Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Put On A Happy Face

ARRGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! My mother is driving me crazy!!! What else is new? I thought we had this move to Florida all sewn up. But deep down I thought it was all too easy, and it was. My mother seems to have decided she couldn't bear to live with my sister because she thinks she would be used by my niece and nephew as a free babysitter. This came about after she'd invited both of them to visit her at the same time with their lively little girls. If you're not used to having young children around, four of them under the age of 7 at the same time is a bit much.

How much my niece and nephew have used her as a babysitter is up for debate. I emailed my sister to give her the heads-up on what's happening. She emailed back to say she'd warned my mother about having the girls all at the same time, and that apparently my mother had only been left with one of them once. Also, my mother has apparently been talking to her twin sister, who doesn't want my mother to move closer to her own children. No, my aunt wants my mother to live with HER children. I don't know why.

But this is my mother. She is such a Gemini (and I don't mean to offend Geminis. I love Geminis. My son is a Gemini). But they change their minds so often. She has, through the years, gotten us all riled up about whatever and then backs down when we try to get her to take action. It's very frustrating. Presumably, she's done this with her sister as well. Last year when my mother was visiting my sister, she had not quite a heart attack, but the beginnings of congestive heart failure. She was extremely swollen and bloated and couldn't breathe properly. My sister got her to a dr. who took her off the statins she'd been prescribed off-license for her tremor. The statins weren't for cholesterol; she doesn't have high cholesterol. They caused the wheezing and breathing problems. She had to stay longer than planned. Her sister phoned my nephew and said if they didn't let my mother go, she was going to get the sheriff to come and set her free. Yes, really. Now, what sort of conversation prompted that response?

So she's gotten all of us upset on her behalf and trying to come up with a plan of action to improve her living conditions. And she doesn't want it. I'm tempted to just leave her to it. The bottom line is she moved away from us all those years ago. She had the mental breakdown and got addicted to the sterazine which made her a zombie. She moved closer to her sister. She wants to be near her sister more than she wants to be near us. She puts barriers up to prevent us from getting too close. We are not perfect children, but we aren't awful children either. When she put out the call for help, we responded. I think it's very generous of my sister to want to open her home to my mother. However, two of my (grown) nephews and one of their children live with my sister. It's not a perfect situation. My nephew's little girl has problems because her mom (from whom my nephew is divorced) took drugs and drank while she was pregnant with her.

While I'm out there, I will try once more to get my mom to see a lawyer, assess her financial situation, do what I can. And then I will try no more, and they can take her out of that house in a box if that's what she wants. I am weary of all this. I hope my children never feel the frustration, anger, disappointment, betrayal, and rejection that my parents have caused me (because my dad is whole other kettle of fish).

Monday, 30 July 2007

Summertime, and the livin' is easy (this one's for the ladies)

We have had two WHOLE days of sunshine. What's up? Still not warm enough for my liking, but who's complaining?

I say not warm enough, but a mere two weeks ago I was dying of heat. Hot flushes, to be specific. I had been suffering from them for months, night sweats for a year or two. Silly me didn't put it all together till this year. I thought I was depressed because that's me. I thought I had no energy because that's me. I thought the half stone in weight I put on that would not shift was because of my drinking habits. I never dreamed I'd be going through The Change at 46/47. No, I thought it would be more like 52 because that's when my mom's twin sister went through it. My mother had a hysterectomy at 49 because of endometriosis.

So I went through denial first. Not me. I'm too young. Everyone tells me how much younger I look than my real age. Then anger. Why me? How come I have to go through it now? Then depression. I'll never be a real woman again, boo-hoo. Then, finally, acceptance. Maybe there's some good news about this.

I always meant to read up on menopause, but thought I'd have plenty of time to do it. Suddenly, I had to read as much as I could in a short period of time because I decided I needed to see the dr. I couldn't take sleepless nights for much longer. And so I looked at my options. Natural remedies or HRT. I read a lot about HRT. I took a breast cancer risk assessment test. I took another, then another. All three had different risk assessments, surprise, surprise. The bottom line is that the risk for me goes up dramatically after 50. But not before. And the research on HRT shows that before the age of 50 it doesn't have an effect on breast cancer rates.

So I've been on it for two weeks. And I sleep like a baby and hubby is a happy man again. I will take it till I'm 50, then reassess my options.

A side note: A friend of mine who is younger than me was told by her dr. that she also is menopausal and that she needed to go on HRT. She had none of my symptoms, which were more than just night sweats and hot flushes. The HRT made her feel terrible. She would have horrible temper fits, etc. I've had none of this. I reckon her doc was wrong to put her on HRT if she wasn't symptomatic. He told her it was to protect her bones, but there are other ways to do that.

I haven't told a lot of people I'm on HRT because I don't want the naturalmaniacs baying for blood. The truth is there's a lot more scientific research done on HRT than there is on natural remedies. Also, I have to take my particular circumstances into account, as everyone should.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Thoughtful Blogger II

For those who answer blog comments, emails, and make their visitors feel at home on their blogs. For the people who take others feelings into consideration before speaking out and who are kind and courteous. Also for all of those bloggers who spend so much of their time helping others bloggers design, improve, and fix their sites. This award is for those generous bloggers who think of others.

That's what the Thoughtful Blogger award is about. So I'd like to nominate in no particular order Kelly, Debio, Laurie, Stay at Home Dad, and marymaryquite contrary. You all are very good about responding to each and every blog comment and making visitors like me feel like having a cuppa and a chat. Go to the Writer's Review website/http://www.writersreviews.com/2007/07/writers-reviews-blogger-awards.html to pick up your award. And do please spread the cheer to five other bloggers.

Thoughtful Blogger

I only have a few minutes before Son takes over the computer. I want to thank DJ Kirkby for bestowing the Thoughtful Blogger honour upon me. I need to nominate five people to receive this but it will have to wait till Son finishes what he wants to do.
I have been BUSY! Keeping two tween-agers occupied isn't as easy as it looks. And with them around, there's more cooking and cleaning to do or else we spend the day going out and spending money. Oh how I long for the days when a trip to the park or the beach or a bike ride was sufficient. Not anymore.

Of course, I didn't see much of them in the first few days after school let out. Son had his bezzie mates round for a sleepover, then he went to another sleepover at one of the mate's. Then he spent half a day at home. Then another friend came over and spent the night. Daughter went to a friend's on Saturday night, was home Sunday, went shopping with another friend Monday and a sleepover that night at a schoolfriend's. Then Tuesday I took them and two friends shopping and to the cinema to see Harry Potter (fantastic!).

Here's the difference between boys and girls. At my son's sleepover and the one he went to, the boys played games and swam in his friend's pool. At the sleepover my daughter went to, the girls sat around telling each other their worst faults.

Maybe it's a 12-year-old thing. I seem to recall doing that too, with disastrous results for the friendship. Daughter's school friends did this at the last sleepover they went to as well. That resulted in some hurt feelings on the part of one girl. I know that because I am friends with the mother of that girl. I took the mother to lunch for her birthday last week, and she proceeded to tell me all about her daughter crying and feeling left out, etc. If I don't sound very sympathetic, it's because I'm not. This particular girl dumped my daughter two weeks into the school year. I didn't repeat anything my daughter had told me about the girl. I did say 12-year-old girls can be incredibly bitchy. I did say my daughter had also gone through a rough patch earlier in the year when nobody was calling her. I am fairly confident that information was passed on.

At this week's sleepover, Daughter asked the girl why she had quit calling her. Now here's where I get really pissed off. The girl's reply was that she thought Daughter had started acting bigheaded and she wanted to teach her a lesson so she quit having much to do with her! This from the child who boasts about her father's Porsche, her expensive new bedroom, the expensive holidays her family goes on. So Daughter tells me what the girl said and my voice starts to get really loud and indignant and Daughter starts to get defensive and won't tell me anymore. So I calm down and ask her if she thinks that was fair of the girl to say. She said she thought it was, and that maybe she hadn't been such a good friend to the girl.

I said no more and have not brought it up since. But I am incensed! I think Daughter is afraid of losing friends and so will put up this little madam for the sake of peace. The only thing that consoles me is that I doubt this relationship will last much longer than another school year, if that. I wish I could tell Daughter that women don't do this sort of thing to each other, that they grow out of it. But we all know that isn't true, don't we. Women are each other's best friends and worst enemies. I have wished many a time that I had a man's emotional makeup. I sometimes envy men their ease in keeping conversation on a surface level. Still, they have their problems too, don't they. There are still the Wannabe Alpha Males jostling for superiority in sport, cars, and women. And the men who will not show one iota of emotion. And the ones who are from Mars and other planets.

I'd put a 12-year-old girl up against them anyday. I know who would win.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Leaving Wyoming

I just got back from my son's Year Six Leavers Assembly. You know the sort. They all do skits and sing songs and thank everyone. I cried last year at my daughter's, but this year I was dry-eyed. Until I looked at the notice board and saw pictures of my son in Reception. Oh, he was a gorgeous little chappie. Still is. Back then he had these lovely chipmunk cheeks which he's inherited from me, though hubby's family like to claim his looks. I'll never have him like that again, and I feel somewhat melancholy about it. Still, he has grammar school to look forward to, and I think that will be the making of him. I think he will come out from under his bushel and shine the way I always knew he could. At least I hope he will.

But the farewell to primary school isn't quite so wrenching for me as the farewell to Wyoming will be this summer. That is where my mother lives. That is the state we visited every summer when I was growing up to see the grandparents. My mother moved back there in 1977. I've gone back most years ever since. My mother's parents moved there from Missouri when they were young adults, my grandmother to be a teacher, my grandfather to escape his abusive brother. My grandfather went on to be a cowboy for a few years. Yep, a real, live cowboy, though not nearly as romantic as in the movies. They met when they were in their 30s. He was ready to settle down and have a family. She was thankful to meet a man who wanted to settle down with her. They took a train to a town called Thermopolis, built over natural hot springs, and married there. They then lived on a homestead for a few years till the loneliness and the rattle snakes got to my grandmother. My grandpa, as I called him, then built a house that my mother and her twin sister were born in . The house is still in the family, occupied by one of my cousins and his wife and son.

I wrote earlier about my mother needing to move out of my stepfather's house. She is 82 and growing more infirm. He is 85, deaf, incontinent, prone to accidents of all sorts. I finally heard back from my sister, who is ready to have my mother move in with her. I broached the subject with my mother. She is ready to move in with my sister. We just need to tell my stepfather and his daughters and consult a lawyer, I think. Not necessarily for a divorce, but just to tie up any loose ends. Then my nephews will come with a U-Haul truck and take her back to Florida.

So this will probably be the last time I visit Wyoming for a very long time. I will savour the view of the mountains when we take our annual hike to clear our jet-lagged heads. I will dip my toes in the icy cold water of the mountain spring we visit. I will remember my brother, my cousins and I, as reckless teen-agers, drinking beer all the way down the mountain, and me having to stop at each and every rest stop. I will drive past Grandma and Grandpa's house and remember their vegetable patch, Grandma's flowers, the soft grass that I loved to walk barefoot in. It looks different now because my aunt built a house on part of the land. I will shut that out and remember playing croquet on that soft grass, the smell of Grandpa's garage where he kept all his old license plates, the green shed my brother and cousin called the sleephouse because that's where they slept when we visited. Where are those license plates now? Probably claimed by some relation. I think the sleephouse was taken down some years ago.

I will walk down the streets of my mother's town, as I do every year with my husband, peering at the vegetables and flowers that people somehow coax to life from a sometimes less-than-willing environment. We will point out to our children the house one occupant painted red, white, and blue the summer after 9/11. We will visit the hot springs of Thermopolis where my children will go down the various water slides and jump off the high diving board, as I did as a child. Perhaps we will coax them into the teepees for some photographs. I will try to get to Montana, which I try to do every year yet fail for one reason or another. Maybe one last visit to Yellowstone (though I hope not as I have yet to stay in the Old Faithful Inn, one of my goals in life). So much to fit in, so little time.

Leaving primary school is bittersweet. Leaving Wyoming will be much, much sadder.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Well, I went for my manicure, but the beauty salon was locked up tight. Seems no one had bothered to enter my appointment in the computer. I was quite annoyed, but when I finally got hold of someone, she was so apologetic, I couldn't stay mad. And it meant I got to work in the garden for most of our day of sun.

So much needs doing after all the rain. The shrubs have loved the moisture and have burst beyond their boundaries so I had to cut some back quite hard. Probably the wrong time of year but oh well. I inspected my project at the back to see what further changes I can make. We used to have a gigantic leylandii hedge that was dead at the bottom and was starting to look hideous. Two years ago while I was visiting my family, hubby had it chopped down. No problem. We still had some huge trees -- a pine and a willow. Well, the storm in January nearly uprooted the pine so it had to go and the willow was rotten in the middle so it had to go. Which left a lot of roots and not a lot of privacy. We planted a cherry tree, a magnolia, and a huge rhododendron last year, but it's still quite bare and I can still see the lady at the back in her bathroom. But in the bareness, I can see what I want to do with the border. A couple more trees, possibly birch or rowan. More rhododendrons, some ferns, some Japanese anemones. Just have to get rid of the tree roots and these lily-type things that must be from prehistoric times because they have such huge bulbs.

I also inspected the blackcurrent bushes. They are bursting with fruit and need to picked NOW. But what do I do with all the blackcurrants? In the past I've made jam (quite runny but good) and cassis, but I never drink enough cassis. Does anyone have any ideas? My lettuce is also loving the rain and cool weather, but other vegetables aren't looking so good, like the courgettes (zucchini). The tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse are progressing slowly.

I love being in the sun and tending to my garden. I could spend the entire day doing it but can't. And I must watch it because I did my back in a couple of weeks ago trying to dig out the lily-type things.
And isn't it a good thing I didn't have the manicure, which no doubt would have been ruined by all the work in the garden? Sometimes things work out for the best.

How Sad Am I?

So sad that when Lady M. and DJ both bestowed the Rockin Girl honour on me, I immediately went to add it to my blog. Now I'm part of the gang too. I did say in an earlier blog that I can be pathetically insecure. Now you know just how much.

OK, Laurie, I promised you would be next and so you are. Also, Mind the Gap, Prada Pixie, and abbagirl (who by the way has some fantastic music on her blog). I've probably completely broken the rules but, hey, under our skin we're all rockin girls.

I'm off for a manicure. I would have a pedicure as well but my right big toenail is threatening to split from me.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Just a question: Am I the only blogger not to have Rockin Girl Blogger status or does it just seem that way? Not that it really matters. Not that I'd even know how to put it on my blog since I'm so pathetically inept at this stuff. Just a question.

A Whole New World

I had coffee today with my friends who also help with reading at my son's primary school. As the days are ticked off till the end of my son's Year Six, I reflect on all that I did at that school. There was the PTA, of course, which I was heavily involved with for a time. Then I helped out at the infants' library once a week for five years. And I helped individual children with reading for six years. I so enjoyed that and could have continued, but decided it's time to move on. To what I'm not sure. I don't think there's the scope at secondary school for parents to help out other than in PAs. And I've been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Both of my children have also made it very clear they don't want me to show my face at their respective schools.

What I will continue to do is meet up with my friends -- two men and the bad mum with the tattoos and pierced nose. She's as raunchy as I am. When drilling from the restaurant next door made conversation difficult, I said we should pretend it's a vibrator. Well, the men just didn't know where to look or what to say. Granted, one of them is a grandad and a devout Catholic and the other is rather inhibited. Does them good to go out with us, I say. On the telly was "Big Brother." I just don't get the fascination with this programme. It's all so boring watching members of the "Look At Me" generation brush their teeth and preen in front of mirrors. OK, here's where you all think "It's pretty boring reading about your life too."

The men were asking us what happened to the Spice Girls, and alarmingly, G., the other raunchy woman, and I knew about each and every one of them. Too much time spent at the hairdresser's, I explained. I also have a confession to make: I watch the Katie and Peter Andre programme with my daughter. Somehow I find them endearing. Maybe because I watched them get together on "I'm a Celebrity." Yeah, ok, I admit to watching that. But that particular one was downright funny because of those two.

I will miss my friends, but we don't live far from each other. Indeed, A., the inhibited one, lives just a few doors down. Unfortunately, he suffers from severe short-term memory loss and you never know if he's going to remember you or not. He had a brain tumour some years back and isn't even supposed to be alive. But they zapped it good and proper with the radiation and he went on to get his wife pregnant twice (the docs said he'd be sterile probably) although unfortunately she had an ectopic pregnancy the first time. The second pregnancy resulted in the most gorgeous little girl. A. can't walk too well now because of nerve damage from the radiation so he has one of those motorised scooters. I call him Easy Rider. His little girl rides her scooter along next to him and gets on board when she gets tired. I smile every time I see A. He is such a lovely fellow. He was lovely before his illness, and he's lost none of his loveliness. He has to be a stay-at-home dad now because his short-term memory loss eventually meant he couldn't continue to do his job. Instead his wife has gone back to work. He's one of those people you feel proud to know.

I thought I would feel a bit sad about the passing of this stage in my children's lives, but I'm not. I think I will now look into doing something for me. I've wanted to take a massage course. I'm quite good at giving them, probably because I've had so much physiotherapy on my back I can feel the source of tension in others'. And the fellow in the village who did Shiatsu massages has left so there's an opening. Well, we'll see what happens.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Here's the Gossip

OK, I admit it. I am a Nosy Person. A busybody. A gossip. But the other side of the coin of this means that I am interested in people, what they think, what they do. That's why I fit so well in the world of journalism. I have met boring people, but only rarely. You see, I have one of those faces that makes others want to tell me their life stories. And I listen.

I listen as the refrigerator repairman tells me all about the different brands that he recommends and why. I listen as the alarm guy tells me all about his life. I listen as the gardener relays that his wife left him for another gardener. I listen to the old man outside the supermarket tell me how he started his business. I listen to the couple ahead of me in line at the airport describe their new grandchild.

When my husband comes home and tells me about someone from work, I ask for more details. He doesn't have more details. Example: Him: "So-and-so's wife had a baby." Me: "When? How long was she in labour? Was it a boy or girl? What did they name it?" Him: "I don't know." He's completely useless when it comes to details.

But I don't want to know things for malicious purposes. It's because I'm genuinely interested.

And maybe I have a boring life, though it suits me most of the time.

Here's another revelation about me: I can be pathetically insecure. And it makes no difference whether it's in real life or Blogland. Hopefully by the time I'm 50, I'll have conquered this. But if I haven't, well, I'll still be a Nosy Person.

I had plenty of opportunities at the weekend to be Nosy (er, inquisitive). It being BBQ season (though the weather isn't cooperating), I've met up with several friends over the past few weekends. Over a bottle of Cava or seven, I've heard some interesting comments: My Scottish friend (she of the Blonde hair and SUV) declaring that her daughter is too intellectual for the other daughters in our group. Now I could be very catty and say that means she's too obese and full of herself for the other daughters. But I won't. Scottish Friend (who actually is half Polish, half English but raised in Scotland) (and I have nothing against Scots in general, Gordon Brown notwithstanding) has a property portfolio that makes the rest of us drool with great big gobs of envy. I maintain it's best to stay on her good side in the hope that we might someday get an invitation to one of the properties. In fact my children and I did stay at one of their houses when we went skiing in February. Lovely home. But I made sure I minded my Ps and Qs. And I tried very hard not to say anything about the psycho son and arrogant daughter. And still the little prick and c***t got up my backside.

But I digress. I was writing about being nosy and gathering gossip. I've gotten into trouble with my darling daughter because I relayed information to a couple of her friends' mothers that I just assumed they already knew. Like about meeting a couple of boys in the park (I'm not worried, nor should they be) and a few fallouts with friends. So I've been labeled a couple of things by said daughter. Not Gossip or Nosy Person, but Hypocrite and Wannabe (don't quite understand that one). Well, I've learned my lesson about that one, I suppose.

Still, there's nothing better than a good old gossip with your friends, is there? Or about your friends.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Notes from an Unstable Mind

I've always thought there was something familiar about novelist Julian Barnes. Today, glancing at the Daily Torygraph at the hairdresser's, I realised what it was. Yes, it's the Tin Man! That's what happened to him when he left Oz. He headed for the UK to write novels, one of which I could not finish reading. Now where are the Scarecrow and Lion?
I started to write a post about the Death of Feminism. But really that's far too deep for me today. I just don't have the energy. So I'll just be silly.
Silly observation No. 2: I think the song "Chasing Cars" by my favourite band Snow Patrol is about dogs. Think about it.
Silly observation No. 3: On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending my friend's son's Year Six play at his snooty private school. She got tickets for all of the group but I was the only sucker who went. Here's what I observed: all the mothers have blonde hair. So do I (chemically enhanced these days), but these women were Blonde. If they were American, they'd be Republicans, cheering on their sons who no doubt will grow up to be leaders of some sort. These mothers don't work (neither do I but that's neither here nor there) but do drive some enormous SUVs (the better to fit the young Republicans and their dogs in) (and I don't drive one of those).
Silly observation No. 4: Still on the play. Here's one difference between private school plays and state school plays -- the costumes and scenery. Private schools can afford to hire or buy some really ornate costumes and scenery. State schools make do with what the teachers can find in the market. Also, the script. This play was about pirates who land on a desert island that is actually occupied by a rather fey (even homosexual) character who dreams of cheese rather than the lovely beauties he is stranded with. When a squire arrives, he is taken off for "a good seeing-to" by said beauties. Then noises of a certain kind are heard from offstage and he reappears with wig askew and lipstick on his face (where do they get lipstick on a desert island?). Is it just me or does this sound like a bit, well, sophisticated for 11-year-old boys?
Silly observation No. 5: Actually, this isn't so silly. Apparently, Dubya messed up big time in commuting Scooter Libby's sentence. According to the NY Times, he has now created a legal precedent that goes against everything his administration has been working for. Lawyers across the country are rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of using the Libby precedent to get their clients out of serving sentences that are supposedly incommensurate with the crime. How much more of an idiot can Dubya be? Of course, he had to buy Libby's silence; otherwise, he and Cheney could be impeached probably, at the least.
Silly observation No. 6: It never rains when I take my umbrella, but it pours when I leave it at home.
Silly observation No. 7: Charlie Sheen has just announced his engagement. His fiancee must have missed the bit about him visiting prostitutes and cheating on his last wife.
Silly observation No. 8: I've been watching "Brothers and Sisters" but have to say I find it to be lightweight and Hollywoodized. Last night a sister tried to give her daughter an insulin injection but daughter wasn't having it so Drug Addict Brother comes over and does the job expertly. Hmm, maybe Pete Doherty should do a guest appearance. Which leads nicely to ...
Silly observation No. 9: What the hell did Kate Moss see in Pete Doherty? And on to...
Silly observation No. 10: I know Paul McCartney is a god and everything but, really, didn't he think for one second, "I wonder if this young bird is after my money?"
And that's all folks. For now.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

The Not-So-Golden Years

Sometimes in the world of parenting we are faced with situations that seem far beyond our capacity to endure. Sleepless nights. Painful breast feeding. Endless potty training. Then we coast for a while during the golden years of 4-12. Yes, those are the golden years when your word is law, your decisions count, when they still need you but not like the baby and toddler eras. They are cute still, funny in an inadvertant way. Then they change. They hit secondary school and life changes in a not-so-funny way.

I have learned that 12-year-old girls are not to be trifled with. You can't fob them off with an "Because I said so" as much. They become secretive. They challenge you on a daily basis. They judge you far more than anyone else ever will.

What to do? Where is the Toddler Taming book for teen-age girls?

And so yesterday I was faced with a new challenge. My daughter brought home her end-of-year report. Quite good in one subject, OK in most. But French? What happened in French? Her exam result was good, but the NC level didn't seem to reflect this. "I missed some tests when I was off ill in February and the teacher never would let me make them up." Hmmm. Do I smell a rat here? Yes, I suppose it's possible the teacher is that incompetent and uncaring. But why was this the first I'd heard about it? I tried to keep calm and maintain control as I was driving during this exchange. My daughter's voice, on the other hand, got louder and stroppier. OK, I wasn't educated in this country so these numbers are meaningless to me. But eventually she was so impudent I felt I was going to have to take some action. But what? Slapping her face, which is what my mother did to me when I behaved that way, is out of order. Should I ground her? Is that coming down too hard on her?

I rang my husband and calmly read the results to him, looking for his reaction to guide me. I said she'd been quite stroppy to me. He said he would talk to her later. Hmm. Later wasn't really good enough. I could go to the school and inquire about this, but suspect that I would be made a fool of. It's her word vs. the teacher's. And she was quite late about informing me about the missed tests. If I'd known earlier, I could have spoken to the head of year.

And that is the heart of the matter. She is shutting me out when she really needs to keep me informed.

I made tea, then gathered some papers I needed to post in people's houses around the village. "You're coming on a walk with me," I told her. With very bad grace, she got ready to go. Her body language said it all. She expected a big lecture from me. She didn't get one.

"I used to talk to my mother the way you talked to me today. And now I really regret it," I told her. "You're acting like you don't have to or want to tell me anything about your school life. But you do. I could have done something about the French teacher if you'd told me earlier."

"You've been too busy with my brother this year because it's been a really important year for him and I didn't want to bother you," she replied.

"But you're my child, too. I care about you, too," I said.

And then she opened up a bit about what's been going on with her, how her old friends talked about her behind her back and tried to get her new friends not to like her. How she hung in there though and now the new friends like her and not the old friends. I told her about what's going on with my mother and my concerns for her. I said I hadn't wanted to burden her with this information. I told her how much happier I am now that I no longer try to be part of the mothers' group.

During that walk, it was like the Golden Years again. The 12-year-old monster had been vanquished. Until it rears its ugly head again.

You know that feeling you had when you finally conquered potty training or any other milestone with your child? I had that last night. I'd done it right. I'd faced the temptation of making our relationship even more distant and fought it off.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Imperfect Housewife

Has anybody ever watched that program, "Perfect Houswife," that Anthea Turner presents? I had the pleasure of watching it the other night at my friend J.'s house.

First, AT bullied this poor woman with two small children into installing a shoe tree in her perfectly nice landing. So now when anyone walks up the stairs, the first thing they see is a giant shoe tree sprouting shoes like nobody's business. Then she taught her how to fold her towels perfectly and stack them perfectly in the airing cupboard. Meanwhile, this poor woman's children are screaming to be fed, and just screaming. But by God, she's got some nicely folded towels. And let's not forget the shoe tree.

Then AT went to Liverpool where she taught a single dad with hair issues how to cook and clean and look after an 8-year-old and be romantic with his girlfriend. All at the same time, of course.

OK, I'm happy that Anthea now has something to occupy her time other than granting interviews to OK magazine and stealing other women's husbands. But if we all turned off this rubbish, wouldn't we accomplish more in the War on Grime? I don't need the likes of Anthea telling me that I'm an inadequate housekeeper. Or those two other women, the Scottish one and the one with the funny hair and bulging eyes. My husband actually bought me their book. Cheeky sod!!

Luckily, J. and I were on the cider (something I'm acquiring a taste for), so we were in hysterics at Anthea's antics. I just hope there isn't some poor soul out there who takes it all seriously. Life is too short to have a perfect house.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Duck, Duck, Goose

This is me by the end of this endlessly raining summer.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Today is the Fourth of July. Independence Day in America, where we celebrate by having cook-outs, fireworks, and lots of beer. Since I've been in England, I tend to ignore this day. Well, who would celebrate with me? Actually, I find my English friends quite amenable to the idea of celebrating a bunch of terrorists (whoops, patriots) beating a bunch of poorly prepared soldiers. But it's just not the same. So I've let this holiday pass most years. I still do Thanksgiving every year. My British friends love Thanksgiving because it's all about food and friendship, two things most people enjoy.

Today is also the day I waved goodbye to my son as he went off independently on his school PGL trip. It's one of the last rites of passage before he moves on to secondary school. I felt like crying but don't know if it's because of my current physical ailments (bad back, cystitis, conjunctivitis) or because I'm sad at the passing of my children's childhood. It seems like yesterday I got my son ready for his first day of school, in his brand new shorts, jumper, and shirt. His blue eyes sparkled that day in anticipation of going to big school. Then big school became a disappointment as he struggled with various subjects.

Now we have grammar school to look forward to. We ordered the blazer yesterday afternoon. Then we went to the meeting last night for new parents. I dragged my boy along because I thought all the boys were going. As we arrived, though, it became apparent that many parents felt it best to leave their sons at home. I'm glad I didn't. He got to meet his new form teacher, listen to the languages master explain the different options, groan at the lame jokes made by his head of year, yawn at the PE teacher. It's just one more way for him to become familiar with what will be his academic home for the next five or so years. None of his friends is in the same form as him. There is one other boy from his school who will be with him. I tried to put a good spin on it. I said the other boy isn't going to be with his good friends either. I said at least he wasn't going to be with the boy he can't stand. I said it will be an opportunity for him to meet other boys. I scanned the list of names. "Oh, yes, you know him from football. And this one used to go to Kumon with you." Still, I could feel his disappointment and watched as he fought back tears. I wish I could do more to make him feel better. But this is something he will have to go through himself.

In the middle of the lame jokes and much-too-long meeting, my mobile rang. I rushed to switch it off, but couldn't find it of course because it was at the bottom of my bott0m-less pit handbag. It was my daughter. She'd found a slug. In the house. She was crying because she didn't know what to do. How did the slug get in the house? Easy. The cat brings them in in her fur. I find at least two everyday this time of year (and some people moan about fleas!). Fortunately, she figured out that she could pick it up with a paper towel and throw it away. Glad to know she's learned something from me. She goes off on her PGL trip on Friday, the day my son comes home. I've spent all weekend and week getting the two of them ready. I'm sure my daughter will be fine, provided there are no slugs in her room.

There's a silence and stillness in the house, a taste of what will be in the future. We bring our children into the world, and they are such a major part of our lives. And then they are gone. Off to have an independent life. Should I celebrate?

Monday, 2 July 2007

Fun Facts to Learn and Tell

I've been tagged by Pixie to come up with 7 (!) fascinating facts about me. So without further ado, here they are:

1. Most favourite celebrity sighting: Central Park's gay section, late '80s. I was walking along with my then-husband and a friend trying to get somewhere else when I heard a distinctive voice. I looked up and saw two older men wearing straw hats emerge from the bushes. One was taller, a little portlier, and blonde, the other a bit weasley looking. The tall fellow owned the distinctive voice. His shirt was sticking out of his unzipped trousers. It was Van Johnson, B-movie leading man of the 40s and 50s (Brigadoon, Caine Mutiny are probably his most memorable films). Perhaps they'd just gone to relieve themselves.

2. Concert I am least likely to admit to going to: David Cassidy, 1972. My best friend and I got all dolled up in our new mini skirts and patterned tights to go see our favourite heartthrob. We saw another schoolmate at the concert, her face stained with tears and mascara. I preferred David to Donny Osmond then, but now I'd have to say Donny is my favourite. He certainly has weathered better, and he seems to have a really good sense of humour about himself.

3. Concert I am most likely to admit going to: Steely Dan, 1973. They opened for Chicago and were tremendous. I went with my two best friends. It was at the big sports stadium in our town and I remember having to beg my dad for weeks to get permission to go. I was only 13 and he thought I was too young. Chicago were the band of the moment, but Steely Dan blew them out of the water. I am so disappointed I couldn't get tickets to go see them this summer in Liverpool.

4. Life-changing event: Meeting my husband. A chance encounter in a bar in South Street Seaport led to me leaving behind my career, friends, and family to start a new life with a new man in less than a year. If I'd thought it through, I would never have made the move. If I'd known how awful my in-laws would be to me, how much of a culture change, how changeable the weather, etc. But I didn't, and that has made all the difference. We have our ups and downs, and the cultural differences are greater than I'd expected, but we're still together, and I'm still here (take that, you in-laws).

5. Worst job: Cocktail waitress, 1978. Let's just say I wasn't cut out for the job. I spilled an entire pitcher of beer on a poor man. I gave the wrong change, got orders wrong, slept with the bartender, who then let me take the fall for not cleaning up that night. Any surprise I was fired? Never again.

6. Best trip with my mates: Amsterdam, 2005. Six of us stayed in a canal house for five days. This really is worth a whole post or even a film script. We went to partake of the evil weed and whatever else was going. We survived the house being flooded, riding bikes all over town while stoned (well, we weren't exactly riding the bikes), stumbling upon a bar where the local ex-prossies went to sing "Love Boat" and other classics, and buying a remote-controlled vibrator and then returning it when it was found to be faulty. We were still speaking to each other by the time it was over, but only just.

7. Worst attribute: I'm sure others who know me would say something different, but I would have to say my worst attribute is procrastination. I leave things far too late, then panic terribly to get them done. It used to work to my advantage when I worked because the stress and adrenaline would rev me up. Now, though, leaving things means my children might suffer. Fortunately, they don't seem to have inherited this trait so will do most things as soon as they can.

OK, so who can I pick on? Right, Debio, Lady M., Stay at home Dad, Kelly, J., Mind the Gap, Crystal Jigsaw, if you're reading this, consider yourselves tagged.