Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A Great Moment in Teaching...

...happened today, when, as we were reading the first scene in Much Ado About Nothing, in which Beatrice and Benedick are trading insults, one of my rather boisterous lads piped up and said, "Wow, I think Shakespeare created the first dis." It's moments like that that make me love my job.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Enjoying the Silence

We're very lucky to live in the "suburbs" of North London, where we can enjoy the best of both worlds. In less than an hour (provided the trains are running on time), we can be in the center of London, but within about a ten minutes' drive, we can be surrounded by countryside. Still, despite our suburban postcode, we still suffer from certain negative aspects of urban life: traffic, pollution, gradual over-development, etc. We also just happen to be under a flight path. I admit that I don't notice the planes that much on a day-to-day basis, but The Other Half is particularly sensitive to this kind of thing. It's not like the planes really fly that low. We attended a wedding in Hounslow, which is near Heathrow, back in November, and boy, do those planes really fly low. I was surprised that I couldn't reach up and actually touch them.

But since the travel chaos caused by the volcano erupting in Iceland, I have definitely noticed the planes. Because there haven't been any. I can actually hear the birds chirping and children playing in their gardens. Unfortunately, we still have the road noise to deal with, but here it is on a perfectly lovely -- and still sunny -- Sunday evening and the only thing I can hear is the classical music coming from the radio in the dining room.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

A Tale of a Reluctant Beer Drinker

I hate beer, and I have no shame in admitting it. I'll cop to drinking a few in my early college years just so I could get a buzz, but I hated every sip (or gulp, really, as my goal was just to get it down as quickly as possible without having to taste much of it). I have always preferred a good wine or a pretty cocktail (even, shamefully, an alco-pop, though I'm growing out of that phase).

The Other Half, on the other hand, is a true beer lover. He loves trying new beers from all over the world, and recently he has even started brewing his own -- from malt and hops, not a kit. I must admit that I am truly impressed with his newfound skill (and, if you haven't seen the complicated, day-long process that is home-brewing, it truly is a skill -- especially when you add a tiny kitchen to the mix). But I won't be sampling any of his product myself.

For as long as we have been together, which will be eight years this fall (wow, how time files!), he has tried to convert me. But I have stood firm. No amount of honey browns or blueberry wheats would sway me. The most I've budged is to develop a liking for cider (the good stuff, not Strongbow).

Until now. Yes, The Other Half has successfully managed to turn me on to beer... sort of. I have discovered the taste sensation that is a Belgian fruit beer. Now, I know some of you may be shaking your head, saying, "That's not real beer," but I beg to differ. Even though it may not taste like beer, it technically is beer. I have tasted coconut beer, passion fruit beer (yum!), cherry beer (double yum!), and a beer with a blend of strawberries, raspberries, and cherries (triple yum!).

He may never convince me to order a Newcastle Brown Ale down at the pub, but I think, secretly, The Other Half is quite proud of his accomplishment. Perhaps even a trip to Belgium will be on the horizon soon.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Separation Anxiety

I made a big commitment at work today. I have agreed to chaperone a group of students on a trip to Jersey this June. It's a great opportunity: an all-expenses paid trip to the largest of the Channel Islands, where we'll spend three days swimming, surfing, kayaking, and exploring the island. Plus, I'll get an additional stipend for each day.

So why am I already starting to second-guess myself? Well, this will be the first time I have spent a night away from Crumpet (not to mention three nights), and though I have no concerns about how The Other Half will manage with her by himself (I am incredibly blessed with an amazingly patient and loving husband who is also an amazingly patient and loving father), I am concerned about how I will be without her. When I talked about it with The Other Half when the opportunity first presented itself last month, he was very positive and supportive about the idea. He reassured me that he and Crumpet would be fine for three days (after all, he already manages brilliantly when I'm at work during the day, and I'm sure he'll ace the bedtime routine too). He also thought that it would be a good break for me (if you can call herding a group of 12- and 13-year-olds a break) before heading back to the States in July to help my mom recover from knee replacement surgery. And I know he's right.

So why do I still feel guilty? I should be jumping at the chance to get away for a few days because I'm sure there will be far fewer opportunities to do so if and when we have two children. Still, I can't help but worry about every little thing that might happen while I'm away. And I don't want Crumpet to worry about where Mummy is (although, in reality, she probably won't even realize I'm gone until I return, which is usually the case when I'm at work). And, on a more sentimental note, Jersey is somewhere I have wanted to go for a long time, but I always imagined that my first visit there would be with The Other Half and Crumpet. The Other Half points out that this will be a good chance for me to "scout" out the location and see if it would indeed be a good place for us to return to for a family holiday, and I guess I see his point. Plus, there are loads of other exciting, undiscovered places (in the UK and beyond) that we can discover together.

I'm sure I sound neurotic, but I suppose most mothers suffer from some form of separation anxiety. And even though I'm less than two years into motherhood, I think it's safe to say that the feeling won't just disappear when my child turns 18.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Politics as Usual

Most people will know by now that the Prime Minister has officially called an election for May 6. (Too bad it's not next year at this time, when I hope to have citizenship, so I could exercise my vote.) A few nights ago, The Other Half lamented that that's all we'll be hearing about for the next month. True, it will probably be very difficult to escape the constant news coverage, on TV and online, but at least we won't have to suffer through TWO WHOLE YEARS OF IT, as we do in the US. I quite like the Brits' way of things: get it all over with in a month, and then be done with it so they can complain about whatever administration has been voted in. In fact, shouldn't we be expecting the 2012 US presidential candidates to be kicking off their campaigns pretty soon?

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Kids Say the Darndest Things: This Week's SECOND Comedic Moment

As I have mentioned before, Crumpet's vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds. Every day, she seems to pick up a new word, or is at least pronouncing an old word clearer. Along with her growing vocabulary is her growing sense of awareness about her body (and bodily functions). Just this week, she has started telling me when she has done "a Number 2" by pulling on her nappy and proclaiming, "Poo." Of course, when I then ask her if she has done a poo, she says, "No," but this is her answer to everything lately, and at least she is starting to recognize when she goes. I'm thinking potty training won't be too far off. Anyway, today we had a nice lunch out, and at the end of the meal I got up to go to the toilet. As I walked away from the table, Crumpet pointed at me and loudly stated (in front of the roomful of other diners), "Pee!" Yes, the old saying is true: kids say the darndest things. And I'm sure this is only the first of many awkward moments in public.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Parental Advisory: This Week's Comedic Moment

I popped into the local library today to check out a couple of DVDs. It was meant to be a quick in-and-out, but the self-service machines wouldn't let me check out the DVDs, so I had to take them to the counter. When I presented my card, I asked the guy at the desk if you could only check out books at the self-service machines. "No," he said. "You can check out DVDs." Oh, I thought, I wonder why I had a problem. Then, as I pulled out my library card for him to scan, I realized my mistake. In my haste, I had scanned Crumpet's library card instead of mine. "Yeah, these are adult films," said the attendant when I asked if that could have been what prevented me from checking them out myself, indicating Crumpet in her pushchair. "Oh, no," I said, as if I had to suddenly justify my parenting skills. "She definitely won't be watching them." I think it will be at least a few years before she watches Angels & Demons or The Reader. At least it provided me with a good laugh for the day.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Touring (Old) Hampshire


We have just returned from a lovely pre-Easter holiday in Hampshire, about two hours southwest of London. We stayed in a farmhouse B&B and spent our days driving along the picturesque roads of the New Forest and the Hampshire coast, discovering quaint villages with thatched cottages and traditional pubs, and communing with nature and the local wildlife. Unfortunately, we did some minor damage to our rental car on one of those picturesque roads, so we probably could have gone to an all-inclusive in Tunisia for what our lovely English holiday is going to end up costing us. Oh, well. Live and learn.

Here are some scenes from our week in the countryside:

The B&B we stayed in, right on the edge of the New Forest National Park

The famous New Forest ponies, who roam freely through the national park

Some of Burley's "locals"

Traffic jam, Hampshire-style

The Hampshire coast, with views of the Isle of Wight in the distance

Lighthouse and coastal road outside Lepe

Despite some weather that was a bit more fitting for February than late March/early April, we had a great holiday, even though now that we're home it sort of feels like we've never left. And the greatest thing about the holiday is knowing that I still have a week off before I have to go back to work.