Can’t Fight This Feeling

A really weird thing happened this week. Conforming to my typical trend of committing to new healthy lifestyle changes, after a few weeks the yoga went the same way as all the other fads I’ve tried over the years to “make positive changes” in my life. Come off it! Yoga? Really Emma? Who was I kidding?! Bye bye yoga! I hate that I’m so predictable.

Just like I had struggled to cope with the changes with the Stay At Home orders, it seemed now I was preoccupied with the idea of going to work. Don’t get me wrong, part of me was so excited to get back into the classroom and meet new people. But you’ve all seen the arguments for schools doing in person versus virtual teaching. As a parent and a school employee my mind was conflicted on the best way forward.

However, covid hibernation has given me plenty of time for “soul searching” and “inward reflection” about how I approach life and its adventures. One of the revelations was that, although I would love to be considered spontaneous and adaptable, (who wouldn’t be?) I really struggle with accepting change. I apparently crave predictability in life. This surprised me as I am very unorganized and often running back to my house to fetch my lunch or keys or kids! Life always seemed to be one big rush.

However, after a bit of that reflection malarky I saw it: I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to embrace the need for routine. In my experience from being around my autistic friends, the need for structure and consistency that autism often requires, also helped me function effectively too. I realized although I’m not autistic, I enjoyed having a set framework to my day. Unexpected changes made those around me uncomfortable and therefore, I unconsciously began to enjoy the reliability and reassurance that predictability brings. This explained why I had been so anxious as the pandemic suddenly imposed sweeping changes to everyone’s lives. Work life, school life, vacations and social activities, grocery shopping. Everything was changed. Geez, I didn’t even know if there would ever be toilet paper again! And it also helped me recognize that part of my anxiety at returning to work (aside from the increased exposure to a deadly virus and potential for hospital bills) was that the ending of my quarantine also signaled another re-shaping of my daily routine. Feck!

So I did what I do best in these situations: throw all self care methods out of the window, seek consolation in chocolate and not sleep for worrying.

And yoga? Who was I trying to kid?! I’d filled my Instagram full of beautiful yoga types whose incredibly complicated poses had me turning my phone upside down trying to work out where on earth their lithe limb attached to their beautifully toned body. Here I was full of embarrassment, awkwardly trying to contort myself even in the comfort and privacy of my own living room before anyone was up. Yes, these yogis inspired me. Yes, I wanted to emulate their success but frankly I still needed to put my hands on the floor to get up from sitting criss cross apple sauce for 30 seconds.

My cute little Buddha Rich bought me for my birthday. When I say bought I mean I chose it, added it to the cart and he pressed “buy it now”

Before the anxiety got the better of me, I was usually doing up to an hour, five days a week. I messed around with the music I’d listen to whilst doing it to find the perfect vibe for my transcendental quest. Pan pipes were a bit too new agey for me and Luke Bryan got me involuntarily shaking it for him too much which seemed counter productive for my static holds. I found I liked classical but discovered my favorite by far, was piano music. A bit of Einaudi was wonderful. It became the perfect start to my day. Yes, it gave me a sense of peace and purpose, and who doesn’t enjoy a humble brag even if it’s to yourself as there’s no one around but I genuinely liked knowing I was doing something healthy.

I’d even gone as far as buying the t-shirt…well, yoga leggings or pants as they call them here. But let’s be honest, if I were to brave sunlight in my shiny new active wear, I would be more likely be featured in “People of Walmart” posts than any aspirational yoga type article. Who was I trying to kid indeed!

Obviously, the diet went straight out the window too under the guise of allowing for all the birthday cake. Finally liberated from the constraints of the Weight Watchers app, I started feeling sluggish from all the excess deliciousness I was devouring now. I’m the queen of self sabotage and this is how in late July, the yoga practice landed unceremoniously on top of that discarded diet!

So I went back to work. Despite my apprehension, it was great. Everyone was friendly (and socially distancing compliant). Talking to people about things other than Minecraft, and SCP’s was wonderful. Holey Moley, I was tired by the end of each day-I’d forgotten how much brain power meeting people and working involved but it was exciting to be back at it. With my new insight, I hastily planned my new routine: get up, coffee, shower, wake kids, abandon kids, work, come home to loving family who’ve missed me (turns out the dog is the only one who rushes to greet me), find abandoned plates and drinking vessels, complete spelling tutorials, cook dinner, put washing on, tidy up, and Netflix. Oh sweet routine! Thank you for hugging me tight when I need it. But wait….I told you something weird happened this week….

My routine didn’t feel quite right….something was missing….

Bloody hell!! The yoga! It seems although I thought I’d banished yoga to the list of failed lifestyle changes and had made peace with that, yoga had not done with me. It kept creeping into my mind, distracting me from Facebook. Wanting an explanation for our break up. We were good together it kept whispering…I tried explaining it was just a fling and meant nothing: a mere distraction from covid. That I never stay in relationships with exercise as they’re always too needy. But it wouldn’t take no for an answer. Yoga kept reminding me of all the good times we’d shared in our brief encounter. How it made me feel so relaxed by clearing my mind. I countered I’d always faked the clearing the mind bit. I never once achieved that…I was always counting instead. But I couldn’t deny the relaxation it boasted of. So we’re giving it another go….I’ve said one day at a time and we may not spend as much time together as before. We’re not ready for any kind of Facebook Official status shennanigans but may be we do have something special. We started again slowly midweek and the spark has been well and truly reignited. My routine feels right.

So this post was for a bit of accountability. I still keep laughing and asking myself “Yoga tho? Really Emma?” Yes, it seems however unlikely, yoga has unexpectedly given me peace or a brain break-whatever you want to call it. I think it’s really important with the way everything feels so stressful at the minute to find these activities that basically soothe the soul. I need my calm place. I need something to quieten my mind from all the anxieties life seems to be throwing at us. The kids are due to return to class on Wednesday. Virtually at least for the next six weeks. I still haven’t quite made peace with that decision. So I’m going to try keep up with the yoga because like Reo Speedwagon says I can’t fight this feeling anymore that it’s helping me. I’m going to need something to distract me even if it’s just for half an hour. Apparently I’m not quite ready to hang up my yoga pants.

But do not fear, my procrastination sensibilities have not been abandoned quite yet…I’ve still got to re-open that damn Weight Watchers app. I did make a salad the other day but then school only went and gave us an ice cream! Who could say no to that…I’m sure a lot of people but not me- it was bloody lovely!

Anyway, what’s your calm place? Can I steal it? If it’s not chocolate, I may need it for helping me with the diet one day….

Sweet Child O’ Mine

This is an ode to the boy who made me a mum. My Alex.

Truth be told as Nessa would say, Alex was a buggar as a newborn. First off, the doc decided I was heading for pre-eclampsia so they decided to induce me a week early. All the excitement of becoming a mum and suddenly, I wanted to get off this ride. Nope, not ready! Stop the bus!! I’d actually thought my moon face was just the result of all the treats I’d kindly been sharing with Alex in utero. A fat girl aint going to refuse eating for two, is she? But apparently, it was the first signs of an issue so they decided our parenthood journey was going to start a week earlier than we’d planned. However, despite my polite requests whispered to my bulging belly and a couple of hours later, my blatant angry demands, he refused to come out. He gave the docs and his Dad quite a scare. I barely knew up from down by the time he did make his reluctant entrance and we stayed as guests of the HDU for a couple of nights. Four days later, he nearly ended up back in hospital after we brought him home because apparently he…he?…Alex?…yes…he had had a traumatic birth experience. Rich still pales if the word “forceps” is ever uttered in his presence. Luckily we had a fantastic midwife who caught the issue and scared us silly with her warnings but we heeded her strict advice and therefore, we avoided a return trip. Then the monkey wouldn’t feed properly. So this meant he wouldn’t sleep properly. And he screamed pretty much solidly for for the first six weeks. But then he stopped crying. He started smiling. And so began the steps to having the most chilled out and friendly baby I ever knew.

His face for the first six weeks! He was not impressed!
The smiles did come and they were beautiful!

Seriously, this boy was a dream child. I was the annoying mother at the baby group who slept through and whose baby smiled and cooed at everyone. People adored him. He always made them feel good as his smile lit up the room. Everyone wanted to hold him. He made me feel like the greatest mother in the world. We had our routine and it all seemed quite easy to be honest. Little did I realise, it wasn’t me that was a good mother but he was a good baby…a couple of years later I would come to understand this abruptly when my second born decided to show me what a crazy thrill ride parenthood could actually be and how I didn’t actually have a clue! As Alex grew up, Nanny would regale me with tales of their trips to Allestree where he’d charm all the old ladies from his pushchair in the charity shops. Three years later she would regale me with tales of the same ladies’ shock when his feral brother would instead growl and hiss at them when they tried the same small talk with young Joshie. Kids eh? Chalk and cheese but both stories make me smile now.

An early writing example using his bedroom carpet as paper!

Parent’s evenings were always a joy. “Charming, polite, friendly, super smart” frequent adjectives I learned to bask in. There’s no denying he’s smart. Super smart even. His general knowledge is astonishing. I remember when he was four and learning to read: he got stuck on a word so I encouraged him to read it again. “Oh yeah, Mummy…it’s a split vowel diagraph so it’s…” It’s a what??I don’t remember what the word was. I only know I had to google what a split vowel diagraph was. I had absolutely no idea what he was on about. It would not be the last time I reached for google to fact check his statements. He is annoyingly still always right! Now he’s about to start homeschool, I’m not worried because in all honesty, he exceeded the level of help I can give him a couple of years ago. I offer a sounding board educational service now where he asks me, I answer and he realizes I’m wrong.

Now I’m trying to phrase this next bit carefully. Forgive me if I get it wrong. Because Josh is autistic and when he was younger we didn’t know this, there were some trying times. But the love Alex had for his brother was, is wonderful to witness. Oftentimes, because Joshie was late to start talking (although he’s certainly made up for it since) and his speech didn’t develop typically, we had no idea what Josh was upset about but Alex just seemed to instinctively know. He was the one who was able to decipher the code words Josh used, Shownie for heart, Sema for Alex among others.

I remember once, coming out of Nanny’s house with the boys and the neighbour suddenly started up his chainsaw to cut back his hedge. Joshie immediately started screaming and without warning, our normally cool, calm Alex at five years old ran directly across the street and shouted at this poor fella for upsetting his little brother. I remember having to have a little word with him about running into the street but once my heart rate resumed to normal, I was actually beaming with pride at his instincts to protect his little brother. Still now there are often days when Joshie needs extra support and his brother is always good to supply that. In fact, Alex is sometimes who we turn to to find out what’s wrong. And if Josh has a nightmare, it’ll be Alex’s door he knocks on in the night. Don’t get me wrong, these days they enjoy a typical fraternal relationship where grassing and winding each other up are a central feature of their day. They revel in making mischief for each other. The banter can be quite exhausting and I often consider daytime drinking but it is wonderful to see how close they really are even if they refuse to admit it.

“Brothers are like streetlights along the road…they don’t make the distance any shorter but they light up the path and make the walk worthwhile” Shivangi Verma

So now I turn to recent days. Every time you think you’ve got your grip on a developmental stage, the little monsters mix it up and head into the next one. Now he’s a teenager, I think this is the scariest stage so far. If we get it wrong: let go too soon or too late, who knows what could happen. It’s also been quite stressful parenting him during the time of quarantine. I’m sure parenting teenagers is problematic at the best of times but throw in a pandemic and it’s just an extra layer of parental anxiety. Not that he’s done anything wrong or caused any problems. It’s just now we’re in the teenage years, I’m not sure what I’m doing again. We had just started giving him his freedom and letting him go out with friends when Covid hit. Now he’s stuck indoors. He seems to have a nice circle of friends and they’ve kept in touch online. But when he’s a bit grumpy, is it because of quarantine or just the usual teenage stuff? Does he need counselling or space? More often than not, it’s just carbs he needs! I’ve discovered the best way to keep the communication flowing is to make sure the cupboards stocked but may be move the desired packet to a different shelf. Then by listening out for the sound of his bedroom door knob turning, I can be ready for the inevitable “MUUMMM! We haven’t got any….(insert relevant snack here)!” And I have been known to turn his wifi off before which also got him out of his room in record time. So hashtag Mom hacks!!

But all in all, he’s a great kid. He was definitely a good introduction to parenting. He’s 14 now and the only scar he has is from a bloody marshmallow so we’re quite proud of ourselves. He’s got his own mind too which has been a learning curve. Surprising he doesn’t hang off our every word and bow to our imagined superiority! He needs rationale to believe us now!! The cheek!! And he has definitely mastered the art of the eyeroll. But I love that mop of tousled curly hair. His Dad is always threatening to cut it off but in all seriousness, have you seen my husband’s head…I say keep it long while you can because your genes aren’t looking too good in the future hair department son!

I love spending time with Alex tho. These days it’s more a mutual enjoyment of activities we share. If he’s bored, he wanders off and finds something else to occupy his time so when we are doing something together, I know to treasure it. He’s developed a fantastic sense of humor-so dry and dead pan. It’s really kind of exciting to imagine where he’s going-(apart from up! He’s grown 3 inches since April and apparently, he has a few more years of this growing malarky if we keep feeding him).

I genuinely can’t wait to see what the future brings for this Sweet Child O’ Mine.

On his very birthday and his 14th birthday-Dad needs a new wardrobe!
He’s now taller than me!
When we went to see Guns N’ Roses a couple of years back so he’ll always be that sweet child o’ mine!

A Collision of Worlds

When we moved to America nearly six years ago, we were worried about many things. We worried whether we were doing the right thing leaving everything and everyone we knew behind. I’d just qualified as a nurse so how could these skills be transferable? How would the boys settle in school? What were the schools like? Where would we live? You know we never once worried about the language. I mean, the Americans speak English right…how hard could it be?

Apparently over here if you want slices of cucumber in your subway sandwich, you have to say “cucumbers”. Rich found this out the hard way when he tried to order one. How many ways are there to say “cucumber”? What word could the patient but confused Subway assistant be confusing “cucumber” for…CUUUU…CUMMM…BBERRRR! It seems Rich asking for “cucumber” inferred he wanted a whole unsliced cucumber plonked in his sandwich and the poor guy unsurprisingly just couldn’t make sense of it! Eventually, he managed to make himself understood that 3 maybe 4 slices would be sufficient but it was only in the last year or so we eventually found out not pluralizing the cucumber was at the heart of the misunderstanding! We’d often wondered why he’d struggled!

I remember going to this quaint little tea room with a friend after we’d been here a while. I wanted a sandwich but the sandwich came with tomato slices and a side of lexical anxiety. “No tomato please…erm, no tomato…to-ma-to?…erm, no toe-may-do?…thanks…yep, you guessed right. Yep, I’m English…oh thanks…I love your accent too”. I’m not saying that everyone comments on how they love our accent but if we had a dollar every time they did, I’m sure we’d be able to buy at least a microwave. It’s actually really sweet but being typically English, I feel awkward accepting compliments so I’ve found returning the sentiment negates the unease I feel at being complimented on something I cant really control. In fairness, it’s true though. I still love an American accent, especially the Texan one, which is really handy living here.

We actually nearly didn’t live here though. Before we made the big leap across the pond, Rich spent a year in Houston and we stayed behind in England. Once we knew we were actually going to make the move, he told me to start researching neighborhoods. Houston, a city of 6 million is mahoosive! The kids would be moving from a primary school with approximately 300 pupils to an elementary with 1000+ kids. And that’s pretty much the average number for the schools around here-the high schools run at 3300! So you can imagine trying to find a home was daunting. Luckily, his colleagues were full of great advice and soon he was instructing me to look up “Kadey” as a potential future home area. I checked. I double checked. Kadey does not exist…do you mean “Katy” dear husband!?! After checking the spelling with his buddy, he realised he did! So although we moved to Katy, we pretty much do live in Kadey now. We both work with Americans. The kids attend the local schools. My jobs here have always involved working with people where clear communication is essential so I use the American words like trash, soda and I have to admit that my previously crystal clear T’s in words like Saturday and butter have now slipped a liddle into D’s. Alex has pretty much retained his British accent but young Joshie has developed a hybrid British Texan lilt. He sounds American to us but Americans recognize him as British straight away so I’m not sure exactly how it works except he never ever stops talking. I do wonder if with the quarantine and no longer in an American school environment, his British accent may start to show again.

Then there was the time, not long after we’d moved over here that I thought a good way to meet new people and potentially make friends was to sign up for the school PTA store. They sell all manner of tat: clackers, toy aliens, and stationary that kids decide they absolutely must have and then (in my experience) languishes at the bottom of the drawer or toy box waiting for the day you can sneak in, bag it up and clear it out because although they’ve never played with or even thought about it in the 18 months since they declared a state of emergency to get it. The day you ask is the day they suddenly realize how vital it is to their very essence and there ain’t no way it’s going in that black bag. But it’s an excellent fundraiser for the PTA and they needed parent volunteers to help run it. This would be my chance to demonstrate what a nice wholesome person I was. How I may be the lovely charming new friend they didn’t know they needed. The detail I forgot however, was some English words have different meanings over here and that’s how it came to be that I was politely told off with much awkwardness for enthusiastically selling “rubbers” to kindergartners.

Hands down tho, the word that makes me cringe the most is “fanny”. If you are unsure what “fanny” means in English English, feel free to google it but don’t blame me for the images on your device! It instinctively produces an infantile response where if I’m drinking coffee, I’m immediately going to spit that delicious black nectar out with a juvenile giggle. Every single time. Fanny packs. They sound like something you’d regretfully need to buy at a chemist…why on earth would you want to keep your phone in them! Ouch! My absolute favourite “fanny” moment was when I was working nights at the dementia unit and one of the residents had woken early. He was a fan of Gone with the Wind. He was delighted when I suggested we put it on for him and asked if I’d seen it. When I replied I hadn’t, I wasn’t mentally prepared for his next command “Oh my Miss Emma! Well then! Sit your fanny down and let’s watch it together!” It was 4.30am ish so my brain perhaps wasn’t on top form but I actually gasped in horror until I realised his statement was so sweetly, innocently kind. So I did in fact, sit my fanny down and tried to watch it but in truth, I was mainly giggling in my head at what he’d said and to this day, still have no idea why Rhett doesn’t give a damn!

There’s been so many unexpected giggles along this bilingual journey. These were just a few. I hope they made you smile. As I’m getting into this blogging malarky I think I need to start adding hash tags but “fanny”, “rubbers” and “cucumbers” probably aren’t going to attract the right readers!! I’m not sure it’ll be the post they were expecting!

This was the alternative title song choice-Rich looked it up on You Tube and that comment was just perfect but I went with the song from Cars 2 as it was in my playlist and we watched it so many times before moving out here!

I want it that way

Bonus midweek edition!

So me and rice have never gotten on. Yes rice. Not Rich. I get on with him ok but rice has always been my nemesis. Rich is always equally amazed and appalled that I am able to undercook yet also overcook the same plate of rice I serve him. A single grain can have a soggy thick exterior that hides a tiny nugget of solidity, like an annoying pip. He says it’s my special skill but somehow I never feel like he’s complimenting me. I’ve followed the instructions on the packet. I’ve asked my buddy whose an expert rice cooker. Yet still, it’s usually a gloopy mess of a sticky concrete type substance that ends up on our plates.

This week I happened across a video on the book of faces where a man was distraught when watching a rice cooking demonstration. I felt immediate shame. Whilst I wasn’t guilty of all of her apparent transgressions, I had been known to commit a couple of her offenses in my quest for edible rice.

Tonight I’d promised them chilli and rice. I would not let this fella down. I would not let my family down. This would be the first chilli and rice where the chilli would not serve as camouflage for my badly cooked rice.

He said to put water in up to your first finger joint so I stuck my finger in and measured. Should the finger go in after you’ve put the rice in…erm…water should be boiling so after some consideration and for safety’s sake I decided he probably meant when cold before boiling! He didn’t say how big your pan should be or if you were cooking for four or forty so I poured a guesstimate of rice for us all in. Then I tried to remember to follow the directions my other dear rice cooking friend had given me and crossed my fingers.

Twenty minutes later I ran excitedly through to the bathroom and showed Rich the video. I then declared that I thought I’d cracked it this time. He surprised me by asking if he should get out the bath then. Why on earth would he need to get out the bath? “Well, I’m guessing Em, if the rice is cooked then dinner’s ready?”


So next time I cook perfect rice, I’m going to see if I can remember to cook it at the same time as the chilli so we can have them both warm! I want it that way! But it was perfectly cooked rice otherwise. Cold but perfectly cooked! Never put a link in my blog before so not sure it’ll work but here’s the video of the angry rice reviewer!

Hold on

So I’ve really struggled finding words to write. I have a couple of silly topics tumbling around in my head but my mood has just not let me find the right words. This blogging took me by surprise this year. I’ve discovered I really enjoy writing. I know some of it is nonsense. A lot of it probably. Rich’s probably quite relieved for the temporary reprieve for his ears. But it’s really surprised me how cathartic it is. Even if it’s nonsense. Even if nobody reads it. Better out than in as they say, (although in our house, that term usually refers to farts and I often strongly dispute that argument). Maybe it applies to my writing too.

Writing has been a way of managing my time. I try and think of a topic and spend a couple of days just thinking about what I’ll write before sitting down on a Monday at the computer. These last couple of weeks, the ideas have been there but the words just wouldn’t come. Nothing sounded right. I was gutted. I just couldn’t do it. Then today, knowing that I’m really missing writing I decided to think about what I do care about at the minute-may be that way, I could find some words….

Hold on…here goes nothing….

So the boys are getting older and despite my over protective need to be there for them, they don’t appear to need me like they did in previous summers. I remember the times when they were younger that I felt I was losing myself. I never seemed to have time to do anything for me. Maybe that was my own doing: poor time management or whatever. The times I would have given anything just to go around Sainsburys on my own. But as a working mum, it was quite rightly, always the kids and work that were prioritized. In fairness, those still are my priorities but like I said, the buggars are growing increasingly independent and Covid and summer have temporarily relieved me of work pressures. So here I am. Summer will end and my boys will continue in their unintentional mission to leave me. But I don’t say that in a morose kind of way. I’m holding on…

I say it to give myself hope. When the boys were little, times seemed hard. Times often were hard. But we got through it. These days, I’d give anything to have them come with me to the store. In fact, often it’s a Starbucks bribe. These days, it’s the extra few minutes in the car journey where they tell me about their random thoughts. It’s going round the store and finding out what food they really love and how their friends’ mom makes a different kind of pasta that might be nice to try. Losing them in the toy aisle as they’ve still not quite left that part of childhood behind…has anyone? I love watching them grow up. Every age we’ve entered seems to be my new favourite: them learning to smile, to walk, to talk (a few regrets there maybe). Learning how to make friends. Just simply learning how to be. Maybe I’ll review that with the teenage years…where on earth do they learn them eye rolls- I sincerely could have happily done without them learning those! But I realize as I share these moments now, they are worth all the trials we went through to get here. They allow me to see the crack of bright blue sky following the rain. That same rain that makes the flowers bloom. And as I try to hold on to the past and present, I know there are moments waiting for me in the future that will make me smile heartily and beam with pride so I’ll hold on for those….

But what about school? It’s just been delayed by another 3 weeks. The kids’ll have been out of school for at least 6 months. We have to do home school again because the number of cases of covid in our area means they’ll don’t feel it’s safe to be in a class room. Home school for one of my boys was fine but the other struggled. Is this going to happen again? I also have to work. I’m holding on so tight for this one. I know I don’t know when this is going to end.

What I do know, however is that the teachers last year probably have never worked as hard as they did last spring to make sure our kids were able to participate and feel safe. I know that they have probably spent all summer worrying what this semester is going to look like and how they are going to provide the best possible education given these incredible circumstances. Many a sleepless night I expect. I know they’ve had meetings they’re not getting paid for and text chats trying to work out how on earth they’re going to be the best teachers they can be for our kids. For their kids too. I know this year may not go as planned for my boys and goals may not be met. But years can be repeated-school years, that is…not 2020, please no repetition of 2020 ever! But by staying home, I know they’ll be safe so I’m holding on to that.

And then there’s work…I miss it. I miss working with the kids every day and seeing them overcome challenges. I was really lucky to work with such great kids. They taught me so much. Corny, I know, but true nonetheless. When we left for Spring Break, I never imagined I wouldn’t see them again. I won’t get to see them rise to new challenges and smash them. Knowing that each week we do virtual school is a week they’re not working on their goals, gaining the skills they need for whatever independence looks like for them, is heartbreaking.

But I know they’re going back at some point. I know there’s a team who’s missed them and can’t wait to sit next to them and get them back on track. And I know eventually I’m going back to a new classroom where there’ll be new friends for me to make. I’m excited I’ll get to see new faces smile when they achieve a target (whether it’s an academic one or me-I’m sure I’ll learn there are different missiles to dodge in junior high). I’ll get to come home and regale my hubby with what “my kids” got up to and he’ll have to double check again if I’m referring to my kids at home or my kids at work because that’s given him trouble before. . I’m gonna hold on for that…

Finally I’m holding on for those hugs we’ve missed this year. Plans we made with friends and family that had to be shelved. Celebrations we’ve missed. But, then I think of the new ways we’ve learned to make connections. The Zoom calls, messenger chats and face times we’ve enjoyed being part of. Rich did wonder if he needed to call the police the first time I enthusiastically told him we took part in a drive by. All the crying through the worries we’ve shared but also, the crying with laughter through the jokes we’ve shared too. Watching people around the world come together in the worst of times to sing a song or clap for essential workers.

Admittedly, it’s all been quite surreal. This has been the strangest of times, the most worrying and confusing of times. All I know is that when we are able to hug again, hug we shall and I will definitely be holding on and I’m not convinced I’ll ever let go!

Hold on with me…

The beautiful bright sky after the storm passed

Peaceful Easy Feeling.

Oh I remember having one of them. About five months ago…maybe six. The news started trickling in about cases popping up whilst we were still in school and it was unsettling but not really a worry as Corona was more still something I enjoyed a drink of at the weekend than a threat. Even as we went into spring break, I wasn’t overly concerned. I did buy 11 tins of ravioli in a moment of panic buying at the store but that’s the only thing I have panic bought and I still don’t know why I chose ravioli-Rich is the only one who really likes it?!? I did get anxious about the loo roll situation as we were running low and the supermarket shelves were empty but we didn’t reach crisis point before I was able to secure some. Quite a relief as the only big leaves we have in our garden belong to a very spikey aloe vera…at least it’d soothe as it owwws!

So then we had home school and work from home orders. That was hard. However, we did find our routine eventually and then, we broke up for summer! Rich went back to work in the office and me and the boys stayed pretty much at home. And we got on with it. Same new routine, different day. On and on and on. We avoided going out as they said we shouldn’t. We doordashed our favorite restaurants once a week so it felt like we were doing something a bit special (aka: I did not want to step another foot in that kitchen).

Al has been able to keep in touch with all his friends online and that has been wonderful. I hear him chatting, occasionally giggling. Sometimes, he comes through and tells us funny stories he and his friends have been sharing. I mean, as a Mum, it’s like the perfect scenario. It’s perfectly socially acceptable to let him on the computer and I don’t have to worry about where he’s going or who he’s with. (Obviously, I do a bit-internet safety and all that but so far, he’s been grand!) He is the perfect model of grumpy bored teenager and he’s quite ok with staying home.

So anyway, I digress. Recently, we started venturing out. We visited a couple of cafes. We’ve been to the local pool which is about the only thing that can be enjoyed outside in these oppressive 100 degrees heat days. But believe me, we mask up. We are a family who pretty much embrace rules. We stand back from people. I have the hand sanitizer in my bag and we 🎵wash, wash, wash our hands to keep them nice and clean etc 🎶 as soon as we get home. For us, it’s not that we’re scared of contracting it-obviously we are really. But it’s more what would happen to the boys if we end up hospitalized. Until someone can offer me guarantees on that, I’m going to continue to be cautious! But we decided it wasn’t healthy for the boys to stay cooped up inside. Never going out was perhaps building a bit of fear. Our mental health needed a bit of TLC so we started heading out as the guidelines relaxed and guess what! Now the numbers have jumped in our area even further.

And coincidentally, my thoughts have begun to wander towards the impending return to school. Oh how I want my kids back in a class room, mixing with their new buddies, joining in with different activities and complaining about homework and the school bus. I miss work too but if you ask me later I’ll deny I ever said that!

The boys are due to start Junior High and High School so it felt like this year was a rite of passage for them. A milestone in their seemingly speedy race towards adulthood. I guess it still is, but the passage is taking a different turn for their cohorts. I’m supposed to be worrying about Joshie making friends and Alex not getting mixed up with the wrong type of friends. I planned for it. I knew I would. I am that Mom! But 2020 just had other ideas. School supply worries are supposed to be about if I’ve purchased enough pens and binders but forget that! Here I am looking at the school’s logo’d masks for purchase on their PTA spirit wear site. And how many bottles of hand sanitizer will be enough? Which store has Clorox wipes?

The number of cases, to all appearances is increasing by the day-hubby keeps telling me to ignore them and look at the trend but that, in truth isn’t offering much comfort at the minute. I’ve tried so hard to seek out unbiased information but sadly, this has definitely become a politicized situation. We’re surely in the Matrix and being offered a blue or red pill. Neither of them seems easy to swallow. The blue pill promises death and casualties if we do not lock down. The red pill suggests it’s all under control and unless we get back to work and school, we’ll die of suicide or poverty. I kind of believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. Truth be told, I don’t really like that pill either! The kids have got to get back to school. Everybody knows this. Parents need to work. Everybody knows this. The virus won’t disappear unless we socially isolate and everybody knows this too-except them crazies who think it’s all a hoax but hopefully they’ll socially distance themselves enough by trying to find the edge of the flat earth!

My brain has been in constant turmoil trying to make sense of the situation. We don’t have a stay at home order but we have their recommendation. Rich has been told to work from home again. He hates it but we’re just kind of grateful he still has a job as we know that’s not the case for many, many people. As it stands, school starts back next month. They’re offering online or in person tuition. I had been reading everyone’s various opinions and every time someone said what they were planning, I found myself internally debating their choice. Was it right? Should I do it? Should I tell them I disagree? But what if they’re right…? I literally laid awake this last week trying to decide.

I think it kind of feels like a Sophie’s choice situation for a lot of folks and people can only do what they feel is best. I don’t experience your lives and you don’t experience mine so we have to offer grace and compassion and support where ever we can. People are genuinely afraid and people are genuinely not. We have to accept this is the way of things at the minute. History will decide as they say. We just have to be patient with each other. Or mute the buggars on social media who are messing with your peace. That’s something I’m only just learning but boy, it makes a difference!

Anyway, we unexpectedly made our decision yesterday. It’s not ideal. It doesn’t really suit us and I’m not sure if it’s the best thing to do. And closer to the time we may change our mind. But the relief in actually making the decision was instantaneous. It was such a relief to have a plan even if it’s not a perfect one. A peaceful easy feeling, if just for a while!

But believe me, you better be wearing a mask in our presence-we’re pretty much ready to get the tin foil hats out over here.

Anyway, look after yourselves. I never meant to go down this rabbit hole but like I said this has been weighing heavily on my mind and writing seems to be my new outlet for a semblance of sanity so sorry for that! Next week, why on earth would you call a scone a biscuit America!

Actually the last pic I took before lockdown. Our lemon tree’s offspring on the left and shop bought on the right. 2020 has definitely been a big fat lemon! Life and lemons eh! We’ll find the right recipe eventually I hope-in the meantime, wear a mask!

I’m Your Only Flaw

I was trying to think about what I’d write this week and then I remembered it was our first date anniversary on July 4th. Twenty two years we’ve been rotating around the sun together. Twenty two years since Rockafella Skank by Fatboy Slim was at number 1 in the UK charts. France beat Brazil in the World Cup. And City of Angels was the number one movie and was coincidentally what we went to see on our first date.

We met whilst working at the same bowling alley. We moved in together after seven months and lived happily in sin for 3 years. He then made an honest woman of me in a small civil ceremony which is still one of my favorite days. We honeymooned in the Lake District but got bored as it was out of season and everywhere was closed and cold so we drove down to London and watched the Lion King at the Lyceum. Then we had kids and moved to the US. The end.

That’s the short version. But you must know by now, I don’t do short very well…

I think our first ‘couple goal’ is that he hates ‘couple goals’. He is infuriatingly pig headed when it comes to comparing with others. I am inherently nosey and Facebook is my dream app as everyone tells everyone their business. I am in heaven when people post cryptic comments which are most definitely about someone having pissed them off. I run straight for the popcorn and refresh button and watch the drama unfold with glee! When people post about their new purchases, I guarantee I’m eyeing up my living room and working out if we too, could get away with a similar art deco style chaise longue made of the remnants of their decking. Rich! We need a deck! The buggar just shrugs. He doesn’t seem to care what other people have. Our world is what’s important to him and although I’ll never understand his lack of interest in other people’s business, it kind of makes our world feel special.

When it comes to arguing, we are pros! We don’t do it very often but they’re humdingers when we do! He drives me potty when he asks why I have to argue with him in such a reasonable tone and I then have to sound even more unhinged and explain to him how an argument works. I tend to demonstrate with door slamming shenanigans. I once even rang him back just to hang up on him as he’d dared to cut my ranting short by determining the call needed to be over. That just made him laugh which then kinda destroyed the irate vibe I was going for when he rang me back to clarify if that was what I’d just done! We’ve also discovered that for us, it works best to go to bed on an argument. I know the advice is to never do that but I don’t think we’d sleep ever again. We discovered this at the happiest place on earth, DisneyLand Paris. It was one of those arguments that seemed ridiculous. We were tired and hungry but it went nuclear. I didn’t think I’d ever speak to him again. But then we got up in the morning. Do we spend the day arguing or do we put it behind us? I called him a nob, he called me a bitch and I realized we were over it. And we had one of the best days ever. We tend to have probably one a year but I always storm off to bed calling him a nob and slamming doors and the next day, we just carry on. Whatever works eh? If this is suggesting that I may be the highly strung and ever so slightly over dramatic one whilst he remains calm and level headed, that’s your cross to bear and I will flounce from this keyboard declaring you’re wrong and just hate me to prove my undeniable point.

I once tried to withdraw labor and for a week I refused to remove his empty cups from the side. Finally on the 8th day, I asked in exasperation why on earth he hadn’t moved them? How could he not notice they were still there? His reply: “You get up fifteen minutes earlier than me every day to make me a coffee before I go to work so every morning I don’t just see a cup, I see a cup of love that you made just for me. I see seven cups of love.” Seriously?!? How the hell was I supposed to get mad at that! Smooth move slick! I now find cutting his carrots into discs instead of his preferred batons a much more satisfying indicator for him that all is not well. He knows sh*t got serious when that happens!

Luckily, we tend to agree on the biggies: politics, importance of 80’s music, religion, whether Carole killed her husband, child rearing etc. There have been debates and we’ve both conceded points or agreed to disagree. Although I will never forgive him for teaching the kids the word is S-con instead of S-cone and I’m sure we’ll never agree on tuna’s viability as a pizza topping. However, generally we’re on the same page before we talk so that is a great help in the harmony arena.

I think it’s his Dad skills that stand out for me. Seriously, I don’t think I can imagine anyone being a better Dad. He was born to it. The kids are so close to him. I think it helps having boys because he has a legitimate excuse for buying all the consoles going. He takes pride in his young padawans. Not knowing at the beginning Joshie is autistic tested us as a couple. We had several “discussions” on the way we parented. Rich’ll be the first to admit, he was not comfortable pursuing a diagnosis. I’ll be the first to admit he’s now his biggest champion. I still do the majority of reading on how we can work better as a unit but he always tries these new ideas earnestly and offers up articles he’s read in return. With the dreaded IEP meetings, he’d complain about having to attend but then he’d put on his suit, smile and argue whatever point we felt needed arguing. He’d gently tap my knee under the table if I was going off on a tangent….like that’s possible! And it’s gotten to the point where I know I have his support. He gave me the confidence. I know if I need him to be there he will be. Just knowing that makes me feel supported enough to go alone. But all in all, the boys are so similar in their love of science and math and computers, I love seeing what hair brained activity they’re gonna come up with next. Half the time, I don’t understand what they’re talking about but I see the excitement and smiles on all three of my boys faces and realize it doesn’t really matter if I’ve no clue!

The other thing that we’re very protective of as being key to a happy relationship is our viewing choices. We agreed quite early on in the Netflix era, that we needed to watch shows together. It is cheating to watch an episode of Game of Thrones without the other one present. He learned never to put the remote down until the first bit of important dialogue has commenced as he realized with time, that that would be the moment I suddenly have something important that has no relevance to the movie to bring up. Every. Single. Time. I learned the best time to get him to agree to watching a chick flick is when he’s hungover. Oh, the tears he’s cried with Matthew McConaughey whilst nursing a hangover…priceless. But in fairness, I knew there was some kind of destiny vibe going on with us when within the first year, I realized instead of watching Home and Away and Coronation Street, he’d got me looking forward to Captain Picard’s adventures. That was some Jedi mind trick he pulled there! We laugh a lot. With each other and at each other. He laughs more sometimes cos I do things like cutting my own fringe but yet again, he was in the bathroom at the time giving me words of encouragement! But I love that if I’m feeling sad, the TV suddenly has Moulin Rouge or Enchanted on cos he knows that’ll cheer me up and that’s how I know, Giselle!

I know we’ve been really lucky with our adventures. We still talk about how we can’t quite believe where we are sometimes. We’ve visited places I dreamed of as a kid. We know things could change at any minute. He’s just text me to say he’s heading home as Covid has us heading towards quarantine again. I better leave this here and spray some Mr Sheen behind my ears and pretend like I’ve been busy tidying all day.

So anyway, I hope you don’t mind this wander into soppy territory. I’ll admit I tend to keep my social media as a sanitized version of real life where the kids know to kick vagrant shoes and abandoned t-shirts out of shot “because it’s for Facebook Mom?”. But with our anniversary and writer’s block it kind of felt ok to write about this. Hope it was!!

And to end like my favorite, and Rich’s despised Jerry Springer : My final thoughts: I remember when my step dad passed away and one of the readings we chose was The Dash by Linda Ellis. When I think of me and Rich I often think of that poem. We really have no idea what we’re doing. We often feel we’re coasting along wondering what will happen next. We’ve had a few challenges over the years, and a few lucky breaks and we always try to rise up to them. I don’t think it’s intentional but it feels like for us, we’re really trying to make that dash count.

My favorite pic of us as we look so happy but it had been a stressful day and the guy taking photos told us to look romantically at each other. We cracked up at the absurdity of it.

In the Air Tonight

Well, I am English so of course, I’m gonna talk about the weather. It’s an English past time. And having moved to Texas, we’ve been given oh so much more to talk about with regards to that topic.

As I type a storm is raging outside. We’ve had approximately 7 inches of rain fall over night. They’re saying it should end by 9.30am but it’s been going strong since 3am (well that’s what time it woke me). It’s been at times, like a horror movie storm: the kind of crashing thunder where when the lightning flashes, you see a once hidden murderer poised with his axe lit up ready to strike on the over excitable teenagers who were just out to carry on the prom night party fun. House shaking thunder. It rages for a while then quietens. Then suddenly the whole house is illuminated again and the accompanying roar reminds us this storm is not done yet.

We frequently still get asked how we like Houston. People hear our accents and get excited. It happens at least once a week (erm, well maybe once a month since we’ve not been going out thanks to Covid) but whenever we meet new people they ask. The answer that feels the most truthful is we love it here but the weather always seems to be trying to kill us.

It doesn’t just rain, the clouds seem to explode with cascades of water which seem to be compelled to slam into the earth with an unseen, unbreakable magnetic force. The windscreen wipers on their highest speed cannot deal with the deluge so driving becomes a white knuckle ride. So many times I have tried to turn my wipers on harder but they’re already maxed out. Then, you turn a corner and suddenly the rain has stopped. Just gone! Often it never even started there. The streets can be almost flooding 10ft ago but now my wipers are flailing their little arms left and right all over my now dry windscreen with a squeaky scream each time almost like they’re calling out in exhaustion “please let me stop!” The road’s dry and the sun’s shining. The first time I experienced this I remember feeling a little panicked as 100ft away my vision seemed blurry. I was scared I was ill but as that 100ft decreased I realised I was about to enter thru an invisible curtain, thru to torrential rain and the blurriness I’d imagined was just due to the unrelenting downpour that was taking place further up the street. I’m not crazy, I know rainclouds have to have an end somewhere but I’ve never known them to be so linear. Dry. Wet. No inbetween.

I so miss drizzle. I miss those cold November evenings coming home from work when the street lamps, the traffic lights and car headlights and their indicators reflect onto the damp roads and pavements. When you squish your eyes up to make things seem blurry so they’re almost hinting at being twinkly Christmas lights (obviously when you’re not driving). The sound of the swooshing the buses and vans make as they drive along the wet but not flooding roads. Obviously, I think absence makes the heart grow fonder and this maybe gives my memories a rose tinted sheen as I also remember shivering my a** off as I stood double checking the bus timetable, looking at my watch and cursing the typically delinquent bus.

Thankfully here, I don’t have to rely on buses. The thought of waiting at a bus stop fills me with dread and more thoughts of dying. This time from the heat and humidity. Davy Crockett apparently said “You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas” (although some reckon he said “Y’all can go…” which sounds much more likely). He wasn’t wrong. Summer in Texas is unbelievably hot and uncomfortable. Stepping outside sometimes feels like that overbearing draught you get when you open a hot oven except you have to step into it instead of just shutting the door and waiting a while longer on your roast potatoes!

Today it’s 91°f (32°C) with the humidity making it feel like 103°f (39°C)! It’s not even the height of summer yet-it’s going to get hotter! Five minutes outside and the sweat starts to trickle stickly down your back. Two or three showers a day are common. When we first arrived (in October), we couldn’t understand why everything was drive thru. Drive thru banks, Drive thru pharmacies, Drive thru donut shops. However, by the following May we had begun to understand. Literally just walking across the car park to the store is an actual effort. Shade is a slight and infrequent blessing but with the humidity, unlike in the UK, it doesn’t actually make much difference heatwise surprisingly. You still feel like you’re melting. For me, swimming is about the only activity that is enjoyable outside here but even then in the summer months, it feels like a warm bath. If the AC even begins to sound troubled, my anxiety increases tenfold. In England, the cry was always “Shut that door! You’re letting the heat out!” Here it’s a similar cry but instead you’re being screamed at because you’re letting the heat in! The relief from walking out of the heat into the blessed joy of AC is always welcomed with more excitement than I ever felt changing temperatures would warrant.

My favourite season here is autumn without a shadow of a doubt. October brings plentiful sunshine and no humidity. Rich has become a bit of a grill master here and it’s always perfect weather for grilling and margaritas. I just love it. Bike riding and walks are possible to enjoy although with my cycling history, I still stay clear of bikes!

The other saying they’re fond of around these parts is if you don’t know what the weather is going to be, wait an hour and it’ll change. (This is more for winter, spring and autumn. Summer is either hot, hot or hotter). I’ve sent the kids to school in jumpers, coats, hats and gloves and they’ve come home having left them all at school as the weather changed and it was too warm for a jumper, let alone a coat with a cute bobble hat!

But Texas never disappoints where weather is concerned. Yep, I think I could do without the hurricanes and tropical storms. The frequent trips to the closet in spring time as I can’t ignore the tornado warnings despite only ever seeing a spout on a photo a couple of miles from here. The oppressive heat. The three day winter…we had snow here once-I woke the kids up at 5am to play in it which was a good decision as it was gone by 9.30am! Rich has even had work cancelled because it was a bit frosty and they’re just not set up for that kind of silliness. If you’ve seen some of the overpasses here, it makes far more sense…you’d not want to try one of them in icy conditions! But it certainly adds to the adventure of living here. Texas weather doesn’t disappoint a secret weather enthusiast even if it does terrify her at times. There’s always something in the air here!

Wow! I’m definitely English with all that weather waffle. Thanks for bearing with me if you did! It took me a couple of days-thats why the weather changed halfway thru! And I didn’t even get onto clouds which are totally epic here 😉!!

Arriving at the store yesterday morning: beautiful sunshine to the east and dark ominous rainclouds coming in from the west!