Saturday, May 25, 2013

Another 10 11 Things I'll Miss about Scotland

Continued from the previous 50...

51. The Enchanted Forest in Pitlochry
52. A good Indian takeaway of curry, pakora, poppadums and naan
53. Deals on whisky in the supermarkets
54. Calling it an 'aubergine' instead of an 'eggplant'
55. 120 meg broadband
56. Ice cream on the Esplanade
57. Sidewalks ('pavements') for walking everywhere
58. Primark
59. Midwifes (as the norm)
60. Seeing Lolly's pirate poster hanging all over town


61. Bagpipes at weddings. (Just passed by a wedding on this beautiful summer's day, and the sound was delicious.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Picking Your (Green) Battles

Laundering a Rainbow
You'd have to live in a cave (or be a Republican) to maintain an unawareness of how our modern lifestyle is adversely affecting the environment. We burn - literally - valuable fuel by pumping it into cars so we can avoid walking a mile. We throw goodness-knows-how-much rubbish into landfills. We pollute our drinking water. We kill wildlife in order to build more buildings. We use copious amounts of chemicals. We throw antibiotics in the trash and create superbugs.  We use products that rely on radiation on a daily basis.  The list goes on and on.

When you start to think about all the ways we abuse our planet, it can become pretty overwhelming. You can start thinking of all the ways you could do your part, but then more issues creep in, and before you know it, you are trying to battle global warming singlehandedly, and you begin to feel like just one tiny oil-covered seagull in a vast ocean of poisoned, mutated fish. Or something.

So I comfort myself by picking my battles. I know I can only do so much, and I know I could never do everything I should to protect our earth, so I choose those issues that I know I can do something about, and I dedicate myself to those small things. I'm like that kid who threw the starfish into the sea one by one.  Or something.

For instance, I've started taking my unused prescriptions and medications to the pharmacy for proper disposal. (I'm willing to bet they 'properly dispose' of them by tossing them in the skip out back.) I teach the kids not to litter. I tear apart my plastic six-pack soda rings, so they don't end up around a swamp duck's neck. I don't pack my kids' lunches in disposable sandwich baggies.  I limit the amount of chemicals and anti-bacterials I use in the house, opting for natural cleaners and body products where possible. Fifi (and the Inverclyde Council) coerce me to recycle.

And I use cloth nappies.

IN THE INTEREST OF FULL DISCLOSURE, I am not perfect with my cloth nappy use. I am on my third child, and I've learned (and re-learned) a few things. When Fifi was a baby, I was very, very dedicated. Cloth all the way, near enough, with only a few exceptions, until she was over a year old. Then came Lolly, and the cloth lasted all of three months. I was exhausted and stressed with two under two, and I fell off the wagon.  So when Jaguar started cooking in my womb, I re-dedicated my life to the use of cloth nappies (and bought some new boy-themed ones to re-enthuse msyelf!) and have done a pretty good job of keeping up with it, with some exceptions. For instance, I do put him in disposables for bedtime, because I have yet to find a good all-nighter that works well enough, and sometimes I reach for the disposable out of laziness. But a majority of the time, Jaguar too wears cloth like his sister Fifi did.

Fifi in a Tots Bots Bamboozle
My reasons going cloth are many. I decided to use cloth nappies on Fifi, because I'd read they were better for babies' skin and better for the environment. I realised this was a tangible and real way in which I could do my part in Saving The Earth, saving a ridiculous amount of unrecyclable landfill waste, while treating my baby better too. Then I discovered that not only are cloth nappies better for babies and for the environment, they were mega cute to boot!

Jaguar in an eBay Bargain
I mean, just how cute is a baby's bum all wrapped up in a big bulky colourful nappy?! And how much nicer must it feel to them to have their special baby bits wrapped up in soft cotton fluffiness over papery disposable scratchiness? And how much fun is it to find adorable new nappies to add to your collection? I just love them.

I admit, cloth nappies do have their down-sides. You must change them more often. You have to actually deal with poop. You must wear trousers the next size bigger to accommodate the oversized bum. And of course, you have to factor in a bit of extra laundry. It's not for everybody, but that's precisely my point here.

We all have to pick our battles. If you have the energy and resources to tackle every single environmental issue yourself, then go for it! But if you, like me, simply find yourself lost in the hopelessness of it all and must decide which small contributions you can make, then choose what works for you. Cloth nappies work for me. Composting and growing your own vegetables might work for you. Making one's own clothes out of repurposed plastic shopping bags might work for someone else. The point is finding that small wee way we can do each do our own wee part to help keep our planet happy.

In the meantime, look how cute my ten-month-old boy looks with his adorable cotton bottom!

(Also, that green nappy in the above two photos? It's a Birth-to-Potty nappy, so that's him in it a few days old, and him in it still ten months later!)

P.S. Tell me, what are YOUR green battles?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hidden Treasure

After spending the afternoon clearing out Fifi and Lolly's room for the Table Top Sale on Saturday, I decided it was finally time to get stuck in to my own room.  Realistically, I knew it was only my bookshelf and dresser top that really needed a good sort out, but the task was daunting - probably because it would be MY stuff I'd have to get rid of.  Not as easy as getting rid of someone else's (like the kids').

It was easy enough, actually, once I got started.  I still have the bottom shelf left to go, but I got sidetracked when I found an old jewellery box, covered in dust.  It was more like an old treasure box, for inside, I found many treasures!

Here we have two of my dad's old Air National Guard coins (the second one for when he was Command Chief Master Sergeant, the highest position in the State), my badge from when I worked at the University of Arkansas, along with two 'Campaign for the Twenty-First Century' pins from that time, my Saint Agnes necklace I bought as a sophomore in high school, my 'Foxy' necklace which I wore my senior year in high school (and swore it got me better tips when I wore it waitressing), my Star of David from my trip to Israel when I was thirteen, and numerous band badges I collected in college and wore on my handbag (I wonder if that's still hip with the kids?), with local and indie bands such as Tyko, Aqueduct, Pedro the Lion, Sharkie, Pity Sing and Ester Drang, plus KXUA, the student radio station, and Clunk Records and Good Records.  Wow.

What a blast from the past!  I have a big smile on my face.

Monday, May 13, 2013

50 Things I'll Miss About Scotland (A Non-Inclusive List)

1. Irn Bru
2. Looking out my window onto the Clyde (and at the cruise ships in summer)
3. Slice rolls
4. Waking up to the sound of seagulls. Filthy creatures, I know, but I love their sound.
5. Hogmanay (which is never as exciting as it's built up to be)
6. Steak pie with mash and mushy peas the day after Hogmanay
7. Christmas day with Andy, Marion, Kate, Faisal and Adam (and it soon would've included Adam's baby brother/sister!)
8. Massive chocolate Easter eggs (OKAY enough with the holidays)
9. (Please just one more) BANK HOLIDAYS
10. Scottish words so descriptive they need no explanation, like 'drookit', 'glaikit', 'minging', and 'scunnered'
11. Yummy cheeses
12. A good slice of Plain loaf toasted with butter
13. The atmosphere of utter joy and excitement and goodwill when the sun comes out. No one appreciates the sun like Scottish folk.
14. Gaelic sign postings (and being able to read them somewhat accurately)
15. Cheek-kiss greetings and farewells
16. Humour
17. Using the letter U
18. A full Scottish fry-up breakfast
19. Jaffa Cakes
20. Weetabix
21. Scottish banter
22. Dairymilk and Galaxy
23. Mackie's Honeycomb Ice Cream
24. Trains, ferries and taxis
25. The smell of coal fires in winter
26. Church bells on Sunday morning
27. Sheep and coos everywhere
28. Aggressiveness
29. Craft Night every Tuesday (which includes missing Heather, Elaine and Paula)
30. The Gaelic Unit at Whinhill Primary (which includes Laura, Catriona, Sharon and all the other Gaelic mums, including...)
31. Robyn and Sheila and the Mount Kirk Church, which I wish wish wish I'd found sooner.
32. Childminding by day and cocktails by night with Maria
33. ...and Carol's summer visits from Abu Dhabi with Mick and the boys
34. Writing for SearchScotland
35. Scottish Blend tea with the perfect Scottish water
36. The lack of poisonous creatures
37. Foxes
38. The NHS
39. Multiple political parties to choose from (like the SNP!)
40. BBC 4 radio dramas and programmes
41. Spelling 'programmes' like that
42. Pipers at weddings
43. Kilts at weddings
44. Greenock's amateur dramatics clubs
45. Christmas pantomimes (and the Parish Players... Arthur, Lynda, Pauline, Sylvia, etc etc etc)
46. Drinks at the Spinnaker with am-dram folks, like Gordy et al
47. Friday afternoon lunches with Marion and Andy at the Mid Kirk Cafe
48. Sunday dinners with the family
49. Kate's cakes
50. Wine and Whine Nights with Lee be continued...

Friday, May 10, 2013

"Love Is All You Need?"

I know this video is long, but it is worth watching to the end. I'm so glad I did. I'm speechless.

I am not making any religious or political statement by sharing this video; this is about individual people and how we treat them. Whatever you think of homosexuality, whether you think it is right or wrong, try to set that aside for a few minutes while you watch the video. I'm not trying to change anyone's beliefs; this is just about how we treat other precious human beings... one of whom may one day end up being your own child.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Hardest Goodbyes

I'm starting to feel a little bit sick.

Packing up my house is proving difficult, stressful and emotional. Packing usually is an unpleasant task, but when you are packing things not knowing where it will be going - but just knowing it must go - the unpleasantness is doubled. Several rooms in the house are half packed, with suitcases containing 'keep' items and boxes and bin bags containing 'sell' or 'charity shop' or 'bin' items (and I don't know which is which at this point), but there are other rooms that haven't been touched... and we've got a moving goal of approximately four weeks now. (Assuming all things go to plan with Scott's visa.)

I decided yesterday that today would be THE day to tackle the hardest room in the house, the study. Or rather the study/guest room/shop/junk room. And in this room-of-all-rooms are my most prized possessions: my books.

I have so many books. Scott has so many books. Together we have so, so many books. I love books, and not just the reading part of it; I love the actual book itself. I'll never be a Kindle person. I love holding the book, smelling the book, remembering moments with the book. Many of my books are the very same copy I held when I read them the first time, in high school or university. Some still have my pathetic class notes in them, obvious and naive comments like 'red imagery' or 'foreshadowing?'. I love this about my books.

But the down side of books? They are heavy. And lots of books together are VERY heavy.

So I've put myself to the task of sorting through them, choosing which ones to take now, which ones to store for later and which ones to sell at our Table Top Sale next weekend.

This is what is making me feel sick.

I don't want to part with any of them! Some I didn't actually enjoy so they can go, and one or two are nothing I'll ever read again, but even some of those are glowing with memories. As I placed my fifteen year old copy of The Canterbury Tales in the 'sell' box, I just couldn't do it. What if I DO decide to read it again? Maybe I'll enjoy it more the next time around. I was so young when I read it (and had never gotten the Britishness of it), maybe I'd laugh at it now. That copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude still has the pressed flower in it from when I mailed it to Scott while we were dating telling him to 'read this book, it will change your life'. I know Anna Karenina is such a thick heavy book, taking up so much space, but it's one of my favourites and ONE DAY I'll get a chance to read it again, when kids are older and I have more spare time. And I've been meaning to read Angela's Ashes and The English for ages and don't want to get rid of them before I've had a chance to.

And these are just the problems I've encountered on one single shelf. I have about twenty more shelves to go.

It feels like saying goodbye to yet even more friends to say goodbye to these books. I've got more than enough sad goodbyes to deal with, without adding these long-time companions to the box.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Reading To Children (And Reading For Grown-Ups)

I have always enjoyed reading. Since I learned to sound words out, I've been reading and writing. I don't know if it has always just been natural to me, or if someone instilled the love of books in me.

My big brother, Danny, introduced me to The Babysitters Club books when I was quite young. (Sorry, Danny, for outing you on that one!) I remember poring over them, flying through book after book, at least as early as third grade (that must be aged... eight?), if not before. I just loved reading.

Scott was a big reader too. Scott was reading The Lord of the Rings in Primary 5, along with 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books and lots and lots of sci-fi. His dad was very good at passing him books to read beyond his 'normal' age bracket.

Reading is something Scott and I are desperate to pass on to our own kids. We want them to love books the way we love them. Fifi, who reads and writes solely in Gaelic at school, is about to move into an English classroom in her new school in Arkansas, where I worry all the kids will be reading and writing in English much more fluently than she currently can. She has a summer reading list for her new school, with the likes of Dr Suess, AA Milne, and Beatrix Potter, so today I got out Dr Suess's ABC: The Amazing Alphabet Book for her to work through. It thrills me to see how keen she is to read and how hard she works to figure out words. She gets frustrated at times because she can't read fluently, but she is eager to figure it out.

Despite the bilingual issues she has with still trying to implement Gaelic blends into English words and not recognising English blends, she is still doing a really amazing job learning to read English. Tonight, she read their first bedtime story, Where's My Teddy?, with very little help. Then I read a few chapters of Matilda to them.

Is this the way to get kids to learn to love books? I hope so. I know a lot of parents are better than we are at bedtime stories and reading to their kids, but I really do struggle with finding the time and patience amongst all the housework, cooking, and daily stress of life to sit down and read a lot with them. Yet I think it's one of the most important things we can do with our kids, one of the best gifts we can give them. Over the past week, I've been making the effort of reading for a good half an hour at night time to get the girls ready for bed. It sounds easy enough, but after spending all day long with children, by bedtime, I am desperate for some peace and quiet time, all to myself. At about 7pm, I start to lose all patience for small people and really need a break. But I've been finding that (as long as Lolly is behaving) this half hour of sitting quietly on their bed reading to the girls has been really good for us. Scott's been doing Jaguar's bedtime, which means I have time for uninterrupted Fifi-and-Lolly time. It's been good for our relationship, and it's been good for our quality reading time. We recently pushed back their bedtime an hour, which is tiring in one way but has helped a lot in another. Now, while we must endure an extra hour of noise and madness (at a time of evening when both of us are really finding our patience wearing thin), we are getting much better compliance at actually getting them to go to sleep. It's now at this later bedtime that I've been sitting with them and reading, and now that they've had an extra hour of energy-release, they seem to be much more relaxed and willing to sit still for stories.

(Scott used to be the Bedtime Parent when Jaguar was smaller and needed me most of the time. Scott used to make up stories for them every night, and the girls loved 'Daddy Stories', which usually involved two princesses coincidentally named Fifi and Lolly, and often included some unicorns, fairies and talking woodland creatures. I loved this too, as I'd love for the kids to develop wild enough imaginations to become writers as well as readers!)

As for me, I'm currently working my way through the Harry Potter series (about ten years behind everyone else), as they are easy to read, fun, and light, which is just the kind of books I need right now, when everything else in my life feels so heavy and intense. Thus one of my main reasons for loving books so much; I love the escapism of some and the solidarity of others. Some books take you away from your world, and others draw you deeper into your own.

Which reminds me, I've been doing a 'Book a Month' book review here on the blog, and need to write about the last 'proper' book (nae offense, JK Rowling) I read, my March (and part of April) book, Silence by Shusaku Endo. However, I first need to check with my online book club to make sure everyone has finished it before reviewing it!

And that review will be tough... Silence was *definitely* a book that dragged me deeper into my own world, and it won't be easy to write about! It would be much easier to review Harry Potter, that's for certain!

Friday, May 03, 2013

Friday Friendships

This morning was wonderful.

My friends from my Friday morning TinyTalk class invited me around 'to make tea for me for a change' (because during TinyTalk classes, wherever in the country you attend them, the teacher - in this instance, me - will offer you a cuppa tea and a biscuit of some sort), and when I arrived, I didn't even notice the table with the 'Good Luck' banner and helium balloon in the middle of the room. It took me about fifteen minutes after arriving to realise they had organised a leaving party for me. I was so touched!

It was really great to see everyone and let my kids (both the biological and 9-5ers) play with all the other kids, while I was offered a cup of tea and a cake myself. Several of the girls have babies nearly the same age as Jaguar, and it was amazing to see how much they've grown in just the few weeks since our last class together.

After the tea was served, they brought out a plate with two cupcakes and two fountain candles 'for all the birthday candles I lit for them' (and all the embarrassing Happy Birthday songs I sang to the mums, let alone the babies!). It was so sweet, and by that point, my eyes were welling over. Just when I thought that was it, they gave me gifts too! The girls had gotten me a handmade lavender bag with a Scotty dog applique on it and a hand-crafted wrist cuff. And they all signed a card.

The card.

I should've waited until I got home to read it, but I read it there, and once again, it had me in tears. Not only had those present at the party signed it, they'd gotten a few people from the class who weren't there to sign it too. The sentiments inside were so kind and heart-warming. I felt so loved.

I have made such a lovely bunch of friends from that group, people I will miss and never forget. My heart is truly heavy today with the thought of moving and leaving them.

Thank you, Kate, Susan, Ruth, Lynn, Morag, Zara and Elspeth (and Debbie and Yvonne, in absentia), for such a meaningful and thoughtful send-off. We really need to make sure we meet up again before June (and before our family's official leaving do' on 31st of May - hear that everyone? Mark that in your calendars, and more details coming soon.)

Now. Enough, Lori, with the tears. As Susan has said on Facebook: "No more tears just big smiles x" Yes, good advice. I have many exciting new adventures coming.

I love you girls, and thank you.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

April Showers Bring More May Showers

It's the second of May.. and it feels like February. Did you know that traditionally, 1 May was considered the first day of summer? (The summer solstice in June being 'midsummer'.) And in Iceland, they celebrate the First Day of Summer on the first Thursday after 18 April?

And here we are, into May already, and the trees are only just starting to bud, and the lambs have only just been born. This is ridiculous.

And as always here in 'Grianaig' (the Gaelic for Greenock means 'sunny', half-hearted LOL), tha i fluich agus fuar agus glas (it's wet and cold and grey). (Why I suddenly felt like speaking Gaelic is beyond me.)

This isn't supposed to be just Spring. This should be approaching summer. So why are we all still in heavy coats, boots and, if we can bear the thought, woolly hats?? The temperature in my car today read 9.5C all day long. (That's 49F in people terms.) Yo! Weather! It's MAY, dude!

Well, complaining about it won't make it any better. And looking on the bright side - literally - in about five weeks, we'll be in Arkansas, sweating like an agateophobiac in a coalition government. Then, maybe then, we'll look back on these times in Scotland with endearment.

Or maybe not. Probably as long as we have air conditioning and a vat of ice, we'll be all right.

Happy May, Scotland. I'm off to turn the heat up higher and pull on a second pair of Long Johns.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

So Long, Farewell, Chewbacca

It's been an emotional day.

Well, the emotions started running a bit high yesterday when we watched Fifi's black wrought-iron daybed leave the house after being sold. I loved that bed. I bought it when Fifi was two years old, because it wasn't babyish, and she'd be able to keep it well into her teen years. To see it go was like watching another little opening in our lives here in Scotland close up.

Then today we said goodbye to Chewbacca.

Chewbacca is our pet rabbit. Or shall I say, was. He is a sooty fawn mini lop and one of the grumpiest animals I've ever come to know (and love). Still, I've enjoyed watching Chewy skip and hop around the living room for the past two years and have felt very honoured on the few occasions he's actually approached me for some pats and attention.

Today, my dear friend Sheila (and Lolly's dear friend Eden) along with Eden's dad and two brothers, became Chewy's new family. Sheila and her husband Francis came over this afternoon and took the large two-story hutch, the box of food/hay/treats, and our little Chewbacca home with them.

It was emotional enough for me, but oh, when the kids got home...

They knew Chewy was moving in with Eden's family, but I'd forgotten to mention this morning that he was leaving today. The girls came in from school and upon seeing the missing hutch both burst into hysterical tears. I had the hardest time consoling them, for I too was feeling upset. Lolly kept crying, "I don't want to leave Scotland! I want to stay here forever and get Chewy back!" I just held her in my lap (which proved difficult as jealousy took over Jaguar and he wouldn't stop trying to push her out of the way to get in my lap too) and rocked her and let her get out all her sadness. After a while, I gently asked her, "Are you not wanting a pool in your garden then?" and she dried her eyes and said, "Okay." "And sunshine?" She smiled. And the two girls seemed to be back on the mend.

I spent the rest of the day today (my day off, I'll add) clearing out their dresser drawers and wardrobe, my dresser drawers and Jaguar's dresser drawers. It feels so close now, so real, that in just over a month, we will be leaving this house and this place behind.

My head is throbbing. I feel overwhelmed, cranky, tired and sad. I know there is much to look forward to, but on days like this, everything just gets on top of me. Add to my day the fact that the car was in the garage, costing us a neat little sum of money, right before we are looking to sell it, and then that Lolly decided to foolishly stick her newly bandaged finger into Jaguar's bathwater, necessitating an emergency trip back to the A&E again for a new dressing (wasting precious hours of clearing out time), and I just feel wiped out. I'm only blogging now instead of folding the immense pile of clothes on the couch, because I promised myself I would attempt another Blog Challenge, this time a 'Blog Every Day in May' one.

The topic for today's challenge was '5 Lines'. I'm supposed to sum myself up in five lines and include a photo. So let's see if I can do it.

In 5 Lines
I am a mother, a wife, and a friend.
I lived in the US then Scotland, and soon back again.
I love to write and draw and make;
I love to read and sing and bake.
I'm scattered as can be, which drives me (and Scott) around the bend.