Sunday, January 4, 2009

Christmas and Boxing Day 2008

This year it was just the four of us alone here for Christmas, which might have been slightly pathetic, but fortunately both kids are at optimal ages for enjoying the holiday as it was meant to be: Ethan is still clinging staunchly to his belief in Santa, and Avery is just old enough to know that boxes plus wrapping paper equals new toys. Here they are acting like, well, like kids on Christmas:

Avery did not require any pompom coaching; she was born to shake it.

Okay, it's still a video game, but he's definitely getting a workout.

"Avery's" dollhouse; occasionally I even let her rearrange things, but after she's in bed I put it back just like this. Notice the Dad is downstairs doing the washing up. Alone. As it should be.

The kids feasted all day on chocolate coins and Lindt reindeer, so they weren't that interested in dinner; we gave them pasta and put them to bed early, and then had the kitchen to ourselves.

Here's our Christmas dinner, which I do understand is rather brown and unappetizing (however delicious); I'm showing it to you only for the purpose of passing on the following advice from one of our English friends re. the proper way to cook vegetables. When I mentioned apologetically that I thought the sprouts might be overdone, he observed that "as long as you can make out individuals, they're not overcooked." A quintessentially English point of view, but one I have adopted for reasons of digestion and because I have a houseful of small children who prefer not to have to chew their food before swallowing.

Boxing Day was gorgeous and sunny (and freezing, but never mind) so we went up to Knole Park for a walk, and to fly Ethan's new kite.

Ethan, Avery, and Dylan in Knole Park

Ethan and Avery in front of Knole House

Flying the kite

Ethan took this picture of Avery & me

Downtown Sevenoaks

Tomorrow it's back to school, work, and whatever it is I do. We wish you all the best in 2009!!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

More December in Review

Lansing had some vacation to burn before year's end, so he had 2 full weeks at home with us, which made for the Best Christmas Ever as far as the kids and I are concerned. (Lansing, possibly, will not be entirely devastated to escape back to the office tomorrow.) We put the tree up the first weekend in December, ensuring there would be plenty of time for it to wither and die and fling sharp little needles everywhere (okay, it didn't help that we forgot to cut the bottom few inches off before we put it in the water.)

Kind of blurry, but with the flash you could really see just how dead the tree was...

Ethan finished off the school term with a carol service in one of the beautiful local churches. Once school was done, we planned a few day trips to distract him from the agony of having to wait 3 more days to open his Christmas presents.

We spent a day in London, decorating cookies with Mother Christmas and checking out the aquarium. Avery spent most of her face-time with Mrs. Claus eating chocolate- they just kept putting it in front of her- with predictable results:

I promise Lansing's not breaking Ethan's arm off-camera, however it sounds, it was just a gentle restraint technique. Ahhh, sugar. And what better complements a full stomach than carnival rides?

We finished off the day with a quick tour of the London Aquarium, which I can't currently recommend since it's under construction- it's a bit like wandering around a building site with a few fish tanks inexplicably installed beneath the scaffolding.

You can color a picture at the remarkably filthy craft table, however, if that's of any interest to you.

Or maybe you'd like to see the fish that's clearly been attacked by a shark? Yes? I thought so:

I'm thinking feeding time maybe needs to be brought forward half an hour? Someone has clearly been getting impatient. Or, I don't know, maybe the fish started it. In any case, it made quite an impression on all the children present.

December in Review

We've really made the most of our Christmas break this year, catching up with lots of friends that we see all too rarely. We had some great outings with the kids...and also some we thought would be great that didn't quite turn out that way. Avery and I headed down to the London Temple one grey and freezing morning, having heard that the angel Moroni statue was finally going to be helicoptered up onto the spire (the temple was built in the 50's, but at the time they weren't able to get planning permission for Moroni.)

We arrived early and wandered around looking at the new visitors' center and the Christmas displays.

Did I mention it was freezing?

I've got to be the worst photographer on the planet- I couldn't find a good angle for this shot.

Avery's patience with the camera soon wore thin.

We could see the statue on the lawn, but no sign of any helicopters. Eventually they let us know that the pilot was fogged in and it would be a couple of hours. I couldn't see Avery hanging in there that long, nor did the fog look like it would dissipate anytime soon, so we just grabbed a couple of close-ups and headed for home.

One angel, mint condition, still in original packaging

I'm not sure when they actually got it up there, but it looks like the helicopter eventually came through.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


We've had a busy December here at the Politrell compound, which partially accounts for the lack of new posts (and the rest of the blame goes to general indolence.) Avery turned two years old at the beginning of the month, and enjoyed her birthday party and cake plus the auxiliary family cake and celebration a couple of days later. As our singing has not improved any since last year, I'll spare you the video clip this time around.

I got a ridiculous amount of satisfaction out of the fact that there were exactly the same number of cupcakes on the cake as there were children in attendance. This was pure serendipity but it appealed to my compulsive side.

Post-frosting euphoria

I couldn't get any of them to look up.

So far Avery's twos have been more terrific than terrible. She has recently begun talking in full sentences (sample monologue: "Where's my purse? Mommy! Where my shoes gone? Where's that chocolate??" Proving that, indeed, children learn what they live.) She and Ethan (mostly) adore each other, and the highlight of her day is picking him up from school with me. Despite our best efforts, she has discovered princesses and prefers to wear a tiara at all times, ideally paired with those plastic feather-trimmed high-heeled shoes that seem to have been produced and marketed for the express purpose of breaking toddlers' ankles.

Pictured here with emergency back-up tiara in hand

She is adorable, clever, and funny and none of us have any idea how we ever managed without her. Especially now that she's definitively committed to the concept that nighttime is for sleeping; that's really sent her approval ratings through the roof.

In Which I Get What I Deserve

Those of you who weren't big fans of my last post will probably enjoy this one... While I was jubilantly composing my ode to change, Avery was wandering around entertaining herself (first indicator of poor parenting) while still clad in the previous night's diaper (second and more incriminating indicator of poor parenting).

In case anyone's ever wondered how long a size 4 disposable can hold out against a 2-year-old and three 8-ounce cups of milk, just know that 14 hours is pushing it, and may result in total failure of the absorbent granule system. When that happens, you can expect to find thousands of tiny piles of over-engineered gel all over your living room, like this:

McCain supporters, I hope this eases some of your pain.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yes We Can (Bore You With Our Political Musings As Well As Our Home Movies)

I hesitated a bit to publish this here, since this is mainly a place for me to ramble on about my kids and my eventless existence, rather than a forum for my political views (that's what Facebook is for ;-)) But then I figured my 2 readers might actually enjoy a little content for a change.

I was awake at 4-ish a.m. GMT when Senator McCain delivered his concession speech. (I'm linking to the NY Times because I like their format, with the text alongside; also because I am a socialist.) I thought it was inspirational, heartfelt, and deeply moving. I felt like I was once again seeing the McCain I have admired for the past decade, the McCain who was so little in evidence during the past several months. He was quick to suppress the "boo"s that greeted nearly every mention of Senator Obama's name (very poor form, supporters, though I recognize that it's easier to be gracious in victory than defeat). He reminded us of what was most important. He focused on what needs to be done now to improve our situation. I wish this McCain had campaigned this year. I hope he's back to stay.

I was still awake around 5 when Senator Obama took the stage in Chicago and delivered one of the most powerful speeches in American history. This speech will be quoted along with Lincoln's, Kennedy's, Martin Luther King's for decades, probably centuries to come. The fact that it was intentionally written to be that sort of speech in no way detracts from its power- it made the grade. I have not heard a speech of this caliber in my lifetime. If Senator Obama didn't get your vote, I wouldn't be surprised to find that you felt differently (I hope you will go back and give it another chance when the sting of McCain's loss has faded, because it is full of beautiful language and, more importantly, beautiful ideas and ideals that are deeply American), but maybe as you listened you at least got a sense of why so many of us are filled with hope at the idea of an Obama presidency. I didn't say "filled with certainty"- we are filled with hope. We don't think he's a perfect man or will be a perfect president. But we admire him for who he is, for what he's accomplished with this campaign, and he is not merely a symbol, as valuable and stirring as that is. He is an intelligent person who has shown he is willing to listen to other intelligent people, to think creatively, to take a longer view. He is a politician, sure, and he has pandered; he has said and done things I don't agree with, and I expect he will in the future. I don't know exactly what his presidency will bring, and I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that he will be a transformative president. But what I saw Tuesday night gives me hope. I don't believe he won because of the economy, or because of fear of a Palin presidency, or fear of anything. I think he won because he consistently reminded us of what was best inside of us all, and he reminded us to hope. Certainly he set that tone in this speech, and I hope and pray he continues, we all continue, in that vein for the next four years and beyond.

It is shaping up to be an interesting time. Russia woke up Wednesday morning ready to kill everyone's buzz with the news that America is to blame for everything that's wrong in the world. I'm sorry- Russia? The country that for sixty years turned the economy, infrastructure, culture, history and future of everything they touched into rubble, to the extent that nearly two decades on we are still reaping the whirlwind everywhere they set their feet- and after all that their leader said that the COLLAPSE of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century- this is the country that is telling us that WE have ruined the world? Russia, you've lost a lot of things, but I never thought I'd live to see the day when you lost your sense of irony. Yet here we are.

And that's just one issue. It's understandable that we are all a little nervous about what is to come. But over the past couple of days I've seen a lot of blog posts, e-mails, and comments expressing, not just uncertainty, but fear and despair about the future now that Barack Obama is our President-elect. Hey, I felt that way myself in 2000 and 2004, and look how well that turned out... But I hope, and I think I have every reason to believe, that we have a better, more intelligent, more thoughtful man leading us now than we have in a long time (take that "long time" back as long as you need to in order to feel comfortable with it ;-)) I don't think his optimism is unfounded. I love what he said about "summon(ing) a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other." If there's anything that will get us through whatever lies ahead, it will be that spirit. His speech served as a reminder that "God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." Those things will get us through anything that comes our way. I hope and believe Obama's got more going for him than words. Only time will tell. But I love that he's started out by reminding us that we all have to step up our game and be prepared for sacrifices along the way. And I love that he's done it so eloquently. Being eloquent isn't everything, but it's not nothing either.

Let me end with something I think we can all agree on, along with the hope that the sum total of Obama's presidency will be as inspiring as this, one of the most stirring lines from his speech:

"(T)he true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals- democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Karate Kid

Ethan just qualified for his orange belt. Here he performs his kata, the name of which currently escapes me. He really digs the shouting, he's toning it down a bit because he's self-conscious in front of the camera, but he really puts his lungs into it at the rating sessions.