Archive | Personal RSS feed for this section

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.


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.

[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?

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…

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.


Reader Appreciation Award

31 Jul

Things have been quiet on my blog lately…I wish I could say that life in general had been quiet, but it’s the very busy-ness of life that is leading to my blogging quietness! Recent highlights include my son (2.4) moving into his big boy bed (which is this one from Warren Evans – it’s extra narrow, which suits the tiny room and I highly recommend them and their amazingly lovely customer service) and my daughter (4 months) rolling (I was actually in the kitchen making dinner so missed it!).

But in spite of this quietness, it appears I’ve not been forgotten…as the lovely Yummy Mummy? Really? has given me the Appreciation Award – I am so touched and delighted to receive it! It made my day when I found out! Yummy Mummy? Really? is a wonderful blogger, her posts are funny and well written and full of insights about modern motherhood.

OK, so here are my answers to the questions.

What’s your favourite colour?

Colours are on my mind at the moment, as my son is learning them so every day involves him pointing out yellow cars and the like. But even as a child I found it hard to pick just one colour that was my favourite.

I love red – bright, vibrant scarlet and have red shoes and clothes and lipstick. Putting red lipstick on instantly makes me feel glamourous (admittedly, I wear lipstick very infrequently these days!).

But I also love green – calming and fresh, and associated with things like the smell of cut grass.

And bright yellow – sunflowers and sunshine and happiness. Especially as it’s my son’s current favourite too.

What’s your favourite animal?

Again, I’m not sure I have just one favourite.

For a pet, I love dogs. I look forward to when we can get a family dog, as I think that growing up with a dog to look after and walk and have fun with is wonderful.

For a wild animal from these shores, I love hares. We were camping in Somerset over the Jubilee weekend and I had the privilege of seeing hares boxing. It was something I’d wanted to see since childhood!

But I also love the urban foxes that I bump into around London (there are some living on a reservoir near us so myself and the children often bump into them on our wanderings). Their resourcefulness and adaptability are marvellous. Plus I loved Tom McCaughern’s books as a child – it’s probably what’s given me my lifelong love of foxes!

For a bird, I’m a big fan of corvids, especially ravens. Such intelligence!

On a related note, I often wonder what my dæmon would be if I were in His Dark Materialsa fox perhaps? Or a raven? Or an otter?

What’s your favourite non-alcoholic drink?

 This is an easy one – elderflower pressé – so refreshing!

Facebook or Twitter?

Hmm…Facebook. I dip in and out of Twitter but find it a bit overwhelming. Facebook allows me to keep in touch with friends and family.

Do you prefer giving or receiving presents?

I much prefer giving presents. I hope I buy presents that people like and appreciate. I’d much rather buy something someone has asked for, if that’s what they prefer, as I think presents should be wanted. Having said that, I find it stressful to think of presents for myself and often just ask for ethical gifts (I’m always happy to get something from The Good Gifts Catalogue!).

Favourite day of the week?

This is a tricky one – I’m on maternity leave at the moment so don’t have particular favourites during the working week. For instance, I loved Monday mornings at work – I used to get in at 8am, the whole floor would be quiet and I could make a nice coffee and sit back and read the weekend papers (which, luckily for me, counted as work!). I also loved Thursdays which was my day off with my son. I still like Thursdays – we go and see Jeremy singing in Finsbury Park cafe, or outside when the sun shines, and we all enjoy it.

But I’d say Saturdays, when all four of us are together. And we still have Sunday to look forward to.

Favourite flower?

Lily of the valley. And fuschia. And clematis (see above about being rubbish at choosing just one favourite!).

What is your passion?

I’m passionate about many things – my children, my husband, treating our planet and each other with respect and gentleness, feminism, living a life of integrity and joy. That list sounds a bit pretensous! I’m also passionate about cereal combinations (currently weetabix, porridge oats and rice krispies sweetened with honey though anything with wheatgerm is great!), reading, Mumsnet and sleeping. I wonder what other things I’ll be passionate about as I grow older.

OK, enough rambling from me! I need to pay this blog love forward so I’d like to pass this award on to the following bloggers:

Rachel over at Sparkling Bay – her blog about raising her daughter with a Montessori twist is excellent.

Dilly over at Dillytante – I love this blog. She will make you want to go out and yarnbomb!

I’m only choosing two, as my blogging reading is also quiet at the moment. So I really appreciate these two blogs, as they continue to entertain and inspire me at a time when I’m rarely online for any stretch.

And as if on cue, my son has just fallen out of his bed for the first time. Time to sign off and hope it’s not too long before I blog again!