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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.

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…

The day after the hurricane

31 Oct

After the storm

This tree was felled by Sandy last night and we came across it in our local park. Luckily she fell into the park, avoiding the road, the houses opposite and the power lines. In fact, the direction she fell could explain why we still have power when so many in our town are without.
This time 24 hours ago I was hunkering down at home as the winds howled outside, rattling windows and making the trees around us bend and twist. It was more than a little terrifying. But I’m grateful that we’ve emerged unscathed, bar a fitful night’s sleep. We even have power when others in our town and the state do not. So many, from Haiti to close by us in New Jersey, have been so terribly affected. Hurricane Sandy was mother nature at her most devastating.

So much has happened since I last posted. We packed up our life in London. We said goodbye to wonderful friends. We spent a month living on the 34th floor of a building in midtown, with spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline. We found an amazing house to rent in Maplewood, NJ. We’ve spent lots of time with my in-laws, which the children love (and we do too). And we moved into our house in Maplewood a little over a week ago.

So to be suddenly faced with the worst storm in living memory was quite a challenge after the staid old weather we’d been used in London. We filled everything we could with water. We stocked up on candles and made sure our torches (or flashlights as I should say now I’m in America!) had batteries. We moved everything off the floor of the basement. We kept track of the storm online and we made contact with loved ones, both those in the path of the storm and those in Ireland and the UK.

Walking around today, seeing the beautiful trees felled and maimed by the wind, made me think about how we’re putting down new roots even while these trees have been uprooted. I’m glad we’ve made the move, despite the sadness I felt leaving London and the wonderful life we had there. I’m hoping we build an equally happy life here in Maplewood.

 

Moving towards moving…

13 Jun

Today I had my medical exam for my US Green Card.

It was fine, though my arms are a little ache-y after the vaccinations I needed. My baby girl behaved brilliantly throughout, happy to chill in her car seat (lugged there on the tube just so she’d have somewhere comfy to sit while I had my x-ray etc) while I was prodded and poked and questioned. The visa application is trotting along and we’ve hired an immigration lawyer, which feels so grown-up, but it helps ease the stress a bit. Depending on when my interview date comes through, it looks like we’ll be leaving London in September to move to the NYC commuter belt in northern NJ.

The vague moving plans are starting to get clearer.

Our flat, which is lovely for two and dinky for three, feels positively titchy for four. Friends and family have been so generous with gifts and hand-me-downs for our baby daughter but the vast majority are sitting in suitcases in our bedroom. Because we have no where else to put them. Our daughter’s bedside co-sleeper cot, small as it is, makes the bedroom feel tiny. I haven’t been able to open my half of the wardrobe in months.

Which is why, sitting in our hallway waiting to be unpacked, are some moving boxes. Operation Declutter is underway. I want to start packing away anything we don’t use day-to-day. I want to make space (we’ve hired a lock-up garage to store the boxes until we move). I want to identify things that won’t come to the States with us and find them good homes on this side of the pond. Decluttering is a practical step I can take towards this new stage in our family life.

It’s all about moving towards moving…