May 30, 2011


As part of our recent household renovations, our fantastic builder Pawel has installed two spickets - one at the front of the house and one at the back. So yesterday I got a hose. A garden hose. I can now water my gardens with ease and without making several hundred sploshy trips to and from the kitchen sink with my rusted out watering can. 

For those of you who take your garden hoses for granted, stop for a minute and appreciate their small yet significant additions to your life. Could your children have as much fun drinking straight from the kitchen tap? Do you recall hot, summer days spent running under the shower head? How about washing your car with a bucket and water pistol...? Luckily my children only drink juice, it doesn't get hot in England and we don't have a car. Nevertheless, I feel more human and mature with my own garden hose.

(Yes, I know how tiny it is.)

Slowly, ever so slowly I'll move this Victorian house into the 21st century. Next move: a tumble dryer.

May 18, 2011

Face in the water.

Elliot had his first swimming lesson today. This was a BIG DEAL for him. When he was 2 he went under the water and couldn't get up. Donal and I got to him within a few seconds, but it scared the bejezzus out of him and it's been a struggle to get him in the water since.

Anyway, today he made great strides. He was in the pool with the instructor and two littler girls. (We negotiated with the instructor that I was allowed to be in the water, but had to stay on the other side of the pool.) The instructor gave him lots of new things to try - kickboards, floating, swimming through hoops - and Elliot did every single thing without fuss or complaint. He even put his face in the water - something that even the bravest kids give pause for thought. Not once did he come over to me or, in fact, make any kind of meaningful eye contact as a plead for help. Which is probably a good thing; I'm sure he'd have been concerned as I was completely brimming over with pride.

Elliot has lots of super powers, but his bravery is his strongest. I'm so, so proud of him. More importantly, though, he's proud of himself.

As an aside... Despite his overall success, I wouldn't say Elliot actually enjoyed himself. To be honest, though, neither would I. The instructor was not great and very evidently did not want to be teaching 4 year olds how to swim. He barked orders, couldn't keep the three kids together, and gave no consideration that this was the first time EVER that Elliot has even tried to float, swim, kick, etc. For adults whose job it is to work with children, this kind of attitude and behavior is appalling. I wouldn't expect anything more than understanding and courtesy but even this seems too much of a stretch for Joe A. Swimmer. Elliot didn't seem to take any notice, so I'm trying to figure out how to approach the situation. Let sleeping dogs lie, or open the can of worms?

1 June ammendment...
Elliot had his third lesson today and things have gotten much better. I take back my snarky comments about the instructor. Maybe he was having a bad day that day. Maybe I was. Maybe we both were. Sorry, Mr Swim Instructor.

May 16, 2011

Being a Mom.

My two favorite bloggers (Melissa and Jen) apparently love being Moms. If pressured to comment, then I'd have to say I do too. Most of the time. At the beginning of the day. Before I have to start getting juice. 

Sarcasm aside, these wonderful women have inspired me to find the joy in my children's every day life and provide that joy in list-form.

What I love about being a Mom:
  1. Overhearing the boys having their own private conversations.
  2. Taking pride that while Noah looks an awful lot like a Smyth, he looks an awful lot like a Klein, too. (My sister, specifically.)
  3. Dodos and all it's various forms.
  4. Being an expert on important things like superheros, train track building, and boo-boos.
  5. Being welcomed, with hugs and shouts of "Mom!", when I come downstairs on a Saturday morning.
  6. Watching and helping them navigate life lessons.
  7. Reading and watching them read.
  8. How funny they are. Crazy funny.
  9. Watching them sleep.
  10. Imaginative play.

And.. what I don't love about being a Mom:
  1. Getting juice. 100 times a day.
  2. Shouting.
  3. The threat, real or imagined, of night time vomiting.
  4. Being the middleman for everything that happens in the house.
  5. The boys picking at each other, and me, for entertainment.
  6. Judgement from other parents.
  7. The repetition of the days.
  8. Getting juice.
  9. Whining.
  10. Fighting.
Addendum: I also do not like being woken up with whining, crying children at 5:30.

May 9, 2011

Garden v1.

I lifted, moved and dealt with one metric tonne of dirt today. Hell yeah.

It's all in an attempt to get my front garden, aka the pebble pit,...

...into something worth looking at. The plan is to build a raised garden and plant some pretty things in it. After today's labors, this is where I am:

This is where I hope to be:

And, as an added bonus... For those who recall my previous post about my crazy neighbor, you might be interested to know I had to deal with him today, too. Unfortunately, Andrew (said neighbor) chose to approach me about 3/4 of the way into my garden excavation. Needless to say - as I was up to my eyes in sweat and manure-laden top soil - I was not at my most welcoming. So, in spite of his gifts of conspicuously ripped-off library DVDs, I did not give him the £10 to fix his gas leak problems. I would have, however, paid him £10 to vacate my front steps which he happily occupied for a merry, yet awkward, 20 minutes. [sigh]

May 3, 2011

Bad wife.

I should be a better wife and not doubt my husband so much. Or so publicly, anyway... Despite my doubts on Smyth Time, we did make it to Reina Sofia.

We did see Guernica.

It looked a lot like I thought it would (thank you Google), with the pleasant addition of people for atmosphere. Thank goodness the painting is so big!

I should probably try to be a better appreciator of art, as well.

May 1, 2011

Mad about Madrid.

Our last day of vacation.

It started off dubiously with a trip to The Rastro - Madrid's weekly flea market. I always think I'll enjoy flea markets, but as I need neither cheap sunglasses, broken chairs, nor dead watches, I rarely do.

We managed to navigate our way out of there and over to Santa Ana square for lunch. We didn't particularly mean to end up there, but it was a nice square with two playgrounds and countless cafes. We parked ourselves at a table and stayed for a leisurely two hours eating, drinking, sunning ourselves, playing, people watching and dancing. It was a really great way to spend a Sunday afternoon...

...Especially as this Sunday was a holiday and meant that everything was closed. FYI, if planning a trip to Spain in April count on at least 90% of that time being devoted to a national or religious holiday thus resulting in nearly all shopping opportunities closing down. For the remaining 10% count on shops being closed for no apparent reason.

We unfortunately also missed the museum opening times. Our hotel is right across the street from The Prado and up the road from Reina Sofia. We hope to make it to the Reina Sofia tomorrow before leaving, but my money is on Smyth Tardiness and I'm guessing this is the only way I'll be seeing Picasso's Guernica.

That's okay. I'm not really a museum person anyway. 

Hasta luego, EspaƱa.