Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Photo Tag

I got tagged today by the lovely 39 And Counting, so not wanting to be a spoil sport, I decided to join in and play by the rules. (For once, I haven't bent them either to suit myself.)

The rules are:
Go to the 4th folder in your computer where you store your pictures
Pick the 4th picture in that folder
Explain the picture
Tag 4 people to do the same

It's a good game as behind every picture is a story to tell...

Here I am in June 2008 riding a bike for the first time in about four years. (As you can see, I obviously have no idea what the pedals are for.) Hmmm, never been one for two wheels! This picture was taken by Him Downstairs, who was huffing and puffing behind me pulling the two boys on a bike trailer. I got the 'easy job' apparently.

We are cycling around Mackinac Island during our first ever family summer vacation in the USA. (It was only about 3 or 4 miles round the whole island. As I say, I'm a fair weather cyclist!) This island is in the beautiful Northern region of Michigan. The scenery reminded us of northern France and no cars are allowed on it, so everyone gets round by horse drawn carriage or bicycles. I should have worn shorts as long flowy skirt wasn't the most practical attire, as my husband pointed out far too many blooming times. Bless him.

But I didn't end up with the sunburnt nose, now did I?

Anyway, I have to say I love this picture. It reminds me of the fun we had on that vacation and how much I'm looking forward to going there again, which we hope to do this summer, for the 4th July celebrations. (Thank goodness the fourth one in the fourth folder wasn't a picture I wouldn't share with my nearest and dearest, let alone blogland.)

To watch the boys build sancastles, splash in the water, eat ice creams and laugh at Mummy and Daddy cycling, (yes, thank you boys) was really, really lovely. That was the summer where my babies became little boys and we bonded more and watched TV less!

Must be time to buy myself a bike eh?

And now to my four tagees: Come on Confused Take That Fan, Nappy Valley Girl, Audrey at Multitude and Dave at Teach My Children Well. Dave, you can join in as long as you promise not to use the pic of you in underpants, even if it is the fourth one. OK?!

I can't wait to see all your pictures and read the stories behind them.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Someone give Veet an award!

A friend of mine emailed me this newspaper cutting from one of the UK papers. I just had to share it.

Now, that's what you call great media placement isn't it?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

UK Jitters

I've got the fear. I feel a bit silly admitting it, but I think I am scared of visiting England.

The last few days at our place have included almost hourly discussions about our homeland. And each time, I feel panicky. The UK conversations between Him Downstairs and I have me dancing with excitement one minute and crashing to tears and anxiety the next.

You see, I haven't been back for over two years and right now, I have UK withdrawal BIG TIME. I need to smell Persil laundry detergent again, wash my hair with Timotei and eat fish and chips out of vinegar soaked paper. But, as we talk and try to plan a trip for 09, the memories of the goodbyes from the last visit awaken from their sleepy coffin and the fear grips me. I think, 'Can I go through that again?'

I'm going to have to. We have to go. Our visas have to be renewed and we're having sod all luck getting an appointment at a Canadian Embassy. Anyway, I'd rather take a holiday to London England, than Toronto or Halifax Canada, right now.

So, I've been spending hours on Northwest Airlines website, searching for flights, whilst Him Downstairs spends hours on hold with the US Embassy in London, trying to secure us appointments.

I cannot wait to see my girlfriends. I want to hug their kids and see my boys play with them. These little people who are now strangers to each other, but were once so close in utero. I know my heart will beat a little faster when I clock the lack of recognition on their faces as they fail to remember meeting me before. It will make me sad. It's one of the things I'm scared of; being a stranger to them, yet their mummies are still as important to me and my life in the US as they were to me and my life in the UK.

If my reaction to watching Last Chance Harvey - a movie set in London with scene after scene shot in some of my favourite places, is anything to go by, I definitely need a UK fix. I swooned and swooned as the film unfolded, evoking memories of my former Life in the Big City. Strolls along the Embankment, dates at Somerset House, a party at The Grosvenor - my past all mixed up in the celluloid I was lost in.

When the film finished, my movie buddy turned to me and said, "You're going to go home and book a flight now aren't you?" I would have driven straight to the airport if I'd had my passport on me!

Yes, I cannot wait to go get me a piece of England again, but I know what it will do to me. And it's not nice.

For starters, I'll cry all the way back on the plane as I clutch my Jelly Tots, Minstrels, and M&S Percy Pigs. Then for about two or three weeks after I arrive back home, I'll spend hour upon hour trawling property finder websites to see where and how much it will cost us to come live in the UK again, whilst sobbing into my Hula Hoops.

I'll mourn and mourn again The Life I Once Knew in the UK, and beat myself up about giving it all up to come to America. I hate those post-UK-visit weeks. I hate that just as I've reconnected with my friends and their children, I have to say goodbye. Most of all, I hate that there's not one darn thing I can do about it.

Well, except land myself an amazingly well-paid job in England, that will afford us all to move back and for Him Downstairs to be stay-at-home dad. And that's about as likely as me becoming the next American Idol.

Yes. You've heard me sing then?

The only good thing about post-UK blues, is that I have some close Brit girl friends over here, and we've seen each other go through this many times, so each of us knows how it feels. I will cling to their shoulders of support, until the fear and tears fade. Then, as if the trip had never happened, suddenly and without warning, life will just go back to its US normality.

Yesterday, I said to eldest prince, Cheeky, "Would you like to move back to England one day?"

" Why Mummy?" he replied. "This is my home. This is where our house is."

He has no idea of the extra fear he just put in his mummy's heart.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My Wednesday Golden Globes

So I may not be getting any awards for my weight-loss over at BlogToFit, but, this morning, I got two pieces of news, that to me are as good as a Golden Globe. Firstly, I did as I should have been doing for the past several Wednesdays and got on the scales for the Wednesday Weigh In and was staggered to make a very pleasant discovery.

Join the Wednesday Weigh-In at BlogToFit

Starting weight: 125lbs (8 stone 9lbs)
Goal weight: 112lbs (8 stone - pre-babies weight)
Weight last week: Well, actually it’s been a month since I last weighed myself, so I’ve been a slacker, but last time on the scales was my first time on them in a very long time. And as reported, I was 8 stone 9lbs.
Weight this week: 8 stone 7lbs.
Weight lost: 2lbs! Two whole pounds! This is great news and I award myself a pat on the back. Cookies eaten in a week: One. This I am very pleased about and the only one I had was after a particularly strenuous bit of sledging with the family. I couldn’t have the hot chocolate without the shortbread. That would be like curry without naan bread. Wrong.
Exercise: Didn’t do too well with this. I went to the gym, a few times, but sat in the cafe reading my book for bookclub, while the kids went in the creche. However, me and Him Downstairs have played on the Wii A LOT since Christmas, and I really believe this is the reason behind the lack of 2lbs round my thighs and the absence of the usual January flabby blues I feel. Instead of sitting on my derrier every night, leaping about the lounge attempting to bowl or play baseball has made a difference. The proof seems to be in the scales.

I am amazed I got through the Xmas excess and came off 2lbs lighter. This has spurred me on to lose another pound for next week and I don't even need to do a breathy Kate Winslet-esque thank you speech!

Secondly, and this piece of news, is a bona fide award. NotSupermum and Confused Take That Fan have both awarded me another bit of bling bless them. I'm very, very touched by such a kind gesture, especially as I don't think I've ever been called 'charming' before. They are both estimable writers who's blogs always brighten my day. If you've not checked them out yet, I urge you to go forth and visit.

As bloggy rules require, I have to include the following text with my award:

"Blogs who receive this award are "exceedingly charming," says it's authors. This award is a fine one because it focuses not on the glory and fanfare of blogging, but in the PROXIMITY to one another through this online-world. "This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY--nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this clever-written text into into the body of their award."

Friendships are indeed propagated through blogging, something I think is the heart of the blogosphere. And having an award going round for "aiming and finding friends" through blogging is delightful.

I'm going to be a bit of a rebel though, and pass the baton on to just two other writers who, through our comments on each others posts, I've become bloggy friends with. Nappy Valley Girl and 39 and counting. Both their blogs are exceedingly charming, and I only wish I could write as well as they do.

To celebrate my two golden globes, am off to twirl the boys round the living room to Keane's Perfect Symmetry. With any luck, I'll burn off another half pound at the same time, if I don't trip over a Hot Wheels toys first, that is.

Ready. Set. Go!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mom/Mum's Alphabet

It's been so long since I've properly updated, that here's a summary of recent life chez Mom/Mum, A-Z style...

A is for...Another expensive Holiday. Me and Him Downstairs gave ourselves a rough credit-crunch budget this year, vowing not to go overboard on the boys Christmas presents. Twenty-four hours later, I totally blew that budget by spending $400 in the grocery store getting (some!) of the food and goodies in, and then coming home to spend even more on the toy offers had this year. And that was all before December 13th. Whoops. We are living off bread and water for January, due to my shopping addiction.

B is for...Birthday and bowling. Cheeky turned four this Christmas. He wanted a party with his friends at the local bowling lanes. 18 little ones let loose with heavy bowling balls, pizza and ice cream, made for a fun and fraught start to my holiday season. But, he went home happy and full of sugar frosting, with even more toys and Santa hadn't even been yet. I need a bigger house now just to cope with the amount of Hot Wheels race track, Thomas rail track and GeoTrax train track that has now taken over my life. Oh and then we did the whole gift and family celebration thing again, on his actual birthday which falls on Dec 28th. Our paper mountain this time of year is out of control. As is he. And what did he want to do on his birthday, apart from eat more cake? A train ride. On a real steam train. Wish granted. Happy four year-old. Very tired and poor parents. Note to self, never get pregnant in March again.

C is for...Camping. No, we weren't foolish enough to actually put the tent outside in the snow. It went in the basement playroom so the boys could have a Christmas camp-out. (Plus it gave Grandma and Pops the opportunity to dust-off their pitching skills.) They were happy campers. Lots of fun was had, lots of sleep was not.

D is for...Drains. Blocked drains. Obviously you can't have a Christmas without one major household appliance breakdown. Our special gift from Santa this year was my father walking into my laundry room after Boxing Day lunch (26th Dec for you Americans) to discover a very wet floor and smelly dirty water bubbling up from my floor drain. Nice. This meant the dishwasher and washing machine had to be turned off instantly. Cue swearing and moaning from yours truly and the announcement from my Dad and my husband that no-one should flush the toilet, run a tap or have a bath or shower. With six of us in the house, this news wasn't greeted with any Christmas goodwill or cheer.

The blessing was, as Americans don't recognise Boxing Day as a holiday, a plumber was available and because we'd just paid our home warranty insurance (phew) this whole dirty smelly mess only cost us $75 instead of the $600 the plumber would have charged for putting his big machine down my drain pipe.

E is for... Eggnog. Now, according to Wikipedia, "Eggnog is a popular drink throughout the US, and is usually associated with winter celebrations such as Christmas and New Year. Commercially, non-alcoholic eggnog is available around Christmas time and during the winter." I also read that historically it is thought to have originated from East Anglia, England. My birthplace. Therefore, when in Rome and all, I bought some. Laite du poule it is apparently.(Literally, 'milk of hen'.) I love milk of cow. But this? No thanks. Never again. Someone add the brandy or whisky to make it more interesting.

F is for... Fire. A real one in your living room hearth. Essential it turns out when you have a power cut after a huge storm and therefore no heating or hot water on your son's birthday. We were only without power for about eight hours. 44,000 homes in our area were without it for three days. Eek. And where did Cheeky choose to de-camp to get warm before his birthday train ride? Chuck E bloody Cheese! Americans reading this, will know the horror that chilled me to my bones more than the lack of heat in my house, when he uttered those words. For you UK-ers, Chuck E Cheese is the naffest of naff 'family playgrounds'. Indoor arcade and toddler games and rubber pizza. Plus probably every germ you can imagine, just waiting to pounce on you. It has to be a special occasion for me to go there. A very special occasion!

G is for... Gavin and Stacey. A dear friend gave us the best Christmas present ever this year - a copy of the Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special. Missing out on some of the new Brit TV comedy shows (save the ones that make it onto BBC America) is one of my big gripes for not being chez UK. Me and Him Downstairs have thoroughly enjoyed our Tuesday nights cosied up together with Gavin, Stacey, Nessa and Smithy once it finally aired it over here, but we were gutted not to have seen the Xmas special. So, "At the end of the day....when all's said and done" it was "tidy" to unwrap this hilarious DVD.

H is for... Huckleberry Railroad This railroad, north of where we live, has the most magical Christmas event and is the place Cheeky chose to visit for his fourth birthday. So, with mittens scarves and plenty of layers, off we trundled. We rode a steam train which kept the birthday boy transfixed and the quietest we saw him over the whole holiday period! Result. We ate hot dogs and drank hot cocoa, rode a 1912 carousel and smiled at the charm of the Victorian houses all lit up with their twinkling lights. We also saw the naffest kids magic show, ever. He fooled all those under 4ft, but not us. But, the nicest thing was that it gave Grandma and Pops the chance to experience an old fashioned American railroad 'village,' and share their Grandson's special day with him. Only the second time this has been possible.

I is for...Insatiable appetite. Not mine. (See, I may be rubbish at posting on BlogToFit, but it is having a positive effect on my once outrageous eating habits.)No, my father is the one who turned out the be the two-legged eating machine this holiday. I thought I kept the fridge and larder constantly stocked with plenty of nibbles, breakfast, lunch and dinner options for the three, yes, THREE, weeks my parents were visiting us. But, this man, was out and about at every grocery and deli store he could find bringing home more dips and delights than my poor fridge could handle. How he didn't go to bed every night in a fog of nausea, I really don't know. How I managed to resist the temptation of some of the goodies he wafted under my nose, is worthy of a BlogToFit medal.

J is for...Jingle Bells. To hear Cheeky singing this every time Santa got mentioned was lovely. But, to hear Monkey sing along too, was enchanting. A whole verse, with all the words sung from his little heart. This from my littlest prince who, two months ago, could barely string his first sentences together. Hearing him talking so much now has taken our relationship to an even more special place. We can argue now.

K is for...Knitting. OK, so I already 'fessed up in a previous post that I have taken up a new hobby. And I've already been laughed at for it. Yes, I'm talking to you, Tara at Sticky Fingers!But, please let me explain, before you all have me down for being an OAP. You see, I come from a long line of Mom/Mum women who have knitted, crotched, sewed and quilted their little hearts out. Then along came I and the gene pool forgot to give me my quota of interest or ability in such crafts. My Nanny tried to kick start some knit-life into me and let me loose in her sewing room once. This just resulted in a painful trip to the emergency room to remove some curtain rings I got stuck on six of my fingers. And ever since I became pregnant, my mum tried to encourage me to make something for my babies, whilst she produced beautiful knitwear, quilts, tapestry nursery pictures and clothes, quicker than I had contractions.

Then the knitting revolution happened, and now, such is the metamorphosis of an ancient craft once dismissed as the preserve of doting grannies and bored housewives, knitting has been hailed as ‘the new yoga.’ When I read that celebs like Madonna, Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, Cameron Diaz, Hilary Swank and Uma Thurman are all doing amazing things with two sticks and a ball of yarn, I thought, 'Maybe I will have a go.' Also, nearly all my friends here knit and I hated missing their gossipy nights out knitting at a local coffee shop. So, I'm now a knitter with L-plates, much to my mother's pleasure and my husband's amusement.

L is for...Lots of snow! Hoorah, it was a wonderful white Christmas, and the snow has continued to bathe our garden in a lovely deep white blanket. So, we got Grandma and Pops (who live in Spain, and definitely are more used to sun, sea and sand than snow) down the sledging hill as often as we could. By March I'll be tearing my hair out over the white stuff, but for now, I'll enjoy every flake.

M is for... Minivan Mom. Ever since I moved to North America, I've fought the inevitable and not got a minivan (people carrier). virtually every Mom round my way, drives on and I can see their many advantages - loads of space for kids, bikes, dogs, groceries, Dad's DIY stuff and the opportunity to carpool on the school run. However, there is nothing cool about them whatsoever. And there's no escaping looking like a middle-aged bus driver when you're behind the wheel.

But this Christmas, the opportunity arose for us to get a more family sized vehicle than the little car we've been squeezing ourselves into. So, as I held my new keys, I squeezed my eyes shut, and screamed, "Noooooooo!" as I leaped of the ledge of cool and fell into the waters of 'Minivan Mom'.

Have to admit, though, having in-built DVD players in the car is a Godsend when you have two grouchy boys as passengers. And for saddo me, that is pretty cool!

N is for... New York City. Now, I don't want to go on too much about this (as this post is turning out to be mammoth enough) but it's definitely worth mentioning that me and Him Downstairs spent four days and three whole nights away from our kids just before Christmas in this glorious city. Yeah, a big deal. And yeah, something we've been waiting for ever since we got married, when we got to move countries and have a second baby rather than go on a honeymoon.

Dinners out at cosy bistros and bustling trendy eateries, with not a kids menu in sight - yeeeehaaaa! Carriage rides round Central Park, art galleries, the Empire State at night, ferry ride round the island, all an absolute pleasure. Every last second of our trip was magical. NYC at Christmas is a twinkling, snowy wonder-city. It was impossible not to have a good time, even when I got drunk and over-emotional and picked a fight with him, for no reason whatsoever. Guess the crazy-woman in me figured, things can't be this nice, so better ruin them for a few hours! When will I learn?

But, he's lovely, so he forgave me. The romance button was once again switched on and the rest of our trip passed without a cross word. He even let me prance up and down the steps of the New York Public Library to re-enact the heartache Carrie felt when Big left her standing alone in a wedding dress, with a bird on her head.

I can't recommend NYC for a romantic get-away-from-the-kids enough. And the homecoming welcome we got from the boys was the icing on the cake.

O is for...Ola! The Spanish words the boys learnt from their grandparents over the holidays means I am now greeted with 'Ola' every morning, and thanked with 'gracias' regularly. Never before did I have my boys down for linguists.

P is for...Parents. Yes, they came and they stayed and then they went away again. Thank goodness! Not to be disrespectful, but the advantage of not living in the same country as your folks is that they obviously don't infiltrate in your everyday life very often. The disadvantage is, when they do visit, they stay for maaaanny weeks. I love having them here, I love seeing them re-bond with their grandchildren and I really love the on-site babysitting they offer. But, boy, do I love getting the house back to ourselves when they are gone.

Q is for...Lightning McQueen. Why oh why did I buy Monkey a build-it-yourself Lightning McQueen? That bloody toy has become the bain of my Christmas and New Year. Grrr.

R is for... Resolutions. New Years Resolutions. Mine are ashamedly exactly the same this year as they were last year:
1)Be more patient with the kids.
2)Play more with the kids.
3)Eat healthier.
4)Exercise more.
5)Visit England.
6)Stick to my resolutions!

S is for...Santa. Ah the white-bearded one had an amazing affect on Cheeky and Monkey this year. Usually, with one glimpse of a bespectacled man in a big red suit, the boys fly into a frenzy of fear and run in the opposite direction. But what difference a year makes. This time when we visited Santa, they went running towards him and couldn't get their Christmas wishes out quick enough. Thankfully, he complied with most of them and now they think he is almost as great as GeoTrax.

T is for...Turkey and trifle. After my Thanksgiving practise as doing a turkey dinner, I was all confident that Christmas lunch would repeat my November success. It did, kind of, except for the fact I forgot to check the bird's rear end and therefore missed the plastic bag of giblets hiding up there. Whoops. My debut trifle-making, however passed without incident and found six very comfy spots in the bottom of our stomachs.

U is for... Unwelcome visit. Ours was from the stomach flu that got 3/4 of my family over New Years. Normal healthy service was resumed on Wednesday. Does that kind of weight-loss activity count at BlogToFit I wonder?

V is for... Video game. Santa was very kind to us this year and bought our family a Wii. This was a real hit and even had my dad putting down his plate of heart-attack-inducing munchies to get up and play bowling. Grandma joined in. I got more strikes than I ever do on the real lanes and we all got beaten mercilessly by one of Cheeky's five year old friends! To say we're addicted to our Wii is an understatement...

W is for...Wall-E. The little Pixar Pictures robot who totally took over my Christmas TV viewing. Yes, the animation and effects are great and yes, the love story between him and Eve is rather sweet and the environmental warnings being sent through the story are indeed food-for-thought. But boy, it's a boring movie isn't it? Especially when you've had to watch it practically every day since December 25th. And I was the fool who purchased it in the first place...

X is for... X-cessive Xmas. X-cessive presents. X-cessive food. X-cessive costs. X-cessive snow. X-cessive excitement (from the boys.) Then x-cessive patience (needed by Mummy and Daddy when all this Xmas excitement over-whelmed them.) All in all, Xmas 08, was the a Christmas with the X factor.

Z is for... ZZZZZZZsss. Lots of them. After everything that's been going on chez Mom/Mum, I need a month load of sleep don't I?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

OK, so this post is loooonng overdue. I've neglected my blog big style over the Christmas holidays, but with a new year comes a new blog vigour and the intention to update more regularly than I have the past three weeks.

I have good reasons why I've been so absent of late:

1. The parents arrived and completely hogged my time and my computer. Bless them.

2. Cheeky turned four and with it all the usual craziness and party organisation a birthday brings, times 10, it being at Christmastime too.

3. I've learnt to knit. It is taking me hours just to knit a few rows and is far too annoying to be called a relaxing hobby for me. So far. But I gave in to friend and mother pressure. Silly me.

4. I've been on a mini vacation. Me and Him Downstairs took our first holiday as a couple in over four years. It was actually a belated honeymoon as we never got one, and we upped and left the boys with Grandma and Pops for the first time, ever. More of that trip later.

5. Having family to stay for three weeks is pure physical exhaustion. By the time I crawl into bed alone with the laptop, I'm in the land of nod faster than you can say, blog! Between entertaining Mum and Dad, the boys, Him Indoors and shovelling the ridiculous amount of snow we're having, shaving my legs and blogging have slipped of my 'will-do' list.

However, one of my New Year resolutions is to come back to blogland. I've missed you all and missed my sessions reading all your posts.

I also have to be brave and step on the scales to see what the Christmas damage is for BlogToFit. But that shocker, I think I'll save for another day.

For now, Happy New Year to you all. I'm off to throw myself down a 55ft refridgerated toboggan run, all in the name of family fun!