« October 2007 | Main | December 2007 »

November 29, 2007

Great Opening Night of The Little Prince!

Yay! Thank you to all who prayed for Jason - his sore throat went away after half a day, he went back to school, sailed through the dress rehearsal yesterday, and had a great opening night tonight of his middle school play! God honored my pleas and yours, and Jason worked hard. All the cast and crew did a great job, and it was a success.

Now he's taking off make-up, showering the stiffness out of his gelled hair, and off to bed to restore enough energy to do it all again tomorrow night.

Emily got the treat of staying up until 9:45pm on a school night...and she's very proud of her brother, too.

November 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 28, 2007

Friendly Gestures on the International Roads

In France, there are a lot of motorcycles. When cars pull to the right a bit to let a motorcyclist fit past in the middle of the road, the rider very often lifts one leg away from the bike in a gesture of thanks to the driver after they've passed. We experienced this living there in 2005-6.

Here in England, the roads are typically very narrow, fitting only one car going in each direction, with no extra room for parking. Nonetheless, people do consistently park along such roads, on either side, facing any direction (legally), and the moving cars are faced with a gauntlet to run, without hitting any cars coming the opposite direction, though there's only the room left for one car at a time. This results in people "giving way" to each other, and drivers very often then raise a hand from the steering wheel in a friendly gesture to thank the one who gave way and waited for the other to pass, just before disappearing from frontal view and moving off into the side-mirror view.

I don't remember any particular friendly gestures often occurring on the roads in the U.S. I would suppose this is because the roads are so much wider there that no one needs to give way to each other. There is actually room to park AND drive, most of the time. Do you see frequently repeated friendly gestures on the roads where you live?

November 28, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Symptoms of the Past Week

In the past 7 days:

David: sore throat, aches and pains, headache (yesterday and today working from bed)

Emily: vomiting episode (last Thursday)

Jason: runny nose (all week), sore throat and funny voice (this morning), and fainting spell (Monday during play practice; people thought he was joking around)

Me: fine, fine, fine! (mercifully, thankfully, and so far)

If you pray, please pray for Jason (13), who has his final dress rehearsal for "The Little Prince" this afternoon, and then two performances tomorrow and the day after. The director of this middle school play told him (and me) that it's all hanging on his shoulders. But hey, no pressure. He does have the most lines to say, since he is in fact The Little Prince himself, so she's only stating the truth. Anyway, Jason's home in bed instead of at science class right now, and I am asking God that Jason will heal up, sound and feel better, be able to catch up on missed classes from today, have the energy he needs for the dress rehearsal, and be able to put on a great show Thurs and Fri. And that he'll remember all his lines, that the other people will too, that if they don't, they'll all do a great job covering for each other, that the tech crew will make all the right lights and sound effects happen at the right moments (the 2nd tech rehearsal didn't go so well yesterday), and that the audience will love it. Do I sound concerned, worried, apprehensive? Time to turn those all into more real-time prayers right now, excuse me. [...] Ok, good, now that's all taken care of. But it wouldn't hurt if you all throw in your say too. God likes to be asked.

And if you're wondering about the fainting thing...well, yes, it is intriguing. Jason has never fainted before, that any of us can remember. So he found it very interesting. Actually, it was a squeamish thing - he was having a splinter dug out of his finger at the time. He was standing up, and he hadn't eaten or drunk anything since lunch, it was about 6pm at this point, and the needle probing under his skin was all a bit too much for him. Lights out. His head did hit the gym floor, but he was fine. They got him some water and a banana, they raised his legs, and he was able to finish the rehearsal. He ate a good dinner, had a good night's sleep, and wasn't even tired in the morning, he said. So we're not concerned about that.

On with another drizzly English day.

November 28, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 25, 2007

I need a bridge category

I just discovered that Wikipedia has 57 pages of contract bridge convention descriptions! In this case, "conventions" is not referring to big organized conferences where people get together, but rather an agreed-upon way of passing information through bidding.

I am having so much fun playing bridge these days that I just made a new such category for my blog posts here. If you don't know anything about bridge, please feel absolutely free to skip all posts about this. I think my mom and mother-in-law might have fun reading, though, since they like to play bridge and are much more experienced than I. My descriptions of various situations will actually make sense to them. My own view of bridge used to centre more around fear and boredom, but now it's all about glee and challenge - what a lovely transformation, for me, for my husband, my parents, and my in-laws, who all like bridge. All good things come from above (thank You).

Tonight David partnered with Jason, and I with Emily, and we played a few rounds. The following interesting things happened:

1. I had 17 points. Emily, my partner, opened! That was exciting. That meant we had at least 30 points between us (out of a possible 40 in the whole deck). We had fun trying out the Blackwood convention, whereby one asks one's partner how many aces they have. We settled on 5NT (although we had some trouble figuring out how to stop there instead of having it mean a request for information on Kings - we had definite table talk on that issue), and I made one overtrick. It was fun. Not for David, though, who had ZERO points. It wasn't quite a Yarborough, though, as he had a couple of tens.

2. On the very next hand, it was my turn to have zero points, but I far outdid David on the nothingness scale. Not only did I not have any tens, but I didn't have any nines either, and my two highest cards were one 7 and one 8! The rest were six and below! Including the 2 through 7 of clubs! A Super-Sized Yarborough!

Have a great week...

November 25, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A-Z: What Should I Be Doing With My Life?

Sometimes I want to know exactly what God wants me to do about stuff. Should I be living the USA? In France, the UK, Germany, Switzerland? Where does my future lie? Should I be in this house or another? This church or another? Where are you taking me, God?

My past is clear. My present is that He's not telling me my future just now.

In the meantime, I am getting the feeling He wants me to
- be content where He's planted me
- be thankful for all the blessings He so lavishly pours out
- trust Him for whatever is to come, and
- get on with all these crystal clear commands that He's already given me:

Act justly (Micah 6:8)
Accept one another (Rom 15:7)

Believe in the One He has sent (John 6:29)
Bear fruit in every good work (Col 1:10)
Be a blessing (Gen 12:2)
Bless and do not curse (Rom 12:14)

Consider the kindness and sternness of God (Rom 11:22)

Do not be arrogant (Rom 11:20)
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought (Rom 12:3)
Do what is right (Romans 13:3)

Encourage (Rom 12:8)

Find rest in God alone (Psalm 62:5)

Give thanks to the Father (Col 1:12)
Give generously (Rom 12:8)
Grow in the knowledge of God (Col 1:10)

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good (Rom 12:9)
Honor one another above yourselves (Rom 12:10)

Integrity - have it! (1 Chr 29:17)
Instruct one another (Rom 15:14), gently! (2 Tim 2:25)

Join in the work (1 Cor 16:16)

Keep no record of wrongs (1 Cor 13:5)
Keep in step with the Spirit (Gal 5:25)
Know that the Lord is God (Psalm 100:3)

Love mercy (Micah 6:8)
Love your neighbour as yourself (Rom 13:9)

Mind your own business (1 Thess 4:11)
Mourn with those who mourn (Rom 12:15)

Number our days aright (Psalm 90:12)

Overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21)
Offer your bodies as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1)

Pay taxes (Rom 13:7)
Practice hospitality (Rom 12:13)

Quarrel not with your Maker (Isaiah 45:9)

Rejoice with those who rejoice (Rom 12:15)

Serve (Rom 12:7)
Share with God's people who are in need (Rom 12:13)
Stand firm (1 Cor 15:58)
Stop passing judgment on one another (Rom 14:13)

Think of yourself with sober judgment (Rom 12:3)
Trust in Him (Rom 15:13)

U-turns: repent for wiping out of sins and gaining refreshment (Acts 3:19)

Vengeance - leave it entirely up to God (Rom 12:19)

Walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)
Win the respect of outsiders (1 Thess 4:12)

X-ray vision: look at the heart, not the appearance of people (1 Sam 16:7)

Yearn for God's presence & heaven (Ps 84:2)

Zeal for the Lord - have it! (Rom 12:11)

November 25, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A-Z: What does God do with His time?

Answers (Ps 17:6)
Atones for my sin (Rom 3:25)

Bears our burdens daily (Ps 68:19)
Blesses (Rom 10:12)

Creates (Gen 1:31)
Carries (Dt 1:31)
Cleanses from sin (Ezek 36:25)

Delights in people who put their hope in Him (Ps 147:11)

Establishes authority (Rom 13:1)
Examines my paths (Prov 5:21)

Forgives me (1 Jn 1:9)

Gives up everything for me (Rom 8:32)
Guides me if I am humble (Ps 25:9)

Helps me (Isaiah 50:9)

Is (Ex 3:14)

Justifies (Isaiah 53:11, Rom 3:26)

Knows (1 Sam 2:3)

Loves me (Isaiah 43:4)

Makes grass grow (Ps 148:7)

Never changes (Hebrews 13:8)

Overcomes evil (Rev 3:21)

Protects (Ps 116:6)
Perceives thoughts (Ps 139:2)
Plans (Ps 33:11)

Questions (Job 38:3)
Quickly rescues (Ps 31:2)

Rules over everything (even unruly me) (Ps 66:7)
Ransoms my life (Mt 20:28)
Refreshes (Acts 3:19)
Revives (Ps 85:6)

Satisfies (Ps 81:16)

Transforms (Phil 3:21)

Upholds (Ps 63:8)

Victory - has it (Prov 21:31)

Waits (2 Peter 3:9)
Washes hearts (Ps 51:2)

X-ray vision - looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7)

Yearns for us (Jer 31:20)

Zeal - has it for justice & righteousness (Is 9:7) and for His people (Is 26:11) and for His Name (Ezek 39:25)

November 25, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 24, 2007

Sixteen Pheasant

From two to four PM today, David and I briskly walked around heretofore unexplored-by-us sections of Windsor Great Park. What with 5,000 acres of it, we still haven't quite covered it all in the 17 months we've lived here. Apparently, "Over 2,000 species of beetle have been recorded therein. It is "part of a vast Norman hunting chase, set in [...] the Surrey and Berkshire countryside stretching from Windsor Castle in the north to Ascot in the south."

We didn't see any deer today, but we did see sixteen pheasant, mostly in ones and twos, but also a group of nine, walking across a field.

The wind whipped, the clouds were steadfast, and we were exceedingly glad of our winter coats and hat/hood. On our hands, we wore our Glovers until the middle hands got too warm. We had to switch sides, and eventually abandon them altogether. That shared body heat sure does steam things up. See, there's a single mitten each for the outside hands, and one joint mitten for the inside hands that you can hold skin-to-skin and still be protected from the cold and wind. Available in red glovers or charcoal glovers. All the other websites in the world that I could find mock them as nauseating, but I love them! And my husband apparently is secure enough in his manhood to wear them with me when it is cold enough.

My parents used to take a lot of long walks together, just the two of them, and now I know why:
- the kids, after a certain age, just don't want to come
- the parents don't want to hear the kids arguing about going or complaining once along
- the parents can go farther and faster alone
- the parents can have serious, uninterrupted talk about their relationship and future plans
- the kids get old enough to leave happily on their own
- it's a way for the parents with sedentary lifestyles to get exercise, which the kids already get in other ways

November 24, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Family Pancake Team

Emily expressed the desire and provided the impetus and energy

David agreed and provided the coaching and expert tips

Emily and David put all the ingredients together

Jason and Katherine emptied the dishwasher

Jason prepared the special fillings: sliced bananas and broken walnuts

Katherine got out the Canadian maple syrup

David poured the batter in lovely circles

Katherine applied the bananas and walnuts and covered them with dabs of batter

Emily got out the plates

David flipped the pancakes

Everyone ate, drank, was merry

We all thanked each other for our contributions

A family pancake team

November 24, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thanksgiving Wreath

LatenovemberyellowfoliageThe day after Thanksgiving was a cold, crisp, blue-skied one (hence the decision to wash the car that day; see previous post for that fiasco). Usually, around here, the times it is cold enough to snow are the times when there are no clouds to keep the heat in, and therefore no precipitation. My eyes played tricks on me that night, when I could have sworn that the backyard vegetation was mantled with a dusting of snow. But no, it was just bathed in wan moonlight shining out of the clear sky.

Earlier in the evening, as it was a Friday night (plus David had worked at home), we were finally able to indulge in our first family dinner of the week. Since David and I had had that nice Italian lunch date together, we weren't too hungry. We agreed on leftover homemade macaroni & cheese, revived with extra non-fat milk and parmesan and baked this time, accompanied by fresh green-leaf lettuce, tomatoes and honey-mustard dressing. Most of us enjoyed some mushroom ravioli too.
ThanksgivingcardwreathWe were all so happy it was the beginning of the weekend that we were inspired to do our real "Thanksgiving" at last. We were planning to play cards together, so we had two decks of cards at hand. We took two cards away from each deck, leaving a total of 100 cards in stacks in the middle of the round table. Then it was a free-for-all, 100 things flying out of our mouths that we were each thankful to God for, with a card turned over for each precious person or thing or spiritual benefit such as forgiveness...and at the end we had unintentionally created a Thanksgiving Card Wreath. :-) Jason was thankful for giving thanks, because it made us realize how many wonderful blessings we have, whether human, material, or intangible.

Then we were done with our meal, and we played several rounds of bridge. On one hand Emily had 22 points and I had 10 as her partner. We settled on 3 No Trump, and Emily played the hand - she took all the tricks, so 7NT would have been more appropriate! Another Grand Slam missed! Well, she's gaining experience. Not an aggressive bidder yet. David and I are thankful we have reached the stage of parenting where we have a built-in foursome for bridge. It's a fun family activity which also stimulates our brains.

And now that it's Saturday, time for some work on the Christmas letter and greeting cards...have a relaxing day!

November 24, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 23, 2007

Weird Thanksgiving

'Tis the night before Thanksgiving and 13-year-old Jason springs on me the claim that the school is giving American students the day off for the holiday, and that "all" the American kids won't be in school tomorrow. Since we live in England, Thanksgiving is typically just a regular workday and schoolday.

I stare at him blankly, formulating various answers in my head. I ask him what he thinks I am going to reply to him. He says he doesn't know. Suffice to say I am not having any of this, but I am willing to go so far as to email some other American parents to check on this rumor, which the school administration has said nothing about. I tell Jason in the meantime that he is definitely going to school tomorrow. I tell him if Thanksgiving is so important to him, he should write a list of 100 things he is thankful for. He agrees this is a great idea and a good thing to do while he is staying home.

Later in the evening and the next morning I hear back from various 8th grade parents. Only one is keeping her child home, but she has organized this well in advance and notified the principal and all the relevant teachers. She has gotten the homework in advance, and received permission for an excused absence because this holiday is very important to their family. All the other parents, like us, are sending their good old American kids to school with all the other nationalities, because this is not a British holiday and the UK is where we live at the moment.

* * *

At 6:20am on Thanksgiving morning, Emily wakes me up saying her stomach hurts. I blearily run through a few actions she might take, including getting a glass of water. She returns in a few minutes with one, and I properly wake up, don my robe, and join her in the hallway. Soon thereafter, she starts vomiting. Thankfully (let's be thankful, after all, today of all days), she hits the toilet target every one of the four episodes for the next 2 hours. I install the poor girl on towels and a pillow outside the bathroom, on the hallway rug. I rub her back and she says this helps. I contemplate how Jason will feel about Emily staying home today while he goes to school on Thanksgiving. It turns out he would rather be violently ill. Or so he thinks, from afar.

* * *

By 9am, Emily wakes up from her hallway nap feeling much better. Jason later asks why I couldn't have taken her into school at noon in this case. I tell him schools don't want vomiting people in their classrooms. Or recently vomity people.

I work on some Christmas gifts. This is a vaguely Thanksgivingy thing to do, isn't it? It's the very next holiday.

In the evening, for our Thanksgiving dinner (which we have by now forgotten is so), we absent-mindedly eat gammon with a maple syrup glaze (gammon is English for ham), with homemade macaroni and cheese (cheddar, gruyère and parmesan) and green peas, while we rewatch the most exciting scenes from The Matrix. I know you are wondering, so I'll just mention that Gruyère without an S at the end refers to the cheese or the district in Switzerland where it is made, whilst Gruyères WITH the S refers to the town where the cheese is made (the capital of the district). Did you know that, KFB? Or maybe, au contraire, you are wondering which clips are our favorites from the Matrix. Ok, I'll divulge that as well, but skip it if you're not an action fan: Trinity in a Jam/Impossible Pursuit, the Lobby Shooting Spree of course, Dodge This/Gotcha/Rooftop Rescue, and Final Connections.

Now this is just the kids and me sitting on stools at the kitchen counter, because David, extra tired from a demanding day of presentations and Q&A at another company, has slept past his train stop for the very first time. Oops. Fortunately he wakes up at the next one and manages to get off and take another train back within about five minutes. Phew.

By the time David walks in, we've put away the laptop viewing screen and we chat with him as he eats a few bites. Then David and I say goodnight to the kids and head off to our regular mid-week small group meeting with a few friends from church. We are the only non-Brits. They ask us whether this isn't Thanksgiving Day for us, and we sort of shrug. They apologize, needlessly.

* * *

The day after Thanksgiving, while America shops, our kids go to school again, this time both of them. But David works from home, because at 11:15am we drive together to the school, where David speaks to Jason's Technology class about his job. Very cool; I am so proud. I am thrilled that he is so smart, that he is so brave as to go and talk to a group of 14 and 15 year olds he doesn't know. That he knows a lot of stuff they would be interested in. And that he would take the time to show tangible love for his son in this way. The class pays attention, asks intelligent questions, and is very happy that David managed to bring along some pretty company-branded pens to give out.

After this, David and I get a rare meal out together, at a restaurant on the way home. It is an Italian place that I really like, but Emily doesn't, so we don't go often. David enjoys sea breem with lemon and courgettes, roasted potatoes and a bowl of mixed bright green vegetables (snow peas, green beans, peas, and broccoli, all swimming in garlicky butter). I feast on bruschetta with red pepper, courgette, cherry tomatoes and goat cheese, and a side of "asparagi grigliati" with poached egg.

Dropping off David at home to work some more, I head to Longacres Garden Centre to pick up two fir wreaths: one for the front door, and one for the Advent candle ring on our living room table. While I am there, I find they are now selling gourmet and/or organic foods of interesting local varieties. I tuck a bag of heart-shaped, red-and-white pasta into a nook at the front of my trolley. But as I unload the wreaths into the car, I find I never put the pasta on the conveyor belt, and walked out without anyone (including myself) noticing I had the bag. I sigh and take it back inside. The cashier tells me if I want it I have to queue again. I say never mind and surrender the cute beet-colored hearts. Another time.

After picking up the kids at school, the three of us pull into the car wash since our Toyota is filthy. It's the kind where you drive the car in and stay inside while the bubbles cloud the windows and you giggle together. Only this time, it sprays some scented water over the car, rolls backwards, and stops. There are metal doors enclosing the space, to avoid excess noise for neighbouring homes. We are stuck and nothing is happening. The sign outside our window tells us to stay in the car and honk the horn in this unlikely event that we are experiencing. We try this for nine minutes, while unsuccessfully checking the receipt for a phone number and calling David to ask him to Google the gas station to find some contact info. Apparently Google doesn't know about this little place that sells warm chocolate croissants and Kindereggs along with the petrol and car washes. Jason is begging to be the hero and get out of the car and use the emergency exit. After making sure all three of us have gotten any and all pent-up horn-honking out of our system in this sound-proof metal box, I finally let Jason go. Within a minute he is back with an employee. Apparently the power to the car wash is out, but he knows how to open the door in front of us to let us out. We get a replacement car wash code for another day, and the phone number of the gas station for future use, and drive home rather non-plussed. Jason gets a paid job rinsing off the car with the garden hose in his wellington boots. He comes in with cold, red hands (it's three degrees C out = 37F), and we start our two-day weekend of relaxation.

* * *

I hope you had a more traditional Thanksgiving! I am thankful most of all to be the wife of my husband and the mother of my children, the daughter of my parents and the daughter-in-law of my mother-in-law. I am deeply blessed in ways beyond measure.

November 23, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack