Sochi S’mochi

One of the rings forming the Olympic Rings fails to open during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia (7 Feb. 2014)

Woo-wee!  I know this could be difficult, but I am going to try and pry your attention away from the weather.  No mean feat considering Mary Kate, Damien, and the rest of my pals in Wayne, PA have been shivering without electricity for a good four days post a severe ice storm while Anne and mountain folk in and around Eagle, Colorado dug out from record breaking – yes, I believe she said 30 inches of snow and she’s got the pictures to prove it – as the rains and gales continue to pound England “blowing a hoolie” as Nick loves to declare such that our rain butt aka rain barrel (as recently discussed on good ‘ole FB) has gotten so full the rain is spewing out the top of the rain pipe then loudly falling and splatting a story down as it jettisons off the rim of the gutter.  Even Windsor is battening down the hatches according to today’s news absorbing diverted overflowing water from the Thames.  Woowee! as I said, thank goodness I’ve got a much better place to focus our energies away from the weather and on to the Winter Olympics now in full swing in Sochi, Russia.

Who cannot help but become mesmerised watching the feats of human endeavour inspiring us as insane athletes take on the mountains and ice at speeds far faster than our hydroplaning cars can manage on the motorways these days.  Some times they compete on devices as small as a tea trays feet first on their backs or on knife thin blades swirling and leaping around arenas or sliding down rails on snowboards to defy gravity, rotate at least three times and land backwards down a slope.  I mean really, now that you’ve got your electricity on in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, I hope you can join me in grabbing your remotes and cheering on your teams of choice.

It is important for me to admit, I am more a summer sport girl – or rather a summer season girl- more at home working on my tan and leaving the athleticism in our family to my baby sister, Patty, and the closest I seem to get to breathlessness these days is when I attempt to achieve recording and watching the key Olympic events plus the Six Nations Rugby on Saturday (sorry about Wales, Mrs Ferguson).  I definitely, however, was not immune as a child to imagining myself with a Dorothy Hamill haircut and wishing I could camel and triple toe my way around the women’s figure skating rink or better yet, hit the perfect ten like Nadia Comaneci in the gymnastics floor routines.  I know, I know, gymnastics is for some strange reason that I can never figure out, a “summer” Olympics sport, but you get what I mean, right?  We get to watch these amazing athletes go to mind boggling lengths to dazzle us with their skills while scaring the bejeezus out of us and surely themselves (most definitely their mothers) as they slide faster, flip more or glide ever expertly than anyone else in the world.  It is a truly motivating experience watching them and applauding them for doing it all for the sake of the spectacular achievement of participating, if not winning a medal in the Olympics. It moves me and makes me wonder if I would have what it would take to be an Olympian.  I contemplate whether I would have in my genetic makeup that daredevil part which seems particularly required for engaging in most of the disciplines of the Winter Olympic events.  I say most because I just can’t see, no matter how much televised coverage they get in the UK because it is one of our rare “medalling” opportunities, how to become enthralled by curling (Marsha, can you help me here?).

At any rate, I find the Olympics awesome.  From the new Slopestyle snowboarding to the Speed Skating and Downhill Classics and the “Normal” and “Large” Hill Ski Jumping to the extreme G-force inducing Luge, Skeleton and Bobsled I’m hooked.  I’ll happily devote hours on end watching and trying to understand all the ins and outs of all these sports live and reliving the footage they regularly haul out of Torvill and Dean winning the figure skating (probably the only time Nick did not begrudingly watch that event) and of course, the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” US victory over the USSR hockey team.

It really gets me happy from the Opening Ceremonies to the Closing – hopefully with the last event of the Men’s Hockey Final finishing with another U-S-A win.  😉  The cool thing at our house is that we always leverage ourselves and cheer on both the US and GB Teams to broaden our chances of winning.  I do love watching the events just for the sake of watching them but it is fun to see your flag rise highest and hear your anthem played.  I know at 47 now, I am highly unlikely to actually participate in any of the scheduled events so it cracked me up this morning when I thought about some new Olympics events that I could possibly add to the schedule whereby I might have a shoe-in qualifying for if not winning.  You know I had to consider the Laundry Production Event (judged on quantity not necessarily quality of laundry completed) or the Longest Ball Throwing Session for a Dog to Retrieve but I settled on an event which I am gonna put out there cause I would just love to get some feedback on other people’s experience to keep me entertained.  I know these Olympics are on for sixteen days but with the rain unlikely to let up anytime soon I thought I could add to my distractions with accounts of your submissions for competing in The World’s Most Disgusting Monday Morning event.  You must have personally experienced it and be able to fork over juicy details about it…

Okay, I’ll start with my submission so you see what you are up against…Right, my Most Disgusting Monday Morning began actually on the Sunday evening before its dawning roughly about seven years ago.  Megan was 8 but she doesn’t really feature here.  Christy was 7 and way into wearing her Disney Princess PJs and growing her hair as long as Rapunzel’s (that is important) and Skyler was 3 and still enjoying a bottle of milk when he woke up to ease into the day.  We had had a good weekend and been so motivated Nick and I had started to shift furniture up and down the stairs when I unfortunately misstepped and fell the length of the stairs.  I was thankful I had survived the fall with only a throbbing hand which I was pretty sure I’d broken but as it was Sunday night I thought I’d wait and see how it panned out especially as Nick then promised to make spaghetti bolognaise for dinner and to watch Pride and Prejudice with me (the one with Colin Firth).  We’d fed the family and put the kids to bed and were just at the point of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett finally admitting they were in love, when Christy came walking down the stair crying with spaghetti bolognaise throw up all tangled in her long hair and staining her Cinderella blue silky nightgown.  We had thought we had punched our parent cards and were off duty, but as soon as we saw Christy we were up and on it.  A real team, (shall we call it Team B?) Nick saying he’d strip her bed because I couldn’t manage the duvet cover with my swollen hand while I plunked Christy in the bath for a quick rinse to get off all the sick.  Have you ever tried to wash a kid’s hair one handed – not too easy.  Probably still not in the realms of Olympic challenges but all the same I think I could have used one of those Curling brooms to help the job along.

At any rate, Nick threw the bedding into the washing machine and got it going whilst I dried Christy with a towel, put her in her pink Sleeping Beauty PJs and nestled her in our double bed in the guest room which has an ensuite bathroom and is where I always liked the kids to sleep with me next to them in order to help them through the night when vomiting struck.  Christy really wanted to go to sleep but was worrying about her Nigh-Night (her baby blanket) which she really wanted to have with her to see her through the scary process of throwing up.  I told her it was in the wash and would make sure as soon as it was dry I would bring it up so she’d have it next to her throughout the night.  To keep my promise, I ran down to grab the metal “throw up bowl” (you know like everyone has in their house) and set it next to her, reminding her to use it if she couldn’t make it to the bathroom in time as I went down to try and hurry the bedding along.  Enroute, Nick and I gave each other a quick kiss goodnight and he headed for sleep in our room shutting the door so he wouldn’t be disturbed.  I then went downstairs to the laundry room to check the Nigh-night only to find Cassidy, our black flat coated retriever dog at the time, standing at the back door to be let out from the boot room.  I opened the door and she ran out which was a bit uncharacteristic as she was the most unaerobic dog you can imagine.  She was so black I couldn’t see her in the yard but suddenly I could hear her, as she proceeded to vomit onto the grass.

“Are you kidding me?”, I said aloud.  A sick kid and a sick dog.  Yuck.

Once Cassidy was done she ran back in, glugged some water from her bowl and tried to head back into the main part of the house.  I decided, as the dryer beeped the completion of its cycle ,that to make my life easier it would be a good idea to shut Cass in the boot room on the stone floor so in case she continued to get sick in the night while I nursed Christy, she wouldn’t soil the carpets and it would be easier for me to clean anything up in the morning.  I was so proud of myself for coming up with this plan.  Patting myself on the proverbial back just like a good parenting coach might do.  I pulled her dog bed in to the room, stroked her on the head and grabbed the Nigh-night ready to hit the hay before the next round of throw up started to show up.

My hand, by this time, was a good shade of purple and not bending much from the swelling still I was able to yank off my clothes and socks and throw on some yoga pants and a t-shirt making sure to lay the Nigh-night along side of Christy who now seemed to be breathing deeply and sleeping well.   I lay down next to her on my back, cradling my throbbing hand and waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in.

It wasn’t the best night not because Christy got sick any more but because my hand really ached.  I was pretty wiped out come morning time and only revived when I heard Skyler toddling down the hall crying for his morning bottle of milk.  I lay there and tried to will Nick to come to so he could go down and get the bottle sorted.  I lay there, and lay there, as Skyler’s whimpering started to really get into full swing with nary a peep from my dear husband.  I, and I admit it, angrily grabbed the duvet with my good hand and swung it hard off my body.  With that, the metal vomit bowl (which I had been under the wrong impression was empty never having heard Christy fill it when I had been collecting the Nigh-night from the dryer the night before) flew off the bed and landed full on against the bedroom wall which we had just had painted.  The bowl seemed to adhere itself to the wall and then slowly slide down towards the skirting board leaving a trail of sick in its path.  With the clang of the bowl, Christy popped her head off the pillow and exclaimed,

“I feel much better now!” as bright and chirpy as Princess Aurora when Prince Philipp had smooched her awake from her one hundred year sleep.  Sadly, my enthusiasm for Christy’s recovery was jaded by the sound of the bowl accompanying her revival as it thudded onto the floor and emptied its remaining contents on to the cream carpet.

With that I looked around to see if when I had launched the bowl it had perchance splattered anything else any where else only to find not sick on the bed, but instead cat poo.  Our cat, Ally, was and is extremely attached to Christy and she accompanied us on the double bed over the night. What I hadn’t appreciated was that because I had shut Cassidy into the boot room I had at the same time shut Ally into the house unable to access her catflap and she had decided, whether as punishment or from laziness, to poo on the duvet where my feet had laid through the night.

Skyler was now in full wailing mode whining, “Milkee!  Milkee!  I want my milkee!”,

so I decided I needed to quiet him in order to think straight so I could proceed to deal with the mess which surrounded me.   It was then that I opened the bedroom door onto the hallway which completely freaked Skyler out as he had expected me to appear from my bedroom across the hall and his little three year old mind was blown with so much fear he no longer wailed but instead began emitting a high pitched scream from his mouth.  This noise did finally awaken Nick who decided at that time to pop his head out of our bedroom door and demand to know what was going on.  I am proud to say I withheld on the expletives but did raise my voice announcing:

“Ally has shat on the bed!  Christy’s vomit bowl hit the wall spraying sick everywhere!  She feels better now but Skyler wants his bottle!”

Now, Nick is not the quickest at waking up at the best of times so he looked at me rather bewildered.  I repeated myself and then shoved the kids into our bedroom telling him I’d be back up with a bottle and commanded him to keep them in there so they would not get any of the nasty stuff in the guest room on them.

Things soon quieted down once I got Skyler loaded with his bottle and I tried to regroup as I carefully pulled the duvet cover off the guest bedroom’s comforter.  It wasn’t easy, one handed, but I managed it somehow without anything spreading further around the room or on me.  It was still dark out when I headed downstairs to the laundry room.  Cassidy was so happy to see me and seemed rather desperate to be let out so with the soiled duvet cover in one hand, I opened the door and stepped back to let Cassidy through.  I managed to look up and see the sun emerging from the treeline along our yard,

“A fresh, new day is dawning” I thought,

only to realise, at that very moment, that I was standing in dog diarrhea as it squidged through my toes.  And it was cold.

Right.  Can you beat that?  Please let me feel I have not recounted this Most Disgusting Monday Morning in vain.  I am sure I know enough of you with pets and kids who must be able to compete.  Winners will be announced after I’ve had a chance to work my way through at least a few more rounds of Freestyling Skiing and Short Track Skating.  Let’s say you’ve got until the end of the Olympics to give it your best shot.  I dare you to join me in submitting an entry for my Domestic Olympic Event.  To show my commitment here’s my oath to “Swear I will take part in the Domestic Olympic Games in a spirit of chivalry, for the honour of my country and for the glory of sport.”

Laundry Legacy – Oh ee oh


photoCollect from baskets, sort in colours, place in machine with soap, turn on cycle – oh ee oh oh, oh, collect from baskets, sort in colours, place in machine with soap, turn on cycle oh ee oh oh, oh (I’m thinking of the Wicked Witch”s minions chant as they tirelessly loop around her castle marching through their guard stations) – collect from baskets, sort in colours, place in machine….the “song” that keeps repeating in my mind is the oh ee oh oh, oh because it seems to be the perfect accompaniment to the never ending job carrying on ad nauseum (and particularly useful after nauseum) at my house, the running of our laundry factory.  It is a known fact that particularly in a household with at least one child, the laundry factory CAN NEVER shut down.  Charlie Chaplin’s assembly line worker in Modern Times has nothing on me for keeping up with the production of my production of clean laundry.  I think since we moved to Brasted nine years ago, I’ve been through two washing machines and three clothes dryers.  That might be saying something about the machines I’m using, but more likely than not, it is an example of what happens when machines never really get a break except perhaps when we are on holiday.  It is nuts how the laundry factory at our house pretty much needs to work ‘round the clock to keep up with the demand.

The good thing about laundry, besides the obvious clean clothes, is that you can chuck it in and then work through other chores while it runs through its cycles.  This morning for example, I had the whites spinning round while I got into full flow of bed making, dishwasher loading, answering emails, letting Winston out, letting Winston in and giving Natalie a sneaky dish of milk because she is just the most irresistible cat.  I’d finally got to the point when it was time to pull out the first morning round of dried items and I had the best treat.  It was great.  My White Company terry towel robe was so toasty warm I had to stop and not just put it away, but instead, put it on, on top of my clothes – because although it is still not snowing (in ENGLAND!) it is so damp and cold here – the temperature warranted the extra layer.  Plus it just felt good.  So much so, the draw of the freshly dried dressing gown was too much to resist and my whirling dervish laundry worker self got a moment to wrap up and pause for a moment.

And, as I savoured the feeling of the robe wrapped snug around my waist and the lapels pulled close up against my cheeks, I had the biggest rush of my mom.  Now the feeling did not come from a memory of her laundry acumen honed from divvying through five children’s worth of washing, oh no, Mom was not a great laundress not by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, when we were growing up in Pennsylvania, she used to have our washer and dryer set up on the second floor, by our bedrooms and therefore laundry baskets, for the strategy of getting everything cleaned and back to our rooms with the least amount of effort.  She used to espouse the purchasing of non iron items wondering out loud why any one would want to have clothes they actually had to be pressed.

In actuality, the second floor laundry room trick didn’t help however because the sheer volume of (clean but unfolded) undies, socks, shirts, towels, jeans etc literally accumulated in mountains on the floor outside the dryer – ranges so high the Rockies or Alps sometimes came to mind.  Indeed, our laundry room actually became one of the best places for playing hide and seek when Mom was having an afternoon nap and we were supposed to be keeping ourselves quiet and entertained.  In our laundry room of yore, you had the option, as long as you could be still enough, to burrow deep down into the clean clothes and rest easy from the seeker blissfully inhaling the fabric softened material while you waited to be found.  One time, and I do not encourage you to try this at home (particularly given the recent story I hear about in Australia), I even used the laundry pile as extra cover for concealing my hiding place.  After scaling it, I pulled it against the front loading dryer door as I climbed inside.  I promise we were playing when there had been a rare hanging to dry session with the wet stuff coming out of the washing machine and I found it only mildly warm against the dryer’s drum metal.  But I digress.

No, that warm robe reminded me of my mom because I once pulled a cotton turtleneck over Megan’s head when she was about four and she exclaimed,

“Aah, that feels just like a hug from Nana,” when her head popped through the neck of the shirt, her fine fringe plastered against her forehead from static electricity.

I can’t help but associate the warmth and good clean feeling of the laundry room with Mom since then.  And lucky me, it also brings to mind my dear step mom, Judy, who is on the opposite side of the laundressing spectrum.  Instead, she is so expert with her laundry management she even sets an alarm on the dryer to let her know when the optimum folding heat has been achieved and she can get in there and crisply fold socks, t-shirts and even fitted sheets like no one else I know.  I can honestly say there is many a day, I bow to her laundressing greatness and enjoy cosy thoughts of her.

As I stood in the laundry room, while trying to avoid becoming entangled in the girls’ tights dangling from the indoor laundry line or misstepping into the rattan wastebasket quickly filling with the fluff from my dryer filter, my eyes came across the placemats I’d hung to dry on the laundry rack.  Kathleen, my big sister, made them for all of us as gifts this summer when we gathered for a family reunion.  Talking about domestic capabilities, she is the handiest with a needle and thread let alone a sewing machine, and she had taken recipe cards from my mom’s old box, photographed them and then somehow found a company which could make those photos into material for her to sew into placemats.  Pretty cool, huh?  The best thing about the mats is not just the food which also helps to bring Mom back for a moment but her handwriting.  There’s a recipe for crabcakes, her mom’s chocolate sauce and even one for Chicken Fredrika which I do not even recall eating but I love seeing her words spelled out advising us to use “1 frying chicken – cut up (or you could use chicken breasts for company”. “Company” a great turn of phrase my mom always used to describe the people she and my dad entertained who would come to eat or to stay and after they’d gone we would always discuss how good a “visit” it was.  It was uncanny how just seeing her words handwritten could evoke all those memories in an instant.  Even with the dryer blowing Lenor “Summer Breeze” scented ventilated air at me, I could just about muster the sound of her voice and the aroma of her old “Charlie” perfume.

With the oh ee oh echoing in my ear, my revery of going home to my mother’s presence did not take the magical clicking of Dorothy’s red shoes to transport me to that place or state of mind.  It was these small clues planted around me which instantly connected me back to her and I was only startled into full awareness by the piercing beep of my Bosch washing machine reminding me the cycle was complete and the next laundry load needed to be dealt with.  Bending to remove the wet PE kit this time, I was left with the overwhelming wonder of what my small legacies will be for my children and future grandchildren.  I was left hoping that I will be able to be associated with such simple, good feelings as tasty as my grandmother’s chocolate sauce for family or company, as soft as Megan’s turtleneck, as relaxed as my mom’s attitude with laundry accumulation. Maybe my aspirations should be aimed higher, but to me, the things that have most stuck with me through the years and accompanied me on daily chores and experiences have been those remembered sayings or the way she knew just how to stroke your face to erase all your worries.

Then this evening, as I poked my head into where Megan was studying for her last night of GCSE mock examinations snuggled in under an afghan with her Geography case studies, I asked her how she was doing and she gave me the  answer to her state of mind as well as to my earlier laundry room musings.  She was probably a little tired with so much studying and testing under her belt and I found she looked a little emotional as she cast her eyes up to answer me.

She said, “I’m okay but, today at school everyone was talking about what they want to be.  What careers they will pursue.  What they will do with their education and I thought, Mom, you gave everything up to take care of us.  You didn’t get to teach Shakespeare or film.  You just get to take care of our family.  Thank you for doing that.”

I hugged her not just with a terry towel robe but my own arms and told her,

“Megan, I do not feel like I gave anything up.  I only gained everything with all of you.  I chose to lead this life even with all its mundane tasks; it is as rich as any Shakespeare play because of you.”

I realised, there and then, that perhaps my legacy will be that my children will have the love I’ve given them to grow strong and when they go out into the world and build their own lives the whole combination of my love as it is expressed in my cooking, cleaning, car driving, even piles of clean laundry will hopefully come back to them when ever or where ever they need me.  It is my hope that the cycle of care and shared, everyday moments that hold me in good stead will carry on with them.  I went to bed feeling like my laundry detergent cup runneth over – the oh ee oh silenced with my daughter’s acknowledgement and appreciation for the little things I do.