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Sunday, May 22, 2016

The sun came out...

It's been an incredibly long time since I've posted. I know. I've been slack. More to the point, I've been sick. In one terrific way or another, just plain sick. Medical scares, colds that last for 8 weeks and throw in a bit of allergies and I'd suggest you buy stock in pharmaceuticals or at the very least, tissue product producers. Wow, but I digress.

During this great time of plague and sickness, we have managed a few trips. Mostly we are saving up for the familial blow-out this summer. I have been tons of wonderful places and as our time here comes, slowly, to a close, we're plotting out our bucket list of places we need to go before we leave the UK.

I've been waiting to go on an adventure worthy of recording for posterity. Here in the realm of endless possibility, where could we go where the Bean would lose his mind? Where could we possibly take him to surpass the DAF museum? LegoLandCentre Parcs?

The answer my friends.....Diggerland. Yes, if you know anything about the Bean, you know this was a dream come true. My nightmare involved visions of  a shady kind of place where you pay some creepy grandpa to let your child sit on his lap and operate the machinery, surrounded by carnie-type folks in neck tattoos and too little clothing, in some farmer's back 40. Two out of three isn't bad. We were surrounded by carnie-looking people with neck tattoos and questionable clothing, but they paid their admission, too.

We drove two or so hours to Kent. Emphasis on the 'or so' bit.

When I talk to my Brit mates about car travel, I hear a groan and then they lament about two whole hours in the car to get somewhere. This seems absurd to us USA folk who, if we want to see the beach badly enough, will jump into our auto and drive 17 hours to the shore. Piece of cake. We have interstates. Long, beautiful, stretches of interstate. When you ask Google for driving directions it politely offers a reasonable time you should expect to be in the car to reach your destination. So if Google USA says it will take 3 hours to get from point A to point B, depending on the driver's lead foot, you will arrive at your destination in roughly 3 hours as expected. Not here. Google will tell you the journey from your front drive to Diggerland in Kent should take two hours. The reality is, given the 735 roundabouts (some in shapes as mystifying as crop circles) and 14 little High Streets winding you through villages made for horse and carriage passage, you should arrive at your destination between two to four hours. Plan your fluids.

Diggerland. Ah, not really knowing exactly what to expect we planned ahead. Changes of clothing for Bean, an old towel, some markers and paper and a tablet, rain coats, hats, water, first aid kit, and three days food and water.

Behold! The glory of GGERLAND!!! Oops, I mean DIGGERLAND!

You had one job....

We'd knew what to sort of expect, but wow. This place is pretty freakin' awesome! We ordered our tickets online to avoid the massive wait, only to find a single family ahead of us. Very promising, very promising indeed. We never had more than a five minute wait.


 Yes, that is my 7 (soon to be 8) year old operating the machine by himself. Yes, that would be a  full-sized JCB excavator. Yes, I know who's going to dig the footers and swimming pool for the new house. Anyone need a hole dug or trench trenched? I've got your Bean.

I have to admit, he was a natural. He operated those machines like a boss. He also drove bobcats, skid steers and wheeled-dumpers. The only time we got to help out was when he couldn't reach the gas pedal or was vertically restricted.

I was really surprised when I noticed the park was mostly operated by teenage......girls. There were a few surly lads, but, for the most part, the ladies ran the show. Yep. The were driving or instructing. The other thing that made me happy was the number of girls there with their Dads, and ladies of all ages, jumping in those machines and moving earth. Sisters are doing it for themselves! It made my little feminist heart proud.

We cut our teeth on the knock the skittles down with heavy machinery. (Any references to persons living or dead in this vid is purely coincidental.)

Here's the vid of him as he learned on the mini excavator.

Yea. That's pretty badass.

Then we moved on to the mid-sized excavator.

He cuts a pretty good swath with a bucket. I was amazed at the level of skill he acquired in such a short amount of time.

We had lunch at the little onsite cafe. Pretty tasty and not exceptionally overpriced. I was just a bit saddened when I learned about their strict separation of picnickers (hiss!) and cafe patrons.

As all good things must come to an end, we passed through the obligatory gift shop as we left. It is the only time we left without a toy. This was simply because he already had one of whatever they had to offer. Not sure if I should be happy or quietly sad at this fact, but I will think of it as an investment in his future since he's demonstrated already that he has some skills to pay the bills.

I don't think it's an option if we go back - it's a when we go back. It certainly was fun. Here's a sad little concrete deer.
Couldn't you get a smaller one?
But the fun's not over now! Far from it! Who could pass up the chance to see yet another English castle? Not this family of adventurers. We left Diggerland and headed for Rochester Castle. An English Heritage site, Rochester Castle was too close to miss.

The castle is from the 12th century and pretty treacherous to climb. Let's just say it would take some mad skills to drink mead all day/night and then navigate the narrow and steep stairwells around the tower. We climbed all 240 plus stairs and were rewarded with awesome views. The maintained areas were still a bit treacherous and my getaway-sticks were a bit wobbly when we reached the gift shop.

We did not stroll through either the Guildhall Museum or the Huguenot Museum, but we felt pretty good hitting two attractions in a single day!

Rochester Cathedral is right below the castle and is absolutely stunning, either viewed from the Castle Tower or up-close!

Robert was here

Rochester Cathedral

Medieval Graffiti 

We managed to find ourselves at home by early evening. Next time I'll bring the right charger for the GoPro and I can post more vids.We've recently discovered how to edit our thousands of videos, so get ready for Bean's YouTube channel. Heh heh heh.
Vincent Frankenstein feels at home.

It was a pretty fantastic day. Hitting two attractions in one day, plus making it back home is certainly a bonus.

I am also very happy to report that we made it home from Kent in two hours -just an half and hour longer than Google Maps predicted. A happy day indeed.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Utrecht, Dover and the Like

Well, well, well. It has certainly been a while. Meh, just life and the business of getting on with day to day stuff. Mostly I have fallen off the face of the Earth because, not one, but three four plagues have darken our doorstep since December of last year. It's hard to have a sense of humor when going to the loo requires an hour nap to recover some strength.

But enough whining. This post is overdue, waaaay overdue, but better late than never.

However, illness aside, we have managed to get ourselves out there and have some fun! We decided to take a trip for Bean's term break. Bean wanted to go back to Center Parcs. He was adamant about it for two reasons: 1. The last time we went to De Eemhof we did not go 'bawling'. (The English accent is slipping in, but true, we didn't go bowling last time as promised.) and 2. He needed to go down the white slide with Dad again. 

This is where Bean and the Hubs have a difference in experience. At De Eemhof there is a fantastical water park called Aqua Mundo. Being Dutch, these folks have pretty much mastered how to manipulate water. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Let me set the scene. Picture it. February. Term Break. 2015.

We left on a Saturday morning and headed to Felixstowe where we would catch the Eurotunnel on Sunday afternoon. We prefer to drive. Just for pictures like this:

I mean, what is this? I have no idea what to call it, so I cannot provide reference.

Just type: 'red beer bong passed out figure art statue' into Google and see what you get. If you know what this is please enlighten me. Honestly, I don't' know exactly where this statue is, because you're cruising along the motorway and BAM! Here is this exceptional piece of art. Perhaps when it rains water fills the bong/funnel apparatus the water shoots out his jolly or other orifice. I am at a loss here.

Then there's this:
Conjunction junction what's your function?

And these:

Besides the scenery, Center Parcs are self-catering, so we pack everything we need in the car or in the rocket box. We would board the "car train" in Felixstowe. Dover is a rough 20 minutes to the terminal. It was an excellent excuse to stop at  Dover Castle. We became English Heritage  members last summer when we went to Stonehenge. Dover Castle was in the book. But who needs an excuse to see the white cliffs of Dover anyway? The Hubs knows I am a rock hound, so he picked up a few chunks of chalk for my collection.

Fantastic. Could it be anything else? Here are some pix to prove it:

My life is generally punctuated with random song lyrics busted out when the opportunity arises. Every time I see these pictures I automatically sing "I can see for miles, and miles and miles and miles and miles..."

I also sing "Take the Freeway" in a Micheal McDonald-esk voice when my SatNav barks out directions, so please be advised of this when riding in the car with me.
These few pictures can not do justice to the beautiful experience of Dover Castle. I will be giving a slideshow presentation in the summer of 2015 for all of you who would like to be bored to tears or are obligated because of familial bonds. It will be open to the public, but you bring your own booze. 

Then off to the Eurotunnel.

We landed in Calis, France. From here it's a three-ish hour drive to Utrecht. We stop over here because Center Parcs only does weird weekday rentals and we couldn't check in until Monday.  The Euro train tix were cheaper and had hotel points to use, so it was a pretty economical choice that didn't involve us spending hours and hours driving in the car. 

Utrecht is a pretty neat city, too. Definitely not at touristy and definitely not as 'educational' (when you have a 6 year old already fascinated with ta-tas) as Amsterdam. It is also the birthplace of Miffy the Bunny, who turns 60 years old this year. Miffy is promoting the Grant Depart of the Tour de France.  The Dom Cathedral and Dom Tower are pretty neat-o, too.

I happen to really like this kooky statue. It just screams 'Donnie Darko'.

Then the french fry stands.

They have canals, Bitterballen, bicycles, Heineken, trippy architecture and statues. 

Bitter-whatten? Oh my friends. I cannot believe these wondrous creations have not made it mainstream in the States. Especially the Southern United States, where if it involves breading, deep frying, gravy and dipping sauce - we serve it up with a smile. Bitterballen is just that. When it comes to yummy Bitterballen, you might draw back a nub if you try to take the last one from the basket. These little gems are so fantastic they have their own page on the Holland Tourism Page. Now you know my shame and the true reason we keep returning to Holland.

We finally make it to Center Parcs De Eemoof. We unload the Clampett wagon and get settled in our cottage.

I'll take a moment to talk about the cottage. The first visit we stayed at #281. It was fantastic. The view was incredible, the ducks were friendly and the way the buildings are angled, you feel like you must be the only one with such a fantastical view of Hulkesteinse Forest. We had such a wonderful time, we re-booked the same cottage for this trip.

Unfortunately, this was not to be.

Apparently, the Centre had hosted a convention and some of the conventioneers got a little too excited and trashed #281 to the extent they were having to make extensive repairs. Wow.  

Meh, #387 was ok. There was only one toilet and the yard had been obliterated by moles or other ground dwelling critters. The ducks were fun to watch, but not as jovial as the ducks near #281.

I love watching ducks. Actually, between my love of animals and bugs, I really should have headed down a more biology centered collegiate plan, but hindsight is always 20/20. Or criminal profiling. I would have been happy either way. Hum...perhaps its not too late....bugs and forensic sciences. 

Back to the Aqua Mondo....

The water park is enclosed, but some parts of slides shoot you into the crisp (???) February air. Zesty is one word to describe the feeling. One slide in particular is entirely outside except for the last 15 feet. This is the famed "White Slide" that Bean loves. 

*It is at this juncture I would like to point out that I hate being cold. I wear fleece in July, but I especially do not like freezing cold water. Once you get in and get acclimated and moving, not so bad, but I am not one of those jump in and get it over with people. Apparently the fear of my child drowning is changing that nugget of my personality.*

So, the first step into the entrance pool is deceiving. I had one of those "Dear God there is no bottom" gasping moments until the 'keep child alive' kicked in and we all merged together under the strips of plastic meat packing plant curtain to the outside elements. There is a pool adjacent to the slide where there are S- body-shaped cement benches lining the outsides of the pool. Sometimes the bench magically turns into a huge air stone and Jacuzzi-like jets beat you fantastically. Hot water shoots from the sculptured lion's mouths mounted in several places along the pool parameter.

The entrance to the white slide is a waterfall-esk entrance. I've been in class four rapids that were easier to escape. 

The current is incredible. It's like swimming into a fire hose while in a rip tide. I have never worked so hard to have fun in my life.  It's half the battle. (*remember - I said half*) As a result, my upper body strength is amazing, and, quite frankly, the legs didn't make out too badly either. I'm gonna credit it to passive exercise or better known as the 'swim or drown' motivation'. 

Once you reach the precipice, you must vault yourself, arse in the air, over a hump to enter the slide. If you can, and there is enough room, you can also try the side-saddle approach, but it takes way more energy. You're gonna need all the energy you can get. 

The slide has two speeds: rocket fast or butt-scraping agony. Your child will fall into the first category, naturally. The first trip down the slide is the most brutal. My pelvic bones were black and blue from hitting the unforeseen (speed?) humps. I can only assume these horribly placed cement barriers were to slow bodies down so they could merge towards side resting pools peppered along the slide.  I also assume these resting areas are provided so you can check for internal bleeding or tend to a busted nose. My sinuses were filled with water from going into rapids face first. My knees were peppered with bruises. Weeeeeee? 

I still made out better than the Hubs.

He followed Bean in the fast current and caught up with him. I soon caught up with them. The view from where I was drowning was hysterical. There was the Hubs, belly down, with Bean on his back/shoulders riding him like a dolphin down the slide. There were several moments I can imagine that Hubs probably saw his life flash before his eyes. Yet again, overwhelming instinct kicked in - the "if Crog let boy drown wife not happy" male parenting instinct, and we all made it safely down the maiden voyage of the white slide.

Then we did that about 1,734 times in a row. I felt refreshed and invigorated. Sparkly clean and shiny as a new penny. Why shouldn't I? Every nook and cranny, every orifice and fold had been repeatedly blasted with highly chlorinated water. My hair felt like hay and my skin looked reptilian, but we all had fun. Satisfied with out first day at the water park, we ambled back to the cottage and ate. Then we slept. Slept like the dead.

Crisis was narrowly averted on the second day when we suffered a floatie blow out half way through a run on the white slide. This was a dire moment. Those floties were procured in a Wal-Mart. In Lincolnton, North Carolina. They were awesome. They had inflatable pug dogs inside the inner wall of the floatie itself, so they were pretty darn cool. They were also, at this moment in time, irreplaceable.  I was standing on the precipice of  an epic meltdown. While Hubs went to get some Euros (read: scuttled away quickly), I calmed down a quite agitated Bean. The floaties were a safety, he was well on his way to becoming a good swimmer. I knew we could buy another pair, but if they would be acceptable to a Bean is another matter entirely.

One shiny new pair of floaties and one PB and J later, we were back in the water. It was amazing. Buy the kid a new pair of florescent orange arm floats, slap on a pair of water goggles and BAM! I now have a child who does not come out of his frame when I pour water over his head to wash his hair! That, and he started swimming with his head under water, stroking and kicking. By the end of the day, he was begging Hubs to throw him and working on perfecting his underwater back flip. Yep, I'm still in the running for that 'above average mom of the year' award.

The final day at the Aqua Mundo was less than stellar. As we were leaving the water park the afternoon before, I noticed an influx of teen and pre-teen bodies. Hoping beyond all hope that they were just there for the afternoon, but, in my heart, I knew better. I probably don't have to explain what it was like (our last day) to be in a water park with 100 or so teens with little or no supervision. Um, yea. It was miserable. Even as excited as the Bean was to go back with his goggles and perfect his flip skills, he was amenable to leaving early. We hit the arcade on our way back to the cottage and all was right in the world. There is not much a little air hockey can't fix.

We thought about a side trip to Amersfoort, but we needed to keep on schedule so we would make the EuroTrain on time. The funny thing is, both places are pretty equidistant to where we wanted to be, so we literally flipped a coin to see if we went to Amersfoort or Utrecht. Then I saw a friend's post on Facebook with the above article. Yea, Yea. I know that's why everyone thinks we go to the Netherlands all the time. But the reason is: We just really like it there. The people are super nice, the Euro is much friendlier than the Pound, and it is the home of industrial farm equipment. The horizon is filled with trucks and cranes and combines. (But mostly for the Bitterballen...)

Here's the tractor feller buncher ( I stand corrected) that we followed out of the village past the windmill. Just in the middle of town. Unsightly? No. Cool and functional? Yes. If you do not know what at 'feller buncher' is then make an appointment with the Bean and he will be more than happy to pontificate on the merits of the humble feller buncher.

I am planning on uploading some videos of our travels, but in the interest of actually hitting the 'publish' tab, I will save that for next time with a link to the videos.

There are stories yet to be told...

Stories of a young mom (shut up) against all odds...taking her child on a week long trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. Apparently, my special need is alcohol.

Stories of a young family in the wilds of Wales... (that reminds me of a joke...)

....but most of all...stories.... stories of Plants vs Zombies, Minecraft, and Mario Kart 8....

Now, I've got to scoot and work on that 4 hour PowerPoint presentation for this Summer. Get your tickets sooner than later - or have your excuse ready.

Cause..."WE'RE COMING TO AMERICA...." Not today, but in the very near future....Sorry Mr. Diamond. See? I told you I was all about the random song lyrics.

Until then, safe travels and good thoughts!


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Making Lemonade...

Hello all you happy people. I know I have not posted in a very long time and, as usual, I have my reasons. First I am here in England and I am having too much travel fun to stop and write a post. Second, I am having to deal with something I really didn't think I would have to deal with for a little while longer yet.


Wait! But the Bean is 6!!!  SIX for Pete's sake! I thought I would not have to suit up for Bullies until maybe middle school, but apparently not. Excuse me sir, but will this utility belt hold three cans of whoop ass? It needs to match these boots.

I am not a helicopter parent. I know children can be cruel, mean, awful, little humans. I have one. Ever heard of Lord of the Flies? Well, it may not necessarily be a work of fiction for you if you have ever witnessed what happens when a group of kids get together with out adult supervision. Pass out the pointed sticks and wait for the bloodshed.

I am also aware that my child is labeled as "special needs".  Well, if my child is special needs, then why does he behave better than the 'normal' children? I have been on the playground. I have been a chaperon. Yes, my child flaps, but your child is an asshole. That is a terrible thing to say, but I have seen it more than once. I have seen children speak to each other, other adults, and even their own parents, in a way I would have never thought of speaking to another human being if I valued my own little life. I totally get not spanking. I know that violence begets violence, but that does not mean your child gets to be an asshole while you patiently wait and hope that as they mature they will realize (on their own) that (that) is not an appropriate way to interact with others. Bullshit. If we all dropped out of the womb with a full skill set, we wouldn't have 35 year olds still living in their mom's basement working at Staples part time. (Just until American Idol calls....)

I have my eyes wide open and I will readily admit that Bean can be a bit of a pest. While he thinks he is playing, he is actually being a pest and disrupting whatever game he has not been invited to join. I get that part. Anybody got a kid that isn't pesky or doesn't listen so well at times? One who wants to be accepted so badly they do not realize the other kids just don't want to play?

I have to repeat social rules all the time. It is my personal hell. Especially when I expect my kid to follow the rules and fit into society when no one else seems to be teaching the same concepts to their kids. And my kid has a few stumbling blocks to overcome along the way? I will slap that iPhone out of your hand! If your parents beat the living shit out of you growing up and so now you don't think its necessary to discipline your child in any form or fashion then you are failing as a parent! You are teaching them there are not consequences for their own actions! Do I hit my child? YES!  I hit my child where it hurts! I take away the electronic devices! Tragedy! Physical violence does not mean anything to a child who can smash into a brick wall (literally) and keep going, but take away the tablet? Get ready to witness one hell of an atomic tantrum.

I would not be so quick to anger if one particular little shit,  the one who punched Bean in the stomach,  had not already executed both verbal and physical assaults on my son.  Lets see how level headed you can be when a 6 year old calls your son/daughter 'stupid'. OK. You think you could let that go? How about if this one child's actions made it OK for the other students to bully your child, too?

That's exactly what happened.

After the first boy punched Bean in the stomach, a second boy thought it was acceptable to punch Bean in the head.

Anybody want to know what provoked this incident?
Because they didn't want to play with Bean. They said they were playing a game and didn't want him to join.

I would throw a guess out and say it didn't matter the reason - this little shit does not like Bean. He has been horrible to Bean since we started school here. He is the one who didn't want to play with Bean. The other kid was just a sheep. Or maybe they both hate Bean. At 6?  I really would love to know what in the world could make one 6 year old hate another 6 year old. Is it because he doesn't use his inside voice all the time? Is it because he picked his nose and ate it? (Sorry Grandma) Did he cut in front of you in line? There must be something.

It is very hard to explain to a child with Aspergers the differences in emotional responses on a good day. They just don't get it. Its hard to tell my little guy that in this big, wide, wonderful world, there are going to be people who just don't like you. For whatever reason under the sun, they do not like the sight of you. I know this from my own life. Not everyone is your friend or is going to be your friend. And sometimes your friends turn on you. They have their reasons, however petty or fantastical, for why they do not like you, but chances are it has nothing to do with you.

That's OK. They don't have to like you and you don't have to like them.

The next query you might present is what about the mom? Is she an abusive asshole? Is that where he gets it from? Well? I don't know. One of my stupid superpower strengths is the ability to be empathetic with the enemy. That may be a bit harsh, but I only know what I see of her on the playground when we drop and pick up. She helps out in the school. She hugs my son every time she sees him. But I do not know what happens at home. Where did he learn to punch someone in the stomach like that? Why does he call my son ugly names? Do I think she is a bad or neglectful parent? Absolutely not. Have I ever heard a ugly comment about her? Nope.

She tearfully apologized for her son's behavior. I wish I could give a damn about her sorry. I really do. I wish I wasn't so mad. I wish this was the first time her son has been a shit to mine. I wish I knew how to fix this and make our children get along. I wish, I wish, I wish.....

The other child's mom has yet to address the incident with me. She is probably mortified because her son sucker punched mine, but probably even more so since she and I are 'buddies'.  We stand and chat while we wait for our children. Awkward. (For her, not me...)

I wish I was alone in this and no one else's child was getting bullied. I know all too well this is not the case. I wish I had the answer. I really do. Throat punching a 6 year old is not the correct emotional response in this situation. Wanting to give them a pan of Exlax brownies? Probably deserved, but, again, not the correct emotional response to this situation. (Exlax = stool softener)

The playground teacher saw the whole thing go down. She said it was one of those moments where you see what's going to happen, but as you attempt to get there to stop it - time has slowed down and you're running through sand. The two boys were immediately told off by the playground teacher. Then they were told off by the Head Mistress. The punishment? Missing one 30 minute-ish play session on the playground after lunch. Do I feel this is an acceptable punishment? Nope. Do I think this 'consequence' will deter this from happening again? Hardly. What do I want to have happen?

Firing squad. Drawn and quartered. Caning. Water boarding. Hand print on a backside.

I want this to never happen again.

For the rest of Bean's life.

Impossible, but a mom can dream.

What did Bean do? What did he do with these two children attacked him?

Nothing. He didn't retaliate. He didn't hit back. My 'unpredictable, prone to violent outbursts, can't control his emotions or self"' child, turned the other cheek.  He thought he was getting them in trouble and he felt badly. He thought he deserved it. I thought about an alibi.

The last time we had an incident at school, (the bully stood on Bean's foot and would not get off), I asked Bean as we walked home why he thought (generic name) was mean to him. What he said almost shattered me.

"Because I am happy and (generic name) is sad." (Heart breaks...then fills with pride.)

I responded, "Then be happy, little dude, just be happy."


Every day is a gift. Every day is a choice. Make a good choice. Its a super power every human has, but very few use.

I'm stepping off my soapbox now.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

We're back from America....

My, my, my, how time does fly when one is having fun. I should know. I have been having my share of the fun lately. This may take several installments. 

The first installment in this adventure series has to be the visit back to the States. We had not seen our family in over a year. More to the point - they had not seen the Bean in over a year. When the other shoe fell and both Moms were not going to be able to make the trip to see us - a trip home was pretty much in the bag. The Bean and I went tandem and left the Hubs behind. First transatlantic voyage with out the Hubs to help wrangle and navigate. I may need pills.

Meh, we made it without a hitch and were greeted by one fantastically happy Grandma.

The Bean is a fantastic flyer.  Much to the amazement to the passengers and flight crew who gave us the 'oh effing great! A child on a 7 hour international flight' look as we trucked it down the aisle to our seats. Other than the occasional "MOM! We're in the clouds!" or a "Look Mom! There's an articulated fire truck!" he was pretty darned well behaved. His 'announcements' did glean a few giggles and some smiles, too. Taking off and landing? No problem. Turbulence? Ha! He giggles in the face of turbulence. (It makes his tummy feel funny.)  He sat in his seat, with seat belt on, and played on his tablet until the battery ran out. He played on my tablet until it's battery ran out. We read books. We colored. We had lunch (and a glass of 'complementary' wine. Please and thank you.) and snacks and juice. It was that last hour that his amusement started to wear thin, and, quite frankly, I would have punched myself in the face if I could have gotten off the plane any sooner. It is impossible, at the seventh hour on a transatlantic flight, for the plane not to smell like stale flatulence and feet.

We meander to the baggage claim.  It is actually more of a sheer will to make my legs and hips move after being stationary in a airplane seat for hours. I had the added bonus of the passenger in front of me recline his seat as soon as the pilot uttered the phrase, "*mouth smack* This is your Captain....." This person left their seat reclined for the entire flight. The flight attendant finally had to tell him to put his seat into upright position. Then to add insult to injury, I am pretty sure he 'crop dusted' us as we filed out like cattle.

Baggage claim was uneventful. I was overjoyed to find an abandoned luggage trolley. I am sure the older gentlemen who chivalrously hoofed both of my enormous checked bags off the carousel thought I had brought a body and some bricks from overseas. I managed to wrestle them onto the trolley while keeping an eye on my overly-excited-to-be-out-of-an-airplane five year old.

Let me set the scene for you. I am just over five feet. Picture a luggage trolley stacked with: two grande suitcases stuffed to the maximum capacity allowed by the manufacturer's warranty, one small back pack stuffed with toys (read: Monster Trucks), and one massive expedition back pack weighing half my body mass. (Not such a small mass these days...) Then picture that same trolley with a Bean riding on top of the pyramid as I careen towards passenger pickup. Yep, we cleared a wide path. It also helps that the Bean is screaming "Neee-narrr! Neeee-narrr!" as we go. The 'nee-nar' is the sound a siren makes here in the UK, therefore, we nee-nar.

Most people of sane mind would have leapt out of the way as this behemoth came barreling towards them, but a Grandma who had not seen her grandchild in over a year?? No! Not being of sane mind, this Grandma would have thrown herself in front of the trolley to bring it to a halt. Hum, perhaps she would have told Grandpa to fling himself in front of the trolley, but, lucky for Grandpa, he was patiently waiting in the cell phone lot. Lucky for all parties involved, we made it successfully. I even scored two quarters from the machine when I turned in my free trolley.

The ride home to Grandpa and Grandma's was very informative. Before we left the parking area, the Bean began educating them about all things construction related. The airport is building a new parking deck, so there was much the Grandparents did not know (apparently) and Bean was more than happy to inform, as well as to correct, on all matters of construction. He also needed to tell them about lorries. And speed limit signs. Poor Grandpa, The Bean informed him of every speed limit sign we passed and broadcast the appropriate rate of speed for that stretch of road. Grandpa did not like the comment I made about how Bean would be useful on beach trips from now on as Grandpa has been known to chat with officers of the law on the way to or from the beach. Poor Grandpa.

I knew going in that we would be transient during this visit. I am pretty lucky that our family all live within a two hour radius of one another. I still felt like a gypsy. The Bean slept with me most of the time, so I earned a new belt for nighttime assault ninja training. It was difficult for the little guy moving around so much, but he rolled with the punches. He gave out a few, too.

(I also knew there were going to be lots of people who wanted to get together with me that I was going to disappoint. Sorry about that. If you were looking out of my window you would understand. I will be back and if you still like me then - we'll break bread and chat.)

The first Saturday we were in the States was my youngest nieces' birthday party. I love that child. I love that she chose to have her swim party when Bean could be there, too. Made me all misty. Maybe what was making me misty was knowing I would have to don a swim suit and get in with the Bean and 50 other children? Yea, I hate swim suits, too. Did any of the other Moms cannonball into the pool with me? Bravely showing off their pasty, white flesh as well? Hell no. Pansies. Well, I had no choice, but still. Chickens. All of you. Also, not the best time to meet new people, either. Stanky from chlorine, red eyed, sans makeup and wearing a bathing suit. 'Hi, my name's Lisa - here are all my physical flaws.'

Thank you to Uncle Jason (the only other parental unit that got in the pool too, by the way) who allowed a construction zone to spontaneously  take over his garden spot. 'Cause we all need another Wal-mart.

One of the (many) highlights of my trip was catching up and  hanging out with a long-time friend and her son, (for the sake of privacy we'll call him) Lego. It was amazing spending the day with them at an area school's fair and a bouncy house warehouse-thing. It was pretty special because our little guys are kindred spirits. There is no therapy like talking to another mom who is wearing the same barbed wire bra you're wearing while walking your mile. It is the moment when you realize that your child is unique, but you are not alone. There is at least one other person on the planet who knows exactly what is like to be the Mom of a Bean or a Lego.  Ker-pow! That's good stuff.

I have to go back and look at the pictures from our trip to remember what we did while we were there. Oh, there was this...
I don't always wear fake mustaches...

 I am not very good at 'selfies', but I thought this warranted a self-snap. Yes, I did feel a bit like solving some mysteries. Perhaps a bit wiser. Most of all I felt like this may be me in a few years if I don't break down and get the 'No!No!' the Bean keeps asking me if I think I would like one. Check it out for yourself here. Every time I watch the commercial I say "No! No! Not this stupid commercial again!" I am just not convinced by a product whose developers used up all their mental energy on the device and left no shred creativity left for the actual product name.  Remember Nads?

Let me tell you about John Deere action- 

I wrestled and sometime still do wrestle with guilt about the Bean being so far from our family. Will he be able to bond with them? Will they play together? What are we missing out on? Well, I am happy to report that it doesn't matter how much time has passed, time zones or distance in between, a child will always know who their family is, especially the Grandparents.  I think it's a smell. Like chocolate or maple syrup, but undetectable to parental nostrils. They have an unspoken 'get out of bloody murder free' card when at Grandparents' houses. I don't know who these  people are, but they are not the same people who raised 'us'. Oh, well. They sure seem to like the little people.

We built contraptions at Pop's house:

Took a walk in the woods with Grandpa:

Hung out at Uncle Kelly & Aunt Michele's house:
This is not Mel Torme

*In the event of unflattering photographs, I do not wish to be held responsible for posting where the subject(s) may not like how their likeness was/were captured. So there are not any pictures of Aunt Michele making a goofy face or Cousin Victoria open-mouthed eating cold pizza. Uncle Kelly looking like a dork? Score!

**This is one of the very few pictures in existence of the illusive and camera shy 'Nana'.
Bonus: Smiling!

Did our favorite thing with cousins:

Ah, yes. Fun was had by all.

I was able to have lunch with the some of the ladies from the local Mommy Mafia I used to belong to before I left town. You can leave, 'but you ain't never out. Capisce?" We had lunch at the (only) restaurant on the Court Square, which really isn't a square, but, ironically, a roundabout. Funny enough, there is another roundabout about 30 minutes away in a shopping center. I think these two are the only existing roundabouts in a tri-state area. Watching Americans try to navigate a roundabout when they don't know the rules is hilarious. A bit dangerous, but hilarious.

What do you say about your visit with your BFF's? The ones who know all your dirt? Who have seen you at your worst? Friends who would be there for you no matter what? Another insane person who you can have a conversation with consisting of only winks, grunts, nods and snorts? Nothing. Nothing, if you know what's good for you. I had fun. That's all. Nothing more to say. Thank you. We'll get together again soon. (Hold on to that 'retirement' plan.)

Just a bit of browsing.

Seems harmless...
The trip to America probably isn't that exciting to the outside observer, but we needed to see our peeps again. Just to let them know, that in the past year, we've gotten stronger, bolder, and braver still. We're doing okay - better than okay - and we're having a really, really spiffy time here. Here and there and everywhere!

We were in the States for almost four glorious weeks and that was still not enough time. Was it hard coming back to England? No. I had in my mind before we left that this was a holiday. Thomas Wolfe is right. You can never go home again. At least, not until I get my TARDIS.

What's the next fascinating chapter in our fantastic lives???  The Peterborough Truck show.  Stay tuned!!!

Peace out trout!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

And now for something completely different....

Gee, it helps if you remember to post things in a timely manner....It also is hard to concentrate when you have a Bean  running around your house. A Bean who constantly is yelling Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! There is only so much 'mommy did you know that... (a backhoe, a feller buncher, a hydraulic cylinder, a recycling truck...)'  I can take before I start to get a twitch.

Ok, Ok. So people have been clamoring for a new blog entry. Well, maybe not clamoring, but a handful of my family and friends have been wondering what we've been up to since the great vomitous trip into London. I can sum it up in one word: Olympics, baby! Ok that's two words, but the 'baby' is just for flair.  The Olympics and the weather has been craptastic and we haven't wanted to slog around in the hurricane force winds and driving rain.

The XXII Olympic games gave me the unique opportunity to witness different media coverage and cheer for athletes from the UK and the US. (I am still mad about the performance of the 'Flying Tomato'.) I am all too familiar with the Vaseline smiles from the overly perky and fabulously groomed talking heads who usually commentate the events. Not the case here. I rarely saw any reporter on camera, but their behind the camera commentary was truly brilliant. They talked about the sport at hand, and the past athletes who won fabulously or crashed terrifically at past Olympics. The comments they made were not always nice, probably true, but, that is also a attribute of the Brits. I thought I was one for not sugar-coating my thoughts. The Brits have perfected this skill. When there was a break in coverage for events, instead of turning it over to the 'talking heads' the camera held fast to the Zamboni cleaning the rink in the interim.

There is minimal background presented about the athletes or their personal lives. You don't get to see where Jenny Jones grew up or the facility where she trains. You don't get to meet her mother or father and listen to them talk on and on about how committed she was to her sport. Nope. Well, that's not entirely true. When she won the gold for Women's Slopestyle Snowboarding her mom (and dad) forced their way through the crowd to their daughter, ignoring the part where a live interview was taking place. Her mom hugged and cried and spoke on (and on) about how proud they were before finally acknowledging the camera and interviewer.Then, (and I love this part) 'mom' wiped her eyes and said, "is this live?" The reporter said, "yes", and Mrs. Jones simply responded, "Oh my, and here I am just praddling on!" Did she leave straight away? Nope. Not with out getting a final hug and waiving to the camera like a celebrity as she retreated behind the barrier. Awesome. But my point is the Brits take on reporting the Olympics is much like how they approach life. Just get on with it. I found it refreshing.

My only regret is that I cannot find a snip of Clare Balding reporting from crowd side where some performers were dancing in traditional Russian dress. As she was 'sending it back to (you)', she said, "Blah, blah blah fantastic Russian dancers having so much fun...I may join them." Then deadpan, "No, I don't have the moves. Back to you, Bob." Classic. (You might have had to be there...)

These people do love some curling. I think I understand the game now. It tickled me to see these very demure ladies, faces like thunder in fierce concentration, scream like banshees when the curling stone needed a bit of adjustment. The hall would be dead silent upon release of the curling stone then a blood-curdling, "PUULLLLLLLL!" At least I think that was was they were yelling. It may have been "HAAAAAARD!"

I cannot go on with out mentioning the Russian Police Choir. I walked into the living room just in time to hear the last of Tom Jones' "Sex Bomb". Whaaaa? Then only to find out during a phone call with my Mom in Law there was more??? Oh joy! They rocked Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" and also Adele's "Skyfall". I will say again, whaaaaa??? This may have been the highlight of the Olympics for me.

Speaking of TV, the commercials are totally different than in the US. First of all, there are no, none, zilch, zero, nada commercials for any prescription drugs. Vitamins? Yes. But there are no adverts for depression, cholesterol, diabetes or even 'male performance and enhancement' drugs. There are very few commercials for fast food here, either. The only fast food commercials that spring to mind are ones for KFC. All the rest of the foodie commercials are for their supermarkets, which show tasty meals and families getting together for dinnertime. They also have adverts for frozen or convenience meals. Here is one of my favs for Rustlers insta-meals.

Some of their commercials are baffling. It takes me until the very end to figure out what its for and then I usually look at the Hubs and say, "Are you kidding me? That had nothing to do with banking." I also now realize why British people usually do not have credit card debt. Would you take out a credit card with a 1057% APR??? No that's not a typo and that's not the highest rate I've seen. There are also 'instant' loans that will fund within one hour, but you'll pay a 2057% interest rate. The good news is you can pay it back in installments or have your kneecaps smashed with a lead pipe. Your choice.

There are a lot of US celebrities who have commercials here. I doubt they would allow such adverts in the States. Just to name a few: George Clooney (coffee) Bruce Willis (Sky TV) Harrison Ford (Sky Movies) Julie Roberts (some perfume - I can not get past the dopey expression on her face), Kevin Bacon (4G) and my all time favorite: Snoop Dog. (Snoop Lion?) When you watch this you will understand my perplexity (what the...) and amusement (this is beyond awesome). While it's no surprise that Celebs think it's much cooler to have commercials in other countries because we've all seen the 'Worlds Greatest Commercial' specials on TV, it's cool to actually see them everyday. Just one last commercial featuring Usain Bolt and the oh-so-cool-I'd-like-to-buy-him-a-beer Richard Branson.

If you like a bit of gambling - of any type - then come to England. The majority of adverts are for some type of gambling: post code lottery, bingo, games of chance - you name it, they have a app for your pleasure. They also have scratchers and regular old lottery.  These ads take up a lot of space. Oh and pet insurance. Crazy about some pet insurance.

Don't despair, they do have some ads which are similar to ours. Namely, personal injury lawyers. Ewan McGregor does a commercial for world aid (Bosnia maybe? - I'm just looking at him). There are a lot of charity adverts, but mostly for animals. And children. But mostly animals. You can adopt a tiger, a donkey, snow leopard, or join the Oxfam cause and buy a donkey or cow for a needy family. Which helps children and animals so everyone wins!

My last comment about useless observations about British television is commercial breaks. Believe it or not, most of the time you can watch an entire program without commercials or there will be a bank of commercials, say 6 minutes worth, in the middle of a program. That's plenty of time to go toilet, pop some popcorn or get a drink of water, put a load from the washer to the dryer, load your crock pot....well you get the picture. And after having the ability to pause live TV, I may never be able to watch normal TV again. I have caught myself, several times, trying to fast forward live TV.

Now that Spring has sprung, we intend to get out and check more items off our 'UK Bucket List'. Stonehenge and Avebury are next to tick off. The bikes all have new tires and we're raring to go.

But for now, I am quietly counting down the days until I board the plane and head home for a much-anticipated visit. The family is looking forward to seeing us - and by "us" I mean the Bean. Ha ha! I know where I stand, people - and I'm ok with that.

Until next time.....I will leave you with two more fabulous commercials:

"Malcom" (my title)


Sing it Kitty

I will apologize in advance for the infectious tune. Enjoy!!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Rainy London Day Trip

I guess we are gluttons for punishment. So this meant that the last rainy Saturday we decided to press our luck and go back to London. You would think the post Christmas madness would have been enough to deter us from going back too soon, but ignorance is bliss. 

The Hubs wanted to go to the British Museum

The British Museum is "dedicated to human history and culture. It's permanent collection, numbering some 8 million works, is among the largest and most comprehensive...", um yea. I am pretty sure of the 8 million items, we saw, maybe, less than 1%. Silly us, we forgot rule number 1: Kids don't care about history. 

Decrepit old mummy?
 Meh. Want to go to the Science Center.

How about some Egyptian artifacts older than Mommy, Daddy, Grandma Darling, Grandpa, Nana, and Pops all  put together? 

That's cool. Right? 
 Meh, Can we go to the science center? Now?

How about some hand carved statues? They're really old?

(This is not the science center....)

 Or some really cool tablets and obelisks?  This is how Egyptian kids had to do their homework! 

Look! Look at these wicked cool figurines! This is what Egyptian kids used when they played farm!
How about this cool sarcophagus? Meh. 

The only thing he found entertaining was this:
And we had to tell him this is what ancient Egyptians used to bathe their kitties in. Yes, I know it's a blatant lie, but it got him to stop complaining (main thing) and also got a laugh out of him. He decided we needed to build one for our cats. While our cats do enjoy the notion of  feline worship, they do not enjoy anything to do with bathing in a basin full of water.  I hope I have my phone near me the fateful day he manages to pull one of them into the tub. (Perhaps have the plasters (band-aids) and Neosporin close at hand, too.)The kitties do hang around at bath time because the robo-fish is endlessly fascinating. 

What I find fascinating is the fascination with robo-fish. Is a real fish that much of a nuisance? Is this for people with fish allergies? Fear of commitment? Ichthyophobia - the fear of fish? If I am going to go to all the trouble to set up a bowl/tank of water I might be inclined to go that extra step and throw in a real fish. This goes to show two very important things: there is a sucker born every minute and I really need to find out how to market some of my stupid ideas that, funny enough, don't seem so stupid now. 

The museum was packed. I know, what did I expect? It was raining. I forgot British people and their 'Keep Calm and Carry On' attitude. I expected them to stay at home, and probably most of the reasonable ones did, but what I forgot was that lots of other people, possibly on their holiday, would not. I do the same thing when I'm on holiday and the weather is not cooperating. You just suck it up and get out there and see the sights. Well that's exactly what all the French, Polish, Russian, and Asian holiday goers did. (Not to say the Brits weren't out, but those were primarily the accents I heard around me at the museum. Plus a few American accents, too. Which always trips me out - I don't know why. Like we're the only 'mericans allowed in London that weekend.  Which given our poor image on the world stage, might not be such a bad idea....)

Here are some more pictures I managed to snap as we broke land speed records through the exhibits.
Goofy pose - but not bad...

Bust of Zeus, old books, ancient plates...
I am not sure about these.
I did find some really cool jewelry.

Some of these pieces are featured in some prominent paintings. If I would have been able to read the educational information with the display I may have been able to tell you which paintings, but when your tracking a bored Bean, "ain't no body got time for that!" (Sweet Brown Remix - awesome...and still way better than Miley Cyrus.)

I think the science center is this way....

I am pretty sure that we tortured him for the better part of two hours. Here are the rest of my photos:
Would love to do a floor like this...

Here is a picture of some lovely glass bowls. They are lovely and they are green. That's my take on them. I couldn't tell you anything else about them. Oh, they're old. Really, really old. 

This is funny. I have always heard the crass expression, "standing around with your d*ck in your hand". Well, apparently, it is not a new phenomena. Classic art would reveal the origin of this expression ....

This is the Greek God  Mercury, just standing there with his privates in his hand. Never mind that he could be flying all over the place delivering earth-shattering messages or bouquets of fragrant flowers as the  FTD Spokes-deity. Never mind that at some point his manhood was broken off and someone stuck it in his hand. Never mind the fact that apparently none of the museum staff have noticed this - incredibly funny - travesty committed to (on? against?) a piece of ancient history. 

This eye-opening history lesson was about as racy as we got on this trip. The other exhibit I didn't get anywhere near was: 

Yea, probably the one exhibit that could have held the Bean's attention was the 'naughty bits' exhibit.  I have enough trouble keeping pants on him/them now. 

So after much whining and pleading, and whining and pleading, we headed for the Science Center. Okay, it's really the Science Museum, but if there is a water table - it's a Science Center. As luck would have it, the Science Center is in a different part of the galaxy than the British Museum. We took the tube and hiked the 27 miles to the glorious Science Museum.

Did he want to check out the space toilet?  NO!
Did he want to check out the 7-toed cat?   NO!
Did he want to check out the old cars?       NO!

Nope, we headed straight into the depths of darkest hell. The 'Hands-On' exhibits in the basement (or as I like to call it: The Lord of the Flies Experiment.) This was a bad idea. There were so many children at the water table that Bean played for less than five minutes. (Well, this was probably a given since we had the foresight to pack the Bean a new change of clothing for the assumed soaking.) The room was the temperature of the sun. Maybe 5 degrees warmer. Children were at their base elements: chaos and tantrums.

Here we are in a quiet (ha!) corner of the hands-on exhibit. It was the earthquake simulator. This was pretty fun. He would build a tower, then (I would) turn the handle to produce earthquake like motion, and watch to see if his structure would survive an earthquake. This was great fun. This was just before a swarm of children became immensely interested in what we were doing. 

We managed to leave the exhibit and took a breather on the presentation stairs outside. I had some tepid water and the Bean sucked down a juice box we'd brought with us. He laid down and put his head in my lap. We asked him what he wanted to do next and he said, "go home." I guess if you can't play in the water table - what's the point? I also think he was thinking of the super cool Science Center we went to in the Netherlands. I think he was a bit disappointed. Now that was a water table. 

The Bean's willingness to leave was not taken lightly. He was acting sluggish. He was getting cranky. We began the long trek back to the Kings Cross Station. This meant the 27 mile walk back to the nearest tube station, five stops in a crammed tube, up four escalators, half a dozen turnstiles, and back on the train to take us back to our local stop. Yea! 

Bean was out of steam. Which meant that I carried him the 27 mile walk back to the nearest tube station, held him for two stops in a crammed tube before a nice lady offered me her seat. "I have two," she said, "Please sit down!"  The Bean was falling asleep.  I checked him for a fever. This should have triggered my Spidey sense. If my Spidey sense had been working, I would have been prepared for the spray of vomit that shortly thereafter began issuing out of the Bean. Luckily, I was wearing my rain parka, but, unluckily, what slid down my parka fell directly in my lap. I took two blasts full-frontal to keep anyone else from getting puked on. People moved.  Very, very quickly.

I was able to stand up, and point the Bean towards the doors - where he finished getting sick. Now, you would think, that a tube car full of people who just witnessed projectile vomit would be perhaps a bit put off. I was relieved when I heard one huge bloke say, "Aww, poor little fella! 'E can't help it!" Then a sympathetic grandma-like lady said, "Oh, bless 'em, He's as white as a sheet." 

Luckily the next stop was our tube stop. That tube car cleared out faster than a keg at a Frat party. Well, given that the home football (Arsenal) match (vs. Tottenham) going on that night, it probably wasn't going to be the only tube car covered in vomit that evening. 

Luckily, once we made it back to Kings Cross station, the toilet attendant noticed our frustration at the turnstile that would not accept anything but correct change and then immediately noticed we were covered in nastiness and happily let us in to the uni-sex baby changing area. I did what I could. It's hard when there are no paper towels and the toilet tissue is one-ply paper that you could read newsprint through. Great! Covered in vomit and little dingleberries of tissue paper! We tucked our tails between our legs and went to find a seat on the train. The Bean promptly fell asleep on my lap. My lap was beginning to smell as the heat from the child and the train started to warm up my jeans.

I have never been so ready to get home in my entire life. All our clothes went directly into the washing machine. The Bean went directly to the couch. He demanded hot chocolate with marshmallows.  By this time the color had returned to his cheeks and I chalked his sickness up to adrenaline, repeatedly going from one temperature extreme to another, and taking down that juice box in two gulps. 

Ah - what is life with out a little adventure!  I will never regret uprooting our family, up and out of everything we knew, to have this amazing adventure! I will follow the notion of Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day! 
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

Until next time,