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I’d Like to Thank the Academy…

So, this happened today:

pass cert

I received my first one of these 30 years ago, at age 17, in the United States. The Connecticut written was a bitch and a half and I was one wrong answer from failing. But I made it through to the driving portion of the test.

And the driving section? All right turns. No manoeuvres. I drove around the fucking block. No kidding. All those hours of parallel parking practice. Gone to waste.

So in late 2014 I spoke to my mom, knowing we were going to be in California summer ’15, and asked if she and step-dad would pay for me to take driving lessons here in Belfast and take the test and so on. And she agreed, eager to have me independently mobile while we were there.

So I applied for my Provisional License and was granted that. And called Abba Driving school as I had seen them around my area quite a lot and how cool is their name? The nice lady took my name, my payment info and told me someone would contact me soon.

It was sometime in late November or December of that year and I didn’t expect to hear until after the holidays. Instead just a few hours later I had my first contact from John, aka Mr Patient. And so we began.

From the beginning John agreed I knew how to drive. I just needed to practice driving on the left and roundabouts. Oh My Lord roundabouts. We’ll get back to those…

In any case, I practised. And studied for my theory. And practised some more.

In March John said I was certainly getting close to being able to take my practical and should book my theory. So I did. And studied some more. And passed that with flying colours. Phew. First hurdle passed!

But California was drawing nearer and times to take the test were getting harder to get (thanks to bad staffing levels, that was fixed later by the DVA), so John told me to book my practical. I was ready. There was no reason I wouldn’t pass.

Famous last words.

My first go, I was apparently too close to the left. John was in the car for that one and he thought the guy was a hard ass. Based on some comments he made, I think he flunked me due to being American.

So I didn’t have my license for California. There was no time to practice more and book another test before we went.

So I booked my second test. And totally blew a roundabout. Roundabouts are evil. Buy some fucking traffic lights like normal people have! And you drive on the wrong side of the fucking road!

So I booked my third test. And totally blew a roundabout.  Roundabouts are evil. Buy some fucking traffic lights like normal people have! And you drive on the wrong side of the fucking road!

Thanks. Had to get that out one more time. 😀

So I booked my fourth test. And nearly hit a car that was parked too far out into the road after I had absolutely passed the rest. It was so bad the examiner actually grabbed the wheel and put his brakes on. That’s bad.

So I took a deep breath and booked another.

And today, 4th April 2016, after 16 months of lessons and 5 tries, I passed. I aced it, actually. Only 5 minor faults (you’re allowed 16) and smooth sailing all the way!

And I never have to do that again. Thank fuck.

But I didn’t do it alone:

First and foremost, thanks to Shelly and Burt Kagen, my mom and step-dad for their financial support. We couldn’t afford one set of lessons and one test, let alone nearly a year and half of the same. And for their confidence that I would get it. I did it!!!

OCardf course, thanks to my husband and son, who had so much confidence in me that they bought and signed this over a year ago.

There was a box of chocolates as well, but those were eaten for comfort after the first fail. 😀

Without their unwavering support, always, I would have given up ages ago. I came home crying from failing more than once, certain I’d never get it.

Every time my tears were dried and hugs were given and encouragement to try try again.

 

And finally, there’s John McGibbon, Mr Patient himself. (He even used to have a Mr Patient, with a Mr Man character picture, magnet on his car, but they made him take it down for copyright reasons.) John’s cool demeanour, unwavering confidence in me and excellent instruction are 100% what got me here today. He took this cocky American driver and turned her into an even better driver than she already was. And I was pretty damn good. 😀

So thanks John. Like I said today, if you’re still teaching in about 10 years? You can teach my Adam how to drive!

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Living The Road Not Taken

I was currently on holiday in Northern California. My brother has lived there for over 20 years and my sister in law, Simon’s sister, moved there late last year.

I also lived there for about 10 years and was living there when I met Simon and moved to Belfast.

When I emigrated, the hard part wasn’t leaving my country, it was leaving my family. My oldest niece was three, her sister just a baby, and I had been a part of their lives since they were born. I more or less saw them everyday. In fact, it was the elder who named me Tee!

And then I was 5,000 miles away.

And now the three year old is 15 and taller than me and the baby is 12 and my height.

And every two years or so I get to experience the road not taken as I come to visit with my family and my mom hires us a house (with her and my step dad) and for a week or two I’m a local.

This year the house is right around the corner from theirs and so there has been a lot of tooing and froing and friends of nieces’ to be fed and engaged with.

And things like this text conversation between the eldest, her mom, her dad and me, as she was coming to our house for dinner after Ballet:

 

conversation

 

Do I have regrets? A few.

I would love to be part of more text messages like that. Having my nieces, either, both, I don’t care, over for dinner because Mom and Dad are out. Have them over after school because they don’t feel like going home and have a key. Have them babysit Adam occasionally, pick him up from school, maybe, on their way to mine.

Have monthly or so R and Tee days and S and Tee days rather than every two years.

And have, as my brother said, our kids know each other rather than know of each other.

As I was hugging her good-bye, our typical so long, don’t want to let go hug, my niece said ‘Are you sure you don’t want to move back?’

She knows the answer, really. It’s not a want. It’s a fact. We can’t afford the Bay Area. And our lives are here in Belfast.

For the first time I was missing my Belfast friends almost as much as I miss my family when I was there. Adam’s mates mum’s were putting all sorts of things up on Facebook and I was sad he missed A’s birthday and the Superhero day at the park and all that.

Even though I ache to see more of this:

Sara and AdamI made my choice 12 years ago.

And I’m usually  okay with it.

 

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My Goodness…Where to start?

Do I start with Cameron’s announcement about the opt-in filter for porn at the ISP level?

Because I hate censorship. Of any kind. Anywhere. I am an adult. I am perfectly capable of deciding if I want to view porn or not. I am perfectly capable of keeping my son safe from things he is too young to understand.

My husband argues that censorship is already alive and well at the ISP and cellular data level. He’s not wrong. ISP’s can, and do, block peer to peer download sites. Mobile networks make you opt-in to view porn on 3/4G.

Do I hate that? Of course I do. However, the first instance has to do with legality. While the sites are not themselves illegal, the action of sharing copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright holder is illegal. Porn is not illegal.

The second instance is, I am fairly sure, a bandwidth issue. Unlike YouTube and similar video/picture heavy sites, most porn sites have no restriction on file size, video length or resolution. That can clog the mobile network very quickly, so they ask you to opt-in in order to, I am sure, get you to not use the network in that way.

I have to agree with the legal issue, especially as someone who holds copyrights and creates art. I don’t want others sharing my work without my knowledge or permission.

I don’t agree with the mobile broadband restriction, but have never bothered to opt-in. I may, though.

Because I will certainly opt-in at home, as soon as I am made to choose. Don’t tell me what I can and cannot view in my home. That way lies China and Nazi Germany.


Twitter
The Twitter Logo. Just because everyone says I need more pictures.
From: The Branding Source

In other ‘fuck now what?’ news, is the Twitter abuse button.

Let me start this bit by stating that what those Tweets said to Caroline Criado-Perez about a women on a banknote was appalling. To threaten someone, in public, over anything, is disgusting, horrible behaviour and I’m glad they caught the guy and are prosecuting him.

But.

But that only worked because he’s in the UK. That only worked because he was too stupid to take 3 seconds to set up a fake Twitter account to spread his hate. That only worked because he broke the law where he lived.

What if he lived in Ghana? Or Germany? Or Russia? Or even America? Would any of those governments have done anything to help put him in jail? Should they?

Twitter has announced they will add a ‘report abuse’ button to everyone’s home page. Raise your hand if you ever look at your Twitter homepage…

Most people I know use TweetDeck, which is a Twitter product, or Hootsuite or similar. I use both. I never go to my Twitter homepage except in extraordinary circumstances. Even if I did, who is going to answer the call if I click ‘report abuse’?

Twitter gets between 400 and 500m posts a day. What if even 1% of them are reported as abusive? The staff required is mind boggling.

So what’s the answer?

Fuck if I know.

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Totally Bummed

So this weekend was suppose to be full of laughing, playing, running children at my house. My sister in law and her family were coming to stay as one of her friends is getting married here in Belfast.

Instead my poor nephew has what appears to be chicken pox. 🙁

So instead of two boys playing chase in circles around my front room and a baby to snuggle, I’m going to have my sister in law drinking wine. 🙂

Still. We’re all pretty bummed she has to come alone. When told his cousin wasn’t coming to play because he might have chicken pox Adam said ‘No pox! Aidan!’ Oh I wish I could make that true.

Aidan is apparently also sad. He wanted to come play at Adam’s house.

And now I have nothing to do tomorrow as I was going to be Chief Adult in Charge of Children while people went to work and to weddings.

What shall I do with myself?

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So, Which is Cheaper?

There is often talk on Mumsnet about how incredibly expensive Tesco is compared to Sainsbury.

Now, Tesco is my supermarket by default. I can easily get, via one bus ride or walking, to a number of Tescos. They really, in many ways, own Belfast City Centre and South Belfast. My nearest Sainsbury’s is in West Belfast and would mean a bus to City Centre and then another bus to the Sainsbury’s. And I don’t know West Belfast at all. I have barely even been there. I’m very much a City Centre and South Belfast girl with the occasional foray into East Belfast.

Also, a lot of Mumsnetters recommend Aldi or ASDA as being even better than Tesco or Sainsbury’s. Well, there are no Aldi’s in Northern Ireland at all and my closest ASDA would require a car. ASDA do deliver to our address but I have heard very bad things about them. But I went ahead and included them in my comparison just to be fair and because if they were a lot cheaper? I’d give them a chance.

Using my last grocery order through Tesco I compared prices two ways; I put the same order as well as I could into both Sainsbury’s and ASDA’s websites directly and I used Mysupermarket.com, just to see if I got a different answer.

The result?

Tesco – 96.75

ASDA – 115.26

Sainsbury’s – 127.14

It should be noted, before people have a heart attack that I spend nearly a £100 pounds a week on groceries for a family of 3, that this week’s ordered included Tommee Tippee Nappy Wrapper Cassettes for Adam’s Nappy Wrapper. That was £20 of the Tesco order right there, even more the other two stores. This was also my stock up on meat week so both mince and chicken were bought in bulk.

Anyway, Tesco is not the most expensive supermarket in my town. Sainsbury’s is.

And now I have proof.

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It’s Been A Fab Christmas Holiday

Simon’s sister and her family are here. It’s amazing how two 2 year olds can seems like 9 or 10 of them!

The boys are more or less sharing. My niece (6 months) is adorable. Way too much food was eaten and too much wine drunk last night.

We are hoping to take some small people to the park but the weather is horrid. So backyard it might be with a few balls so we can dash inside if it rains.

I hope everyone is having a nice holiday period!

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Why We Still Use A Baby Monitor

The other day, while on IM, my mother suggested we stop using a baby monitor so that I wouldn’t be woken unless Adam really truly needed me. I was adamant in my refusal and she asked why, especially as Adam sleeps with his door partially open and Simon and I could do the same.

I said it was because our walls are very thick (true) and because I felt better having it on. And then said the subject was closed.

But there is more to it than that. There have been 11 days since Adam was born where I had no or very little control over his life; the 9 days in SCBU and the 2 days on the ward after I dropped him. It wasn’t me who responded to his cries when in SCBU, and he was left to cry more than once as it was from hunger and there was nothing they could do at that point (he was being fed via a line in his belly button, but his tummy was empty) and it wasn’t me who took care of him for one of the nights while he was on the ward. The night with the ward was mine and Simon’s choice as I hadn’t really slept in 2 days and Simon insisted I go home and rest rather than land on my face at some point. But still, I wasn’t even where I might be able to hear my baby. Never mind be allowed to care for him.

I had to rely on other people to respond to his needs. And his cries. In fact, on the second morning on the ward, when we got there someone else was feeding him a bottle. And didn’t immediately hand him to me to finish. I can’t remember if I asked for him or if I let her finish feeding him but I remember feeling horrible that someone else was looking after my son for me. It was (and is) my job.

And now we get to today. A point at which Adam is in a regular bed (with a guard rail up) and a gate on his door as he can’t be trusted to not go wandering if he wakes up in the middle of the night. And I can’t be certain I’ll hear him. Our flat walls are very thick, as mentioned previously. Also, if I can catch him just as he starts to ‘peep’ I can usually soothe him in minutes rather than hours or going into bed with him.

I haven’t discussed this with Simon, but, unless it breaks, the monitor stays until Adam is old enough to not need a gate on his door to prevent night time wandering and he is old enough to come to get me if I don’t hear him.

Or if we move to a house with very thin walls.

 

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My New Boots!!!!

The saga of the boots started last year when my beautiful Aldo boots barely lasted the winter season. I was not happy, since they were about £60.

Anyone who knows me knows I never spend that much on myself. On Adam? Sure. Simon? Uh huh. Me? I’m happy with a £20 pair of whatever. Simon yells at me as they don’t last, but I just can’t spend that much money on myself.

The Aldo boots were a treat, bought with, I think, our anniversary present money from my mom and a bit I had saved up from other things. I thought, being Aldo, they’d last at least 2 years. It was not to be.

So I have been looking for new boots since the end of last winter, in the sales. One problem, I have, as my friend Jean says, teeny weeny baby feet. A UK size 4 or 5. Tiny. Gone by the time the sales come around.

But when my mom was here in January she offered to buy me a nice pair as a birthday treat, my birthday being in February. So we looked. And looked. And looked. In House of Fraser. In Dunnes. In M&S. In little shops and big. It was not to be. Tons of boots in the sales. None in my size.

And I’ve continued to look as more things went on sale. Nada.

And then mom came back into town. And we talked about boots and how I was going to have to buy them when the new season came out, despite having to pay full price, which killed me. But I need good quality boots for the winter, especially as I walk all over town pushing a pram with a small boy. And mom said the boot offer was still open.

And so we went to Clarks. And they had a few left from last season. Didn’t fit. New boots weren’t in yet though.

And then mom went to Ecco to look at shoes saw they had some boots. And so we went back, even though I think Ecco shoes are ugly.

And I found MY BOOTS!

They are comfortable, they fit. The even look good!

And so I have boots.

Thanks mom!

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Grandma Is A Big Hit

A small boy has never had so.much.fun! Walks and shopping and walking and holding hands and playing on the floor and dinner out and playing and the park and tomorrow a picnic!

We also have new toys and clothes and have eaten very very well, including nearly an entire plate of spaghetti Bolognese at Pizza Express tonight.

Mummy has gotten to relax and do some work and get some sleep and is going to do some cleaning on Thursday.

We are going to be very very sad to see Grandma go.

But we still have a week!!!

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My Mother Is Sitting Next To Me

So I can’t say certain things. Not really, but it made her go ‘humph’ in that Mummy way Mummies do when their children are being cheeky.

She’s quite good at it, having been a Mummy for 44 years this past April. Also Step-Mummy to 4 others and Grandma to 10. She has the Mummy ‘humph’ down very well.

She had a long and tiring journey (she just corrected a typo, BTW. Cheeky Mummy!!) but the only delay was between London and Belfast, so that’s not so bad.

She came bringing many gifts, including enough sweat pants to last Adam until he graduates University. Not quite, but close!

Also two boxes of Grape-Nuts, a box of Saltines and enough zip-lock bags to last another 10 months, which is when she comes back.

She also brought, from her trip to Africa, a gorgeous handmade Christmas Tree ornament, a hand carved Elephant for my collection (I don’t think I’ve written about my elephant collection…) and a hand carved giraffe spoon. We won’t talk about the Chinese bottle cover because it is, frankly, a bit disturbing. 🙂 (Yes, she’s still sitting right here!)

A little boy had about 1 hour of big eyed staring and then was all over Grandma, showing her toys, doing puzzles, running up and down the hall with hugs included and just being himself. Once a week Skyping is very good for letting little boys get to know their far flung Grandmothers and vice versa.

We have many and varied plans for the next 12 days including a day of just me and her and some shops, at least one day at the zoo, and as many trips to the park as a little boy can handle.

Simon will be off work for the 2nd week she’s here so he’ll get to join in the fun as well.

My step-dad, as previously noted, did not come with her. I imagine that the second he left her at the airport he headed for the supermarket and bought all the foods he’s not normally allowed to eat, including Ben and Jerry’s in a variety of flavours.

So I may not be blogging much the next 2 weeks or so.

I’ll be too busy having fun!