Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tween Speak

For those of you who knew my grandmother, our youngest daughter inherited the talky talk talking gene from Doris.  Girlfriend can rattle on and on.  Every day when she gets home from school, I often worry that she'll pass out because she hardly takes a breath in between telling me about her math quiz, her lunchtime table buddies, what was discussed during recess and who was hogging the ball or being a bossy butt during volleyball practice.

It's such a change from the grunts and growls I receive from the 17-year-old when I ask about her day.  I'm thinking my mother would agree this is payback for the times I told her "I don't want to play 20 questions" when she was trying to pry the latest out of me in high school.  

With an almost six year age difference between the two girls, it's inevitable that the younger one would be much more savvy in middle school than her sister was.  She knows all of the hip songs and lingo as well as mean girl, boy-girl stuff that her older sister didn't know about when she was in 6th grade.

Last night we were eating dinner and the younger daughter was prattling on (and on and on and on) about her day.  

6th grader:  blah blah blah blah blah

Me: Uh huh.

6th grader:  I can't tell Clatterbug* anything.

Me:  Really?

6th grader:  Yes, she has got FIMS.

Me:  Mentally casting about for meaning with an I'm-still-with-you-and-paying-attention expression on my face.  Is FIMS related to PMS?  Is it communicable?  Is that code for head lice?  And then finally giving up because I'm a nerdy old lady.

Me:  So what is FIMS?

6th grader:  (shrug, eye roll and headshake of disgust because she has to explain it to me)  Foot In Mouth Syndrome, duh!

*name has been changed to protect the blabbermouth

Monday, September 24, 2012

Happy Birthday

Oliver Twist Fraser (Ollie) turns one today.  We brought him home to join our clan last fall, Thanksgiving weekend in the US, on November 27.  

I located Lindcoly Kennels online, where they've been breeding Cairns for about 40 years.  We drove up the weekend before Thanksgiving to the little hamlet of Freckenham, northeast of Cambridge, to have a look-see at the pups on offer.  We took the 5th grade daughter, so it was assumed we wouldn't be coming home empty handed.  

Ollie is a great little dog, a nice companion for me that gets along with everyone, both human and canine.  He goes to doggie daycare three times per week because we want him to be well socialized.  The door-to-door service they offer is amazing.  If I'm not home at pick up or drop off time, the doggie daycare owner lets herself into the house and either gets him out of or puts him into his kennel.  It doesn't get much better than that.

Above is a pic of Ollie at the doggie center back in the spring. He has a great time running around with his doggie friends every week.  Plus the owner boards him when we travel, so it's a great set-up.

There are days when I wish I could sleep late, that I didn't have to roll out to take him for walks and potty breaks in the cold and rain.  But look at that face... impossible to resist his scruffy terrier charm.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Here Comes the Sun, er rather Rain

It has been weeks since we've had any measurable rainfall here in our neck of the English woods.  I recalled the weather forecast app on my iPad listed a 70-80% chance of wet stuff falling from the sky today, so I rolled out of bed and had Ollie at the dog park by 8:30 this morning.  The 6th grader was awake, but still piled up in her bed messing around on her computer, so declined my invitation to walk a few laps while Ollie cavorted with his canine buddies.  I didn't even bother to poke my head into the teen's room.

The high today is 55, so I've had to break down and turn on the radiators because there is a definite chill in the (house) air.  The teen, with her single digit body fat, has been using a portable space heater in her bedroom because she's always cold. In contrast, the younger daughter wore some capris, sandals and a sleeveless top to the first middle school dance Friday evening.  As for me, I'm somewhere in the middle - comfortable most of the time but kicking off covers in the middle of the night when the occasional hot flash hits.

It's a good thing the beast got to run around off leash for about 45 minutes this morning because it started drizzling once we returned home and hasn't really stopped since then.  As expected, Ollie really needed to go potty when it was coming down rather steadily and I had to break out the umbrella.  As soon as he cleared the door, he lowered his perky terrier ears and looked around as if to ask, "What the hell is this?"  Of course, it didn't hurry along the whole toileting process - stare at the trees to see if he can spot his squirrel enemies, snuffle towards the side of the yard where he never relieves himself, strain against the leash and get pulled in the right direction of his usual "watering" spots, sniff around for 5 min trying to find just the right location, shake the rain off his fur numerous times because he's getting wet as he whiles away the minutes out in the elements and then finally squat to tinkle.  No need to impress any other dogs or mark his territory with some acrobatic leg lifting moves in our backyard, thank goodness.  

One thing I'll never understand is why most British houses don't have covered porches because it's not as if it's possible to pretend this is an arid climate.  Two weeks without rain has people using the word drought around here.  We do have a bit of an overhang, probably a 3 foot square, above the front door.  However, the french doors leading onto the patio and back garden walk you right out into the weather.  If we owned this home, the first thing I would have done was add some sort of back patio covering so I don't have to wrestle the dog on his leash and an umbrella while trying to keep the rain and cold from pouring into the house.  This makes me appreciate my generous back porch in Texas, a covered area that holds sufficient outdoor furniture to seat 10 people and still have room to spare.  Maybe not everything is bigger in Texas, but I can safely say the porches are.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ring of Kerry

Really, it was more like the crescent of Kerry for us since we only got around to seeing about a third of it.  By the time we toured the seal sanctuary, drove off the Dingle Peninsula and onto the Iveragh Peninsula, it was early afternoon and we were already hearing protests from the back seat of our low slung rental car.  

We kicked off the day with more misty, overcast skies.  Heading east from the B&B in Dingle, we stopped at a seal sanctuary.  There was the added bonus of several types of birds to feed - quite entertaining, even when you're 11 and 17.

The younger daughter isn't a big fan of aggressive, food seeking water fowl... flashbacks of bread grabbing geese down at the town's creek back in Texas that had her climbing atop a picnic table to get away from them.

The sanctuary had a resident goat or two, so she enjoyed feeding and petting them since the birds were giving her the willies. However, the teen wasn't bothered by the feathered residents crowding around her and even picked up some smaller ones a time or two.

The little seal pups were so cute.  Some of them are a couple months old while the one I filmed below was brought in the day before after it was found alone on a nearby beach by local residents.

My favorite video was when I caught the mischievous goat trying to help himself to the bowl of bird food the teen had placed on top of the railing and knocked it off.  If you listen carefully you can hear the teen exclaim in disgust, "Oh my God, you idiotic goat, I hate you."  

From there, we drove for what seemed like hundreds of miles on backroads to get to 2 of the 3 early medieval ring forts on the peninsula.  Along the way, we somehow managed to get a bit turned around despite the assistance of GPS, and stumbled upon the ruins of a castle.

While taking pics of the castle as the husband and girls climbed over part of it, I looked across the field and spotted some other ruins.  I don't know if they were part of the original holding.  I'm always intrigued by things of this nature and can't help but wonder about the history behind it.

We rediscovered our original trail and took a stroll around the ring forts, Cahergal and Leacanabuaile.  There's not much to see anymore, but that's understandable in such a cool, wet climate with a dry stacked stone structure built in the 900s.  

In order to access the ring forts, we parked our car and followed a hand lettered sign up a dirt track past a few homesteads and fields of sheep to reach our destination.  You get lots of exercise in Ireland while seeing the sites.

We were wondering if the shorn sheep, pictured on the left, is bothered by the cool and wet weather.  It does look kinda pitiful without its coat.

After driving back to Dingle that afternoon, we had an early supper at the Chowder Cafe, a tasty spot where most everything on the menu was locally sourced.  The menu tells you which local businesses or farms provide fresh eggs, meat, milk, fish, etc.  I was tired of greasy pub food and enjoyed an open faced crab claw meat sandwich... yum!  For the second day in a row, we sat down to tea and a waist expanding dessert - so very tasty and a perfect way to wrap up another day of touring.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mrs. Clean

If my daughters are ever asked if they were raised in a barn, I don't want them nodding their heads in the affirmative.  I'm not the obsessive consummate housekeeper my granny was, but I give the house a serious top to bottom cleaning several times a month.  I clean the kitchen really well every day, do laundry every other day and vacuum up any dog hair that decides to join forces with dust on the floor typically twice per week.  

I think the girls and husband are under the impression that I enjoy the process rather than the end result of a bleachy clean home.  I don't wanna have to answer to the UK version of America's Center for Disease Control if our pigpen lifestyle results in us contracting bubonic plague in the kitchen or culturing flesh eating bacteria in the bathroom.  

It takes a village to dirty up the house, yet little ol' me to get it all spic and span again.  The teen always gets a heads up the day before I plan to do the "big" clean, which includes her Superfund bedroom.  It's not that it's dirty or gross, but just a total wreck with clothes and shoes and beauty accessories scattered everywhere.  If I can't walk to her dresser to dust it without first using a shovel to clear a path, then I'm just gonna have to close the door and wait until she gets home from school to shovel it herself.  The 6th grader is easily guilted usually compliant about having her room ready when I give her the one day notice.  The husband gets off easy since we share a room and I refuse to let it look like we're auditioning for that hoarders show.

What cracks me up is when some member of the family tells me I don't have to clean the house.  Really?  Are the fairy maids gonna come in tonight while we're all sleeping and do it for me?  Do you really wanna eat off the same dirty plate or use the same food crusted fork for a couple days because cleaning isn't necessary?  I firmly believe clean underwear and a toilet seat you're not afraid to sit on in your own home are an absolute must.  So by golly we will treat this house like a home rather than a barn.  I've got a collection of well-used toilet bowl brushes and I'm not afraid to use them.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Serving My Time

I've been a wily momma, laying/lying low and avoiding school commitments thus far.  Committees schmittees.  I made it to the 10th day of school until I received "the email", a sweetly worded missive from another momma who is already overworked and underappreciated, asking me if I would be team parent for the younger daughter's middle school volleyball squad.  That's the problem with modern technology, the inability to dodge getting involved since there's no way you can pretend to have missed a phone call, email and text.  

This is my last 9 months to be a total slug housewife, doing only what strikes my fancy, since I intend to return to the workaday world once we repatriate.  Now that the girls are 11 and 17, I've got a good thing going on.  As long as I keep everybody in freshly laundered underwear and the house clean enough to keep us from contracting the plague or some form of flesh-eating bacteria, then it's all good.  Food in the pantry and fridge is another thing the natives insist upon around here, but I can always save the day with a call to the local pizza joint or Chinese take out place.

Honestly, I think stay-at-home moms are geniuses.  When the kids start coming along, ladies quit their jobs because of germy daycares and having to miss work for sick kids and husbands who don't pitch in to do their part.  Ten zillion diapers later, the little ankle biters finally leave the nest for kindergarten.  Yippee - free childcare for 7 hours every day and a bus to pick them up so you can still be in your old robe as they shuffle out the door! By the time kids get to the point where they can pour their own cereal and crank up the DVR or video games all by themselves, mommas have figured out housewifery can be a pretty cushy gig while husbands are just pleased the wife is off their back about helping fold clothes or contributing to meals other than the occasional spin at the barbecue grill.  Once all of the kiddos are in school, housewives have paid their dues and hit easy street.

The thing is, I don't wanna be a resident here on easy street and it shows.  There's no point in pretending my husband would suddenly fall for a bit of smoke and mirrors about how I've become pleased as punch to scrub toilets and clean up the dinner dishes, continuing this hausfrau ruse gig.  If I was the June Cleaver or Olivia Walton type that just loved the role of domestic goddess, then I would no doubt continue in that role.  The truth is, I CAN HARDLY WAIT TO GET BACK TO TEXAS SO I CAN RESUME MY TEACHING CAREER!  Cheers to all the ladies who love staying at home, but I'm not even remotely tempted to join that club.  Hi ho, hi ho, it's back to work I go, and that is just fine by me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Special Delivery

Saturday morning, I heard the brass mail slot squeak on its 75-year-old hinges and fetched the two envelopes our local Royal Mail bike delivery guy had left for us.  The mail guy, who looks like he's old enough to be my dad, rides right up to our front door and doesn't even need to get off his bike.  

It's such a strange thing to have front door delivery since the mail box at the curb was the closest our mail person has ever been to the house back in Texas.  And the first couple times I heard the mail slot I immediately thought someone was breaking into the house since that just aint the way it's done back home. The trick with this more handy delivery system is that sometimes Ollie thinks things placed through the mail slot - envelopes, advertisements or local papers - are just hanging out right inside the front door on the rug for him and thus fair game for immediate destruction.  

Beating Ollie to the door, I discovered it was two separate notices for items needing delivery from Parcel Force Worldwide.  The import VAT (tax) and customs clearance fees totaled £27.64 for one of the parcels and £27.28 for the other.  And then insult is heaped upon injury when you convert it from pounds so that you realize it's $88.

I racked my brain, trying to figure out who had sent me two boxes from the US.  Was it a family member or friend?  Had I just gone online to pay $88 for some Reese's Pieces and Buc ee's t-shirts?  (Texas folks will totally get this reference.) Or maybe a couple of the universities where the teen recently applied sent her some course catalogs as well as really heavy housing and degree program booklets.  

After getting initially irritated at the cost when I paid it online with my debit card, and then forgetting about it over the course of the weekend, it dawned on me this morning the two boxes were probably wreaths I found online and ordered several weeks ago.

Isn't it cute... if a tad bit blurry since I filched it from the website.  I ordered a winter one in addition to a fall one.  They each cost about $100, so I thought it was a good deal.  Lord knows I can't whip up anything like this and if something this fabulous was readily available in England, it would cost twice as much.  

I think these mesh wreaths are really practical.  If they got wet in the English weather, or they fall off the door a time or two since the girls love to give it a brisk slam every danged day even though it rattles the front wall of the house, I won't be forced to strangle a kid or toss it out in the rubbish bin a couple months later when the cloth ribbons sprout mold.  

Thanks to a hefty $400 price tag, the other wreath I also found online (pasted below), drooled over and tried to justify purchasing for several weeks got shot down by my conscience.  

I figured even a Jedi mind trick strong, logical argument (you've gotta spend money to save it, this will cost like 35¢ a year by the time I die and pass it on to one of the girls to hang on their front door and you just know they'll fight over it because it will still be in such good shape with its cute little hand-sewn boots) still wouldn't get the husband to understand that the cost was totally justified by its over-the-top preciousness.  And maybe I would have resembled Gollum a bit in my zealousness, hiss and all, as I pleaded my wreath's case with master... but who wouldn't when faced with a darling pair of Santa pants sporting a belt buckle.  

So anyhoo, once I figured out what the parcels must be, I got miffed because it dawned on me I had already paid $50 for the wreath lady to ship each one.  And I'm thinking maybe she isn't too savvy with the whole international shipping racket because you round DOWN.  The mesh ribbon, hot glue and wire base, along with a few Christmas doodads, couldn't have cost her more than $25 at the local Wal-Mart or craft store. I guess that just proves how valuable a skill ribbon wrapping and bow tying are to an expat wanting a dose of American holiday fabulousness for the front door.  Now my wreaths are especially precious since I've paid about double what I originally planned to spend.    

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Go Teams!

In the US today, college fans are gearing up for tailgating and a fabulous football Saturday.  Over here in the UK, the girls and I are gonna huddle up around the 24" computer screen to watch a bit of football live streamed over the internet.  

With the exception of one "yankee" university near the Canadian border, the rest of the teen's ten other application schools have football teams.  Today, 7 of the 10 are playing games that will be live streamed on a website here in the European Union.  Every time I pull up this website, I have to contend with a bunch of annoying pop up ads.  

It's obvious I'm not this website's typical viewer or their target audience. I was checking the viewing schedule earlier this morning and the three pop ups were for horny Russian women ready to hook up with locals like me, how to get my GED in just one week from the comfort of my own home and online gambling with guaranteed jackpots. If advertisers for this site want to catch my attention, then they need to be promoting things like diets that allow you to eat raw cookie dough and not gain an ounce.  Or how to sit on my butt and watch my favorite TV shows while burning calories.  And my fave internet ads... the ones where a 55 yr old housewife looks 27 just by following one secret tip.

At least we have some beautiful weather forecast for today that reminds me of Texas in mid October.  The windows are thrown open so we can enjoy some fresh air under a blue sky in these mild temps.  Now all I need to do is make a run to the grocery store to pick up some game snacks and we'll be all set.  

Good luck to the Aggies, Gamecocks, Hawkeyes, Horned Frogs, Jayhawks, Longhorns, Minutemen and Tigers x2.  The Bears are off this weekend.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Old Dog, New Vocabulary Trick

A few days ago, I received the following email from our neighborhood association regarding an open meeting in nearby Hersham for one of the local members of parliament (MP).

At the bottom of the flier, the MP included the following:

I hold regular monthly surgeries, by appointment.  To request an appointment, please write to me at the House of Commons (address here), including as much information as possible so I can assess the best way to assist.  

What confused me was his use of the word SURGERIES.  I've seen the word surgery used before in a context that obviously did not involve an operation since it was on a flier posted by our local police department in the window of the dry cleaners I use.  

Intrigued enough to seek clarification, I discovered that surgery is Brit speak for when someone like a lawyer or MP or police person is available for consultation.  Isn't that interesting?  I wonder how many parents would freak out if I put on my next teacher website that I'm available for surgeries (parent teacher meetings) on a daily basis.  Bahahaha!

I'm a big ol' nerd and think it's cool that I learned a new way to use the word surgery.  I've been fascinated with the British vernacular lately.  What we call loops in the US (roads that circle major cities so you don't have to go through the big middle of them) are called ring roads over here.  In Britain it's not counter clockwise, but rather anti-clockwise.  And I love the way they pronounce certain words so differently from the way we do in America, like vitamin.  Click on the link below and push the "pronunciation" button below the two red stars to hear how the British say it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Rub A Dub Dub

This morning I told Ollie that his aroma brings to mind an old bag of Fritos and so he will probably be getting a bath after he returns from doggie daycare this afternoon.  He was perched in my lap at the computer, his usual place to lounge right after he's released from his kennel and made a potty run.  He hops up onto my lap and hangs out there while I check my emails and such.

Since today is late start for school - every Wednesday throughout the year, classes don't start until 9:15 so the teachers can have faculty meetings - the teen was ready for the bus in advance of it pulling into our driveway, so she snapped a couple pics of the beast.  He likes to rest his chin on my right arm, the one I'm using to work the mouse.  

I got a really good whiff of old Fritos when I flipped him over like a baby.  

Why does the smell always seem to emanate from his paws?  It's not as if he's some 7th grade boy who wears the same socks to school all week in the Texas heat.  

Despite the Frito smell, I still wuv my widdle Mookie (my nickname for Ollie because it's what we do - give our kids embarrassing nicknames).  Who could resist that sweet little face, the one I'll have to clean off with a washrag while he tries to nip it from my hands.  Who'll roll around on the couch trying to wipe the "clean" off once he's released from the bathtub.  Who will want to sit in my lap when he's still damp so it looks like I peed my pants.  Oh the joys of parenting.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Driving the Dingle Peninsula

August in the west counties of Ireland was a tad damp and cool.  We all wore rainjackets and the husband even put on a cap in the mornings to ward off the mist.  Our first full day in County Kerry, we drove the Dingle Peninsula in our low slung Audi that almost required a winch for the husband and I to get out at every scenic vista and local bit of history along the narrow little country road about wide enough for 1.5 cars.

Lovely views... in the mist.

Plus some sheep as well as a seagull.

And puppies... collie puppies for sale.  We saw some of the adults working sheep in the fields and it was fun to watch.  

We stopped to take a look at Dunbeg Fort, a relic of the Iron Age from 500 BC to 500 AD. 

We had to walk from the car down a path to see the fort and there was a hoofed critter in the field adjoining the property, just hanging out next to the fence letting me take its pic.

We parked the car in the lot of this pub with a really cool stone roof.

Over to the side of this building, up against the hedge, was a permanently dry docked currach boat.  These are the traditional fishing boats of the west coast, lightweight and easy to haul.  It's just a wooden frame covered with cowhide and painted with tar, hence the black color.

The thatched roof cottages below were abandoned by a family 150 years ago during the potato famine and we paid a couple euro to walk through and see what life was like in those hardscrabble days.

The cottages adjacent to this one were definitely not fixed up and tourable, but I thought they were equally evocative.

In the famine cottage, I 'bout peed my pants when I caught a glimpse of the mannequin child in the top left corner of the pic.  Serious scary movie potential because I was totally creeped out.

Of course, I immediately noticed the slug on the rim of another mannequin's bowl, a poor starving teenage boy looking for food.  I imagine those pitiful souls would have probably made a meal out of the slimy fellow. A juicy morsel, but I don't know that it would be particularly tasty even if they toasted or roasted or stewed him for a long while.

I was intrigued by the clochans along our route, also known as beehive huts.  Archaeologists believe they date from the middle ages and were used by monks.  Here is the husband peeping out of one that was built as part of a small ring fort.

I took the pic above because I like the juxtaposition of the middle age stone structure with the modern telephone pole behind it.  Plus the mist further up the hill is a nice touch.  Down the field and across the road from this hut is where Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise filmed parts of "Far and Away".  

We pulled over to take a pic at Slea Head of the crucifix because it was a stark contrast to the rocks behind it.  Thanks to the foggy mist, we weren't able to look across the water and see the Blasket Islands.  

One of our final stops on the Dingle loop was a place where boats could be put into the water.  It was wet and slimy and slippery and so the three goats gave it a go while I enjoyed the view and took some more photos.

Below is a pic the teen took of the tidal pools.  And beneath that is a shot of the sea glass and a couple rocks they picked up down on the beach.  I didn't get around to taking this until we had returned to the B&B later that day.

The final pic sums up how the girls spend a lot of their holiday time - the little sister taking pics of her big sister.  Holland via Texas friend Tammie suggested the younger daughter take the teen's senior pics.  At least I could afford her rates.