Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankful

(and also a day late ;))

I kind of love Thanksgiving, even though here in the UK it passes by pretty much unnoticed. What can I say, having American grandparents makes me feel a kinship with the festival! I also think it's an important time to focus, and truly be thankful for what we have. In my classes this week, my boys and I have been writing about what we are thankful for, and their pieces are so sweet and thoughtful.

As for me...

....I am all too aware that I have about eleventy million things to be thankful for.

I'm thankful for living in the current time, in the place where I live. A time where I'm free to learn and live and worship as I wish to, in a place which is relatively safe, a land of plenty. I'm also so thankful to be living in London - this time a year ago this seemed like an impossible dream!

I am thankful for my health and my passions. I am thankful that every day I wake up and there is always some fun on the horizon, or a challenge to meet, or something to do.

I am thankful for Matthew, a man who loves me despite my many flaws and foibles. A man who is clever and kind and handsome and giving, who brings me lemsip when I'm ill, who has a never ending supply of cuddles, and who brightens my every day. There was a time where I'd all but given up on ever finding someone to love who would love me, and I am so thankful that somehow I found my badger.

I am thankful for my family. We may be quirky, and heaven knows we have had some tough times, but I love my family to pieces. I am so thankful for the time we spend together, and for the letters, emails, texts and calls that keep us caught up across the miles.

I am thankful for my friends. I am so very blessed to have a cast of such awesomeness around me, and love the beauty, love and wonderfulness they bring to my life. Few girls can be as lucky as I, surely? :-) My friends give so much joy to me - I can only hope that I am anywhere near as positive an influence in their lives.

I am thankful for my job, and my lovely class of boys. How fortunate to have a job which makes me laugh, stretches me intellectually, makes me think, and keeps me on my toes. I love coming to work (even if I don't always love the 6 am alarm!). I know how lucky I am.

And I am thankful for myriad other things too....I am thankful for cups of coffee, for long cool drinks, for healthy nourishing food. I am thankful for afternoon naps and late night chats and still mornings. I am thankful for books and music and film. I am thankful for daydreams, and time to bake cupcakes, and the month of December. I am thankful for blogging, and new pyjamas, and Stephen Fry. I am thankful for The Daily Show and Christmas and Lego. I am thankful for Sam cat and Dave the tree and tomorrow.

And last, but not least, I am thankful for you guys - anyone who's ever read my blog, or emailed me, or commented. What a wonderful thing, to create this web of friends and bloggers, over continents and oceans.

(Belated) Happy Thanksgiving!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Whirlwind

That kind of sums it up.

The pace of life has ramped up yet another notch, but as ever I am not complaining – time spent with friends and family, plans afoot for the festive season, busy times at school. It’s a bit difficult to make blogging a priority though, so forgive me if my posts are a little scattered – there are points in the next month when I’ll have tons of time, and others where sleep and actual meals are likely to feel like distant strangers!

The last few days have been a case in point. Last Friday was a mental day at school, and then Matthew and I headed over to Hammersmith to watch a gig by Rhod Gilbert, a really bitter and funny Welsh comic. The gig was great, although my tiredness did get the better of me…I fell asleep just into the second act! I think my brain just thought “okay, I’ve had a beer, I’m all cosy, giving Matthew a cuddle and then zzzzz……”. Highly amusing.

Saturday started early, at 5 a.m., with a cab to Luton airport, then a flight to Inverness. Yep, Matthew and I were off for a weekend in the Highlands! We popped into my parents for tea and soup (what a novelty to “pop in”! Being hundreds of miles away often precludes the chance of nipping round for a drink!). Then we donned our gladrags and sped off across the Highlands to Ballater. I don’t know if you’ve ever driven across the Cairngorms, from Forres to Royal Deeside, but it’s thrilling stuff. Matthew had a ball driving up and down big hills and round crazy bends!

We were heading to Ballater for the wedding of my lovely friends, Simon and Nicole. It was an absolutely beautiful wedding, and as is my wont, I had a good old blub! I also had a girly moment of panic which Matthew dealt with brilliantly – I think the fact that the bride had *exactly* the same birthday as me (10/12/80) combined with extreme tiredness to give me a slight “eek-why-am-I-not-married!” crisis! Most unlike me, and luckily easily solved with chat, cuddles, red wine, and ceilidh dancing. Lord, how I love to ceilidh!

Sunday morning, big breakfast, then back up the road to Forres for lunch with the parents, and to chat with my brother Peter too, who popped home for the weekend and was full of tales from Aberdeen. Good stuff – I can’t wait to catch up with them all again at Christmas. Then back to Inverness to fly back. Once we arrived at Gatwick Matthew headed back home to build furniture (he’s such a builder, my boy!), and I waited…

…because my gorgeous friend Shona was due in 90 minutes after me! She’s one of my dearest friends and I’ve been dying to see her, so I was so glad to give her a great big Claire hug! We chatted all the way from Gtawick to Leyton – I think it’s really lucky Matthew wasn’t with us actually, because he would have been bored stiff while we gossiped! Home, pizzas, chat, bed.

Monday I was up and at ‘em, and off to school. Monday is always a blur, because it’s just stuffed with work to do. So I put my head down and got on with it. Because at 5 I headed over to Wenbley to check into a hotel with Shona. Because we were going to see Taylor Swift! And it was a brilliant, brilliant gig!

Tuesday was a day of relative rest, work and tv, chores and sleep. And today has been busy and good. But now I have to close, because it’s time to head home and put Dave the Christmas tree up. I’m excited, we have mulled wine and mince pies and Christmas music….

‘Tis the season!


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PS Have you seen Taylor Swift's rap yet? It's immense!


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November Rain...

....has nothing to do with this post. But I just wanted to give you an earworm. Although bizarrely the earworm I have is not 'November Rain', but rather 'Purple Rain'. Love that song.

Anyways, on with the blogging.

I knew the second half of November would be busy, but man, it's hitting hard right now. In a good way though - lots of busy things and fun things and silly things in amongst the more difficult and challenging stuff. And the march to Christmas is on in earnest...I got my first card yesterday (thanks, Nicole F!). I mailed my international cards today (I say "I"...I mean "Matthew" - thank you baby!), next week it's international pressies, then UK cards, then UK gifts. Way to fund Royal Mail, right?

I've got an awful lot of my gifts sorted, and many of them wrapped (the shelves of our study are groaning with goodies just waiting for bows to be placed on them once we have a tree they can go under!). Still a few things to but though - mainly for Matthew, the wee folk, and Matthew and my families. Matthew and I will just be exchanging one gift on Christmas, but on January 2nd we'll be having our onw little 'Fakemas' for just us two. This celebration we concocted last year because we were apart for the celebrations...this year we're doing it because as lovely as it will be to celebrate with our families on and around Christmas, it's great to have a little celebration just for us. Only one question - do we have a roast for dinner, or brinner? I am veering towards brinner, I must say.

Next Wednesday, I get to put up my tree (Dave). This year I'm finally going to retire all the tattier baubles I have from my student days and just use the ones I've built up since - I have some beautiful ones now! I add one, two, or three each year - this year I have a lone star of Texas to add, a beautiful red and gold star that Matthew loved, and a merlot bottle ornament (Jenna and I got matching ones to celebrate our red wine fun times!). I love my tree.

Well, much to do as ever. Work is proving a bit butt-kicky this week, and with a dinner, a comedy gig, and a Highland wedding to attend in the next few days, I have plenty to keep me busy! Good times.

Hope your week is proving fabulous!


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Friday, November 13, 2009

Perks of the job...

I make no bones about the fact that I love, lurve, L.O.V.E. my job. Being a teacher fits me to a tee, and I am all too aware how blessed I am to work in a field I enjoy, with (to paraphrase the current teaching adverts) "the most interesting people on the planet." I have such fun each day with my boys, and teaching them is never anything less than a privelege.

It's also a job with many, many perks, so of which you may know about, some of which you may not. Some of which I'll share...

I get asked some really interesting questions each and every day, and I love the challenge of helping my boys make sense of the world. Already today I've had to answer questions on concentration camps, safety helmets, snow, cookies and badgers...and already on the slate for later are the English Civil War, triskaidekaphobia, and the Premier League.

Birthdays (and other festivals) are a big deal. Just today we had one boy doing the birthday dance as we sang to him, and we all had Krispy Kremes to celebrate!

I get to see directly the effects of my work. When someone "gets" how to do a calculation, or writes a story, or spells a word, or remembers an event, I get that wonderful glowy feeling because I helped. I love being able to see directly the effects of what I do. I may not make anything tangible, but I love that I can see differences and changes...

The holidays! One of my colleagues called teaching a Jekyll and Hyde profession last week, and she's entirely correct. During termtime I work hard - late nights, school events, often through weekends when reports are due or deadlines up. Bu then I do get 17 weeks of holiday (roughly half of which I do some work on, but still...it's often work in pyjamas...).

I get to keep learning. Just today a package arrived full of senior maths books for me to work through (my subject knowledge is sound, but I want to *know* everything I knew at 16, solidly and confidently, every time). I make myself go to events and talks so I can go and pass things on to my gang - last night I attended a talk by Salman Rushdie (fascinating!) and now have stories to share with the gang.

And lastly and perhaps most importantly....we have fun. Lots of it! Because learning is fun. And eight-year-old to nine-year-old kids are fun. Whether we're doing algebra, or watching a snippet from the Muppets, or exploring the journeys of Captain James Cook, or discussing anger management, or planning a class party....we are pretty much always having a ball doing so!

Long may it continue, say I!

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My new pyjamas

My new pyjamas are comfy and cosy.

Red flannel plaid trousers, cute red tee.

The kind of pyjamas which make you want to clear your schedule, and make some time for some R&R.

They cry out for hot chocolate, cuddles, chickflicks, sausage sandwiches and re-runs of Scrubs.

Which is why I'm writing this post about them, rather than something deep or funny or insightful.

The siren song of the pyjamas is calling me back to bed, or at the very least, to the couch.

In a world of busy-ness, and work, and Christmas preparation, and marking, and school events, and party planning, and whizz whizz whizz, they demand a lull, and some toast, and a good book.

Roll on 6pm and the end of the day, say I....because I've got a hot date with my new pyjamas when I get home.


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Monday, November 09, 2009

Waffle Monday!

By this point in November, I don't know about you, but my hibernation instinct is kicking in *strong*. As excited as I always am to get to work and have a ball with the Thornleyites, actually getting out of bed becomes a bit of a struggle.

A shuffly, shifty, wiggly, feels-like-there-are-weights-in-my-PJs kind of struggle...

But I made it.

:-)

Part of the incentive today was the fact that Matthew and I have decided that today should be (*small drumroll please*) Waffle Monday! For no other reason than we really like waffles. So this morning for breakfast we had sweet waffles with fruit and cream (my mouth is watering just typing that...), and tonight Matthew is making us fish fingers, potato waffles, and beans (haha, that's such a kid's tea! Love it!). Little bits of silly like that make me smile.

My weekend, as well as fireworky, involved a lot of Christmas prep. 42 international cards are written and most of them are stamped, ready to go out late next week. A few others are ready to be slipped in with gifts. Some UK gifts are beuatifully wrapped and ribboned (well, fairly beautifully - I'm improving every year but am still far from Martha!). Many, many, many gifts have been ordered from Amazon - I'm down to the last couple of dozen now. I'm officially excited and enjoying my elf duties.

This week is busy and awesome, but I will be sure to keep you posted. What do you have planned?


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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Fizz. Bang. Oooooooh. Shiny.

Fireworks night is one of my favourite parts of autumn.... Hallowe'en I quite like, but the thrills of fireworks night get me every time. Isn't it strange that something that commemorates something so horrid and scary and dark and political has turned into such a festive occasion. Poor Guido Fawkes and his attempt to blow up parliament...

I was lucky enough to go to two fireworks displays this year (which also equals double portions of chilli and mulled wine - yummers!). On Friday Matthew headed up to north west London to meet me and we headed off to the school display. It was really lovely! I really enjoyed seeing all the boys in their play clothes - they looked delightfully off-duty! Lots of giggling and running around and eating candyfloss. Oh, and the kids enjoyed it too!

Last night Matthew was away (ah, football - during the season I do share my beloved a little. With Newcastle and the Spartans!), so I headed solo down to South London for a gathering my friends Ben and Cheryl had put together. A couple of dozen folk gathered to watch the (awesome!) fireworks at Blackheath, and we then headed back to Ben and Cheryl's for chilli, mulled wine, nachos and chat. It was so great to catch up with people and the whole evening was positively laden with comedy! I wound up having a conversation about ducks, hearing about peoples jobs and new jobs, and also managed to fall over completely on the packed train home! Without injuring anyone!

So now it is more or less a clear run to Christmas (I will be teaching about Thanksgiving, but we don't mark it here, naturally). I have bought tonnes of gifts online and they are starting to arrive - I'd better get wrapping soon - the internationals need to be gone in a little while...

How has your weekend been?


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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Glitter amongst the grit

So we are back with a bump to the rigmarole of termtime, and as I write I have a to do list that is almost as lone as I am tall. No matter, those of you who know me well know I believe in taking a break in amongst the madness, a little five minutes or more to centre and relax, and these little moments become like pieces of glitter in amongst the grit, like pinprick stars scattered all around me. They feed my soul, revive my spirit, and leave me better armed to be the kind of friend, daughter, sister, girlfriend, teacher, blogger, child of God, Joinee and person I want to be.

Having these moments to stop and stare also help me to just stop and think and be grateful for the other pieces of glitter that fill my life so abundantly, the precious moments, the silly smiles, the simple pleasures, the beautiful things, the happy times. Some recent examples...

A wonderful evening with friends last night, just ideal. Tea and chat and hugs and just loving on one another. When I left work at a quarter to six last night I was beaten, just so very tired, and I really had to rally to jump on the tube and make the busy journey up to Seven Sisters. But when I left at ten I felt revived and replenished in a way so much more than any early night could have hoped to achieve.

Cups of tea, my favourite snack in the world.

Going to my pigeonhole every few days or so and finding another package has arrived, containing a Christmas goodie I'm longing to wrap up for a loved one.

Brinner. Mmmmmm, brinner.

Thursday Communion. Simple, unfussy, private and quite beautiful.

Knowing that on Sunday I have nothing planned but working, napping, and relaxing.

Going to Oxford Street to see the lights go on, then having big chats over glasses of red.

An extra cuddle in the morning.

Walking around John Lewis and seeing so many pretty things to gift. I may go there late and buy some things, along with some pretty paper to wrap them with.

Looking at the calendar and realising this time in 7 weeks it's one of my favourite days of the year...Christmas Eve.

When parents take the time to email or catch me in person and give me some feedback on how I'm doing. I love being part of the school-home team, and I think its incredibly positive for the boys to know there's a link and communication there.

Eating hot chips on a cold November night, using one of those little wooden forks.

A diary full of fun and loveliness.

Fireworks streaming the sky.

Having time to read the blogs of people I care for.

The smell of mulled wine.

I do so love the glitter...

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Monday, November 02, 2009

London-Houston-Dallas-London, Part 2

(time for some photos...more to follow once I've checked I can nick them from Jenna, Heidi, Emma et al.!)

All dressed up and ready to bridesmaid - so glad we were there in plenty of time!


Setting the stage, Chris and Peter await the rest of the party!

Walking down the aisle (I think I was mentally chanting "don't fall...don't fall....don't trip", lol)


Jenna, we're all ready for you!


The happy couple. :-)


This pic really sums up the wedding for me - sweet, funny, intimate - gorgeous.


Mr and Mrs! :D


Nathan and I, ready to hit the keg and the barbeque!


Am I the goofiest bridesmaid ever? Hee.


With the beautiful Jenna and the gorgeous Heidi (with the lovely Emma taking the picture!)


Jenna by the creek. In her gown!


Mmmmmmm, Shiner Bock!


My handsome boy, playing it cool. <3


The uber van! I swear, I felt like a member of the A-Team!

Matthew and I were amused to find a billboard for Newcastle Brown Ale in Dallas. Geordies for the win!


Reunion Tower, Dallas. Really high up, actually!


Mmmmmmmmm....festive holiday pancakes!

Hope you've enjoyed the visuals! Such a fun trip!

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