Thursday, December 27, 2018

Post Christmas, Pre New Year

Oh, hello! I am here, having made it through Christmas, Boxing Day, and the assorted cat sitting duties that came before and after. Christmas is a lot of work, isn't it? Even with ours being fairly low key, there are still presents to wrap, food to make, etc., etc., etc. And somehow our house is a disaster throughout the Christmas season. I see photos of other people's supposed Christmas disasters, with a bit of wrapping paper strewn throughout an otherwise clean room, and I think, "Really? That's as bad as it got?" In our house, there's recycling piled up, laundry piled up, dishes piled up. And sprinkles pretty much everywhere. How do they end up everywhere? I swear they can walk, or maybe fly.

But it was a good Christmas, mess included. We got a lot of things cleared up on Boxing Day, and that felt good. I still have a list of things which need to be attended to, but that's just the general state of my life. Now we are taking advantage of J being off work until the new year and are spending some time doing family fun type things together. Today we went to the cinema, and tomorrow we'll head for one of favorite palaces, where there are always special Christmas things going on. Our weekend looks pretty typical, but then we've got New Year's Eve and New Year's Day fun planned. I hope to have a little more time to take it slow before Genna, and then we are back to normal life. Time is flying.

Friday, December 21, 2018

We're Going to Need More Butter

I mistakenly thought that three of these blocks of butter, at 250 grams each, would be plenty for our Christmas needs. Ha! It's barely enough for the triple batch of sugar cookies and assorted frostings we need in order to be Christmas ready with our treats for Santa and for Christmas liturgy at church. But don't worry, I got eight different types of sprinkles. We're all set with that. However, judging by the catastrophe I turned my kitchen into (see spilled nuts and flour above), I also might need a maid before all is said and done.

We are now fully into the throes of Christmas activities. We don't have tons, but we have plenty of traditions we like to keep, and those take time and effort. I also have taken a job over Christmas, so there's that to attend to.

Yes, a job.

Over Christmas!

But don't worry, it is nothing too taxing. I have become a professional cat sitter. With online booking and insurance and everything! I will be looking after two British shorthairs beginning tomorrow, and an elderly tuxedo cat with a thyroid problem beginning on Christmas Eve. I like all the cats and their owners quite a lot, and while the scheduling on Christmas Day might be a bit of a juggle, I'm happy to do the work and earn a little extra money.

I'm not sure how often I'll come here to write next week. We've hit pause on most of our usual things, but I might still feel like doing this usual thing. I will keep you posted. Pun intended.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

(A Shorter) Bob's Your Uncle

My friend L came over today and cut my hair. I had a bob already, but I wanted her to trim it up a bit and get it ready for my next hair plan. This is not the most glamorous photo I could've shared of my new cut, admittedly, but frankly I didn't have much else to write about today, and I felt like it would be weird to talk about my new haircut without a photo of it. So here you are presented with the bathroom selfie. But it gives you the general idea, yes? I went a bit shorter than the bob I had before, with a few little layers, and I like it. I like it a lot. But it won't stay like this for long. After this, I'll grow it out. Thus the layers - they'll grow out more nicely than a more blunt cut.

I figured out sometime within the past two years that it is easier for me to have short hair in the winter. The reason for this is: winter hats. They fit over my short hair better, and they don't press my hair into my neck, which I find to be supremely uncomfortable. Try as I might, I never figured out a way to get a ponytail under a winter hat (and also arranged to accommodate my winter scarf) in a way that didn't look weird, and leaving longer hair loose never worked out either. Conversely, I find that longer hair works better in the summer, when I want it out of my way and have no need of a hat. In the summer, the breeze would blow bobbed hair right into my sweaty face, and I couldn't pull it back. So for summer, a ponytail is my jam.

And so, here I am, with less hair in the winter, planning to have far more by summer. It does seem counterintuitive, doesn't it? But it works! So I'm doing it! Yay!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Lazy Days

A little while ago I saw a blog post linked in an online home ed group I'm in, about how the author learned to treat homeschooling like it was her job and made her life better, and I clicked right through, because I find homeschool work/life balance to be a bit elusive. I thought she was going to espouse things like stopping at a certain time and having time out from chasing after the Best Education Possible, but in fact she wrote about working harder at it because she treated it like it was a job, and obviously everyone wants to work as hard as possible at their job.

Honestly? I am not interested in working harder at it than I already am. (Working smarter and better, sure, but harder? Nope.) I'm interested in some boundaries so I can stop feeling guilty about all the things that I am choosing not to do for and with my children, in service of everyone getting adequate rest and having emotional balance. So that blog post was clearly not for me. Maybe no one has written the post that I need to read. That post would say that it is 100% possible to be a workaholic when your job is to homeschool your kids. Because it is. And it's just as undesirable in home ed as it is in other professions.

In every job I've ever had, there have been times that there was a lull in what I was required to do. I never felt guilty about not doing enough work at those times. Pass the magazines! Is it 5pm yet? But here in my house, where the lines between the job of educating my children and the work of making other things run smoothly is blurred, it is harder to embrace that lull. There are always more things to do around here. I feel a little guilty that for the last week I've not felt like doing many of them, or that I've only wanted to do one per day, even though I've got time for more. But we need a break, and I know it.

Our mornings have always been slow, but now they are even slower. As of today, we are minimizing what we do in our school lessons. E has a reading lesson, I read from a couple of novels for Z (with E listening in and making both excellent observations and funny ones), and they do some work on education apps that they like. That's it. Christmas is coming. The family business of homeschooling is in a lull. Pass the magazines! We are going to embrace this.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Winter in London

Saturday was the first day this year that I felt chilly enough that I consider it to be winter here. Up to this point, temperatures have been fairly mild. I don't expect it to freeze - that's just not London's thing most of the time - but I expect to not be sweating inside my coat. I grew up where winters get very cold, so to me London's usual winter temperature range feels manageable. I try to refrain from complaining about the weather until late March, when I feel it is officially acceptable to be sick of using the radiators and getting cold at bus stops.

But I will admit that the kind of cold that we experience here is different, and so I won't begrudge anyone else their bit of grousing about it. It's a damp cold. It slips under the door of these old Victorian houses and stays awhile. And it rains. A lot. Most of the year, I dry my clothes outdoors. That doesn't work in the winter. Even when it is not raining, there is so little daylight that nothing will dry during the sunny hours. My theory is that this is the real reason that most houses have radiators; people need a place to dry their clothes.

The other problem with rain is that you cannot stay out in it nearly as long as you can in the snow, unless you've outfitted yourself with waterproof trousers in addition to a raincoat and wellies. I have a lightweight, waterproof jacket that is big enough to fit over my winter coat and goes nearly to my knees, but anything below it eventually gets fully soaked. The only pleasant thing about that particular experience is getting home and getting into dry things and having a cup of tea on the sofa while I recover.

But still, I can't complain about the winter. It really isn't that bad. I just have to manage it. There's been a bit of a learning curve, but this is our fifth winter here, and I think I've got it mostly sussed. It's important to check the weather app before leaving the house and see if and when the rain will be arriving for the day. Sometimes it comes by surprise, so tucking my rain jacket into my bag for a day out is never a bad idea. An extra pair of gloves is helpful. For a mist or drizzle, my winter coat and hat will keep me dry enough to run my Saturday errands, but if I'm meant to be outdoors for thirty minutes or more, that won't do.

An umbrella is handy only in certain situations, and I mostly don't like to mess with it, so it's better to bring the rain jacket if I only want to carry one thing. In fact, I'm not a big fan of the umbrella overall; it's so little protection with so many possibilities for things to go a bit wrong. More often than not, I leave it at home. A water resistant bag has been incredibly helpful - I have two Orla Kiely laminated bags (one backpack and one messenger) that mostly keep out the water. I'm mindful not to put my phone too near the zip closure, and I've never had a problem, even when caught briefly in a downpour. But mostly the smartest thing is to try to stay out of the heaviest rain. It is rare that a downpour lasts for more than ten minutes.

It is also rare that winter lasts longer than I can bear. Not being a fan of summer, I am happy to make these adjustments in order to be comfortable when I am out and about in a season that doesn't leave me sweaty and unable to function normally. One can always add more layers. Or, just stay home and have a cup of tea.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Our New Addition

Yesterday was busier than anticipated, at least in the hours after noon. This is the reason that I didn't manage to post. There was hair to do and dinner to make, and J was at a Christmas party, so I gave up my computer so the children could watch a movie after dinner and not feel like they were missing out on fun that someone else was having. Blogging from my phone is a no go, so I just didn't do it. I considered just letting it go and posting again on Monday, but I can't wait that long to introduce you to someone. She's very special.

Friends, I am overjoyed to announce the arrival of our new family member, Buttercup. She has been longed for since I had to leave my previous yellow KitchenAid in the USA due to voltage differences. I briefly considered getting a KitchenAid of a different color, because other colors were cheaper, but I couldn't do it. I'd just be disappointed every time I looked at it. With Buttercup, I only feel happiness.

All joking aside (and I'm not joking about calling her Buttercup), I am very happy to have a KitchenAid mixer again. I got a serviceable stand mixer when we arrived here, but we were on a budget, so I couldn't spend much. We were replacing all our small electrical items at one time, and a KitchenAid would've used up the entire budget I'd set out for that.

The cost of the KitchenAid is entirely justified, in my opinion, as it functions so much better than any other stand mixer I've used (and definitely better than my own two arms), but that doesn't mean that I could just go out and buy one. So I made do with a basic mixer that had good reviews on Amazon, and it was fine. Some tasks were harder and/or more annoying, but it was okay. I'd rather live in London and not have a KitchenAid than not live in London and have one. But now I get to have my cake and eat it too, it appears. I assumed that I wouldn't have a KitchenAid for another couple of years, at least. But J offered to pool his birthday money with my birthday money to get one, and so here she is. I am endlessly grateful.

Welcome home, Buttercup. You are a dream come true.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Food for My Family

E made her own lunch today, and she was very pleased with her choices. Nutella sandwich, and a sweet in each category: chocolate and fruit flavor. I was pleased that I didn't have to make her lunch. Everybody was happy.

I know I've written about how my kids eat in the past. At least, I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it. But it's been awhile, and some things have changed, so I'm going to mention it again. The way we approach our kids' food has been liberating both for them and for us, and it ranks high on the list of things that have made day to day parenting easier. We have very little conflict about food (except when someone eats the last cookie, and then I get annoyed).

I'm not saying that this is the way to approach food with kids, but I thought I'd share in case there's something we do that resonates with you as something that would be worth trying in your own family. We came to our current system by seeing what worked for others and trying some of it ourselves, so I'm just passing along what I've learned along the way.

Basically, here is our deal. We loosely follow Ellyn Satter's food responsibilities. As parents, we are in charge of deciding what is available to eat and drink and when it is available. Our kids are responsible for choosing what they will eat from the available choices and how much. We don't follow all the Satter directives in terms of timing, because that part doesn't work for us. It's too regimented. Our kids can eat whatever they'd like to have throughout the day from the foods that are available (usually leftovers, fruit, and treats in our treat basket), though I've requested that they not prepare themselves the equivalent of a full meal when it's just an hour before dinner time.

Somehow they started asking me if they could have certain sweets (probably because I kept getting annoyed when someone ate the last cookie), which is nice because I sometimes will recommend they have something in addition to those sweets if I know that they will be hungry later without something more filling. But I nearly always say yes to whatever they want to have, because the deal is that if we've made it available, they can have it. A lot of people feel that this type of practice puts children in the danger zone for the dreaded obesity epidemic, but we have not found that to be true. I think that the causes of what is being called the obesity epidemic are a lot more complicated than unfettered access to sweets and calories in/calories out. So I do not worry about this at all. Often my kids will prefer what they refer to as food food to sweets or other "junk" food.

We eat dinner together as a family most nights. I make one meal for all of us, and I try to make sure that there's something on the table that each person in the family likes. Sometimes this means that one of us will only eat one thing on the table. This includes J and me. In my case, having battled chronic heartburn and finally managed it in a way that makes my life feel mostly normal, I know that I need to listen to my body in terms of what I should eat. I want my children to do the same, and so far it seems that they do. E doesn't eat as much veg as I'd like, but I keep making it an option. Sometimes it takes awhile for a kid to feel comfortable trying something new. Z sometimes has very particular reasons for rejecting a food, and I do my best to respect those. My only quibble with my kids choosing not to eat something is if they insult the cook in the process of rejecting foods. And as they are normal kids, sometimes this happens.

I don't think this system is perfect, but it is working out well for us for now. I am hoping to figure out more veg that all of us like to eat and to prepare more of a variety of meals. (I'm in a bit of a meal planning rut.) I buy more processed things than I feel is ideal, but at this point in time I can't make my own bread or most breakfast foods that my kids and I like to eat. Sometimes we have homemade banana bread or muffins, but mostly we have been having Tesco doughnuts, crepes, and other pastries. Our kids are growing well and are generally healthy, just picking up the odd cold or tummy bug like most kids do, so I feel that their nutritional intake is working for them. As the meal planner and cook, I'm happy with the low stress level of this style of managing food for our family. It's ok. Not ideal, but that's not what I'm aiming for. This works, and we will keep doing it until it doesn't.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Where to Find Me for the Rest of 2018

Right here.

Ok, well, not all the time. But having gotten our last planned activity of the term done, I intend to spend more time under cats, in my bed, coffee in hand, than has been possible lately. This is always how I start my day, but there's not been much lingering here lately, and I do love to linger. Now I will have my chance. As we march steadily toward the solstice, the days get shorter, and it is time for a well earned rest. When the sun rises around 8am and sets before 4pm, it feels natural to spend a little less time doing things and a little more time getting cozy. I am ready for it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Teaching My Children Through Literature (is Pure Joy)

After confessing yesterday that I pretty much hate teaching my children to read, I thought I should counter that with telling you about my favorite part of homeschooling. It is this, as pictured above - reading aloud to my children and discussing what we are reading. I love reading good books to my kids. I love exploring history and different perspectives and why people do what they do. All the other subjects come alive within the context of stories that expose the human condition. We read biographies and fiction and Shakespeare and myths of all sorts. Historical fiction is our current favorite; we can't get enough. When we have time, I read more than I had planned for the day. I pick up extra books which aren't part of the curriculum. Because we love it.

Right now we are reading The Book Thief and The Poisonwood Bible, neither of which are part of the Charlotte Mason curriculum that we use as the framework for our studies. These are primarily for Z, but E often listens in. I edit a bit as I read to omit things which are not age appropriate, but the stories and themes are things we can discuss. We ask each other questions. I tell them what I think is important, which is mostly that it's essential to do your best to find out what's really happening and why. Who do we want to be in our own stories? What can we learn from these people, both the ones who walked this earth and those who are fictional characters? How do our own experiences affect how we take in information? When we talk together, I feel like I am teaching my children the things that matter. 

I don't know how successful I am at this - results are not measurable, like math or spelling. And they don't have to receive or retain the lessons. But I hope they do. I hope that what they learn allows them to understand others and to be critical thinkers who can suss out the truth from all the information that will be handed to them. I am pouring my heart into this, hoping for the best. And I am loving it.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Teaching My Children to Read (is Torture)

I started teaching Z to read much earlier than I intended to. We hadn't been homeschooling long when she announced that she needed to know how to read. She was younger than I thought she'd be when we commenced reading instruction, but she would not be deterred. She insisted, because she couldn't wait for us to read her stories every time she wanted one read. Sometimes we were too busy or too tired or one of the other reasons that adults have for not doing something that a child wants them to do, when the child wants them to do it. This has been her way with a lot of things; if we can't or won't do something, she will just take care of it herself. So she determined that she needed to learn to read, and she did, despite some difficulties in her way.

With E things have been different. She said she wanted to learn to read, and we began the same book I used to help Z learn (Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons), and we installed two reading apps on the old iPhone she uses for this sort of thing, for independent study. But E wasn't as keen on continuing to learn after we got through about a third of the lessons in the book. At some point she decided the book was too boring and too hard, and she didn't want to do it anymore. As she was just on the cusp of turning six years old at the time, I set the book aside and encouraged her to use the apps when she wanted screen time. But I didn't push it.

In most cases, I would rather wait until my children are ready and willing to learn things before we make a herculean effort. To me, one of the greatest weaknesses of current education policy is the expectation for kids to learn things ever earlier. This is something that I feel that a lot of people don't understand about kids and academic pursuits - many kids can learn early, but it is a much bigger challenge than if you wait until their development advances a bit. And for those who simply are not ready to learn, it gives a sense of failure that is unfair to say the least. In our case, I knew E could learn to read if I pushed her. I absolutely could have forced her to do the lessons last winter and spring, but it would've been really difficult (for both of us!) and utterly unnecessary. I'm not into doing things that are difficult if they are utterly unnecessary. It seems...rather silly.

This term I realized that she was ready, but being willing is another thing altogether for E. With plenty of people around to read to her or tell her stories, which Z is keen to do frequently, she had no need to read things for herself most of the time. If she were going to learn at this point, she would have to be required to do the lessons. I wasn't opposed to waiting a bit longer, but there are a lot of things that she wants to do that she could do independently if she were able to read, and while she may say she doesn't want to read, she does want to do some of those things for herself. So I decided that, for her own sake, I would force her. We started the book over again. She flew through the first quarter of the lessons; we did two per day. Then she asked to do just one per day, and I agreed. We are on lesson forty now, and it is going well. I wouldn't say easily, as she would still rather not have to do it, but we manage. There are a few things that she wants to do each day which she cannot do until the reading lesson is done, and so she does it.

I have confidence that she will move through the remaining sixty lessons with relative ease. I've promised her that after she's done all the lessons and knows how reading works, she won't have to do any more required reading for me. This is what keeps her going without excessive whining - if she does the lessons daily, she will be done well before Easter. She looks forward to this, and I do, too.

When we set out to homeschool, I didn't really think about what the hardest parts would be. We were just trying to do what was right for Z, so we did it. But in hindsight, I see that my biggest challenge as a teacher has been reading instruction. There are other hurdles for sure, especially as we encounter more advanced material for Z, but something about the reading instruction process is difficult for me in a way that other things aren't. I am pleased as punch when my kids can read, but I do not get a warm, happy feeling from the learning process, as some fellow homeschooling parents have described. I'm white knuckling my way through it.

I get the sense that I'm not the only homeschooling parent who feels this way, which is why I am writing this today. It's okay if you don't love it. It's okay if you don't feel particularly nurturing while trying to get your child to say the sound for h when she wants to say Hamilton every time instead. (This was cute the first time. It got old fast.) We don't have to adore every aspect of home education. Sometimes, we just need to get the job done, and so we do it. There is nothing wrong with that. And as a bonus? For those of us who hate teaching reading the most, at least we're getting our biggest frustration out of the way early. After this, I'm pretty confident I can manage to teach my kids anything.

Friday, December 7, 2018

What Happens When It's Just Us

This week has found us mostly on our own. I think the last time it was just us for this long, we were in Nice (which is where the photo above is from). This week has been really good for all of us, in my opinion at least. When life is slower and we don't have a lot of outside input, we are all more relaxed. I get more done with less effort. We get through our school lessons in what feels like record time. My children get along better. That's the best part. It's not that they don't get along well most of the time, but when they are given a lot of time together, they fall into an easy rhythm, and they enjoy each other more. At the end of this week, I've found them in the same room with each other most of the time. They've got  a wide variety of things they are doing together, an endless array of ongoing activities to choose from. Their arguments are worked out within moments, and they continue with what they are doing. It's like a little bit of sister magic, all week long.

Obviously we can't have weeks like this all the time. But I hope that we continue to have them often enough that the relationship they have with one another continues to be well rooted in a sisterly bond, and to grow as they do. There will come a time when they will not have so much time to spend together. What we have now is an opportunity that will pass, and I am more aware than ever that the years that we can arrange our lives in this way are fleeting. I hope that we have enough weeks like this that the easy rhythm becomes well practiced, and they can fall into it whenever they are together, for the rest of their lives.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Motion of Life Slows

Tomorrow we have a full day at home. I can't remember when that last happened. We seem to always have somewhere to go, something to do, if not during the day, then in the evening. But tomorrow, there is nothing. On Monday, E had her last ballet class of the term. I have washed her uniform already, but I didn't need to rush it. I did it because I had time. That felt nice. I tucked it into her drawer today, knowing I wouldn't have to reach for it for a month.

On Tuesday, Z will have her last violin lesson of the term. We end the homeschool meet up term with a party on Wednesday. And then the hustle and bustle of term time life pauses altogether. I haven't made any decisions about when we will pause our usual lessons; we are enjoying them right now, so I see no need. It seems to be enough to have the space allowed by no extracurriculars to attend to. Even the Saturday classes are done. For the next month, we have a little breathing room.

Even the usual errands are tapering off, and this Saturday instead of scurrying from one shop to another as I normally do, I am taking the train to Windsor to take things slow. That is my intention for the entire Christmas season from here on out - take things slow. I am excited about this. It's going to be so good. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

More Than I Deserve

I was away at a parish council meeting for much of the evening, and I rode home partway with a fellow council member. We got to talking about holiday plans and where we come from and how we have decided to do what we are doing now, where we are doing it - both for the Christmas season and in life overall. We somehow got on the subject of homeschool, and as a person who has worked in education and who knows my kids, she had a lot of observations to share, and I walked away thinking about how lucky we are to have this option for our children. Sometimes I get to feeling overwhelmed with all that we need to do and all the decisions we need to make, but when it comes right down to it, the opportunity to do this is a gift. I'm sure I've said this before, but it bears repeating.

So much of what my life is filled with falls into this same category, of being a gift. I did not do anything to deserve this. I think that as human beings we like for things to make sense, and what would make sense is that if someone works hard and is kind, many good things will come to them. But I know lots of people who work hard and are kind who are struggling. I don't think that our own actions have as much to do with it as we'd like to think. Which is not to say that we shouldn't do the work which is set before us and be kind, but that we shouldn't be so eager to pat ourselves on the back. We shouldn't conjure up connections which don't actually exist.

I have been given so many things lately that I want. It boggles the mind, really. Here I sit in my warm house, with my family falling asleep down the hall. Soon I'll get into my own bed and read a book that I ordered because I wanted it, and another that was a gift from my godmother. I'll wake in the morning and shuffle into my kitchen, where there will I will pull my favorite coffee mug from the dishwasher and make myself coffee that I will drink in bed. I don't have to wash my own dishes, and I spend time just sitting in bed in the morning - if that's not luxury, I don't know what is.

When I was so busy last week, there wasn't much time to think. I felt so overwhelmed that I couldn't see what a privilege my entire life is right now. But as things have slowed, I see it. I know that I am blessed and lucky. I know that I have it easy in ways that many people do not. I am glad for this reminder of it, and I am grateful for this life.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Adding Quiet

Where that chair is in the photo, there is now a Christmas tree. I got up earlier than I preferred on Sunday morning to go more than an hour by Tube and bus to get the IKEA Christmas tree deal - buy a tree for £25, and get a £20 voucher to spend in January. I really couldn't resist, as I've got more than £20 worth of things on my "to buy at IKEA" list. I thought this might not work out, because the kids have wanted to go to get the tree as a family in the past, but this year they didn't mind if they didn't come along. I think that the past two years of getting the tree at the Marks & Spencer food hall has left them with a pervasive sense of boredom when it comes to Christmas tree acquisition.

This was more than fine with me. I was happy to go on my own to get the tree. It feels lately like there is a lot to do with a whole lot of people, and that leaves me feeling utterly unsettled. I need time to myself to feel okay. One might argue - and be right! - that queueing for a Christmas tree at IKEA isn't exactly time to myself, but at least it was time that I didn't have to be keeping track of anyone else or negotiating which tree to get. I got the one that I could bring home most easily on public transit; that was my only priority. And for a few moments on the trip to and fro, I sat quietly on my own.

I am trying to find more of these moments for myself. Part of my quest to get the Christmas tree was to get that necessary item checked off the list, to have very little left to do before the holiday itself. There is a lot of pressure to be doing things at Christmastime, but I am working on making this time of year quieter, not just for myself, but for us as a family. We've got another week in which there are some activities, but after that, I am planning nothing. I am stocking up on tea and baked goods. I have ordered some books. There are a few activities we always do over the Christmas holidays, and we will do those things, but I am adding nothing new. Instead, I am adding quiet. Or at least, I am trying.

I will let you know how it goes.

Monday, December 3, 2018


Of all the things that happened in the last week while I was insanely busy, obviously the most important thing was that I celebrated my 43rd birthday. Forty-three isn't a very significant number, and I don't feel that it's much different from being 42. In fact, prior to my birthday, I kept forgetting that I wasn't 43 already. But now I am, officially.

Like many adults, I did my usual work during the day on my birthday. It was the day of one of our fortnightly home ed meet ups, so I did that, came home, and really didn't want to do much else. This is where it came in handy that it was my birthday, because I didn't feel at all bad about sending my children away to have extra screen time so that I could sit alone in the living room and read. I joked that it was an introvert's birthday party - no one else was invited, but cats were allowed. Honestly, it was just what I needed.

And then J came home with takeaway dinner and cake, and I didn't have to do much of anything that I normally do in the evening. I got the gifts I wanted and one surprise, and it was just right. I don't need or want a big celebration. I want a little bit of a quiet and a meal I don't have to make myself. So it was perfect. Hooray for 43!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Trapped, But Gently

Z walked by this photo and said, "Oh, Lucy looks so cute in this photo!" And she does. What Z failed to notice was the way Lucy was positioning her body in order to maximize her chances of successful escape. While she enjoys much of the attention lavished on her by E, she is not exactly a fan of being held like a baby against her will. But did she run when she saw E coming? No. And so here she is.

I feel a little like Lucy this week. Trapped, gently but firmly. In my case, I am held by a series of events and tasks related to those events. I got myself into this predicament (well, mostly), but unlike the cat, I can't wriggle away or bite my way out. My way out is through making lists, and checking things off those lists. My way out is through plowing through the week until Sunday, when the last item - getting a Christmas tree - can be checked off. Until then, it's full steam ahead.

And so I've decided that I will give myself a little break from writing here for the rest of the week. It has been a good exercise for me to come up with a little something to type out each week night, but this week I simply can't manage it without compounded my feeling of being held against my will. Should something arise that I feel simply must be shared, I'll pop in. If not, expect to see me next Monday, when I will crow about my status as a woman liberated from the bonds of creating nervous system crafts, hosting children's vespers, and getting a Christmas tree (among other things - many, many other things). In fact, if I'm lucky, I'll have a fully decorated Christmas tree to take a terrible photo of so I can show it to you.

Won't that be fun? It will.

Friday, November 23, 2018

TGIF! I Finished My Christmas Shopping!

As of today at 4pm, all of my Christmas shopping was complete, including the wrapping paper. My goal of being done by my birthday - which is on the 28th - has been met. Hooray!

I can't claim to have made this happen by myself. I was aided in part by the fact that J was working from home, and my children are now capable of occupying themselves for a few hours while I am away. I gave instructions that they weren't to bother J at all, but get what they needed to eat and drink on their own, and they did it. It's like a miracle! Except I think in reality it is the natural progression of time and maturity. Plus, they are really good kids...who can be motivated/distracted by a movie. Basically, just normal kids that can get things from the fridge themselves. If you have young children and feel like the work will never end, be encouraged! This is possible for you, too.

Tomorrow I start wrapping the presents, and on December 1 we'll have the last weekend obligations of the Christmas season to attend to. Then it's just the four of us and whatever Christmas magic we decide to make. I am very excited about this.

Happy weekend, friends!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

How We Spent Thanksgiving

Last year we didn't celebrate Thanksgiving. I was not sad about this. Being Debbie Downer and also a home educator, I am really not keen on history being taught incorrectly, and Thanksgiving highlights a lot of narratives that are simply untrue. Also, I'm an introvert and can't eat a lot in one sitting, so it's just not my fave. But I do believe in thankfulness. And I am most definitely thankful for what happened on Thanksgiving this year.

Today, the kids and I were invited to see Hamilton with some dear friends who were visiting from the US. It was wonderful - both the show and being with our friends. If ever there was a Thanksgiving I approve of, it is this one. The whole day was a real treat, and we are so very grateful for the invitation and for the time spent together. The show was absolutely wonderful (we want to see it again!), and our friends are even more so. What a privilege to be surrounded by good things on this day. I give thanks for all that we have been given.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Letting Kids Help is Hard (for Me)

Confession: I am terrible at letting my kids help me with most day to day tasks. I mean, absolutely horrible. And so I don't have them help me regularly. I know. I'm awful. This puts me out of the running for Mother of the Year, and I'm going to have to accept that. And I will accept that. Because I would rather just keep doing most necessary household work by myself. (See? Awful.)

It's not that I never allow my children to help with things. As you see above, E is using a very well saturated paint brush to "help" paint our living room. Full disclosure: I only allowed this for about five minutes. But because I rarely have her help with this sort of thing, she was fully satisfied, thinking it was a real treat. In this way, I am clearly winning with my current strategy. But I still sometimes feel like I should allow them to help more.

I'll be honest that I have no idea how to make this happen without a lot of discomfort on my end. Every single personality test I've ever taken indicates that I work best independently. It's not that I can't collaborate; it's just that I do my bit the best on my own. And so it is in my life in general. I work best alone. I don't want my children to help cook every meal or do every home improvement task. I really just can't stand it. This doesn't mean it shouldn't ever happen, but I'm just not going to be the mom that calls her children in to work alongside her each time she enters the kitchen or starts a new project. And I think that's okay, overall. In every family - in every relationship, really - we must sometimes do something because it is fun for the other person. It might feel like nails on a chalkboard, but if we love someone, we put up with doing unpleasant things.

Here's what I have figured out to make it work for me. I need to plan ahead. It needs to happen when I have plenty of patience and we have plenty of time. Z is at the age now where her help is becoming helpful, but E's help just creates more work. I need to be ready to do the extra work and not care much that this work is coming my way. It's best if the house is in somewhat decent order, as I know that after cleaning up the messes that come along with a child helping, I will be a bit more cranky than usual about finding jackets tossed over random surfaces, sweets wrappers on the floor, or a half eaten muffin stowed in E's bed.

Once the conditions are right, I just have to go for it. This is not a bonding activity for me, but my kids feel valued when I do it, so I do. That's the bottom line. I make it happen. It is good, because my kids feel good, and then we are done until the next time someone comes up with a very helpful idea. I hope no one comes up with any helpful ideas anytime soon. We've got Christmas cookie baking and decorating coming up in about a month, and that might take all the rest of the strength I have at my disposal through the end of 2018. Let's hope it will be enough.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

If It Must Be Done Perfectly, It Won't Get Done

Precision is not my strong suit. It never has been. I wish it were, but alas - I am all thumbs sometimes, including when I am painting a room. If you were to walk into this room and look closely, you would see a lot of little errors. Or maybe you wouldn't - but I do see them. It is the bane of my existence that I am both detail oriented and unable to execute a task without making some glaring, sloppy mistakes.

But! Look at this lovely room! The paint job is not perfect, but it is done. And I am incredibly happy with it. It makes the room feel more finished, and also it covers over the scuff marks that were making the white walls not-so-white anymore. The room feels cozy and calm. Even the cat seems to be enjoying it.

If I am honest, the imperfections in my paint job just fit in with the rest of our house. There are all sorts of little things going wrong, or that are a little off kilter (if not just plain broken and not fixed yet). It is a very lived in house. But my goal with my home has never been that it would be perfect; I want it to be comfortable. I want people to feel at ease when they come over. I got one of the best compliments of my life when I was told that someone who has been here, but who I don't know very well, declared my house to be beautiful and happy. Happy! I would much rather have happy than perfect or precise. I'm just going to keep on doing things the imperfect way that I do.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Home Improvements in a Rental House

I spent a good portion of the weekend painting our living room. When we moved into this house, every room was white. I know that's been the trend for a few years now, and I see the appeal in general, but for me specifically, well...I like color. I thought I could jazz things up by adding lots of colorful elements to the space, but do you know what? That didn't work. I started staring at my Farrow & Ball color card longingly. I knew exactly what color I wanted the living room to be. Stiffkey Blue is the color*, and now that it is on the walls, the room feels right. It's cozier.

I have mixed feelings about redecorating and doing other home improvements as a renter. I don't want to do a lot of work on a house that we have no guarantee of being able to live in indefinitely, but at the same time, I want our home to feel like it is ours. So when I set to work, I consider: if we had to move in nine months (which is when our current lease will end), will this have been worth it to me? In the case of these blue walls, the answer is yes. I felt similarly about the self-adhesive tiles I laid in the laundry room of our last house. These things make the space feel more like home, more like it belongs to us, as opposed to just being a place we are passing through.

Which is why I am also re-doing the flooring in the living room. I've asked permission to put down laminate, but it's a bigger job than I can do myself, so in the interim I'll be pulling up the old carpet and making the floorboards underneath presentable. If both the landlord and I like the floorboards, then I won't lay the laminate. (I'm hoping for this to be the case.) My choice to remove the carpet is both for aesthetic and practical reasons. I find that hard floors are easier to clean, and they also don't absorb strange odors. Aesthetically, they are also far more pleasing to me as well. So I'm going to go for it.

I'm also planning to replace some light fixtures. I haven't asked the landlord about this yet - I find this to be one of the most annoying things about renting, honestly - but I will. Because I already bought a dodgy chandelier that needs some TLC and new glass shades, and it will look perfect in the living room. I've also got a matching pair of ceiling lights that I scored for a song on eBay that will look fantastic in the master bedroom and the study.

But for now, while I am holding off on doing any more work before Christmas (it would be hard to have a Christmas tree in the room where I am removing flooring), I continue to stare at my Farrow & Ball color card longingly. Now that I've done one room, I know how good it feels, and I'm itching to do more - specifically, both bedrooms. For the girls I'm thinking Pink Ground (E wants pink, but we don't need it to look like cotton candy), and for J and me, I'm leaning toward Jitney. I might not paint either of those for awhile, but for now, it's fun to dream.

*We can't actually afford the Farrow & Ball paint, so I had it color matched in a cheaper alternative. So technically, it isn't Stiffkey Blue. But I'm pretending it is.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Autumn Winds Down

I've made no secret of the fact that I love autumn in London. It is my absolute favorite. And here we are nearly at the end of it. The days are growing short now. Sunrise is well after 7am, and sunset is inching steadily toward 4pm. I have learned to have patience with these short days, but this year I feel a bit disoriented. I think it's because we spent two weeks in the US, and the time change happened while we were away. It felt like a jolt into early sunsets instead of an easy slide. Still, I love autumn, and this year is no different. I love the lower light and the way everything seems softer. So I intend to truly enjoy this last bit of autumn, before we hit December and it's full steam ahead to Christmas. I've got two Saturdays to myself left in November, and I'm going to savor them.

Happy weekending, everyone.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Dressing Myself: Easier Than Ever

As mentioned yesterday, I believe in keeping the easy things easy. And if things aren't easy and they could be, I like to make them easy. For years I found it hard to dress myself. I'd try several things on and look in the mirror and be unable to decide. I had friends help me figure out things that worked well for me from an aesthetic point of view, but it still wasn't quite easy. I was shimmying into figure-shaping garments a little too often for my taste and some things that looked amazing on would not get worn because they weren't comfortable at all on their own, and were only bearable with the addition of a few layers of restrictive material between my body and the garments.

It took me awhile to realize that those body shapers were not okay with me. But they're not. It's not just that they're uncomfortable (and they certainly are), but it's not important to me to make myself into a certain shape to be able to wear clothes. In fact, it's important to me that I not alter my shape to fit some sort of body ideal for which certain garments are designed. I want to just wear the clothes. I want to wear them because I like them, they are functional for what I am doing, and because they bring me a little bit of joy. They also must be comfortable. Must.

After I got rid of the body shapers and the clothing that went with them, I began to really figure out what I wanted to wear and what made me feel good. It's taken me years, but at nearly forty-three years old I feel like dressing is truly easy. My wardrobe is next to the head of the bed on my side, and I can open it while still sitting in bed and grab what I need for the day. I know what goes together. I know what I want to add (almost always a scarf, unless it is unbearably hot), and I feel truly confident in my choices, whether what I put on is considered conventionally "flattering" or not. I don't think it gets much easier than this.

A long time ago, I wrote about my personal style, and it's largely unchanged - I mostly wear dresses and scarves, but I also will do jeans or navy trousers with a top. I've added a few fun things that I wouldn't have felt confident enough to wear before, but that make me smile quite a lot when I put them on. I now own the silver brogues shown above, as well as a rainbow space cat sweater. (Yes, it is just as awesome as it sounds.) Having what amounts to two "uniforms" that I adjust according to weather and other circumstances has made things easy. I decide if it's a dress day or a trouser day, and go from there. I've simplified footwear a lot, realizing that while I am not a capsule wardrobe kind of person, I do prefer to have fewer footwear choices which will go with most things that I own. When we went to the US, for the first time I had only one footwear choice along with me. It was fantastic, and - you probably guessed this - easy.

I'm sure that over time I will make more adjustments to my wardrobe. As life changes, what is easy changes, as does what is practical. Maybe someday I'll want to wear thing that are more complicated. For now, easy wins.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Keep the Easy Things Easy

With autumn comes less light. It seems that we are home more, though I'm not sure that's true. It just feels like we spend more time inside these walls. And suddenly all the things that we've left undone - all the little bits of stuff that have gotten left out and gotten disorganized - are driving me crazy. They are all in my way. Not only that, but I want this house to look better. Why does it have to look like such a mess all the time?

Well, it's because we haven't been cleaning it.

To be fair, we have traveled more than once since the summer ended, and it felt for a long time like we were either preparing to leave or settling back into routine once we returned. I also had that foray into creative tomato processing, not to mention the grape jam/syrup/molasses adventure. We had houseguests. There were things to do that I don't even remember anymore, but the days were used up in a hurry. There wasn't much time to get things organized, and for that stretch of time, it was easiest to just let things go.

Now it is easier if things are put away. I choose small organizational tasks when I have a pocket of time to fill, and I am gradually getting everything put away or thrown away or given away. I reorganized our kitchen countertops so that we could have the toaster out all the time, as I realized that having it tucked away out of reach of an outlet meant that sometimes it seemed too hard to both get the toaster out and drop some bread inside. I'm sure that sounds terrible, but it is what it is. As we head into the darkest days of the year, I want it to be easy to make toast, so I have made it easy.

The way I see it is that there are a lot of hard things that crop up in life, and it is best to keep the easy things easy. There is nothing wrong with making things easy if it doesn't hurt anyone - it is not laziness, though some might argue that it is. It's more about budgeting the time and energy we have available to us. I increasingly feel that we worked our way through some of the hardest bits of our girls' childhoods, so our hard isn't really that hard, but there's no guarantee for a friction free future. And there are little difficulties that crop up regularly, not to mention my desire to help bear the burdens of others, having had so many of my own and our family's burdens generously borne by others countless times. So I'm keeping the easy things easy. Starting with the possibility of making toast.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Heaviness Creeps Into the Light

I had a couple of light hearted topics to write about, and I was going to choose one of those tonight. It was a good day. My kids heard some things that I was saying to them and responded in the way I hoped they would. I got a lot done. No heavy burdens today, for me personally. But that last bit is where this all gets sticky. Just because there are no heavy burdens for me personally doesn't mean that there are no heavy burdens.

Tonight Jemel Roberson's family feels the heaviness of his loss. His baby boy will grow up without his father. And why? Because he's Black. The police officer assumed that he was the assailant because he was Black. They didn't even stop to think. They can bring in countless white assailants without hurting a hair on their precious white heads, but they see the man who has saved the day in an active shooter situation, and they assume he is the problem. It's not okay that this keeps happening. It's not okay that we have a day to remember war dead and not those who are killed in a war that has been waged against them since the founding of the United States of America, but that some people don't want to admit exists.

Today, I observe remembrance for the Black lives that have been lost due to systemic racism, especially those whose killers have not been held responsible for their crimes. May we never forget. May we work for justice, so that their families may feel peace.

Monday, November 12, 2018


There is always a lot going on in London. I could have something amazing to do pretty much every night of the year if I wanted to (and in some cases had the budget for it). I often have trouble deciding which things I'll go to, and I'll admit that my default is to just stay home. But I'd heard that the installation at the Tower of London to mark the centenary of the end of World War I was really amazing, and on the last possible day to do so, I decided that I'd like to see it. As a pacifist at heart, I have conflicting feelings about a lot of military action, but I do not have conflicting feelings about honoring lives lost in conflict, be they those who served in the military or civilians.

Originally the plan was that we would bring the children home from church and then I would head out on my own just to take a look at the torches once they were lit. But the church service was longer than usual due to our deacon being ordained into the priesthood, and likewise the lunch afterwards was longer, so we ended up passing Tower Hill about an hour before the first flame was going to be lit. Instead of going home, Z and I exited the train and followed the crowd through the crowd control paths set out for the event, and we managed to find a spot with only some small trees blocking our view.

We saw the person carrying the flame approach and light the first flame, and we watched as the rest of the flames were lit. It was beautiful, a fitting tribute to all those who never came home after crossing the channel to fight on the continent, or who died in their own country where the fighting took place. The numbers of lives lost is staggering. In some areas of the conflict, more than ten percent of the population lost their lives. At 100 years out from the end of this first world war, the impact of this is beginning to fade. I'm not sure we have learned the lessons that history should teach us. Or maybe we have learned lessons that were never meant to be taught. It is complicated, this idea of taking up arms to defend nations. But it is simple to understand the loss of a life.

So we all stood and watched those flames being lit, and I said a prayer for all the lives lost in conflicts around the world. I thought of all the places that innocent people are dying even now, with little hope that things will change soon. We live in this magical city where we can hop off an Underground train and see a beautiful tribute, and it is not lost on me that this is a great privilege, to be allowed to stand and watch the flames light up, on Remembrance Sunday, during which we remember all those who have lost their lives in both world wars and in all wars since. My life is terribly comfortable. May I never forget that it is not the same for everyone around the world.

Friday, November 9, 2018

TGIF and a Halloween Costume Pic

We've made it through the end of the week! I forgot to do one major thing today, but it can be done Monday. I'm going to let it go. This is something I'm learning to do more in my life - just let things go. For example, homemade Halloween costumes. My kids just don't care enough about it anymore to make it worth it. They're happy for me to throw together some stuff we have with stuff I order from Amazon and eBay and call it a day. The one exception to the non-homemade costume approach this year was E's wand, which my dad agreed to make when I discovered that ordering a Bellatrix Lestrange wand on the internet was prohibitively expensive. I used to make amazing costumes, but that time has passed. I'm going to let it go. E was quite happy to wear a simple black dress and her own boots, then have her hair done to complete her Bellatrix Lestrange look. Z happily wore my old jacket and silk shirt with her own jeans and boots to become Alexander Hamilton - all I had to order was the lace collar. And then Z's doll Edith already had an outfit that was suitable for Dolores Umbridge, so she got to participate as well. It was all easy to pack and easy to wear, and easy is our theme these days. There's plenty that is hard; let's let the easy things be easy, yes?


Happy weekending, friends. See you Monday.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

We Don't Exactly Bounce Back

I am not the right person to write anything about helping kids get over jet lag, because I feel like we struggle every single time. So that's not what I'm here to do. I am here to say that after nearly a week at home, we might be sort of getting back to normal. In some ways. I tried to pretend I was back to normal the day after we arrived home, but I've failed to fool anyone, including myself.

This is one of the inconveniences of living far away from where we originally came from. Going back, there are a lot of people to see and things we need to do, and we end up with a pretty packed schedule. This time I tried to build in some low key days, and I was somewhat successful, but it doesn't change the fact that there was a lot to do in just two weeks, and we were doing it in an entirely different time zone. We got pretty tired, is what I'm saying. We arrived home after an overnight flight, absolutely exhausted. Have you ever hung out with kids who have been getting progressively more tired over the course of two weeks? Have you ever hung out with them when it is bedtime, but they think bedtime is for morons?


It's not an easy thing.

And then there's unpacking, and laundry, and restocking the fridge, and in general figuring out how to fit our usual necessary tasks into the short amount of time that everyone is awake and in a good humor.

It's a challenge.

So here we are, and we had some challenges today, but we really are starting to get back to normal. We had our usual Thursday dinner. I'm about to put some beans in the crock pot to cook overnight. I'm thinking it doesn't get much more normal than that. But then, bedtime isn't yet complete. Perhaps I should let you know the true status of our adjustment tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Laziest Breakfast

Do you ever do super lazy things to make your life work? I do. I've been thinking about what those things are for me. Mostly they are quite practical. I have a certain amount of energy each day. I pushed myself too hard for a lot of years, and then I couldn't do it anymore. So now I've figured out some work arounds. I think a lot of people would interpret these practices as outright laziness which must be fixed. But for me, these things are not problems - they are the ways I've solved problems. If you have solved problems in similar ways, I'm here to say that you are not alone. Here is an example of the laziest possible way I could do something - in this case, serve breakfast.

My E has always needed to eat first thing in the morning. She opens her eyes, and the first thing she says is, "I'm hungry." She has a deep need to know that there is food available, right away. So I make sure there is. It makes life easier for all of us. For a long time, I was able to put a sippy cup of water and a Tupperware container of cereal on the table downstairs, and she would happily go get it on her own and eat. I am not a morning person and really can't prepare anything right away - I need a minute (or fifteen) to be ready. So I would set things up the night before, and it was perfect.

But then we moved, and she didn't like going to the dining room by herself, as it feels a bit farther from the bedrooms than in our old house. She also got tired of cereal. So I came up with this handy plan. I put packages of breakfast type foods in my room with a little plate, and then when she wakes up and comes in to announce that she is hungry, I either point at them or hand them to her. And that's it. Breakfast is served. Well, first breakfast anyway. She usually has a second one later.

I find that some people are slightly horrified when I tell them my breakfast preparation method. These are usually morning people or high energy people (or both!). They can't conceive of a situation in which they'd allow their child to eat a doughnut in bed. There are also people who don't feel that I am sacrificing enough as a mother if I will allow this sort of situation to occur. But I don't want to participate in the mother martyrdom olympics. I want to figure out what works for us and do it. This meets both her needs and mine. So we do it.

Ideally, I'd like it to be homemade food that I set out for her first-thing-in-the-morning consumption. Sometimes it is, but not always. I am working my way there. I probably won't ever get there entirely, and I'm just going to accept that in advance. Sometimes I can do all the things myself; sometimes I need to outsource them (in this case, to either Tesco of Marks & Spencer). I feel okay about this. Doing this allows me to save my energy for things that matter. I'm not starting my day out on the extra hard setting. I'm easing in. It works for me.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I'm Just Going to Keep Going on About Love

I have nothing new to say today - lately it's always the same thing that I want to tell you. Choose the way of love, choose the way of compassion, choose the way of kindness, choose the way of valuing others' needs. This is on my mind and in my heart. I am concerned about how things have been going, about how many people have been dying, about how many people are being treated so poorly. Choose the way of love, choose the way of compassion, choose the way of kindness, choose the way of valuing others' needs. It is so incredibly important.

I am re-reading The Poisonwood Bible, and I always pause at the part where Orleanna is explaining to Adah whose needs she chose to meet and when and why. Whoever had the biggest, most pressing need got taken care of first. That's it. When I read that before my children came into my life, I sort of understood it. Now that they are here, and have been for awhile, I really get it.

All of us in our family have needs. Most often, the needs of one of the children will be the biggest and most pressing, but sometimes J or I will have a need that supersedes even that of a child who cannot yet tell time. Sometimes the needs of more than one person will be about equal. The biggest needs get met first, and the equal needs get met in the order that makes the most sense. There is compromise. Many times one or more of us will have to admit that our need is just a want and sacrifice it for the good of the family unit. This is what we do. Sometimes we get a little selfish, because we are human beings, and we are not perfect just yet. But in the end, we usually get it right.

And this extends out beyond our own little family. It seems that many people think this same way. It gives me hope, knowing this. If we all have it in mind to take care of others, to prioritize those whose needs are greatest, and to compromise when many needs are equal, then everything will be okay. That's what I'm going to bed thinking about tonight. I know a lot of people who voted in a way that they might not have other years, because they believe in the value of protecting others, and that this time around protecting others looks a bit different than it might have in years past. In years past, it might not have had anything to do with voting at all. But this year, sacrifices were made. For those of you who have done this, I thank you for it. I know it isn't easy. Well done.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Voting, Authoritarianism, Etc.

Tomorrow many Americans will head to the polls to cast their votes. Some have already done so (early voting is brilliant, in my opinion) and some will not vote at all. A lot is at stake in this election, and I will simply repeat that I think it is best to vote for those who will be most kind to others in their policy making. Vote not for your own interests, but for what is best for the most people. What good can you do in the voting booth? I think the choice between self-interest and compassion is pretty clear this time around.

Z and I continue to read about and discuss World War 2. She is reading a book now about a girl who grew up in Germany during and after the war. She was in Berlin at the time of the beginning of the wall. Z was sharing with me that the schoolchildren were all confused at this time. First they were taught to follow the Nazis and that ideology, then were told to forsake the Nazis and their ideology, and then when Russia controlled part of Germany, they were told to adhere to the Russian ideology. For people who were used to doing as they were told, this was quite a lot of directives without a lot of understanding.

And this is why I cannot get behind authoritarianism at all. I have never taught my children to do as someone says merely because they are in authority, and in fact I am now actively teaching them what some may consider the opposite. It is dangerous to follow someone just because they are in charge or older or what have you. Even when it comes to me as a mother, I don't want my children to do as I say just because I say to do it, and I'm the parent and therefore the authority. I want them to do as I say because I have proved that I am trustworthy, and I would not ask them to do something without good reason. Sometimes we do need to do as someone in authority says, whether we have had a chance to judge them trustworthy or not, but we must never blindly follow anyone. We must always use the wisdom given us to determine if the person's instructions are worth following.

It would be easier, to be sure, if my children blindly followed me sometimes. The reason I am so late to sit down to write tonight is because one of my children had a question about if she could trust me or not, and it took a long time to work it out. I would've loved it if it hadn't taken so long, but trust is not an easy process, and sometimes I've got to work really hard to earn it. Sometimes I have to work really hard due to circumstances that are in no way my fault, and that can be especially hard. But I signed on to this parenting gig, and sometimes that's just part of the deal. So I put in the work.

Which brings us full circle to voting. Who is putting in the work? Who will put in the work in the long term, not just for you and people like you, but for everyone? Who will welcome the stranger and the refugee? Who can be trusted? Vote for those people. That's my advice.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Home! With a Full Lap

We arrived home yesterday around noon - I couldn't tell you if it was before or after, but I think it was before? I am not sure. I do know that our cats are very happy to see us, and that my lap has not been empty any time I've sat down since we returned. I also know that three out of four of us are very happy to be home and getting settled back into our normal space and routine. The fourth person may be happy to be home as well, but she is not ready to admit it. Home doesn't have a cousin who will entertain her every whim, so this is understandable.

We were gone two weeks and two days, but it felt like it was longer than that. I'm not sure if this is because we crammed a lot into those two weeks or if it is because there is such a big change that occurs at this time of year in London, moving from early fall into the Christmas season. Before we left, I was experiencing a bit of FOMO regarding being away from London, and I couldn't figure out exactly why. But I think I understand it now - I was missing the last two weeks of what I consider to be "just normal."

London in November is all decked out for Christmas, and people are out starting their Christmas shopping. On the whole, I like the earlier start to the Christmas season, but it turns out that missing the last two Saturdays of "just normal" is a bit of a disappointment. As a person who loves all the trappings and trimmings of Christmas, I love this time of year, but as an introvert, I don't like all the extra people that come with it. I will live. And I will mostly enjoy it! But I will also get out a bit earlier on Saturdays to avoid the crowds.

Speaking of Saturdays, today is indeed Saturday, and I don't normally post on the weekend. But I posted so infrequently while we were away that I wanted to get started again. I thought that I would post most days we were away, but the keyboard was forgotten in the early morning packing rush, I and posting from our old iPad proved to be quite a challenge. Now that I'm back at my own desk, with a keyboard to use instead of the on screen buttons, I am more than ready to be writing again and back to my usual posting schedule. See you Monday!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

This Taco Costume is Just a Distraction

We should get one thing straight before we proceed. At my core, I am a total Debbie Downer. There is a place for lightness and fun even in the worst of times, but in the best of times I don't stop thinking about things that have gone wrong and how we might change things to be better, kinder, less...deadly.

So I tried on a taco costume, and it was funny. I bought a lot of flavors of M&M's (try the mint and pretzel together, I urge you). I went to Target and Trader Joe's multiple times.

And pipe bombs were put in the mail.

And two people were shot dead at a Kroger just because they are Black.

And children continue to starve in Yemen.

And a man shot up a synagogue during a baby naming ceremony.

I cannot forget these things, no matter how many costumes I try on or M&M's I stuff into my gaping maw of a mouth. I never stop caring that these things are happening, and while I do not think it is wrong to experience joy in these silly, simple things, I always return to thinking about what I can do to help.

I know I cannot change all these things, but it is terribly important to me to do my bit to make things better. I believe in preserving the dignity of each human being, and I believe we have power in our hands to effect change. These times can feel hopeless, as if there's nothing we can do. But that's not true. There is something - more than one something.

Many of us can vote, and we can choose to vote not in our own interests, but in service of the greatest amount of good for the most people. Let's stop thinking about how policies will affect us personally, but instead how they will affect those most in need of help. November 6 is approaching quickly, US friends. Make your vote count for those who are hurting, who are marginalized, who are watching their children die in the name of faulty alliances.

We can help others directly. If someone needs something they cannot obtain themselves, we can give it to them. There are so many people who are unable to feed themselves and their families - we can give food, but we can also give money. Many people say not to give money to homeless people, but I think that it's ok sometimes. I think it is demeaning and dehumanising to assume that the money is going to feed an addiction. Use your discretion, and make the kindest possible choice. If in doubt, ask people what they want and need.

We can use our voices to speak the truth kindly but plainly. We can remind others - and in the process remind ourselves - of the importance of choosing the preservation of others' lives and wellbeing above the preservation of our own comfort. This is what I am doing now, obviously. Because even though I think of these things most of the time, I need the reminder too.