Wednesday, December 24, 2008

On the day before the eve before Christmas

Today used to be the most exciting day of the year for me. All of the other days of the year only existed to lead up to today. In my family we opened most of our presents on Christmas Eve, after having dinner at my aunt's house. Waiting was torturous. Waiting for it to get dark so we could go....once we were there, waiting to start eating...then waiting for the grown-ups to stop eating and eating and eating...staring at the tree and examining every present underneath....waiting for the grown-ups to make their way into the living room...waiting for everyone to get settled and have coffee or egg nog and then they would finally give the all clear for us to rip everything to pieces!! And it lasted about 5 minutes. Then it was done. The end. What now? Only 365 more days to go before we could do it all again!

We make the kids wait until Christmas day to open presents and this year my father-in-law is flying in Christmas morning, so they will have to wait two extra painful hours until we're all together to open presents. It's going to be fun while it lasts.

I hope you have a merry Christmas (or insert other winter holiday here)!! I hope you have the chance to eat large amounts of good food. Have seconds for me. And a glass of wine. Or a bottle.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Two Points in Time

A Random Day in 2004

She was cleaning in the kitchen with her 4 month old in his bouncy seat, while the two year old came in and out from the backyard freely through the patio door. The spring air in Colorado was cool and dry, but it was sunny outside. A radio was playing on the countertop.

She was drinking a cold can of Pepsi. The rush of caffeine and sugar helped fuel her schedule. The day consisted of rotating time slots of cleaning, feeding and napping. It was an endless cycle.

The toddler came in and announced "I have egg!" That meant he had a full load in his diaper. He started saying that after he overheard his mom announce that his brother had laid an egg when he had a lump in his diaper. He would continue using that phrase until he potty trained right after his 3rd birthday.

After changing his diaper, she noticed that he had unloaded all the books from the bottom 3 shelves of the bookcase at some point during the day. She put them back in their place, getting more and more frustrated with the cycle of the day and the repetition of the tasks that consumed every moment.

The buzzer on the dryer went off. After folding the tiny clothes on the bed and putting them away neatly in the drawers, taking extra time to straighten up the room, she knew it was time for the baby to eat. Throughout the day there would be no deviation from the to do list that continued growing inside her mind. Things needed to be checked off. The rug needed vacuuming, the stupid Mega Bloks were all over the floor again, the sippy cups needed washing, the baby's nails needed trimming, the litterbox was starting to smell, and the dishwasher was ready to be unloaded. She wanted to sit outside with her oldest and play, like they used to when he was an only child, but there were so many other things to do. Sometimes she felt trapped in the confines of her own expectations. There was never enough time for everything.

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A Random Day in 2008

She hurried her 5 and 7 year old sons out the door to get to school on time. They would probably be late. It happened a lot. They followed a wooded path that led them almost directly from their house to the school, watching out for slick patches of mud. The weather in England was cold and wet. Even though it was almost 9 am, it was still not bright outside. It was as if the sun barely made an appearance at all during the day, arching slowly above the horizon as a fading version of itself and then without hesitation, beginning its descent.

She listened to them talk about booby traps and Star Wars. Based on their conversation, she could sense when her youngest was going to have a tough morning, throwing a tantrum for the teacher when she had to leave him there. Those mornings were like having painful dental work done. You just had to get it over with and hope that nothing was permanently damaged.

When she got back to the house after bringing them to school, it seemed quiet and dark and strange. She had coffee in the living room and looked at the Christmas tree. It sometimes still seemed surreal that this was her house and that she had two rapidly growing boys and a Christmas tree that looked strikingly similar to the trees from her own childhood, with mismatched decorations and colored lights. It was the tree of a family.

She noticed there were handprints on the living room window, but felt no desire to clean them. Instead, she was content they were there, because one day the kids wouldn't be leaving little handprints on the window and that would be kind of sad. There were games and photos and "projects" the boys had made in every area of the house. She realized how a house can feel empty and how a house can feel full.

During the day there was no to do list, or if there was it was short. Things were usually flexible. She was able to shuffle tasks around, based on importance, although frequently some things were forgotten. The laundry always sat at the bottom of the list in a big, neglected heap.

In the afternoon she hurried along the path to pick up the boys from school. It was the best part of the day. They would all make their way back home, both of the kids talking at once and trying to unload papers and books from their backpacks along the way. It would be dark soon, but the house would be full of light and sound. She suggested different things they could do together when they got back, but the kids usually wanted to unwind with the video game. Then they would eat dinner together. At the table they talked about school, and the boys either loved the food or hated it. Afterwards, the lull of bedtime always came around fast. There was never enough time for everything. But she was learning that time had a way of expanding and contracting and turning the things that were made most important into well-worn paths of memory.

Hey kids, you'll love this freaky 80's movie

We have seen very little TV since we moved here. Our TV doesn't pick up British signals, so we've been limited to watching movies. The library has a good selection of 80's movies and we've picked up a few in the past 6 weeks with the idea that the boys would like them, only to discover that they are weirder than we remember and our children are slightly disturbed by them. Remember the 80's when special effects were all laser lights and smoke and weird animatronic creatures?

Labyrinth - They were totally freaked out by this movie. They did not care that David Bowie ran around in ruffles and long hair and clingy pants.

The Princess Bride - Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. They weren't scared by this, but not really interested in watching it.

ET - They thought ET was really ugly and horrible and I think they were expecting him to start eating people at any moment.

The Neverending Story - They went back and forth between liking this and being scared out of their wits and hiding their faces.

Beetlejuice - Okay, bad idea.

Ghostbusters - Ghostbusters was more adult-oriented than I remember. Oops.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids - They love this one. Score one for the 80's.

Flight of the Navigator - This one was a hit also, overall.

Willow - Baby in peril. No good.

So in our effort to find family-friendly movies that were not cheesy and annoying and would bring us back to our own delightful childhoods, we have filled our kids' heads with images of scary creatures created by 1980's technology. Feel free to learn from our mistakes. That's what we're here for.

As a side note, we also watched Napoleon Dynamite way too many times and the boys like to spout off quotes from the movie like "Do the chickens have large talons?" Jack tries to do the dance. See kids, the 80's were fun!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

She's big boned

So we have a new addition to the family...


But she's not just a dog.....


She's a

BRICK

HOUSE


Meet Madeline* - at 170 pounds she's a whole lotta woman.

Pay no attention to the weird carpet. It's not even there. There is no ugly carpet. I don't know what you're talking about.

*I wanted to name her something fun like Stella or Lola or Angelina Jolie. Dylann wanted to name her Reba. Jack wanted to name her Pretzel. But Donn wanted to keep her name the same and since she's been called Madeline for 4 1/2 years and she won't come to me when I call her Sally Struthers, he won.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Photographic Evidence

I love taking pictures. I take too many pictures. Sometimes I get into a theme of things I like to take pictures of. For the first 5 or 6 years of my boys' lives, the theme has been: THEM. I have loads of baby and toddler pictures of my two little monkeys and I'm happy I took as many as I did.

When we were living in Minnesota I started taking pictures of other things, like old buildings that I drove by all the time. I continued in Georgia, focusing on abandoned houses because something always intrigued me about them.

There's something about old neglected buildings that appeals to me like an untold story. I can only imagine the lives that unfolded between those (now decaying) walls. Maybe a family was raised there and the children, now adults, still remember this place as it once was. Inevitably, the whole thing will either be torn down or will collapse into the Georgia landscape and it will be like it was never there.

Now that we're in England, I don't know what to photograph. Old buildings are everywhere...so that would be easy, but I'm just not feeling it at the moment. Maybe because my house looks like this:


This was after I made the boy unpack 588 boxes and then he had to fold this paper up neatly and make origami cranes out of it.

Come on, kid! Get busy!

Let's just hope they don't use my mulitude of photos against me later in life as proof of my remedial parenting skillz. But who could blame them?

Friday, December 12, 2008

We come from the land where the rice and bamboo grows

Why this year's Christmas program was better than last year's:

Script was slightly better, although what happened to at least having a winter theme for the Christmas program? At their last school the theme was the wild west and the plot was about a cowboy who was bullying everyone and then in the end they all got him to open up and share his emotions. Nice lesson. Happy Holidays. This year the theme was All Around the World and the kids all dressed up like different cultures. Lots of costumes = good times.

It's fun watching kids act with a British accent. It's like watching Harry Potter.

They served mulled wine at the show. It's served hot and has a spicy flavor like cider.

It was a pretty small group of people watching, because there are only 60 kids in the whole school and there were two showings.

Why this year's Christmas program was worse than last year's:

The man directly in front of me let his 3 year old daughter stand up in the seat or sit on his shoulder through most of the show, totally blocking my view. She's cute and everything, but make your dang kid sit down.

So overall: Better!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Confessions on a Dance Floor

For some reason I felt like posting this today. They’re not all confessions, some are just facts. Come on, let’s get personal.

1. I found out I was pregnant and got married when I was 19 (but almost 20!). Scandalous! AND in the wrong order!
2. My oldest is 7 now.
3. That means I’m 27, but my husband thinks I dress and act like an old woman.
4. He is (roughly) 10 years older than I am, but he has more energy than I'll ever have.
5. We meet somewhere in the middle.
6. I get my news from The Daily Show.
7. I don’t have a college degree.
8. I sometimes fantasize about getting some kind of blue collar job like welding or plumbing so I can wear a shirt with my name embroidered on it and take a thermos to work with me. And maybe wear a hard hat.
9. But just thinking about it is enough for me.
10. Although I was in the army for 2 years.
11. Everyone called me Big J and they had to make special uniforms to fit over my giant muscles.
12. Just kidding.
13. But I really was in the army.
14. And it made me want to be all I could be.
15. So I got out.
16. My kids beat each other up all the time.
17. Most of the time I ignore it unless someone starts bleeding.
18. Then I beat them up.
19. I eat a lot of really fattening foods with butter, cheese, cream, pasta…
20. Sometimes I fantasize about owning a dairy farm.
21. But cow nipples are really ugly.
22. They’re like fingers.
23. Are you bored yet?
24. Once when I was little (about 6), I had a fight with my mom and rode my bike 3 miles away along a busy highway to my grandma’s house.
25. Then I got scared and thought I was going to get kidnapped by someone in a white van with no windows.
26. But I wasn’t.
27. I wore braces for 3 years because my orthodontist lost track of the time and thought they had only been on for a year and a half.
28. My favorite song is Baba O’Riley by The Who.
29. Sometimes I eat Nutella right out of the jar with a spoon.
30. I like to say judgemental things about celebrities. Because I'm mean-spirited. And they make too much money.

Now you know more about me than you ever wanted to. Anyone else out there have a confession for the day (or 30)?