Filling the gap.

So one of my kids is over on the other side of the world…. and so this week, I will be hosting another child into our house (staying in her room)…. It is a sort of family member although I maybe met this kid once about 5 years ago but he was one of 15 running around a house so I have no real recollection of him.

We were asked to host him last year and it sort of came out of the blue as we had had very little contact with this family since seeing them in 2012ish.  We had to decline as we already had plans last summer.  We suggested this year may well work and did not push it much more.  Emails were exchanged earlier this year between his dad and Hubby… the premise being that we will host said kiddo and then my oldest boy will go back and stay at their house for a week or so.

My eldest boy is quite a people person and can normally chat and make friends with anyone.  He met this kid briefly around Easter – admittedly on this kid’s turf, but let’s just say my son didn’t warm to him much and so is not exactly relishing the idea of hosting….

In the last 5 week we have had a curt and to the point email from this kid’s dad (Hubby’s cousin through marriage) with the kid’s insurance details.  Nothing else.  No ‘looking forward to it’ or ‘let me know if there is anything he can bring over for you” or ‘he is so excited and thanks in advance’ sort of deal.  It almost feels like we are a school trip and the paperwork has been handed in and therefore all is set until the school drop off.

Perhaps I am being harsh – we will of course take care of the kid and make sure he has a great time.  One more can’t be that hard, surely? But I will make a point of reaching out to the parents (he is one of 6 but still) when he gets here and making sure we send him back with treats and good memories….

Wish us luck!

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The week in the sun.

We are back from a road trip to the West Coast.  It is a drive we have done many times before and which never ceases to amaze me with the beauty of the natural sites. It is amazing countryside to see you through the 17 hour drive each way.  This year our return trip saw lots of visible forest fires – actually I am not sure you would say forest as some were on mountain side where the flames were visible and the breeze made the fire jump to other clusters of bush.  There were planes dumping water and trying to get things under control – it truly is the hot season here.

This was the first time doing this trip with just the boys – the eldest being off in North Africa doing volunteer work.  We were tightly squashed in the car with numerous gadgets and things to watch as we went on our merry way.

Normally, with 5 (usually 6) of us we rent a small house or apartment and I end up cooking a lot of things and doing copious amounts of laundry.  This time we stayed in quite a fancy hotel in the down town area of the city thinking that this would give some freedom for the eldest boy at least to munch around and do his own thing.

Whilst it was lovely to not have to cook we didn’t really want to have to wander the streets night after night to find meals that at least most of us would eat.  There were not many ‘snack joints’ around and we had not realized that with over 10000 homeless people in the downtown area, you didn’t feel safe on the streets alone.

As per usual the kids squabbled and fought and it was really just a toss up as to who would kick off, which combination and how fast a nice day/evening could be ruined.

A highlight for me was having a homeless man, pushing his shopping trolley, tell me what an amazing laugh I had.  And then he kept walking muttering away to the other voices in his head.

We made it home and various people stormed off to their rooms.  They were glad of the space and their own things to keep them busy – not having to check in with mum and dad all the time.  It is nicer to be back than it was being away – I know that is usually a sign you have had a good break and are set and raring to go but in this case it is not the case.

These all sound like first class problems I know.  I am lucky the kids are healthy enough to go away and that we have money and time to actually go somewhere nice.  I know this.  But I am equally pointing out that kids can spoilt it where ever you may be.  Just saying.

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Four little letters.

About 6 weeks ago we had a lot of snow in a 12 hour period. This snow melted and unbeknownst to us, a seal in a window at ground level failed and all the water came in, behind the internal wall and the carpet, most of it became a paddling pool.  Did I mention this was in one of my kids’ bedrooms in the basement?

So the kid moved out, carpet was pulled up, sodden underlay was disposed of and we waited for the floor to dry out.  I then had the window resealed and the internal wall taken out along with insulation pulled out.  It has dried over the last 4 weeks.

Yesterday I phoned a ‘mold specialist’ and explained the situation and said that to my naked eye it looked fine but seeing as one of my brood will sleep in said room, we wanted spores collecting and sent to the lab to double check that there was no contamination.  Sounds very high tech, doesn’t it? I gave the man my address, he read it back to me and we arranged for him to come over today.

So indeed the gent turned up at the appointed time and did his thing with whatever he had in his bag.  As he left he shared with men that he had gone to the wrong house first of all.  The right number…. but one of the 4 words in our street name he got wrong.  He said he arrived at the absolutely massive house, rang the door bell and a maid, yes A MAID answered the door.  Obviously this wrong house was not expecting him but he explained the THE MAID that he was there to take spore samples from the kid’s bedroom in the basement.  She she LET HIM IN and showed his to a kid’s room they also have in their basement…. and he said he looked around in the most perfect, no sign of any leak, certainly no wall pulled off immaculate bedroom and did not see where the issue might be.  He then asked THE MAID if he might speak to the owner of the house who had actually made the appointment.  The MAID informed him that she would not be able to get the lady as she doesn’t get up until after 10am (and it was about 8.30am).  At this stage he thoughts something was maybe amiss so left the BIG FANCY HOUSE and went to his car, checked and realized his mistake and eventually for to my house.

We both laughed about this…. I asked him if the big fancy house with the kid’s room didn;t have dirty laundry on the teen bedroom floor – apparently not.  Nor did it have crooked posters on the wall or a Ky.lie Jen.ner calendar on the door.  We laughed some more.

Spore sample results with be in next week.  For my house – not the big one.  Our maid is permanently on strike so it seems :)

 

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Declutter

I swear since getting back from the foreign house clearance I just want to take everything out of my house and start again.  We may re-do the kitchen this year and already I am thinking about which drawers and cupboards I use frequently/infrequently and how much of the stuff could go.

My gran’s kitchen cupboards were packed and I mean PACKED with piles of plates – never used – the few she ate off just sat on the counter – but the cupboards had dishes and tupperware and random things from the 1970s even.  The free biscuits from an international flight in the 1990s – still in there.  And empty polystyrene container from a burger – washed out and stuffed in there – really, not even to be re-used.  I look in comparison here and I will get rid of 2 tea pots that are so big we never use them.  There are fancy glasses i got in UK with a Christmas theme – I usually remember them around December 27th and so they never get out of there… And don;t even get me started on the top two shelves of the upper cupboards.  I have a wee stool in the kitchen normally but those higher shelves really do house the things so very rarely used.

A lot of the baking tins have seen better days and at dinner the other night the 4 males in the house were quite vocal about tupperware containers believe it or not. Hubby can rant on about the water bottles that fall out when he opens a certain cupboard door – usually with no lid that fits.  he may have a point but I would never admit it to him.

Oh and the cleaning stuff under the sink.  I actually quite like to clean and maybe because of this I buy different products and am guilty about not always using them to the very end.  So I will be a lot more clinical in what I buy going forward.

Sets of plates…. I have too many.  Some have lost partners so I don’t have a full place setting but they have good memories as daft as that may sound and the patterns are still pleasing…. I can still GET into my cupboards and the carousel still goes around.  In comparison to the cluttered house I grew up in I now inhabit a minimalist home!

Hubby’s parents are equally guilty of stuffing things in cupboards or keeping things which they have never used in years.  He jokes they have an infrared grill (?) used once in the 70s and still up in the loft.  It’s probably true.  Our generation can be seen as easy come easy go but that is compared to the ‘keep it – you never know when you’ll need it’ ones.  All wasted money if you think about it – just in different ways.

A vague relative told me this weekend on the phone that she was told my gran had given my kids close to 5000 pounds.  This did not happen.  But in the relative’s eyes my kids and my family have done better than others out of her death. If that includes going through endless cupboards and paying professional clearance people to help empty her home then so be it.

Clearing out the cobwebs in more ways than one.

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Real life I guess…

We are back home after a couple of week in Blighty.  You know, sometimes when you look forward to something so so much then it comes around and it just fails you in so many ways.  We knew this trip would be hard with a lot of family issues and boy did it prove itself true.

Whilst we were staying in my home town – a big tourist place, there is an ‘entertainer’ who is always there, sprayed in lilac and posing for hours on end on a bicycle – normally wanting tips for having photos taken with him.  Well during our  stay he was collecting for various events that had happened…. and in a way it was putting things into perspective with all the horrible awful events that have occurred…the Manchester bombings, the London stabbings and then the high rise fire.  Three such dreadful events for one country – just hard to comprehend on so many levels.

In clearing out my gran’s house there were a lot of memories floating around and a lot were very negative.  Interestingly enough a lot of her neighbors floated into her house to talk to me – many of whom she totally ignored for decades.  She had lived there for over 35 years just like some of her neighbors too and so they knew how fickle she could be.  It was strange discussing her with these people who were not really sorry about her death.  It was all such a confusing time and brought with it a fresh set of emotions to deal with. I brought back 50lbs worth of photos – mainly of the kids over the years – a few of my childhood and I unpacked the suitcases very quickly after we returned but have been avoiding sorting all the photos out.  Just when I thought most of her papers were sorted  and her house ready to be sold, I got an email from the local council about lack of information on her assets – they claimed that I have ignored their correspondence which is just not true – so I have to sort that out next week – and so it lingers on…..is it bad I resent how much red tape and faff there has been trying to sort things – support when she was alive, contact with the lame GP, calling the hospital twice daily for weeks and then trying to help source a home… without going into the death arrangements….. ?

The birth mother emailed me after I got there and asked if she still wanted the things from my gran’s house.  She added a few more things that she wanted.  Half of me wanted to tell her where to go but Hubby persuaded me to be kinder and offer to drop the things off to her step son’s house.  She asked how long we were staying in England and then suggested we could maybe meet up – but then claimed that she would understand if I didn’t want to.  Hmm.  Did I or didn’t I?  I mulled it over and again with Hubby’s whole trying to see the best of everything, I suggested a few dates during the next 10 days I could see her.  There was a pause of 4 days before she replied saying that she was busy and couldn’t make it.  Hmm.  It’s been over 25 years already – so why should this change anything.  But Hubby doesn’t see that again in a way this is rejection.  Not as hurtful as the previous times because I am used to it now….  She asked me to drop off the things she so so wanted (nothing sentimental except for photos of her as a kid) at another relative’s house and so Hubby did this for me and was surprised that this relative who he had never met before, was quite friendly and was chatting to him and obviously knows the whole ins and outs of my side of the family – ghosts and all.  She believes that Birth Mother has still not told her 2nd husband that I am her actual daughter rather than her ‘sister.’  They have only been together on and off for 28 years….. and how he cannot see the similarities between me and her other kids – well, I don’t know.  It does not surprise me as such but annoys me immensely.  I need to stop feeling sorry for myself on this front.  My kids were asking me about it a bit and asking how it doesn’t bother me that I don’t know who my dad is.  It is more painful knowing who your mother is and her not wanting a relationship with you and having half brothers who don’t have the balls to keep in contact with you in case their piss off their mother….. but I didn’t say that to them as that is a pain I don’t want them to have to dwell on.

In comparison to those really suffering in the world right now this is nothing and I just need to move on.  To stop thinking.  To stop wondering.  And just accept.  But how to do that….. answers on a postcard please to…..

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For the bin?

A combination of visiting a museum today and sorting out 80+ years of my gran’s stuff has left me quietly contemplating what we possess and what it means.  The museum had lots of memorabilia from World War 2 and lots of soldiers’ letters and medals.  These could have been on show as the people were proud to donate to a memorial as such, but on many other displays they actually stated their thanks to X’s family for the donation of awards/records/letters etc after the person’s death.  So I wondered if this was because the family had found them and didn’t want them for themselves as such or perhaps they actually thought they would be made better use of by being on display…..  But obviously to those involved they meant far more than to the grandkids….

So I have had to go through cases (as in suitcases) and boxes and piles of newspapers/letters/documents and photos.  Some pages of old newspapers had obviously been kept for a reason but as I looked at each article from the 1960s there was nothing which rang a bell or had significance to me.  Equally coins which are out of use and had been collected long ago are not valuable or relevant to us.  Photos of family members long gone are equally redundant but it feels quite awful throwing away someone’s history with abandon.

This has been a very draining trip with hardly a minute to really mull things over etc.  For once, I can’t wait to get back to America.

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Sorting out.

We arrived in Uk at the weekend and we are yet to have a full nights sleep on British time.  We are staying in an amazing apartment near a historical site and even the rain plaguing us is still a novelty.

Yesterday I headed over to my gran’s house alone to begin the sorting out.  I was not looking forward to the physical task but was also not sure how I would feel given that it was the first time being there after her death.  A neighbour has been taking in her mail and seeing it was ok.  But still it felt quite creepy walking in.  The neighbour – I had only met her once before, was very sweet and even left me the keys to her own house (very trusting!) in case I needed the loo or wanted a snack.

Even though I have obviously been to my gran’s house since leaving home a good 25 years ago it felt very different being there and going through things.  I always knew she was a hoarder but it was amazing to see some of the things she kept and also a bit ironic in ways.  I did not feel upset. I felt like there was a job to be done just.  It was strange seeing some of my childhood things – which you could see as rather sweet that she had actually kept – but when you saw some of the other rubbish she held onto it plays into insignificance…..

I remember certain pieces of furniture having been bought and seeing rather grand – now just seemed sad and contained a lot of junk.  Needing loads of stationary when she never wrote to anyone…. needing wool when she never knit…. soap which could wash a whole town – things like that.  To say she never owned a car she really did manage to get a lot of stuff into her house – with the same logic surely she should have been able to also get rid of things too?  She had had a new carpet and a new freezer….. and there were a few aid items to help her getting up and getting into the bath etc.

I spent time with her neighbors who had helped her so much – they were keen to talk where as I would have preferred to have just kept working.  I was making sure I had all photos and anything of sentimental value if that makes sense?  House clearance people are coming at the weekend – this seems sad that her stuff is unwanted but in reality given how she did not use these things they were probably not wanted by her either.

Apparently a lot of people are interested in buying the place.  This surprises me.  I think once the house is clear this weekend it will seem more real that the rest is a formality if that makes sense?  I don’t have fond memories of the 8 years I spent living there – perhaps that is why I felt very detached?

Interestingly enough today we went to a seaside town where I always went as a kid.  It is famous for making ‘lucky ducks’…. from a tube of glass…. as a kid I would spend ages there watching the lady work her tube of glass in the flame – bending and twisting away and adding eyes and a nose….. I was always mesmerized.  Today I went in and the same lady was just sat there near a tv screen.  Seems the health and safety have declared it unsafe to have a naked flame (behind glass) in a store with people.  She looked very sad…. she explained how they were given this news via letter and a phone call even though no health and safety person actually visited the shop.  The video screen showed her having made the ducks the previous 24 hours but it was so not the same.  She sat there explaining this and also looking quite defeated by the situation…. customers were not there like before…… she told me how she had promised her husband she would keep going when he died back in the 1980s.  I would not be surprised if the shop was no longer there when we go again.  This, in a silly way seemed more final than clearing my gran’s house……  childhood over, moving on.

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School is done..

…tomorrow for 12 whole weeks.  Eek.  My year of having 4 kids in 4 different levels of education (elementary school, middle school, high school and university) is over as the youngest ‘graduates’ to middle school.  It is another key step that the youngest is growing older and will soon enter horrible puberty and grunt and snap like the others.

It has been a good school year I guess.  The eldest has navigated moving to a new country very well and has dealt with the ‘loss’ of her flatmates – they really were a tight bunch to say they were all first years away from home.  Never again will they be the newbies finding their feet.  She misses some more than others that is for sure – they had taken lots of photos so I think that will do her good to remember these times. Much stressing for tidying her room and patching up paintwork means her check out of uni accommodation went well (I don’t recall such a thing).

The eldest boy has exams and is stressing away according to the ease of the subject.  Tonight he is very stressed.  He has had a tough year academically and socially there have been a few knocks too.  I found something out about a friend of his – that he had helped said friend a lot this year – just by being himself really but it sounds as though he had a lot to do with this kid keeping it together and not dropping out.  This makes me prouder than any grade in the mark book.

The youngest teen has a girlfriend and it is very sweet to see.  Our departing for the other side of the world is playing havoc with his dating plans apparently and he asked that we consult with him in the future about forthcoming events.  Okay then.

The youngest will be sad to ‘leave’ some of his friends.  One is moving out of state.  Another is changing schools.  New kids will start after summer and the youngest has lost inherited the gift of the gab and is a people person so I think he will make new friends easily,  They get ‘year books’ from school with various photos of events from the year.  They had a ‘signing session’ today with all kids signing each others books when asked.  He was quite in demand with the younger girls apparently.  I think this secretly pleased him.  He has announced that he is more excited about our 9 hour flight than the 2+ weeks we will be in Blighty.  Me too.

It has been a year full of change for us – to be wrapped up this trip with meeting people who helped my gran tremendously and also sorting out the house etc – it is not something I am looking forward to.  Interestingly enough though I was flicking through photos on my phone and came across a couple from December when I last saw her alive. The photos did not freak me out as such at all.  Hubby also brought back some photos from her house when he was visiting in February and whilst I was intrigued to see them I have not looked through them again at all.  I would not say I am in denial – still processing perhaps that would be more accurate.

Some of the local schools have been off for a week already.  As I have tried to do lots of errands this week etc I have seen irate looking parents with their offspring and I know that I will be said parent soon.  But as they get older it should, in theory, get easier, right? I was reading about the mother who has had the idea of putting hair bands on your wrist and twanging them every time you lose your sh*t with your kids.  I expect a bruised wrist by the middle of June.  I’ll keep you posted. x

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Blocking

I have gone through a lot of my FB acquaintances and got rid of a lot of these so called friends.  I have listened to them bang on about their views on the President and what others report in the news and I have had enough of them trying to insinuate things are ‘fake’ when they just aren’t.

This weekend saw more of the university graduations which over here are a big deal – usually in a non descript hall at these stadiums and often with a famous ‘speaker.’  These speakers are usually given a lot of money to ‘turn up’ and ‘lecture’ or ‘explain things’ from their point of view and the students all sit politely and listen and then they get their diplomas and party….

In breaking with tradition, one very republican conservative place (which you couldn’t have paid me to attend) which usually has a new President give this address, broke with custom and instead the VP turned up (the security detail etc costing the tax payer for their work) and he started to give his words of ‘wisdom.’  A lot of the students felt this was not someone they could respect and so, as a mark of defiance, they stood up and walked out before he began preaching.  It was not in the news that much over here but got some coverage…

Well the FB comments were worse than all the presidential stuff before.  That these kids doing this (in their 20s) were cry babies… that they had wasted mummy and daddy’s money going to this place… that future employers would ask them if they had been part of this walk out…. that they just shouldn’t have turned up in the first place…that they should have their degrees taken away from them.  On and on they went.  At least they did not say it was fake news I guess.

It was their right to walk out.  They showed up but they decided to make a point of saying they do not respect the current leadership and that is something that luckily, in this country they are entitled to do.  Yes, it was a small minority…. but I wonder how many others sat their not walking out but secretly wanted to?  That they did not want to infuriate their classmates but in sitting their they followed the sheep rather than stand up for whatever they believed in.  I don’t consider myself to be hugely political but that these young people were so heavily criticized was just sickening.

Ugh.  I will take my disgust with me now and go and scrub my kitchen floor with vigor!!

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Change of friend

I was talking to one of the kids today about a long time pal.  They have known this kid for about 10 years and they have been at school together for a good 8 of those years.  They have a bit of a love/hate relationship but at the moment they are moving in different directions and have a similar group of friends but don’t hang out as much.  In a year or so they will most likely attend different high schools and then I guess they will know of each other around the place rather than being friends.  I have already seen how it has played out with the older kids.

I was also thinking today about how my friendships in this city have changed too.  About 6 months ago I got a call from an old friend – our house alarm had gone off, we were out of town and the company had called her because once upon a time I had written her name as a person to contact in case the alarm went off. It was a call out of the blue and made me finally update my contact list with the alarm people.  But it also got me thinking.  We did not fall out as such – our kids changed schools and then seeing her was minimal and also the times we did run into each other there wasn’t that much to talk about.  She was having her kids go in one direction with schools etc and we were taking a different path.  Likewise with another ex-pat friend.  She left a school we attended and then it became harder to find common ground without slagging the same place off…. (that sounds worse than it is meant to).

But things in life change whilst others become more constant.  People move or can’t see the wood for trees and sooner or later there is not as much in common and then you just don’t call as often and everyone moves on.  So is life.  Sad but sort of normal progression I guess.

Same in the blogging world.  Some people blog regularly for years and you comment and connect and then just one day they disappear – no words, notice and you worry if they are ok…… Others just stop blogging or say something about how they have no time for such things (implying you are a flake as you still do???)….. Nothing remains the same.

Other friends have just sold a house they remodeled.  This is their new job.  They buy furniture they know they will be able to stage well for their finished designs in their latest project – this is becoming their norm – the grief of builders and missed deadlines, deliveries gone astray but a hefty profit at the end of a sale and one on to the next one.  It is not the life for us all.  But it is their personal income at the end off the day.

I wonder though, taking friendships with kids out of the equation, how much change and fluctuation effects us? Be thankful for every breath every day.

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