Archive | December, 2012

Time passes

31 Dec

So here we are, the last day of the year. I have mixed feelings about the passing of this year. On the one hand, it was one of the most stressful years of my life. On the other, it was also filled with happiness and health.

As 2011 turned to 2012 my thoughts were full of what the year ahead held in store for us. I was pregnant and desperately hoping to have a vbac in the birth centre of the Whittington hospital in North London. We had plans to move from London to the US and had no idea how the move would go, how we would feel about it and where we would move to. There seemed to be so much to do, so much uncertainty, which generated stress.

January was filled with appointments at the Whittington about the hoped-for vbac at the birth centre. One appointment led to another, as a scan showed a big baby which meant I had to have a glucose tolerance test. Which meant a follow up appointment. During which a scan showed a breech baby. Which led to yet more appointments. And lots of stress. So I found a found a wonderful doula to attend the birth (the incredible Mars Lord, Mammy Doula).

I spent large chunks of February stressing out about the breech baby, as I worried that my body was conspiring against me and I’d not get my chance at a vbac. I spent hours a day crawling on all fours, doing inversions off the couch, lying upside on an ironing board watching TV, burning moxa at my baby toes and listening to hypnobirthing visualisations about the baby turning. The website Spinning Babies was my guide and inspiration (and I was lucky enough to act as a demonstration model for Spinning Babies founder Gail Tully in London when I was 37 weeks – both fascinating and an honour to help!). I also spent February finishing up at work, knowing that if we moved to the States then I’d be giving up what was really my ideal job (not my dream job, but my ideal job…an important distinction).

During March I finished work and waited for my baby. My son also turned 2 and we celebrated by going to London Zoo, our last trip there as a family of 3. One of my main anxieties was whether I’d even go into labour naturally (I was induced at 42 weeks with my son so hadn’t experienced natural labour before). I relaxed by practising my hypnobirthing and trying to be patient. My patience was rewarded when I went into labour at 40+1 (having had a successful sweep at 40 weeks). My beautiful daughter was born naturally at 40+2. It was an exhilarating experience, made wonderful by my husband, my amazing doula, the caring staff at the Whittington and my own strength and inner wisdom.

April was spent getting to know my daughter, adjusting to life as a family of 4 and welcoming various family members and friends from near and far as they met our newest family member. May brought more of this, and we also took our daughter to Ireland (Dublin) for the first time.  We spent these months mostly enjoying the small moments, my daughter’s first smiles and laughs. My son’s emerging speech and their growing relationship as siblings. Small moments that live on in my memory and provided the reward for the mostly sleepless nights!

In June we went camping with friends to the gorgeous Toomer Farm Campsite on the Somerset/Dorset border. It was great, even with some terrible rain. I saw hares boxing and spent the evenings watching foxes trot through the fields. The children roamed in the fields. Happy memories of a Jubilee weekend well spent. We also went to Cork for the first time with our daughter.

July had another camping trip, this time to Ireland and with all of my siblings and nieces and nephews. It was hectic and happy. I also had my green card interview on 16 July at the US embassy. It was short and sweet, but personally significant nonetheless. July also saw the start of the London Olympics, which meant many happy hours of watching the BBC’s amazing coverage and enjoying London in her Olympic finery!

August was a busy month. We had family visit for the Olympics and even got to go to the Olympics ourselves. We then headed to Cyprus to a friend’s wedding and had a great week with friends. Such a beautiful country and the daily swims in the Med were the perfect antidote to the heat! I also travelled to Aspen in late August, just with my daughter, for another friend’s wedding. It was a stunning location and again, it was great to be amongst friends (even if I missed my son and husband a lot!).

September was extremely stressful, as we prepared for our move. We had spent months preparing – deciding what to take, what to give away, deciding what towns we may move to, closing up bank accounts and the like – but the packing up was still time consuming and stressful. I was so sad to leave London. I moved there in 2000, straight out of university. I became an adult there, built a career there, made friends for life there, met and married my husband while living there, had my children there…so many happy and sad and amazing and awful memories in one city. It was an emotional day as we boarded the plane at Heathrow to move to the US.

We spent a month in Manhattan, from late September to late October. I enjoyed it – we were on the 34th floor of a building on 34th St, with views of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, it was stunning! – but I also found it unsettling. It wasn’t a great neighbourhood for young children and I found it quite isolating. I was glad when we moved to Maplewood and our shipping container arrived. I was happy to settle into a new place and properly unpack. Our familiar possessions made an unfamiliar place more like home.

And then Sandy hit. We were a week in Maplewood when the storm hit, and it was quite a change from tame London weather! We were extremely lucky that our house was safe and we didn’t even lose power, but our town and the surrounding areas were badly hit. It was surreal – traffic lights not working due to no electricity, long lines at gas stations as rationing hit. It made me appreciate how lucky we were, but also made me hope we can do better for this planet.

November started with the aftermath of Sandy. We also headed down to Virginia to spend time with my husband’s 96 year old grandmother and other relatives. We also celebrated our first Thanksgiving by sharing a home made turducken with our extended family – a jolly feast it was too!

December started with the tragic news of the mass killings at Sandy Hook. I hope those children and adults don’t die in vain and that the gun laws in this country will change. It is ending after a lovely Christmas, the first that my son was really into. He loved Santa and the stockings and the tree and decorating the gingerbread house. He loved the presents Santa brought him and his sister (she loved the wrapping paper!). We spent Christmas morning together and then drove to the grandparents in southern NJ. I was so grateful that we could celebrate with family without boarding a plane!

Remembering this year is therapeutic. I don’t miss London as a place. I miss friends, particularly as some close friends have had babies and I miss being able to see them and meet these new people. But I don’t miss the place. I love our new town and am excited about putting down proper roots here. I am delighted that my children have so much contact with their grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. I miss being able to get to Ireland as much, but Skype will do.

And so to 2013. I look forward to small things – what birds will visit our new Christmas bird feeders? will my daughter crawl or become a bum shuffler? And to big things – will we buy a house this year and if so where? I am making resolutions – I may even blog about some of them once I’ve formulated them properly – and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2013 holds in store.

Dreaming of a Green Christmas

24 Dec

Vintage holly wreath

Bringing greenery into our home is one of my favourite aspects of Christmas. Our picture frames are decorated with sprigs of holly and small fir branches. There’s our Christmas tree, of course. And our gingerbread house has a pine cone garden. I even made a wreath for our front door. All we’re missing is a sprig of mistletoe! It brings back memories of helping my mum decorate in this way. I used to love the way she’d work her magic on the wreath. My own wreath is a much humbler affair!

Decorating with plants like holly (or ivy) and evergreen branches are also a great way to stay green (and save money!) too. Myself and my 2 year old collected the holly and pine cones from our local park. The holly sprigs were all just lying on the ground under the holly bushes. The fir branches for the wreath and decorations came from leftovers from where we bought our Christmas tree. We bought our Christmas tree from the local Rotary Club, who were selling locally grown trees in aid of local charities. The greenery, combined with the paper chains I made with the kids, makes me feel glad that we’ve decorated our new home in a seasonal and sustainable way.

Other little eco steps we’ve made this year are things like making some of our own wrapping paper (mostly involving upcycling the brown paper that arrived with some of our present purchases) and buying from local businesses where possible. We’ve tried to not go mad on the gift giving front and only buy (or make) gifts that are wanted and will be used.

My 2 year old is actually excited about Santa this year. It’s still mostly over his head, but his “ho ho ho” and love of helping me to wrap (and make the paper using his excellent Melissa & Doug stamp set!) have added an extra dimension of fun to the proceedings. My baby girl is 9 months old tomorrow and I’m looking forward to dressing her as an elf and capturing it for posterity – nothing like dressing your babies up in ridiculous outfits to add joy to festivities!

All in all, I’m excited about our first Christmas living in Maplewood. I feel this is the start of our family Christmas traditions, as myself and my husband take the best of what we grew up with, and things we’ve learned together, and weave together the memories our children will cherish. I love this time of year!

So I wish everyone reading a joyful, peaceful and green Christmas.

Thoughts on Newtown

17 Dec

The events of last Friday’s tragedy in Newtown are almost too awful to comprehend. How can anyone gun down innocent children and the people who teach and take care of them every day? How can anyone shoot his own mother before slaying all those other people? What must it be like to tell a child that their sibling or friend or teacher is gone forever? My heart goes out to all the families and communities involved. So much tragedy for one town to bear. My heart also goes out to the family and friends of the gunman.

Our town of Maplewood, NJ is similar to Newtown in terms of size and the fact that it’s also a beautiful small town that is an easy commute into NYC and acts as a magnet for families looking to raise their children in a safe, nurturing place. This is one of those events that really feels like it could have happened here. It turns out that school massacres common enough in this country that schools here practice code red lockdown drills regularly. I was shocked to discover this. I know that these mass shootings are relatively common – disturbingly so – but I’m shocked that we have moved our family to a place where our children will practice these drills.

They’ll watch their teachers lock the doors and they’ll hide under desks or in closets with their little friends. I’m sure they’ll find it a little exciting – what sort of break from routine isn’t? They’ll be told they’re practising how to act if a dangerous animal like a bear comes into their school. But someday they’ll know, just as they’ll know about Santa and the tooth fairy. The fabric of their childhood will hold memories practising how to hide from a potential gunman. And that makes me so sad.

And it makes me angry. Angry that it’s legal to buy semi-assault weapons that can allow someone to kill a huge number of people in a matter of minutes. Angry that the “right” to do this is something that is almost impossible to debate. Angry about how many more innocent lives must be lost to gun violence before laws can be strengthened. If this were any other safety issue – if bridges or buildings were collapsing as frequently as the number of mass shooting since Columbine – then I imagine there would be bipartisan action to solve the problem. I hope that American can have a mature debate about guns and how best to make this country safer for everyone living here. I hope there are no more tragedies like Newtown.