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


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


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.]
Me: Elsa, sssshhhh!!!! Yes, Papa was sleeping.
Elsa: Ok, quiet.
[30 seconds of silence]
Me: Yes, Elsa is it dark outside. Now, sssshhhh!
Elsa: Ok.
[another 30 seconds of silence]
Me: Oh lordy! Yes, Anna is sleeping. Elsa, now we need to be quiet, quiet.
Elsa: Ok.
[another 30 seconds of silence]
Me: Argh!!! Then go to sleep!
Elsa: Ok.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


"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.