Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The last blog entry of 2008! I'd be tempted to make it long and meaningful, but I only have about five minutes in which to write it. So, I'm settling for short and superficial.

Time is short because I've spent most of my day out running errands in an ice storm (great idea , I know) and cleaning the house. And now I have to go jump in the car again and drive UP the mountain (which is NOT the way to be going in bad weather) to go help get ready for tonight's New Years Eve party.

Yes, we got invited to a party and yes, we are actually going. JP and I are neither of us much for partying, but figured that if we ever want to start really fitting in, it would be best not to reject kindly meant invitations. Even if the event involved is a bit (or maybe huge) pain in the neck.

Tonight's event is a sort of do-it-yourself party. A small number of local families have gotten together, rented a community party hall and planned a huge, French-style meal. I wasn't in on the planning stage, but had to go along last night to do the shopping. The five of us stormed through a local supermarket, piling carts with oysters, smoked salmon, shrimp, paté, terrine, and other goodies, not to mention wine, wine and more wine.

This afternoon, the five of us are supposed to meet down at the hall to start cooking and to prepare the tables. Then we rush back home, get dressed up, gather up our families and go back up to the hall. Once there, some people will be eating and dancing while other people will be serving food and fussing around in the kitchen.

As you may have guessed, I am an "other people".

And then tomorrow morning, we "other people" have to be back at the hall to clean up everything.

The fact that the party is for families is nice. I wouldn't care to be leaving the kids and the MIL at home.

But still, it is an awful lot of work. And once again, it's women using their "vacation" time to provide hours of unpaid labour that will go unrecognised by everyone...

Bitter? Moi? Mais non...
Have a nice New Year's Eve.
I'll see you in 2009.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Was the light fixture from Hell worth all the trouble?

Well, JP and I ended up liking it very much. But then maybe that's just due to some Stockholm Syndrome-type reaction. You know- bonding with and showing loyalty to the source of your terror and misery......
But here it is.

My MIL says it's gorgeous. "Like something in the Chateau de Versailles" and that's a direct quote. She doesn't know the top bits are plastic, though. Not much plastic in Louis XIV trappings and accoutrements, I'm thinking. Just a guess.

The Lamp not actually in it's permanent spot. We needed a light in this hallway, so JP popped it in, despite the fact that it's a bit over-dramatic for a small upstairs corridor full of books. Eventually, it will hang in the central stairwell, which is over two stories high. Should look good there.

Oh. It's snowing. Again!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

My faithful reader friends, I think we've known each other long enough that I can share some of my most deeply-held spiritual beliefs with you: There IS a Hell. I am probably going there. And it is VERY much like Ikea.
It is not air conditioned and it is populated by demons, so in these respects it is unlike the popular chain of furniture stores.
But I'm pretty sure that the major punishment doled out in Hell is Satan himself handing you a huge carton full of plywood and mutated-looking hardware with a command to make an attractive and functional armoire.
And when the armoire is done, he gives you a desk to assemble.
And when that is finished, he gives you THIS:

and says "Make an elaborate light fixture. Now. Or else it's the Lake of Eternal Fire for you, young lady."

And when you ask for instructions, he hands you a tiny ripped bit of paper with a miniscule diagram on it. Like this: Oh wait, this isn't Hell. This isn't Satan's do-it-yourself project. It's my husband's. I hasten to add that other than his penchant for Ikea-style torture, my spouse bears no resemblance to the Prince of Darkness whatsoever. Not that I didn't call him Bad Names when I saw the pile of metal rods, glass plates, plastic disks and mysterious bits of wire that were supposed to be made into something suitable for hanging in our home.

Just before we left Ouagadougou, JP insisted on taking me to visit some light fixture "shops" near the palace of the Moro Naaba. The quotation marks denote the fact that the "shops' were three metal-roofed shacks about eight feet square. Each one contained hundreds of lights and lamps and also, it seemed, hundreds of employees. There was no room to move in these places, they were so full of people fulfilling no discernable function.

Why were we here? JP had taken it into his head that we HAD to buy some lights to take back to France for our admittedly spartan house. I didn't really see WHY we needed to buy over-priced lamps made by Chinese prisoners and imported to Africa, but he insisted. So, we chose one, an elaborate three-level confection of crystal drops, engraved glass panels and blown-glass rods.

We told the multitudinous personnel that we would be travelling with the item, so they proposed to give us one still in its box. Only a little assembly required and voila! Instant sino-african elegance chez vous. What a good idea!

Of course, the idea looked far less good six months later when we finally got the box from our moving continer and opened it up. We dumped the contents on the dining room table and were confronted with hundreds of bits of metal, glass and wire. The "crystal" drops turned out to be plastic. And the "instructions" turned out to be a three inch square of torn paper with a mysterious diagram on it.

It looked hopeless.

It WAS hopeless.

But guess what? We DID it!

Check this space tomorrow for photos.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Crazed degus nipping at your hands...

What a scene it was. Mallory was in transports of pure joy over her Christmas gift- a Chilean Degu. She was SO happy and proud that she just HAD to show it to her Grandmere. But Grandmere is 80 years old, so instead of having her go upstairs to see Leon the Degu, she put him in a little plastic transport box and brought him down to the living room.
And he just looked SO cute that she couldn't resist opening the lid of the carrier, just a bit. And little Leon just couldn't resist sitting up and poking his head over the top. And when he saw the wide open spaces, he decided to make a break for it. He LEAPED out of the cage and scrambled across the floor like a mad thing.
Chaos ensued.
The kids grabbed the two cats (great rat-hunters both), pushed them out the door and slammed it. No one had any idea of where the degu had gone, except Alexa who SWORE she'd seen him scuttle under the Christmas tree. So, we poked and shook the tree till every needle was off it.
No degu.
We looked everywhere.
Mallory wept.
In my mind, I concocted Plan B: I'd let the cats in. I figured that I could probably get the degu away from them before they actually managed to decapitate him. (Decapitating rats was sort of our cats' hobby back in Africa)

But before I could clear the room and implement my risky scheme, Mallory spotted Leon behind the couch!! Valentine stationed herself at one end with a blanket, I was at the other end with a towel. I had the other kids blocking the archway that leads to the reading room.
I was sure we'd get him...but he scrambled under the couch, then right over Severin's legs and behind a bookcase.
We pulled the bookcase away and almost had him, but he scrambled right over Severin again and headed back towards the couch.
At this point, Severin had really had enough of being jumped on by a "rat".

In the end, it was Alexa that captured Leon. She's very agile, that child. And for some reason, he didn't bite her. He sure bit me when I picked him up to stuff him back into his box. I think he somehow sensed my Plan B and was punishing me for even thinking such a horrible thing...

So, that was our Christmas Day excitement. I hope that yours is more calm than mine and features fewer (as in ZERO) small, biting, scrambling, escaped rodents...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How on EARTH could I have written a post about Christmas in France and NOT mention the "Bûche de Noël"?! I think it's against the law here to have a holiday meal without one of these special yule log shaped cakes.

At this time of year, every bakery and supermaket in the country is jam-packed full of the tasty treats. And everyone buys one to enjoy on Christmas Day.

Except me. Yup. As you all probably know from reading my blog, it would be against everything I stand for to do things the easy and logical way.

It is, in fact, the very essence of BurkinaMom-ness, to bake a very thin sponge cake in a jelly roll pan, roll up the hot cake in a sugar-covered tea towel, let it cool, carefully unroll the fragile cake, spread on a cream filling, roll it all up again, cover it with cocoa buttercream frosting, and then disguise it all as a gaudily decorated piece of firewood.

It's all very fiddly, but a fun way to kill a few hours, if you enjoy cooking. Here's the recipe I used, if you want to give it a go.

There are many recipes for this cake out there on the internet, so be careful if you don't use mine and go looking around on your own. One of them I read even specified that besides a jelly roll pan and a mixer, you would also need to have on hand "an oiled broom handle suspended between 2 chair backs and newspapers on the floor" ???!! I didn't even have the courage to go to page two and find out what the heck the oiled broom handle was for.

Frankly, it was kind of scary.

The recipe I recommend is a fairly easy one and requires no chairs, lengths of wood or floor protection.

So, my cake is ready, as are the mashed potatoes. Valentine peeled about 12lbs yesterday and certainly deserves the very nice gifts she will be getting tomorrow morning.

My mother in law will be here soon. JP and the twins drove up to Lorraine yesterday to pick her up. They'll be here tonight in time for a French-style Christmas supper of smoked salmon, boudin, oysters and other fancy but easy to prepare foods.

Then we'll head off the the church at about 9pm. Valentine is in the Christmas pageant, so we have to get there a bit early. She plays the part of a busy mother trying to finish her Christmas preparations. Guess it's one of those new-fangled, hyper-realistic, non-traditional Christmas shows....

Enjoy your Christmas Eve, friends.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas is almost here and I'm sure many of you out there would like to know how we prepare for the holidays here in France.
You don't?

Well, too bad. It's today's scheduled Blog Topic here at "Burkinamom in France".

So, with no further ado, here it is: Noël in France

First of all, you decorate the exterior of your home or apartment balcony with twinkling lights. This is a relatively new thing. When I lived in France 10 years ago, Christmas lights were hard to find and very, very expensive. Now they are ubiquitous and only very expensive. I don't know why they cost so much more here than in most of the world. They are exactly the same plastic ropes of lights that you buy at the Walmart back in the USA, but here they are quite pricey. (This is true of most things here and the fact certainly deserves its own post one day)..

You put up your lights as best you can. In some cases, this is not very well. I think this is because while in the USA or Canada you probably helped your dad put up the lights when you were a kid, here there is no inter-generational knowledge to be passed on. It's all new. A particularly inept display on one home in our village prompted Alexa to remark "I think they made their blind grandma put up the lights." Cruel, but apt.

Besides the lights, you MUST have your plastic Santa dangling on a rope from a window. Other bloggers living in France have also posted bemused ramblings puzzling over WHY these decorations are so popular. For some reason, hanging from a balcony or window on nearly every dwelling is a plastic Santa "climbing" a rope, presumably to get in and leave gifts. At least, that's probably the concept. In reality, the things tend to look kind of sad or scary. The sad ones seem like they are desperately scared of falling (Help meeeee!!! they seem to be silently screaming, kind of putting a damper on any festive holiday feelings.) . The scary, leering ones look like they are breaking into your home to sexually molest your cat.

So, now your creepy Santa is hanging out the window. You are ready to get your Christmas tree! And if you live in the French Alps, what better way to get a tree than to hike up into the hills above your home and chop one down? So, that's just what we did. JP and a couple of our kids bundled up and set off through the knee-deep snow to find the perfect tree.
Which they did.
Perfect for re-enacting touching scenes from A Charlie Brown Christmas, that is.

The branches were few and sparse and the whole thing was more of an S-shape, rather than the traditional triangular pine configuration that most people favor in a Christmas tree.

So, the wise person goes out and buys a nice tree (Go to Botanic. They have good ones. Very reasonably priced). After it's decorated , you then put up your Nativity scene. This goes under or at least very near to the tree. If you don't have a wooden stable for your figures, you can easily buy "rock paper"- a sort of textured thick brownish paper that can easily be crumpled up to create a nice looking cave for the Holy Family and their well-wishers. (helpful hint: use tape to anchor everything down and prevent tragic paper "earthquakes".) Don't forget to put baby Jesus aside in a safe place. He can't go in his manger until Christmas Day.(Another helpful hint: DON'T forget where you put Baby Jesus. This is awkward and disappointing for all involved)

Of course, you need to have some gifts to go under the tree. But here in France, people tend not to go overboard. As things are so expensive here, folks just don't have the same buying power and disposable income as they do in the USA.

But one thing they do spend a fortune on is the FOOD. It is the focus of both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations. Yes, the toy aisles are crowded, but not nearly as mobbed as the seafood counter where people line up to buy their smoked salmon, caviar, oysters, coquilles saint jacques and other necessities.

Not that this means that the typical French person kills themselves cooking up a storm on Christmas. Many people buy ready-made most of the dishes they will serve! This is quite a sensible approach, if somewhat expensive.
The supermarket advertisements in France right now are full of offers of "Christmas menus". In general, they offer a per-head price for a pre-prepared, three or four course holiday meal.
I have one flyer right here in front of me, so I can give you some specific examples. I find them facinating. It's so NOT what you eat on Christmas back in Nebraska (or Burkina):

Delicious Menu: Foie Gras (duck), Shrimp casserole, broccolli mousse, duck with chestnut and hazelnut sauce, potato puffs.
14.50 euros per person

Exquisite Menu: foie Gras, seafood cassrole with mushrooms, fish with hollandaise sauce, pasta and julienne vegetables, veal medallions with autumn sauce, bordeaux wine.
18.90 euros per person

Supreme Menu: Appetiser trio (salmon and seafood), Foie gras with apple and quince chutney, fish and scallops in vegetable sauce, Capon in suterne sauce with polenta and truffles, champagne
25,90 euros per person.

And these are just the menus offered by our local, completely non-elegant supermarket!
So, the house is decorated, the tree is up, the fridge is full of food and everyone is in a festive mood. Except for the cats. They look worried...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

This is a picture I took of JP, Severin and Mallory in our back yard last weekend.
More snow has fallen since.
Lots more.

I nearly constantly can be heard singing "Winter Wonderland" and "Let It snow" in an effort to convince myself that snow is really nice.
It's sort of working, but the kids are perhaps a bit tired of hearing the same two songs over and over again....

And yes it is a big change from Africa.
Thank you for asking.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And I thought I'd never have a good word to say for soon-to-be-NOT President George Bush.

But here's one: Nimble!

Did you SEE how he dodged out of the way of the flying Iraqi shoes? He's pretty darn spry!

I guess that's why he's called a lame "duck" president...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

We've had a houseguest this weekend. He's a Burkinabé aquaintance of JP and he's in France for the first time. He might never come back, either. He seems very creeped out by the snow and cold. (Well, I guess we are too, but we'll have to learn to put up with it...)

Besides getting lights on the house, putting the Christmas tree up and doing the hostess thing, I also found time this weekend to go to a concert.
That's right.
I actually did something that kept me up past 10pm. What a concept!
It was the Christmas concert of the local "School of Rock". We knew lots of kids in the bands, so I took Valentine and Severin and we made an evening of it. Dinner was served as the various groups performed Beatles' songs, mostly. It was the theme of the evening.
But some bands did opt for other material. One group of teens did some ACDC. The singer had a good voice, but lacked presence and conviction. "Highway to Hell" sounded more like "Highway to a Tea Party in a Quiet Suburb".

But it was a very entertaining evening and a fun way to spend time with my older kids.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Yesterday when I climbed into the car to begin the day's long list of errands, I turned on the radio. It was tuned to Radio 74, the only station anywhere near here broadcasting in English. Not that I can't stand to listen to the French stations. In fact, Radio 74 is deeply annoying on many levels. They have some extremely conservative religious programming that makes my brain hurt. Also, the announcer (the only one they have) is a bit of a right-wing conspiracy nut. He finally bugged me enough to write in when he jumped on the "Obama was born in Kenya" bandwagon full of sour grapes. Enough already!

But somehow, even all this is not enough to drive me away completely. Sometimes hearing a bit of English is soothing. And they play nice Christmas music in December. And for a while there was even the very entertaining Doctor Laura Show. They yanked it back off the air pretty quickly, though. I think she wasn't conservative enough to suit the station.

Anyway, there I was, listening to some nice Christmas carols, when suddenly there was a publicity spot for language courses- apparently from the "brutal truth" school of advertising. While some ads try to flatter us (Because you're worth it) or blatantly appeal to patriotism (Keep America Rolling!), here was a shameless ploy to take advantage of insecurity, alienation and unhappiness.

A severe British schoolteacher voice asked impatiently: "Tired of being a monolingual simpleton?"

I have to admit, it kind of grabs one's attention. And I imagine if one actually is an anglophone monolingual (let's not say simpleton, shall we?) person living in France or Switzerland and feeling a bit isolated, the ad is even more riveting. It's the kind of ad that comes after the weak, going for the throats of the caribou at the back of the herd -the spindly ones with low self-esteem and few language skills.

This fun and easy advertising concept is easily applied to other businesses, of course:
"Sick of being an unattractive eyesore?" (plastic surgery)
"Had enough of being an uneducated cretin?" (higher education)
"Fed up with being an illiterate moron?" (bookstores)
"Entirely ashamed of being a tiresome, manipulative wanker?" (psychological help for people involved in the advertising business...)

Monday, December 08, 2008

I am shrinking.

That's what I thought, anyway. After spending years as a tall person, I suddenly felt like a freakish dwarf.

Maybe I'm not getting enough calcium, I thought. Maybe my back is hunched over like the St. Louis Gateway Arch!

So, this morning I measured myself to be sure. I stood in the hallway, against the torn wallpaper (that's scheduled to be re-done soon) and had Valentine make a big black mark on the wall.

Holding the tape measure up to it, I could easily read "5 feet 7 inches".

So, I hadn't shrunk, which was good to know.

How could I feel so short when I'm vastly taller than the typical French female? The average French woman is just over 5 feet 3 inches tall and 137.6 pounds. I'm a Clydesdale grazing in a herd of minature ponies.

Then I had an idea. I called Severin away from his breakfast cereal. "I'm going to measure you guys. Stand here!" I ordered.

He looked down and patted my head tolerantly as he went by. I made a mark for him and then one for Valentine. When JP saw what we were doing, he came over and had me make a mark for him too.

At this point, the source of my self-image problem became crystal clear: Valentine (age 15) is 5 feet 9 inches!! Severin (age 12) is 5 feet 11 inches !!!??? My husband is 6' 2".

And at the rate the twins are growing, they'll be taller than I am within a few years as well.

The only family members shorter than me will be the cats!

When I went online just before blogging, I looked at various sites that will give a prediction of your child's eventual adult height. I tried this one, which seemed like it would be more accurate because it not only asks for the child's current height and weight, but also takes into account the height of the parents.

It announced that Severin will likely be around 6 feet 5 inches by age 21.

So, it looks like I'm going to go from feeling a "bit short" to feeling microscopic...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Greetings from the snowy French Alps.
I haven't blogged all week because JP has been in Marseille for a conference. Maybe you don't see the connection. I know that JP found it mystifying when I tried to explain it to him...

My days, you see, go something like this when JP is away:
At 6am I sit bolt upright, eyes suddenly wide open and panicked. Why the panic? Well, you'd panic too if you were roused from a sound sleep by angry mutant insects making loud, threatening noises right beside your head. I feel like I've woken up in the middle of one of those 1970's eco-horror films, where all of nature ( the scary unfluffy members mostly- though there were exceptions) rises up against the ecological damage mankind has done and unites to wipe out all the offending humans.

As you may have guessed, I don't actually wake up to thousands of killer locusts and crickets climbing into my bed to end my planet-destroying days . It's an alarm clock set on "forest sounds".
I'd always longed for one of those cool alarm clocks- the kind that wake you up to your choice of soothing forest sounds, calming ocean waves, or gently pattering raindrops. So, when we got to France and I needed to buy an alarm clock, that's what I bought. But, being me, I bought the least expensive one I could find. I am both a cheapskate and an idiot who has made her bed and is now waking up in it to the most unpleasant sounds you can imagine. The "gentle rain " sounds more like the static on the radio between stations. And the "calming ocean" sounds almost the same, but with a tinge of "fingernails on chalkboard" thrown in.

Luckily, I usually don't have to choose between any of these less than pleasant choices. This is because JP always wakes up at about 4:30 am. No alarm clock except for his very accurate internal one. He then goes to his computer and gets to work. No blogging, no aimless internet surfing: the man works. Then, at about 6am, he goes downstairs and turns on the lights in the rooms of our two eldest kids, who need to get up.
I hear him going down the stairs, which is enough to get me up and hobbling across the room.

But when JP is gone, I have to resort to the dreaded alarm clock. And since I dislike insects so much, I figure that the creepy "forest sounds" setting will get me out of bed faster than anything. Those bugs sound scary. Srsly. They are loud, they are angry and they are coming for me, which enough to get anyone out of bed fast.
Sadly, if there were actually justice-seeking insects after me, I would have little chance of escaping. Back in September, I hurt my left foot in an excercise-related incident . (And they say excercise is good for you. Bah.) I haven't written about it until now because I found it deeply embarrassing. Stuff that seems ok to mention when you're twenty often seems like an unbearable admisssion after you hit 40. You hate to bring it up because it makes you sound like a pathetic old person who is slowly (or perhaps rapidly) falling apart, complaining constantly about her health problems as she does so.

But I finally decided that it's ok to be an old person. It's inevitable. There are so many signs now that I can't ignore them: I refuse to wear uncomfortable clothes. I don't even own a pair of uncomfortable, fashionable shoes. I wear hats when I'm cold, with no thought for my "hairstyle". I think people in films curse too much and should keep their clothes on. And now my feet hurt and I'm letting everyone know it.
All of which, my teenagers assure me, means that I am just a (tottering) step away from "easy listening" music and long evenings down at the Elks Hall for Bingo Nite.

So when JP is not home the alarm goes off and I hobble over to my bathroom followed by Cleo the Cat Who Thinks She's a Dog. I try to shut the door behind me, but it never closes completely because the door is broken. (One of the thousands of things destroyed, damaged and generally messed up by the lovely people that rented our house for two years.) Cleo always manages to bat the door open with her paw and comes in to spend some "quality time " with me. I think, in her eyes, she's providing a service. You never know when someone might, right in the middle of taking a shower, have an urgent need to pet a cat. So, she sits there, staring at me the whole time I'm getting ready. It's a bit disconcerting.

After that, I hop down the stairs and turn on the lights for the older kids. Then I hop down another flight of stairs and go to the kitchen to get the fire going. As the house is big and fuel oil expensive, we try to keep the woodstove going during the day. It's a bit of a pain, but I like it. It makes me feel very "Little Maison on the Prairie". (I loved the books. The TV show gave me conflicted feelings and will no doubt be the subject of a future blog post)

I get out the breakfast things, prepare Alexa's meds for the day and generally potter around in the kitchen until the kids come down. Then we chat and go over homework.
Lately Severin has been learning the part of Sganarelle in Moliere's "Le Médecin malgré lui ", so I read Martine's part as we sit in front of the fire and he eats his cereal. I'm pretty good at it because Valentine also had to learn a part in this exact same play two years ago. In fact, this play is so ubiquitous that even the twins are studying the thing this year and they're only in 5th grade! You'd think it was the only play ever written in the French language. And what a strange choice, as it's filled with sex one part, Sganarelle (a fake doctor) tries to give a woman he fancies an enema (?!) in order to get her naked. How is the teacher explaining that to a bunch of 10 year olds? If they were only reading the play, she could skip the worst bits, but they are going to see the play performed this month...

The older kids go off at 6:50. I get the little ones up at 7 and they leave for school at 8. Then I (finally!) get to drink a cup of coffee in front of the TV: CNN, BBC, CNBC, Skynews. I can't resist. I haven't had a TV station in English in my home for 20 years.

After that I start attacking the day's long list of things to get done: laundry, houscleaning, and unpacking endless boxes. And, of course, hauling in the firewood, going grocery shopping, doctors appointments, assorted errands, going to the post office, taking the cats to the vet , etc
The twins come back at 11:30 for a quick lunch. Then they're back out the door at 1:00 and I realise that I've not even finished half of the things on my list of the day's chores. I spend the afternoon just like the morning, but when the twins get back home at 4:30, I spend time with them and oversee homework. By the time that's done, it's time to make dinner.

The older kids get home at about 6:30pm and we eat at about 7. Afterwards, the kids clear the table, wash the dishes, dry them and put them away. All these tasks are governed by The Schedule posted in the kitchen. To preserve my sanity and teach them about how responsible people live, I drew up this list of chores back in July. It divides up and rotates some of the basic household work between all family members. (I have to say that I highly recommend this for all families! There's no arguements and no complaints about chores. Everything is fairly shared and written down for all to see. And it's then not the parents' job to make anyone do anything. It is simply each person's responsibility to check the schedule and do their part. Sheer brilliance.)

After the dinner things are cleaned up and put away, it's 8:20pm- time for the kids' favorite soap opera. (I would just like to say that it is NOT my fault that my kids love "Plus Belle la Vie". It's all my MIL's doing.) When JP is home, it is at this point that I slip upstairs and blog for an hour or so. It's my prime writing time: the kids are happily watching their program with their dad by their side. He sort of shares his attention between the program and whatever book he's reading at the moment. Knowing that everyone is happy and in good company, I'm content to do my own thing up here in the office.
But here's the strange part, the thing JP thinks is freaky: I don't like to have the kids downstairs watching thier show all alone without a parent. I can't say why. I just feel not good being up here in the office writing while they are down two floors watching TV. I don't really like the show, so all I do when I'm there is sit in the living room and read my book of the moment. But I like to be there. And that's why I haven't been blogging.

Of course, I could write later on in the night. But after the TV show, I always read to the kids (which even my eldest (age 15) still loves) and that takes a while.
Then I get them all to bed with hugs, etc and follow this with a quick tour of the house, tidying, making sure the shutters are closed and locking up. By the time I'm done, I find I have just about enough energy to check my emails and have a quick look at the day's news on the internet.

And that, friends, is my excuse. Sorry it is such a long one. It's a week's worth of pent-up blog energy...