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.