Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Birthdays and English hospitality

Hosting people is a favorite. Hosting them in a country they’ve never been to or have only traveled to a time or two? Even better. I wasn’t quite sure what to think when she called. I didn’t really know her. We’d had a conversation at a family gathering or two. One phone conversation when she was in the thick of cancer and politics and life with a sick loved one. So I was surprised when she called and said that it was her birthday, and could she please spend it with us in England. Sure. Absolutely. See you soon. 
She arrived the day after we returned from Celle. A near-perfect vacation filled with good food and good people and good scenery and good culture and everything that is so wonderfully Italian. So I was primed to be hospitable.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. Bring wellies I had recommended. She showed up with the world’s largest suitcase. Perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I’ve got grace--it’s tricky to know what to pack when you’ve never really been somewhere before. (To be fair the same suitcase travelled back a few months later, but with everything she needed for herself plus her two kiddos). 
During the days we walked with Kelly and the dogs. Kelly can make anyone feel like an old friend rather than a stranger. We took the kids to school and my friends kissed her cheeks and made her feel at home--they’re good like that. In the evenings we sampled English beer--she’s a big fan and a bit of a connoisseur. We sat on the floor and talked and laughed and cried and discovered that we shared a mutual and somewhat odd and obscure favorite snack of popcorn with salt and brewer’s yeast. We talked. Then talked some more. Then talked and talked and talked a little more. 
She came for her birthday. So we gave her the choice of dinner locale--both pubs of course. One to drive to and one to walk to. We gave her a good-natured ribbing at her choice of footwear when she decided on the walk-to pub. Heels seemed a bit of an odd choice for a path through an ancient churchyard and behind the horse pastures and over rocks and mud. She’s appropriately stubborn and strong willed for a survivor. For a widow. For a single mom. So she stuck by her choice. And looked great. And didn’t complain once. And always wore wellies to the pub after that. 
It’s funny how a person can go from an acquaintance to close friend in only a week. I no longer disbelieve the possibility, but it still definitely surprises me. A year later, I’m homesick for the hospitality of the English countryside, and for my friend. My good friend. Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Today it feels like Fall. Misty-rainy and overcast hoody weather. We traipsed off to school and back without the usual drenched-clothes get-me-to-the-shower-asap feeling as soon as I got home. After my appointment today I ran in for a Starbucks treat and oh so appropriately Pumpkin Spice Lattes made their yearly debut this week. Maybe it seems trifling or silly, but it awoke so many deep emotions in me I had to go to the car and listen to the rain and cry...
Pumpkin Spice Lattes are the Starbucks in Idaho Springs on the way to or the way home from the mountains. Aspens in their full glory in September. Snow scenting the air in October. Crazy roads in November and December. Windshield time and holding hands and life-changing conversations.
Pumpkin Spice Lattes are Scott’s annual Fall Mix. Playing on Saturday mornings and in the car and weaving its way into an anthem for the coming year.
Pumpkin Spice Lattes are Rob gutting pumpkins on our back porch at the condo. Chili in the crockpot and gluten free pumpkin bars in the oven. Everything set up for the annual pumpkin carving extravaganza.
Pumpkin Spice Lattes are Race for the Cure with my sisters. Coming around the bend at Invesco Field and seeing thousands of women ahead and thousands stretched out behind. The pink shirted survivors dotted here and there and the bib on my back commemorating my own mom’s victory over breast cancer. 
Pumpkin Spice Lattes are finding out my gran died in the Jardins des Tuileries outside of the Louvre in Paris. A train home to London to discover our car stolen and our house ransacked. A flight to the US alone with two little boys and my sisters meeting me at the airport with just the right treat to cheer me up.
Pumpkin Spice Lattes are rainy London days feeling homesick for Colorado and the Portobello Road Starbucks barista’s indignant exclamation of “Ew! No!” when I asked if they maybe? possibly? carried Pumpkin Spice flavoring in the UK.
Pumpkin Spice Lattes are the Colorado barista who wouldn’t sell Scotty any Pumpkin Spice syrup, but gave him a cup of it for free which he poured into a rubbermaid container and duck-taped close. It made it all the way to London without spilling and made my day!
But this year it was something different. The quintessential ‘Colorado Fall’ thing became an amalgamation of homesickness...a little puddle of sadness and loneliness in the Starbucks parking lot. The grey rain making me positively ache for England. For wellies and romps in the woods with Kelly. For pub walks with the gang. For cups of tea in Loulou’s living room and trips to London with umbrellas in tow. But then there was the crisp weather and pumpkin yumminess making me look very much forward to a Colorado Fall. The kind of Fall I’ve been pining for the last three years. To golden Aspens and hoodies and pumpkin carving and the fall mix. Homesick. For all of it. All because of a Pumpkin Spice Latte.
How about you? What makes you wax nostalgic?

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Brunchish medicine

You know what is absolutely and wholly restorative? To body, mind, and soul? 


Brunch is a beautiful thing. Especially when eaten on a small neighborhood-joint patio with mismatched vintage furniture on an spectacular September-in-Colorado day. Especially whilst consuming a fresh squeezed grapefruit mimosa served in a cutie-pie vintage mini milk jug and sipped through a straw. Especially after strolling through a European-ish market searching for just the right table--all by oneself. Especially while friends who love your children nearly as much as you do volunteer to take the lot of them to the zoo. And especially when it follows an hour-long pick-up-where-you-left-off conversation with one’s best girlfriends who live halfway around the world and for whom you positively ache with loneliness. 

Brunch. It’s just the thing.


How about you? What’s been the surprisingly restorative medicine for you recently?

Friday, 29 July 2011

The Sound of Summer

Flip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flop. $5 at Old Navy and our summer is complete. Flip-flop to the pool. Doing the duck-waddle as they strain to learn how to keep them on their feet. Flip flop home and a complaint that their legs (aka calves) are tired. Flip flops lost whilst peddling hard on their bikes. Flip flops lost running across the grass at the pool. Summer feet protected by squishy rubber flops across the burning pavement. 
“If you’re wondering why I’m wearing them inside it’s ‘cause I really like the noise.”
Flip-flop. Flip-flop. “Mama?” he says, “Don’t you just love that sound.” Yes, my sweet boy. I do. That is the sound of summer.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Destination KNOWN!

Countdown to departure: 11 days.  
After many months of “maybe Singapore/maybe Hong Kong no, scratch that!  Maybe Singapore/maybe Sydney.  Sydney. Singapore. Sydney most likely. No, Singapore most likely. No...where in the heck are we moving?!?!” We finally have our destination!  Drumroll please...we’re moving to...DENVER!  Yep, it was door number three apparently.  
To be honest we’re still in shock.  It’s so totally not what we were expecting.  Bridger summed up how all of us were feeling quite well.  After a fist pump and an excited, “YES!” in response to our location announcement, his face clouded over and he proclaimed “But I wasn’t quite ready to be done with our grand adventure!” We tried to help him see life as the grand adventure.  Life lived anywhere in the world.  We reminded him about all the adventures to be had in the mountains camping and skiing.  About baseball and American schools. About the yummy foods he’s missed and all of the friends and family waiting there.  In the end though he cried quite a bit.  “Why does the COMPANY get to say where we live?  Why can’t we live anywhere in the world that we want to?  I love Colorado to visit for a holiday, but I’ve lived there before. I want to try out a new country!”  When we asked what country he’d choose if he could live anywhere he wanted he sighed, thought for a moment and exclaimed, “I don’t know.  Denmark?”  
I sure can relate.  I’ve taken a fancy to this world traveling stuff.  I struggle with feeling like there’s still SO much here we haven’t seen or done.  So much close by in Europe that is so worth exploration and time.  Leaving here seems hard on a lot of levels--but the friends we’ll miss and the adventures still left to be had are the two biggies. Somehow it seemed easier--I’m not sure why--to leave and head into another great unknown.  Going back to what is more ‘known’ feels like short circuiting the ‘grand adventure.’  
At the same time I’m so stoked to go back to Denver too.  I’ve started a ‘Top 10 Things I’ll Miss About England” list, but in honor of our move and finally having a destination here are the 
“Top Ten Things I’m Looking Forward to About Denver”
(in no particular order)
  1. Buffalo Burger. Red meat in general really.  The English specialize more in lamb and pork.  Having grown up in the Western United States I had no idea we had it so good when it came to beef.  I cannot wait for a really good burger.  Mmmm...makes my mouth water!
  2. Country Music. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. I know I will lose some of your respect with this admission, but boy howdy do I miss me some country tunes!
  3. Mexican Food. Green chilies from the Farmer’s Market frozen and used for Green Chili Stew all winter. Tacos from D' Corazon. Blue corn tortilla chips.  Good salsa. Tamales with mole. Lola’s. Chipotle! All of the food my mom cooked growing up I would describe as ‘Mexican Fusion’. I have REALLY missed the Mexican food!
  4. Margaritas.  The Brits are really good at beer. I adore PIMMs.  But I haven’t had a decent marg for ages.  Are you noticing a food-based theme here?
  5. Baseball. Especially the Rockies and the Anderberg boys. We had already decided to spend 5-6 weeks in Denver in June so I had signed my boys up for Little League.  I can’t wait to be THAT mom in the stands!  Yippee!  Plus we’ll be in town with our beloved Rockies.  Baseball games at Coors Field or on the couch (perhaps with a hamburger and a margarita thrown in!) I can’t wait!
  6. Good haircuts. My sister is an absolute genius. I have so missed her artistic presence in the hair around here--mine, my husband’s, and my boy’s.  I’m going to be cute again!
  7. Date nights! We’ll have babysitters close again! WOOP WOOP! Here in England almost everyone has their parents or family members watch their kiddos. So no one I know knows anyone to pay to do the job. I can’t wait for both the paid and the grandparental types of babysitters. YAY!
  8. The mountains.  Not just because I’ll now know which way is west again either.  There’s nothing like the Rockies on the horizon.  It just makes me feel safe and grounded.  It’ll be so good to have them in the distance but even better to get up there as often as we can!  Camping anyone? Hiking? Skiing?
  9. My Friends! So many friends to go back to there. I am so looking forward to beers around the backyard firepit. 
  10. MY FAMILY! I can’t wait to be near my parents and my sisters again. Lunches. Movie nights. Being able to call my mom when I’m sick. Watching baseball with my dad. Plus I’ve had two cousins and their hubbies move to Denver while we’ve been away. I. Am. Stoked.
So there you have it. We finally ‘know.’ Watch this space as the adventure continues!

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Countdown Begins...

Countdown to departure: 13 days.  Whoa.  Could barely drag myself out of bed this morning in spite of the fact that the baby slept through the night.  Half of me was super-motivated, “I’m going to blitz the house!  Tidy things up, wrap up the organization, and clean one more time before the movers get here next Monday!  It’ll be great!”  Then  I was going to go traipsing about in London and the countryside for the rest of the week.  Alas, in spite of working my butt off all day I didn’t even finish the kitchen.  Perhaps I should have done what the other half of me wanted and gone back to bed and pulled the covers over my head.  
This is hard.  I don’t do well with this unknown stuff.  It’s so clear I need a lesson in being in the moment.  Or...well, I’m getting a lesson.  So far I’m pretty sure my grade is a D minus--not an F perhaps, but pretty darned close.  I keep living in the moment we arrive.  The moment we find a house.  The moment I get schools squared away.  I live in the moment where we can’t find a good house too.  The moment the only school is a crappy one where the teachers are mean and the lunch lady tries to poison the kids.  I live in the moment where we end up on the streets.  Or worse--a tiny 2 bedroom basement apartment with a leaky ceiling and no heat. Yes, I am a touch dramatic.  But dude, the internal monologue is a real doozy these days. Sure, it’s silly--I have a oodles of evidence that the world is a friendly place and that everything will work out swimmingly.  The bottom line is that I’m over it.  I’m tired.  I’ve been cheerful and chilled-out and cool about this whole ‘we’ll get there when we get there and we don’t know where ‘where’ is but it’ll be grand!’ thing.  Cheerful and chilled-out is one thing--brave is quite another. My inner-control freak is freaking out.  
Scott asked me today what would be gained by knowing.  What would it change if I knew?  If I knew where we would live.  If I knew where the boys would be going to school.  If I knew...how would things be different right now? How would I be planning or acting or what would I be doing differently? After I told him I sort of wanted to punch him in the face I considered what he said.  I don’t know...I’d stop obsessing I guess.  I’d stop worrying. I’d work on plans for the one scenario instead of making wildly obsessive plans about the 784 fabricated scenarios running through my head. I’m sure knowing would make me stop obsessing.  Right?  Right?  Don’t you think? Come on, back me up here.
Bridger came in a little bit ago--still up nearly two hours after he went to bed. “Mom?  My brain is too full.  I can’t shut my mind off.”  Poor kid. I have no idea where he gets it.  

Saturday, 23 April 2011


Sometimes my sons make me feel crazy.  We’ve had a bit of attitude going on at our house.  Is there anything more hateful than the small person you birthed and whose bum you wiped and puke you caught in your own bare hands rolling their eyes at you?!?!  I ask you?  What’s a mother to do.  It tempts one to smack them and I am not that kind of mom!  
Today I came downstairs after my shower to a sobbing Bridger.  I have this red chair, see.  It’s my favorite ‘thing.’  I own lots of stuff and am not particularly attached to any of it, but this piece of stuff has rank.  In a discussion of what to sell, give away, or move on to our next destination the one thing that always makes the ‘it goes where I go’ list is my red cowboy chair.  I bought it out of a girl’s garage a few years ago.  Found some fabulous red pleather and some cherry-red paint and had my favorite furniture gurus in Denver make it over.  It is a fabulous piece of furniture, and today my son wrecked it.  Well, not really.  It’s not wrecked.  He just picked a bunch of paint off of the arm of the chair.  There was a tiny bit pealing up and he did what any self-respecting eight year old would do.  He started picking and pulling and messing with it.  I can’t blame him.  It does not make him a horrible person.  I once pulled the brail sticker off the inside of an elevator because it was pulling away and I couldn’t resist peeling it off.  That, I’m pretty sure makes you a horrible person.  But a little paint off a chair?  Even if it’s your mother’s favorite ‘thing’?  It just makes you a point of frustration.  Even that I didn’t let out in front of him.  He was genuinely heart broken and sorry.  So, I couldn’t be angry.  Just really bummed.  Then even more bummed when about two seconds later I found one of my vintage turquoise bracelets had been bent and mangled by the other son who ‘wanted to see how it worked.’
What with the recent snotting and eye-booger sickness, the demanding (as in I want it not now, RIGHT NOW) breastfeeding, the eye rolling, the constant bickering, and the el destructo boyness in general--between you and me I dream of weeks away from my children.  Still sometimes, they do or say or be something that simply melts me, and I am able to regroup and not smack them and even love them an extra lot.  Caid has lost his two front teeth and the lisping and toothless grin are so stinkin’ cute I can’t stand it.  Asher has started giving the most spectacular hugs.  Just wraps his little arms around you and presses his little head against you and mmmmm...it’s so nice!  Then there was the conversation around the dinner table the other night.  One of those moments that reminded me that these little beings around my table are from some other place.  Full of a life and light that is a gift to me and blesses me constantly. 
Bridger started a conversation a few nights ago with “Dad?  If you could raise money for something, what would you raise it for?”  Neither one of us were certain what he meant.  So we asked him what he would raise it for.  “A baseball field.  I’d build one for kids who don’t get to play baseball.  Maybe in Ubie’s [Ubaldo Jimenez--his favorite pitcher from the Dominican Republic] country.”  He then proceeded to line out all that he would do to accomplish this.  Find a field.  Ask the local people whether we should do it in a meadow or cut down some jungle.  Ask what sort of field they would want.  Decide how much it would cost.  Not forget to include equipment like balls and bats and helmets.  “Do you think they would want uniforms?”
Then he talked about how he’d write to schools and see if other kids would want to help him raise the money for the fields.  “I think kids in England and America would want to help.”  He went on and on.  Outlining different components of a very well thought-out plan with passion and clarity and excitment.  
He may be hard on my furniture, but I wouldn’t trade him for the world.  

Friday, 25 March 2011

Laundry Therapy

Take the reds out of the washer and put the whites in.  Lots of scrubbing before hand, after all these are the boys school shirts and karate gi’s.   Hang the reds on the line in the still misty morning as the sun begins to rise and burn off the fog.  Walk the boys to school.  A little extra chatting on the way home.  Nurse the baby and put him down for a nap.  Laugh as he dances to the song his Fisher Price Aquarium plays.  Pull the whites out and revel in the sunshine as the mass of wet, wadded up laundry becomes tidy rows on the line.  Shake it out.  Put it up.  Breathe deeply.  This task, this day, is my therapy.  A respite from the myriad of unknowns.  Chaos to order.  Sunshine and lovely smelling laundry.  Two giant English bumblebees nearly the size of my thumb buzzing their working song and encouraging me not to start obsessing or panic.
Things feel a wee bit chaotic in my life right now.  We make a major international move in eight weeks, but still don’t know where to.  A simple task like brushing my teeth turns into, “Hmmmmm...if we only get the 500 lbs of shipped goods it doesn’t make much sense to bring the towels.  Funny though, I love these towels.  Bought them to match the downstairs bathroom at the old house.  Should I give them away?  Do you give away towels?  Throw them out?  I know they’re just towels, but...Oh and that ceramic dish, can’t see shipping that.  Then again the boys gave me that for Mother’s Day a 3 years ago.  It’d be a shame to get rid of it.  Baskets?  Are they worth shipping?  Of course if they decide to ship a container then maybe I will go ahead and bring the towels and the dish.  But then again...Oh Cori, stop!  You don’t know anything yet so stop thinking about it!” 
The good news is, it’ll all be decided and sorted in 8 weeks.  In the meantime, I’m searching for schools and filling out school applications and trying to tell by a website if my children will be happy there and get a good education.  I’m looking at houses and apartments in Sydney and Singapore and trying to picture us there.  The Sydney ones have big back yards.  How fun would that be?  We could get a dog.  A swingset for Ash.  Then again that’s a lot of mowing and I hear there are very big spiders.  The Singapore apartments all have pools.  Oooo...fun!  We could get in every day after school.  Then again there’s balconies.  Is there any way at all to convince Master Climber Middle Son to stay off of the railings?  I try not to imagine him plummeting to his death.  There are at least variations of the seasons in Sydney--it’s so stinking hot in Singapore.  But the boys would be in such a good school (if they could get a place) in Singapore.  I start to go round and round and round in my head.  Then I take a deep breath and remember that it always works out eventually.  If it hasn’t worked out, it’s not eventually yet.  
I finally found some tears about it all today.  I knew they were there.  Lurking.  Hiding out behind getting ready for trips and going on outings with my mom.  But I knew they were there.  Waiting to burst out when I could stop long enough to let them.  Maybe it was the slow, steady rhythm of the washing going up on the line.  Or the relief of the sunshine after months of grey.  Maybe it was that my mom left, and I’ll really miss her.  The lingering chatty-girlfriend time on the way home from school.  I don’t know for sure.  They just burst out.  Finally.  I just started sobbing at my kitchen table.  Sobbing about how frustrating it is to have so much up in the air.  Sobbing about how much work it is to try to figure it all out.  I sobbed about England. About the daffodils and bluebells and woods and lambs in the fields and the crazy gorgeous English countryside.  The castles nearby and the fantastic London so close.  Bodiam Castle and Hever Castle and Borough Market and Peter Pan Park and Portobello Road.  But mostly I sobbed about my friends.  About how much I love them and how sad I am to leave them.  About how pleasant it is to walk to school every morning and chat and figure out how the world ought to run and bemoan the fact that no one asks us to do it and about how much I’ll miss that.  Curry nights and girlfriend days and hugs and laughs and all of it. I finally have begun to acknowledge that this season really is coming to a close.  It’s been so fantastic in so many ways, and I’m so sad to see it go.  
I think I’ll just let myself cry a lot these next few weeks if I need to.  In some ways it’s like the laundry.  You sort out the memories and hang them on the line.  Fold them up and tuck them away.  
I sure wish I could bring the people with me, all my lovely friends.  I’ll have to make due with the memories I suppose, and do my best to keep in touch.  

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

of squonchiness and other adventures...

We took a wellie walk on Saturday.  Easily one of my top 5 favorite things about England.  As we were walking along in the mud and mist B said to me, "I love to walk when it's like this, don't you Mama?  I love the squonchiness."  When I asked what he meant he said, "You know.  The noise our boots make in the sucky, squonchy, squelch-squirchy mud."  What more explanation does one need than that?  
C peaking out of the oldest tree in England.
Believed to be 4000 years old.

B & C inside the hollowed-out tree.
Queen Victoria herself is said to have taken tea inside this tree.
They found a cannonball from the English civil war embedded in the tree when they hollowed it out.

Snow Drops.  One of my favorite things about England in February.

Trails go right through farmer's fields here.  You climb a style and go through the field.  These sheep came running up to us.  B was not thrilled.  The rest of us thought they looked very jolly and friendly!  

Very tiny crocus.  Right before C squashed them (accidentally) with his wellies.

St George's, Crowhurst

Sleep drunk after his nap in the Ergo.

The village sign.  I love this about English villages.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Going commando on Mufti Day

My big boys go to the local village school and like most English children wear uniforms to school.  I have to say I am a big fan of the uniform gig.  So simple--they get up and put on grey trousers, a white polo, their school-logo ‘jumper’ (read: sweatshirt for my American friends), and their black shoes.  Some schools even have school-logo jackets and book bags.  It’s a great equalizer and it’s easier on my laundry and my nerves since despite my best efforts my boys prefer their clothes ragged and filthy.
Today however was ‘Super Hero Day’ at school.  Every once in a while the school council will decide they want to raise money for a charity and they sponsor a ‘Mufti Day.‘    Last time this happened I asked every single one of my English friends what in the world “Mufti” stood for and none of them had any idea.  The responses were all along the lines of “You know, MUFTI.  It means the kids pay a pound and get to wear whatever they want.  A MUFTI Day.”  This was about as helpful as answering that cheese tastes, you know, cheesy when asked to describe its flavor.  No fear!  I looked it up on the faithful Wikipedia!  Phew.  According to wiki it’s derived from Arabic and was originally adopted by the British Army in the early 1800’s to describe some robes that the army fellas wore when they weren’t wearing uniforms.  Which works well for today.  Because B went in his bathrobe to school today (read: dressing gown for my English friends).  He was a Jedi.  Jedi (Jedies?  what is the plural form of ‘Jedi’?) wear bathrobes apparently.  Our friend Mark P. wondered if he was perhaps the incredible sleeping man.  B just showed him the lightsaber slung under his robe and gave Mark an incredulous look.  Apparently B got a lot of questions about the robe today which really surprised him.  “It’s the closest I could come to a Jedi cloak!”  Scott suggested perhaps he was Obi Wan before his first cup of coffee.
C went as a ninja.  Of course.  Several months ago he took Scott aside and let him know the news, “Dad, I have something to tell you.  I should have told you a long time ago.  I...am a ninja.”  He dresses ninja-style a lot.  Scott taught him how.  Apparently he and his best bud used to dress this way quite often when they were junior highish age, sneak out of their respective houses, and run around in the dark.  Cue my mother instinct freaking out and praying that none of my three choose to follow in their father’s footsteps.  I know.  Dream on, right?  The outfit consists all of navy or black clothes.  Today it was: navy blue trousers, black tshirt and sweatshirt worn inside out to hide the logos, with a navy blue capillene tshirt worn as a mask over his face and black socks with finger holes cut out for gloves.  Oh, and a Samari sword tucked down the back of the sweatshirt.  Gotta have the appropriate weapon at all times.  
I love C’s love for transforming into other characters--he wears his knight cloak and carries his sword when we visit castles and really wanted to wear torn jeans and eye makeup to the school disco last week so he would look like a rock star.  He has an uncanny ability to fashion costumes out of any available items.  He’s been known to be an African 'King of the Wild' (B’s lion hoody towel with a belt, bow and arrow, and sword), a Native American chief (belt, washcloth loincloth and rope around his head), and my personal favorite was the outfit that he fashioned from Scott’s brown scarf--and nothing else.  The tying job was amazing on that one.  
Last weekend C came down in what he wanted to wear for Super Hero Day.  He was bare chested in black trousers, a black belt slung diagonal across his chest and a black bandana tied rambo style on his head.  He did NOT agree that they most likely would not allow him to go bare chested to school.  So understandably I sent Scott in to approve the costumes as they were being laid out last night.  This is the conversation I overheard from the other room:  
Scott:  Under no circumstances am I letting you wear underwear on your head to school.  
C:  But DAD!  It’s part of the mask!  See, I look out of this little slit!  It looks cool!
Scott:  No.  It looks like underwear on your head.  
C:  But it helps keep the other part on.  It’s part of the mask.
Scott:  It doesn’t look like a mask.  It looks like you have underwear on your head.
C:  Ah, I don’t care!
Scott:  Under no circumstances am I letting you wear underwear on your head to school.  
The hilarious thing is this argument juxtaposed with one a couple of years ago.  I was standing in his room where Scott overheard me say:  C, you MUST wear underwear to school.  
C:  But MOM!!  I hate wearing underwear!  
Me:  I know sweetheart, but you change in your classroom with everyone there so you have to have on underwear!  
C:  I don’t mind!  
Me:  I know you don’t, but those are your private parts and you need to keep them private.  It’s not polite to show them to everyone when you change.  
C:  But do I have to wear them at night?  
Me:  Nope.  You can take them off as soon as you get home.  
C: The weekend?  
Me:  Nope.  You can go without on the weekend.  
We visited Dover Castle one time and B was shocked that one of the WWII soldiers would announce to the world that he wasn’t wearing underwear.  What do you mean, B?  I asked.  Look right there, Mama.  It says “Commando.” He’s not wearing any underwear like C.  It was one of those parenting moments where in spite of your best intentions to keep a straight face you are in fact doubled over with laughter.  

Ah those boys.  They’re good for a lot of laughs.  We love C’s creative license when it comes to dressing, but are quite thankful that when it comes to school apart from those pesky Mufti Days there’s no question about what he’s wearing.  

Monday, 14 February 2011


How do we do when faced with uncertainty?  My sons are an interesting case study.  One of my sons worries a lot.  He plays through every worst case scenario in his head.  Asking a lot of questions no one has answers to and hunting down guarantees.  He’s sure it’s not going to work out and as a result, he decides he doesn’t want to do whatever it is he’s uncertain about.  Usually I gently make him do it anyway.  Suggest he tell himself some different stories.  Try very hard not to say anything remotely resembling ‘I told you so’ when he actually quite enjoys whatever uncertain thing he has finally decided to embrace.
One of my sons just barrels ahead.  Plunges in.  Tries to figure out how the thing works, what it’s all about, checking it out from multiple angles.  He’s not sure about ‘it’, but he’s sure about himself.  Once when he was two he climbed nimbly up the outside of a banister of stairs.  Clinging on to the top railings he looked confidently over at me and yelled, “Mom!  Is this wise?”  He can handle whatever comes along so he blasts through the uncertainty.  Sometimes it means he doesn’t think about or take in certain crucial issues or features.  Most of the time he doesn’t let it bother him.  I try to help him with critical thinking and learning from his mistakes.  
My other son is a baby.  Uncertainty is his MO.  He doesn’t know much about the world around him, or how things work, or even how he ought to relate to it so he just tries it all out.  Confident the world is a kind place and someone will rescue him if he’s gone too far.  Eager to learn about every nook and cranny.  Excited to test and perfect each new skill.  Today he stood up for a few seconds on his own.  He didn’t know he could do that. What a rapturous look on his face when he discovered he could!
Uncertainty.  Much of our lives is uncertain.  After losing two men in our circle in the ‘too young to die’ category within a year I’m quite sure that none of us has any idea how many days we are allotted on this earth.  After having many friends lose jobs and watching the painstaking process of finding new jobs I think that it’s unwise to be over-certain of our financial standing.  A stint in England will sure drive home the point that we can never know what the weather will do.  From the simple to the profound we just don’t know what life will hold.
We can plan for this uncertainty to a certain extent.  Plan for the ‘just in cases.’  Life insurance policies.  Emergency savings funds (Scott and I have started saving for one of these).  We can bring umbrellas, but mostly...life isn’t very certain.
I’m not a gal who has ever done very well with this reality.  I like to know stuff.  I have trouble relaxing if I don’t know.  Scott and I discovered this fact on a backpacking trip through Europe.  He wanted an adventure to the tune of never making plans, never having any idea what we’d do or where we’d go until we were doing it or going there.  I thought this sounded romantic and exciting.  We learned the hard way though that I could be adventurous to a point.  I needed to know fairly early in the day that I had a place to lay my head that night, and I needed to know exactly where that was going to be.  Given that knowledge I could let the whole day go--follow where the wind led.  But not the nights.  I was afraid of the uncertainty of having nowhere to sleep.  It terrified me and led to entire days lost with obsessing and worrying (I wonder where my son gets it).  
It’s mid-February.  Three and a half months until we have to be moved out of this house.  Things are still up in the air.  Uncertain.  I know that we will be in the US for the month of June.  We’ll stay with my parents and Scott’s parents and friends along the way.  We’ll take in the mountains and some baseball and hopefully some fireworks on the 4th of July.  And then...and then I don’t know.  The timing and location of the position Scott has been asked to fill is being looked at a bit more strategically.  The stuff they were certain about are now uncertain after a deeper look.  The country we would live in is in question and new things have come to the surface that need to be looked at.  Maybe they would want us to stay here for a bit longer.  Maybe.  Possibly.  Potentially.  
Ah...there it is.  The lifeline.  The paradigm shift.  Over the years I’ve learned to let things some things go.  I’ve worked towards a more calm demeanor and chosen to obsess less.  I may never have the ‘plunge right in’ attitude of my son, but I don’t run through the worst case scenarios over and over in my head.  Well, not as often anyway.  However, ‘uncertainty’ is a fearful word for me.  I try so hard, but I need a new word.  Potentially.  Potential.  I like that.  There’s a good potential we’ll be in Asia.  There’s a potential we’ll be here.  There’s a potential we’ll return to the States.  Potential.  Potential.  Potential.  I still don’t know.  There’s still no plan.  But inside of ‘uncertainty’ I worry.  Inside of ‘potential’ I dream.  I explore.  There are possibilities instead of unknowns. There is light instead of darkness.  Inside of potential a person can realize they are able to stand on their own two feet where before they always needed something to hold on to--and enjoy the rapturous excitement that offers.  I still feel a bit afraid, but inside of ‘potential’ it feels easier to be brave.  
Three and a half months.  Three and a half months until a massive change.  To where or to what I don’t know--I’m not certain.  But I’m going to choose to relish in the potential.  

Monday, 24 January 2011

Cure for the Monday blues

Oh my Monday.  Stay-at-home moms may not exactly do what others might consider ‘returning to work’ on Mondays, but dude we have Mondays too.  Big time.  I had a doozy. A tell your child to do something a zillion times Monday.  A baby didn’t sleep all night the night before Monday.  An I had a great lunch-date with a girlfriend but in the 25 short minutes it takes to pick the boys up from school I had already worked so hard to stay calm and sweet and not rip their fingernails off that I felt like shutting myself in my bedroom Monday.  A texting my husband at 6:55 PM and saying “please come rescue me” then walking out the door at 7:15 PM saying “I may not be back” sort of Monday.  The laundry pile has taken over the kitchen.  The bathroom smells like an outhouse.  I don’t have any clean underwear, and I couldn’t figure out what to give the baby who was hugging my leg screaming for dinner sort of Monday.  
Luckily there’s a cure:
Take 50 or so women of all different shapes and sizes, ages and abilities and place them in a church or a school hall, add a couple of cutie-pie hip hop divas and turn up the music very loud.  Zumba is absolutely, hands down one of the most surprisingly fun additions to my life in 2010. I plan to do a lot more of it in 2011. Especially because it’s the only cure I know for THAT kind of Monday.  
We all gather around 7:30 at the school. Moms from the playground and the checkout from the grocery store and the rest.  There’s thin ones.  Fat ones.  Young whippersnapperish teenager ones who bare their midrifs and older greying grandmotherish ones in cute matching sweat suits.  There’s women in fantastic shape and women with a little extra squish around their middles.  The teachers gather us up and work their magic and somehow no matter how bad you are at that arms-above-your-head swirling twisting thing or how difficult that crazy ‘pony step’ seems they make us all feel like sexy latin dancers anyway.  I can tell.  Because the women have started putting flowers in their hair.  No lie.  Big bright ones on their pony tail holders and hair clips.  Several of them having started wearing sequin-sparkly tank tops with their leggings too.  Why have a workout when you can have a dance party with all your girlfriends!  And we do bring our friends.  Women were there tonight with daughters and sisters and mothers.  We gather up and for 45 minutes straight we laugh and shimmy and boogy, and I love it.  I leave there in 100% better mood every time.  I feel girly and sexy and like I had a heck of a workout.  It’s the only ‘exercise’ I’ve ever done that makes me think “Oh no!  It’s over?  Come on!  Just a few more minutes!”  Can’t beat that for a Monday for sure!  

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Stuff and Things...plus a little announcement

When we put our house on the market before we moved to England I got rid of SO much stuff.  Boxes and boxes.  Truckloads actually.  I freecycled and craigslisted and donated my way through every closet and every nook and cranny of the house and garage.  I got rid of so much stuff that I remember a friend who came through one of our open houses saying, “Where is all your stuff?!?!”  I was proud in that moment.  I thought of myself as quite the little organizer.  
Then we got ready to move.  Again I purged.  Three more huge loads went to the Veterans.  A huge load went to the dump.  I sorted the stuff we were keeping into two piles--stuff to store and stuff to ship.  We shipped what felt like not very much to England and the rest we brought via Uhaul to store up in Montana.  I thought I was so meticulous.  I figured I got rid of nearly everything except the bare essentials.  Then we lived in a house for nearly 3 months with none of it (it took forever to arrive via freight) and by the time it showed up I again purged boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff and still sometimes come across things where I wonder, “Why did I bring this again?”  I cringe to think of what landed in Montana.  Except for a couple of pieces of furniture and a few boxes of memorabilia I cannot imagine I will ever need or want any of that stuff again!  
International moving and living has been a great exercise in paring down.  Paring down expectations.  Paring down what I view as ‘essential.’  It even pares down relationship clutter to a large extent because only the really essential folks keep in touch.  It’s de-cluttering on a practical, emotional, and spiritual level.  
Take the house size for example.  I was used to almost a 1/4 acre lot.  A huge playroom.  Guest room.  Large office.  Big pantry.  Huge garage.  Extra freezer.  Multiple bathrooms.  Plus--and this is the part that blows my mind--a CLOSET IN EVERY ROOM.  My goodness I had it good!!  Our current house is tiny compared to that.  I have (no lie) one closet in this entire house.  Plus this funny little nook that passes for a sort of cupboard.  My fridge is barely bigger than the one I had in my college dorm room.  A car could not fit in our garage because it’s not big enough (though I am so thankful for the storage it provides!).  The three bedrooms we have are significantly smaller and we only have one bathroom.  Funny side note: Caid regularly drew pictures for a while of ‘really big houses.‘  When asked to describe what made them ‘really big‘--lots of rooms?  on a lot of land?--he replied that they had THREE bathrooms!
to help illustrate the point:
my very tiny English fridge & freezer

Caid and our friends Marnie and Joel in our current backyard

Our backyard in Colorado

What is it with stuff?  Why do we need it?  Want it?  Keep buying so much of it?  Keep keeping so much of it?  It just makes for a lot of work!  I asked the boys recently what in the world we were going to do to get them to keep their drawers a little neater.  They kept coming down looking like they’d slept in what I knew were clean t-shirts and I was a little annoyed.  Caid’s reply?  “We should just get rid of most of our t-shirts mom.  If we didn’t have so many they’d go in the drawer nicer.”  Out of the mouths of babes.  Pretty smart.  Bridger had a similar answer to a recent “YOU HAVE TOYS EVERYWHERE!!!” blow-up (fellow moms--you know the one).  “You know Mama,” he said.  “We really only play with like two of our games, the animals, and our swords.  Maybe we should just give the rest away.”  Wise.  Very wise.  
As an expat Mama I struggle with that though, and maybe lots of other parents do too no matter where they’re living.  For me, I feel like they’re missing out.  I know there are many amazing tradeoffs, but in leaving America they had to give up their playroom and their big yard and their swingset and they didn’t get to bring so many of their toys and books and things.  Maybe that’s just ridiculous.  Maybe the paring down was just exactly what we needed.  Maybe, just maybe, it was actually liberating.  
I’m paring down again.  I got a pretty good start this evening.  In a little under an hour I filled an entire laundry basket in the boys’ room and stacked a ton of stuff from the bathroom on top. We were purging in order to move Asher in with the big boys.  It shocked me really.  What has always seemed like a tiny little room now quite comfortably holds all three boys and a decent amount of their stuff.  Afterwards when we all went around the table and said what we were thankful for at dinner Caid said, “getting our room organized.”  Bridger mentioned later how he thought if Asher could wake up in the night and see that he and Caid were both sleeping he might get a better idea of what he’s supposed to be doing and go back to sleep.  (I sure hope that’s true)!
If we lived Stateside I’m quite sure the boys would be in their own rooms.  We might have even upgraded to a bigger house in order to assure that.  Someday I hope they can have their own rooms, but this life though has lent itself very naturally to a different set of values.  To a more tribal feel.  We’re a tribe.  We look out for each other.  We live in closer proximity with less stuff.  So when neither Scott’s office nor the master bedroom seemed like a good place for Ash, the big boys seemed to agree that their room was probably the best place.  They wanted to look after him and didn’t protest the loss of space at all.  
No matter how they’ve come by it, I sure am glad they have that ‘looking out for each other’ mentality because more big change is on the horizon.  Dear readers, I have a little announcement to make.  Our lease is up at the end May.  That’s only four months.  After much discussing and waiting and thinking through it’s looking like the next big thing will be a move to East Asia.  We’re stoked for the new adventure and are anxious for things to be a little more firmly set--watch this space.  Should know more details very soon.  We do now know though that regardless of the ‘where’ another big move is coming.  Again.  Whoa.  
It’s bringing up all kinds of things for me.  Purging and organizing are occupying a lot of my thoughts (though I’m trying very hard not to obsess).  I keep looking at things and thinking, “do I really want to move this?”  It’s also causing a lot of reflection.  Thinking about our last move from Denver to England.  Thinking through all the changes that move has brought about.  How many things I’ve gotten rid of--both the physical and emotional ‘stuff.’  How it’s brought new stuff--new friendships and new recipes and new favorite places and also new actual now-I-have-to-decide-whether-it’s-worth-keeping ‘stuff’.  It’s shaped what’s important to me.  It’s lent perspective and brought order.  It’s brought us together as a tribe.   
Maybe the houses will be bigger where we’re going.  Maybe they won’t.  I bet we’ll need some different stuff there than we’ve needed here.  Just like our American life needed different stuff than our English one.  More paring down will take place.  I’ll sort things into piles.  Some relationships will deepen.  Others will fall away.  We’ll struggle as we adapt and learn to live in a new place with new types of houses and new types of people and new climates and new lots of things.  We’ll be lonesome and we’ll make new friends.  We’ll bond and pull together as a family.  I’ll get to reconnect with the stuff that’s really, truly important to me.  
Plus hopefully this time the pile of “holy cow why did I ship this?!?!” will be much, much smaller.  

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

New Years

My skin is brown.  My waist band expanded.  The mountain of laundry smelling of slightly sour sea water has been slowly and steadily shrinking and I’m no longer sweeping up small deposits of sand that stick to the bottoms of my feet and make me smile.  I just finally unpacked the last two suitcases.  We spent a week in Mexico and a week in Colorado.  It was a great trip, and we’re home now.
I ate my weight in Mexican food while we were away.  Happily consuming plate after all inclusive plate of chips with guacamole and pico de gallo.  Taquitos.  Tacos.  Tostados.  Plus muchos muchos margaritas.  Mmmmmmm...I can hardly figure out how to go through my day without Mexican food.  Even in Colorado I ate some form of it every single day.  These poor Brits.  They don’t know what they’re missing.  How in the world can Doritos be the only brand of plain corn chips in this country?  Where can one buy a decent jar of real salsa (not nasty gringo wannabe salsa!).  It’s just not right!
It’s always fun to return home to Colorado.  It highlights things I miss.  Like really powerful laundry stain treatment spray.  Washing machines that do a hefty load in less than half a day.  Target.  Oh how I miss Target.  One store for everything a girl could need.  I miss sliced turkey for sandwiches.  Lots of yummy gluten free and dairy free options that don’t taste like sacrificing.  Chipotle.  Guacamole.  Good tequila.  Blue corn chips.  Friendly customer service.  It always highlights the people I miss.  Picking up where I left off with my sisters and my mom and dad and our old church and Meggs and others.  So fun, but makes for an aching heart when we leave again.  I’m missing so much of their lives!  They’re missing so much of mine and my boys.  
Being there highlights what I love so much about England though too and about being away.  Flowers everywhere no matter the time of year.  A cuppa at a friend’s table or sitting on their couch.  Wellie walks.  Pub dinners.  The woods.  Village life.  Curry nights.  My friends.  The way we’ve come together as a family and how Scott and I have gelled as a couple.  It’s a sweet life, and I am so thankful for it.  Even if there isn’t any good Mexican food.
I feel in that processy-thinky place that sometimes happens around New Years.  I know it’s halfway through January already, but we were so busy and traveling and so I’m only just now getting to the real meat of what I want for this year.  It feels good to take my time with it a bit.  
It’s going to be a big year.  I can feel it.  Change looms on the not-very-distant horizon.  Our lease will be up this spring and there are rumblings of moves to further reaches of the globe.  I’m trying to just enjoy the adventure.  Not count chickens.  Relax and let all of that unfold.  (I know, who am I kidding right?  But seriously.  I’m not obsessing. Yet.  This is progress people.  Go with it.)
I’ve never been big on resolutions.  So much can change and happen in a year.  This year I’m enjoying thinking more along the lines of what I want, not what my goals are.  What would I like to look back and have accomplished this time in 2012?  What do I want to change? So, I have two main things I want to accomplish this year.  They both feel really big to me, and yet totally doable.  
I want to get our finances under our control (so far they’ve always controlled us), and I’d like to get in shape.  I’ve learned that goals are better if they’re specific and measurable.    I’ve also learned that sometimes one needs a bit of help.  After several of you suggested Dave Ramsey we took the plunge.  In terms of our finances, I want to have completed the Financial Peace University series and have accomplished the first three baby steps (more on that later) by the end of the summer.  This will include making and sticking to a budget on a regular and ongoing basis.  Which is a totally foreign tool in this house, but one that I feel quite confident we can master!  The other one I haven’t decided on any specific measurables for yet.  I’m working on that.  I’ll keep you posted.  I do know there’s a cute pair of pre-baby jeans that I’d like to fit into sometime in the near future.  
So that’s the scoop.  Been a while since I caught up with you all.  I’m slowly putting my house back in order.  Adjusting to jetlag.  Detoxing from all-inclusive binging and pondering.  Lots of pondering.  
How about you.  What do you want for 2011?