Tuesday, August 30, 2011

September 11 - What will you do?

All this week National Geographic Channel is playing documentaries about 9/11. I cannot believe it's the 10-year anniversary - can you?

And what will you do for it ? (I haven't decided yet..)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jack's School & My Friend

I said I'd post a bit more about Jack's school, so here goes.

It's a special education elementary school and 50% of the student population are special education students with physical challenges. The rest are neighbourhood kids (like Jack) or picked from a lottery. It's a very good and therefore popular school, so the parents I've met so far from the lottery system seems really happy to be there. Jack's kindergarten class is small. There are two other special ed. kindergarten classes and they all come together for music, art, recess, sharing (show & tell) and any other activity they can. As the Principal told all of us on the first day, integration is sought at every turn and they operate as a family. Sounds great to me! One of the kids in his class used to be at the same child care place as Jack 3 1/2 years ago but I don't think they'll become best buds. Jack is drawn to boisterous and confident people (aren't we all?) so I'm waiting to see who that best friend might be. I hope it's not the son of the woman I sat next to who was as warm and pleasant as a snake. Or maybe a rat. I haven't quite sussed her yet but she was a piece of work and very rude to the teacher.

My gut feeling is that Jack will love his school, love his teacher but hate the "work" and it will be a challenge for me to make it fun. We have done his homework okay this weekend but I think by 5th grade he'll leave me behind in maths. He'll be asking me basic questions and I'll have to feign deafness. If you have any better excuses please do let me know.

There's something else going on today that I want to say. A good friend of mine has surgery tomorrow to remove a tumour. Can you please pray, or send good vibes or just think about her tomorrow? Her name is Michelle and she's a good egg. She a great mum, wife and friend and one of the nicest people I know. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Big Day for Jack, Long Day for Me

Today feels like one of those days where you can't believe what you did first thing in the morning happened on the same day because it seems so long ago.

It was Jack's first day at school. He's a kindergartner & took to it like a duck to water. Before he fell asleep tonight he whispered in my ear that the school library has a fish tank with a frog in it and he says his best part of the day was making friends. Bless. When I have a bit more time I'll talk about some of his classmates a bit more, including one kid he use to be with at a babysitter's house years ago. Other parents seem nice and his teacher Mrs C seems too good to be true. I am VERY happy with his school - it's small and has a family atmosphere.

Tonight we had his first soccer practice of the season, so more new friends for him

Maybe his team will win a game this year. Go Penguins!

So I just worked for two hours to get ready for something in Danville, Indiana tomorrow and now I'm off to bed. Tonight was marred by two crappy things that happened. One is my doing and involves me continuing to be a doormat to someone, and the second involves a good friend finding out today that she has cancer.
So now I'm off to Bedfordshire and I hope tomorrow brings good things. I couldn't be prouder of Jack, particularly when he told me that he sat next to a shy kid at lunch. I think he'll like school a lot.

Monday, August 22, 2011

There's Changes on the Horizon

It's countdown to school for the boys! Jack starts kindergarten on Wednesday and seems nonplussed by the whole thing but I think it's a front. I told him I would stay with him for a while and he seemed calmed by that. We'll see. I think I have all the paperwork and school supplies ready and I can't wait to meet his teacher, Mrs C. I think at this point I'm more excited than him though.

Daniel starts pre-school mid September so tonight Craig and I sat down and filled out all of his paperwork. When it asked what his interests and activities are, Craig suggested I write "biting and whacking people with sticks". Good grief don't let him get expelled. He's a good boy is our Danny. Very loving, shy and loyal to his family (already!). But God help you if you take his toy away or try and make him do something he doesn't want to do. Like they will in school. Sigh...
The other thing I'm nervous about is that he isn't really potty-trained yet and they'll let a wet pull-up go for a couple of hours but will ring me to come and get him if he has a #2. I wonder how long that will last before it gets really old for them and for me? He's making small baby-steps in the potty training department.

Anyway, less of the me being a nervous ninny about school and more about a fun birthday party Jack went to recently where they had a Captain Jack Sparrow look-alike there to entertain the kids. It was GREAT! Jack totally believed it and when we left he asked me if Captain Jack had sailed his boat down the river in front of the birthday party house. Then he said "I thought he was pretend until I saw his sword and gun and then I knew he was real and I was so frightened but also it was great". He's not the only one. Many of us mums followed Captain Jack about too, mostly in awe of how much he looked like Johnny Depp!

So my next post will probably be on Wednesday. Jack's first day in kindergarten. Sorry to sound like a cliche but really - where did the last 5 years go??

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Surrounded by Fish

I've had a bit of a dry spell with blogging this past 8 days. Last week was crazy though - it was my first week back after my holiday and our babysitter was on holiday so I had to juggle kids and work and it was our two big field days at work. Then I was stuck to the telly watching the events unfold with the riots in England. I'm not going to offer my opinion on it any more than to say that last time I went home (2008) things seemed really bleak for young people and I'm sure it's got worse with the economy the way it is. I asked Craig why we probably wouldn't see that here since there is extreme poverty here too - and he said "because they have opportunities here".

Anyway, this weekend was good. Relaxing & low-key. Our neighbours had a yard sale and I ended up buying a fish tank for Jack for $5. Then I bought a tank hood, light, gravel, ornaments, plants, water conditioner, food and fish and dropped another $60! The salesman would have sold me a puppy too if I hadn't have had to leave the shop to meet someone. And so - meet goldfish Bert & Ernie and sucker Garrett. Garrett is Jack's fish - named after the friend he met on holiday.

The info label at the fish shop informed me that goldfish get to 12 inches long. Really? That's a humongus goldfish and I'm fairly sure I've never seen one that big. Mind you, most of my goldfish experiences involve fishing dead ones out after a few days and flushing then down the loo.

Talking of fish - this little boy is fearless and will jump into 6-ft. water with no problem. Today we went to visit Debbie & Lynn and they took us to their neighbour's pool and Danny scared me to death. I had to give him a time-out to stop him running to the deepest part of the pool and jumping in. If I can't touch the bottom there's no way he's jumping in there! I don't remember Jack being like this at all as he hated having his head under water until this year.

Jack's swimming is coming along great-guns. His confidence has soared since the holiday at the lake in Michigan and he's diving, snorkling and swimming in deep water with no worries (with floaties of course). I think both of my boys are becoming little fish which I'm glad about, particularly as I'm such a wimp in deep water.
This week it is mine & Craig's 15th wedding anniversary - the crystal anniversary. When I told Craig that he said he'd try and score us both some crystal meth. Smart arse. We have no plans yet but I hope a ring is in the offing because my wedding ring cracked & broke today! It is currently sat on the kitchen cabinet, leaving my finger feeling bare and weird. In my ring's defense, it cost $10 fifteen years ago so it has served me well. The local jeweler offered to repair it for $30 or sell me a white gold version for $999. I think I'll look for another plain silver band thank you very much.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Last Day: Memorable to say the least!!!

Last day at Camp Bonkers!

Our day started at 3am with Daniel stood inches from my nose crying "snakes" because of a nightmare so I spent 30 minutes trying to get him to bed, and then Craig did, but we finally gave up & got Daniel in bed with me and Craig with Jack. Jack's room was too hot though so poor Craig slept on the couch.

At 9.50am when we all woke (really!) we had two families knocking at our cabin door - the kids and mum that we have made friends with and the Amish mum and her six kids. I was still wearing sleep stuff, hadn't brushed my teeth and had hair like Ken Dodd, but had to host 11 people! Melissa (mum to kids I like) just said "hi" and left two of her boys to play with Jack but the Amish mum walked in and said "Can we hang out? I want to see the cabin" and proceeded to do a tour of the cabin while she tried her best to be polite but failed on many occasions. It was BIZARRE and Craig was cooking breakfast with his spatula in the frying pan and his mouth half open, just blown away by how crazy the Amish lady was. I felt a bit sorry as I think she wanted to come over for a bit of company but I wasn't feeling too hospitable seeing as I hadn't any underwear on.

So anyway. The day just got better from there. While were were swimming this afty, I heard a massive argument going down at the main office and we haven't seen our favourite person, Barb, since. They were all getting ready for the chili cook-off and pig roast tonight so they were all stressed and I didn't like to bother them.

Tonight we went to the chili cook-off and I was a judge! Thank goodness I had Steve, a local chef, to help me because first prize was 1 years rent at the campsite (about $1,100 value!) I think I did okay and really enjoyed doing it. Craig and the boys hung out and did horse and cart rides and then we all ate the pig roast and goat roast. Which brings me to the goat ...

I might have said in a previous post that they had a petting zoo here? Well they had a goat called Butter who was a bit of a character.

That ended up on the grill tonight.
And then in Craig's tummy. Really.

After the devouring of poor Butter, Craig and the kids and I went on a walk-about and met a new group of people outside a camper, very drunk, that dragged us over & who I shall refer to as: a nice, down-trodden woman called Jonnie (who did the dragging), her 5 nice daughters aged 3-16, a tolerable husband wearing a U of M t-shirt, a dim-witted woman drinking whisky who thought she rocked, a skinny man drinking bloody Mary's, a skinnier man drinking mountain Dew & who knows what, and an obnoxious man at the end of the campfire group that pissed me off so much that I'm still have daydreams of meeting him in England one day, taking him into a pub and telling my countrymen what he said. He said something vile but he also made himself look like a right idiot. When he found out I was from England he said "I'm going to start an IRA group here" and when his friend asked why he said "because I'm Scottish". Like I said, idiot. Thank God Craig had gone to get drinks from our cabin because if he'd have heard him say what he said then he'd have probably gone nuts.

On our way back to our cabin I asked a couple of camp ground workers if we'd see Barb before we left in the morning and they said no - she left today. I asked if that was what the skirmish was about - they said yes. Now I know why her daughter came by and got the dvds she had lent to the boys. We called her on the cell phone and our boys said goodbyes and thank you (they really liked her) and I could tell she was crying.

So, we have yet to check-out in the morning. There might be more campground politics, crazy people,or dead goats before then. Who knows! If something happens to us before we check out, please look for a fat guy in a black vest and handle-bar mustache who supports the IRA but is Scottish and, when I last saw him, was driving DUI to the shop for more vodka.

In the meantime, we are going out (me, Craig and Jack) to enjoy our camp fire with the coloured flames (Barb gave us a few packets of wonder dust!). We have had a FABULOUS holiday. The boys had loved it and my only low point is not the cleanliness or the rustic nature or any of that - it's the loss of Barb and that dick tonight that glorified the IRA.

Would I come back? No.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Day 6: Swimming with Mrs Ingalls

This morning I went swimming with the lady in the smock and tevas. She was of course completely mad as a hatter and very hard to communicate with but she's on her own with the kids. Her husband is with her but he's off fishing all the time while she brings six children to swim in the lake aged 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12. That kind of stress is enough to bring me out in a rash but she doesn't seem to mind. Her husband must be elated to have found her.

After swimming we went to get ice cream again and Daniel ate his messily, covering himself and all the cafe furniture and floor and then asking for another. It's a nice shop and unbelievably busy which is amazing in this county. I saw Lake County recently listed as the number 1 ghost town in the USA and I can see why. We think about 80% of the businesses we've seen so far have been closed and there are abandoned houses everywhere. It's heartbreaking what's happening to places like this that relied on tourism.

Anyway, tonight we did our bit for the local economy and went to Ludington downtown festival.

Tomorrow is our last full day and we've got lots planned. Swimming in the morning of course which has been our routine. We're all going to miss that.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Day 5: Fun but Challenging Day

Today was ok. We couldn't go rafting because the river was too fast & full for Danny (ring back tomorrow) so we found a family "fun" center with video arcades that didn't work, teenage attendants that were useless, go-karts that bored Jack and terrified Danny and putt-putt in 90 degree weather. And then the kids started acting up by fighting and yelling. Craig said maybe they should call it the family stress center and I'd have to agree. By the time we left I sat in the car with the AC running full-blast on my face and told the kids to leave me alone for 5 minutes or mummy was going to go ballistic. Actually I went ballistic at them in the "family fun center" which made Craig laugh at me. I guess it is ironic.

Back at the campsite it was ohhhhh, unwind. More swimming & chatting with lovely people. I am also recently friends on facebook with one of the families we met. This campsite is unbelievable friendly! The office manager, Barb, has asked me to judge the chili cook-off with her this weekend. I said yes but have no idea what to do. How does one rate a chili bean?

Another big family arrived with 6 kids that Jack is intent on befriending but Craig told me he couldn't understand why their mum wouldn't interact with him at the lake beach. I met them tonight at the play area and they are Amish - so no wonder she didn't engage Craig too much. The kids seemed nice but the mum was nuts. She might just well be scribbling the same thing about me in her journal. Every time I asked her a polite question she was a tad rude and evasive but then she'd jump in my face and ask the most personal questions about us. And she was wearing Ma Ingalls home-made frock with top of the range North Face Teevas which I know I shouldn't find weird but I did. Anyway, our Jack is intent on making best friends with her kids so I'll have to hang out with her tomorrow for a bit. Maybe I'll scare her off by telling her about my shady past and showing her my tattoos.

*The picture is of me and Jack telling ghost stories tonight around the campfire. I scared myself never mind him. Now where is my mace?

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Michigan: Day 4 Belongs to Jack

Today belonged to Jack.

He met 3 brothers aged 6-10 and he played with them until 11.30 tonight. Swimming, boating, fishing, and finally making smores on a campfire. He has had a huge grin on his face all day. AND he swam with them out into the middle of the lake to jump off the floating dive board - 3 times!

They were great boys with great names. I told their mum, Melissa, that my boys were inadvertently named after whisky (Jack Daniel) and she said her boys were famous wild west gangs: James, Garrett and Dolton.

My favourite thing about today? Jack asked Craig as they were jumping off the raft and having fun - Daddy, is this real or am I dreaming?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Michigan: Day 2 & Loving it!

Day two of our vacation was so much better. It was like a switch went off in my head and I felt completely different to how I felt yesterday. We spent three hours this morning messing about in the lake and all four of us had a great time, swimming, fishing, and boating.

This is Danny's new favourite thing to do:

After lunch we went to a local town for some famous handmade ice cream

Then we had a quick jaunt over to the coastal town of Ludington. And by the way, how much trouble do you think 1 blue m&m can get Daniel in to?

Ludington was lovely. It's a quaint town on Lake Michigan that's really kid-friendly so we'll definitely be going back at some point.

Lake Michigan is the 3rd largest of the Great Lakes here in the Midwest (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie & Superior - spells HOMES in case you ever want to remember it for Trivial Pursuit). It is 22,000 sq. miles (just a few thousand less than the country of Scotland!) And I saw seagulls for the first time in ages, which made me miss home.

So I'm loving it now. I feel a bit foolish and spoilt for not embracing it yesterday but maybe I'm getting a bit picky in my old age. I'm so looking forward to swimming again tomorrow and seeing some more sights. Day two = success!