Monday, September 29, 2008


Time to catch up. Where to start...

With the kids, of course.

All three have settled down very nicely in their respective classes. Jack, who dreaded it the most, has been pleasantly surprised with lots of nice kids in his class. The was something funky about last year's group...all good kids, but very segmented...Jack included. The pokemon card players stuck together, the sporty kids only played with each other, etc...very strange for third grade. But this class is much more inclusive (maybe it's the teacher?). He is doing very well academically, so we've added a new activity to the mix. He'll be playing basketball this winter, with one practice day a week and one game day a week. He attended an evaluation on Saturday...and didn't suck!! In fact, he was one of the better players! Do I smell a scholarship? He's playing with a good friend and we're all looking forward to watching them play.

Our school district just completed the Fun Run for 4th graders, a one mile run around a local pond. There were no winners...everyone's a winner, dontcha know...but it was all very official. It was sponsored by a local company that provides the timing devices for international races, so all the kids were provided a number for their shirts and a computerized ankle band that recorded their running time. Over 600 kids ran (in 4 flocks of birds) was so cool to watch (and I cried...I know, I'm a loser). Anyway, here's my big kid after the race...tired and sweaty.

The girls have adjusted to a full day of school (as opposed to the half day last year). Libby needs a little time to decompress when she gets home...tends to be a little short tempered when she gets off the bus. I suspect she's very intense when she's at school. She is competitive and very driven...and my guess is she's 100% engaged in the classroom and totally focused. By the time she gets home she's exhausted and needs to figure out how to switch gears. Fortunately she loves school, does very well and can't wait to go everyday. She has now lost FIVE teeth...the last being a top front one...a regular haas beck (feel free to correct spelling). She is hoarding her tooth fairy money (I think I've mentioned before that the tooth fairy brings $5 per tooth...can you imagine? It's a wonder we aren't all wearing dentures). Here she is...showing off the gap tooth grin for Gramma and Grampa. Cute, eh?
The girls are also getting involved in activities outside of school. They started gymnastics last week...and loved it! Libby has some natural talent...and the same drive and focus that she demonstrates in the classroom. She is very eager to learn, pays attention and was able to keep up with little girls who've been at this a lot longer. Every once in a while she'd glance my way and give me a little smile...but then it's right back to business. Maggie on the other hand, totally lives in the moment...tried everything because it looked like fun, with little or no regard for her performance. I could hear her yelling "Mommmmmy" from across the gym, waving furiously to me and pointing at whatever piece of equipment she was about to mutilate. I'm not sure that I have any Olympians out there on the mat, but they are having fun and that's enough for me.

In addition to gymnastics, we've also joined Girl Scouts. I assure you that this was nothing I encouraged. In fact, quite the opposite! And for good reason. The first meeting was filled with cookie marketing techniques. They divided into teams of three and did a role playing exercise, each taking turns to be the Girl Scout, the cookie buyer...and the door. I kid you not. When that mercifully came to an end, they got to have a cookie snack. Not to enjoy the cookies, mind you, but to taste test them in order to answer customer questions. Yes. Really.

By the time we left, Libby was filled with Girl Scout spirit...can't wait to hit the ground running and sell a million boxes (stay by the phone...we'll be calling). Maggie, on the other hand, was just plain pissed off. It was boring, she said. And I have to agree.

Maggie, as I may have mentioned before, has a tendency to whine. She quickly reverts to whining whenever things aren't going her way, and can be a giant pain in the ass. But, I'm learning that she is a remarkably happy little thing. She is almost always smiling, always ready to play anything you want, and laughs easily and freely. I had lunch with her and Libby at school, and I was struck by how different they both are. Maggie sat at a table with her little friends, smiling, talking...totally focused on the social aspect of the cafeteria. I had to remind her over and over again to eat her lunch (I wonder what she does when I'm not much of her lunch does she throw away?). I split my time between the two of them, so I could see them each from a distance. Libby was studiously eating her nuggets, talking only when necessary and only when she was done. She, too, was surrounded by friends, and when the food was gone, she was totally engaged, having fun and obviously well liked.

If I haven't said it lately, having twins (and a big kid) is amazing. I'm am so damn lucky.

Back to Maggie. She has yet to lose a tooth. Poor little thing is ready to knock a few teeth out, just so she can put some money in her piggy bank. She does have a very loose bottom tooth, with the adult tooth half way out already (we call it her shark tooth) I should make sure I have some cash around in the next couple of weeks for the, eh, bill. Here she is...with a mouth full of toofers.
So that leaves the Mister and I. Same old, same old. Goose hunting has ended and bow season for whitetail is only a couple of weeks away, so he'll be spending much of his free time in the woods. Which is fine. At least when he's in the woods, we can't bicker about politics (fucking McCain).

Work is fine with me. A bit of a roller coaster, but at this stage I need to be grateful that I have a job! I'm counting down the days until Mom and Dad visit (October 21st), and starting my ritual list making and menu planning.

And that's it. I think we're all on the same page again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tale of Two Brains

Mystery solved. Hallelujah!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hot Air ... and where to find it.

Every year, on or near the autumnal equinox, the City of Plano has its Balloon festival. A combination of ballooning meet and local fair, it is a kaleidoscope of color, ethnicities, volunteers, and gastronomic indulgences. It is preceded by intense volunteer committee work, manned by good citizens devoted to frenetic planning and grand spectacle, supported by a city management accustomed to a lower level of dedication to same.

This time of year is best for ballooning. The winds of spring and summer have given way to the light airs of early autumn, and are most suitable for balloon flight. This is, I’m told, that to keep ballooning safe, you really want to stay away from windy days. Getting the huge envelope filled with hot air is impossible to do when you have to brace yourself to windward, and the birds fly backwards. Should one actually achieve flight, your support team has to cross counties and states to recover your, and the balloon’s, remains. Baskets recovered from rough landings – misshapen, crushed, shredded, or vestigial - have been known to have the distinctive tang of unbridled fear. Rain as with most sports, is also not considered good for a balloon meet.

Unlike in the past few years, this morning must have been near perfect and even we tyros knew that the dawn patrol would fly. To be sure it did, and we had a grandstand view of the colorful bags taking to the air. Our complex is next door to the fields from which they leave.
The long(er)distance fliers left first, leaving the field for those that sell “balloon rides”.

The latter take trippers for a short round trip for a couple of hundred dollars. They stay close to the ground and somehow making use of local low level air currents to take off and land again in a few minutes and the same city.

I could see who was who in the command module – the white knuckles on the wicker basket rim as the balloon scraped the roof tops were a dead give away. The elephantine flatus of the gas-burner told of the equanimity of the others.


Sunny side up daisy.
Meanwhile, on the ground and outside the grounds, the city’s only contribution, traffic management, was woeful and inept. At 0900, when all the good little Southern Baptists were still singing “All things bright and Bushieful”, and the streets were just a tad over empty, the first imprecations and curses, were clearly audible. The city, taking the line of least effort, simply closed off major streets without due notification to residents, and failed to position any (let alone clear) detour signposts. The shortcomings of its Finest in basic traffic management, promise to add excitement to the day’s events.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Um ... well, y'see, it was like this ...

I committed to write two paragraphs; at least two, I promised. So bright and early I fired up Old Betsy, my PC, and contemplated its unblinking screen full of hope. After a few minutes (well, ten or thirty or so) I suddenly remembered an errand I had to run, and that my dohgs (English dogs) needed to be drained. Then there were the groceries, of course. So close to noon, um ... one really, I again sat myself down to write. The screen still did not blink, nor had it done so, not even once in the intervening time. Inspiration likewise did not emit a solitary spark.

So I checked my spam, once more drained the dohgs, and found a number of urgent insignificant chores that needed doing. In between each, I visited Betsy, and her malevolent stares. Still nothing. In the background the radio kept me updated on the key events around the world. The planet, it seems, has suspended any existence except Indecision 2008.

Lunch (a radish salad, some wieners, and fresh strawberries) failed to encourage a single electron to cross its synapse.

Despite my ministrations the flat looks lived-in, the odd-jobs endless, the dohgs capable of unlimited ordure - and the blogger blank.

So I probably won't come up with a credible excuse to Mart either. Oh well, maybe a nap, eh?

Move over dohgs.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

First Day

In lieu of stringing words together to form actual sentences, which may or may not represent complete thoughts, I thought I'd just show off a few pictures of the fruits of my labors.

Taken hastily on the first day of school, with less than cooperate models and a shitty photographer, it is still, nonetheless, amazing to me.

Three kids. One school.

Almost seven hours of silence.

First, my big kid. He gave me the most grief about the first day of school. Somewhere along the line he caught wind of the fact that this was a short summer vacation. A full week short. So he begged me to do what the school district refused to do...extend his vacation. He has since settled in nicely with his fourth grade class. While he does not have any close friends with him this year, he seems to fit in with the boys in his class and I'm hearing the names of new friends daily. Phew!

My Maggie May. My sweet little thing. She hardly said a word all morning on the first day. I asked her if she was nervous and she bravely told me no, she was excited. She squeezed me the hardest as the bus rounded the corner, but never looked back. Of the three, she is the most eager to share her day with me...tells me all about who got in trouble and who she sat with at lunch. She is proving to me every day that I had nothing to worry about. She's just fine. She's a big girl now.

Libby. Libby, Libby, Libby. She talked almost non-stop from the moment her eyes opened. She was dressed, her teeth were brushed and she was examining the contents of her backpack (again) before my feet even touched the carpet. Not once did she wonder about what first grade was going to be like...she TOLD me what it was going to be like. She has it all figured out, and she doesn't miss a trick. She begged, pleaded and sobbed to get her hair cut yesterday, and after I finally gave in and took her, she admitted that she just wanted her name on the "Hair Cut" chart. She is something else!

This last one was taken only moments before the bus arrived...and then they all disappeared. There were no tears...from them or me, but I'll admit that they didn't leave my mind for a second and I counted the minutes until they got off the bus. I needed to know that they were okay, that they had survived the day without me and that they felt comfortable in their classrooms.

It was a long, hard day for me.'ll be happy to know that my new favorite time of day is 8:39am, Monday to Friday.

Buh-bye! See you in seven hours!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Em on the brink of basking like a beached whale

I am officially an excited little chicken, soon to morph into a beached whale. Tomorrow Mark and I are teaming up with another party-'til-you-drop couple, Chris and Lianne, and heading off for two weeks of blissful beach.

We kick off our trip tomorrow morning and fly through to Swaziland where we'll stay with Mum and Dad for a couple of days. The Parents have been as generous as only parents can be and they're lending us their double-cab bakkie (pick up truck, for those who've been out of S.A for eons) packed to the hilt with fishing rods, snorkelling gear, beach bats, 30 seconds and plenty of vino - oh, and food - for our epic roadtrip through Mozambique. Well, maybe 'epic' is a bit strong - more of a 3-stop journey along the coast.

As a family we've holidayed in Mozambique hundreds of times as it's so accessible from Swaziland and I just can't get tired of it. So, I thought I'd share a quick list of why.

Things I love about Mozambique:
1. Sun. Actually, at this point I'd love anywhere that had some sun. Cape Town has been pummelled by one cold front after another for the last 3 months and I'm officially sick of rain and cold. Weather forecast in Cape Town for the next few days: another cold front hits - rain predicted with a maximum temperature of 18 degrees (which is pretty chilly when you don't have any indoor heating). Weather forecast for Mozambique for the next few days: Cloudless sky, sunny and bright. 32 degrees.


2. 2M. This is Dois M (have no idea how to spell it - what's Portuguese for two?) which is the local beer. Don't you find that holiday beer just tastes so much better on holiday? Crack open a bottle when you get home and it's just average.

3. Fresh seafood. You buy this off the beach. Doesn't get fresher than that. And then you have the added bonus of asking your house boy to gut and fillet it (part of his job, not exploitation!). It's tough in Africa.

4. Portuguese. It's pretty cool when you travel but a hop, skip and a jump and land in a country where very little English is spoken. Makes me feel a million miles away. Plus it's fun communicating via impromptu sign language.

5. Sleeping late.

Things I'm not all that fond of, but will try not to think about:

1. The helicopter-sized mosquitos that mercilessly bury their oil-drill sized probiscis into your neck, vampire-like and drain the life blood out of you. Plan of action: gin - they don't like that. Sorted. With a slice of lemon.

2. Airing my pasty, untoned winter bod. I think that says enough.

3. The dodgy 'police'. The number of times we've been stopped by men in make-shift uniforms claiming that we've exceeded the speed limit demanding to see our drivers licence and pay an exhorbetant fine: plenty. The number of times we've actually passed over our drivers licence thinking they were legitimate and had to bribe them to return the precious document: once.

And that's enough of the negatives. At this point even the negatives seem like positives. I'm so excited! Time to go and get the last minute bits and pieces, then pick the in-laws up from the airport. They're just staying a couple of days.

Will post some pics when I get back. Have a lovely couple of weeks!