quality. I'll take any justification that I can get!

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Cantique de Noël

The Relief Society (a women's group) in my church is preparing to sing "Oh Holy Night" for the congregation in December.

I have recently been assigned to lead the Relief Society in all things musical, and this includes teaching them to sing this song, and leading them during the performance. I have no formal music training.

Well, that's not entirely true; when I was ten I took a few piano lessons before bottling out, and when I was thirteen I played the clarinet at school. I sing for fun, and I just about know how to read music. A couple of years ago I bought a clapped out old piano and then bought Piano for Dummies. So basically, my musical knowledge is limited.

I was very nervous about getting in front of a group of people and leading them in song. Fly swatting during run-of-the-mill church hymns is no big deal; those songs are ones that I've sung every Sunday since I can remember. But this song, this "Cantique de Noël" is special. I didn't want to make a fool of myself up there, while they were looking to me to provide cues for rhythm and pitch.

Luckily, most of the hard work was done for me. My assignment is only a recent change, and everyone has been practicing for a few weeks before I came along, so I can't really take much credit. But after I worked with the altos and we joined with the sopranos, they sounded beautiful.

I may not have any formal musical training, but I'm loving this assignment.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Cute or scary? You decide.



My vote is for scary. I know many people would disagree with me. One of those people was at the craft fair I attended today. As I set up my table of books, she set up her table of "hand-made" porcelain dolls. I just can't get behind the idea of collecting things that look so creepily life-like. From the snippets of her conversations I overheard with her customers throughout the day, she has a vast amount of dolls in her home, in every single room. That's right, folks. Little porcelain doll eyes to stare at you while you sit upon the porcelain throne. Little doll faces to watch over you while you sleep. Little doll hands to strangle you while you.... Sorry. Got carried away there.

At one point, she lifted a doll's hair off its head. She had forgotten to glue its wig on, apparently. She giggled and said, "Whoops, I hope I don't sell that one!"

I think I may have bad dreams tonight.

Friday, 2 November 2007

The Baby Brain Drain

My husband pointed out this article from The Times, written by the respected Dr Miriam Stoppard. She discusses the dubious claims of Baby Einstein (or Mozart or Newton, whatever it's called) that say these DVDs can actually make your baby smarter.

Her conclusions, unsurprisingly, treat those claims like the pile of rubbish they are. This quote from the article particularly stood out to me:
...for every hour that infants of 8-16 months watch videos such as Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby they understood 6-8 fewer words than other babies who were not exposed to such videos.
It's like the television is this mental hoover, sucking the thoughts out of our children. Quite frankly, if true, I'm horrified.

I admit that I have used television as a babysitter on more than one occasion. Sometimes, when the kids are sniping at each other and all three are clambering for my attentions whilst simultaneously beating each other to a pulp, a bit of Disney is the only thing that will calm them down. It's also a way for me to hide away behind the computer for an hour or so.

We don't have a tv licence, so the normal television airways are not piped into the house. The kids get their tv fix through DVDs of television shows or movies. I was planning on buying a new movie or two to add to their collection, but now I'm not so sure. Do I really want my kids glued to the screen? Shouldn't I be a more attentive and creative mother, able to handle the rough times and stay away from the lure of the computer screen?

I'm sure a healthy balance can be reached; moderation is key in most aspects of life, after all. But my 10 month old needs to be kept away from the television more than the others, I think. If tv time is restricted to Baby's naptime, limits would be easier to enforce. Sounds like a plan.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

MyFace

I am a Facebook addict. Well, let's be clear. I am a Scrabulous addict, which just so happens to reside on Facebook.

The whole friends networking and messaging and emoting thing is all well and good, but give me a triple word score any day! I like to have about 10 games going, so I can open each one in a different tab and play my turn several times at once.

Scrabble is a big thing in my husband's family. His father is great at strategy and bluffing his way through dubious words. The husband doesn't try to bluff his way against me, but he is definitely a sore loser. We have a book where we keep track of all our past game scores, and in the six years that we have been married, I've only won twice against him. Twice! Both times, he sulked for hours. Heh.

But he's going to have to learn to lose gracefully, because I've been honing my skills on Facebook ("MyFace" to my dear mother), and I'm gonna kick his butt. Funnily enough, he hasn't challenged me to a game recently. Hrmm....

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

NaBloPoMo: It Begins



I'm too much of a wuss to commit to NaNoWriMo, but I figured I could kick myself into action and write here for you lovely people every day next month. Tomorrow. It's only a small start, but maybe next year my life won't be so hectic and I'll be able to start on a novel of my very own.

Baby steps, as they say. Let the blogging begin!

Monday, 22 October 2007

I don't understand.

Let me preface this by saying that pedestrians are allowed to cross the street at any point on the road; safe crossings are made available but people don't legally have to use them. Cars have to stop for pedestrians at all times, and they always have the right of way, regardless of their location in the road. That is my understanding of the law, anyway.

I live on a side road connecting to a very busy street. It is a main thoroughfare through the town, and it is three lanes, including the bus lane. There are safe crossing points scattered all down this main road, so you never have far to walk to reach one. And as far as I'm concerned, you really don't have an excuse to cross the road without using one. Pedestrians crossing the road unsafely is a real bugbear of mine.

A few weeks ago, as I was driving along, I noticed a woman and a little boy crossing the road about a 20 second walk away from a safe crossing point. Her son (I assume) was riding a bike with training wheels, no helmet, and rode faster than she was walking. He looks to be about four or five. He got quite a bit ahead of her, in the middle of the road, made it across to the bus lane, and then crashed into the curb, falling off of his bike. I was horrified to witness this, grumbled to myself and forgot about it.

Last week, I saw this same woman with her son (on the bike, no helmet) crossing the road unsafely, this time I was on foot and walked right next to her until she crossed the road. There were many more cars on the road, and she had to flag them to stop in order to cross. The crosswalk was literally 50 meters away or less.

I probably would never say anything to her, because I think it's pretty obvious that she's making a conscious decision to disregard safety guidelines for both pedestrians and child bikers. But it still makes me cringe, and rant privately in the confines of my car.

Lots of people do this on my street, but this incident of mother and child-on-bike in particular really upsets me. Why wouldn't you take an extra minute to walk to a crosswalk, press the button, wait for the light to change, and cross in safety? I don't understand.

Are there any circumstances where you would say something to a stranger regarding her parenting choices? I couldn't imagine any comment I would make that she would react kindly to, but I hate to see this kid crossing the road so recklessly.

Monday, 8 October 2007

I hate the Mommy Olympics.

Raise your hand if you can point out the five year old who was breastfed/coslept/"worn" as opposed to the five year old who was born by c-section/bottlefed/slept alone from birth.

Anyone? Anyone? Yeah, I thought not.

So many people think that these early months and years have a bearing on the REST OF THE CHILD'S LIFE!!11!!! Sure, the early years are important, but your style of parenting needs to be taken in the long view.

One of the cool things about having three kids is that I can conduct at-home experiments. I am a different sort of parent now than I was four and a half years ago, and all three of my kids have experienced different parenting choices: co-sleeping and not, cloth diapering and not, solids at four months and not, etc. They are all happy and healthy kids, and I don't think anyone would be able to figure out who got what sort of treatment during infancy.

I hate seeing anyone doubt themselves over valid parenting choices that result in happy children. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. We need to have the long view when raising our children, and even though the early years are intense, they are short lived.

So any of you out there who are experiencing pressure from friends, frenemies, families or in-laws who may view your parenting choices as weird or just plain "wrong," take note: YOU ARE DOING A GOOD JOB. We all make mistakes, but on the whole, I have great faith that our efforts are going to pay off. Just take one day at a time.

And, if you've succeeded in avoiding the Mommy Olympics, beware the trap that awaits you in 20 years' time: The Grandma Wars. Are you more grandmotherly than your daughter's/son's inlaws? Let the games begin!

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Prepare to Die.

You know what makes life extra fun? It's not nine months straight of broken nights, nor is it the wonky heating that makes my bedroom hot and then you have to open a window so it gets too cold, neither is it the too-small blankets currently in use because our big one needs to be dry cleaned. These are all a bit niggly, a bit annoying, but nothing too major.

What makes all of that worse by a factor of 10 is your 4 year old child asleep in bed with you. The child that wiggles as if her life depended on it. But not just any wiggling, oh no. This is the Very Special kind of wiggling, that can only be done properly when touching Mama. The "family bed" isn't complete without tormenting your mother while you sleep.

I wasn't on my best behaviour last night, and managed to shout several times while half asleep. I can blame my tiredness, but that wouldn't be very fair. Poor kid. All she wanted was a little bit of torturing to dream by. I can't cope with torture.

So. No more funny business. The parental bed will remain childless. This way I get my much needed sleep, and I don't reduce my children to tears accidentally. Because if I'm going to be a Mean Mommy, I'd like to be awake and rational at the time!

Disclaimer: This post has been written in a haze of sleep deprivation, so please take care when reading. "Dramatic licence" and all that.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

RIP, PopMan 3000



I left my popcorn machine to run for a wee bit too long. I had a tea towel over it, to prevent most of the popcorn flying across the room as it careened out of the chute, but unfortunately I forgot that a popcorn machine gets hot. I know! Who knew, right?

Ahem. The mechanism that heats and spins the kernels still works, but because the chute is all melty melty, the popped goodness can't escape, and so ends up as a caked in mess on the bottom. Not that I tried to pop another batch after meltdown occurred or anything. I'm just making an educated guess.

I'm sad. I bought a whole new bag of popcorn, too. Back to the stone age method of stove top popping. Barbaric.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Why did nobody tell them it was a bad idea?

As cute as the children look in their school uniforms -- and believe me, putting aside my extreme bias towards my own adorable children, all of the kids look fabulous -- did none of the higher-ups think that white polo shirts plus small, grubby children equals Bad Idea?

Over the summer, as I was buying uniforms and ironing her name onto them, I held onto this irrational hope that she wouldn't come home a filthy mess every day. Oh, I joked with other mothers about gravy stains and paint splodges, but I still hoped for cleanliness. A week after school starts, and reality has hit me full on. There is no way this child can stay clean for more than three minutes put together. She uses her top as a napkin, for one thing. I have been lax in the hygiene department, I see that now. I haven't taught my children proper hand wiping etiquette, eg, do not wipe food/bogies/marker fuzz onto your clothing.

Because my Eldest is now a "Big Kid," she comes complete with sighing, foot stomping, hair flipping, eye rolling and under-the-breath muttering. So if I have to remind her five times in five minutes to stop wiping her hands on her top, she will get indignant and swear up and down that she didn't do such a thing.

She has two pinafore dresses, and being navy blue, can hide dirty hand wipes easier. I thought I had it made last week, when I sent her to school in one. "Excellent!" thought I, "That white polo shirt will stay clean enough for her to wear tomorrow as well!" Until she got a mysterious orange mark on her sleeve.

Time to buy stain removers in bulk, I think.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Ode to Aggie

I have a car now! It's a cute little Nissan Micra hatchback, silver, and is very basic. It's a far cry from the rental car provided by the insurance company; that sucker was only a few months old and had all the mod cons. It was fun, don't get me wrong, but this little Micra has plenty of charms herself.

Besides the great fuel economy and cheap insurance, it reminds me of my first car, a 1983 Honda Civic. I am filled with nostalgia whenever I drive little Aggie, and that makes me oddly joyful. I feel like I'm 16 again; I turn up the music with the windows down, zip around town and sing along with my kids. Everyone is in new carseats; Baby is in the front, in a reversible carseat that can face forwards and backwards. She's only 8 months, so she's still facing backwards. But that's cool, because she can see the older kids in the back and they chat to each other. Eldest is happy, because her new carseat has pink stripes. Middle child is now in a booster seat, and these new boosters are great because the back rests pop off for when they are too big for them and only need a little extra height.

I'm happy. Little Aggie will get us from place to place with ease, and now I can buy a month's worth of groceries again. Huzzah!

In other news, Middle child is fully potty trained! The relief I'm feeling is unbelievable. Those toilet stickers I mentioned are AMAZING. I've been telling everyone about them, and I cannot rave enough. I love them so very much. Ever since sticking one in the toilet bowl, he races to the loo and has not had a single accident. I know I risk jinxing the whole thing by writing about it, but I just can't keep my mouth shut about them! They are the best product I've found for children, except for my Phil & Teds E3 buggy. Now Middle child can go off to nursery school and I won't be sitting by the phone, waiting for a call from his teachers to take him home and clean him up! Whew.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

First Day of School



The first day of school went really well. One the walk home, Eldest Child said to me, "I love my school."

I am glad.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

My newest pretty little thing


I forgot to mention my newest reusable shopping bag acquisition. How can you not love this bag? It has wooden handles, the Underground logo, and is seriously boxy and cool. I look like a geeky tourist; it's great!

I'm taking it to church tomorrow to show off. Because that's what going to the Lord's house is all about. Didn't you know? ;)

Friday, 7 September 2007

Children + Hospitals = Nice men with white coats

Two months after my car accident, I was examined today by a doctor in order to get a medical report written up for the claim. The appointment was at a local private hospital instead of the NHS hospital down the road. I've never been to a private hospital in the UK, and I was very curious to see what it was like.

The outside looked like an old manor home. Well, I guess the name Manor Hospital should have clued me into that one, right? It was very quiet inside, with prim staff and older patients in the waiting room. My wild, noisy children, bulky buggy and harrowed expression fit in about as well as Victoria Beckham auditioning for Joker in the next Batman movie. My favourite part, aside from bribing my children with sweets in front of a full waiting room or chasing my son away from the lift or coffee machine, was when a nurse berated me for sending my daughter to the toilet. That's right folks, I was "Mommy Drive-By"-ed by a medical professional for allowing my four year old to go to the bathroom on her own.

The examination itself didn't last too long, and we were out of there in about forty minutes. Because we don't have a car right now, I had to take a taxi and paid over £10 all told for the experience.

To be fair to my children, they were not ill-behaved as such. It's not like they were screaming like banshees and running amok in the medical supply cupboard. They are normal kids, and especially after our London excursion yesterday, I didn't expect much. I'm just tired of adults without children, or fully grown children, expecting near-robotic behaviour from young ones. It's just not going to happen, is it? Relax, people. I'm doing the best I can here!

Give me an NHS hospital, with paint peeling off the walls and snotty children jumping on the chairs any day. We would fit right in.

My Embassy Adventure (tm)

Yesterday I took the kids into London so I could get my passport renewed at the American embassy. You may ask yourself, dear reader, what on earth could have possessed me to voluntarily take my three children, all under the age of five, into London by train and tube. I could claim insanity, but that would be redundant; it's my natural state of being. The truth is, I'm a bit of a control freak and since I didn't know exactly how long the appointment would take, I didn't want to leave the children in someone else's care for an undetermined amount of time. Also, I've never been that far away from them before and the thought made me nervous. My husband works in London, so the plan was to meet him for lunch and spend the afternoon at the Natural History Museum.

The novelty of travelling by train kept the older ones entertained for about 40 minutes. They were as good as gold when the train car was empty, but as soon as it filled up with other travellers (most of them the austere business suit sort, of course), Middle Child decided it was time to stretch his legs a bit. Um, sorry son, but no. The result? At least ten minutes of screaming, kicking, full-blown toddler tantrum that the entire train was privy to. I was mortified! Once he tired himself out, luckily he was fine. In London, I lugged my double buggy up and down stairs, in and out of tube stations, and negotiated large crowds of people without much incident.

The highlights:

1. Firstly, a big thank you to all the Londoners who helped me with my children. Those people who helped me move the buggy around, held my children's hands and kept them from running off or falling down the escalator, you are all saints in my book. Thanks so much!

2. A pox on the person who stole my kid's toy London bus. He only had it for an hour, and you took it out of the buggy! What kind of person steals a child's toy? Bah.

3. A reminder to the tourist shop owner: I may have a foreign accent, but I'm no dummy. No doubt your little trick of 'accidentally' leaving out a bit of change to your customers works on some, but don't try to pull that on me. A big sarcastic thank you for giving me my pound back.

4. To the kamikaze rollerblader, a suggestion: Use a helmet! Rollerblading on the road without any safety gear is just CRAZY. Have you seen the way people drive around London? Why would you risk life and limb like that?

5. The Natural History Museum, while fascinating and a lot of fun, can also be scary to a (nearly) three year old when he sees dinosaur bones up close and personal.

6. One big benefit of all the traffic in London is that you can't hear your child moan and whinge about being toooooo tiiiiiiired to waaaaaaalk any further. Hold tight onto her hand, walk at a fast clip, and cheerily tell her you can't hear a word she's saying.

7. London public transportation is not buggy friendly. However, buggies are the perfect tool for parting the crowds and squeezing onto crowded tubes. Make sure you at least sound partially sincere for bashed shins.

8. Mayfair has incredibly delicious restaurants at great prices. If you're ever in London, eat lunch there.


We got home around 9 o'clock, fed the kids a cup of milk and a slice of bread and butter, and sent them to bed. They passed out within two minutes.

Did they sleep in? HA! These are the Raisin'Cookies children, remember? Up at dawn regardless of bedtime. At least we survived the journey intact, and I should be the proud owner of an up-to-date US passport within the next 15 working days.

All in all, the day was a success. I need about four days of sleep to recover, though.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Addendum

So I've updated the look of the blog. Much nicer, I think.

Also, I've added a cool feature at the bottom, Buddy Mapping. Come on, folks! Where do you come from?

......crickets......

I do have readers, don't I? :)

Knitting Plastic



Using the instructions from this site, I have started cutting up plastic grocery bags and knitting them into a reusable bag.

My reusable shopping bag obsession is beginning to take over my life! The only problem is that it takes several plastic bags to make one reusable bag (I'm on my third already), so ironically I need more plastic to save the environment.

I'm having lots of fun, though, and maybe I'll get good enough to sell them at a craft stall or something. You never know!

Monday, 3 September 2007

I am totally buying these!

My son turns three next month, and the potty training adventure is hitting another low point. Luckily, The Toiletsticker (tm) is available to alleviate my potty training woes!

I've placed an order, and I'm eagerly awaiting their arrival. My son will be desperate to use the toilet now, I'm sure. My daughter will be green with envy, I'm also sure.

When you've been trying to potty train your child for seven months and he is due to start nursery school in four weeks and you want to gouge your eyes out when you see yet another wet patch on the floor/couch/in his pants, even funky stickers in the toilet bowl don't sound too weird to you.

Desperate? Sure! Now, someone find me poop targets and I'll be all set.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

PayPal is now on my hit list.

You don't want to be on my hit list, PayPal. I have several young thugs at my disposal that will inflict such torture as sleep deprivation, auditory overload (Why? Why? Whywhywhywhywhywhywhyyyyyy? and Mummy? Mummy? Mumumumumumumumumuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum?), surprise wet spots on your carpet, and total destruction of your personal life. Still not scared? They can also inflict seven different types of cold & flu viruses by "accidentally" sneezing in your face, your food, and your keyboard.

These hit men require very little sleep, and once we are in a public place, they do not listen to any pleas for self control from me. They are ruthless and have no empathy. Their cuteness is their biggest weapon, because it will disarm you and make you think they are harmless. They are not.

Watch your back, PayPal. Give me my money or face the consequences.

You have been warned.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Harry Potter, the Lost Chapter (my version, at least)

This is my first writing project in many moons. Tell me what you think of it!

The weeks that passed after Harry’s final battle with Voldemort were a blur of funerals and aching grief. Harry felt at a loose end; what do you do with yourself when your life-long mission is complete at age seventeen?

“Of course you must live with us, dear,” said Mrs Weasley after Fred’s funeral. She wiped another tear away, “You are part of our family now, forever.”

So Harry lived with the grieving Weasleys, constantly gnawed by guilt and a feeling of helplessness when witnessing their private pain. Frequently, he found himself wondering about the Dursleys. After seeing countless families being torn apart by Voldemort’s cruelty, and in spite of the years of neglect Harry suffered at their hands, he needed to check up on them. He needed to make sure Dudley, at least, was happy.

The Aurors had done their job of hiding the Dursleys well. Kingsley Shacklebolt himself, now officially Minister for Magic, invited Harry into his office.

“I have to admit I was surprised when Arthur told me your intentions, Harry,” boomed Kingsley’s smooth, deep voice. “You certainly don’t owe a debt of gratitude to these people.”

Harry himself didn’t fully understand it. He shrugged, “I guess the pull of family is stronger than I thought.”

The Minister nodded. “Well, you understand that there are still suspected Death Eaters out there, don’t you? Your family could still be at risk from a wizard or witch bent on misguided revenge.”

“I certainly don’t want to draw attention to them or bring any more danger into their lives,” Harry was quick to say.

“Oh, I think we can manage a stealthy visit, for a few minutes. Their memories have been modified of course, so they won’t know you anyway.”

Harry sat there, momentarily stunned. The Dursleys won’t even remember him? The one last, tenuous link to his past, to his mother, gone forever. There were no other adults alive who were ever close to his parents, besides Aunt Petunia. Now that relationship, too, was lost. Harry had a fleeting memory of the Mirror of Erised.

He cleared his throat. “Of course. Just a glimpse then.”

Several port keys and a journey by floo powder had to be cleared before Harry could see the Dursleys. Harry himself was to use his Invisibility Cloak at all times, regardless of the Memory Charm. “No one’s going to risk losing you again, Harry!” boomed Kingsley as he guided him out of his office.

As soon as Harry returned to the Burrow from his appointment at the Ministry, he was cornered by Ron. “What d’you want to see the Dursleys for?” he asked, incredulous.

Harry shrugged again. “I don’t have anything else to do.”

This was true. Harry’s defeat of Voldemort after returning from the dead had catapulted him into a level of celebrity that even the Weasleys couldn’t ignore. No less than ten owls a day arrived with tearful letters of gratitude, expensive gifts and exotic foods. Even Rita Skeeter wrote such headlines as “The Boy Who Lived – Again” in the Daily Prophet. Kreacher was practically his shadow and would open doors for Harry, pull out chairs, and mutter loudly if Mrs Weasley did not make Harry’s favourite foods every day. She flatly refused to allow him to cook. Harry’s every need was provided for and, apart from feeling embarrassed about all the attention, he was bored stiff.

He didn’t even have his friends to keep him company; not in the same way, at any rate. The comfortable friendship he shared with Ron and Hermione shifted once they openly declared their feelings for each other. Whenever Hermione visited the Burrow, Harry always felt like the third wheel. Whenever she was back at St Mungo’s, waiting for her parents’ Memory Charm reversal, Ron would talk about her non stop.

Ginny wasn’t around anymore, either. Fleur and Bill were expecting their first baby and Mrs Weasley packed Ginny off to “Help them out” when she stumbled onto a private moment stolen in the cupboard under the stairs. Aside from Mrs Weasley’s decidedly unhappy reaction, that memory in particular always brought a smile and faint blush to Harry’s face. They kept in contact of course, but for the time being all Harry had was letters from Ginny.

It was a rainy afternoon, while Harry was aimlessly wondering if Mr and Mrs Weasley would let him take Ginny on a proper date, that a Ministry owl landed soggily on the Weasley kitchen table. They left the window open at all times now, to prevent a scrimmage of owls trying to deliver Harry’s post all at once.

The sleek, tawny owl, Ministry of Magic logo emblazoned across its chest, strutted importantly across the table, leaving wet claw marks on its surface. As it raised its leg for Harry to take the letter, excitement started to rise up inside him. He had finally been granted permission to see the Dursleys! Harry had not realised how listless he had been feeling. For the first summer in six years, he had no Hogwarts to look forward to, no mission to prepare for, no purpose. Even though this excursion to see his estranged family would take no more than a day or two, he was energised by the thought.

He called out to Ron and Hermione, who were in the next room playing wizard’s chess. “My letter from the Ministry’s arrived! Excellent!”

Ron, distracted by Harry’s shout, lost his knight to Hermione. “Oi, woman! That’s my bishop you just nicked!”

Hermione punched Ron in the shoulder and then laughed, “Don’t call me woman! And it was a completely fair play, wasn’t it?” Her pawns squeaked the affirmative up at her.

Harry impatiently ripped the letter open as the Ministry owl flapped back into the rains.

Dear Mr Potter,

In light of your recent valour in destroying Lord Voldemort, the Ministry of Magic and its Department of Magical Transportation have approved your journey for the1st of September, to begin at 7.24 am sharp.

Please report to Mr Basil Bimshott on level 6, office 3a on the above date and time.

We trust you will be using your own form of Magical Concealment, in addition to the protection of this Ministry.

Sincerely yours,
Madam Edgecombe
Floo Regulation


“Excellent, Harry! That’s only a few weeks away!” Ron clapped Harry on the shoulder.

Hermione, however, looked slightly concerned. “Why do they want you to bring your own form of magical concealment? They mean your Invisibility Cloak, right? Is this going to be a dangerous trip?”

Harry had not mentioned that more Death Eaters were on the loose, and could possibly be looking for the Dursleys. He nodded.
“Well, yes, the Minister did say there might be Voldemort supporters out there still.” Hermione’s mouth opened to say something, but Harry rushed on, “But obviously the Ministry trusts my judgment, right? It says so right in the letter! And with Kingsley Shacklebolt in charge, who better can I trust?”

Ron, quickly glancing at Hermione and judging it safe to do so, agreed with Harry. “He’s right, Hermione! I still don’t understand why he wants to visit those gits, but he can certainly take care of himself. The cloak has never failed him yet.”

Hermione looked mollified, and invited Harry to take her place at the chess table. For a few hours that evening, Harry invigorated with the idea of his upcoming journey, Ron beating him at chess mercilessly, and Hermione curled in a chair next to them reading aloud from her latest book, Muggle Magic and How To Tap Into It, everything felt like old times again.

On the morning of September first, Harry woke with a start. Kreacher was staring into Harry’s face, his nose mere centimetres away from Harry’s own. With a pang, Harry realised he thought Kreacher was Dobby for a moment. Sitting up and scrambling for his glasses he asked, “Is it time to wake up already?”

Kreacher’s change in attitude towards Harry, while welcome, made him a tad over-keen at times. “Sir asked me to wake him so as to not be late this morning. It is currently 5.07am. Will Sir have enough time to get ready?”

Harry suppressed a groan at the sight of Kreacher’s anxious face. “Yes, Kreacher, thanks very much.”

Two hours later, Harry was fully awake and standing before the Weasleys’ fireplace, waiting for Mr Weasley to finish getting ready. Although Harry vastly preferred flying on his broom to any other form of magical transportation, he felt the discomforts of apperating were worse than using floo powder.

As Mr Weasley bustled in with a stack of buttered toast in his hand, Harry went through a mental checklist. Hermione let him borrow her magically enhanced bag (after removing the sequins) and it now contained his cloak, a small two-man tent, food to last a few days, muggle clothes and muggle money. Harry didn’t think he would need any of it, but Hermione insisted. His wand was tucked into his back pocket.
“Ready to go, Harry?” Mr Weasley smiled.

Harry’s nose was still itching slightly from the ashes when he knocked on Mr Bimshott’s office door. The same woman’s voice that announced floors in the Ministry lifts immediately spoke, “Harry Potter, 7.24am appointment, 46 seconds late.”

As Harry started to mumble an apology, the door to Mr Bimshott’s office seemed to melt away. Peering inside, Harry saw a small desk overrun with so many random and broken objects the pile nearly reached the ceiling. In fact, every surface was covered in junk, leaving a narrow pathway weaving its way around the room. Harry cautiously stepped inside but was startled by the door reappearing behind him and knocked over a pile of broken baby rattles with a loud crash.

Again his apology was cut short, this time by Basil Bimshott himself.
“Mr Potter, is it? Right, right. I’ve set up several port keys for you today and opened Mrs Arabella Figg’s fireplace to the floo network as well. She said she knows you quite well?” He peered at Harry.

“Oh yes,” Harry replied, remembering his former neighbour and his shock at discovering she was a Squib.

“She’s also been relocated but refused any Ministry protection aside from living in a non-magical residence,” Basil sniffed. He obviously felt personally affronted by this attitude. “She’ll be your fourth stop today.”

As Mr Bimshott explained the travel procedure to Harry, he started digging through his piles of junk. He handed Harry a rubber duck, a bootlace, a giant screw and a packet of melted sweets.
“Each port key is timed to work in succession. Don’t lose them, because they’ve been specially charmed to work in reverse as well. You’ll have twenty-four hours before they start activating themselves again. The first port key will be active in,” he checked his watch, “ten seconds.”

Basil stuffed a bit of parchment into Harry’s hand. “Here’s the order they work in. I hope you have deep pockets!”
And the familiar pull of the port key whisked him away. Harry barely had time to take in his surroundings before the next port key activated. He had fleeting glimpses of desert dunes, wide open sea, and towering forest trees. He suddenly slammed to a stop inside a cramped front room, smelling strongly of cats.

Mrs Figg bustled up to him. “Good to see you, Harry! It’s a shame you can’t stay for tea, but I have my orders.” She pushed him into the fireplace as the floo powder took him to his next destination. He fell out into a run down old shack, sitting on a familiar rock in a familiar bit of dismal sea. His last port key, the melted sweets, activated and sent him hurtling towards his final destination.

Completely winded, Harry lay flat on his back trying to get his bearings. It was dark and dusty, but shafts of light shone onto his face. He appeared to be in a barn hayloft. Hearing voices, Harry quickly donned his Invisibility Cloak and looked down.

He couldn’t believe his eyes! There was his cousin Dudley, mucking out the horse pens, and whistling while he worked! His disbelief only grew when he saw Aunt Petunia come into the barn, covered in dirt, and begin to milk their cow.

Harry noticed with surprise that they were speaking in fluent French. They seemed so relaxed and happy. Harry’s heart began to swell. Maybe not every outcome of Voldemort’s terrorism was negative. Harry had never seen the Dursleys look so content; he was used to them constantly striving to be better than everyone else. This humble little farm was far from their previously perfect home on Privet Drive.

Harry smiled as he watched them work and chat together. Waiting an extra twenty minutes after they left to climb down from the hayloft, Harry carefully picked his way through the barn. The animals were slightly restless, unable to pinpoint his presence.

Harry stepped through the doorway, blinking in the bright morning sun. The Dursley’s new life as farmers seemed to suit Uncle Vernon as well. Harry could see him off in the distance, apparently spit-polishing a gleaming combine harvester.

His curiosity sated, Harry decided to leave the Dursley farm and take a stroll. The port keys wouldn’t reactivate until tomorrow morning, so he intended to enjoy his solitude. Maybe he would find an Inn and avoid his owl post for the day.

It turned out that the small farm was right on the edge of a bustling village. It was market day, with stalls selling cheeses, breads and homemade preserves. Harry ducked down a narrow alley to remove his Invisibility Cloak. He enjoyed walking around anonymously in a group of people. He felt completely at ease and just as unnoticed as if he was wearing his cloak.

As he was trying to point out which cheese he wanted to buy, he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. Was that a wand in someone’s hand? Was the Ministry tailing him, or could it be one of those rogue Death Eaters? Harry suddenly realised how careless he had been in taking off his Invisibility Cloak. All that work to protect the Dursleys could be wasted in one moment!
Quickly thanking the stall holder, Harry tried to slip through the crowds, looking for someone who might be a wizard. No one stood out in odd Muggle clothing, the usual sign of wizards trying to blend in with non-magical people. Not having any luck, Harry decided to best thing to do would be to put on his cloak and disapperate out of there. He accomplished his original goal, anyway. He was happy for the Dursleys.

Heading for the same alley he used earlier, Harry started to pull out his cloak. After apperating all over the British countryside last year, Harry had a clear idea in his mind of where he wanted to go. In one fluid movement, Harry pulled his cloak around him and turned on the spot. Just before the telltale CRACK of his disappearance, Harry felt a hand grasp his ankle. He couldn’t shake it off.

Harry never did get used to the feeling of being squeezed through a rubber tube and so when he apperated in the same wood where Snape led him to Gryffindor’s sword, he felt dangerously disoriented. His ankle felt twisted.

Grasping for his wand, Harry heard a horribly familiar “Hem, hem.” Pulling herself up to stand, Delores Umbridge looked at Harry with a mad glint in her eye.

Aghast, Harry cried out, “What are you doing here?”

Delores Umbridge was a shell of the woman Harry knew from Hogwarts and the Ministry. She had been on the run for several weeks, hiding from the Ministry for her crimes against Muggles and Muggle-borns. Her broad, flabby face was even flabbier after losing weight so quickly. Her hair was lank and robes were stained and torn. Pointing her wand at Harry she gleefully exclaimed, “I knew you would turn up eventually. Your hero complex and Muggle adoration make you an easy target, Mr Potter. Lucky for me.”

And with that, she shouted “Crucio!” Harry just managed to block her spell with a well-placed “Expelliarmus!”

Harry picked up her wand from the forest floor. “You are one of the vilest people I’ve ever met. I don’t understand why, after everything that has happened, you would still try to come after me.” Using Umbridge’s wand, Harry produced ropes that wound themselves around her. He stuffed some old, mouldy leaves into her mouth for good measure.

Sighing to himself, Harry realised that he would have to suffer her company until the next morning, when his portkeys reactivated. He set up his tent, levitated Delores onto one of the beds, and waited.

The sight of Delores Umbridge, tied in ropes and covered in twigs and leaves caused quite a stir in the Ministry the next morning. Basil Bimshott completely lost his head and ran straight to Kingsley Shacklbolt’s office himself, leaving Harry in charge of Umbridge yet again. Harry didn’t mind. He had quite enjoyed checking on her ropes, making them a bit tighter (even if they hadn’t gotten loose) and purposely ignoring her looks of rage and loathing. The feeling was mutual.


Later that day, Harry found himself in the Minister’s office.

“Well, Harry,” smiled Kingsley, “Looks like we owe you yet again!”

“Thank you, but it was all sort of a coincidence, really. It’s not like I went out looking for fugitives from the law or anything.” Harry wanted to avoid further newspaper headlines.

“Nonsense, Harry, you really are too modest. I can see that your experience and talents are an invaluable asset to the Ministry. There are some that would think your youth is a legitimate reason to keep you from full-time employment as an Auror, but I certainly disagree. Will you join us, Harry? You’ll need a bit more training up, but I daresay you could teach us a thing or two yourself, eh?”

Harry was so excited, so thrilled at the idea of working as an Auror, he could barely speak. “Er, yeah! I mean, thank you, Minister! I would be honoured. I accept!”

Kingsley Shacklebolt stood up to shake Harry’s hand. “We’ll be glad to have you Harry.”

For the first time in years, Harry looked forward to his future outside of Hogwarts with excitement. He was in control of his own destiny now.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Long time no see!

If there's one thing I'm good at, it's inconsistency. I seem to post here on a daily basis for a week or two, then leave it at a stand-still for months at a time.

I could say my excuse is a busy lifestyle, but it's probably more laziness than anything else! Sorry, dear readers!

As we near the end of August and our great "British Summer" I am thinking more and more about the changes coming just around the corner for our family.

Eldest Child will be in school -- wearing a uniform and everything! -- in a scant few weeks. Ack!

Middle Child will be three years old and starting nursery school in less than two months. Ack! Ack!

Baby Child will be one year old in four months. Ackety ack ack!

Oh, and my husband will be well and truly in his thirties, as he is turning 31 at the end of October. But don't tell him I told you that. He is in deep denial.

Life has this funny way of creeping up on you. At the end of each day, I run through what I've done with my time, and can never understand how quickly the days turn into weeks, which turn into months and then years.

But anyway, I digress. My biggest excitement that will be coming just around the corner (aside from birthdays and holidays of course) is my Big Trip to America!

I haven't been back to the states since I moved to England 8 years ago, so I'm sooo excited. I got myself some dollars last week, and I made my appointment with the US Embassy in London to renew my United Statian passport. I will be dragging all three kids along on the trains and tubes in London in order to make it to my appointment, so I'll be sure to let you all know if I survive the ordeal. I'm kind of excited to go it alone, just me and the kids. It's a test of nerve and skill and I'm up to the challenge. Plus, I plan to take them to the Natural History Museum to see all the dinosaur bones and the stuffed Blue Whale (I'm seriously stoked about that one!), so it should be a good day. Middle Child is behaving amazingly well when I let him walk alongside the buggy, so I'm hopeful. He'll still be on the reins and/or sitting in the double buggy, but I think he'll be reasonably well behaved.

I just hope the weather is nice. HA!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Entering the box

I have a confession to make. I really like the replacement car that the insurance company has provided for us while we wait for the paperwork to go through and for our damaged car to be inspected.

All three car seats easily fit in the back, the radio works so we can rock out to They Might Be Giants as I drive along, and it's so pretty and shiny. The car only has 800-odd miles on the clock. I've never driven a brand-new car before! It's really exciting.

So even though I should be walking, especially now that the weather is nice and I really need to get my butt back into running again, I'm planning on driving down the road to pick up Eldest Child from nursery school.

I'm also hoping that we'll still have the car at the end of the month, when my mom wants me to visit her with the kids for a week. It's a 3 hour drive, and wouldn't it be nice to drive in luxury? You know it.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Crash! Bam! And then silence.

Monday morning, I was rear-ended as I was waiting to turn into our road. I was literally 100 metres from home, and got in a car wreck! Luckily, the kids are okay, but I've got whiplash, and the car is an insurance write-off.

We're getting a replacement car today, so that's good. I can't drive for a few more days though, since I'm so sore. I'm also a bit nervous about driving again! The kids' car seats will all have to be replaced as well.

What a nuisance! Apparently the lady braked in time, but the road was slippery and she couldn't stop.

I just hope it all gets resolved quickly and easily. And I really hope that the pains in my back, shoulders and neck go away. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

I haven't forgotten you!

I have lots of pretty pictures and interesting stories to tell, but photobucket hates me today. :(

Instead, I will regale you with humorous quotes:

ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: But could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and
practicing law.


These quotes are all over the net, but I found this one here.

Have fun, I'll see you soon! *mwah*

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Good luck, sucka!

I got a call yesterday from a competition company, to "Wish me luck!!!11!".

I don't want your wishes of luck, dude, I want to WIN! I got all excited when he called, thinking I had actually won two grand, but no. Total disappointment.

I think that maybe he was calling on his lunch break, and laughing at my dejected tone of voice after I hung up. The jerk.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Baby Child and Sleep

The baby is five months old, and I've finally started a routine with her. Before, she would just fall asleep while I watched TV at night, and one of us would put her up to bed eventually. It was nice to cuddle with her and everything, but she needs a better routine now.

So we've started to do a bath, massage, feed, and into bed while still awake routine. She wasn't too happy about it the first few nights, I have to say. I let her cry for a while, hoping she would soothe herself, but I ended up going in there and holding her until she dropped off. Last night, she moaned for about a minute. Tonight, nothing.

Bliss! It looks like my evenings will be free sooner than I expected. The poor dear gets shuttled around all day and never gets a proper daytime nap routine, so at least I can get her to bed at a decent hour and she can sleep for long stretches of time.

Happiness is a house full of sleeping kids. Time to party!

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

freecycle knocks my socks off!

Seriously, freecycle freaking RULES! I've only been a member for a week or so, and have managed to procure a couple of book shelves (to spread the junk thinly), a baby bath seat so Baby Child can sit up and splash, a rabbit hutch (more on that another day) and a froggy sandpit with a lid to keep cats away. These generous people have saved me shedloads of money, and I am very grateful.

Plus, I now have a way to offload a bunch of my unwanted stuff, without dumping it and wasting perfectly good items that I just don't need anymore. I'm in love with this system, I really am.

I'm a big believer in the saying, "What goes around, comes around," so the idea of giving stuff away to help someone else out really appeals to me. For example, I've been given so many baby clothes and assorted paraphernalia that one needs to care for a baby, that it's my policy to give away as much of my unneeded baby stuff as possible. Anything that has sentimental value stays, but everything else is leaving my house!

Don't get me wrong, it's still a cluttered mess in here, but I'm starting to resign myself to the fact that it always will be a cluttered mess in my home. Embrace the clutter, release some stress....? We'll see. I may just be freecycling my entire home contents instead. Watch this space!

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Beach Girls and Boy

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


We went to the seaside the other day, and had a blast. It was a perfect day, not too hot and sunny, but warm enough for the older ones to splash around in the water. They ate the sand, dug in the sand, and sat in the sand. We are still finding sand in surprising places!

It was a good experience, and I definitely plan on making more trips to the seaside with the kids.

Friday, 25 May 2007

My Addiction


All the major grocery stores I shop at are now selling reusable shopping bags. They are trying to encourage more eco-friendly shopping habits, and I applaud their efforts.

I am also giving them my money, because I can't seem to stop buying reusable shopping bags for myself. They are so pretty! And fun to carry! And colourful! I am building my collection slowly, but I am really in the market for some non-branded bags, with cool and funky designs. I want to look hip and interesting as I walk around town with my shopping hanging off of the buggy.

Now, if I could only remember to bring them with me when I leave the house....

Friday, 11 May 2007

The beginning of the End

My youngest is interested in food. She is 4 months old, and has started snatching spoons out of my hand and greedily shoving them into her own mouth. Today she was happily sucking on my apple for several minutes (Why can I never finish an apple on my own? But that's a rant for another day).

So, I'm going to wean her. I didn't want to start this young, even though this is about the same age as when I weaned the other two. I just wanted her to stay a baby for longer, you know? Sadly, she has other ideas about that.

I'm feeling bittersweet about this moment. I mean, sure, it's exciting to watch her grow and develop and turn into a wonderful little person. Of course it is! But, I know how fast kids grow up, and I wanted to savour the baby moments for a little longer. Once she starts eating solids, she'll be crawling and walking and talking and potty trained and at school and then moving out.

It's all downhill from here. I'm a little sad about it.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Bad Mummy! Bad, Bad!

My poor little Baby. She's really getting the short end of the stick recently. Our daily schedule revolves around the school run for Oldest Child and playgroups for Middle Child. Baby's naps are constantly being disturbed by this. She can't sleep properly in the buggy or carseat, and gets very grizzly as a result. In the afternoons, when Middle Child is getting a few hours' nap, the baby needs a longer one. She didn't get to sleep this afternoon until about 40 minutes before we had to leave to pick up Oldest.

She turned into a dribbling mess this evening, and as soon as I picked her up for a feed, her eyes rolled back into her head and she passed out. She's been asleep for about an hour now, and if left undisturbed, she would sleep for another hour at least. However! Husband rang, and needs a lift from the station tonight. So I'm going to have to disturb Baby's sleep again.

It's a shame. I feel so bad for her. I'm forced to disturb her sleep constantly. Poor, sleepy baby.