Posts Tagged ‘handwringing’

If I just keep moving..

September 1, 2008

..I’ll make it through the next month. Summer vacation is a nasty oxymoron if ever there was one. It’s lots of fun to be really busy and on the move, but it wears me out and the lack of routine or even time to get myself organized is taxing. I feel that I’m on top of things just enough to get through the next week so there’s a little itch of paranoia that something will either come up suddenly or something huge is looming that I’ve just completely forgotten about. I did get a council tax reminder yesterday, whoops. Hopefully that’s as serious as it gets.

The grass has become a bit jungly while we’ve been waiting to get a straight answer about our lawn maintenance requirements as laid out in our lease. Not hearing anything back from the landlord, and the gardeners not having been back a third time, our assumption is that it’s our problem. So, we’re ordering our first mower, aw. I think we’ll go for a Bosch electric one. Have to say, my American biases find it mighty odd to see a mower trailed by a power cord..I mean the British tend to think of our electricity-related habits as accidents waiting to happen. I have made it quite clear that I ‘don’t mow lawns’ and James seems happy to do it. Well, happier than he would have been with the one-off fee of £90 and the bi-weekly maintenance charge of £40 to keep it mown by a professional that we were quoted.

We got our cats back today, which is very very good. As much as Mitu invades my personal space, as he’s doing now, the little pill makes me hugely happy.

I have many photos of festivals and travels to post, and hopefully I’ll remember some of the better anecdotes. Hopefully, I’ll get to that before too long. In the meantime, we love you and if we seem to be ignoring you it’s certainly nothing personal. Just busy.

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It ain’t right

May 13, 2008

Nyssa has recently admitted that she’s afraid of flying because of the risk of crashing. I’ve given her all sorts of reassurances and statistics, but what is sad is that the most illustrative example was the news this week–she’s much more likely to die in a cyclone or an earthquake than she is to die in a plane wreck. I really hope she’s spacing out when we go through security and misses the whole to-do about liquids in carry on luggage. As far as she’s aware, mechanical failure is the only reason a plane would go down. That says a lot about us humans, doesn’t it?

Fingers crossed

May 3, 2008

So..James loves the house too. He’s even eyeballing new shelving on Ikea’s website to go in what would be his office. Now we just have to hope that we get picked. For this area, this time of year, our budget, and our cat-owning state, we’re just not going to find better.

In all the house-coveting excitement, I did finally finish booking all the internal travel for our trips in, criminy, 2 weeks! We bought another suitcase today which also makes it seem sort of real. I can’t believe I haven’t been home in three years. So much has happened, the kids are huge, I’ve got all sorts of nifty new mental issues, I probably talk really strangely..I’m sort of nervous of how people will receive us. I don’t want us to be foreigners. I don’t think I should let three years pass between visits again, it’s not right.

So. Busy times soon to be had. Hopefully.

Eep!

April 15, 2008

I bought Nyssa a pretty hoodie today. No big deal, right? I bought it from the *preteen* section of New Look. *sob* She is small, she is small!!! I’ve put this picture of 2&3-year-old Nyn and Jos on my desktop:

Look at the date–that was nearly 6 years ago!

Organic = world starvation?

March 17, 2008

Further to my blathering about trying to eat ethically..which in itself seems a bit rich, pardon the pun, given that I’m part of a scant percentage of the world population that’s privileged enough to be able to give over the time and money to doing so. Cynical consumer guilt is fun. So, I was reading some criticisms of organic farming. There were some decent points, assuming their facts were accurate. I had always assumed that the state of the world food supply was that we produce enough, but are woefully inefficient at distributing it. Apparently, that’s not the case. The exploding population has, according to some, pushed the need for food to a point that only intensive mono-culture farming can provide enough sustenance. Organic farming comes into an obvious clash with this reality in that it is lower-yield. The proponents of intensive farming argue that by using existing land more aggressively, we are actually preventing deforestation. Organic farmers would counter that they are protecting biodiversity and keeping toxins in the environment to a minimum. I honestly don’t know what to think. Population needs to be managed somehow, but in the meantime people need to be fed. On the other hand, what’s the point of perpetuating the species in the way that we do if our grandkids are to be handed a toxic planet to manage?

From a consumer point of view, I suppose what makes sense is to minimize inefficiency by buying locally-produced food where possible. From a political/social/etc. point of view I don’t know that organic farming will ever be achievable world-wide, but certainly it should be encouraged where practical. I think that ameliorating the myriad issues relating to population will produce the positive gains necessary to make widespread organic farming feasible. For example, people should perhaps consider eating less meat, as the land and water it will free up for feeding other humans will be substantially increased. Where it is not necessary to have large families, more ought to be done to provide access to birth control. Maybe we should be more critical of food pornographers who equate quality of life with meals prepared with ingredients that must be sourced from all over the planet. It also wouldn’t hurt for governments to legislate such that food is treated less as a commodity that is tied to profit and more as a resource that no one should be denied access to, but that requires much more optimism than I’m comfortable with :P.

The price of ethical eating..

March 15, 2008

..is an internet trawling-induced headache 😛

Anyway. So, James and I have revised our family’s eating standards. For simplicity’s sake, we’ve been ovo-lacto vegetarians, using organics whenever possible (or indeed affordable), for 5+ years. We had a chat, and have decided that it’s acceptable for us to be eating meat as well, as long as it’s from systems that look after both the welfare of animals and the environment. To be honest, if we were to be vegetarian for not-killing-animals reasons, then we should really be vegans. I’ve had a good think and here’s what I make of the animals being killed for our benefit..thing:

PETA makes a distinction between animal welfare and animal rights, which I think is fairly apt. Obviously, they go for the latter in believing that animals are not ours to be used for food, clothing, entertainment, etc. As harsh as it sounds, I don’t believe animals have any inherent rights. Leaving aside my nihilism, in the human construct of rights, those who have them also have duties. A lion doesn’t owe anything to a sheep, and neither can it expect anything from it. I can say the same thing for human babies. What humans have done in order to cope with being social animals with sentience is create the concept of covenantal ethics. We want to be protected, along with our possessions and vulnerable kin, so we create the tit-for-tat rules that promise our good behavior in return for that of our fellow humans. We obviously can’t have that sort of relationship with animals. What we have done is extend our humanity to an empathy for the suffering of other species. I don’t really have any philosophical reason for it, but I fall squarely into this camp. It *bothers* me when people are cruel to animals, and I don’t feel any need to justify this knee-jerk emotional response. I can only assume that better humans (better as in humans I am more likely to want to be around) are nurtured amongst those people who strive to diminish or prevent suffering, no matter who or what is experiencing it. My desire to protect the environment is purely pragmatic–we cannot have a healthy future on a shat-upon planet. So, to the point, I don’t have a problem eating meat if 1. animal welfare standards are observed and 2. it is only occasionally, as raising meat as food is environmentally inefficient.

So, the results of the trawl, most of which was done on Compassion in World Farming’s website. I also took note of the RSPCA’s materials regarding ‘Freedom Foods’, but to be honest they don’t do much to address environmental issues. The same can be said in reverse for some organic food. It’s all very confusing. Any, what follows is a list, mostly for my benefit, of foods that I can source fairly easily. That is, that doesn’t require shipping food here, or taking the series of buses out to the organic farm (I adore the irony that once I get my car my ethical shopping will become much more feasible).

So. From Marks and Spencer:
-all eggs, dairy, beef, lamb, veal, trout, salmon, halibut, chicken, venison, geese and duck, buying their organic and free-range where possible. Apparently their pork has been greatly improved this year, so I suppose that’s on the list as well.

Other
-nobody does ethical quail, though if there was a Waitrose I could have quail eggs.

-Tesco does trout, venison, outdoor reared and bred pork, but labels need to be carefully scanned. The organic eggs and milk are fine, though I should probably be getting my cheese from M&S.

-only free-range or organic turkey, regardless of store.

-there is no local source of ethically slaughtered farmed fish, aside from what was mentioned.

-my guess is that most seafood is off-limits because of the intensive methods used to harvest it, but I shall have to do more reading.

Exceptions:
-cat food. Am I likely to find the special diet food my old cat needs in an organic shop? Methinks not. Science Diet it is.

-Eating out–this will require discussion. Obviously we’ll be avoiding the usual perpetrators (as much as I love their shitty food).

-Eating with friends and family. I think the rule will be something along the lines of eating what is offered with a grateful spirit.

So now that that is mostly dealt with, the next item of questionable ethics can come to the fore–I apparently need to be a lot more careful about where I buy my wool/yarn: link. Also, we need to have a think about zoos, animal parks, etc.: link. I really have a hard time with larger animals, roaming predators, primates, many birds, etc. being kept in zoos and parks, but I’m not sure what I think about other species. I just don’t know enough about the welfare of these animals to make an informed opinion. Something to remedy, surely.

Latenight pondering

February 20, 2008

James and I and the kids, all working and homeschooling and..mumming, I guess, from home are really feeling the squish of our teensy flat. From a practical standpoint it’s almost ideal. It’s *really* close to the train and bus stations, across the street from the supermarket and our doctor, high above street level, allows cats, has high ceilings, and has really low rent. I’d be reluctant to leave for all of those reasons. Thing is, James really needs an office and the kids can’t share a room forever at the very least. I really wouldn’t mind a private garden either.

So, now that James is established as a career man, the choice is now whether to buy or rent our next place. I had always assumed, like most, that renting is throwing money away and buying is a surefire savings plan. The recent housing troubles made me a bit curious about that apparent reality though. For example, look at this blog post. The idea, basically, seems to be that renting and conservatively investing the money that would have gone towards a mortgage and the various costs of home ownership is a wiser decision.

I had also assumed that what we pay as renters to the landlord must more than cover their mortgage on the place plus agency fees, home repairs, etc. Looking at mortgage calculators, I just can’t see how this could be the case. I don’t understand the mechanism that allows us to rent a home that we could never afford to buy.

Of course inseparable from the argument are the emotional issues. On the one hand, I fear the commitment that home ownership requires. We seem to need a bit of mobility, at least in the near future. On the other hand, I really would like to paint my walls, take on strange landscaping projects, bore holes into the walls without fearing landlord wrath..

Anyway, this post really is an appeal for comments. I know there are many wise and experienced folk out there who could help inform our choices. Please?

It’s 1995 all over again..

January 16, 2008

..but on the wrong side of the road.

So, as life is one long ladder that one must ascend in a prescribed way for one to make any progress, the current ‘rung’ I am grappling with is that of becoming a British driver. I’ve put this off for any number of reasons. For one, I left the States a nervous driver, due to a high-speed accident that left me unnervingly unscathed. For two, I’m so spaced out, just generally being a mum, that I’m not sure I can cope with remembering to drive on the correct side of the road. For three, well there are just so many buses, and prams, and cars parked every which way, and people wandering into the roads…! For four, well, there are those roundabouts. Everyone here seems to be nervous of motorways. I’m don’t really understand that, as I’m a huge fan of divided highways. It’s that dosey-doeing round in cramped circles that makes me nervous. The worst though, would have to be the inept signage. Whether it’s the completely unmarked streets of a residential area or the motorway signs giving a driver friend fits, it’s all just rubbish.

So, what might make a person wish to drive in a country with trains and buses? Well, for starters, we are a house of people who get bus sick. Buses are expensive, and likely don’t take you near enough where you want to go without either a circuitous route requiring multiple changes in dodgy locations or just giving up and getting a taxi for the last few miles. Trains are wonderful things, and ideally I would ride them everywhere. It’s that ‘everywhere’ that is of course the problem. The clincher now is that James has no desire to rent another place–he wants to buy. This makes me sick with commitment-related fear, but he’s probably right. And as he’s been working from home and things are getting seriously cramped here, we need to move forward. Forward means our being able to drive so we don’t have to live within half a mile of a train station and pay the associated housing prices. It will also mean we can consider much more rural locales without having to rely on Tesco Delivery for our daily bread. It’s all enough to make me gnaw on my fingernails, so to keep my fingers busy I’ve paid the 7 quid to subscribe to the Driving Standards Agency’s theory test practice site. As all of the possible questions will come into rotation, I’ll be spending my evenings plunking through these while I wait for my provisional license. Once I take my theory test, things get a bit more complicated. I’m unsure at this point if there’s a drivers training company in the area that will allow a person to take the driving test in one of their cars. I’m making it even harder by stubbornly refusing to test on anything other than an automatic. My US readers might boggle at this, but over here automatics are in a dramatic minority and you will not be endorsed to drive manuals unless you pass in a manual. It’s not like all of those yankee teens who took driver’s ed in a chevy automatic, passed the test, then happily tore down the highway in old beat-up pickups. Once upon a time I learned to drive a manual, sorta, but I have no interest in trying to learn British driving and a British clutch simultaneously and on this point I’ve put my foot firmly down. So what I still have to figure out is how to get around having to actually buy myself a car anytime soon. Insurance, car tax, MOTs, and petrol don’t cost nearly what I thought they would, but as we don’t have any motorheads in the immediate family, I refuse to get a car without a warranty. That means a certified used car with low miles. That means quite a lot of money, particularly if we aren’t interested in financing.

Well, back to studying slip roads, pelican crossings, and ‘ford’ signs (worrying..).

Ha

November 8, 2007

There are more US colleges in the world top 10 than UK colleges. I flaunt this being the trailer trash wife of an Oxford-bred boy who enjoys mocking the US school system. To be fair, what would be more useful would be knowing how the average colleges compare, or for that matter the average secondary schools. I’m sure the statistics are out there to be googled but I’m too tired.

Why am I too tired? First, a week+ of insomnia with bonus 8:20 am doctor appointment for Nyssa. We haven’t figured out yet what’s going on, but she’s being referred to a pediatrician at the hospital. Hmm… Oh, Nyssa was good enough to point out that I was ‘very angry’ with her for needing the bathroom once in TK Maxx. I felt a right monster. Fair enough to feel that at home, it’s a mom’s job really, but you’ve got to have perspective when chatting to the doctor. Unless she wants him to call child protection services. 😛 It’s funny though how assessment of parents’ behavior has changed in one generation. When my parents were angry there was absolutely no mistaking it, and most kids my age will know why. I guess we have to be more subtle in our dealings nowadays, so god forbid you’re having an off day and your tone of voice changes substantially. I was watching a program late last night (I say I was watching..it was on while I was semi-comatose) and I remember someone academic saying that the major social shift in family life has been that towards emphasis on kids’ happiness being the barometer of all being well in the home. We are sort of ridiculously child-centered. Is it ridiculous? Sometimes, particularly at birthdays and Christmas, I really wonder.

Fall is coming up on me..

August 22, 2007

..though you wouldn’t know it, as today it was the hottest I’ve experienced this summer. Hmm.. It figures of course, since our activity today was indoors. Next week for our beach trip it will surely be raining.

The local kids have gone back to school, and I’m still trying to get the kids set up with their activities for this term. So far, we have a homeschooler singing group (meaning, mums sing, and the kids run off to play together :/) and varied activities every fortnight, which amounts to something every thursday. We got them registered today for a saturday morning arts and crafts class. Have to say, that was value–no tuition fee, just a fiver for the term’s supplies. Yess. Something has to offset Nyssa’s dance fees/expenses. Speaking of which, they still haven’t got back to me with the fall schedule! It’s a bit irritating to be honest. Same with the scouts. We’d do Woodcraft Folk, but it’s just too far away without a car for a weekly activity. I’d set one up, but I don’t have that kind of energy. The kids got into the Edinburgh Young Archaeologists’ Club, which meets monthly at the castle. It looks really cool; my inner child is jealous. On Mondays they have a theatre arts group. I’m almost thinking, do they really need scouts and dance? Maybe their failing to get back to me is a sign? I could use the extra money to get us to the unitarian church each week..I’ve been thinking about checking out the Dundee one, since the train schedule is less goofy on Sundays than the Edinburgh one for some reason.

My big concern is the lack of athletics. There will be movement in the theatre group, apparently, and they always manage to run about with the other kids when they have the chance. I seem to recall most of my exercise at that age being had during recess when we were forced onto a playground for 90 minutes a day. Not that they’d be getting that in school here–their old school didn’t even have grass! Still, I get neurotic about these things. Nyssa wants to learn to swim really badly, but James has been so busy that I’m thinking that maybe I just need to sign them up for formal lessons. That of course means getting on year-long waiting lists. Other kinds of exercise I can think of are problematic. We need a car so I can throw bikes in the back and we can drive them to a safe area for them to ride in. I dunno, at this age shouldn’t it be enough that they run and climb and jump regularly? It’s the same paranoia with a lot of things, whether it’s dance, maths, or language. I think it’s the fear of the modern parent who reads too much that they’ll forego certain kinds of learning for too long and their kids will miss that nebulous ‘optimal time’, forever handicapping their education. My kids have healthy bodies and can absorb information, acquire skills, and express themselves. I should be happy!

Speaking of happy, my wee girl is about to turn 8, which makes me not so. At least she is cooperative enough to be mind-bendingly cute at times. Poor Joseph spends the 2 months after her birthday every year in a perpetual state of mild irritation over the fact that they’re the same age. This year, Nyssa wants a doll house. Heck, I want her to have a doll house and I’m happy she hasn’t outgrown the notion yet. I think we’ve settled on this one — http://www.chce.co.uk/products/dolls-houses/336 . Of course, she’ll need the extention, and the car, and the playground…well, that’s what Christmas is for anyway. Doll houses are expensive! I was applying the same logic that I did to spinning wheels (i.e., I can make one myself, damn it), and started sketching floor plans. I thought about taxi trips to the B&Q, all the paint, hinges, wood, not to mention a jig saw…and reluctantly concluded to James that it would probably be cheaper in the end to just buy one. He actually laughed at me! He never knew the junior high me who spent most of my time in the shop room, particularly at the drafting desk, so can’t blame him really for thinking I was ‘cute.’ (grr)

I bought a strange food item from the freezer section today simply because it was, well, strange. It was a box of breaded crepes (they call them pancakes here, wtf) that were filled with cheese. Well, we tried them out and decided that we won’t be buying those twice. Ew.. I’ve been in a sort of cooking rut lately. I’m tired of beans, grains, pasta, sweet potatoes, potatoes…well, lots of things really. I was excited when I saw that quorn had come out with beef-style pieces, but was let down to discover that they’re just the chicken-style pieces dyed brown. Irritating. I need to make more frequent orders to goodness direct, as they have lovely marinated tofus and lots of properly interesting vegetarian options. Thing is, the stuff has to come in so much packaging to keep it cold that I feel guilt. I don’t like guilt.

I never know how to end blog posts. My instinct is to wrap them up like I would a letter, but that’s so very cheesy…