Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Catching Up

You would think, with as many times as I’ve done it, that I’d have this process down to a science, that I’d be able to make a move and hit the ground running, not missing a beat, all the while keeping my ducks in a row. Aside from the cheesy clich├ęs and in spite of moving more times than I care to count, for some reason I tend to harbor ridiculous expectations for myself. Sure, I remember how much time it takes to pack up and prepare to leave a place, but somehow I forget how much time it takes to get everything set back up again. I seriously thought I’d be back to blogging within a week of moving. Silly me! Even in a place like England, readjusting takes time. Time to settle into a new home, meet new people, get used to new routines and figure out where things are, like the grocery store and my sense of normalcy. So please forgive my silence over the past few weeks. Life has been rather full.

* * * * * * *

When we lived in Cyprus, Matt and I used to watch Escape to the Country, a British lifestyle tv show that takes someone tired of living in the city and helps them find their dream home in the countryside. Where we live now is only ten minutes outside the M25, and our house is just metres from an A-road. You can’t see the traffic, but you can definitely hear it whooshing past. Still, living here feels very Escape to the Country-ish to me. For one thing, this is the first time I’ve been able to hang my wind chimes without worrying about disturbing the neighbors. Also, they have such a relaxing sound, these wind chimes, and they’re great at disguising the background traffic noise. Especially in combination with all the grass, flowers and trees of the surrounding area, it’s easy for me to imagine the whoosh-whooshing of cars is actually the sound of a waterfall or ocean waves.

We’ve had truly glorious weather the last month or so. I love that spring in England is an entire season! Its long, slow kiss of radiant color and permeating green is intoxicating. As we’ve started to get out and explore this new place on the weekends, we’ve spent a lot of time saying things like, “Wow, look at this!” and “Oh my goodness, did you see that?” (Or in Sophie-speak: “Oh my gway-shus!”) Sometimes we only get as far as saying, “Oh… my…” before our mouths freeze open in awe at the view around us. I miss a lot of things about city living, most of all our lovely friends there, but I have to say, the natural beauty of this part of the country is pretty spectacular.

* * * * * * *

Everywhere I’ve ever lived, I’ve been blessed with the most wonderful friends. Still, every time I move to a new place I’m amazed by the kindness of the people who reach out to befriend me. The day we moved in here, one of our neighbors invited us to her house that very evening, and she invited one of the other neighbors as well, just to introduce us to one another. Last week was only Jack’s second week at school, but Tuesday morning I was invited for tea at the home of one of his classmates. I didn’t know the mum well enough to hug her, but I really wanted to! Would you believe it, this morning another woman invited a few school mums over so that I can start to get to know them. I’m really touched by this. I want to buy them all flowers, bake them all cookies, tell them they are each a living, breathing answer to prayer.

* * * * * * *

Jack’s new school is in a nearby village, and he really loves it! I’m so relieved. He hated to leave his other school, his friends, his most beloved teacher. So it has been a comfort to watch him embrace his new situation. Mind you, his new school is so small that when a student comes in the middle of the year, everybody knows about it ahead of time and is crazy with anticipation. His first visited on a Friday afternoon, before starting the following Monday. Walking with him across the playground felt like having a little celebrity by the hand. We heard kids calling to one another: “There’s Jack Jones!” and “It’s Jack Jones! He’s here, he’s here!” and “Jack Jones is in my class, not yours!” His teacher said she’d never seen a child so eagerly awaited. So really, who wouldn’t love that?

Kids here wear uniforms to school, which I really like. Not only does it make getting ready in the mornings a lot easier, it cuts down on laundry (and we already do a gracious plenty of that) and it gives all the kids at each school a sense of belonging together. So that first Friday afternoon we bought Jack’s new school jumper (American = sweatshirt) and tie. His other school didn’t have a tie, just their jumper over a white polo shirt and grey trousers. When I showed him the tie, Jack looked a bit worried and said, “But Mommy, I don’t know how to tie this.” I told him not to worry, that Matt would teach him the proper way to tie a tie. What I meant was, Matt could tie it for him each morning before school, and eventually, at some point, he’d learn how to do it for himself.

That is not what Jack heard. The next day, Jack brought his tie to Matt and asked to be shown how to tie it. Matt went through it a couple of times, and then Jack disappeared up to his room. About 15 minutes later, he came back thoroughly discouraged because he couldn’t get it! We tried to tell him not to worry, plenty of grown men have trouble with tying ties. They’re tricky. After all, no one expects a six year-old to tie his own tie every day.

But Jack is nothing if not determined, once he gets an idea in his head. After another demo he went back up to his room to work on it again until he got it right, and he’s been tying his own tie every school morning since. Now he really looks, as well as sounds, like the stereotypical British schoolboy.

* * * * * * *

Our little girl is growing up, too, with plans to take over the running of things, starting with our family. Last week Sophie informed me that she was the Mom now, and she would be doing the driving from now on.

“Oh,” I said, “so who am I, then?”

She looked at me as if the answer was so obvious, I should have known. “You’re the sister,” she told me. Luckily, when she’s not being the Mom, Sophie’s just as happy to be Tinkerbell. She insists on wearing her fairy dress-up clothes whether we’re at home, picking up Jack from school or going grocery shopping. Skipping and flouncing her way through these days, Sophie’s definitely in her own world.

* * * * * * *

I have to say, I do miss walking Jack to school. We spend a lot more time in the car here. In order to make the most of our daily commute, I’ve decided to teach the kids a new hymn each week. Given the incredible beauty all around us, even on the roads, we started with this oldie but goodie:
This is my Father’s world
And to my listening ears
All nature sings and round me rings
The music of the spheres
This is my Father’s world
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas
His hand the wonders wrought

This is my Father’s world
The birds their carols raise
The morning light, the lily white
Declare their Maker’s praise
This is my Father’s world
He shines in all that’s fair
In the rustling grass, I hear Him pass
He speaks to me everywhere

This is my Father’s world
Why should my heart feel sad?
For though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the ruler yet
This is my Father’s world
The battle is not done
Jesus who died shall be satisfied
And earth and heaven be one