Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy Anniversary to 'Cross the Pond

Two years ago today I decided to write a blog about our move and life in London. It all started with this blog post on September 29th, 2009. I had no idea if I'd like writing, or if anyone would ever read it. But you have, and I do, and it's good.

In two years things have changed dramatically: I had my son, we moved to the UK, got evicted from one flat, moved into the Winnebago, moved a final time to our current flat, Cate and I developed asthma, Cate started school, my wonderful younger sister Tracy passed away, my beloved great aunt Helen passed away (more on her soon), we've traveled a bit, and we're settling into our British way of life. All things considered - it's not so bad.

When I started this blog I had great hope for London. I'm delighted to announce that even with all the hardships, heart break, tragedy and rough patches - we're pretty happy.

So raise your glass for a hip hip huzzah! Here's to another two years...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Love London Book Giveaway

Anova books sent over a copy of Love London by Barbara Chandler and I was so, so excited to receive it.  As many of you know - I've always been intrigued with London and since we moved here I've photographed my neighbourhood trying to give everyone a feel for my 'hood. I'm going to start doing that again this week. I've been snapping photos.... stay tuned.

Barbara Chandler is an amazing photographer who has worked as a journalist all over UK, Poland, Italy, France Russia, Turkey, Finland and more. She lives here in London and considers it her first love. She's a granny with a camera in her purse and has been photographing the city for over 25 years. Her beautiful photographs of London are featured in this incredible book: Love London.

The photos span the 25 years but most are taken in the last year just for this collection. They are featured throughout the book which is also sprinkled with  quotes from poems, novels, plays, diaries, blogs and more of London's very famous and infamous literary heritage. She quotes from Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, to modern blogs and newspapers. The quotes just add a certain charm to the photos - it makes it uniquely British and deliciously London.

Many of the sights are familiar to most, and some are just unique to London and known to few (until now). I've cruised through this book several times and will continue to for a long time. I've already added a few post-it notes to remind myself to go and see a few of her sights. I reminded me why I wanted to live in this great city and why I, and millions of others, are so infatuated.

Needless to say, I love this book. So much, I want to share with you. Anova Books has agreed to give away two copies to two lucky readers in conjunction with my two year blogiversary! This Thursday is my two year anniversary writing 'Cross The Pond. Where has the time gone?

If you'd like to receive a copy of this wonderful little book - (it's small enough to slip into a bag and perfect for a gift to any London lover and only £9.99) just follow me, if you don't already, and leave a comment here stating what you love most about London.

For extra credit, please twitter and let me know here. I'm @xcrossthepond

This is a wonderful prize for two of my readers and I'm delighted to be able to present it to you. The competition will end at noon on Tuesday, October 4th and a winner will be announced on Wednesday, october 5th. Good luck!

Friday, September 16, 2011

My little chatterbox

Mr Cool
X is turning two in two months. Where did the time go? He's starting to talk up a storm. Just this morning he smiled up at me as I handed him a banana and said as clear as a bell: Tank You. My heart melted. He's a polite little fella.

Yesterday, at our playgroup a friend showed up with her 3 1/2 month old daughter. X was just a little younger than her when we moved here. I couldn't believe how small she was. How on earth did we do it? I can't even wrap my head around having something so dainty and small, yet we moved three times with an infant (I won't go into it, I can't think about it anymore).

Now he's a big strong man. Climbing out of his cot, running around like a mad man. I just had to pick him up off the kitchen table, and five minutes ago he climbed up to reach my wine glasses and was clanging them together in a big self 'cheers'. Yikes. I'll have to find a higher shelf for them now.

He's a good kid. Sweet personality, loves to dance, loves to snuggle, run, play, climb. After much effort on my part, he and Cate are getting along much better. Thank heavens.

My little man is turning out to be a really good kid. Where, oh, where did my baby go?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

To tell, or not to tell? That is the question....

Trying to squash a rumor is like trying to unring a bell.  ~Shana Alexander

This week I was reluctantly, and unexpectedly, dragged into a wretched round of gossip. It was aimed at a very good friend of mine and I had a choice to make. Do I tell her about it, or do I keep my mouth shut? I mulled it over and over and ultimately decided that if there was such a rumour floating around about me I would want to know and be able to confront the originator.

I agonized about it, talking to my husband and another impartial, uninvolved confidant, who both were quite reasonable and told me to do what I felt I needed to do. I didn't want to upset my friend or cause any trouble. After much deliberation, I decided to call her. I was not the first to call. I was not ringing the bell, I was just echoing it. Which was a relief, but I was somewhat disappointed in myself for not telling her sooner.

What happened next was an unfortunate turn of events where everyone lost. Everyone. The accusor was called out and lambasted, the accused was rightly furious and upset, I felt awful about it. But it is over. Thank God.

Now that I'm a supposed adult, with a husband, family and responsibilities it truly dismayed me to be dragged down into this highschool drama. It made me question whether I wanted to remain with this certain group or not. I do -  one bad experience doesn't represent the whole group. I have made some excellent friendship and I plan to continue to make more. I'm a good friend to those I love. Don't mess with my family or my friends, people!

So, I'm moving on. But it's left a bitter taste in my mouth and I just feel ugly about it. I hope to never be put in this position again. I won't let myself. I should have shut it down at the first whisper but I didn't. I won't do that again. 

I msut stress that NONE of this was malicious on anyone's part. It was just unfortunate.

Heavy sigh. Moving on....

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A day off

I've been going 110mph lately. With Cate not in school, the hubbie traveling a lot, playdates, crafts, my women's club stuff, freelance work, regular work, etc. etc. etc. I'm burning the candle at both ends.

Not complaining, just busy. I love being busy.

However, soon, I will need a break.

One the somewhat near future I am going to pull a Bruno Mars.

I'll let you know when that day finally arrives.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years later...

Ten years ago today I was in Colonia, Uruguay as you may have read about in my old post How I Met Your Father. I was traveling with my sister, Tracy, we were on a day trip from Buenos Aires completely clueless what was going on in New York and Washington, DC.

I left on the first flight from BA to JFK, which was still a day after our original flight. I flew back to a world that was surreal, in mourning and devastated by the attacks. Armed guards were everywhere in the airport and the city just had a sombre feel to it.

The day after I flew back, I took the subway down to the former World Trade Center to by see it in person. Seeing it live somehow made it seem more personal. I distinctly remember a jewelry store that had piles of dust covering all its window displays, the cases filled  with mounds of brown/grey dust from the towers. The fire was still raging and thick black smoke still billowed up into the sky. It was four days later, but not much progress had been done - it was a massive clean up to be certain.

Papers still scattered the streets, and people walked around in a zombie-like state, quietly taking it in, some were crying, most just silent. I left a lit candle in one of the impromtu vigil sites and then went home - to the Upper East Side.

I didn't go back down there for years. I lost three friends, including a childhood friend from the Bahamas - Karen, my neighbour - Kev, and an old work buddy, Cal. Several people that I had met also died. It was just all so devastating. The photos that people posted looking for their loved ones were the most difficult reminders. It personalized the tragedy for all New Yorkers - to see the faces of those who senselessly died.

I had a roommate but I remember feeling more alone that I ever felt in my life. In less that four months I met Fen, who would become my husband. For the first 10 years I was in NY I was so focused on my career and 'making' it, that I never really gave relationships much of a chance. I wonder if I would have even met Fen if 9/11 hadn't happened (go read the story if you don't know what I'm talking about - the link is at the top).

In the ten years since, my favourite Aunt Cate passed away, I married Fen, we had two children, I switched jobs, we moved to London and my sister Tracy passed away. My life is completely different - and for the better, for the most part. My job is third: Marriage and Children first, playdates and crafts/time with my children is second, job third. Wine is fourth, but that's another conversation. And that's the way it should be.

Today I'm reflective about that awful day. I lit a candle for all my deceased friends and family and for all the families of 9/11 victims. Hopefully, something like this will never happen again, anywhere.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Handling bullies....and their mums

I have a new(ish) friend here in London with whom I'm not sure I can continue to be friends. It's not her, we get along quite's her kids that are the problem. Well, no, it's not really her kids, it's her son and the way she reacts to him.

Let me set a scene, I have them over for a playdate the other day. She shows up with her son, T, who is just about to turn seven, and her 3 1/2 year old daughter, S. The kids are playing in the lounge as my friend and I are in the kitchen making coffee (and cake!). No more than 10 minutes pass before Cate is crying hysterically and comes running in, closely followed by T. T is full of excuses: he was playing with the plastic sword and Cate grabbed it and wouldn't let go so he 'accidentally' hit her over the head with it.

There are holes in this story you could drive an armoured tank through. Cate likes playing with both of them but something always goes wrong... always out of my sight and always results in Cate crying. Cate's no angel, but I've caught him pushing her, shoving her, snatching things away from her and then lying about it. Each time he is not reprimanded, but my friend is quite keen to try defend him and put the blame on Cate. It's irritating in the extreme and I'm getting tired of defending my child - who doesn't deserve to be talked down to when she isn't always in the wrong.

I ask Cate what happened and she said, 'T hit me.' T quickly repeats his story and looks to his mum. His mum then gets down to Cate's level and said, 'Cate, you can't grab things out of someone's hands and get rough. T was only protecting himself.'


I bit my tongue. Hard. I took the sword and put it into a time out in my bedroom. When I returned I got a 'friendly' lecture from my friend on child parenting. I know she thinks she's a whiz and parenting, and God knows I am willing to learn, but her kids are serious pains in the ass. They talk back, they destroy my house even when I ask them not to, they help themselves to anything and T has even tried to break a few of my things - on purpose. Is it wrong to seriously dislike a nearly 7-year-old boy?

I debated about saying anything to her for a while but she didn't let it go. Finally, I said, 'Thanks for the advice, but I think I'm good.'

She made a definite 'I don't think so' look and picked her coffee cup up, ever so slightly rolling her eyes.

I'm done here, I believe. She's not a member of my women's club and she doesn't know about this blog (maybe). So, what do you think? Adios, or what?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wish me luck with the BRCA test

This week I went in for a BRCA test. This is the test for the breast cancer gene. I'll find out in a few weeks if I carry the gene or not. This worries me - I'm praying I don't have it. Not so much for me, I just don't want to have passed it along to my daughter.

As many of you know, my sister, Tracy, passed away in July from an aggressive form of breast cancer that  metastasized into brain, lung, bone and a thousand other forms of cancer. Both of my mother's sisters had breast cancer: My Aunt Cate passed away from a different form of aggressive breast cancer, and my other aunt, Sarah, found it early and beat it before it could really take off. My maternal grandmother also had breast cancer and a mastectomy. It apparently runs rampant in my maternal bloodline.

However, my other sister Kay, tested negative for the gene. I'm hoping the same for me, and for my little Cate.

Just keeping my fingers crossed for a negative result. With the year I've had (well, all of my family) I just don't need anymore bad news.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. I hope you all do something for it: blog, donate, walk, raise money - anything. I'm not a big rah-rah type of person, but for this - I shout from the mountain tops!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Countdown begins

Cate starts reception in exactly 2 weeks and 3 days. Not that I'm counting or anything. Fen will be traveling a lot this month so I'm on duty more often than usual.

Most kids are back to school this week, but because it's officially her first 'real' school they do staggered admission. I have a feeling Cate is one of the last to start. Which is a pity - she's ready to go back. She asks me daily if she's going to school the next day and replies, 'Awww. I want to go to school."

We've kept ourselves busy with playdates, art classes, library visits, parks, crafts (we're perfecting our paper mache skills) and visiting all kinds of museums, etc. She loves it, but I don't think it's enough for her. She's a very curious and bright child - she needs more. When we went shopping for her uniforms, she was so excited to have big girl school clothes. She wore one of the pinafores all afternoon, even wanted to sleep in it. The smallest sizes were too big so she's swimming in them. But, MAN, does she look adorable.

While I'm enjoying spending so much time with her, and X, it's a little exhausting, especially since I still work full time (meaning well into the night). I'm anxious for her to get into school so she'll be happy, I'll have a little time to myself and we can get into a nice routine again.

So for now, we continue our adventures. I've got to remember to take the camera with us on our many outings. I haven't even documented the new hood on this blog yet. I will. Once Cate is in school, and I have time.... ah, to dream.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Making Friends...Again

Ahhhh....Autumn. It's almost here and as an ex-pat it's time to meet new people as well. Don't get me wrong, I have a core group of friends here that I really like and (hopefully) like me. But some of my best buddies left.

My BFF (yes, how highschool, but that's how I roll) here in Hampstead, moved back to the US the day before I got back. I spent a lot of time with her and now she's gone. My daughter keeps asking for her kids, etc. It's disappointing. I had two other people I was just getting to know well leave. It stinks, but that's the life of an ex-pat.

My women's club is hosting the annual kick-off meeting soon and I will be there scoping the new recruits. Cate starts a new school and I will be there checking out the other parents and signing up for PTA (maybe - remember my new mindset of not being supermom - it may be flying out the window already). And then there are all the events coming up that I will be attending - probably alone as Fen is traveling most of the Autumn.

This means new people to meet. New playdates to be had. New drinking/shopping/tea/lunch buddies. I like it. I'm social and I love meeting new people. So I say, bring on the Autumn. I ready to get out and have fun.