Previous month:
February 2006
Next month:
April 2006

Typepad - AURGH!

So as you're reading the post below this one, know that Typepad ATE it the first time, which is why it's currently 1:30 a.m. and Karl will be barging into my bedroom in 6 short hours to tell me that the milkman came.

About 15 minutes after that I will be summoned to the kitchen to help open the milk.

But that's not why I'm posting again.

I fixed the errors. I did! I fixed knowledge and spiraling and the problems with Bath and Africa. But Typepad won't accept them. It wants me to look stupid. Grrrrr.

Truman Show.

Good afternoon, good evening and good night!


Technology Love Post

Yes I know it's been a week, but my kids are on Spring Break and that puts a serious damper on my me-time, that's what! Even if the planets align long enough to find them quiet and content on the upper floor of our house, I am reminded of their presence in my in-box.

Yes, they e-mail me from Karl's room.

Here is one such e-mail:

I love you this much:xxxoooxxxoooxxxoooxxxoooxxxoooxxxoooxxxooo sometimes I love you this much:xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo mabye I will love you very very very much, more than sometimes.

karl

To which I replied:

Well I love you infinity time infinity! That's a lot!

Are you ready to take a bath?

XOXO

Mom

And Karl's reply:

NO I will not take a bath not in 500000 years it will not be fun in 66666666666 years or

777642466 years no no no

See, the problem with Karl is that he is so subtle. You just never know what he's thinking! Heh.

When Karl is not busy e-mailing me love letters or protestations against bath time, his sister fills in the gap with e-mails of her own:

Dear Mom,IM HUNNGRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

emma

Or this one, after I told her that I'd called her best friend to sleep over on Friday night:

Dear Mom, I am exsidid about the sleepover. I love you.xoxoxo Love, Emma B.

Apparently she was worried that I might ask "Emma? Emma who?"

I am not always in my office when the e-mails come in. I might actually be *shudder* working, cleaning or making lunch for a "hunngry" kid. In such instances the e-mailer will use yell-mail to suggest that I scurry to the computer and reply, already. Emma asked if I'd replied to her sleepover e-mail and I told her yes, I had. She barreled right up those stairs to read the reply. Only the reply must not have been delivered yet, so she read the

Bath

e-mail instead, assumed it was directed at her, and replied:

No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love Emma

What is WITH my kids and bath time?! If they knew anything about striking and were ingenious enough to create signs and an appropriate chant, it would probably be something like: DON'T FORGET - BATHS ARE WET! MOM'S UNFAIR! WE WON'T GO THERE! or perhaps: NOPE, NOPE, NOPE - WE DON'T DO SOAP! (They SO need me as their creative agent instead of their killjoy)

It doesn't even seem to improve their attitudes when I explain their bountiful runneth-over-cup of jackpot-like proportions. They are blessed with laidback (aka lazy) parents who only require a bath every other day barring strenuous activity or school pictures. SOME kids have to take a bath each and every night. "Even weekends?!" they ask, horrorstruck. "Even weekends," I reply, attempting to put things in perspective for them. It works about as well as "Finish your dinner - there are children starving in

Africa

" You know - not well. *sigh*

Of course once they're IN the bath they stay in until the water is ice cold and their hands are prune city because baths are fun, that's why! Geez.

We have ventured out this week. Honest.

In fact, today I had some fun activities planned: lunch out (at location with play place), DMV to get license plates for the van (OK, so that wasn't fun), library to stock up on books and DVD's for the home stretch of the week, and then a grocery store run to get ingredients for chocolate chip cookies. Hello? MOM.OF.THE.YEAR!

But wait . . .

While in the library Karl was pitching a fit because the computers were in use and I was calmly explaining that we didn't have computer time anyway and were there for books. Emma had already chosen her books but Karl was lying on the ground loudly protesting the unfairness of his lot in life when, from behind me, comes "Karen? Oh it IS you!"

Allow me to just translate that message: "Hey! There's a blond kid with glasses lying on the floor not using a library voice and embarrassing his mother. Karen must be here somewhere!"

It was my friend Carol and I was glad to see her. Her daughter was in Emma's class last year but they moved to another school. As we caught up, Karl lost his audience, so he promptly stopped with the silliness and grabbed a few books to read. "Mom, I found a book," he told me, to which I gave a little thumbs-up and went back to my conversation.

Ten minutes later we said our goodbyes and as I was gathering the pile of books Karl was reading I was pleased that he had landed in the aisle with fact books. He loves books like that. He had one about germs, one about inventions and was midway through one called "Willy takes a journey" or something like that. It had a cartoonish character on the front whizzing through space. It looked like a cute bouncy ball. I could see how he was drawn to the book - the cover was bright and fun. Only Willy had a tail, which seemed weird, until I read the subtitle; "The journey of a sperm."

Uh.

I flipped it open and found more cartoonish drawings of eggs and tubes and glowing pregnant ladies.

Uh.

"I want to get that one, Mom. I only read half of it so far."

Uh.

Are you KIDDING ME?! My kid HAPPENS across sex ed in the kid's section of the library?! Didn't see that one coming!

I'm sure Willy is a great character for teaching kids the facts of life and apparently there must be a lot of preschoolers asking about the baby in mommy's tummy, for example, but my kids are twins and onlys, thank you very much. I have had no such awkward questions and I really didn't feel like rushing the process.

Do I have a target on my person? Am I the star of The Truman Show, the sequel? Is someone filming my predicaments for the amusement of others, because they really should, I think.

I told Karl to pick another book because I didn't think the subject matter of Willy was something I wanted him proficient in just yet. He accepted that just fine and chose a book about how cuts heal, which is something he'd been pestering me about anyway.

If he has questions I'll answer them. I'm not trying to keep knowlege away from him. I'm trying to keep knowlege away from every person he comes in contact with.

Karl, you see, is a walking encyclopedia. If he had checked out Willy he would have it memorized by tomorrow. This includes every medical term and every, uh, process. And then he would educate everyone within earshot and probably e-mail all the grandmas. Just not a road I'm ready to travel yet. Don't judge me!

On the way to O.T. yesterday he was reading the owner's manual for the van. I love that he has such an interest, because he was totally helpful when I was programming the built-in garage door opener. But I digress . . .

"Mom, you've already broken a rule in the owner's manual."

"What rule?"

"It says right here that children should not be left unaccompanied in the vehicle."

"Oh you mean when I dropped off the dry cleaning? But you could see me through the windshield and I took the keys with me and locked the doors."

"Well it says that only children 10 or older should be left unaccompanied and only if they are responsible enough not to turn on the ignition."

"But Karl," interjected Emma, "You're only seven and a half! And I'm seven and a half plus a minute!"

Emma, you see, takes great pride in being a minute older than her brother. She reminds him at every opportunity.

This morning I got another e-mail from Karl:

I just want to know where is battle for bikini bottom I cannot find it but once you find it can I play it?

Battle

for Bikini Bottom is a SpongeBob computer game that won't run on his hand-me-down machine. It was installed on Dell, so I had it in my office. I replied back to Karl that he was welcome to come down to my office, install the game on my new computer, and play it to his heart's content if he would JUST.STOP.E-MAILING.ME.EVERY.5.SECONDS!!!

Why yes, I did say new computer, and thank's for reading so carefully!

Dell couldn't kick the habit. He made a noble effort - he gave up smoking for three months, but once the blue screen errors started happening (blue screen errors must be the computer equivalent of gaining weight) he fell off the wagon. I called up Dell (the company, not my computer) and explained quite calmly and rationally that I just wasn't comfortable with the vices of Dell and that he was DRIVING.ME.INSANE!!!!!

They sent me a new computer. Isn't that nice? After merely four months of hounding them, including asking at least twenty heavily-accented phone technicians "could you repeat that?" they finally raised their white flag in the form of a sleek and stylish XPS 400.

DHL came for Dell. (Hey, that almost rhymes!)

So far XPS is very cool. No, I mean literally! He runs cool and quiet and seems unlikely to spontaneously combust. Give him time, though. Dell was my perfect mate before his demons sent him spiralling out of control. Or maybe it was me. It's not like we met through e-harmony or anything. No compatibility tests or anything - just picked him out of a catalog like a mail-order bride. We just weren't a match, I guess.

So long, Dell. May you always have an ashtray.

And that, dear readers, is today's tribute to technology.

TPBQOTD (Farm boy, fetch me that pitcher.)


Thirtysomething

Remember the 80's TV show called Thirtysomething? I was in high school in its heyday, and I remember finding the problems of the characters very foreign. I had no concept of that life.

I was seven when my mother turned thirty. She had her kids young. I vividly remember wondering if I would live to the ripe old age of thirty. It seemed questionable - to an seven-year-old, thirty is about the same as ninety - anything in the "ty's" meant false teeth and broken hips.

And now here I am as a bona fide thirtysomething. It's a strange decade. You're not quite "young" and you're not quite "middle-aged" and you have to find a happy medium with fashion and hairstyles. I've never been caught up with age as a number, but when I turned 35 last year I said to John:

"I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'm 35 - that's halfway to 40!"

To which he replied; "No, Karen, it's halfway to 70."

Thanks for that, John m'dear.

My point, and I do have one (/Ellen), is that my attention span apparently died at twenty-nine. I simply cannot stay focused on one task. I usually average five tasks going on simultaneously with none of them being done particularly well. Why just twenty minutes ago I left this blog post to investigate loud thumps emitting from the family room. My children are on Spring Break and before you start congratulating me for getting through the week, let me clarify that NEXT WEEK is the official break. They tacked on yesterday and today for parent-teacher conferences. Our conferences were yesterday, which means today is break city. Speaking of breaks . . .

The loud thumps were coming from their feet hitting the floor (right above my head, mind you) when they stuck the landings of couch backflips. Although there are four suitable arm rests for couch backflips, (OK, two are on the chair, but let's not get technical) they decided to cram together onto one arm rest, resulting, naturally, in a wild landing that brought Karl's feet squarely onto Emma's person. Emma has forgiveness issues with her brother. She's been accidentally injured enough times to completely discount the possibility of accidents. She lashes out like a rabid dog, which either results in Karl wailing in pain or, if she wasn't rabid enough, him retaliating and them BOTH wailing in pain.

In this case, she was the victor, so by the time I arrived on the scene, she was strutting her way around the room, fists still clenched, and Karl was moaning in agony, for effect.

I had a stern talking-to with Emma and sent her to her room. I told Karl he had the "gym" to himself until the timer went off. All I had to do was set the timer and return to my blog post, but instead . . .

Upon setting the timer I was bothered by the disarray in the kitchen. I put the breakfast bowls in the sink, threw away the remains of the Frosted Mini-Wheats box that we'd cut apart to get the order form for the remote-control robot that I'd promised Karl if he had good behavior at school this week. (He did, but we're one UPC code short, so we have to hit the grocery store) The newspaper needed to go into the recycle bin, which is when I realized that it is recycling day, so I took the bins to the street. Upon coming back in through the front door I noticed my travel iron and hair dryer still sitting where they didn't belong so I just popped upstairs for a second to put them away. Upstairs I noticed quite a pile of laundry building up and was just about to tackle a load when I remembered my blog post.

*sigh*

So now I'm back, but because I sent Emma to her room, Karl is W.P.M. (Without Play Mate) which means that he's sauntered into my office about ten times in the last ten minutes to tell me something important. He apparently gave up couch backflips in favor of the living room clubhouse that they constructed yesterday. He posted the rules and wanted to make sure I understood them. Here are the rules:

  1. No stealing I.D.'s (They make I.D.'s for each member. So far the members include Karl, Emma and Daddy. I was given a Visitor's Pass because I couldn't guess the password. John supposedly guessed the password, so he was given full membership. Upon investigation, however, Emma let slip that they had TOLD John the password. Karl explained, though, that it was because of Daddy's "bravery and courage" which I, apparently, do not possess.)
  2. Don't attach things to I.D'.s (OK, this is a rule completely because of me. Yesterday I was given my Visitor's Pass and had the creative idea to hang it from my belt loop using a chain. That way I wouldn't lose it! I thought it was brilliant, but the kids were not happy that I had poked a hole in the pass and was not able to drop it into the box to gain entrance. Also, I totally forgot that I had it hanging off my pants until John noticed it AFTER parent-teacher conferences. *sigh*)
  3. No Littering on Club Grounds. (Not sure what the origin of this rule is, but this is totally the way that Karl thinks and speaks. When he couldn't find his library book during our trip he told Gram "Don't worry. If we can't find it we'll just write a note to the librarian and pay a nominal fee." Yes. That's exactly what he said. Nominal Fee!)
  4. No Pets Allowed. (We don't have pets, but whatever.)
  5. Feel free to use the restroom at open hours. The Spring Break guarantee is from when I wake up to 5 pm. After Spring Break, hours may vary.

Psssst, hey Karl - here's a hint - after Spring Break, the clubhouse will be destroyed! Bwaaaa haaaa haaaa! (Evil maniacal head-thrown-back laugh)

And that's what's going on around here. I'd type more, but I think I killed everyone with the last post (sorry about that) and I really need to rally the troops for our Chuck E. Cheese lunch date. John suggested that I pack my Advil. He's very considerate, that guy.

I have an hour before our outing, which should give me plenty of time to partially complete six other chores before walking out the door! Tra-la-la!

Merry Friday!

TPBQOTD ("Bye Bye Boys!"  "Have fun storming the castle!"  "Think it will work?"  "It would take a miracle."  "Bbbbbye!")


Home again, home again, jiggity jig!

Wow! What a trip! We made it home Thursday night, but it has taken this many days to get off of the couch. I am so not joking. We marathoned through all of our recorded TV, watched a bunch of college basketball, were intrigued by Little People, Big World, on TLC, and took a ton of naps. Today I felt sure that life would return to normal, but of course Mother Nature has a sense of humor. A snow day on the first day of Spring is appropriate, no?

So let's talk South Africa! It was an AMAZING trip! Here are the highlights and accompanying photos:

Monday March 6th - Arrived in London for a 9.5 hour layover and took the tube into the city. It was bitterly cold, but we toughed it out. We got off at Piccadilly Circus, had a bite of lunch, and then walked to Trafalgar Square, through St. James Park, past Parliament, to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, and then ended at the river. By then we were frozen to the core, so we headed back to the airport. It was an excellent way to kill a few hours and I definitely want to return to London with more time for sightseeing. Here are a few highlights:London1London2

Tuesday March 7th: Arrived in Johannesburg after flying all night. We were met at the airport by Vince and Monique, from Scrapping Fever. Scrapping Fever is a scrapbook supply distributor in South Africa and Vince and Monique are the owners. The cruise was their brainchild and they did a marvelous job of planning and executing such a huge premiere event. We were rumpled and tired, and the last of the Americans to arrive, but when faced with the choice of resting all day at the hotel or going to Lesedi with the others, we chose to tough it out so we didn't miss a fun outing.

It was the right choice. Lesedi was incredible. Mandy was our hostess and chauffeur. She was able to cram 9 crazy Americans in her vehicle, and the hour-long ride was spent pleasantly getting to know each other and admiring the scenery of South Africa. At Lesedi, we had the opportunity to learn about some of the many tribes of South Africa, see dancing, costumes, villages and sample some exotic food. I thought the villages looked familiar and asked if this was the place where The Amazing Race came when Rob and Amber were on the program. Sure enough, it was!!! How thrilling was that?!

Lesedi

In the top photo you'll see the ladies of our group - Jorganna (All My Memories), Me (Creative Imaginations), Marilyn (All My Memories), Our Guide ("Moi" or "Loverboy"), Margie (Making Memories), Frani and Carol (Bazzill). Three of us brought husbands - John, Grant Aslett, and Marilyn's husband, Mike. Grant took the photo of us.

After Lesedi, we went to Scrapping Fever's office for an orientation with some of the ladies who would be helping us in our cruise classes. We had pizza, laughs and (in my case) a near heart attack. The heart attack was when I pulled a few of our class kits and found the cardstock missing from every one of them. The cardstock required to MAKE. THE. MINI. ALBUM.!!! Oh snap! I called California in a total panic. A thousand sheets of cardstock - how were we going to solve that problem? Scrapping Fever is a distributor, but they certainly weren't going to be able to come up with a thousand sheets of Magenta cardstock . . . or were they?

While I was tearing my hair out talking to California, Frani, Carol and Monique were in the back pulling every pack of Bazzill they could find that was in the purple family. I already loved Bazzill, but now I love them even more for offering 15 different shades of essentially the same color. They found a thousand sheets of cardstock that would work. I couldn't believe it! Bazzill, Scrapping Fever . . . MWAH!

Wednesday March 8th - The Retailers Day took place at a lovely location in Johannesburg. Each of the four companies taught a workshop. Mine was first, so John and I caught a ride to Vince's office that afternoon to catch up on e-mails. Vince had ordered a large truck to transport all the cruise materials to Durban but it was four hours late arriving at the office. Everyone pitched in, though, and we were just about done loading the truck when the rest of the gang arrived from the Retailers Day. Unfortunately, though, this meant it would be tight getting us back to the hotel to get our luggage and then to the airport in time for our flight to Durban. We didn't make it in time to check our luggage, and none of us were traveling light! Vince had to book us on a later flight.

Remember how it was cold in London? Well it was summer in South Africa, and to recap, I'd gone two full days without sleeping or showering in transit. Then we went straight to Lesedi, so no time to freshen up. I took about a million photos, with my nose pressed up to a camera in the warm, slightly humid South African sunshine. On the Retailers Day I got sweaty loading a truck. In short, the pores on my face were clogged with every kind of who knows what, and the result was that by the time we were boarding the flight, I was sporting a prominent red pimple on the end of my nose. It matched nicely with the breakout on my chin, though, so there was that.

I leaned over to John and asked if the nose pimple was very noticeable and you could see that to lie would have required more strength and straight-facedness than anyone could handle. "Uh, er, well, uh, yeah. It is. But say - if it's foggy in Durban they might just pull you into the cockpit to lead the way!"

And so the Rudolph jokes began. John was also kind enough to point out that I could probably eat more now that I was eating for two.

When we finally made it to Durban we had one more mishap with Franni's suitcase being sent to Cape Town. They promised to send it on the first morning flight and deliver it to Zimbali, where we were to spend our free day. Zimbali is an exclusive community of beachfront vacation homes and a golf resort. Vince had rented two luxurious homes for us and we had all of Thursday to just enjoy the beach and amenities. It was, in a word, incredible!

Zimbali

The top photo is the view from our balcony. The monkeys are actually a nuisance at Zimbali and there were several warnings not to leave food on the balconies or leave windows open because they would get inside the houses. They actually did invade the other house on the second morning, so it wasn't an idle warning. Still, to see them in the trees was pretty cool. Each house came with a golf cart for getting around the resort. Margie's husband Grant did most of the driving. He would have loved to golf, but the timing didn't work out. The final picture is the view from inside our house, looking out onto the balcony.

Thursday March 9th - It was John's birthday, and we couldn't have chosen a better place to celebrate. John was up before everyone else and answered the door when Gloria arrived. She explained that she was the "service" which John took to mean housekeeping, like in a hotel. He told her that we'd arrived very late at night and didn't have a chance to mess the place up yet. She asked if we had laundry to be done. Eventually everyone was up and Grant was cooking up a breakfast feast and we came to realize that Gloria was going to stay there all day and serve us! She set the breakfast table, cleaned the dishes, did laundry and ironed our clothes! This was pampering at its finest!

Our game plan for the day was to relax, relax and then maybe relax some more. Grant and John wanted to swim. I wanted to swim, too, but after the miracle of modern makeup that was required to tame Rudolph, I had to settle for putting my feet in. Carol and Margie were desperate to go to the lodge where there was a rumor of Wi-Fi. In the end we relaxed the day away, largely by the pool, some on the beach, some on the balcony.

Zimbali_pools

The infinity pools were very impressive. Grant took the photo at water level (upper right).

That evening the rest of the cruise helpers came to the house for another practice/orientation setting. The next morning we would leave Zimbali to board the cruise, and although we joked about refusing to leave such a paradise, we were all looking forward to the next adventure!

Friday March 10th - We boarded the Rhapsody in Durban harbor in glorious weather and stunning seas. There wasn't much work for us on Friday - just an opening ceremony that evening where we did an introductory slideshow. I showed photos of my studio, including the "before" picture, which received screams of delight. Apparently South African scrappers have creative messes as well. Ah, my people! One of the opening speakers, Glynis, had a powerful message about mapping your dreams and creating a life that you love, which was the theme of the cruise. It was an inspiring presentation.

Cruise1

John and I had never been on a cruise, so we were worried about seasickness. We took Dramamine just in case, and it knocked us out for a couple of hours. The ship was moving quickly, and although it wasn't rough seas, you could definitely feel the rocking. By dinner time employees were strategically placing barf bags around the ship. Still, our group did well - no major sickness - just some queasy stomachs here and there.

Saturday March 11th - The first thing we noticed was that the ship was still. We had arrived at Portuguese Island sometime during the night and anchored for the day. Making Memories, Bazzill and All My Memories had classes scheduled for Saturday, but both of mine weren't until Sunday. There were small boats shuttling people to Portuguese Island for the day. You could swim, eat a barbecue lunch, and shop for trinkets from local artisans. Grant and John went earlier and Margie, Frani and I joined them after the classes ended. Carol decided to stay on the Rhapsody.

Cruise3

Portuguese Island is uninhabited. You can take a nature walk around the island, but we preferred just lounging about. We bought beautiful wraps and souvenirs and hammed it up for the camera a bit. In the top right photo with Margie and Frani is Celine, one of the class helpers. You can see the silhouette of the Rhapsody in the first photo.

Saturday night after dinner was the deck party. What fun! Lots of dancing!

Cruise4

Sunday March 12th - What was immediately obvious was that the ship was moving again. It was back to business for me, with two lectures and two practicals to teach. I was jealous of the other girls who got the Saturday spots with a still ship. Eventually I just took my shoes off to help with the balance. Because of the facilities onboard and working around meal times, we had to split our classes into a lecture session in the lounge, and a practical session in the main dining room. There wasn't enough time to finish the project, and some inaccuracies in our kits made it even more challenging, but the students were just fabulous. They took every hiccup in stride and were truly amazing, talented, wonderful people. So were our helpers. We worked them to death! Here they all are with Margie, Vince and Monique. I couldn't have done it without them!

Cruise2

The ending ceremonies were as inspiring as the opening ceremonies. The keynote speaker was Alison, who changed many lives that night. Alison shared her story about surviving a brutal attack where she was raped, stabbed repeatedly, had her throat cut from ear to ear, and was left for dead in the South African bush. Her story of survival was truly miraculous, and although it may sound like a shocking and horrific story (and it was) she weaves such an uplifting message of embracing life and following your journey that you can't help but be inspired. I bought her book and am about halfway through it. Her story is amazing.

On Sunday night there was open cropping at the rear of the ship and since very few students had finished my project, I had promised to come help them during the crop. Alison was also there signing books. There were a few die-hard scrappers, but the seas were getting rough as a storm rolled in, and keeping your balance was becoming increasingly impossible. Eventually we gave up and stumbled back to our cabins. Our suitcases were supposed to be in the corridor by 1 am for priority offload. I had expected to find John packing in the room, but instead he was sprawled across the bed, too seasick to move. I started packing, but the roller coaster eventually got me, too, so we were both sick. It was quite a storm! I would lay on the bed, muster strength, hop up and shove a few items in a suitcase. When I was about to lose my lunch, I'd plop down on the bed again. This went on for an hour, until I finally heaved the hastily-packed suitcases into the corridor and collapsed for good. The sounds of the storm were eerie - the ship would crash down after a big wave and the spray would shoot up forcefully.

Monday March 13th - We met the others for breakfast and learned that we were not the only storm sickies. Several of our group were sick. This was also a morning of sad goodbyes. Frani and Carol were going to visit one of their accounts. Margie and Grant were spending the day in Durban shopping and then were flying back to Johannesburg and then right on to the States. Vince and Monique would finalize things and then head back to Jo'burg as well. For Jorganna, Marilyn, Mike, John and I, we were heading to Scrap'n 4 Africa.

Anchen, the owner of Scrap'n 4 Africa, has 5 stores in South Africa. We were doing a whirlwind tour of three of them, teaching classes in Durban on Monday and in Jo'burg on Tuesday. I felt bad that we were in such poor shape for Monday's classes. We were all tired and still a little green. The shop is in a mall, and Anchen had set up the classes for the middle of the mall! There was quite a bit of gawking from the shoppers passing by!

Scrapn4africa

We flew to Jo'burg that night and went to dinner at a wonderful steakhouse with Anchen, her husband Jan, and several of their friends and colleagues. The food was divine! Anchen pampered us just like Vince and Monique had - we were treated like royalty! She also treated her students divinely - notice the class packs in boxes with a fresh rose and bow - what a nice touch!

Tuesday March 14th - More teaching and more pampering. We taught at her two Jo'burg stores and then went to another divine dinner. We celebrated being all done with the classes. Anchen had arranged for us to go to the lion park the next day since we all had evening flights. Everyone was excited! Shelly was to be our hostess - I actually knew Shelly - she had taken a class from me at a CKU last year! John and I were so excited about the lion park. I emptied my camera card in preparation of all the photos I planned to take. We fell asleep, exhausted, but content.

Wednesday March 15th - Our last day in South Africa. I woke up early and was momentarily excited about the lion park until the intense pain started in my stomach. I was sick! Oh no! I thought perhaps I'd eaten something that disagreed with me, but the pain was getting worse and the bathroom was my only friend. Finally I had to admit that there was no way that I would be able to go to the lion park. I sent John down to give my regrets. He came back up 15 minutes later and said that Anchen had made an appointment for me to see a doctor. She was worried about me flying that night if I was sick. I protested, but I was in a lot of pain, so I finally gave in.

Everyone else went to the lion park while Anchen took me to the doctor. We had to wait for quite a while, and I threw up a few times, but eventually Dr. Kim was able to see me. She said I had caught a virus that was going around. I ended up with an IV to replace fluids, a shot in my bum, two prescriptions and a directive to go right to bed and not eat anything for several hours. We had to decide by 4 pm if I would try to fly home that night. If I didn't feel up to it, she would write a doctor's excuse to get us bumped.

Anchen took me to her home. Wow. What a home. It was the most beautiful house I'd ever seen. I slept for hours in the luxurious guest room. The others returned that afternoon from the lion park. John came immediately to check on me and when I asked him how it was he tried to say "Oh it wasn't that special" but his ear-to-ear grin gave him away. It was incredible, he said. They got to pet baby lion cubs and everything!!! I asked if he at least got some great pictures and he said no, because my camera was flashing "E" and he didn't know how to fix the error. (Note: the "E" stood for "empty" - he hadn't loaded the card. *sigh*) But Mike had taken plenty of pictures and promised to send them to us. I regret that I didn't get to say goodbye to Mike, Marilyn and Jorganna. Their flight was earlier than ours.

I was much better by the afternoon and we decided not to delay our flight. I'm sure Anchen was anxious to get her life back to normal although she was so kind, so warm, so wonderful. Her kids, L'Andre and J.K. were fabulous as well. I loved looking through L'Andre's scrapbooks. She's quite talented!

Thursday March 16th - after flying all night we arrived in London again. This time we only had 5 hours to kill and neither of us were up to braving the weather for another trip into the city. Just one more flight and we'd be home to the kids! We made it home that evening.

So it's a bit surreal settling back into my humdrum life after all that excitement. I can't stop hugging my kids, though. We'd never left them for that long before. They had a blast with their grandmother, though. Karl was telling me about their fun game of tossing the dirty laundry from the landing every morning. "Mom! Some of it would land on the ceiling fan and then we got to race downstairs and turn on the fan and it would fling the clothes all over the room and some of the socks would stick to the TV!!!" They also had a movie day where they set up a theater in the family room, including sheets over the window to make it dark, made up tickets for popcorn and drinks, and invited the neighbor kids for the show. They missed us, but with Gram around, every day's a holiday!

Gram_and_kids

And that's all I have to say about that!

(TPBQOTD: "Well when does it get good?"  "Keep your shirt on and let me read!")


We're here!

Quick post just to say that South Africa is beautiful! The weather is glorious, the people are wonderful, the culture is amazing, and the food is exotic. We tried ostrich and crocodile yesterday! Tonight we head to Durban and will get a day of relaxing at the beach tomorrow before getting on the ship on Friday.

During our 9.5 hour layover in London, we decided to take the tube into the city. A cranky immigration officer gave us major attitude because we had transferred to our departure terminal before going through immigration. He told us that we should have exited on the terminal where we landed. He did not approve of us "wandering about the airport." I'm not sure why it's considered "wandering about" when we had a ticket to depart from that terminal and were under no obligation to go through immigration at all if we would have just waited for our flight, but nevertheless we just apologized profusely, acted the part of witless Americans, and toodled through.  I've never been to London! I took 297 pictures of Big Ben, or so. It was freezing cold, so I had to buy a functional (and quite stylish) London stocking cap. We ate fish and chips and drank tea. Brilliant, smashing and all that, I'd say!

And all the South Africa details I'll save for when I can accompany the stories with photos. I'm on a borrowed computer and can't easily resize my photos for posting. Plus I think we're about to fetch the others. (Here in S. Africa we say "fetch" for picking someone up. I'm very down with the lingo, you know!) Oh, and they call me CAR-inn here, which sounds very sophisticated, I must say!

Toodle-oo!

(TPBQOTD Every ship but your four fastest, you mean.)


T minus one day . . .

We leave tomorrow! I shall not be posting again, perhaps for a very long time. I would like to sing for you now a love song. I know you share this love. I pray that you will never let it die. Edelweiss, Edelweiss . . .

Hold it! Hold it! Are you trying to trick me? Where's the Princess Bride? Is this a Sound of Music post?!

Ha ha ha. Of course not. I'm just feeling silly.

This whole week has been jam-packed with preparations for South Africa and wrapping up cookie sales. On Thursday my mother-in-law arrived to stay with the kids while we are gone. That morning, before heading to the airport, I was figuring out how to pack more stuff than I have suitcase space for. A friend I met through blogging who lives in South Africa had asked me months ago if she could order a couple of idea books from Amazon, have them sent to my house and I could bring them with me to save her the enormous shipping charges. The package arrived in January but I never opened it. I had planned to stick it in a suitcase, so there was no need to open it. However, on Thursday I was feeling the pinch of space and thought I might be able to put the books in an outside pocket if I opened the package.

I opened the package.

She had ordered Donna Downey's three books from the Yes, It's a Scrapbook! series. Nice! Except one was missing. I mean, there were three books in the package, but one was a duplicate. I checked the packing slip and she had clearly ordered three separate titles, so it was obviously a mistake. But . . . what was I to do now?! It was past the date to make an exchange, and even if I did, the replacement wouldn't arrive in time. I fretted.. I frowned. I threw myself an "I don't have time for this!" pity party.

Then I pulled myself up, dusted myself off, and started all over again. Think. Think. Think. What would The Man in Black do?

Ah! I've got it! I'll call around town, find a store that has the book I need, and see if they'll exchange it for me. (Logic, so good at the logic!)

I was getting discouraged by the time I called the third store:

"Yes, I was wondering if you have Donna Downey's Yes, It's a Scrapbook! series of books?"

"We do, but I believe we're sold out of two of the titles. Let me check." time passes. "We've only got Photo Decor but we are planning on re-ordering the other two, so I can call you when  . . . "

"THAT'S THE ONE I NEED!" I cut her off quite rudely, but I was excited, that's why! "Look, I've got an extra Decorative Journals - can I exchange it for Photo Decor? I don't have a receipt, but it would be an even exchange, and it sounds like you need the journal book anyway."

"Let me check with a manager . . . yes, that's fine. We'll exchange it for you."

"Great! I'll be right in!"

So off I trotted, book in hand, feeling right proud of myself. I walked into the store and the ensuing conversation went like this:

"Yes, I just called. I'm not sure who I spoke to, but I got permission to exchange this book for another title from the same series."

"Oh. Sure. Let me show you where those are" said Gollum. Now I call her Gollum (or let's feminize it to Gollumina) only because when she saw the book in my hand her eyes bugged out, her mouth started salivating, she was licking her lips feverishly and rubbing her hands together. Plus she slouched. (OK, not that last part)

"So is that the book you're wanting to exchange?!" she asked, pointing to the book in my hands. You could almost hear her mutter "Precious" under her breath.

"Yes," I replied. "I have two of them, so I need to exchange it."

"You have TWO of these?!" She was delirious at this point.

"Yes . . " I repeated, thoroughly puzzled.

"Well, uh, look," eyes darting back and forth "That's the only one I don't have yet. I'll buy it off of you." Pssst, hey lady - look here under my trench coat. (Again, not that last part - that was for effect)

"Oh," I said, finally understanding her. "You don't have to buy it from me - I'm exchanging it. In about 5 minutes you can buy it from the store and use your employee discount." See how nice I am?

"But then I'll have to get a manager for the exchange," she said "It's easier if I just buy it from you. How much did you pay?" And then, right there, she pulled a little wallet out of her employee apron. Talk about being prepared!

"Well I want to exchange it for Photo Decor - how much is that one?" I asked.  She looked.

"It's $15. I have that right here." And she proceeded to count out $15 from her little wallet, apologizing for using 5's and 1's.

"It doesn't matter," I said, "I'm just going to give it right back to you - I want the Photo Decor book"

"OK," she said, snatching her just-purchased Decorative Journals book and sliding it into her voluminous wallet-holding apron pocket. I halfway expected her to pull a lamp out of there ala Mary Poppins! "I can help you with that at the register."

So off we went to the register, her happily humming and me holding a fistful of cash and the Photo Decor book. She rang it up and said:

"That will be $16.06, please."

Yep.

I handed her the $15 that was in my hand and then paused for a second. Surely she was going to retrieve the little wallet from the apron pocket to pay the sales tax, right?

Wrong.

She just looked at me with that half-vacant cashier-smile. The one that conveys friendliness and disinterest at the same time. Kind of like the flight attendant in Meet the Parents who won't let Ben Stiller board the plane until his seating area is called even though he was the only one waiting. Gollumina was probably mentally planning her grocery list, wondering if she'd fed the cat, or deciding if I was from another country (or Oregon) which would explain why I didn't seem to understand the concept of sales tax. And of course, being me, I did what I would naturally do when faced with an uncomfortable situation.

I pulled out my wallet, fished out $1.06, and gave it to her.

She took the money, bagged the book, handed me a receipt, and cheerfully said "Well that worked out well, didn't it? Except that you had to pay tax."

Now THAT was the last straw! I found my backbone, finally!

"Look," I said, "I'm not sure why you didn't want to involve the manager, unless maybe she's also hoping to buy that book, but if you'd done the exchange as I asked, it would have been an even exchange. Now I've paid tax twice and you haven't paid any. This may have worked out well for *you*, but it certainly didn't work out well for *me*!"

Well that's what I should have said, I mean. What I actually said was . . .

"Oh that's OK. I'm just glad to get the book!" and then slunk out of the store.

Why? Because I'm a door mat, that's why. I have an unnatural fear of cashiers, waiters, stylists, housekeepers, etc. I'm made of an extremely rare alloy called "Afraidium" (ala Fender from Robots) I'm not sure why that is. I have issues with being "served" I guess. Complaining causes me angst.

I'm pretty sure that if I were Caption von Trapp, faced with orders to accept my new commission in the German military, that I would be "heiling" and goose stepping my way to Berlin right about now, probably sending a fruit basket to Herr Zeller so he didn't find me ungrateful.

And if I were Inigo Montoya I would go up to the six-fingered man and say "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. How nice to see you again. How have you been? Murdered any more sword makers lately? You're looking fabulous, by the way!"

And yes, of course the smartest way to make that exchange would have been for Gollumina to buy the Photo Decor book (with her discount) and then trade it to me. But I didn't think it through. I was too busy being conned.

And thanking her for it.

*sigh*

So I'm off! If I can blog from the trip I will, but I'm not sure, so, just in case, so long, farewell, aur wiedersehen, good bye!

TPBQOTD (Nothing gave Buttercup as much pleasure as ordering Westley around)