Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tate Modern

We just have a hard time getting out of the flat. We have been letting the girls sleep in as much as possible... then Hubby had some emails and work related stuff to do. Crazy, but by the time we're up and moving it's nearly 2:00 pm. Then with the commute in... We got off on one tube stop only to find the sidewalk we were using to get to the museum was closed. We crossed the Thames instead of being able to walk up it, and walked on the other side up to the Millennium bridge, and walked down.

Thing 2 brought Elizabeth, the Welsh Corgi she purchased as a souvenir at the Tower.

The bridge is quite nice and something we wanted to walk along anyway.

Unfortunately I couldn't take pictures inside.
The most amazing exhibit was a giant table and chairs... my chin barely came up to the seat of one of the chairs, the bottom of the table was five feet or more above my head. The girls loved it, on their hands and knees they were about the size of mice. Or a little bigger, really, but telling them they're rats isn't as appealing as telling them they're mice.
Of course we didn't have as much time there as we'd have liked before it closed. We had made arrangements to go out toward Wimbledon to meet some friends of Hubby's from the conference for dinner. A lady originally from New Zealand has a house in East Putney, her husband is in Belgium (this is a real traveling society) but she works with Hubby, and used to live in Northern California, where he visited her before and met her kids. She has two, a five and three year old, the little one was too little to say much but the five year old butted heads a little with Thing 2 at six years old, they both like to be in charge.
Some other people from the conference were there, folks I've heard about but never met before It was nice, it's funny that hubby knows more people in Great Britain than he does around home.
The lovely hostess of the party hired a car for us back to Greenwich so we wouldn't have to take the tube with two sleepy girls. She must have instructed the driver not to tell us how much it cost, apparently, he was very cheerfully closed mouthed. Now hubby doesn't know how much to try and pay her back.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Tower is a Hit

This has become a travel journal in which I am dumping as much information about my day as possible. I'm not trying so hard to just capture the entertaining parts, in fact there's a good chance anything entertaining will be completely lost in the avalanche.

Hubby left early for the conference, in the spirit of recuperation I tried to get the girls to go down for a nap at 11:00. Very unsuccessfully. But somehow or other it took us until nearly 3:00 to get out of the flat.

We took the slowest train in the UK to the Tower, and only had a couple of hours to look around once we got there. Maybe that's why the very nice ticket person did NOT charge me the 9.5 pounds a piece for the girls' tickets - Woo hoo! Thank you very much!

We walked in the gate and they were doing a weapons demonstration in the moat, which is now a lovely grassy swatch. Why is it that everything is funnier in a British accent? I kept giggling, and half expected John Cleese to appear on the battlements and beat himself on head. He did not, but they were obviously looking for laughs. The people doing the demonstration were in period costumes, and had that periodic memory where they don't know anything beyond their century. They were showing weapons of war, firing on a dozen wooden silhouettes painted white out in the field. We got there when they were starting the demonstration of how to work a... well, he called it a "Perrier," but I'm not sure how to spell it. I thought it was a Trebuchet, but one of the men in costume explained that Trebuchets are launched by rocks or other counterweights, and are much much bigger. The one they had was much smaller, and was operated by the weight of four people tugging on it. Two teams of volunteers were called from the audience to demonstrate it. The ammunition they used for the demonstration was large water balloons. Water balloons? What are those? Certainly not! They used Pig Bladders, filled with Horse Urine. These were the special blue rubber Pig Bladders tied with a little knot. Both teams came quite close to the targets. As the rest of the audience was leaving, Thing 1 asked them how do they get the horse to pee into the pig's bladder. He told her it takes a lot of carrots to make it hold that still. Then she asked how the pig feels about giving up its bladder. They had a chuckle themselves over that. I didn't get many photos of the demonstration, I took a video though. Maybe I'll upload that sometime.

The girls were very appreciative of the architecture and everything they saw. They were appropriately fscinated, and I was appropriately pleased. Knowing we didn't have too much time, I took them to the Royal jewel display where we saw the crowns, the scepters, and the Holy Hand grenades. Surprisingly enough, it was Thing 1, who generally despises accessorizing, and not Thing 2, who wanted to go back and ride the slowly moving sidewalk past the row of display cases. From there we went to the armory display, which was amazing. They had a special History Channel thing called "Dressed to Kill" about Henry VIII ("Mommy, why do they call him vee-one-one-one?") and had tons of armor and weapons on display. It really was interesting. The girls noticed one suit that had this huge iron codpiece on it, and so we asked one of the museum guides, who explained it quite well as a cross between a "The King had to be biggest and best," and a "Boys will be boys," and sort of a "fashion of the day" thing. Every room we went into, Thing 1 lingered behind, entranced. This was better than I'd hoped, I was afraid they'd be bored. But they really weren't. They really enjoyed it! Especially some time browsing in the gift shop.

Unfortunately as we left, Thing 2 was developing a fever again. Of course we were traveling light and I had left the medicine back at the flat. She started complaining about being hungry and cold, despite wearing her own and my jackets, when neither Thing 1 or I felt cold. Poor little nubbin.
We had made arrangements to meet Hubby at the London Eye at 7:00, and as I couldn't get ahold of him to change plans, we kind of had to go over there. I didn't know how long it would take us to get there, and anyway I thought we'd head over early and get something to eat there. Thing 2 fell asleep on the tube, and had to be carried through the whole commute. We got to the Eye at 6:35. She revived a little to choose a large raisin filled cinnamon roll from a stand, and perked up more and more as she ate it, waiting for Hubby. Her fever even backed off.
Turns out Hubby got there about 5 minutes after we did, but we didn't spot each other until around 7:05. Drat!!! There was no line at the Eye, we got around as the sun was completely leaving the sky, the half hour ride ended in full dark. The girls had a good time.

The worst part of the night was when Thing 2's fever came back and she continued to get sicker and sicker. She fell asleep on my lap as we had dinner in the train station, and woke up on the train complaining of horrible stomach pains. We had to either walk a mile, or catch one more train to get home. Both girls had a wild need to go to the bathroom, I think that was the real problem Thing 2 was having, but whatever it was she was groaning and crying most of the last train ride to the apartment. After getting back and going to the bathroom she was much better, and went straight to bed.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Three girls loose in London

Our adventure has begun.

The details are too tedious to go into, but suffice it to say that the flight was an adventure.

Thing 2 developed a fever somewhere over the Atlantic, and was prone to fall asleep all day anytime she stopped her forward momentum.

We were met in Heathrow by our most wonderful friend Pat, who took us back to his apartment for breakfast and a breather. Thing 1 and 2 watched a movie with Pat's son while the grown-ups talked, and browsed the internet for the best way to commute us to the other side of town to the flat we had rented in Greenwich. Turns out the best commuter rail trains were down that day, so Pat decided to drive us. Once offered, his hospitality is inescapable. We let him drive us. Thing 2 fell asleep, and continued to sleep most of the rest of the day.

The next day, Sunday, was Thing 1's turn. We went into London with Hubby, who was meeting some people from the conference. I went on with the girls to the Natural History Museum. Thing 1 whined and stumbled around like a petulant zombie, collapsing in a puddle whenever there was a rug underneath her. We were sitting on a bench at the entrance of the museum and I was examining the map to see how much I could show them as quickly as possible, and this family came over to the booth we were sitting next to, and came away with red backpacks on all the children's backs, and plastic pith helmets on their heads. Thing 2 looked at me with wonder. I went and asked, and sure enough, the adventure backpacks were free, and they had, yup, two left. I roused Thing 1 and we signed out our backpacks. The young Indian guy working the booth was so cute, so enthusiastic with his instructions. "You're going on an Adventure!" he told the girls. "There are CLUES in the backpack, so you can find which animal the clues are for. Each backpack has PAPER, and CRAYONS!" I asked the girls to wear their helmets. Thing 1 declined. "But you can't have an adventure without your HELMET! You never know what you might run into in the WILD," the young man encouraged. Mind you, he has this beautiful Indian English accent, just perfect for starting a jungle adventure. Thing 1 wore her helmet long enough for a couple of photos, then it went right into the backpack.

Thing 2 was awake enough to figure out the Teeth clue belonged to a Polar Bear.

She collapsed on the floor in front of every exhibit we stopped at, which almost was okay as we were spreading the contents of our backpacks out on the ground to try and match the clues with the animals. But finally in front of the life sized blue whale suspended from the ceiling, I found a bench and she laid down and went to sleep. I gave up and we started the commute back to Greenwich. I wanted to get them some medicine, but by the time we got back to the flat and I fed them some dinner, it was time for bed. The walk to the nearest pharmacy is nearly a mile, and I'm not dragging two sick girls down to a pharmacy that very well may be closed anyway.

Thing 1 was resting on a bench for that long commute back to Greenwich.

Today after Hubby went to the conference I locked the girls in the flat, in their pajamas with instructions not to open the door, and walked into the shopping area. Now.. did I fear all the way to the store that if something happened to me they'd be trapped there until Hubby came home? Of course. Do I want to drag two sick girls a mile to the store? No. We choose the lesser of two evils. I carefully looked both ways several times before crossing every street and made it there and back without incident.
I got them some Sudafed, and some other groceries, but realized when I got back to the flat that I probably got the wrong KIND of Sudafed, and I'd need to go back. Sigh. I told the girls to take a nap. Thing 2 complied, Thing 1 did not. Well, she tried for about 1/2 an hour. I sat around reading, she played her DS until I got tired, told her again to take a nap. I got her a blanket and pillow, tucked her in on the couch thinking this is the girl who couldn't stay awake 10 minutes yesterday, surely she'll fall asleep. I went in to sleep next to Thing 2 on the bed.

An hour and a half later, Thing 1 woke me up. She hadn't slept at all, she just came in because she'd heard a noise that had spooked her.

I woke up a little crabby that this girl who couldn't stay awake yesterday was giving me such trouble about taking a nap today. I need her to recuperate! I want her to see something of London besides the inside of a flat!

I woke up Thing 2 and told both of them we're getting dressed and going outside! If Thing 2 slept much longer I worried she'd be up all night. Just as we were getting ready to go who knows where, Thing 2 suggested swimming. The flat we rented has access to an exercise room, including a rarely used lap pool. Fine. I changed them into their suits and we went to the pool. Unfortunately I had forgotten their goggles and dive toys, and the water is a little too deep for them to touch bottom. After they paddled around for a while, they were done. We came back to the flat and I bathed them, locked them in with a kid's show on the Telly and walked to town to get the right kind of medicine and pick up some dinner. McDonald's. I hate it, but I knew they'd eat it.

We were just cleaning up when Hubby came back from the conference. He reported that his presentation went okay, which based on how hard on himself he usually is, means it probably went quite well. Huzzah!

I hope that the girls are feeling better tomorrow... I'm awfully tired of the inside of this flat. It has fake IKEA wood floors, which makes the room act like a sound chamber, echoing and reverberating every noise to a high annoying pitch. Thing 2 is normally kind of exuberant, but in this little condo her volume seems to be maxed out. Even the normally quiet Thing 1 seems noisy. I've told the two of them to hush a thousand times. That's with the normal kid noise, I'm not talking about the times Thing 2 shouts "Hello Out There, World!!" off the balcony.

I'll add pictures later. Right now I'm worried I'm coming down with their cold.

Monday, September 21, 2009


We leave in four days to London. This will be the first time the girls have REALLY used their passports, since that first time when we crossed over into Canada during a shore excursion from our Alaska cruise I don't think the border officials even opened the pack of documents we handed them.

The problem is we haven't made hotel reservations until, well, just now. We should have done it weeks ago, but I'm married to a last minute kind of guy. Hubby has been in Brazil, just got back to the states yesterday morning, only he flew to the client site, since he'd only have been home about two hours anyway and would have had to add a flight to his day. After I put the kids to bed, he and I were up on the phone and internet until 2:00 am. (his time, midnight for me) looking for hotels near where his conference will be in London. It was kind of a mess, hardly any hotels have rooms that will accommodate 4 people, and none of the few that did had any rooms that first night, Saturday, after we land. We checked all the areas around the conference, and around areas that we know and have stayed at before, and finally gave up so he could go to bed.

So today I spent my whole afternoon in a massive online hotel search. It helped a lot to put in a call (thanks to the marvels of Skype) to our most wonderful friend Pat in London who advised me which neighborhoods to avoid, and helped me gravitate to the one we'd already been leaning toward. He was also very helpful in agreeing that since there are no hotels in London for that first night, we'd probably be better served by heading out to Windsor that first night, and knock that off of our "Things to See" list. The next day, Sunday, we will take the train into London to the best located family hotel we'd found. So bless his big-as-the-whole-island heart Pat will be picking us up from the airport and shuttling us to Windsor, giving us a quick tour, and then taking us to our hotel, where we expect the girls to collapse. We'll catch a train the next day into the downtown London area.

Hubby will be conferencing on Sunday afternoon through Tuesday. That leaves me two and a half days to entertain the girls. The only problem is when Hubby hears what I have in store for them, he wants to come too. Which is fine, except for that whole pesky conference that he came to speak at..?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Color It Hers

We had Thing 1's friend party yesterday. She had only wanted to invite five people, three boys, and two other girls, with Thing 1 making six kids. Of course with Thing 2 and a couple other younger siblings of the invited kids it came to 9 kids.

I was very happy Thing 1 agreed to have the party somewhere other than our house, so I could avoid all the cleaning and hosting stuff. We went to Color Me Mine and they painted their little objects.
Of course they don't want to paint a plate or cup, they all wanted to paint a statue, which will sit on the shelf and get dusty, to eventually commit suicide with a big crash.

But they had a great time. I am all about having the girl's birthday parties somewhere else.... my laziness is showing.

I did have to provide the cake. When I asked Thing 1 what kind of cake she wanted that morning before school, she ran to a book my sister had given me about cupcake creations and pointed to an aligator in the book. She's not much of an aligator person, she's much more into dragons, which aren't that far away from aligators, especially in terms of cupcakes. So here's my cake.
The teeth wouldn't stay on - they're cut up marshmellows. I made wings out of licorice and fruit roll ups, but they were so big and heavy they wouldn't stay up either. I ran out of time before I could make a go of some smaller wings. The ears are licorice and fruit roll ups too. Some wings about the size of the ears might have worked.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why I Don't Cook

I have never enjoyed cooking very much. It is such a thankless job. I don't get inherent satisfaction from it, and I've never been very good at looking in the fridge or cupboard and figuring out a wholesome, delicious meal. When I was single, I would make a casserole or whatever and unless it was truly awful, I'd eat it until it was gone, mostly to avoid cooking again.

I expected when I got married I'd have to turn over a new leaf and start cooking. Turns out my Hubby is a much better cook than I am, and mostly enjoys it. However, he's usually gone, he's always busy, and somehow or other his enthusiasm for cooking has waned.

The girls have added a whole new horizon to the cooking landscape. Thing 1's accepted main dish dinner menu consists of Cheese Pizza, Chicken Nuggets, German Pancakes, and broccoli. If served very infrequently, she will not object too much to Baked Talapia, and bow-tie pasta with butter on it. But if these things come around more than once a month or so, she'll shut down and stop eating them for a couple of months. Thing 2 is much more willing to try new foods, but of course she has developed an intolerance for Thing 1's top menu items. So what one eats, the other doesn't want to.

We eat out a lot. Much more than is financially or calorically responsible to do. So I decided it's time to bite the bullet, so to speak, and look at that new leaf again. With both girls in the school until 3:00 most days, there aren't too many excuses not to make dinner anymore. Over the past couple of weeks I have actually cooked several meals. A couple, anyway. And we've eaten out less.

Today I made Chicken Pot Pie. It took much longer than I thought. My crust didn't turn out so hot, the broth was much too runny, all in all it wasn't my best effort. And of course Thing 1 was HORRIFIED when she saw what was for dinner. She spent the entire mealtime trying (unsuccessfully) to negotiate with me for dessert - in our house if you don't eat dinner you don't get dessert - (eat it or don't but stop NAGGING me!) and walked away from her plate having only eaten the broccoli. They say your children won't starve themselves, but she looks enough like a holocaust victim already it pains me to see her skip dinner. I let her have a piece of dry bread.
Thing 2 didn't like the pot pie crust, but was okay with the "soup" inside and had two servings of that.

To justify making this pie, I ate probably twice what I would have or should have.

Now what am I going to do with 3/4ths of a mediocre pot pie that no one but me will eat?

And what am I going to make tomorrow night?

Pig boys

Thing 2 came home from one of the first days of school and reported that one of the boys had poked her in the stomach, for no reason apparently. Not REALLY hard, but hard enough to tick her off. I said "Oh honey, boys bother you when they like you..."

Two days later I watched "He's Just Not That Into You" and sat there with my mouth hanging open at the beginning montage of women justifying men treating them terribly, with that same mantra, "boys treat you bad because they like you," and how positively twisted it is to teach our daughters that the men who love them are the ones that abuse them... It all fell together... how so many women look for love from the bad boys, the ones who don't treat them well...

Two days later we were going clothes-shopping with my mother, and one of the girls mentioned how some boy had been mean to her. Out of my mother's mouth came those words, the placating words to make you feel better when some one's being mean to you, about the boys that tease you doing it because actually they like you.

I went off on a rant about how we are NO LONGER going to think that way in this house... Those boys don't tease you because they like you, they tease you because they're boorish pigs! Pig boys, for a lack of a better term, as I need one that's clean enough for my daughters. If they like you, they should be nice to you. We do not tolerate being treated poorly... etc. etc. etc. I went on, but it gets repetitive and lectury here.

Wouldn't it be great if our daughters shunned the pig boys from the start?! GIRLS! Avoid the pig-boys!! Look for those kind, intelligent guys in the back, who are not being mean to you! Those are the ones you should date!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Thing 1 turns 8... in a couple days

We have been planning for a couple weeks to have Thing 1's birthday party on the 12th of September. I mentioned it to my mother on Saturday, and she told me she was pretty sure that my brother and his family - whose daughters are some of my girls best friends, and whose presence is VITAL to any party at our house - will be out of town. OH NOOOO!!!
Looking at the calendar, since Hubby is traveling so much the next month (and we're going with him on one of those!) there are no good times in September, it would be halfway into October before we'd be able to get everyone together. So I frantically called everyone and we bumped the party to the next day - Sunday. Amazingly everyone was able to come.
Luckily Thing 1 wanted Pizza, which is the easiest birthday party to have, so the only hard part was making her the cake. Usually we order a cake from a lady we know, but 24 hour notice isn't enough time to do that. So Hubby decided to do it. He was going to make a Pikachu pokemon, it's kind of a little round ball with ears and a tail, it ought to be pretty easy to represent in cake and frosting. I think he was going to try and surprise her. But luckily, or unluckily, she saw what he was up to and it turns out she doesn't really LIKE Pikachus. She likes elaborate, involved looking pokemon. After quite a bit of back and forth, they came on one that she liked that he had a prayer of doing. I think he did a pretty good job. Though you kind of need the picture to see what it was supposed to be. Everyone thought it was a really angry elephant with it's trunk up in the air, until they see the picture.

So we celebrated Thing 1's family party last night, and her friend party will be this week.

Another weird thing - we solved a mystery. Thing 1 had homework on one of the first days of school. I know she had it, I remember pulling it out of her folder. But then it dissapeared. I couldn't find it anywhere. My house isn't completely tidy, but there aren't too many places it could have been. I looked in all of those places, but we couldn't find it. I had to send her to school with no homework, with a note from me saying it was my fault, we looked high and low but somehow lost it. Which is a real thorn in my side as I pride myself with them doing their homework quite regularly. Her teacher made her do it at recess.

Well, I found it.
Scooba ate it. We have one of those floor mopping robots, my husband knows that while I love having a clean house, I don't like cleaning it and since I'm a stay at home mom I can't justify hiring anyone, so he has given me my cleaning buddies, I have a Roomba upstairs, and a Scooba downstairs. Apparently I had the swamp cooler on (translate - GALE FORCE WINDS) while Scooba was running. Scooba requires some monitoring, as it wedges itself under my cabinets in a couple of places, but it calls me with a frantic beeping when it's stuck, so as long as I'm in ear shot, it merrily works away. And to clean it, you open it up and push buttons to release brushes, pull out filters, and clean them off. I don't remember the last time I turned it over.

Well, getting ready for this birthday party I turned on Scooba to clean the kitchen floor. It was almost immediately obvious it wasn't running right. Completely weird, it was leaving these strange little rolls of lint everywhere, and kept stopping. I pulled out several filters, tried several different things to clean it, but nothing worked. I was on hold with their customer service department when I finally just turned it over to find a wet wadded up ball of homework stuck in the outer brush. I was able to unwrap the paper wad enough to see yup, it's Thing 1's homework.

I'm not even going to try to explain that to the teacher.