Archive | November, 2012

[Not] Walking in a Winter Wonderland

27 Nov

It’s snowing outside as I type. It’s beautiful and gives me a fuzzy glow. It turns our very ordinary street into a winter wonderland!

This morning we went to the library for our first singing session. I was feeling all organised – we’d drive instead of walking, as it was actually snowing which seemed a justifiable reason to drive. I had packed snacks & diapers & drinks & random stuff & a bag to carry home any books we checked out. The kids (and myself) were super bundled up – DD looks beyond cute as her red hat has ears on it and DS’s mittens are gorgeous. This is the firstI was, dare I say it, feeling a little smug at how organised I was..I was also a little excited – this was our first “activity” in our new town and would it be like the sessions at our local London library?

And then we set off. Firstly it was kind of mad to drive in falling snow (it was my first time doing it). And then parking was a faff – I drove around and around looking for a spot, silently cursing all the bloody piles of leaves that still need to be collected, reducing on-street parking. Time was ticking – parking was taking longer than I’d expected. And I hate to be late!

When we finally park up I get the 8 month old in the Ergo and grab my handbag & random stuff bag. And then the 2 year old reveals that he will not walk in snow. He will only move if he has a “hippie up”. I’m explaining how I just can’t carry him on my hip, due to the baby & the bags but it’s OK as he loves walking and the library is just there and we’re about to have so much fun singing etc etc. No dice.

He Will Not Walk.

I try bribing with raisins. Again no dice. Which is fair enough as raisins aren’t that appealing when your hands are all mittened up. But still, raisins are usually foolproof!

Cute as he looks in his hat & snow gear, he’s not budging without being carried.  So I lug him along. His sister thinks it’s all hilarious – he’s so close to her, there’s snow falling on us all, she’s laughing and smiling. He’s much less happy. He doesn’t like the snow, either on the ground or on his eyelashes. Or on my hair. Or on his sister’s hat. Or anywhere really. I’m also much less happy – my back is killing me and I feel like an idiot for not even anticipating that this might happen!

The singing session was fine. We then checked out some books. And that was fine too. And then we got all dressed up in our outdoor gear again and headed for the door. The snow was heavier and the whole place looked even more blanketed. And my son would still not walk in it. He still did not like it. So I lugged him back up the couple of blocks to the car (with his sister laughing the whole way, there’s obviously nothing funnier than her mum carrying her and her big bro through snow!).

Overall it was definitely not the winter wonderland I’d imagined when we set out. And there’s no way I’m attempting an outing like that again while he’s in snow refusal mode – my back won’t take it! So I think it’s time to get back to snow basics. Or take baby snow steps. Or something. Like looking out the window at the snow. And sitting on the front porch looking at it. And then, hopefully, playing in the yard with it. It’s time for Operation It’s Snow Problem to begin!


Why Do I Blog – a blog hop!

21 Nov

I posted recently about why I blog. It was inspired by fellow blogger Dillytante. She’s now started a blog hop about it – check out her blog here.
I’d love to know why others blog and what they get from it so if you blog about it then share the linky love!
OK, the 7 month old has backwards-crawled under the couch. Time to rescue her! Especially as she’s playing with her brother’s potty. Nice!

Words to live by

19 Nov

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
William Morris

These have been my words to live by recently. The furniture we shipped over from London was rather sparse in our new home (the joy of moving from a tiny flat to a bigger house) so we needed to get some new bits and pieces. We also couldn’t bring any of our electricals with us when we moved (we had some fun times distributing things like our toaster and vacuum cleaner among our London friends! I know that doesn’t sound like fun but it conveniently coincided with also drinking all our booze, since we couldn’t ship that either). So we’ve had to restock appliances too. But I’m trying to think like William Morris and get things that are (ideally) both useful and beautiful but one or the other will do.

The furniture has been new to us, rather than storefresh, as we try to buy secondhand or freecycle where we can. This is easier here than in London, since we have family close at hand (so we’ve inherited a two-seater sofa, or loveseat as they rather charmingly call in the US, and amazing crochet afghans and the like) but also because of the joy that is Craigslist. I’m sure any readers from North America will be like “Craigslist is so a million years ago” but it’s a revelation to me. There is so much stuff for sale! Why would we ever buy new again?!? It’s so much better than the London equivalent (Gumtree). In fact, I’m typing this post while sitting on this sofa bought from Craigslist:









It’s lovely and comfortable and I know it’s an hilariously impractical colour with 2 small children but hey, it cost $75 so I really don’t mind what stains it gets! They’ll all just add to the character of it (I say optimistically). Oh and the crochet afghans are some of the family ones we were recently given – my amazing grandmother-in-law crocheted them. She’s 96 and still crochets if the light is good. While telling stories and singing old songs and cracking jokes. She is an amazing lady!

I’ve also discovered the joy that is yard sales. OMFG, as the youth would say, they are brilliant! For practically no dollars I got a hall mirror, some bedside lamps and cool toys for my son. Check out this lamp:











And then guess the price…$10? $5? No no no, a measly $2!

And that was with no haggling (which is good as I cannot haggle. Having to haggle practically brings me out in hives).

There have been yard sales every weekend that we’ve lived here but I’ve had to give them a bodyswerve. I could get completely addicted to them and before you know it I’d be mainlining estate sales and I’d have lost the children under some nifty vintage dinnerware. And I’ve not even sampled the delights of our local thrift store or Goodwill yet…

Let’s celebrate unspending

17 Nov

All of my American friends and family have been talking up Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving when shops open crazy early offering mad discounts and people lose their heads in the rush to spend, spend spend. Quite frankly, it sounds pretty hellish.

So this year I’ll be happily celebrating conscious unspending instead. Who needs Black Friday when you can have Buy Nothing Day 2012 instead? Just think of all the lovely unshopping you can do, all the brilliant free things in your life which are so much more fun than frantically shopping just because our economy depends on it…Hug someone you love. Read a book (even better if it’s from a library!). Take a walk and look at the sky. Cloud spotting is good for the soul. Or examine a tree. Especially good if the leaves are off and you can actually see the shape of the branches. Mmmm, I’m looking forward to Friday already!

Why do I blog?

16 Nov

It was my one year blogoversary on 14 November. I had remembered it, but just hadn’t had the time to post. We’ve had laptop issues (now resolved!) which made it really hard to get online. I’ve also got a 2 year old Chuggington & Peppa Pig addict for company who wants nothing more than to get his hands on my phone so he can watch videos (so much for not having a TV!) so blogging from the phone (or ipad for that matter) is nigh on impossible. Excuses, excuses…it was mainly because I usually feel so freakin’ guilty about how little I blog. I was feeling all angsty – I enjoy blogging, so why don’t I just blog? Why do I waste so much time procrastinating about the whole thing? Will I go to my blogging grave as the queen of the unfinished draft post?

Then one of my favourite bloggers – Dillytante – started an interesting thread on Mumsnet about why bloggers blog. Dilly’s questions seemed like a good way to mark my one year anniversary in blogging, while also letting me get some of my angst out of my head.

Why do you blog?

I blog for myself. I started this blog when I was pregnant with my daughter and was staring down the barrel of a year long maternity leave with a 2 year old and baby (and even then I knew we’d probably move to the US and I’d be staying at home for the foreseeable future). I wanted something for me and a blog seemed like a good idea (less work than a pet! But seriously, I wanted something to provide an outlet for myself so I didn’t just drown in family stuff). I love the environment and try to live mindfully and sustainably and I want to foster these values in my family. Hence my theme, although not a great deal of thought went into it! In reality, over the past year, I’ve found it’s more personal. Blogging helps me to hear myself.

What do you get from it?

I get great satisfaction from it. More than I expected actually. It’s great to think about words in a non-pressured way. Very enjoyable. I also get guilt – why don’t I blog more? How can I blog more without neglecting my “real” life? Will I ever finish all the drafted posts I have?? – but I’m a lapsed Irish Catholic, so a bit of guilt never did me any harm.

Is it trivial and is that ok sometimes?

It is mostly trivial and that is just fine. I’m not about to halt climate change or bring world peace. I’m also not interested in a book deal or anything like that. I’m just happy to blog for myself and hope that anyone who stumbles across this blog likes it. I do like to highlight things that matter to me when I can but that’s because it’s MY blog so I can blog about whatever I fancy…But really even the “trivial” stuff is important to me and that’s enough for me.

Why should people be interested in what you write?

People can be interested or not. I don’t really have a reason as to why they should or shouldn’t!

Do you care if they are not?

I really don’t. I know that everyone says that and that we’re supposed to all be secretly obsessed with our stats but I really don’t mind who reads or who doesn’t. I do like to see what countries people visit from – so interesting! And I like to see what search terms bring people here – it’s fascinating to see what people search for! But most of all I love comments. I love love love comments.

If you blog just for you why do it publicly?

Well, it’s public but it’s not like I’m forcing anyone to visit or read. It’s just such an easy way to write. I can blog from anywhere with an internet connection (as someone who loses notebooks this great – much easier than paper and pen!). Plus I like the sense of community blogging brings. I like reading other blogs and like when they visit me (see above about my love of comments!). Hopping around blogs is so much fun. It’s actually the thing I miss most about working in an office…all that glorious blog hopping I could do while appearing to “work” [sigh].

What value do you think you are adding to the world by blogging?

This is an interesting one. I’m a bit of a history buff, so I could argue that I’m contributing to the social history of our time. Which is particularly important when you think of the lack of female voices from most eras of history and how blogs provide some balance to sexist mainstream media (women do not all care about having a beach bod or whatever). This would be a good point to sidetrack into why I think most of the criticism of mummy/mommy bloggers (see, I’m going native here in the US! I’m slowly starting to be all diaper this and stroller that) is all part of the misogyny running through Western culture. But really I don’t think about it in terms of value. I like blogging so I blog and anyone who cares can read (or ignore or think it’s rubbish…).

Do you feel defensive about blogging?

This is an even more interesting one. I guess I do sometimes. Well, not so much defensive as guarded. I have this thing where I don’t want people I know in real life to read my blog in case they think it’s terrible and judge me accordingly. Plus I don’t want random people to know about it (work colleagues and the like). I don’t want my name to turn up on Google as a blogger for privacy reasons. Plus I don’t want my kids to be too exposed in it as I’m the guardian of their privacy and don’t want to invade it when they’re too young to consent. So I keep schtum about it to most people. But I’m happy to discuss blogging with anyone who’s critical of it. It’s the sense of community and inspiration that I usually talk up. And [sweeping generalisation alert] I find that people who hate blogs have usually never read any actual blogs (I don’t count newspaper blogs as proper blogs btw). So I can remain straight-faced while discussing with them while mentally filing them under “speaking out of their arse”.


Getting ready to be thankful

15 Nov

This day next week we’ll be celebrating our first Thanksgiving in the US. We’ll be celebrating with my in-laws in southern NJ and I’m very excited about the prospect. Turkey and mashed potatoes and time with family and pie. It sounds like my kind of holiday!

It’s been such a hectic few months that I’m looking forward to the break and the chance to be together as an extended family – it’s the only chance all year that we’ll all be together as not everyone can make Christmas. Whenever I feel stressed and tired it helps to take a breath and reflect on the good things in life, to see how life is when I look at the big picture. With Thanksgiving coming up, this seems a good time to pause and reflect on what I’m thankful for:

My daughter. This was the year that my incredible baby girl joined us and I can’t remember life when she wasn’t here, with her gummy smiles and lovely, smooshy cuddles. She’s thriving, charming everyone around her with her beautiful smiles and belly laughs. Today she pulled herself up on the coffee table for the first time and delighted herself with her effort! She is sturdy and healthy and gives me so much joy. I can’t believe she’ll be 8 months soon…

My son. He is now a proper little boy, independent and curious and beautifully tender with his sister. He’s learning things like how to share (which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t!) and knows so many colours and letters and his speech develops every day. He loves to scoot along as we walk to the park, stopping to drop leaves into the river from the bridge and wave to the fire engines. He’s funny and caring and great company.

My husband. His patience and good humour helped make this move almost effortless. He is the funniest, most intelligent and caring person I know and I still feel unbelieveably lucky to be sharing my life with him. Raising kids with him is the most exciting adventure yet! The upside of Sandy is that he’s working from home as the trains still aren’t running into his office, so we can have lunch together every day as a family. It’s great!

Autumn. The fall colour has been spectacular here. We live in a very leafy town (even the name, Maplewood, is leafy!) and are close to the stunning South Mountain Reservation. Vivid oranges. Bright reds. Mellow yellows. It’s been a great first season in beautiful northern NJ!

Kretschmer wheat germ. OK, this may seem like a random one but it’s a taste of childhood. My father used to let me eat this off a spoon as a young child and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s hard to track down – at least in London it was, but here in Maplewood our local grocery store stocks it. I was so happy when I found it! So I can now heap it onto my morning Weetabix and hope that one day my own young children love it as much as I do.

I know this is pretty cheesy but I really do find it helps me stay sane to spend a little time thinking about this. When I’m stressed and anxious and trying to keep my cool with a tantrumming toddler and over-tired baby it definitely helps to breathe and remember the good stuff…

Election 2012

6 Nov

So the polls are closing across the country and the votes are being counted. Our first election night living in the US is well underway and it’s nail-biting stuff. I’m hoping that Obama will be declared the winner in time for me to enjoy a good night’s sleep!

The thing I find most heartening is hearing about exit polls showing women voting for Obama and out-voting men. This is so important, as the attacks on women and their reproductive rights and equality, were such a scary part of the Romney campaign. Whole binders full of women are voting for Obama! Big bird would be proud!

It’s great to hear of women voting in support of each other by supporting a pro-choice President who supports equal rights. It turns the focus of the media onto the power of women as a political force. I hope that power translates into Obama as the winner!
OK, back to nervously refreshing websites and keeping an eye on Twitter to see how these electoral college votes are stacking up…