Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A New Favorite Place

Since the 5th grader and I took prom pics for the teen's group over at Virginia Water Lake, the younger one has longed to return.  It's part of Windsor Great Park along its farthest southern edge, not too terribly distant from the girl's school.  We've had glorious weather lately, making up for the 6ish weeks of cool and soggy stuff we had to suffer.  Saturday was definitely a winner, with temps in the upper 70s, a nice breeze and blue skies.

Initially the 5th grader wanted to take her roller blades since the main paths are paved. However, it's a bit of a rolling landscape and so she opted to take her bike instead.  It's times like this when I'm glad we purchased a gas guzzling, difficult to maneuver and park SUV.  We threw the bike and dog into the rear and headed out for some midmorning fun.

And then we got to sit in traffic for an extra 15 min when we were within spitting distance of the lake's car park.  It seems the golf course at Wentworth was hosting the BMW PGA Championship.  I toyed with the idea of turning around, but the peanut gallery in the back seat was most upset about that.  We persevered to discover that the golf traffic at the light was turning left while we were going right.  

We had a nice time exploring the park.  My favorite part was getting a good look at the ruins.  These were removed from the ancient Roman city of Leptis Magna located in present day Libya.  The Bashaw of Tripoli gave them as a gift to King George IV, who had his architect erect them in this spot of the park 200 years ago.

Conveniently enough, there are food and beverage caravans (in Texas we call them roach coaches) along the paved paths, so the kid had to have some soft serve ice cream. It's a catch 22 - the kid works up a sweat and burns calories, so then she's starving and needs something to eat.  

We kept Ollie on his leash the entire time since he loves everybody and would gladly leave with them instead of us.  Plus he's a little guy and there were a LOT of big dogs - so many labs it looked like a retriever convention.  The husband and kid each took him for a wade at different times on separate paths during our two hour excursion.  I had taken along his doggie water bottle server thingy, but the lake water appeared to be equally tasty and refreshing.  

It's a 30 minute drive to the lake and I wish it was much closer because it's so lovely.  The parking lot is very roomy and since it's a pay & display, kept in good repair.  The paths are wide and paved.  Boating and swimming are banned, so no UK version of redneck rowdies getting liquored up and acting like fools.  Plus dogs are allowed AND they have those handy receptacles for poop bags.  I think we've found a new spot to hang out this summer.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Burning Down the House

Lordy, lordy, summer arrived this week in the greater London area.  It has been hovering around 80 for the past several days and our house doesn't get any shade.  This doesn't seem like such a big deal until you throw in the fact that we have no air conditioning.  No one does.  

A year ago, when the warmer weather started creeping up on us, I purchased seven fans.  Nice, attractive ones, but still the old school sort on pedestals that oscillate and make way more noise than a ceiling fan. What I wouldn't give for a ceiling fan, but they're pretty rare over here.  

Thus far the flying bug count - including bees, wasps and some sort of large beetle about the size of a Texas cockroach - is eight with some of the windows raised so we don't suffocate.  It's England, so no screens either.  I don't know why the girls always holler for me to come kill the flying critters because I'm no handier with the flyswatter (imported from a Wal-Mart back home) than they are.  We just kinda stand around and shiver and say "Ewww" in unison and see if we can put off the bug squashing until dad gets home.

With the warmer weather, it is definitely time for school to end because they don't have AC or fans on campus.  They just have to throw open the doors and windows, hoping for a bit of breeze to keep it comfortable.  Thursday night the 5th grade presented their annual stage production in the very warm theatre.  So warm I could feel sweat trickling down my back while sitting up in the balcony section fanning myself with the program.  So warm that my pants were getting glued to the seat with perspiration.  So warm that I was ready to start peeling off clothes, a scary thought, indeed.

The play was really cute.  There was a whole lotta Shakespeare phrasing they kept in this abridged version - thee and thou and hast and hither.  Our daughter was a faerie and she enjoyed her part that included frolicking around on stage with the other faeries and Puck.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

If He Only Had a Brain

I haven't tortured y'all with a dog update lately, so I better remedy that.  Today Ollie is 8 months old.  We're glad that he's a part of our family... most of the time.  Not so much Monday when he got away from me on a walk and started following squirrel or bird or slug trails through the hedges that lead right out to the main entrance of our neighborhood.  Thank heavens his head is easily turned by the lure of a treat.

The first video below is of Ollie on the couch with me one afternoon.  We keep the couch covered with some old, easily laundered blankets to keep it from getting stinky with doggy BO.  I don't know what the village idiot was digging or scratching at, though a good guess would be some miniscule crumb of food since the husband likes to eat in front of the TV on weekends and the couch is his roosting spot since it's right in front of the screen.

The second video is the beast and 5th grader playing keep away in the back yard.  The husband returned from his little vacation in Texas (truly business but I call it a vacay since he got to see his parents as well as friends, eat tubs full of fabulous food and didn't have any homework helping/dog walking/garbage taking out responsibilities for ten days) with a big plastic chicken squeaky toy for the furry baby of our family.  It's a bit unwieldy because Cairns aren't big terriers and he's not quite full grown, though I think he's filling out more since we had him neutered last month.  

In miscellaneous news, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrating 60 years on the throne is next weekend.  I wanted something to commemorate our attendance at a few of the events, so I found these inexpensive canvas bags with a cool screenprint and bought several of them.  I'm thinking I might have these made into pillows as keepsakes.

And finally, I was going through our pictures thus far for 2013 and ran across a pic of the teen taken on a beach in Greece during the Young Life trip.  She was on the very edge of the shot with several of her friends, so there's not much to show.  However, upon seeing this pic of her I immediately thought of Bridget Bardot.  And when I changed it from color to black and white, it looked even better.  The teen sure does love her black eyeliner.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Junior Prom - May 2012

Yippee, prom is history!  Saturday night, the teen joined about 130 juniors and seniors on a Thames river cruise in London.  With most of the senior class able to buy liquor since the drinking age is 18 over here, it's no wonder the prom isn't heavily attended since some of them opt to go clubbing.  And when they only have 130 tickets for a total of 240 upperclassmen, then not everyone wanting to attend actually got to purchase a £75 ticket since they sold out due to limited space on the boat.

So anyhoo, we really spent more than I imagined we would for prom... four figures instead of three <sigh>.  There was this whole fiasco with the limo and me having to scramble the DAY BEFORE prom for a last minute replacement.  They had me over a barrel and after ringing up eight limo service companies on the phone, I cried uncle and just ate the price difference as soon as I found somebody with a ride for the group.

The teen went to her bestest buddy's house to get ready for prom. Gorgeous!

The 5th grader and I met up with the group of 10 over at Virginia Water Lake for some pics.  Since we arrived a bit early, she and I walked along the pathways and discovered a swan's nest right there along the bank.  Talk about labor intensive, ha-ha, because it is huge.

The red dress was a really pretty color on the teen, even though I thought it would have looked even better withOUT the spray tan.  But I don't know anything - I'm just the mother.  Below is a pic of the back of the dress so you can see the bling that wraps around the entire thing right at the empire waist.

Here are the teen and her friends before they hopped into the limo.  

Here's a close-up of the teen so you can appreciate her smoky eye makeup.  I took her to the M-A-C counter at a shop over in Kingston so she could get just the right eye makeup colors to compliment the dress.  I think the overall effect is striking and she looks stunning... but I'm her mother and am therefore a bit biased.  

We may butt heads on a regular basis and disagree about things both big and small, but I love her dearly and am glad she had a great junior prom.  

If anybody is interested in taking her shopping to select her SENIOR prom dress, then call me at 800-IAM-DONE to register your interest in this very important endeavor.  The teen tells me she wants to go shopping for it earlier, like Christmastime in Texas.  Just say the word and I'll turn you loose with her, a credit card and some extra strength Tylenol.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Snowball Effect

It's 9:40 on a Sunday night and the teen just spilled some juice on her white shirt.  She's taking a snack break from editing her prom pics and tagging all of her friends on Facebook instead of prepping for her impending semester exams next week.  I'm so glad she understands about priorities and the importance of attaining the best possible GPA this year for her college apps in the fall.  Go HUBU!  Head Up Butt University is gonna be her alma mater if she's not careful.

But I digress... the juice spill jogs her willy nilly memory, reminding her that she needs to wear this same shirt and the dance team pants (also on her person) tomorrow so they can get a group pic for the recital program.  It seems my daughter isn't the only teen who enjoys going full throttle with her hair on fire, racing to get things done at the last minute.  This is what happens when you let the inmates dancers run the asylum show.

I guess I can trot that up to school tomorrow afternoon since I'm already headed that way to take the tres leche cake for her Spanish class project.  The 5th grader helped me whip it up this afternoon since the teen was at recital rehearsals for seven hours.  I'll be interested to see how the teacher derives a grade based upon our culinary efforts.  B+ because the whipped cream topping was a tad runny.  Would a bit of eggshell or hair in the cake lead to a failing grade?

When I asked the teen about serving the cake to the class for her presentation, she realized small disposable plates and spoons would be necessary.  So I guess I'll need to swing by the grocery store on my way to the school to drop off her Spanish cake and dance outfit.  HUBU, here we come!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Man Your Battle Stations

I swear General Eisenhower didn't do near as much planning for the D-Day landings as I've done for the princess' prom.  Please, Lord, just help me make it through this weekend without strangling the teen or locking her in her room or polishing off a whole bottle of wine all by my lonesome.  The husband is a wily one, heading to Texas for business almost a week ago, having to *sacrifice* and miss all the prom hoopla.  I'm thinking he owes me BIG TIME for single parenting through this little ordeal.

Thus far I've spent $930 for prom.  I still have to cough up the cash for a spray tan and mani/pedi today.  Plus a taxi ride or commuter train ticket to get her from London back out to the 'burbs since we only have the Hummer limo for a ride into the city.  I had originally made a salon appointment because the teen wanted her hair up.  Then she decided it would look better down, so I cancelled the appointment.  Yesterday she was making noise about some friend getting her hair done at the salon and I just ignored it.  

The teen resembles a cross between some pedigreed poodle and junkyard mongrel - she looks pretty and is sweet most of the time but will turn into a snarling, rabid beast at the drop of a hat to get what she wants.  It's all about knowing how to handle these little flights of fancy without resorting to shouting.  And the liberal use of profanity.  And threatening to sell her to the local gypsies if she doesn't quick pecking at me like a chicken.  Because living with teenage hormones and perimenopausal hormones under one roof is just a barrel of frickin' monkeys.

The teen is all about what her friends are doing.  This one got eyelash extensions.  That one is getting her makeup professionally done.  I don't think she's trying to one up them or even keep up with them.  Their diva ways just plant these ideas in her head so that it becomes the whole Hey, that's cool, I want that, too.  As my husband will attest - the absent husband that bailed on me to deal with all of this by myself - I have a tendency to throw kerosene on the fire.  I told the teen that as soon as money starts to grow on trees THEN we'll do every little thing her heart desires.  Until then, just be glad you're getting a really nice junior year prom experience without your mom requiring a straight jacket, psychotropic drugs and a bed at the local loony bin.  You're gonna need to be kind and appreciative to your <mostly sane> mom so she is willing to roll out of bed at 3:00 am Sunday morning to drive you home from the after party.   

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

The girls attend a school here in England with "American" in the title.  However, only about 50% of the student population is from the USA.  In the past couple days, I've come to realize just how international it really is.

For example, yesterday I spoke with a gentleman to arrange a very last minute Hummer limo for prom.  Don't ask.  As we were discussing pick up times, location and cost, it was mentioned to me that complimentary sodas and a bottle of bubbly would be included for the ride.  Bubbly, as in champagne?  Right... the legal drinking and purchasing age for liquor in the UK is 18.  Since everyone in my teen's entourage is just a junior, I requested that any and all alcohol products be removed from the limo.  

How strange is that - the teen turns 18 next spring and could go pub crawling Fridays after school dismisses for the day.  She can request a margarita at the local Spanish tapas restaurant and not have to include the word *virgin* while ordering.  We're just gonna pretend she's still in Texas and won't be allowed to drink until almost the end of her junior year in college when she turns 21.  Realistic - hopefully.  Wishful thinking - definitely.

And this whole prom date thing.  Back in the mid 80s when I attended prom right after the wheel was invented, you didn't go without a date.  Nowadays, or at least at the school my teen attends, it's more the norm to go solo.  Only teens who have been dating and are established couples go to prom together.  They feel no need to pair up just because they'll be wearing tuxedos and evening gowns.  Out of the 11 going in the teen's limo, only three of them are boys and they're fine with it.  No one is moping (except me) about the fact that my teen and all of her pretty little friends don't have dates.  

In another very UN-American twist, it seems the school has had to procure a TV for the prom cruise on the Thames.  There are some super-dee-duper football (in America we call it soccer) finals championship games on Saturday and the boys were threatening to go down to the local pub to watch it rather than pay £75 per person (no open bar included with that price, though I wouldn't have been surprised if it was) to attend some silly dance in a monkey suit.  Therefore, the boys have been promised a TV so they can steal away to stay abreast of the scores.  Men... whether 17 or 47 or 97, they remain very simple and predictable creatures no matter what continent they call home.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My New Secret Addiction

Every fall and spring, the school hosts casual fundraisers with games and food and vendors.  At the Christmas-themed one, I ran across a booth selling Hazle Ceramics.  I had never heard of them, which makes sense because I'm from Texas.  But I was intrigued by the "Nation of Shopkeepers" historic storefronts they produce.  They are made in limited, numbered editions, painted by hand and just so darned cute.  And collectible.  Hmmm... I need to keep reminding myself WHY I don't need every single one that catches my eye.

Am I right, or what?  Every shop they produce in ceramic exists here in England.  For example, Paxton and Whitfields in London was established in 1797 and is still in operation today, famous for its cheeses.  

The picture above was taken outside the real shop on Jermyn Street.  The Hazle Ceramics version of it is below.  Looovvveee it!
So back before Christmas, I purchased these three and put them on display in a window located between the family room and kitchen where I've placed my dining table.

At the May Fair fundraiser this past weekend, the same older British gentleman was manning the Hazle booth again.  I had snapped a pic on my phone of the three I had, hoping to add two more to my small collection as precious reminders of our time in England.

About £220 later, I am the proud owner of four more shop fronts.  I decided to add two other Christmas themed stores so I could pull out three and display them separately at the holidays.

While the British gentleman and I were chatting, he was giving me a lot of background and information about the brand - must have had sucker collector written all over me.  He mentioned that they made a Sainsbury's store and I was tickled pink because that is where I do the bulk of my grocery shopping and it would be a particularly personal one for me if I could get my hands on this retired piece.

Thanks to the internet, it didn't take me long to locate one.  And a couple other new additions to my burgeoning collection.

I'm expecting delivery of The Nutshell, in the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest pub in England.  The reason I chose this one is because it's part of the Jubilee Collection (we'll be here for the celebrations next month) and Ollie our Cairn Terrier was purchased from a breeder in Bury St. Edmunds where it is located.

The third one is Dickens' Christmas Carol, which I've taught to ESL students.  The final one in this latest assault on our bank account is based on The King's Head, a pub in Windsor, that has been temporarily renamed The Queen's Scarf for her Jubilee year.

I filched these pics from the website where I purchased them, so they're a bit fuzzy.  Maybe I'll get industrious and take the ones I obtained at the May Fair out of their boxes and gaze at fondly take pics of them for you to see.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Road Warrior

I was well and truly spoiled back in Texas.  I didn't have a maid service to tidy the house.  Or a designer wardrobe.  Facials or massages?  Nope and nope.  What I did enjoy was living smack dab in the middle of town so that our commute to the elementary, middle or high school was about a mile.  What I wouldn't give to have that here in England.  

The school is almost 9 miles, one way, from our house.  It's not terrible... until you hit it in rush hour.  That's when the no traffic drive of 15 minutes becomes a 45 minute ordeal.  The only thing that slowed me down on my way to school back in Texas was some random deer with a death wish dashing across the road.  

Today I started to feel some kinship with long haul truckers because thus far I've put 70 miles on the car chauffeuring the teen to various commitments.  And have I mentioned that gas costs almost $9 per gallon over here?  <cue the dramatic violin music> We started off the day with a trip to Kingston-Upon-Thames to get a couple last minute prom items for next weekend.  This afternoon I took her to the school because the dance team performed at the annual May Fair.  Earlier this evening, I hauled her way over to Ascot - almost 18 miles, one way - to the dance team captain's house for a party.  And I get to end my night by driving back over there to retrieve her.  

If we were back in Texas, I'd be lolling around on the sofa eating bon bons and reading a trashy romance novel because the teen would be a licensed driver.  Five months before we moved to England, the summer she turned 15, the teen got her learner's permit.  However, unable to clock the requisite driving hours, she has had to let it expire until we all repatriate next summer.  

A few of the teen's friends have initiated the process to get a UK driving license, but only recently since you must be 17 to even begin the whole rigamarole.  I would really appreciate the teen getting a UK license since the husband has opted NOT to get his.  However, she'll be gone a total of about 6 weeks this summer.  And believe me - it would take a whole lotta lessons for her to become anywhere near competent enough to get out of the testing site parking lot without mowing down some innocent bystanders.  

The teen gets easily flustered sometimes and isn't particularly decisive or aggressive.  I have visions of her doing a "Chevy Chase", circling any of the bazillion local roundabouts, boo-hooing, until some kind soul lets her over into the correct lane.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

April Showers Bring May Showers

Yesterday I accompanied the 5th grader and her school compadres to Kew Gardens.  After the wettest April on record in England, the soggy weather has spilled over into May.  Therefore, I toted my large umbrella that looks like a walking cane and used it on and off throughout the day.  

You know how kids are, undaunted by the weather.  We got lucky and it wasn't raining when the time with our very knowledgeable docent ended, so the class got to eat in a relatively dry seating area outside one of the greenhouses.  

As a veteran of many field trips when I was teaching, I was unsure what to expect with this group.  Many of the kids back in Texas would act as if they had been raised in a barn when we took them on field trips.  And it never failed to amaze me that some of them acted like complete asses when their parents were right there along for the ride.  I vividly remember one of my former students climbing atop the picnic table where me and some of the kids were eating lunch so he could beat his chest and scream and then do his best imitation of Godzilla, trying to smash their sandwiches with his dirty tennis shoes.  His ding dong of a mother totally ignored this insanity.  Once I closed my mouth - because my jaw had hit the ground in disbelief when he started this little bit of nonsense - I promptly told him to get down and knock it off.  And we wonder what's wrong with the youth of today.

So anyhoo - the daughter's class was well behaved, which makes sense since they're all world travelers.  I had organized and led the Christmas party, so I knew some of them were easily distracted and chatty.  However, they were very polite and attentive to the grandmotherly docent who went into a LOT of detail about plant anatomy and adaptations.  I can't recall one embarrassing or rude event during the entire day.  Of course, I stayed on the bottom level of the coach that drove us to/from Kew while almost all of the 5th graders were on the second level of the double decker bus.  The very strict male teacher was riding herd on them, so I figure that's why we enjoyed a very smooth bus ride.

Below is a pic of the daughter and her best friend at Kew.

Yesterday Ollie returned to doggie daycare, his first time back with his canine buddies after his neutering.  Thanks to the nasty weather, he was filthy when he got home so the youngest daughter and I promptly gave him a bath.

As usual, he raced around the house like a maniac after we towel dried him.  What is it about baths that always invigorates a dog and makes them act like idiots?  Brushing becomes a game as he bounces around playing tag with me while I try to tame his rough little coat.  The daughter says he looks like an ewok because his fur tends to stand on end until it dries.

Maybe a little?  I'll have to take a pic of the village idiot next time I bathe him so you can judge for yourself.

I made a short video earlier this week of the beast in my lap.  Anytime I'm in the office working on the computer, that has become his cue to jump up into my lap and snuggle down for a nap.  I let him stay for a while, at least until he starts wiggling around like a chicken trying to roost or farting as if he ate a whole can of pork 'n beans for breakfast.  Then he's put down to find another place to sack out and relax... usually a rug I keep in front of the patio french doors.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Keep calm and carry on

London is getting ready for the final wind up to the Olympics.  I bought the 5th grader's July ticket to Texas and it seems price gouging is already in place since it cost a bit over $1600.  I know the grandparents and cousins will be happy to see her, but DANG that is one expensive straight shot, round trip flight from Heathrow to Houston and back again.

And speaking of shots and flights... Over the weekend, I kept seeing (as well as hearing) military jets flying overhead.  When I mentioned this to the husband, he told me he read in one of the London newspapers that they would be conducting Olympic military exercises over the course of the next week.  It seems the airspace over the Olympics will be a restricted flying zone.  The military will use radar and human observers to be on the lookout for potential threats.

The best part is the surface-to-air missiles that will be placed in the Olympic zone and are said to be protected by armed police.  That's a pretty big deal because police don't carry firearms in England.  They just have to go all crazy on a criminal with their nightstick if it gets physical.  But anyhow, it's kinda creepy that live ordnance will be in the area.  I don't know that it makes me feel safer, what with armies around the globe having mishaps with friendly fire.  I think it's pretty cool that the military *could* shoot a terrorist threat out of the sky... so the burning fuselage rains down on our heads when we're watching the beach volleyball, diving or track events.  

It's a sad commentary that we'll be attending events celebrating humanity's strength, endurance and will to win in the shadow of these SAMs deployed around London during the Olympic games.  In our post 9/11 world, I guess I can appreciate a better safe than sorry plan of action for the hundreds of thousands in attendance, including our little family of four.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Just a tad confused

Yesterday morning, the youngest daughter and her buddy rolled out of the tent from their indoor camp out, hungry for breakfast.  I fried up some bacon, the Oscar Mayer American variety we can get here in one of our local grocery stores because the British piggies are quite gamey.  I also scrambled some eggs and toasted bagels with butter in the oven a la my granny.  

I had my back to the girls at the breakfast bar, rinsing out a glass in the sink, when I heard the following.

My kid: You should try this grape jelly my mom bought at the American foods store.  It's my favorite.  And it's named after the president - oBAMA.  

Kid's friend: Really?  <perplexed look on her face>

After I finished snickering, I explained that the president isn't heir to the BAMA grape jelly empire.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

And then it was Friday

Where does the time go?  The older I get, the faster it flies by me.  I can't believe it's already Friday.  And May, almost the end of the school year.  What the heck?  Before you know it, I'll be waking up in the old folk's home and wondering how I got there because I was just middle-aged and getting ready for early menopause to slap me between the eyes.

I rolled out of bed Thursday morning and whipped up 42 cupcakes for two boarding students celebrating birthdays.  This is a really great program the school offers for the high school students who typically won't get to see their parents on their special day unless they fly into town for it.  In the fall I had a boy and girl birthday right before halloween, so I ran with that as my theme.  This time I had two girls, so I opted for girly-girly with pale pink icing and pink sugar sprinkles on top.  I had a bit of leftover batter (and resisted the temptation to just gobble it up with a spoon while watching an old episode of ER), so I made a dozen mini cupcakes for the teen to take to her advisory class.  It's all girls and they take turns bringing in snacks every week.  

Today I took Ollie to the vet to get the stitches removed from his neutering.  They had to make two incisions because one of his little crown jewels hadn't fully descended.  It has been a challenge to make the little beast take it easy the last nine days. He wasn't supposed to run or rip or snort or jump up on the furniture, so of course that is exactly what he did as soon as he felt like himself again about four days post op.  I finally gave up and quit playing traffic cop every time he got that gleam in his eye about jumping... on the couch, the one piece of furniture where he's allowed to sit since we keep it covered, up in my lap when I'm at the computer, or up on the french doors leading to the patio to let us know he needs to go potty.  It was a bit of a rodeo when the vet has to hold him down to remove the stitches - along with me and a vet tech, one at each end.  You'd think UK vets would move on into the 21st century and use dissolving stitches.

The youngest daughter convinced my husband to set up a tent in the rumpus room, aka formal living/dining.  She has invited a friend of hers to spend the night after the 5th gr fundraising luau party this evening.  

Then I get to roll out early tomorrow morning to take the teen to school for the SAT.  She has been doing well with the practice tests in her prep class, so we hope she makes a strong score on her first official SAT.  It would be fabulous for her to do so well on this first attempt that she doesn't really need to take it again in the fall when she starts her senior year.  

Senior year... time really IS moving along.  Pretty soon the teen will be applying to college and preparing to do the last this and that in her high school career.  As I crest the hill of life and start my trip down the other side, she's just getting started.  I can't wait to see where the road leads and what life has in store for her.