Sunday, March 30, 2008

Words We Don’t Use

Last week, when the dentist office was scheduling “restorative treatment” for Mark (a.k.a. getting his cavity filled), I was asked to sign a form—sort of a contract—acknowledging that I understood their philosophy. They say things like "restorative treatment" and want the dentist visit to be “positive”. I'm supposed to play along with the illusion.

Who are they kidding? People aren’t going to have a positive experience at the dentist. They just aren’t. If dentists needed people to like them and have a good experience they should have gone into a different field…like working at an ice cream parlor. Now that’s a positive experience.

After I signed the form, the hygienist said to me quietly, “There are also certain words we don’t use.” Did she mean swear words? OK, I’ll try to keep my five year old from swearing like a sailor when he’s having his Positive Restorative Treatment. She must have sensed my confusion because she clarified in a stage whisper, “We don’t use words like shots.” I think I just nodded. What can you say in the face of such silliness?

Mark has an appointment tomorrow with his pediatrician for his well child visit and to get shots—sorry, immunizations—for the start of kindergarten. Every time I bring it up with Mark (because I guess I’m of the opinion that he should know what’s coming) he gets mad and runs away saying, “I’m not getting shots!” I've tried to sweeten the deal with a promise of ice cream afterwards. I think that’s helping, but, like it or not, he’s getting shots. I’m in favor of shots. Especially when you consider the alternative, like getting polio or feeling the dentist drill your teeth.

Are our children so delicate that we can’t use words like shots? Should we also stop saying words like clean your room and broccoli because it will damage their tender sensibilities?

I think I’ll institute words we don’t use in our house. A list of things I don’t like. If I don’t mention them, maybe they won’t exist. Here’s my short list:

Muddy shoes
Allergies
Reality TV
Gas Prices
Corn Dogs
Telemarketers
and Dentists

There is Sunshine in my Laundry Room Today

If you live in North Dakota you need snow boots.
If you live in Connecticut you need air conditioning (trust me).
If you live in Arizona you need sunglasses (and air conditioning).
If you live in Kansas you need ruby slippers.
If you live in Southern California you need a Disneyland Annual Pass.
If you live in Nebraska you need bug spray.

And…

If you live in Seattle you need at least one room painted cornea burning yellow to brighten things up on the gray dreary days. (We have them intermittently--like nine months out of the year.)

Adam and I are the proud owners of a cornea burning yellow laundry room we decked out this weekend. The new cabinets are courtesy of my parents and his parents and their generous birthday cash for me.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Things That Happened Today

1. Braeden dressed up in Emma's dress up clothes and brought me a piece of paper where he'd written:

Section 8

This guy Clinger is a wacko.


He asked me to sign it so I signed Colonel Potter and told him he can't watch MASH reruns anymore.

2. Mark perfected the art of sliding down the stairs by stuffing a sleeping bag with a pillow and skimming down head first while laying on the sleeping bag. I knew it wouldn't end well. I should have stopped him. One of the triplets was over (I can't tell which). He was at the bottom of the stairs and saw what I heard (Mark tumbling end over end down the stairs). The sleeping bag "toboggan" was still at the top of the stairs. Mark burst into tears and triplet(?) didn't say a word but turned and ran out of the house. I don't think he has a future as an EMT. I picked Mark up and checked him for permanent damage. He said he wanted to lay on his bed. I lay him down and was about to leave the room when he said, "I think I'm OK, I just think I broke a bone."

3. In her "daily dialogue journal" which seems like such a positive upbeat idea in theory, Emma wrote, if not hate mail, to me...strong dislike mail. Complete with frowning faces.

4. At Afly's (where we went for dinner because sometimes you just have to) Mark tripped and fell against an arcade game, inflicting a vicious gash on his side.

5. Oh, and earlier, we went to the dentist. 2 out of 3 children have a cavity. Nothing, no nothing makes me feel like a terrible mother like a dentist visit. On the drive home Braeden (the only one WITHOUT a cavity) said, "I think they mean well, but dentists are really evil at heart". I (agree with him but) said, "Without dentists, our teeth would rot and fall out." Braeden said maybe they put secret stuff on our teeth to MAKE them rot and fall out.

Maybe.

Also maybe I should have followed my first instinct and not gotten out of bed this morning.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Priceless

Sign up fees for basketball at the YMCA: $155
Hours logged at the YMCA watching practice this season: 18
Hours logged at the YMCA watching games: 18
Saturdays filled with basketball games: 6
Dirty socks, shorts and t-shirts to wash: 103
Award ceremonies where each kid receives a plaque and their very own basketball: 3

Mark hearing Patsy Cline sing "Stand By Your Man" and wondering if it was a song about basketball: Priceless

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The London Times VII--although technically we're in Vancouver

We're in the Vancouver airport and if I'm less coherant than normal it's because I'm more tired than normal. I found a diet coke, stuck a few lime slices in it which is really Diet Coke Bliss and I'm good to go.

I'll tell you about yesterday...our last day in London. We went to Trafalgar Square and the kids climbed some more on the lions and I was interviewed by some Brazilians. They were inquiring about tourism of some description and we didn't communicate well enough for me to understand why. When they found out I was American they asked me if I was for Hillary or Obama. Um...is there a third choice? They asked me my religion and when I told them they thought for a minute and said, "Joseph Smith?!" Yes. Braeden and Emma were nervously watching the exchange from a distance, not sure whether they should come and rescue me or bolt and run. I smiled over at them in what I hoped was an encouraging way and then my Brazilian friends wanted to know about them.

One of the beloved lions

After buying a few more souvenirs at the National Gallery, we had lunch at Pret a Manger and since it was very crowded, we ate outside at a table. The Pret brand of juice and soda cans proclaim "No Nasties". In the spirit of cultural experience, Braeden tried some ginger beer. He was not convinced of the lack of nasties. It was fun watching the red double decker buses cruise past but that's when I started to get cold and I didn't get warm until my hot bath much later that night.

The view from our lunch table

From there we walked down the mall to Buckingham Palace which was a really beautiful and impressive walk but alas, my kids were jaded by everything beautiful and impressive already. I said, "That...is Buckingham Palace." They said, "Hmmmm." and "Can we climb on that statue too?" I didn't think Queen Victoria looked very welcoming to climbing Americans so I said no.

Braeden and Emma in front of Buckingham Palace

We soaked up the sights and took a few pictures then went to Green Park. I sat on a park bench next to another woman and told Braeden and Emma--who were heading straight for a fountain--not to get wet. The first thing Braeden did was stick his hand in the water. The lady by me said, "That is exactly what my son would have done. Is your son about 10?" I said 11 and she said, "I thought so." So I guess boys in London blatantly disobey their mothers too.

We walked into St. James Park and I was freezing cold but we were waiting to hear from Adam so we didn't head back to the hotel. We found a small playground and stopped to play. I sat on a cold rock and thought about how cold I was until I got diverted watching people. I saw a little boy that looked about Mark's age but the similarities ended there. This boy was small and took small cautious steps and spoke in a small voice. He said in his polite British accent, "I have an idea, Daddy. I will spring from stone to stone." His gentle dad said, "Right then, but be very careful, won't you?" I guess that's the kind of conversation you could only expect in the shadows of Buckingham Palace.

When I was afraid frostbite was setting in (maybe an exaggeration), I insisted we continue our walk. We finally heard from Adam and went on the Tube to meet him and head to Hampstead Heath. Remember how cold I had been? Now we had to walk through the heath, which was absolutely beautiful but absolutely cold. We went to The Spaniards Inn which was built in 1585. Can you IMAGINE? I don't think there are rocks that are that old in Seattle.

The red phone booth photo essential for all tourists...this one was taken while walking along the Heath.

The incredible Spaniards Inn


It was a great place. I had the requisite bangers and mash, Adam had a steak and ale pie (which we're assuming the alcohol was cooked out of) and the kids had fish and chips and we were happy and (slightly) warm. There was a bus stop right outside and upon leaving the pub, I told Adam that it didn't matter to me where the bus went, we were taking it because I was DONE being cold and walking. Stick a fork in me.

Adam's a genius so he got us home with very minimal walking and whining from me. That's when the hot bath came in.

This morning we had our journey to the airport. Seems simple enough but we left our hotel a little after 9:00 a.m. to get to our 12:00 flight with little time to spare. Adam was upgraded to first class and because he's a first class husband, insisted that I take the upgrade. I felt extremely grateful, a little giddy with excitement and very guilty. I was sooooo comfortable though. And I was served scones and clotted cream! I read and took a short nap and watched a few movies and ate like a queen and poor Adam and Braeden and Emma were back with the commoners. It was just another blaring example of why I am so lucky to be married to Adam.

So that brings us to Vancouver. We'll be home in about three hours and I am looking forward to a big hug from my favorite redhead in all the world.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The London Times VI

We had a good day yesterday. And yes, I am WORN OUT. So much walking and sightseeing every day but I am loving it.

Yesterday we headed out for the British Library. We took the Tube to King's Cross station and had a photo op at Platform 9 3/4.

Heading to Hogwarts

Right next door is the library. We ate lunch in the cold courtyard then hit the gallery. (Adam said this is the coldest it's been on any of his trips here. It was below freezing last night. Last night I saw a weather report that it's going to warm up...tomorrow, when we leave.) We saw original writings of everyone from Jane Austen to the Beatles and the Magna Charta. Emma had the distinction of finding the Gutenberg bible. This year in school we've studied the invention of the printing press so that was important for us to see. We also learned about illuminated manuscripts and Leonardo da Vinci so we pored over the manuscripts and Leonardo's journal pages. Pretty amazing.

We visited the all important book store and gift shop so we could argue more about what the kids are going to buy with their money. I take my responsibility of making their lives difficult very seriously.

On the walk back to King's Cross we were confronted with fire engines (do they call them that here?) and police officers telling us there was a fire and King's Cross station was closed. My fledgling navigational skills were on trial but I found a bus and had my trusty map in hand so I was able to make it to the Wallace Collection. It houses a large collection of paintings but we were there to see the armor. There were rooms and rooms of impressive armor. For the first time, I think I found something in London my dad would absolutely love. We saw spurs and swords and spears and jousting sticks and maces and all manner of frightening tools. Those knights were a hearty group...and strong to be able to carry all of that. There was a spot where we could try on armor which was a big hit for the kids.

They called themselves Sir Braeden the Brave his squire Helpalot


We spent the evening at our hotel. Adam brought back fish and chips for the kids to eat in our hotel room and we ducked out for a brief "date" at a nearby Indian restaurant. After we returned we went to the executive lounge and ate this delicious chocolate mousse and played a game that I bought at the British Library.

Sherlock Holmes statue outside of the Baker Street Underground Station. (That really was the best I could do taking a picture without someone else in it on the busy busy street.)

Today's our last full day here. As much fun as we've been having, I think we'll be ready to go. This is an exhausting life and I miss Mark and my king sized bed.

Our plan today is to go back to Trafalgar Square so Braeden can buy a print at the National Gallery and we can eat at Pret a Manger and the kids can climb some more on the lion sculptures. From there we'll walk up the mall to Buckingham Palace.

Tomorrow it's off to Heathrow. Destination: the quiet suburbs.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The London Times V

Another bad night and great day. Just when I thought I had the jet lag thing conquered...I don't. I was up from about 2:00 until after 5:00 this morning. I don't know why. I slept awhile, we switched rooms because ours smelled like cigarette smoke (part of why I couldn't sleep well), then hit the road. We went to the British Museum. Heading down the always busy street towards the bus stop, Braeden said that he liked London and was getting used to it. He said, "Home will seem really calm after this." Yes, blessedly so.

We were going to only do the Greece and Roman rooms today but the kids wanted to do Egypt too. We had a good time. I especially loved the remnants of the Parthenon that are there. I can't imagine what it must have looked like when it was new. Amazing. Braeden was my personal Egyptian tour guide. He's read every book about Egypt in the Sno-Isle library system so I benefitted from his knowledge. Adam's sister gave each kid $20 for souvenirs and we went to the gift shop and argued about what they should get and I assured Braeden that no, I didn't want to buy the Harry Potter chess set that cost £45. No, Dad wouldn't be glad I did. No. No.

Back at the hotel I took another nap then we headed off to yet another delicious pub dinner with Adam. From there we hurried to St. Paul's Cathedral for a concert. It was amazing!!!! St. Paul's is my favorite church I've seen here. We went to a recording for BBC 2 radio that will be broadcast on Good Friday. There was an orchestra and soloists and actors reading and the St. Paul's Consort Choir. The acoustics were incredible and I loved the entire thing. It was about two hours which was about 1 hour and 45 minutes too long for Braeden and Emma but Adam and I loved it and figured it wouldn't hurt them. No one ever died from sitting still in a church. Well, maybe they have but I don't think those two were in danger.

Wow! St. Paul's Cathedral

Whenever she could, Emma hop-scotched on the paved squares

So it was back to our hotel where we talked to Mark and he kissed the phone and said it meant he was kissing me. I'll be happy to see my boy again.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The London Times IV

First a word on Mark. I miss him. We all do but I think I do especially because I'm his mom and he's my baby. I know he's having a wonderful time with his grandparents...and talking their ears off in the process. I also know that I would be a nervous wreck here with him...trying to keep him from climbing on everything and holding my hand...I'm having enough trouble keeping track of his siblings. I miss him though. I do.

We've had an interesting day and are glad to be "home" at our hotel. We woke up very early because we're all in one small room and Emma woke up at 5:00. We had breakfast and were all snapping at each other because we were tired. Adam said we should lay down and rest. I didn't think we'd fall asleep. At noon, Adam shook me awake and had an equally hard time getting Braeden and Emma awake. The sun was streaming in a crack in the curtains and Adam had been up making noise but we were out cold.

On our way off for our adventures we unhappily were on the bus next to some young teenagers. They were using really terrible language. If you're younger than 15 here you can ride the bus for free and a lot of unaccompanied kids do. These three were really foul. One boy stood up right behind us and a long and steady stream of curses came out of his mouth. Adam used (an admittedly toned down version of) The Dad Voice and asked him to be more polite. The kid said, continuing to insert swear words between every other word, said "What are you going to do about it?" and kept threatening Adam to try something. Adam just stood very close to the kid, blocking him from us and he got off at the next stop. I'm amazed that all of the other adults on the bus stood for it. Adam said it's a Lord of the Flies society. All the kids are in schools and childcare and then left to their own devices the rest of the time. It's very true. I've seen parents with very young children but no families together. All the kids seem to be in large groups with caregivers.

Adam has been to Camden Locks and the market there and thought it would be a good place to walk around and eat lunch. We HATED it. How to describe it? Sodom and Gomorrah, Babylon and the Las Vegas strip all come to mind. It was beyond crowded and everyone was smoking and/or scary looking. Not a great place. We ate lunch and beat a hasty retreat.

We were happy to see the comparably genteel and calm National Gallery and Trafalgar Square. Braeden and Emma had a great time running and playing and being kids in the Square. I think they get tired of being shushed all the time.

Emma taking it all in

Climbing on the lion

Beautiful Trafalgar Square

I had a list of paintings I didn't want to miss in the National Gallery and we saw the originals of several paintings we've studied in school which was thrilling. From there we went to Evensong at St. Martin's in the Fields. Nothing like capping off your Sunday with a little Anglican church service. It was interesting...not as impressive as Evensong at Westminster Abbey but it was a good look into how others live and worship.

After a few tries we finally found a pub that would serve kids on our way home. There aren't many kid friendly places around. I guess because there aren't a lot of families hanging out together. We had a good dinner and made it back to the executive lounge for lemon custard.

The love of my life...looking tired

Riding the Tube home

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The London Times III

We've had another great London day. We went to a show today called Lighten Up. It was a light and puppet show which doesn't even begin to describe it. It was geared for kids but entertaining for all of us. The audience was a very different crowd of Londoners than we've encountered on the buses and Tube. I guess because there were so many kids. I realized that in this city of so many languages and ethnicities, everyone there was very anglo-saxon. After the play we went to the Thames which Emma proclaimed looked like split pea soup with waves. And there were waves because there was wind. The weather has made me long for the mildness of Seattle. We crossed the Tower Bridge on foot and got up close to the Tower of London including the Roman ruins.

Braeden and Emma playing on the steps near the Thames and the city hall

City Hall

Thelma, Emma and Braeden with the Tower Bridge in the background

The Tower of London (from across the river)



On the Tower Bridge

Braeden contemplating some medieval ruins

The other side of the Tower of London

Braeden, playing Roman emperor

Emma climbing on Roman ruins...she said, "Now I've been to Rome."

Our next stop was Greenwich (where Braeden decided it must mean an eco-friendly sandwich) and the Prime Meridian. Braeden and Emma got to straddle the eastern and western hemispheres and we strolled through the thoroughly beautiful Old Royal Navy College.

Hanging out on the Prime Meridian

My favorite eating experience (aside from the blessed scones) when I was in London before was at a pub in Greenwich. We passed several pubs that Adam thought would be good alternatives but I insisted on the Spanish Galleon where I could get the same chicken I had before. I didn't remember the name of the chicken, but I knew it would come back to me.

Well, it wasn't on the menu. They have a lot of nerve to take something like that off the menu! I settled for what Braeden and Emma had been wanting the whole trip...bangers and mash. They didn't end up liking it but I did.

Emma and Braeden at the pub that didn't have the chicken

I'll close with a funny quote we saw on the side of a library on our way home tonight:

From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend on reading it.

--Groucho Marx

The London Times II

What a difference a little sleep can make. We all slept SO well last night...well Emma and Adam haven't quite given up the enterprise. Yesterday was quite a day.

We were all awake about 5:00 a.m. Braeden and Emma were extremely impatient to hit the road. I was armed with the travel plan that Adam had made for us and we set out for the Tube. The nice guy selling the one day passes for kids told me that if we'd wait 15 minutes...until after 9:30, they would be cheaper. Sounds good. We wandered down the street to a tiny grass area and sat on a park bench. I showed Emma the map because she kept insisting we were going to the Museum of Natural History first and I kept insisting we were walking through Kensington Gardens first. She finally believed me. We weren't the only ones aware of the 9:30 trick. When we got back in line, there were two sets of American parents there with their sons.

We went from the Tube to the bus to the park and I felt like a whiz. Braeden and Emma just take it for granted that they're going to get where they're headed but I have to concentrate. The walk through Kensington Gardens was freezing but beautiful. We saw all sorts of pretty birds and saw three young women exclaiming excitedly about something in (I think) Italian. We followed their gesturing and saw a squirrel climbing a tree. Kind of disappointing. We've seen squirrels.

Italian Garden in Kensington Gardens. Emma loved the swans.

Peter Pan Statue in Kensington Gardens.


We gazed up at the Albert Memorial and walked around it. I told Braeden and Emma that I must look like a person who has studied her Rick Steves' book because a man asked me who Albert was anyway.

Albert Memorial

We strolled through the campus of the Imperial College which looked a lot like Yale and went to the Museum of Natural History. The place was CRAWLING with school children. Braeden and Emma stood out because they weren't in uniform. There were a lot of great sights to be seen there. Braeden loved the dinosaur bones exhibit, Emma liked the insects and I was blown away by the life size blue whale. We spent 17 pounds on a lunch of two hot dogs for the kids and a bowl of soup for me. Yikes.

An escalator in the Natural History Museum that went through the center of the earth. It was huge and a little spooky.

I was feeling the effects of my sleepless night so I kept looking for benches to sit on. Braeden and Emma kept spurring me on. Ah youth.

Our next stop was the Victoria and Albert Museum. We wandered through the Japanese Samurai display...the swords for Braeden. We wandered through the sculptures and I promised a reward to the first person who found the Bernini sculpture that we'd just studied about last week in school. I didn't have a reward in mind and Braeden and Emma were too busy NOT looking at the naked statues to find it so I ended up pointing it out to them. Emma said, "Why don't they ever have any clothes on?" Sorry Em.

The cast courts which I loved last time I was here were as thrilling the second time around. I found a bench to sit on (phew!) and let the kids walk around the room then they showed me what they liked. Braeden and Emma were finally getting tired too so we moved to another room, found a comfy sofa in front of a display of albaster carvings of Jesus. Braeden read every word about each carving (he gets that from his dad who got it from HIS dad) and Emma and I played dots. I won.

We found a cafe and bought some bottled water. I had a pocketful of change so when she asked for £2.40, I just held out my hand full of coins and the cashier found the money she needed. Stupid American.

Over our "delightfully still" mineral water (and Emma's protestations of why does the water have to taste like that?) we decided that we were tired. And wanted to go back to our hotel. We had planned to meet Adam at the V&A. I swallowed hard and fished my Tube map out of my pocket. I mapped out a route home and it worked. This all may seem really silly...especially to the millions that use London transportation every day but I'm a dunce at that sort of thing so be impressed. I am.

Walking back from the Tube stop, we were in the rain. We know rain though...we're from Seattle. It didn't dampen my elation at my newfound competance. I made a deal with my kids. You let me sleep...so you need to read SILENTLY for 30 minutes, I will take you swimming. I hit the pillow and didn't move until Braeden woke me up and I stared at him for a while before I could process who he even was...I was that tired. We went to the pool and somehow the kids had the energy to race the length of the pool...there never was a clear winner and try to balance on kickboards. I sat in the steamy room and read and tried to recover,

When Adam came back, he was full of enthusiasm for more sightseeing. Our first stop was Marks & Spencer for some gloves for me. It's cold and since I'm not a true Davis as Braeden and Emma with the eternally warm hands pointed out, my hands have been freezing. We had a snack at M&S then headed out. Our first stop was St. Paul's Cathedral...all lit up and beautiful. Braeden and Emma ran up and down the steps and I tried to place myself next to Adam out of the swirling wind. We walked across the Thames on the Millenial Bridge to the Tate Modern Art Museum.

After that we were all cold and tired and ready for some food and bed. Adam knew where there was a pub that welcomed families by the Tower Bridge. Now getting there...We followed Adam in pursuit of a good bus route and whined a lot. We found a bus, found the pub and alas, no kids after 9:00. It was 9:30. Hmmmm. The buses aren't as frequent that time of night so we looked around and walked and walked and Adam commented that this was where Jack the Ripper had hung out...on the South Bank. Thanks for that. We found a bus stop...waited awhile then walked around the corner and waited at a different one. Nothing. We went BACK to the first one and finally FINALLY a bus! We took the bus to the Tube then transferred to a different line. We were a weary group. Braeden fell asleep on the train. On the walk back to our hotel, we dropped by Tasty Kebab for some take out. While they were preparing it, Emma lay her head on the table and fell asleep. Later, Braeden commented to Adam about us being lost. Adam said, "We weren't lost. Lost means you don't know where you are. We were confused. We didn't know where we were going." I guess it's all in your perception.

At 11:30, we were in our beds. And Adam left for the executive lounge to work because he had meetings in Seattle...where it was afternoon.

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