July 31, 2008

Home Sweet Home

The trip back went pretty well even though the Continental person checking our bags in was a bit of a dim bulb. Thankfully the people on the gate were much more with it, and all our bags did arrive in Houston with us. Our seats ended up being all right (Jonathan, me, and Kayleigh in the middle section, with Dale in the row in front of us), which was a relief. Kayleigh was quite cute--after the first food had been served and then removed, she announced, "I need a cuddle from my dad,", got out of her seat and went up to his, then she snuggled down on his chest and went to sleep. They slept for at least two hours; it did her a world of good.

Jonathan, of course, did not sleep, although I did get him to rest for about 45 minutes. He enjoyed the games on the inflight entertainment system--lucky for him he'd gotten the seat he did, because the controllers on both mine and Kayleigh's seat didn't work well enough to play the games. All I wanted to do was play Hangman, and I was thwarted . . . next year I may look into cruises to England if Continental is the only realistic airline option . . .

It was wonderful to see Kathleen picking us up, and we really appreciated it knowing how hectic her work is at the moment. She shared a nice glass of wine with me before returning to work and school and then work again--we didn't even get to say goodbye before returning to Austin because she stayed at work all night long. Craziness!

John was the big sweetie that he usually is and even though it should have been his night off from cooking dinner since Kathleen was at her class, he still cooked for Dale and me. We were so grateful! He did some delicious salmon, rice, and steamed zucchini. It was so nice not to have to think about what we were going to do for food (and not have to clean up afterwards).

The next morning we all got up early, and Dale and I got showered in short order to head back to Austin. We got back to our house at 11:30 a.m. and were delighted to be home. Kayleigh in particular seemed very pleased and said how happy she was to be back home about 10 times in the first half-hour. Jennifer & Magda had come by earlier in the morning to leave us some fresh food, which was fantastic as we were starving. They came by later in the afternoon, and Kayleigh and Magda were thrilled to have each other to play with again--I think they got here around 2:30 p.m. and left around 7 p.m., and even then they still had more playing to do.

Today was quite busy for me (good thing Dale drove home this morning, because that's the last time I relaxed). I went up to the post office and got our mail, had to go back a second time b/c they hadn't given me a package that was waiting for me, sorted through all the mail from the month, unpacked five bags for the children and myself, washed sheets and towels, cleaned up the kitchen from our day's eatings (many thanks to Jen for the Rudy's she brought over for dinner!), cleaned up the most unholy mess Magda & Kayleigh created in her bedroom and to a lesser extent in the lounge, set my harp up and tuned it, and put the clean dishes away. Whew!

Tomorrow should be more relaxing. I have a 10 a.m. hair appointment at Lifetime Fitness, so the kids will get to play while I'm there, then we head over to Jennifer's for a few hours. We'll come back here mid-afternoon as I expect that's when we'll all start getting tired again. It will be nice to be at someone else's house where there are no chores for me to do.

Posted by elizabeth at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2008

Winding Down our Holiday

This last week of our holiday has gone by pretty quickly. Last Wednesday Dale and the children and I had a great lunch at the Coach and Horses (which used to be his local pub) and then went out to Hanningfield Reservoir to spend a few pleasant hours in the woods and looking at birds in the various hides. Upon returning to the house, Kayleigh and I took a little walk down to the library and then stopped at Costa Coffee on the way back. It was fun to go up to town and stop in at the coffee shop with my lovely daughter.

Thursday morning I got up early and hopped right in the shower, and then I hied myself back up to the library to get the book I'd been unable to get the evening before due to foolishly leaving the library card at the house. I then stopped at Costa Coffee and had a cappuccino in their outdoor seating at the back while I started one of the books. It was very relaxing! I made it back home in time to go off to Wickford with Dale & the kids to spend an hour and a half or so visiting his uncle Colin. It was a very pleasant visit and interesting to see where he lived.

Continuing the nature theme, after lunch and washing up the dishes, we all (including Joy & Brian) headed over to walk in Norsey Woods. It was quite exciting as it wasn't clear where any paths went (we hadn't brought along the trail map), but we had a great time being in there. It's well over 1000 years old and there are some quite old things (a barrow, for one) there, but we didn't get to see them this time; Dale and I need to go there by ourselves sometime. Even though when we were in it, one felt lost among the trees, it's only (now) 5 acres larger than the farm in Kansas.

Friday Dale and I got to go, by ourselves (!), to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford. There we saw lots of neat planes, pretending to be fully focused on them, when in reality we were both just counting down the minutes until Dale got to ride in--and even take the controls of--a Tiger Moth biplane. (It was his birthday present from me.) In World War II, the British pilots trained on Tiger Moths before they got into the Spitfires. It was pretty neat to see him in the plane. I told him he could get me a ride for my birthday next year . . .

In the evening Dale & I met Nigel up at the pub for a couple of pints and a chat. I always enjoy his company; wish he lived closer!

Saturday was a lazy day in the garden. Dale spent most of it listening to cricket over the radio while lying on the swing.

Sunday was a big day--Eve came over with Ben & Sam around 11 a.m., and Brian cooked a big roast dinner for everyone. After it was all cleaned up (ready for the next round!), Dale and the boys got stuck into a fierce game of Axis and Allies: D-Day, which occupied them until a little past 5 p.m. I enjoyed myself playing harp out in the garden again while Jonathan and Kayleigh took turns with their auntie Eve. Close to 6 p.m. Lee & Ali turned up with the girls (Christopher had left Saturday morning for a week-long Scout camp in Scotland), and mayhem reigned until they left. Sadly, in the evening the cabbie came by to pick up my harp so that he could drop off for me the next day. At least I'd gotten lots of practice in during the day.

Today I started packing; I'm not worried about having enough room for stuff in our suitcases, but I am quite concerned about the weight of the bags. Fingers crossed for us, everyone!

Posted by elizabeth at 05:29 PM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2008

Harping in the Garden

Jonathan's birthday ended up nicely. Dale, Sam, and I rode the train over to Ingatestone with him, and he spent a pleasant day with Eleanor & Annabelle. Christopher seemed to enjoy himself playing a game of Axis and Allies: D-Day with Dale on his side as the Germans, and Ben and Sam as the Allied forces. The game lasted the entire time we were there--we broke only for Jonathan's birthday tea, which was a wonderful myriad of food as always at Lee's house. I didn't play the game (read the Sunday paper and then looked through one of Lee's new cookbooks) but did sit at the head offering advice and consultation to the Allies as they were inexperienced. In the end I took Jonathan home on the train instead of Dale doing it so that they could finish the game.

Monday we spent hanging around here at the house. In the morning we all went up to the shops together (after a bit of palaver), and when Dale immediately got annoyed with Jonathan for wanting to read as he walked (he did bump into someone), I took him under my wing and we split off from the rest of them. I do believe we hit every shop on the side of the High Street that we were on! Joy said she wished she'd stayed with us.

It had been quite cold in the morning (a northwesterly wind here means it's coming straight from the Pole, and it's COLD), but it warmed up beautifully. After lunch Brian did gardening while the rest of us lounged about indolently. I dragged my harp out in the garden and played for so long that I ran out of stuff to play. It was fun.

Mid-afternoon Joy, Kayleigh, and I went across the street to visit Irene, who'd invited us to come over sometime and see her craft stuff. She has a lovely house and plenty of space for her things; I borrowed about eight rubber stamps but now need paper to stamp them on so I can take them back home. Guess that means a final trip to a craft store . . .

Today (Tuesday) we are going to Southend again with Dale joining us this time (last time he was still working). It's a beautiful sunny day and should be great for it, and we need to do trips like that quick since the first day of summer holidays for schoolkids here is Thursday.

Posted by elizabeth at 03:14 AM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2008

Jonathan is 9 Years Old!

Today is Jonathan's 9th birthday--can it really have been that long already? At 12:30 p.m. Ben & Sam are coming over to have dinner with us, and then we'll all head over to Lee & Ali's to spend the afternoon and have Jonathan's birthday tea over there.

He was apparently up around 6:30 a.m. this morning (was already out of bed when Joy & Brian came over from Irene's, where they are sleeping while we're here), and when I got up he'd already opened all his cards and presents that were here. Dale and I were at a bit of a loss to know what to get him, and we ended up selecting a mini-stereo system that has a 3-CD disc changer and can also have an mp3 player plugged into it (for a future present if he listens to it). We thought it would be nice for him to be able to listen to music without having to ask to use my iPod or my computer. Hopefully he'll use it!

Posted by elizabeth at 05:47 AM | Comments (0)

Houseboats on the London canal system

If I had been asked, I don't think I would have known that London had a canal system--I don't associate it with canals. Dale says it's how goods used to be transported all over the country, and you can still travel on the canals from London up to places as far away as Birmingham and Manchester.

Our friend Keaton, a singer, has lived on a houseboat at Stonebridge Lock since last year (she said it was a little rough in the winter when the heater packed up and there was frost on the inside of the windows), and we got to go see it for the first time. She had a barbecue for a few people, but we managed to get her all to ourselves for an hour before the next people turned up. We had burgers and sausages, chips and salsa, and beer sitting outside in the sunshine next to the water--absolutely heavenly. We truly felt like we were on holiday.

About 5:45 p.m. we pulled ourselves away to head back to Billericay (this time instead of taking a bus we walked back to the train station at Totteham Hale and then had two trains to take to get back to Billericay). Upon our return the house was still empty (Joy & Brian had taken the children all day to the yearly village fete at Ingatestone and then to Lee & Ali's for tea afterwards), so we trekked up to Waitrose to get some dinner. No one came home until 9 p.m., and then it was a job to get Kayleigh to finish painting her flower pots and go to bed. (She had started painting them in the morning with Grandad as her assistant; while Joy, Irene, and I were at the craft shops in the morning, Brian held the flower pot for her while she painted it--when we came back he was eating his sandwiches with one hand and the flower pot with the other.)

But in bed we managed to bundle them, and Jonathan went to sleep quite well for someone who was having a birthday the next day.

Posted by elizabeth at 05:42 AM | Comments (0)


On Friday we had tentatively planned to take the kids to Old Macdonald's Farm in Brentwood, but the weather was not suitable for a day outdoors--cold, windy, and gray. We would all have been frozen, and given the cost of admission we need to go when we can spend all day there to make it worth it.

So we bailed on that idea and instead I convinced Joy & Brian that they might like Kung Fu Panda. We booked tickets online and got upgraded for free to premium seating for doing so, and the theatre in Basildon was quite nice. Everyone in the audience was well behaved, and it must have been good as Joy didn't go to sleep during the movie and Brian said it was definitely amusing. I was relieved they liked it since I had talked them into it!

Afterwards we visited a large Hobbycraft store, and I was surprised that its prices were higher than the little one-of-a-kind local shops that we go to in Wickford and Barleylands; it's usually the other way around at home. Then we dashed home, Joy & Brian took off for Lee & Ali's as they were attending Eleanor's school play that evening, and Dale & I headed down to The Feast of Bengal (Dale used to live in the flats just above it) with the children to meet Nigel, Graham, and Darren for a meal. It was as yummy as always and nice to be out with friends.

Five minutes after we got the kids in bed, Joy & Brian returned, so we took advantage of Kayleigh already having gone to sleep and dashed up to The Chequers to have a quick drink & chat with Nigel and everyone else. We never even went inside--just stood out in the beer garden behind the pub and spent about 40 minutes before heading back down the street to home. It was very pleasant; I spent most of the time talking to Graham's girlfriend Isabelle, who has family in either Memphis or Tucson and has been to both of those places.

Posted by elizabeth at 05:25 AM | Comments (0)

London and the HMS Belfast

Hmm, I don't remember what we did last Wednesday. Hopefully it was a nice relaxing day.

On Thursday we (Dale and the kids and I) had an afternoon in London. We got a nice fast train and after a tube ride to the London Bridge station, we arrived at the HMS Belfast at 11:15 a.m. It was a good day to visit it as it sprinkled most of the day, but we were in the depths of the ship and not wet at all.

I have always liked battleships (Mom used to take me to the Battleship Texas when I was little, and I still remember loving the stairways, very steep and with very thin steps), and the Belfast is well kept and has some quite interesting exhibits and video (Jonathan was captivated by one about the capture of the Scharnhorst). Kayleigh was a little trooper, climbing everywhere (Dale took her down some of them, but eventually we heard her little determined voice saying, "I can climb this one myself!") and being very good about the whole thing, which of course didn't mean much to her. She did like seeing the ship's cat posed in the flour and potato stores though!

The Belfast has an honored history and supported the landings on Gold and Juno beaches in World War II. It helped bring alive some of the Axis & Allies: D-Day board game that we play for Jonathan.

After spending two hours aboard the Belfast, we reluctantly departed and had a delicious meal at The Horniman at Hays--sausage and mash for Dale, fish and chips for me. We made it home before the trains got crowded with rush hour.

Posted by elizabeth at 05:15 AM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2008

Seaside at Southend

Monday was fairly laid back here since the weekend had been so full for everyone. In the afternoon we all walked over to the park, finally remembering to take some bread to feed the ducks, geese, and swans (Jonathan loves the swans, and Kayleigh always ends up pretending that she's a duck too--today she told me that she was going to grow up to be a duck).

Today Jonathan had a great day--got to ride the bus in the morning as Joy & Brian had to drop the car off for its yearly inspection and they take the bus back, and then the he caught the 11:06 a.m., along with Kayleigh, Joy, Brian, and myself, to the Southend Victoria station and spent the afternoon in Southend-on-sea.

Upon arriving we ate lunch and then dropped in a few art/craft/toy stores along the way down the High Street to the coast, and finally made it to the sand about 1:30 p.m. or so. A few sandcastles were made, but no one seemed to be much in the mood for persevering at them. It was overcast and a little chilly, and since we stopped at the first bit of sand we got to it wasn't all that clean--trash here and there, lots of cigarette butts. But I got rid of the butts and the kids didn't really notice, so we enjoyed ourselves and I found a few more rocks.

Then the wonder of the afternoon came--I looked up and realized that the tide was going out. For me, who grew up with Galveston tides that don't seem to vary more than about six feet between high and low tide, I was seventeen and in Brittany before I had any real idea what it meant when the tide went out. Huge, absolutely huge, swathes of land are uncovered! So when I looked up and saw all this beach that had been underwater when we arrived, I had to go out there, bucket in hand. As I had guessed, I found loads of seashells--the first one I picked up still had its inhabitant inside, so I put it back down--clamshells, mussels, whelkies, sea snails . . . it was great. There were also loads and loads of little sand crabs. I put one on my hand to show Kayleigh, who thought it was cute and petted it.

I didn't get to stay too long b/c Kayleigh came out to me saying she had to go potty with me. Of course she did. So I put my feet in Jonathan's sandals (didn't want to wait long enough to clean my feet off and put my socks back on) and carried her off to the toilets. As soon as we got back, it was back down to the beach--and Joy came with me! She held onto my arm for stability and took her shoes off once we got to the wet part. Good thing, because it quickly got very, very squelchy and squishy. We had gone out a fair ways when behind us we heard at regular intervals the sound of a little girl saying, "Eeeuuww", with fresh revulsion and horror at each step, as though the mud had found a new, slightly more squishy way to squelch up between her toes. But she soldiered on and didn't let it stop her. Soon after that Jonathan came along, also making the same sounds of disgust, but coming on just the same. The two of them quickly went far past us, although that was partly because we kept stopping for shells.

I told Joy it was just like going to the salon, because we were getting a mud bath on our feet, and when we dried the sand off we'd be exfoliating them--and we were having a lot more fun on the beach than we would at the salon. She laughed and agreed. This evening after the kids were in bed, I did do her feet with exfoliating foot butter and then foot lotion (I'd done mine when I gave Kayleigh a bath). Have to admit it felt great and not quite as "eeeeuuuuwy" as the mud. But the beach exploration was a blast. I felt like such a kid out there looking at what the water had left behind.

Posted by elizabeth at 06:31 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2008

Weekend was Busy

On Saturday Joy & I ran up to Barleylands to the craft shop to check out their day-long Christmas make-and-take and Christmas goods available. Made it back in time for dinner (which Brian had said he'd have ready at 12:30 p.m. and we'd better not be late!), then we gathered coats together and headed over to the park for the annual Lake Meadows golf tourney.

Nigel was happy from the beginning since Rich couldn't come from Roumania for it, and as his only goal is to beat Rich, then he started out ahead of the game. Dale was defending champion, but unfortunately he lost it to Graham, who had given no indication the night before when we were up at the Chequers that he was going to mount such a challenge. But Dale was still semi-happy since at least Lee didn't win it, and Lee was happy that if he hadn't won, then at least Dale didn't win. Gotta love that sibling rivalry!

Today, Sunday, saw Dale celebrating his birthday by going to Duxford for the airshow I mentioned in my last blog, accompanied by our friend Kavita, Jonathan, and Ben. Our friend Andy met them there. Everyone was very impressed.

I didn't want to go for that long with Kayleigh, since I would be the one putting up with her (they left this morning around 7:45 a.m. and didn't get back until just past 7 p.m.), so I did not see the planes. Joy & Brian were previously committed to attend an interpretive dance show that Ali and Eleanor participate in every year, so I was on my own--fine by me! I looked up train times and got input from everyone and decided that Kayleigh and I would go to a seaside town in Essex.

We caught the 10:45 a.m. to Shenfield and from there hopped on a train to Clacton-on-Sea, where we arrived just past noon. The two of us spent a lovely day there--I had fish and chips in a Wetherspoon's pub, Kayleigh rode some rides and a little rollercoaster on the Clacton pier, and then we spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach making sandcastles and collecting rocks & seashells. We caught the 5:36 p.m. train out of Clacton and got back to the house about a quarter past 7 p.m. Ended up having dinner in the High Street with Kavita before she took a train back to London, and now we are all tired out. But I can still hear the sound of the ocean . . .

Posted by elizabeth at 05:26 PM | Comments (1)

July 11, 2008


Yesterday (Thursday) was a lovely day after all the rain we had the day before. In the morning, Joy, Irene, Kayleigh, and I dashed over to the craft shop in Wickford for a few things we realized we had to have. Kayleigh wanted to join the group that was meeting for a class in their back room (she was fascinated by everyone having a cup of tea), and while I was checking out she sat outside and chatted with the woman sitting out in the sunshine going through stock records (a store employee). It was hard to tear her away--she had lots to say. My little social butterfly.

In the afternoon, Joy, Brian, and I took the kids to Barleylands. Brian provided adult supervision for Jonathan & Kayleigh while Joy & I popped into a shop, then we joined them. They had a splendid time jumping about on the bouncy pillow and going on the swings. We must have been there for two hours and they never even made it to look at any of the animals! (I did--I baaed back and forth with some sheep, petted some others, and took a look at the baby piglets and the bunnies.) Too busy playing and running around, which they needed.

Today they have been relaxing, playing games, and watching TV. This afternoon (it's 3:40 p.m. as I write) Dale and I took his mum up to Costa Coffee (she had never been in there before), and then I went to browse around the Billericay Cookshop. Turns out the cute little square-top ice cream spoons I got Rita two years ago have been discontinued by the company. Too bad, 'cause I think they're cute! When I came back, I discovered that both the children elected to go with Joy & Brian, who are out getting a GPS system installed in their car. Be envious, Daddy!

This evening Dale and I are going up to the Chequers to meet Nigel, Graham, and Russ for a quick pint--not staying until closing time. Tomorrow is the annual Lake Meadows golf tournament, where Dale will be defending the trophy, and then on Sunday Dale, Jonathan, Ben, Sam, and our friend Kavita will be going to Duxford and seeing the WWII planes fly.

Posted by elizabeth at 09:53 AM | Comments (0)

July 09, 2008

It's Raining, It's Pouring

Not much happened today. It rained all day long without letting up once. Kayleigh was a sport and was going to go up to town with Joy & Brian when they went to do the shopping this morning, and I watched until they rounded the corner of the road before I sat down at the computer, but two minutes later she was in the door--she was too cold, so Brian walked her back. We didn't bring the right clothes!

This afternoon I came over all sleepy and my head felt as heavy as a bowling ball on top of my neck, so I lay down in the end bedroom and cuddled Kayleigh for a while (she forced me to read a couple of books to her as the price of a cuddle) and then Jonathan (I let him play Peggle on my iPod so that I could cuddle him--he kept me warm). Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

This evening I sat in Joy's craft room and came up with a great birthday card for Jonathan from things I'd gotten yesterday. Very pleased with myself! Even Dale said it looked great, and said it with enthusiasm, before the glaze began to creep over his eyes :-).

Tomorrow, however, we must go somewhere. Anywhere! It makes it harder that I am so limited here since I can't drive. We would have gone to see a movie in Basildon today if we had transport, but a train required 2 or 3 changes, and the bus didn't let off anywhere near the movie theatre, which is why I ended up dozing in bed. If nothing else, we'll go to the library and stop in at Costa Coffee for hot chocolate on the way back.

Posted by elizabeth at 05:45 PM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2008

Fun Was Had By All

Today was lots of little trips for everyone.

In the morning, Joy, Irene (neighbor whose house Joy & Brian are sleeping at while we are here), and I went to the craft shop in Wickford. Lots of lovely neat things that aren't sold in America. Many of them came home in my bag with me!

Arrived back home to Brian fixing a nice roast dinner and children happy. After lunch I played in Joy's craft room and demonstrated using Opalite ink pads, fluid chalk, and Perfect Pearls on card and Stampbord.

Then we decided it was a shame not to go to the craft store at Barleylands, so we called Irene back over and took off. By this time Dale and Sam were about to head off to London to attend a Twenty20 cricket match, so Brian was in charge of the children. As we went out the door, I heard Kayleigh asking for an iced bun (Jonathan had eaten the last one at lunch) and Brian responding that fulfilling that request would require a trip up to town (which means a walk up the High Street to the grocery store).

We had another fun time at Pinnacle, and when we came home, we found Brian and Kayleigh in the kitchen having just finished making cupcakes together! Apparently both she and Jonathan saw some cupcake mixes on the shelves and talked their Grandad into getting them. Jonathan hasn't made his yet, but Kayleigh had helped mix up the batter, spoon everything into the cupcake pan (while asking Brian if she could do it without his hand on hers, please), and help get them in the oven. They were baking on our return, and shortly afterwards he called her back into the kitchen to help make the icing and apply it and the decorations to the cupcakes. They were works of art.

About an hour after that, the kids and I went down to the train station for our first train ride of the trip. It wasn't very long--just one stop to Shenfield where we changed platforms and caught a train to Chelmsford. Ben was waiting for us at the station, and we walked to his flat to see where he lives and to meet his kitty cat Lennie. It was nice to see his place and his kitty, who is very sweet and good-natured. Kayleigh, of course, was thrilled beyond words and showered the cat with more attention than he'd ever dreamed was possible.

Brian & Joy met us there with a plate of food for Ben, so we stayed for a little while to chat and then around 9 p.m. we drove home. Dale got back a little past ten and was still high from the cricket match, which was apparently one of the best ever. Finally it feels we are settling in!

Posted by elizabeth at 07:12 PM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2008

Rainy Day; Grandad's the Man

Today was rainy and cold. None of us are used to being cold in July, but it was definitely that with highs only in the low 60s and lows in the 50s. This afternoon Jonathan and I went up to the High Street together and made a stop in at M. & Co. to get a few bits of warmer clothes for him and Kayleigh--jackets for each of them, since they had both outgrown theirs from last winter at home, some pairs of long pants for each, and a long-sleeved dress for Kayleigh.

Then we made our way down to the library to return the books we were finished with and get some new ones. We did look for the second Hardy Boys book because Jonathan finally read the first one that Daddy gave him a long time ago, agreed that it was indeed good, and would like to read the next one. If we can't get them here, he has the set of the first six at home, so they'll be waiting for him.

After loading ourselves up with more books and waiting for the rain to finish bucketing down, we made our way back towards home but stopped in at the Costa Coffee. We quickly snagged a high bar table by the sidewalk and enjoyed a lovely 45 minutes with our hot chocolate and cappucino, reading our books and watching people run through the rain.

Upon our return, Ann and Irene (both neighbors and both were at the party yesterday) were here, so I had an impromptu harp concert for them. Nearly sent the two of them off to sleep--not sure if that's a compliment or not!

I was amused to see that Grandad is the man of the moment for Kayleigh. When Jonathan and I set out around 3 p.m., she had Brian firmly in her clutches in the end bedroom playing Kerplunk! with her, and when we returned nearly two hours later, he was still in there with her. I have no idea what all they did other than play games and read books, but they must have spent three hours down there. Then after dinner she saw him out in the back garden and nothing would do except that she join him, so she whisked her shoes on and trotted out there and followed him all around the garden. Then they cuddled up in the end bedroom and read yet more books until it was time for bed. She got Nanny to do her teeth and get her into her nightgown, but after bedtime kisses and cuddles, again Brian was on the spot to read her a couple of bedtime stories. I guess she figured out that he's the only one who'll be available to her without hesitation!

Tomorrow Joy, Irene, and I will visit the craft shops (Dale's probably put a hold on our bank account!), and in the evening Dale & Sam are going to a cricket match in London, while the children and I will go to Chelmsford to see Ben's flat and his kitty cat Lenny. I need a plan to extract Kayleigh from the flat--specifically the cat--to come back home . . . must start working on that.

Posted by elizabeth at 05:52 PM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2008

Splendid 50th Anniversary Party

Today (Sunday) was our surprise party for Joy & Brian's 50th wedding anniversary. It was from their three boys and their families, although Ali did most of the planning and arranging since they were local and we weren't. It went off without a hitch--everyone got there on time, the food was delicious, and the setting was ideal.

Dale and I went up with the children, and Ali came by with Eleanor to pick up Joy & Brian to take them to Greenwoods, which is just in the next town over, Stock. There we (the offspring and family) awaited Joy & Brian's arrival in the library. Once we'd said hello, Lee went to a door that led into the boardroom and started announcing people one by one, so that it wasn't a huge heart-stopping surprise, and it was nice to see all these people whose names we've heard over the years in stories and put a face to the name. The best man and his wife were there, Joy's best friend growing up and her son, who was the three-year-old pageboy at the wedding--they were there, as was Brian's Army buddy from his stint in Singapore. All the crowd from Barking were there as we'd hired a minivan to bring them together . . . it was a lovely day. We were there from noon until about 7:30 p.m., although by then there weren't many people left.

I did spend a fair amount of time, along with a few other people, watching some of the best Wimbledon's men's final that has been in a long time. The 3rd & 4th sets went to tiebreaks, and the final score of the fifth set was 9-7 to Rafael Nadal, winning over Roger Federer. I missed the first two sets but came in about halfway through the third and saw everything from then on. Fantastic tennis.

The only thing was that it was too cold (and sometimes rainy) for the adults to sit outside and enjoy ourselves, but the kids enjoyed themselves tremendously. Kayleigh was thrilled to have some other children to play with, and Jonathan and Max (who is only three months younger than him) hit it off famously again. (They first met last summer when we went to Southend with Glen, his girlfriend, and her three children--Phoebe, Max, and Holly.) Of course, my nieces Eleanor & Squeaky (Annabelle) and our nephew Christopher were there, although Christopher at the age of 15 spent more time hanging around Ben & Sam than he did running around the gardens with the little kids.

Anyway, I barely saw Kayleigh or Jonathan all day long, and I figure that since Kayleigh didn't throw up on anyone that I heard of, she must be recovered. She seemed to have lots of playing to make up for when we got home, but I put her down in bed just past 10 p.m. and didn't hear another peep out of her, so she must have been just exhausted. It was great to watch them all playing outside all day long.

The most important part was that both Brian and Joy enjoyed themselves tremendously and had a great time talking to all these people who came to honor them, some of whom they hadn't seen for years and years. It was a lot of fun to arrange this for them. Happy Anniversary!

Posted by elizabeth at 06:01 PM | Comments (2)

Kayleigh is well

We thought all was well with little Kayleigh for a while--on Saturday morning she hadn't thrown up since 5:30 p.m. the previous afternoon, but we slept until nearly noon (I'd had to stay up with her until just past 1 a.m.). She still seemed sleep-dazed and remained on my lap, and then after having a nice drink just after 2 p.m., up it all came again. Just liquid, but poor thing!

Dale and I were triply worried since we knew about the surprise 50th anniversary party we (the three boys plus spouses) were throwing for Joy & Brian on Sunday. It was simply out of the question that one of us have to miss it because Kayleigh was sick, or worse yet that she transmit something to Joy or Brian and they get sick. Oh no. So when she went again Saturday afternoon, we were really worried that she was still not even keeping water down since it had been 21 hours from the most recent episode . . . Dale got on the phone to the NHS hotline while I bathed her, and they were great. Very detailed questions about her appearance and symptoms, and then they said we ought to get her up to someone to have a look to guard against dehydration and rule anything more serious out. They rang off and called back only five minutes later with an appointment for us at the Children's Outpatient Ward at Basildon Hospital at 4:10 p.m.

Brian drove us up there so we didn't have to worry about where to park, and we got straight in as everything was well marked. There was no one else waiting, so we were seen by a doctor within five minutes. He asked us a few questions and did a physical exam of Kayleigh, who was fantastic for him and answered all his questions (the only thing she wouldn't do was cough for him). The conclusion was that she had viral gastritis, which meant that the stomach lining was inflamed and thus couldn't hold as much. The key, he said, was to give her only a little (an ounce) every 30 minutes or so. But he said she could eat & drink whatever she wanted, just in small quantities. And he said adults didn't have to worry about contracting it from her. Whew!

So we followed his advice and all has been well. She was still pretty subdued the rest of the day, but the more food she got the better she was. In the night she woke up only twice for a drink of water, and this morning (Sunday) she popped out of bed and was like a house on fire, no longer clinging to my lap and playing with everything and everyone. Yippee!

Posted by elizabeth at 05:38 PM | Comments (0)

July 04, 2008

Poor Little Kayleigh!

Oh, what a night . . . the first night we tried having the two children go to sleep in the same bed, but Kayleigh wouldn't leave Jonathan alone, so we ended up splitting them up as we always have in the past. But we did get some sleep.

Last night Kayleigh went to sleep all right around 8:30 p.m., but Jonathan managed to keep himself awake until past midnight. I was in bed with Kayleigh by 12:30 a.m., but she woke up when I came to bed and didn't go back to sleep--squirmy, asking for water, just generally completely totally annoying. Then she started up with a cry just past 4 a.m., so I took her to the toilet, where she promptly threw up. Not what I was expecting! Dale heard, since he hadn't been getting any sleep with Jonathan either, and came to help. She didn't really have anything in her tummy other than water, but it's been going all morning long. Right now it's been two hours since she last went, which is the longest stretch--hopefully we're through it. I got up with her about 7:15 this morning, since I couldn't sleep any more (too afraid I'd wake up to her throwing up on me), and sat in Joy's chair out here in the lounge. It's actually been quite a nice morning, as Joy made me coffee and even did me bacon and eggs for breakfast. I ate it all in the chair feeling like a queen. In between being served, I read one of my library books. Except for Kayleigh's affliction, it wasn't a bad way to spend a morning.

So, fingers crossed, everyone. Our little ootchie needs to be running around again soon with that mischievous gleam in her eye! (And spare a thought for her poor tired parents too.)

Posted by elizabeth at 06:56 AM | Comments (1)

July 03, 2008

Library and Lake Meadows

Today Dale got up all perky at 7 a.m. (I think actually to avoid any more knees in the back from Jonathan), but the rest of us would have slept all day. About 10:30 a.m. he came into my room and opened the blackout curtains, so I got up shortly afterwards, but the kiddoes slept on. A little past 11 I woke up Kayleigh--played on my harp right there in the bedroom, but she didn't move a muscle, so I had to resort to stroking her hair, talking to her, and pretending that her unicorn Eunice was kissing her all over. She did wake up with a smile, which was nice. Then I got her out of bed by asking her to come wake up Jonathan, which she does really well at home and he always gets up for her. So she went and crawled in bed with Jonathan, gave him a kiss, and told him it was time to get up. He too woke up with a smile and did indeed get up.

In the afternoon the children, Joy, and I walked up to the library to get some books. Along the way we stopped in at the Costa Coffee where Dale, Nigel, and Debbie were having a coffee. They both looked great and it will be nice to spend some time with them while we are here.

It was chilly much of the morning but warmed up while we were in the library. About 3:45 p.m. we all headed over to Lake Meadows park to play at the playground for a while and then to walk around the lake. It was a beautiful day and plenty of people--and birds--were out enjoying it.

Dale has started a Scrabulous game with his mum on Facebook, and he has quickly developed much more sympathy for me than he has had in the past. Mom, you know what I mean!

Posted by elizabeth at 05:41 PM | Comments (1)

July 02, 2008

Arrival in England

So after being home from Kansas for only about 9 or 10 days, we took off again and drove to Kathleen & John's to spend the night. Courtney was there too, and we had fun helping her with her homework. Kathleen got us off to the airport at exactly the right time the following day, and the new terminal at Intercontinental Airport was a breeze.

The whole flying experience was great until we actually got on the plane. Being dropped off was easy, the new terminal has a nice feel to it, nothing was too crowded, the food was good, and the staff were all helpful. We were very encouraged--this was our first time flying Continental instead of British Airways for many years, and so far everything was superior--a shorter drive to Katy instead of Fort Worth, the terminal being so much better than dealing with the DFW airport, it was all looking good.

Unfortunately, even after promising Margaret that I'd reserve judgment until after I flew (at the wedding I'd expressed disappointment that we were going to have to fly Continental this year instead of BA), I have to say that the actual flight itself was pretty bad. The cabin crew were mildly grumpy and sometimes bordered on rude, the food was pretty dismal (not awful but certainly not appetizing, and Dale's yogurt in the morning didn't even come with a spoon), and they might as well not even bothered printing up a schedule for the in-flight entertainment because it was downright abysmal. One of the best things about flying BA was that it was great for the kids--there was something on from the minute we came out of takeoff until they turned off the cabin systems for landing, and if it repeated it did so only once, and there was LOTS of stuff for kids. And for adults! But there was nothing for the kids. We didn't even get socks or a little toothbrush. And the seats were very uncomfortable, like they were concave where they were supposed to be convex.

Who knows, maybe it's better in Business First or First class, but I thought it was pretty poor myself. For next year's trip, I'm going to start scouring for flights starting about six months' ahead of time so we don't have to do this again.

We did arrive on time and got through immigration quickly, and then once we got our luggage and got into our minivan we'd hired to pick us up (same guy three years running), we made a stop at Pilgrim Harps for me to pick up a rental Skylark harp for the month that we are here. It's in a lovely country house (they make the harps there) out in the Surrey countryside, and the harp, even though it's just their low-end student harp, sounds really beautiful. I had it out of the case and was tuning it up within ten minutes of arriving at Joy & Brian's. Amazing how different it feels to mine, just holding it. But it does sound lovely, and I feel very privileged to get to play it for a month.

Now I'm off to bed, the last one up, as usual. The kids were great travellers and we all had naps this afternoon, but I am feeling sleepy. Glen and Ben both came by tonight to say hello, and it was great to see them. So we'll see how the day is tomorrow. Should be lovely--I had to put a jacket on when we went up to the shops this afternoon. The gardens are all beautiful here, especially Joy & Brian's. I'm so excited we're here!

Posted by elizabeth at 05:47 PM | Comments (3)

Summer Trip to Kansas

We had a great time going up to Kansas after Danny & Joanna's lovely and quite memorable wedding. The drive up went well, and Kayleigh was very excited when we got off of 59 and starting driving on the back roads (this is about an hour before actually reaching the farm) and kept saying, "We're nearly there! I recognize this, we're nearly to the farm!"

By the end of the trip, we had settled into a nice routine where about mid-afternoon, a movie (rented from the library) would go on for the children, and the adults would retire the library to play lovely music together. I found a piece by Giovanni Picchi written in the 1600s for two soprano instruments and continuo, so Mom played her alto recorder, Daddy on the tenor (or possibly the other way around, I'm not sure), and I played the bass part of the continuo. It's pretty involved but sounds quite neat, so we're going to keep working on that.

Once our music was over, the adults would get a cocktail and Jonathan some lemonade or apple juice, and we'd have 30-45 minutes of Texas Hold-Em in the library together. Then dinner for the kids and getting them off to bed. Mom as always fixed delicious meals that we ate in the library in the evenings by candlelight (fresh potatoes from the garden, four kinds of fresh lettuce, fresh peas--yum!).

The last four nights I was there, the three of us played poker ($5 buy-in) after the dinner dishes were cleaned up. I particularly enjoyed that since I won three of those nights. One of them saw me win with three of a kind of threes--and my third three came on the river of the very last hand! That was very rewarding.

Jonathan, Daddy, and I went to see the Bodies Revealed exhibit in Kansas City. I thought it was absolutely fascinating--so did Jonathan.

We made a few trips to the H.M.S. Beagle, a great science store in Parkville, Missouri, that my parents have discovered. Jonathan had his first experience doing experiments with a chemistry set, thanks to his grandpa, and we got to do some neat things. Thanks to Mom for keeping Kayleigh occupied so that there was less chance of our getting distracted and blowing up the granary.

The most drama came when I had a blowout with my front right tire on I-35 just past Tonkawa, Oklahoma. It was a little scary, but luckily someone stopped to help me change the tire and told me that if I drove into Tonkawa I ought to be able to find a tire store. He was right too, although I had my doubts for a while. It did mean that instead of driving from 9:45 a.m. until about 6 p.m., I didn't get to Rita's in Fort Worth until 8:15 p.m. I was so happy to see my auntie!

The trip went by so fast I feel I already ought to be making plans to go again soon . . . it must mean we had a great time, which we did.

Posted by elizabeth at 05:21 PM | Comments (1)