Thursday, December 04, 2008

Anna - Version 5.0


Today, as of 12:51 am, is Anna's 5th birthday. I thought that, after being incommunicado for so long on the bloggosphere, today was a good day to start up again.

I know I say this with every birthday, but time moves at a pace that I cannot seem to keep up with. Anna is suddenly all grown up.



I want to say something profound and something meaningful, but I must admit that my brain is running on empty today. Elsa had a horrible night last night, and I didn't sleep much and I'm fighting a terrible cold. So, I'm just going to let these images from the day do the talking for me.
And, yes, I've completely caved with regard to those horrible Disney princess outfits. I stink. But, the girls LOVE them. They spend hours playing dress up with these silly outfits, and that equals lots of peace for me!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Oh hi, welcome back

Hello. Is anyone out there? I'm just dusting the cobwebs of this blog.

I don't really have a good reason for not posting for about two months. Just lazy, I guess.

To recap, we spent 5 weeks in Iceland. The girls has loads of fun. Here they are on a picnic:



We started the trip off by going to the north of Iceland to a family reunion. It was wonderful to see all of my cousins since I don't get a chance to see all of them so often. It was also great to drive to the north and see all of the beautiful scenery along the way. Once we got back to the cottage, Carlos arrived and stayed for two weeks. For the most part, we were really lazy, but we did do one adventurous thing -- climbed Mount Hekla (1450 m). Mount Hekla is a volcano, and we can see it from the cottage. The climb took 4 hours and was pretty hard, but very fun. The only disappointing thing was that by the time we got to the top fog had settled on the mountaintop and we could not see a thing once we got there. Oh well. Here we are on our way down from the top:


Tomorrow is a big day -- Anna's first day of school! She is beside herself with excitement (and so am I). I think the girls are very ready to go back to school.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Silence

It has been a busy day in our household. I had been upstairs doing some things when I realized that it was entirely too quiet downstairs where the girls were playing. I went downstairs fully expecting to find them knee deep in mischief. Instead, this is what I found:

Anna's at the end of the Rainbow

Today was Anna's last day of nursery school. Her school, called Rainbow, is a wonderful environment in which children are taught how much fun it can be to go to school and learn. Her teachers have been stellar, and I think Anna has really flourished in her two years at nursery school.

Here she is after school today.



Two years ago, here are Anna and Elsa on our way to Anna's first day at Rainbow.



Sigh.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

How do we treat our children?

"Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
"There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children."
- Nelson Mandela

Truer words were never spoken. Nelson Mandela is a gem.

I saw these quotes on a photographer's website: Steve McCurry. Many of you are probably familiar with of one of his most famous images - the Afghani girl with the striking green/blue eyes who was on a National Geographic cover a number of years ago. It is worth checking the images on his website - they are incredible because the evoke so many different emotions all with one image (beauty, tragedy, heartbreak).

Friday, June 06, 2008

New fruit

Today Anna told me what her favorite fruits are: strawberries, cherries, blueberries and "africots". I'm taking it that she's discovered a new breed of African apricots and will be marketing them as "africots". Should I try and trademark this???

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Eurovision

Last Saturday the BBC broadcast the finals of the Eurovision song contest. For those of you not familiar with this phenomenon, Eurovision is a pop song contest amongst European countries (with some random entrants like Israel, Armenia, Azerbaijan -- are the honorary Europeans?). Each country selects an artist and song to represent at the competition and then the winner is selected by votes cast by telephone. The thing is that people cannot vote for the contestant from their own country. So, what happens is that people vote for countries that they like, or for countries from which a number of people in the country come from (ie, German usually casts a large number of votes for Turkey). Nothing like a little geopolitics to go with your fluffy pop music. Russia won and all the neighboring countries voted for the Russian song.

What is so fantastic about this contest is the crazy variety of cheesy pop songs coupled with the snarky commentary from the BBC presenter. Some of the songs are awful, and some songs are done tongue in cheek. Spain's entry was one of the tongue in cheek variety.


Azerbaijan took themselves a little too seriously (this is so awful):


Latvia gave us a little Pirate Pop! Soooo cheesy:


Here's the BBC presenter for Eurovision:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/eurovision/index_aa.shtml

Pronunciation, addendum

I forgot to add this one. There is a very small play center near our house that the girls have been to a few times. The main reason they remember it well is that this play center hosts birthday parties, and several of Anna and Elsa's friends have had their parties there.

The play center is called the Lollipop Club. This name is proving to be quite a tongue-twister for Anna. She usually calls it the Plopliplop Glub, or some variation of that. Makes me laugh.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pronunciation

Anna generally does not have problems pronouncing words, but there are a few that remain steadfast stumbling blocks.

Piano = pinatio (like a combo piano and patio)
Mozzarella = macarona (which makes me think of the Macarena - hey macarona!!)
Her close friend Kaitlyn is still known as "Cake-lyn".

Monday, May 19, 2008

Antidote

As an antidote for my sadness, I'm publishing pictures of Anna and Elsa that were taken the weekend before last at our local May Fair. They had a blast.

These two girls make my heart sing with love each and every day.







Don't Go

Someone I've known for a majority of my life died this weekend. He took his own life. I think this came as a shock to everyone who knew him. It is so strange to think that he is gone. It is so sad to think that he was in such pain from depression that this was his solution. I am simply heartbroken for his family.

I wish he could have heard how many people would have said to him: "don't go." Then, said again: "DON'T GO." No, really, "DO ... NOT ... GO!" I wish he could hear all his loved ones saying that it is ok to feel as sad as he felt. Please don't go. I wish he could hear all of his friends' voices saying that they love him and please let them help. Please don't go. I wish he could hear his family asking him to share his pain with them and telling him how much they need him. Please don't go.

He was warm, funny, generous, gregarious, smart and one of the most charming people I have ever met.

I wish he wasn't gone.

Monday, April 28, 2008

April & Food for thought

All righty then. Well, that was April. Thanks for visiting.


No, really, April has flown by. I have now done the trans-Atlantic flight with Anna and Elsa on my own. Yikes. Actually, the flight from the UK to the US was fine, but the return flight was a little exhausting. If you are flying with young children, I do not recommend the overnight flight. Neither Anna nor Elsa slept much on the flight, and I think that made them extremely jet-lagged for the entire week after we returned.

I need to upload photos and gather my thoughts. But, in the meanwhile, here are two interesting articles from last Sunday's Observer Food Monthly. Definitely food for thought.

Bombs, bullets & our daily bread
Militia, bandits, one meal a day

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Where's the lamb?

At the beginning of the month I posted about the fact that March was not off to a good start, but I hoped that the old adage of March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb would hold true. So far, I see no sign of any lamb. Ok lamb, you have two more days to show yourself.

This last week has been awful. Over Easter weekend, Anna seemed a little under the weather but not too bad. Then on Easter Sunday night, Elsa developed a really high fever that wouldn't come down. The fever broke for a little bit on Monday, but then it was back on Monday night (hovering around 104) and on Tuesday I took Elsa to the doctor. He thought it might be viral, so said let's wait it out a little while longer to see what whether she doesn't get better. Tuesday night the high fever was back, and on Wednesday I was about to take Elsa to the emergency room. I decided to go back to the doctor one more time, and he said that it may be better to try a strong dose of antibiotics because he saw some infection in her ear. Thankfully, the antibiotics seem to have solved the problem of her fever, but she still has a bad cough. Looking back, I think the ear infection may have been caused by Elsa's mischeviousness. A few days before she got ill, she stuck a pencil in her ear and called me over to show me how clever she was. Lordy! I think she may have stuck the pencil in far enough to traumatize her eardrum and cause an infection. So, I've had a week of no sleep because Elsa is a mischevious monkey!

Elsa had been ear infection-free until this month, and then she has gotten two in one month. Unbelievable.

I'm getting ready to go to DC for about 3 weeks next Tuesday. I'm really really looking forward to it. It will be wonderful to see family and friends and to enjoy the lovely spring weather in DC. We have seen almost no signs of spring here -- the wind, rain and general dreariness of the weather is starting to get to me.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spam stinks

One thing that drives me completely bonkers is spam email. My dislike for this unsolicited crap which clogs up my email account has strayed into the realm of the irrational. I really resent having to waste my time wading through this garbage to get to my legitimate email messages.

Ever since my work email was posted on our website, I have been getting, on average, 100 spam emails a day. And, because I work for a small charitable organization, we don't have any dedicated IT person to develop effective filters for this junk. I'm relying on the junk filters that come with Microsoft Outlook -- not very effective. So, every day, when I open up Outlook to check my work email, I'm confronted with scores of messages about how to increase the length of my willy, messages offering me all forms of pharmaceutical happiness, and messages promising me pictures of various naked celebrities. I wish that the creativity and effort that goes into developing this garbage could be channeled into something more useful.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Difficult Choice

I just got the results of the "lottery" for Anna's schools. She got into the state (aka public) school that was our first choice. Fantastic! But, now we're faced with a difficult choice. Anna's teachers have been pretty unanimous in telling us that they think the private, all girls school where we've got a place for her would be the better fit (because of much smaller class size, greater attention to the students, etc.). However, I am not sure that socially this is the right fit for us -- I find some aspects of the school's atmosphere rather snooty. On the flip side, the state school is new (it was built 6 years ago and has gorgeous, modern facilities) and is also an excellent school.

This is going to be a tough decision.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Elsa Lind - Part Deux

Little Miss Elsa turned two years old yesterday. Two years since this little one rushed into the world! We had a lovely day together with friends over for lunch to celebrate. Elsa had a fantastic time playing with Sesame Street dolls that Amma and Afi sent her (when she could wrestle them away from Anna). Now we're gearing up for a big old party for Sunday afternoon. I think I may have been overly ambitious when I planned the party because I think I'm going to have 20 children (and their parents) here -- wow!!!


Here's some video from yesterday -- Elsa with Cookie Monster. The quality of the video isn't great; I'm still learning how to upload, edit and fix the quality of the video. Hopefully, there will be better ones to come.

video

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Why would you do a thing like that?

Why on earth would anyone ever make banana flavored medicine?? Ick. Poor Elsa, her antibiotics are flavored with artifical, neon-yellow banana flavor. This doesn't help my job much when it comes to cajoling/forcing her to take her medicine.

In like a lion

Phew! March has definitely come in like a lion in my household. Isn't that the expression?? March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb - or something like that?

At the moment, my family is split between the UK and continental Europe. Guess where I am?? I am still in London with Elsa, and Carlos is in Barcelona with Anna. We were all supposed to fly out together today, but Elsa was feeling awful yesterday. I took her to the doctor and found out that she has an ear infection. I told Carlos that means flying today was out of the question, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that flying tomorrow will be ok. It feels very strange to be here alone with just Elsa. And poor little Elsa. She cried her heart out when Carlos and Anna left, yelling "I want Anna!!" This went on for almost an hour.

I am determined to get to bed at a decent hour this evening. So, I'll leave you with this little tidbit. I don't know if everyone has already seen this, but the NY Times reported about a memoir that had been written by a half-white, half-Native American woman who has escaped life in LA gangland for Eugene, Oregon. The article that I saw was from the Home & Garden section, but it included an excerpt from the book. Well, it turns out to be a total fake!! You can read about it here. And, what I think is the kicker -- guess who turned her in?? Her sister! That is harsh.

Friday, February 29, 2008

How is it possible?

How is it possible that it is past 1 am and I am sitting at my desk?

I keep talking to Carlos about the fact that we need to be diligent and disciplined and get to bed at a decent hour.... Unlike me ... tonight. I fail to take my own advice. I feel like this happens almost every single night. I put the girls to bed, and hang out with Carlos for a little bit and before I know it, it is midnight! Argh!!!

I don't understand. I spend such a large portion of the day thinking about how tired I am and how I cannot wait to get to bed and yet, here I am, in front of a computer screen when I could be in bed. Pathethic.

The only good news to emerge from this evening is that I am £10 pounds richer from hosting bunco (and in possession of a really nice bottle of Nouveau Beajoulais) -- I won for the most buncos scored during the evening. I hosted Bunco this eveing despite the fact that I spent the majority of last night tending to Anna who was feeling lousey (I don't know why), tending to Elsa from 5:30 am onwards and trying to work. Yikes! Thankfully, Carlos pitched in and put the girls to bed while I got the kitchen/family room ready for bunco. Phew. I hope that we can lay low this weekend.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Earthquake

Last night I was having trouble sleeping. I'm still struggling to get rid of a cough that lays dormant during the day, but comes out with a vengance at night. So, I'm lying in bed trying to fall asleep when I feel the house sway. Yes, sway. I live in a Victorian terraced house (like a townhouse); we don't usually get a lot of swaying. Generally, when it is very windy, the wind will rattle the windows, but it doesn't make the house sway. Very strange feeling.

This morning, when I checked the news, I saw this story as the lead on the BBC News homepage: Earthquake felt across much of UK. Wow! Crazy. The earthquake was in Lincolnshire (a ways away), but I'm pretty sure that tremors were felt as far south as London. The funny thing is that last night I thought that the type of swaying that the house did seemed like what an earthquake must feel like. Then I thought that was stupid because the UK doesn't get earthquakes. I guess I was wrong.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Nastiness

I'm researching a case for work that involves the illegal dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast. I just finished reading this article: Global Sludge Ends in Tragedy for Ivory Coast. The company involved, Trafigura, is facing a lawsuit in London (the Ivorian government settled with the company). If the allegations are true, that is truly disgusting.

The art of the whisper

As I may have mentioned before, Elsa is not the world's greatest sleeper. She usually wakes up very, very early but, thankfully, falls back asleep in bed with me until a reasonable hour. Generally, this is not a problem or a big deal. However, in the last few weeks, she has decided that this early morning transfer from her bed to mine should involve a little chat. And Elsa does not know how to whisper.

4:35 am, this morning.
[I crawl back into bed, plopping Elsa between Carlos and myself.]
Elsa: MAMMA, IS PAPA SLEEPING?
Me: Elsa, sssshhhh!!!! Yes, Papa was sleeping.
Elsa: Ok, quiet.
[30 seconds of silence]
Elsa: MAMMA, IT IS DARK DARK OUTSIDE.
Me: Yes, Elsa is it dark outside. Now, sssshhhh!
Elsa: Ok.
[another 30 seconds of silence]
Elsa: MAMMA, IS ANNA SLEEPING?
Me: Oh lordy! Yes, Anna is sleeping. Elsa, now we need to be quiet, quiet.
Elsa: Ok.
[another 30 seconds of silence]
Elsa: MAMMA, I'M TIRED.
Me: Argh!!! Then go to sleep!
Elsa: Ok.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Heartstrings

"It tugs at my heartstrings." I think this is a strange phrase. I mean, I get it, but this phrase conjurs up an all too anatomical vision -- a real heart (not a Valentine heart) with the the aorta, etc. coming out of it. Not exactly the warmy and fuzzy vision you would think when you are talking about something that tugs at your heartstrings. Maybe this is the legacy of having two doctors for parents.

Anyhoo, I was just thinking about daily moments that I have with the girls that I am going to miss dearly when they get bigger. My day generally starts with Elsa waking up between 5 and 6. I stagger to her room, half-asleep, get her out of her crib and bring her back to my bed. Elsa then falls back asleep with me for another hour or so -- happy to snuggle with me. Priceless. Next, I see another set of big brown eyes -- Anna is awake. If it is a cold morning and still early, I try to cajole her into cuddling with me and Elsa, but it is a hard sell. Generally, it is downstairs right away to get breakfast.

The best part of my day with Anna is when I pick her up from school. She is always so happy to see me and jumps out of the classroom to give me a hug (I wonder how long that will last!). I love the huge smile I get as soon as she has spotted me in line waiting to pick her up. As we walk home from school, she is still filled with excitement from her day and quickly tells me everything she did. Her enthusiasm for school and learning is fantastic; I hope it never wears off.

These are the moments that tug at my aorta!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pea soup.

Dare I say it?? I believe I am victorious -- nasty bugs be damned! I am feeling much better and have emerged from my aspic-fog. Hopefully, tomorrow I'll be feeling 100% because I really really need to have a productive day at work tomorrow.

Speaking of fog, today's was like pea soup. It didn't lift until the late afternoon, right before it started getting dark. Weird. I took the girls to the playground, and it was really bizarre to see the entire park cloaked in fog. I wish I had brought my camera.

Do you like hazelnuts? If so, try this cake - roasted hazelnut muscovado cake. I've made it twice, and it is delicious.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It is not over.

Another day of aspic-head, but I'm hanging in there. However, it was not a terribly productive day for work. Sigh. Now, I've fallen ever further behind on my to do list.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The battle is on.

I have spent this entire day feeling like my head has been preserved in aspic. I have been so spacey and out of it today. I went all the way to the grocery store, did all my shopping, went through the check-out before realizing that I had left my purse and wallet at home. Oops. I feel a nasty cold coming on -- the itchy throat, the dull throb behind my eyes, sooooo tired. But, I am determined to fight this stupid bug tooth and nail. Today I armored myself with drinking lots of water, herbal tea with lemon and honey, and lots of vitamin C.

Now, I'm off to bed.

Tomorrow, we'll see who wins this one.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Bottled water

I met a woman at a meeting I went to last year who was campaigning to encourage people to drink tap water (or just filter their tap water) instead of drinking bottled water. Her organization's water campaign can be found here. It is definitely worth looking at. After talking to her, I have been thinking twice before buying bottled water.

The Sunday Observer had a big article about this same issue last weekend. "It's just water, right? Wrong. Bottled water is set to be the latest battleground in the eco war"

At work, I have been following a case that relates to the privatization of the water system in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The project was a disaster and the private contractor hired for the job ended up making things worse rather than better. Now, this company (joint venture between Biwater and Gauff) is in arbitration with the government of Tanzania for having cancelled the contract. Interesting stuff. It is interesting that I sometimes have to remind people that access to water is considered a human rights issue. Humans don't last too long without water.

That's one way of putting it.

I had a looooong night last night. Elsa woke up at about 2 am, and she would not settle down to go back to sleep. I ended up taking her into my bed because I was exhausted. Then, at 3 am, the culprit made itself known. Elsa vomited all over my bed. Ick. The funny thing was that Elsa did not know how to express what happened. So she said to me, "Uh oh, mamma, I spilled." It is nice to know that Elsa can make me laugh even when I'm cleaning up her vomit in the middle of the night.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Jim Henson

I know I've said this before, but I think Jim Henson was a genius. I love Sesame Street, and I adore the Muppet Show. I think you would have to be made of stone not to, at least, crack a smile while watching one of these shows. They are instant mood-lifters.

I am thrilled that Anna and Elsa are now fans of both shows. Thanks to DVD imports from Amma, we now have a box set of Sesame Street as well as a box set of the Muppet Show. They are awesome.

I love it when Anna asks me if she can watch the "Muffin Show". Or, when Elsa sings "C is for Cookie". The best.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A revealing trip to the grocery store

After the hysterics of last night, I totally forgot to mention my interesting trip to the grocery store. Yesterday, after I had taken Elsa to gymnastics, I went shopping at a grocery store that I don't normally shop at, but it is on the way back from gymnastics. As I am walking into the store, I see a naked man sauntering across the parking lot, also on his way into the store. Hmmm. Not something I normally come across during my shopping expeditions. This guy walks into the store and right up to the customer service desk, and the woman working there promptly hands him a flourescent orange jacket (the kind the store's employees wear when they are out collecting the shopping carts in the parking lot). I didn't linger long enough to hear the full story (I'm sure it was a good one), but it was definitely an odd moment in my day!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Exercise in Patience

Ok, inhale -- deeeeeep breath -- and exhale, slooooooowly. Repeat. Again. Again. Hmm. My shoulders have lowered ever so slightly from their stress-induced position immediately below my earlobes.

Boy, what an evening. We went to a birthday party this afternoon for twins that are Anna's classmates. The party was at a small play center very close to our house. We've been there before for birthday parties so I should have known what to expect. The party went from 3 to 5. I had the brilliant idea of letting Anna have a playdate after school with one of her friends and then I took the two girls (and Elsa) to the party at 3. Anna and Elsa had a great time at the party running around, jumping in a bouncy castle, riding in little play cars, eating junk food and lots of sweets. By the time we got home, they were both pooped but really wound up. I should have marched them straight to the bathroom for their bath and put them to bed. Instead, I started doing other things and didn't get them to bed until 8:15. From about 6:15 until about 8:15, I think Anna may have set a world's record for the number of tantrums thrown in a two hour period. It took absolutely ever ounce of my self-control not to go ballistic. I really hate evenings like this, that seem to end on such a bad note. I have got to remember to get the girls into their beds before 8, otherwise I have to deal with too many tears and tantrums before bedtime.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Pictures from Barcelona






Pictures from Christmas Day






Pictures from Christmas Eve






Sun in February

Blog silence since Christmas. Hmm. I'm sure all three of my loyal readers have been waiting in eager anticipation for me to break my silence. At last, I feel like I have the energy and brain power to sit down and write.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and that 2008 is off to a good start. We are enjoying spectacular sunny weather in London. What a relief after a very dreary January. It is amazing what a little bit of sunny weather (and slightly longer days) will do for one's energy levels and mood!

Christmas was wonderful with Amma, Afi and Kiddi coming and staying with us. The girls loved every minute of it! Then we went to Barcelona to see Yaya, Yayo and Tio Miguel. By the time we returned home at the beginning of January, we were pooped -- a very busy holiday season.

Now we are waiting to hear about what school Anna will go to in the autumn (she starts kindergarten in September). The process of getting into a state/public school here is rather complicated. You have to apply and rank your top three choices of school and state schools also include religious schools (Catholic, Church of England - but generally you have show that you are a church-going in the school's parish in order to have a chance of getting in). It turns out that we are on the edge of two school catchment areas. One school is really great - new building, excellent teachers and totally oversubscribed. The other school is ok, but not great and not so oversubcribed. I'm thinking that our chances of getting into the great school are slim, and that we'll be assigned to the ok school. So, we've been holding a spot for Anna at a private school. The private school is outstanding. It is an all-girls school (not something that I necessarily wanted) with small classes (14 per class) and a very impressive record. After Carlos and I went on a tour of the school, we were super impressed. Before going to visit the school, I was a bit down on the school because I thought it was too snobby and didn't want Anna at a girls school. But, after visiting, the headmistress definitely proved me (mostly) wrong (I still think the school is a bit snooty). She said that the good thing about teaching girls separately at this age is that generally they have an easier time focusing than boys and the school tries to take advantage of that by challenging the girls academically. Also, she talked about one of the goals of the school being to develop strong, independent girls. I like that. So, in all likelihood, I think Anna will end up at the private school because we will not have a viable state school option. Ugh. The whole things gives me a bit of a headache.