Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The TV License

While composing the foregoing entry, I was paid a little visit by the TV police. OK, that sounds overly scary. In reality, a pleasant Scottish gentleman with a portfolio and an ID badge came to my door to check on our television status. You see, to own a TV in the UK, you must purchase an annual TV license, which costs £135.50 (approximately $270) for a color set or £45.50 ($90) for a black and white. (I'm having a hard time believeing people still own black and white TVs.) The TV license fee helps fund the few channels available without satellite or cable television as well as radio broadcasting.

When we first arrived in Aberdeen, we received letters by post informing us that we owed the TV Licensing bureau the requisite amount. I called to inform them we did not own a television at which time I was told that an inspecter would come in the next few weeks to verify the accuracy of my claim. Now, 18 months later, he finally arrived. His inspection consisted of asking me if we had a TV and me saying no. Well, that was easy enough. Of course, upon further investigation and according to the TV Licensing website:

Our TV detector vans are equipped with state-of-the-art detection equipment which can tell in just 20 seconds whether you are using TV.
The UK never ceases to amuse and surprise me.

Freeing the Written Word

I made the most amazing discovery yesterday. Librivox.org is an online, not-for-profit project attempting to record for free transmission every piece of literature in the public domain. I have never before listened to "books on tape" but with an ever expanding, increasingly crowded schedule I have found myself wanting to multi-task items on my list which seemed compatible, specifically reading and other fairly mindless activities like knitting and housework. I have just joined a local book club and we are reading The Age of Innocence this month by Edith Wharton, one of those books I can't believe I graduated with a degree in English and never read (that list is too long). Daily I face a litany of competing priorities. Do I use naptime to clean or amuse myself (note to reader: cleaning does not amuse me)? Wouldn't it be lovely if I could just snap my fingers and the dishes would magically be washed so I could get back to more pleasant delights? Although not my preferred method of absorbing literature, listening to someone else read my book seemed a legitimate and prudent way to maximize the meager 24 hours in a day.

At first I didn't understand how LibriVox could offer these recordings for free. What about copyrights, I wondered? Well, apparently after a certain period of time a book -- under US law anything written prior to 1923 -- enters the "public domain," meaning it can be retransmitted without permission. Just my good fortune, for The Age of Innocence was published in 1920. LibriVox recordings are available for free download on its website or as podcasts on iTunes, which is what I've now done so that while scrubbing my kitchen floor I can blissfully escape my rubber gloves and bucket of bubbles for the glamour of New York's upper crust with their watch fobs and opera glasses.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Celebrating 3

The long-awaited Thomas cake.

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Addison devouring said cake.

Our birthday dinner trip to Pizza Hut.

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The view from our table looking out over Union Street and Union Terrace Gardens beyond that.

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Davis has this new game he plays where he pretends to feed me his milk or his food. Very sweet.

The six helium balloons we gave Addison for his birthday. They are still a big hit even though they are sadly hugging the floor these days. Both boys take endless delight in bouncing and dragging them around the house. We have definitely gotten our £5's worth.

Looking at one of his new presents.

Opening presents.

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Trey and I gave Addison a Royal Mail money bank engraved with his name and birthdate, a special keepsake of his time here.

The rest of the photos are in the Addison's 3rd Birthday album.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Happy Birthday, Addison!

Today our oldest turns three. That sounds so old to me. I can still vividly recall being pregnant with him and now he's talking like he's 40. The amount of changes that occur at this stage of life are remarkable. This morning, as his birthday present to us, Addison informed us that he needed to go potty. Our baby is growing up. This morning after seeing the Thomas cake I'd made him, he wanted it for breakfast. The compromise was singing Happy Birthday at lunch and getting a piece then. Presents and Pizza Hut will follow later, and this afternoon during his nap I'm going to pick up a balloon bouquet to surprise him when he wakes up. Happy Birthday, Addison! We love you so much and are so proud of the bright, passionate, outgoing little boy you are!

Washing Machine Phase

Davis has always enjoyed our washing machine. Its front-loading viewing window and swirling, twirling action has completely captured his fascination. Lately, now that he's crawling, he's taken to kneeling in front of it, grasping the window with his wee paws and hypnotically gazing at the contents inside. We've started videoing it because it's just so funny and memorable.

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Some of you may be wondering at our washing machine being in the kitchen. That's standard practice in many UK homes.

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The keen observer will note the laundry drying on our radiators. Not quite warm enough to hang the wash out yet. I'm counting the days until I can.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Signs of Spring

The bulbs in my front garden have just started poking their little heads out as a pleasant reminder that spring is on its way.

A single crocus.

More crocuses.

A snowdrop.

Buds on the hydrangea bush.

Daffodils.

Chocoholic

You may remember this photo from a year and a half ago. Well, not much has changed since then. In fact, I venture to guess we now have a bona fide substance abuse problem on our hands. As evidence, exhibit one. The child is so totally absorbed in licking the brownie bowl he hears and sees nothing else.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Restoration of Kings


The University of Aberdeen is very conscientious in building maintenance and restoration. Shortly after we arrived during the autumn of 2006, the school began work on the Powis Gates. I initially had little confidence in their ability to finish this project in a timely way, but sure enough, they completed the renovations and the Gates now stand brighter and more glorious than before. The crowning achievement of the University (pardon the shameless punning here) is Kings College Chapel and her oh-so-recognizable Crown Tower. We recently learned that a 7 month restoration scheme (such British parlance) was about to commence specifically to repair the stone and limework on the Tower, and this past week they began to erect scaffolding for that purpose. You can read more about it here. We went up to have a better look ourselves and read the posted signs that gave more details when to our surprise and utter delight we discovered that the central photo on the informational poster was taken by our very own resident photographer. And here, as incontrovertible proof, I offer the original.

That now constitutes at least 3 known times the University has used Trey's photos in a promotional way. I'm kicking myself that he didn't ask for royalties.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Confessions of a Potty Training Mama

I have held off from blogging about our new foray into potty training for one simple reason -- pride. If "take 2" failed, I wouldn't have to share the humiliation with anyone. It could be brushed aside as though it never happened, which speaks volumes about what is actually going on in this whole potty training experience. What I am learning is that I am the one being trained. I am learning patience, self-control, and humility. I am learning to sacrifice my wants and desires for the good of others. In short, I think I am learning far more through this process than Addison.

If you remember back to our last PT encounter (Trey asked me to find a euphamism that didn't offend his proper sensibilities), I dissolved into a sniveling puddle of tears by mid-afternoon. We determined that we would hold off until Christmas was over and then try again. Well, once we returned from the States it seemed like one thing after another got in the way. First it was illness, specifically a terrible case of diarrhea for Addison, not a good time to start PT. Couple that with jetlag, and it seemed we needed to wait a bit. Then more illness, then birthdays. Finally, last week it hit me. I need to start. The week ahead was relatively plan free. I could devote uninterrupted time to this.

So armed with an egg timer -- or "the chicken" as Addison calls it -- and a glass full of Smarties, we ventured into the unknown. Yesterday was a great success. Every 15 minutes, Addison sat down for a minute. To reward him just for making the effort he got a Thomas sticker for his chart. Successful attempts met with Smarties doled out 2 at a time. Yesterday he had about 6 or 7 successes and only one minor accident. Today has been even more successful with him going longer intervals between trips to the bathroom.

But in some ways I feel that the greater triumph has been in my own attitude. The perfectionist, control freak in me has taken a backseat to compassionate, gentle parenting. I have found peace with him playing all over the house, including on our brand new carpets, without the constant fear of him making a mess. I spent a lot of time praying about this beforehand, and I believe that God has done a work of grace in my life, helping me to let go of the things I cannot control and allowing Him to work in the situation. This has been a truly collaborative effort -- Addison cooperating with the frequent trips to the potty, Trey picking up some of the slack for me around the house, Davis crawling behind to keep his big bro company in the bathroom. I realize we're only two days in, and the hardest ones may still be ahead, but it feels different this time.

And I have to thank my sister Sarah for helping me with a game plan. I have talked to so many mothers to get their advice but often it came from a place of personal baggage and emotional investment. I wanted a detached, almost clinical plan to follow, and that is what she helped me with. After our last unsuccessful attempt, she chided me playfully saying, "Becky, how can you give up after not even one full day? I potty trained an 11 year old autistic boy who was non-verbal." At a previous job where she worked with developmentally disabled individuals, she was responsible to potty train this young man, and within 2 weeks he was completely trained. She explained exactly how she and the other staff did it and armed with her matter-of-fact advice I felt like, when the time was right, we too could succeed. Another great lesson for me to learn. You don't have to have a bunch of kids, or even any at all, to offer sage counsel.

Stay tuned...more updates to follow.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Vest

Here are some close-ups of Davis's birthday/Easter vest. Addison's will be the same pattern with the opposite color scheme (dark green as the main color and light green as the contrast). I better get cracking, too, because Easter is super early this year -- only 5 weeks left.

Front view.

Back view.

Closer look at ribbed detailing with changing color.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

First Birthday Party

Davis's cake was based on a rubber duck idea I had seen online. I wanted to do a cupcake tree but in the absence of such a delightful apparatus I opted for a mini-tiered cake accompanied by an army of ducklings floating on a sweet sea of blue frosting.

To my great delight Trey, it turns out, is a cupcake-aholic. No telling how many he ate today.

I believe I have quite possibly found the perfect white cake recipe on allrecipes.com. It was delightfully moist with the flavor of a butter cookie.

Just as we did for Addison's first birthday, we got Davis a keepsake print about the day and year he was born. I wanted to make sure that we got one specifically from the UK so all the details would be based around the place he was born. If you click on the image it should enlarge and you too can enjoy some interesting facts like the cost of a pint of beer or favorite television shows.

The smorgasbord. If you look carefully to the right you will see my brand new crock pot, which I am falling madly in love with. Today I did slow cooker meatballs for meatball sandwhiches again compliments of allrecipes.com.

Crawling around waiting for the guests to arrive. I finished his green vest yesterday. It was supposed to wait for Easter (I'm about to start Addison's matching one), but it seemed wasteful not to debut it today. It fit him perfectly, and he looked so handsome in it. I'll post more pictures of the vest in a subsequent blog.

The Holloway men.

Daddy and D.

OK, that is definitely more than ONE candle.

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Singing Happy Birthday and blowing out the candles with a little help from big bro.

Trying his first bit of cake. Davis will not feed himself yet despite all my efforts, so Trey fed him some cupcake and spared us all the usual ensuing mess (thank goodness in that new vest). He seemed to like it although he definitely looks worn out in this photo.

Addison is ALWAYS up for some cake.

The scene of the crime...er party.

Opening presents.

Our baby sweet sweet.

Nothing brings a smile to D's face like cars and trucks. All boy!

Happy Birthday, Davis!

Our baby is one today. When I got up this morning with the boys, it was still dark and my mind drifted back to that amazing, scary morning when Davis made his hasty entrance right in our living room. He has brought so much life and spirit to our home. With his sunny dispostion, twinkling eyes, and irresistable smile, he's like a merry little elf. His curious, inquisitive mind is always in motion, examining every object, pointing things out, learning and absorbing. He dances to music, claps in congratulations, and belly laughs when tickled, but there is nothing he loves more in this world than to snuggle. He is truly a gift from God, and we pray with all our hearts that God will use him in mighty ways for His kingdom.

Here are a few of my favorite Davis pictures from this past year. Party photos to follow later.








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Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Knit Wits

Perhaps it's the effect of living in a land be-dotted with sheep, the necessity of finding a substitute activity for evening television watching, or just the inevitability of domestic bliss, but the knitting phase has turned into a full blown obsession. I currently have three projects going with at least three more in the pipeline. The more I knit, the more I want to share the activity with friends, help read patterns, discuss ideas, discover new techniques. Out of this passion the Knit Wits was born.

After talking with a number of friends about their shared interest in knitting, we officially met this past October for the first time -- a group of about 9 -- to go over basics like casting on, knit and purl, and casting off. Since that first meeting, I came up with a name, Knit Wits, which I thought was original but turns out is also the name of the fictional knitting magazine on the show Pushing Daisies. The group has settled into a core of about 5 regulars. We gather once a month at my house for coffee and knitting. I find it inspiring to see what others are working on, and it makes me work harder on my current projects because there is nothing quite like the thrill of casting on a new one. It's like cracking the binding of a brand new book, so much potential and promise.

On a related note, I went to get my hair cut yesterday and brought my knitting to occupy me while my highlights set. It's certainly better than reading the third-rate gossip rags stacked in the corner. I've done this before to the great amusement of the staff. It took them a while to work up the courage to ask me what I was working on. One of the hairdressers said to me, "Aren't you too young to be knitting?" I laughed and proudly informed her that knitting is the new yoga. I had no idea there was an age limit to participating in this handicraft.