Friday, September 22, 2006

Two Things I Never Imagined I Would Say

This week, I got to utter two phrases that I never imagined I would ever get to say in this lifetime.

No. 1: "I can't pick them up, because I'll be at a reception at Buckingham Palace."

That was SUCH a fun thing to say! After all, Buckingham Palace is such an inconic place, particularly for an American girl who got up at 5 a.m. to watch Prince Charles marry Lady Diana Spencer (that fairy tale didn't end so well, but it was a beautiful wedding).

I was due to go to "Buck Palace," as some locals like to say, for a tour and a wine reception with the American Correspondents in London. However, it wasn't meant to be, which leads me to...

No. 2: "I sprained my wrist while running."

As a very helpful friend pointed out to me after I said to the above, "You're not meant to run on your hands, love, you should use your feet!" But as anyone who knows me well will attest, I am the clumsiest person on earth. When I was a girl, my parents sent me to ballet lessons in the hope I would become graceful. It didn't work.

So on a beautiful Tuesday morning, I set out for a run-- the first one in school hours in which my personal trainer was not along for the ride. As I was running through the Royal Naval College and thinking about how nice it was to not be pushing a buggy, I suddenly found myself flying through the air, bouncing once (I'm guessing) and landing with a thump with my arms and legs akimbo. Nice one. After I checked that no bones were protruding through my skin or I wasn't bleeding profusely and I assured the worried onlookers that I was OK, just deeply embarrassed, I continued on my way and ran about 3 miles.

However, by the time I arrived home, my left wrist was already swelling up, not to mention the layers of skin I lost off my right elbow and the huge purple bruise I earned on my left knee. As the afternoon wore on, the thought of spending a few hours admiring Buckingham Palace clutching a glass of wine while dressed nicely was more than I could bear, so I cancelled.

After a restless night when it was very difficult to sleep, I got myself to the hospital to hear the verdict: it's not a fracture, but a bad sprain. So now I have an oh-so-attractive wrist splint, along with a royal blue sling. I'm considering writing on the sling, "Running Injury!" just for laughs.

I have to say, though, saying those two things was LOTS of fun, though doing them was another matter entirely.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Spongebob?*

*Sung to the tune of "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?" from the Sound of Music.

After yesterday's marathon of events (a "Charlie & the Chocolate Factory" birthday party for Thing One, a screening of "Curious George" for Thing Two, a reading awards ceremony for Thing One and a Zoomaround birthday party for the both of them, all in different locations), I was hoping for a relatively restful morning before heading out to Greenwich's annual Car Free Day. It was not to be.

Let me explain. At the screening of "Curious George" Thing Two received a gift bag to celebrate the Picturehouse's first birthday. The bag included a Spongebob Squarepants T-shirt, which unfortunately for Thing Two was two sizes too big for him, but the perfect size for Thing One. [All the parents reading this know what happened next.] Thing One wanted to wear the shirt. Thing Two said no. Thing One put on the shirt, to show him how perfect it was. Thing Two said no. Thing One asked, enquired, pleaded and begged Thing Two to wear the shirt. No. No. No. No. This went on for-- I'm not kidding-- an hour. At one point, Thing One went down to his new typewriter and typed out the message, "Please Nichlas, let me wear the shirt." No again.

Much like the U.N. in civil wars, I found that I needed to get involved.
Will you let him wear the shirt if I give you a chocolate? No.
Will you let him wear the shirt if I give you a Simpsons ice lolly? No.
Will you let him wear the shirt if I get you a magazine? No.
Will you let him wear the shirt if I get you a cupcake? No.
Will you let him wear the shirt if I get you a very special treat, which you can pick out? Oh, [big sigh] OK.

With peace brokered, we set out for Greenwich Car Free Day. In its fifth year, this is an annual event where two major streets are closed down for entertainment, games, food and fun. It's always heaving with people, and we always run into lots of friends there. It's great.

As expected, with the hordes of people at events like this come the helium balloon vendors. After we had finished our bike race challenge (with Thing One pedalling, and Thing Two sitting atop the stationery bike while I pushed the pedals for him [I won]), we found a vendor with a cast of characters: Tigger, Piglet, Dora the Explorer, Bob the Builder and (hooray!) Spongebob Squarepants.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Spongebob? You pay £4 to get a helium balloon. Peace at last.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Happy Roald Dahl Day!!!!

Roald Dahl should need no introduction, but in case you don't know what all the hullabaloo is about-- and hallabaloo is JUST the kind of word he would love-- he is quite simply the most brilliant children's author ever.

Dahl, who would have been 90 years old today, might be best known for writing the classic tale, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," but that is just one of many fantastic books he penned from the shed in the back of his garden. He is also responsible for the James' fantastic flight in "James and the Giant Peach," the clever mind of "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and the pharmaceutical experiment gone wrong in "George's Marvellous Medicine." He was, in short, a genius.

Here at MarathonMum HQ, we are on High Alert for the celebration. In fact, the very first thing that Thing Two said this morning was, "It's Roald Dahl Day today! Hooray!!" As we walked to school in our yellow t-shirts (see below) Thing One worried aloud, "Why isn't anyone else wearing yellow shirts?" I replied, "Maybe they didn't realize Roald Dahl is today." During story time at our local bookstore, Nicholas interrupted "The Gruffalo's Child" to tell the woman, "Today is Roald Dahl Day!" This, in fact, was news to her because the store's celebration is scheduled for next Saturday. Sometimes, three-year-olds DO have something to teach you!

But you don't have to sit on the sidelines watching others celebrating Roald Dahl Day, instead you can take up the Roald Dahl Day Challenge (for more information about the big day, go to this site). For fans under the age of 10, complete the number of challenges equal to your age. If you're older than 10, you should strive to complete all on the list.

Help probably would it but fun the in join to gobblefunk in fluent be to need not do you. [This is not a typo. Please see number 5 and 3 below.]

Here's what to do:
1. Wear something yellow – it was Roald's favourite colour!
2. Wear one or more items of clothing backwards.
3. Drop "gobblefunk"* into your conversations
(the unique language created by Roald and most commonly used by
the BFG).
4. Swap a Roald Dahl book with a friend.
5. Talk backwards.
6. Tell a silly joke – Roald loved swapping these with his kids.
7. Play an "unexpected" prank.
8. Give someone a treat – Roald was a great believer in treats, whether it was a bar of chocolate or a lovely surprise.
9. Write your own revolting rhyme.
10. Make up an Oompa Loompa dance and get all your friends to join in!

(In case you're wondering, MarathonMum has completed six of the 10 challenges by 2:34 GMT).
*Many thanks to Tom Standage who performed the electronic magic necessary so I could include the most-excellent graphic above. Tom can now cross No. 8 off his list, as this would count as a treat to me!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Partial List of Summer Fun

Summer is over. Bummer. But the memories will live on…

We travelled many miles—though not as many as last year—and had lots and lots of fun. For those of you interested in what constitutes “fun” this family (and yes, that includes a ride in a tow truck) here’s a partial list:

• Rode in the Chunnel on our way to France. (This entry is for you, Jenn Traficanti)
• Rather than looking for state license plates (an American pastime), we looked for EU country stickers while on the road in France.
• Played baseball in an organic vegetable patch.
• Collected eggs from chickens.
• Swam in the English channel off of Omaha Beach: A good place to surprise and defeat the Nazis in June 1942, and 64 years and (nearly) 64 days later, a good place to make sandcastles.
• Toured Mont St. Michele, 11 years after I first wanted to go there.
• Collected stickers for our “Cars” (the movie) sticker books.
• Swam in a pond, while fish skirted around our ankles.
• Found not one but two great bakeries in the small town we called “Maisy’s town,” but was actually Grandcamp-Maisy.
• Ate at a French McDonalds, where you can’t get milk with your Happy Meal, but you do have a choice of two different bottled waters. (this entry is for the boys, obviously)
• Ate yummy French food, especially the BBC: butter, bread and cheese.
• Visited the best aquarium we’ve EVER seen (and that includes Baltimore): Grand Aquarium Saint-Malo.
• Walked on the ramparts of Saint-Malo.
• Tried to correctly pronounce the town named “Rennes” when we visited.
• Walked on more ramparts in Dinan and tripped through its cobbled steep streets.
• Sat on our chairs and watched an actual “Cow Parade”—not a faux one created by a tourist board-- pass by our farmhouse.
• Milked some cows (That’s what Thing One says, but actually, we just got to watch. Whew! It SMELLS!!)
• Battled an invasion of flies in our farmhouse in Brittany. The flies won. We fled the scene.
• Saw “Cars” in an un-air conditioned cinema on one of the hottest days of the year. Thing Two fell asleep on my lap, making the un-air conditioned atmosphere even MORE uncomfortable.
• Weeded our back garden in the pouring rain.
• Made masks at our local library.
• Went on a Teddy Bear Picnic.
• Had tennis lessons.
• Rolled down the hill at Greenwich Park, much like they used to do in the halcyon Victorian days.
• Helped finish the school’s mosaic.
• Splashed in Emma and Wendy’s new splash pool.
• Ate Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes. Yum!
• Learned to live without electricity, “Like in the olden days,” Thing One said, when we lost our power seven times (for a total of more than 20 hours) over a three-day period.
• Enjoyed the fine products of Meantime Brewery at our favourite local pub, The Union. (that was the adults, NOT Thing One and Two)
• Saw “Cars” for a second time! This time, air conditioning wasn’t necessary, as it was a cold and rainy day.
• Got our faces painted at the library (Thing One: Spiderman. Thing Two: Tigger)
• Went to the Tate Modern. Got yelled at lots by the guards for nothing at all. (I think they had their fill of families at that point)
• Thing One opened a “Coffee Shop” with the drinks made with water and old chalk. Yum!
• Searched the house for nearly an hour, looking for a lost piece of wire Thing One’s friend had lost. When I say “wire” I mean “wire.” After Thing One found it, I spent another hour contemplating my career options.
• Went to the National Maritime Museum, where no guards yelled at us.
• Learned to love the art of Rope Swinging.
• Wore our polar bear (Thing One) and reindeer (Thing Two) ear muffs in August, just because we could.
• Witnessed the Science Experiment of the Year: Mentos-induced exploding Diet Coke.
• Made our own exploding volcanoes out of sand, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.
• Created turtle pictures out of sand, seeds and bird feed.
• Rode donkeys at the top of Greenwich Park.
• Played hours and hours of Cadoo.
• Found an incredibly cool indoor play centre called Gambado, where Thing One met a girl who followed him around for the entire afternoon. Ah, young love.
• Rode in a tow truck! Whee!! (Thanks, AA)
• Made T-shirts at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
• Saw “The Bubble Show” for the (estimated) 55th time at the Science Museum.
• Rode bikes in the new garden of our friends Shakira and Tayo.
• Saw “Deep Sea 3-D” at the local Imax, where Thing Two spent almost all of the movie saying, “I want to go home now, Mom!” But when asked later how he liked it, he said, “I loved it!”
• Ate at Wagamama, our favourite family restaurant, several times.
• Celebrated our 11th Wedding Anniversary!
• Picked apples, corn and raspberries in Kent.
• Learned to pack 12 weeks of fun (an American-sized summer) into six (a British-sized summer).

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Back to School!

Thing One joyfully returned to school this morning, laden with his oh-so-hip "Cars" backpack and lunch box. This means, sports fans, that summer is officially over, even if the calendar disagrees. Of course, because school was open, that meant we had the nicest day we've had in weeks today.

Our accountants are now checking the accuracy of our summer fun list and it will be released tomorrow.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Apples of My Eyes

Thing One, Thing Two and I ventured into the darkest depths of Kent Sunday with the always-delightful Ella, Miles and chaperones (read: parents) for our annual end-of-summer tradition of fruit and corn picking. I say "tradition" but that's actually a misnomer: we did it last year, and we returned again this year and plan to go next year but I'm not really convinced we can describe it as a tradition until we've been there three times. You know the saying: one is a point, two is a line, three is a trend. Also, last year, there was no corn as the badgers got there first. But I digress.

Ella and Thing One eagerly explored the "Maize Maze" of a giant squirrel and made it to the centre on their own wits alone. To see them victorious at the finish, scroll down to the bottom of Ella's current website. To see how much they've grown since last year, scroll down to the bottom of last year's page. Thing Two and I missed the Maize Maze because he was feeling his age and didn't want to go. Oh well.

However, Thing Two did recover in time to pick some apples-- his most favorite fruit in the whole world. After that, we made our way over to the sweetcorn, where Kirstin won the Farmer O' the Day accolade because she knew that the corn we wanted to pick had silk that was black at the end. Way to go, city slicker! Finally, to finish it all off, we wrestled with the brambles and the thorns to pick a few raspberries. I can appreciate now why raspberries are so expensive, given how difficult they are to pick.

A beautiful day, with wonderful friends and fantastic food. What more could you ask for? (Maybe, just maybe, a husband that ISN'T on a plane to Dubai.)

Friday, September 01, 2006

The All-Star Crew at the V&A

(From left to right: Geogia, Ella, Miles, Nicholas (Thing Two) and Andrew (Thing One)

Summer Fun Activity No. 61 (a full accounting will be available at the conclusion of the season) took place Thursday with a trip to the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington.

The All-Star Crew, so named because all of the bipedalistic children wore Converse All-Star sneakers, took to the train, the tube and the (pedestrian) tunnel to get there. By the time we arrived at the family workshop area, the queue of eager families stretched out the door. The children were to create a pyschedelic T-shirt based on the museum's current 60's exhibition. All for free! In London! Miracles do happen.

Thing One diligently started to work, Thing Two diligently started to watch me work and their friends Ella and Georgia got down to business. Miles, who has not yet acquired bipedalistic skills, slept through the job.

The picture above shows the products of their (and our) labours. Thing Two seems particularly proud of the work he merely oversaw, but did not actually do. He's destined for management.