Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Fair and Other Ailments

We finally had the school Christmas fair this past weekend. What a lot of work! I decided to chair the subcommittee to run the fair, something that has never been done before at the school (subcommittees). It worked well!

As you know (or if you don't read here) the PTA  has been an uphill battle for me and the rest of the core committee. This year I was determined to kick off the season with a really organised,successful fair. I wanted to raise at least £1,000 more than we usually do. I organised my team and set to work - six weeks early.

We had a great ideas person who came up with selling Christmas trees and poinsettias. That was a big, big hit. We got rid of all the old booths that didn't work. We had a raffle that we organised, not the half assed 'auction' from last year where half the prizes went missing (don't get me started on THAT). There was mulled wine and mince pies, toffee apples and popcorn, crafts, a Kid Zone (also thought up by the idea lady - who was one of my two companions that organised the whole thing), Santa grotto, decorations in the hall. Most of this was new. We even had hot food, for the first time ever at a winter fair. Everything was a big, big hit.

Sounds easy, no? No. We had the old regime sticking their noses in a few times trying to take over a few things: decorations, booths, etc. We wanted a marquee but the wrong one showed up and we had the head teacher after us to get rid of it (which was a task and a half but I got it returned by telling them I would probably be deported if someone didn't get it out of the school). One person kept undermining us which was maddening, but she came round in the end and joined forces with us, turning out to be a huge asset in the end.

It was six weeks of trying to wrangle people together to work as a team. I'm not getting too into the extent of it, but too many PTA members just make a decision, go to the head teacher or another teacher and start to do their own thing, without mentioning it to the official PTA but expecting us to bank roll it. We shut them down. More than once. I know I was not popular. But in the end everyone was working together.

Only on the day was there an issue with a booth, from a mum who has had a booth there for years - she wanted more tables, complained, started rearranging my floor plan (heaven forbid!). I had to have words with her and we worked it out. next year she's a goner! too much trouble and not that much of a money maker.

The fair ran smoothly, no real problems - woefully short staffed (as usual) but we raised £1,000 more than we ever have. Exactly what I wanted. Hooray.

With all the troubles leading up to it, everyone was so happy on the day and after. And the kids had a great time. That's what really matters.

Now the PTA is back to disorganised and everyone acting on their own. I give up! I made my point: organisation is the key, no one cares. It's like herding fish.

I've had the norovirus and been knocked out in bed for two days. Horrible, horrible stuff. As I take to my bed I realise, it's only the PTA. I don't have to change the world. Still, I wonder if I can walk away...

Monday, December 3, 2012

The X-Man turns Three!

My big man is three! Happy birthday darling boy! He's come a long way from this:
What a fast three years that was.

X has turned into a real rascal. You can tell he's already a character - he's quick with a joke, loves to laugh, is very sweet and loving. But he's head strong and feisty!  He is a true joy.

Here are a few of my favourite photos:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Doing Battle

I was called aggressive and a bully this week. Which I find really amusing seeing how the person calling me these names was giving it as good as she got it. Sure, I'm no wallflower and when I feel like I've been wronged, backed into a corner or being taken advantage of, I will speak out - loudly. How people receive that is up to them but I'm not apologizing for the way I feel.

Lately, I've been having a rough go of it. I've had one friend yell at me over something something my daughter said (which was hilarious and harmless). I put it on Facebook and she went ballistic. I was so taken aback by her viceral reaction I unfriended her - online and in life. Then I had an altercation with another friend, one I've never had quarrel with, regarding my nanny. Both times were really, truly upsetting to me and I'm watering them down for this post. But I feel that in both situations BOTH parties only saw ME as a problem and themselves as a victim therefore no apology was needed for me. In both cases I apolgized the same way: I am sorry you were offended. And I am. But I'm not sorry for what I did: defending myself.

Is it just me or are relationships becoming increasingly difficult to maintain now? Perhaps it's just that both relationships are only 2 years old and I guess I didn't really know either of them. I felt really wrongly accused by both. I am not a mean person, I am generous with my time, my feelings, my hospitality (apparently my nanny as well) and I try to cultivate my relationships with care. I feel that this worked against me in both instances.

At work I am aggressive, it's the nature of the business. I am not afraid to speak out for my clients, myself and for the company where I work. I try to keep that part of me in business but it comes out when I feel at a loss in my personal life.

I was really down for a few days this week, gutted, as the British say. But I need to move on now. As Fen said, 'You don't need this. Stick with people who are good to you.' I think I'll listen to him. He never falls out with friends or has quarrels - then again he doesn't spread himself thin like I do.

As for the rest of the friends I've made here - love 'em all. So many good people to be with, why focus on the ones that made me that unhappy? Moving on...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dancing at Cross The Pond

Each night as I make dinner, I turn on music so we can dance in the kitchen. I've been doing it ever since we moved to London as a way of keeping the kids engaged and spending time with them while I prepare our tea. They love it.

So, it was an easy decision when I was asked if I'd like a copy of Pop Party 10. I thought, "Great, music for the kids to dance during meal prep!" I had NO idea.

The CD arrived and I popped it in. I thought it was going to be kiddie music but it was MY music! Psy's Gangnam Style was the first track on the CD and the kids went crazy dancing. The best part was, I popped in the DVD too and the first track: Psy again! Well, let's suffice it to say the kids and I are masters at the Gangnam Style dance. It's hilarious! They love that DVD (the toilet scene brings a huge round of giggles!).

The album is packed full of chart-topping smashes from the biggest names in pop from Justin Beiber (even though I am NOT a fan), Cheryl Cole, JLS to Katy Perry and to name but a few. The album features a bonus DVD packed full of great music videos which budding pop stars can dance along to. The album also includes lyric cards which has seriously helped me as I am lyrically challenged (in so many ways!)

A friend was over with her kids and she loved it so much she wanted to borrow the CD to burn. I told her to buy it! Aren't I a stinker?

The funny thing is, we dance anyway, and the kids were seriously tired of the same old tracks on my iPod. This has injected a whole new bunch of songs for us to boogie down to. The truth - I love it the most. It's already downloaded onto my iPod so I can take it with me! And no, I don't dance in the streets, but I'm seriously tempted to!

Track Listing:


1. Psy Gangnam Style (강남스타일)
2. Carly Rae Jepsen Call Me Maybe
3. Maroon 5 Payphone
4. Tulisa Young
5. One Direction What Makes You Beautiful
6. Justin Bieber Boyfriend
7. Cheryl Call My Name
8. Ne-Yo Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself)
9. Jessie J Domino
10. Feat. Eva Simons This Is Love
11. Fun Feat. Janelle Monáe We Are Young
12. The Wanted Chasing The Sun
13. Rihanna Where Have You Been
14. Cover Drive Twilight
15. Olly Murs Dance With Me Tonight
16. Katy Perry Part Of Me
17. Stooshe Black Heart
18. Conor maynard Cant say no
19. Alyssa Reid Alone Again
20. Rizzle Kicks Mama Do The Hump
21. JLS Proud
22. The Saturdays 30 Days

1. Psy Gangnam Style (강남스타일)
2. Tulisa Young
3. One Direction What Makes You Beautiful
4. Justin Bieber Boyfriend
5. Cheryl Call My Name
6. Jessie J Domino
7. The Wanted Chasing The Sun
8. Cover Drive Twilight
9. Olly Murs Dance With Me Tonight
10. Stooshe Black Heart
11. Alyssa Reid Alone Again
12. JLS Proud
13. The Saturdays 30 Days
14. Justin Bieber Behind The Scenes "Boyfriend" Video
15. The Saturdays 30 Days - Behind The Scenes [Music Video]

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Spam Attack!

I've been attacked by spam. I had so many Anonymous spam comments I had to shut down for a few days to get rid of them all. I think they got them all, but who knows. I've been at this for three years.

Because of this, I've been forced to reintroduce the word verification to  my comments. Sorry about that. They are a pain, but I have to avoid the spam attacks in the future. I was averaging 6 a day for the past two months. They were taking up too much time and space for me to ignore. I'm hoping they are cut out now.

Back to blogging this week! I have much to tell!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Taking a Break

Things have been topsy turvy for me lately and I need to take a mini-break from a few things, including the blog. But I will be back. Thanks for your patience.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

Why is it the more I cut back on things, the less time I seem to have. I stepped down from PR at my women's club, but the person who took my place resigned. I found a replacement who is promising to be terrific, but I'm still doing a bunch of stuff for our upcoming fair. Not that it's terribly time consuming, it's just with the school fair coming up, work and a few other things, I never have time to myself.

I finally stepped down from the PTA - I'm not a class rep. And I'm so happy for it. The new reps are doing their job and they don't need me. Hooray! I'm still co-chair of the PTA and on the Christmas Fair committee but I'm not feeling the stress.

My son is in school for four hours a day yet those four hours are devoured daily with a million things and none of them for anything for myself. What I've  promised to myself is to disappear after half term (which is this week) and finally find some time to do the things I've been wanted to do. Such as: the gym, finish sewing the kids curtains, put a few things on eBay, get rid of the changing table (praise be!), finish potty training X, hang the thousand pieces of art we have and put pictures up in this house!

This week, is half term. I haven't put either child in sports camp, art camp, swim camp - none of it. With all our traveling and my insane work schedule (working from 1- 11 most days or later) I feel like I haven't spent the kind of time with them that I would like. So we're on a week of mommy and kids fun. I have crafts, baking, parties, sleepovers, trips to Warwick Castle, movies and more planned. We kicked it off last night with 'camping' in the lounge. We got out the sleeping bags (I left the tent out of it). We had a picnic for dinner with popcorn and a movie, all snuggled up on the floor with sleeping bags, pillows, pillow pets, Barbies, mermaids, balls, Matchbox cars and assorted other toys. They stayed up until 9:30pm! We had a blast.

Now they are at the park riding the zipline and climbing the 'rock' wall with Daddy as I'm supposed to be working (taking a mental  health break to write this).

Tonight we're having hotdogs and smores (made over candles with serious adult supervision). And we're playing games. I'm excited but already tired!

Hopefully, I'll have time this week to relax a little. With Halloween on Wednesday, we'll have to see. Tomorrow we put up the enormous cat eyes in two of our front windows. The kids love them. They make the room dark but everyone comments on how fun they are. I'll try and post a pic.

For now, I enjoy my quiet time as it's coming to an end in about 1 hour! Perhaps I best get some work done.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Quick Trip to NY

Last Saturday at this time I was jetting across the Atlantic en route to New York City. I had a busy week planned and was just enjoying watching a few movies and reading a manuscript. Little did I know how truly busy it would be.

I spent Saturday and Sunday nights with two different friends and their families. I've been friends with each woman for about 20 years. They are good, solid friendships that started in our twenties and  have lasted through thick and thin. We've been to each other's weddings, seen the birth of children, etc. etc. Both are exceptionally successful - both rose to the top of their professions: one in magazine publishing and the second in digital publishing. On Monday and Tuesday, I stayed with another extremely successful friend who is in the same industry I am. My final night was spent with my former landlords and our neighbors. All, such good, good people.

I have to say it was really nice to be surrounded by people I love, who are like minded, ambitious, super smart and driven. And true friends - I don't have to worry about how I look, what I'm wearing, where I live, or anything else. It's just comfortable, fun,  interesting and relaxing.

Then I worked my tail off for the rest of the week - which I really enjoyed. I don't work nearly as hard here in London as I did in New York. It's difficult to do that when you work out of the house. It's challenging to be motivated and sometimes it's just ridiculous - more than once I have had to shut my bedroom door (my desk is in our bedroom), run into a large walk-in closet, shut THAT door and take a business call while curled up on the window sill - just to get away from the sound of little kids playing in the other room (don't worry they are always supervised by the nanny or husband!).

While in NY I did a lot of thinking about my life here in the UK and the result, I fear, is not as rosy and I'd like you to think. I want to move back to the US for many reasons but the main two: work and friends/family. I am a working mother. I will always have a job, it's part of my nature. I wanted a job where I could work at home so I could have time with my children - and for that I'm appreciative. But they are both in school now - I just wish I had an office to go to instead of my bedroom.

The second, friends/family, is even more dire. We have no family here whatsoever. That is just sad. I wish we had some family nearby to share the holidays with, etc. I've made a small handful of friends that I know I'll always have, but then there is the majority of acquaintances that I could really do without. Some make me uncomfortable, I feel I've become gossipy, and little smaller of a person. I don't want to be a part of something that makes me feel icky - and I feel that one or two of the 'friends' I've made have got to go. Sound harsh? I guess so. But I want to be happy about the choices I make and the company I keep.

We're here for at least another 1 1/2 years. I have to make the most of it. I will continue to work the way I do and just visit NY more often (but not too often, my children need me, and I need them). And I think I'll just close the circle of friends I already have - the ones I like, the ones I can count on.

Finally, the coffee mornings that roll on for 2 hours have got to stop. I need to get this house in order once and for all!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

Three years ago on Tuesday, September 29th 2009, I was heavily pregnant and coming to terms with our impending move to London. Things were in complete upheaval: I was busily getting rid of things, putting stuff in storage, preparing for a second child, poring over estate agent websites in London, worrying about doing my job from across the Atlantic, packing away clothes I still can't fit into, and wondering if I could manage it all.

I had the idea to start a blog about our move and parenting so I sat down, created 'Cross the Pond and scribed my first post. Which you can read here.

So much has changed since that day: I had the X-man, we moved, my sister's cancer came back and she eventually passed away last year, I've made friends, my other sister became a mother, I lost my favourite aunt of all time, Fen and my 10th anniversary (of being together) came and went, and both of my children have started school. It's a whole new world for me.

Every now and again I go through the blog to see how far we've come. There were a few really tough spots there but through it all one things remains constant: my Fen. Always there, always strong, sometimes annoying, but mostly he's just great. I picked the right guy, we have two precious albeit fiesty children, we live a good life. And for that I'm grateful.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Grown Up Stuff

This morning as I prepared Cate’s school lunch, dressed her in her uniform, did her hair and supervised their teeth brushing and face washing after breakfast I realized I was her mother. Okay, maybe that sounds weird because I have been her mother for over five years and I’m the mother to X, but sometimes I have to remind myself that I AM a grown up!

When I think of my mom and how she raised us I always think of her as an adult, a grown up with all the answers, calm and collected; a regular know-the-answer-to-everything, well groomed, working, cooking, got-it-together grown up. When I think of myself I do NOT reflect that image! I’m wondering, when will I feel like an adult?

I’m in my mid forties, have consistently had a job since I was 16, currently have a great, challenging job with a well respected firm, pay my bills, married, have kids, etc. etc, etc. Yet, I still think of myself as a rookie.

It’s crazy. I know it. This week I have very, very adult things to deal with: the finalization of my will renewal (gotta get X in there finally), shopping for life insurance here in the UK, discussing the new roof and improvements on our house in the US with my sister (co-owner), dealing with X’s school fees, booking my flight to New York (for business) and going out with a very important work project.

Fen and I were just talking about this the other day. I keep saying I’m waiting for my grown up life to start. He insists it’s here already – and I know it is, but I still call anyone older than me (or anyone in a position of power: doctor, policeman, teacher) Mr or Mrs, I will help the crotchety old bird upstairs with her shopping bags (even if she constantly complains about the noise from the kids), I wait my turn, I will put my hand up to speak in a meeting (unless I’m running it) and a host of other things drilled into me during my Catholic school upbringing.

The day my daughter was born and they handed her over to me I realized I was actually responsible for another human being. It was an awesome, overwhelming and frightening realization. Even though we had months to prepare for our child, when they handed her to me minutes after leaving the delivery room I was surprised. I wanted to ask why they were handing her to me – surely there was someone in the hospital who knew what they were doing. I thought it was a mistake! Yeah, it wasn’t, and I took over, quickly and responsibly. No one, and I mean NO ONE, knows my children better than I do. I guess that really does make me a mother and an adult. But I still don’t feel like one!

Maybe I’m resisting responsibility or possibly in denial. Because one thing is for sure, I take care of my family and I’m and NOT afraid to speak up to get what I need. But being utterly respectful, of course.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Virgins No More...

Grrr! Virgin Mobile is driving me to distraction. Since Tuesday they have been a massive thorn in my side. I foolishly decided to change providers and move my existing mobile number over to Virgin. What a mistake.

The new phone was supposed to arrive on Wednesday morning. I tracked it but it kept saying Out For Delivery, at different times all day. Then I see it was returned to the holding station Wednesday night. Thursday morning it was Out for Delivery again. By four o'clock I called. Their explanation: The driver says your address does not exist. 'Ey? I'm pretty sure it does, and they had the correct address. Apparently, I live in a dimension that dumbass delivery men cannot enter. I told them to make the driver get out of the truck and walk up the footpath to the house. Whaddaya know, an hour later he was at my door.

I had to call and get my PAC code from Vodaphone to give to Virgin in order to transfer the number. I did, they did not request it and the number disappeared into cyber space. Vodaphone terminated my contract and cut my phone off! My old number was no more. Yikes! My entire life is tied to that number! The horror. They promised my old number would work by 4-5pm that night. It did not.

Friday night I hosted my women's club Pub Night at a local pub, yet no one was able to reach me and there was some confusion on which pub it was actually at. Cleverly, or so I thought, I'd just check in on Facebook so any members could see where I was. But my brand spanking new Blackberry was no longer allowing me on Facebook, email, Twitter or anywhere else. Terrific! The night was fine, but I certainly didn't need the hassle.

Saturday between birthday parties for my children I called Virgin. Boy did they get it. They couldn't answer a single question for me. One of the two men I spoke to suggested I simply forget about the old number and just go with the new one. Well, he is a virgin no more, as I ripped him a new one. Then another one told me they could get it up and running by Wednesday. I ripped him a new one too. I knew both were trying to appease me and get me off the phone. Foolish men.

Finally, I called again and a lovely rep named Tory, helped me. My phone number was lost in the systerm. Vodaphone didn't have it. Virgin didn't have it and it could be lost to the wind. I'm furious. She did, however, turn my web services back on which got cut off after only 12 hours of use. They have credited me my first month free as way of an apology. But I still won't know if my number is being turned over or not until tonight/tomorrow morning.

If I do not get that number I have a list of 26 places that I must change it: banks, schools, credit cards, clubs, etc. and don't even get me started on having to tell all my friends! What a giant hassle. And the new number sucks - it doesn't have flow at all (I hate that).

Argh! I hate it. The worst part is that I felt terrible on Saturday night for being so wretchedly awful to the Virgin Service Advisors. At heart I am not a mean person and I was a really awful stinker to these poor chaps. Heavy sigh. Sorry, gents, but you got caught in my crossfire. I apologise profusely. However, fix my f*&^ing phone!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

New Zealand

Karekare Beach. My favourite!

Cate, the artist. Not only did she draw it larger than life, she lay in the middle for photo ops!!

My two little rappers at the Auckland Viaduct!

Fen, at home in Eden Park for an All Blacks test against Australia (they won)

Rotorua lake and my two chickens.

Lady Knox geyser. For once I wasn't the one blowing my top!

Waitapu national park - full of geysers, steaming hot pools, sink holes and wonder.

Tongue poking at a Maori Village

Claire and I try to escape the Volcanic cone at Mount Eden high above Auckland
At Devonport Military base overlooking Auckland on a beautiful sunny day.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Jet lag stinks!

We're tired 'round here. Exhausted. Beat. Dragging. It stinks.

Okay, so it took 32 hours and three flights to get us from Auckland, New Zealand back to London (via Sydney Australia and Singapore). That's a lotta flying. The kids were amazing - bless their sweet little souls. The flights were uneventful, the kids didn't cause any trouble at all (both ways) and I have little to complain about (shocking) but the recovery from the time change and the lack of sleep might be my undoing.

Last night was the worst. I can't have another tonight. Here's the lo down:

7:30pm kids are in bed (hooray)
10pm I go to bed
11:47pm  Fen comes to bed and wakes me, briefly
2:10am Cate wakes up crying for her blanket. I get up. Blanket is on her pillow, directly under her head. Grumbling I go back to bed.
2:21am X starts to softly whine for his pacifier and chocolate milk (didn't eat much dinner).
2:22am I give Fen a friendly kick and murmur, 'It's your turn.'
2:24am Fen gets up and gives X plain milk.
2:30am X turns from whining to crying, volume goes up to 11.
2:31am I am in the kitchen shaking Nestle's Quik into the milk.
2:47am Neighbours upstairs start making horrific racket. Starts, stops, starts, stops.
3:40am I text neighbour and ask them to knock it off.
3:45am Cat fight outside (at least it wasn't the foxes going at it again)
4am Fen starts to snore so loudly the windows are shaking violently in their frames
4:01am Kick Fen with purpose and demand silence
4:03am Fen snoring again
4:15am I am on the sofa in the lounge wrapped in blankets creatively stringing together four letter word combinations shocking to even a longshoreman.
4:30am X awake and whining.
4:31am Fen invites him into bed with him. I stay hidden under stack of blankets in lounge wondering if it's too late or too early to pour a glass of wine.
5:37am Last time I look at clock before actually nodding off again.
6:55am Kids awake and wanting breakfast.

Utterly wretched. I feel as if I was kicked in the head by an angry mule. And have the personality to match today.

Here's praying for a better sleep tonight. Oh, and let's hope I'm awake enough tomorrow so I can be coherent enough to write about our trip and new dislike of Australia!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Round the World

We've been traveling - a little. We took off the night of the Olympic closing ceremonies - heading for Singapore. We were only there for a few hours before we took off for Auckland (via Sydney) New Zealand.  We've been visiting the inlaws.

So I"ve been rather neglectful of my blog. That will change next week once we're back in London. It's a great trip so far - still have a day in Sydney too! Then it's back to London, routine, school and life as we know it.

X is starting school too - granted it's just nursery for a few hours, but it's going to be very good for him. And for me - or so I've been told.

More on our adventures when I get back to my computer!!

Hope you're all well!!

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Little Perspective

Boo hoo. That's been me for the past three weeks. I've been overworked, overwhelmed, sick with salmonella poisoning (as you may know), sleeping little and just pulled in forty directions. I dislike a complainer and I absolutely loathe being a complainer myself. But today - I will bitch and moan, just for a moment.

The kids are out of school, Cate has been in sports camp for a few days a week, X is mine 24/7. Doesn't sound so bad, huh? Well, Fen is working the Olympics so he is gone from the crack of dawn until well after midnight every day and night. This has been going on for nearly three weeks. My nanny is only part time so she couldn't give me extra hours and my back up sitter had the nerve to pack up and go backpacking across Europe before he starts University next month! Yet, I still work full time.

To say it's been a challenge is an understatement. I have been reduced to putting a movie on, giving the kids a special treat snack (ice lollies or crisps - taboo usually) and then dashing down the hall, closing the door, then climbing into the walk in closet, shutting that door and sitting on the window sill with my finger hovering over the mute button to take business calls - at all hours of the night and day (trouble of working in a different time zone).

I'm not getting much sleep as I can't work while the kids are awake and there is no nanny, so I work when they go to bed - from around 8pm-midnight. Just trying to get my ducks in a row before we leave for New Zealand.

Then last week, our washer/dryer blew up. This is a mild exaggeration as it did not burst into actual flame - it's just billowed with smoke for 20 minutes as I stood by, on the phone yelling at the management company with the fire extinguisher at the ready. A week later, last night in fact, after MUCH back and forth and insistence on my part, they delivered a loaner washer/dryer - at TEN O'CLOCK at night. I let them in the kitchen to install it, shut the door and went back to work. When they called me back, I went into the kitchen and it smelled like stagnant water. I mentioned this and they said they had spilled water and that it was fine.

Then they left and I decided to put in a load of kid laundry. I opened the washer door and it was covered in black mould. See photo below.

The ENTIRE flat smelled of mouldy water ALL night. Here it is nearly midday and they have yet to get it out of here. I told them then had until high noon to remove it before I called the health department. It stinks in here. We're flying in 2 days, I have over 2 weeks worth of laundry and I can't leave the house (they are supposed to be showing up to remove it). I'm angry. Nay...livid/pissed/rip-shit/FURIOUS.

Meanwhile, my daughter is allergic to mould and I can't have her anywhere near this place. It's just vile.

So I have two days to clean all the laundry at the laundrette, pack, clean the house, finish getting all my work done (a pipe dream - that last one) and organize carry on luggage consisting of crafts, movies, games, toys, clothes, diapers, snacks, books, blankets, wipes, medication, earplugs (!) and a host of other things. All of this so I can get on a 30 hour flight to Auckland: three flights, two layovers, two small children under 5, an overworked, exhausted husband and zero sleep.

Are ya kidding me?

But then I look at this guy: Oliver Pistorius.
He has no feet and yet he's not complaining. Here he is competing in the Olympics and doing amazingly well. Now, that's inspiring.

I'll just tuck my self-pity tissues away and get on with it. No one likes a whiner!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Fen and I decided that we want a car. Hooray! I’m so excited about this. We’re waiting until September to buy one but, being me, I have already started to search for the best fit for our family and our needs. We’ve just been renting for the past 2 ½ years since we moved to London but I know that if we bought a car it would make my life considerably easier – which is the true focus of my existence right now.

If we had a car I could do the school run in a quarter of the time. I could run to Sainsbury’s or the giant Tesco whenever I wanted. Or Toys R Us, or Ikea, or Brent Cross or anywhere I wanted. Right now I don’t do a lot of things because I don’t want to carry a push chair up and down over ground or tube steps. I’m sick of having to wait for two or three busses to come before I can get on with my stroller. I’m all about making my life easier right now and car is part of that answer.

What I must have: a small car that’s easy to park but big enough to fit my 6’1” husband, two kids, some luggage and me. It must have five doors – I want a hatchback of some kind. I do not want a red or white car and I don’t want a wagon or an SUV. Not that I’m picky or anything!

I’m also debating whether to buy a used car from an owner or from a dealer. Not sure what to do there – will have to leave that one up to Fen.

The next big step is getting it licensed; need to compare car insurance rates, must apply for parking permits and so on.

This is all part of my ‘take my life back’ campaign 2012. If you see a gal the autumn in a car with all the windows down, head out the window, hair blowing in the window yelling, ‘Freedom!’ – HONK! It will probably be me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Olympics. Salmonella poisoning and Summer

This is an advert on the northern line tube train. It's about how to avoid the crowds during the Olympics. That's about as much as I am informed on the situation. It's amazing to me how subdued the Olympics are here. I know in the US right now there are ads for everything Olympics. I'm sure anyone with a TV knows who the candy/soda/camera/what-have-you official sponsor of the Olympics are, and they probably know who the medal hopefuls are in a dozen sports. I saw that Brian Williams (of NBC news) is on his way here (or already is) and that America is prepared. Haven't a clue about that here.

Britian is reserved, they don't go mad, ape-shit over things and overdo them to the point of exhaustion. Even though the Olympics are here in the very city I'm living in it's barely on my radar. There are Olympic lanes on the roads (and a few black cabbies decided to protest that they may not ride in them - silently, and subdued, natch), the Olympic rings are on Tower Bridge, and a few other things. But other than that - the only thing I've noticed a lot of are the ads (in print on the tubes and on the radio) for avoiding Olympic Village and crowds. That's it!

While I find it refreshing to not be postively drowning in it, I'm disappointed that there isn't just a little more. So we're going down to Camden on Thursday to the torch relay route. We want to watch the actual torch run by. I figure that's exciting for the kids (maybe not, but it's a great photo op) and then while the Olympics are on we'll go take them to the Village and Tower Bridge for more photo ops. I want them to know they lived in London during exciting times. At least I think they are exciting times.

Fen, the old ball and chain, is covering the Olympics and has all but gone underground. He's already up to his eyeballs in work and I am an Olympic widow. Good thing I just recovered from a exhausting bout of salmonella poisoning! Awful! don't know how I got it but certainly glad THAT is over.

Kids are out for the summer - and the summer finally, FINALLY, decided to show up this week. There IS sun in London. Who knew? We're soakingg up as much Vitamin D as we can this week.

I'm excited about the Olympics. I wish I could actually attend but I have the kids, no husband, and limited babysitters. Darn. But Fen will have fun (she said with a huff).

I'm routing for the Bahamas first, America second, New Zealand third, Samoa fourth, Britian fifth and everyone else after that. That covers ALL our passports and countries of residence!! We're an international crew.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy 4th everyone! Being in London on big American holidays has been one of the biggest disappointments. This year we were invited to a BBQ with good friends but my little Cate came down with a fever and had to be brought home from school. So we are staying put. Poor duck!  We're going to grill hamburgers at home anyway.

Sure wish I had a few sparklers!!

Hope you all have a wonderful day! I'll have to live vicariously through you.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My New Project

I have my new project for the Autumn! I'm very excited about it. For the past few months I've been wondering what on Earth I'll do with myself once I'm no longer the PR person for my women's club, a class rep for the PTA, full time mum and full time agent - along with my many coffee meetings, early morning gym sessions, general socializing and running a household of four.

Cate will start Year 1 (by the way, the class photo was taken outside the reception classroom with all students, just as I had dreamed. Yay! It's absolutely adorable. If you don't know what I'm talking about you can read about the dreadful class photo I rebelled against here). X starts nursery part time - four days a week, four hours a day. I won't be on every committee with my women's club, I won't have to send out the class letter every week and field questions in the playground - I'll just be a regular member in the club, and a regular mum in the school. I will also have four hours a day to myself. ALL to myself as I don't start work until 2pm every day (New York hours).

What to do? What to do? Well, I found my project!

We walk uphill everyday (in the snow and rain) to drop Cate at school every day (see that walk here). At the top of the second hill (there are three with no down hill - it's just a rolling hill upward) there is a T stop. We like to cross the road and run up the private road that is blocked to traffic. However, there is no zebra crossing anywhere along this road. Not down the road, not up the road. There are literally hundreds of school children who walk this route to their various schools without a proper crossing - not crossing guards, nothing. I want to change that.

This article in the Daily Mail came out the other day and it just fueled my fire. I want a proper zebra crossing with crossing guard during school run time for this particular area. They were denied a crossing as it was too expensive (£14,000) so the parents created their own, which I think is brilliant, however it's illegal.

I called the council to find out what I need to do - which is a lot - petitions, paperwork, research, etc. I've already sussed out the opinion of several parents who also have this daily commute with children and they all agree. It's a dangerous intersection and a crossing would be heaven sent.

Rest easy, fellow parents of Hampstead, West Hampstead, Kilburn, Fortune Green and beyond - I'm on it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Brit Mums Live!

On Friday I headed over to the Brewery for the Brit Mums Live conference. What a lot of fun! Since I spend much of my time hunched over a desk, alone, on the phone and computer at home, it's nice to get out in the world and meet with writers and like-minded folks - mix, mingle, talk shop. It felt just fabulous. And everyone, and I mean everyone I met was so interesting.

I sat on a panel about getting published - in the traditional form - you may remember- books, hard cover, paperback, pages, typed words, etc. They look like this:
It was a fun panel. Everyone on it was really well informed and I completely agreed 100% with everything they had to say. Here's who was on the panel with me: Kate Morris, a published author who was very candid and insightful on the process, Emily Carlisle - a soon to be published author - who gave excellent tips on how to approach editors and agents as well as how to make yourself attractive to them (work wise - your looks and dress don't matter much here!), Cari Rosen who is also a published author and very charming I might add. Our moderator was the fabulous Toni Hargis from Ex Pat Mum who I've met cyber-ly a few times!

I think we did all right. I was very pleased with the large turnout and was even more delighted to see people furiously taking notes. I think I did all right - I was really tired that day and was completely thrown because we were seated up front facing everyone without a table in front of us! That was a first. I'm a leaner - I like to lean on tables when I talk so for me to wing-it without the support of a table - well, it was fine in the end!

I met quite a few interesting people there including Michelle - The American Resident - we go way back. She's one of my favourites. And I met Julia Boggio who was just delightful and unknown to me (a lot escapes me I'm completely clueless) a very well respected photographer. (Want to work on a book with her!!)

They had loads of great sponsors and the champagne was flowing (served by half naked men with twitter  hashtags written on them - which somehow made the champagne much tastier!). The blog awards were a scream - my two friends who were nominated did not win (grrrr) but I had a good time all around.

Next year - I'm going for the whole thing, not just the Friday night! I wanted to sit in on the workshops and presentations but had no time (as usual). Next year - I make the time.

Hooray for Brit Mums Live. A job beautifully done.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Cate!

When you turn five you have ice cream for breakfast! At least that's what they do in Scotland - which is where we were for the big 5! Cate loved it. Couldn't finish it either, had to have Daddy polish it off. No complaints from him either. Just look at the beautiful little face! So precious!

We did a looooong driving tour of England and Scotland starting in London headed to Nottingham and Sherwood Forest, then spent a night in Leeds. Off to Edinburgh in the morning stopping at Roman fort ruins along Hadrian's Wall (fabulous! photos to follow). From there we drove to Blackpool and Pleasure Beach which is the home of Nickelodeon Land (woo wee!). Did it all if 6 days - too much if you ask me. Fen and I decided next time we're picking ONE place and staying there!

So little Ms. Cate had her third birthday cake since we've been in London. She's lived here the same amount of time as she has in the US now. She doesn't remember New York or our Brooklyn home. That makes me sad. We're not going home this summer either as we're headed to New Zealand instead.

Her big birthday bash in in a few weeks. Her entire class is invited and we're hosting it along with three adorable little girls in her class. It's all Disney princess themed and I know she's going to just love it. I made her another cake with was an explosion of pink on her buttercream vanilla icing, jam in the middle. Divine. As you can see, she likes it!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Class Photo Debacle

I'm on a tear - again. This time it's the class photo. We were expecting a normal, traditional class photo with the students sitting in rows, teachers on the side, most of the kids (hopefully ours) smiling into the camera - or at least looking at it.

Oh no! That is not what we received - at all. The school decided to do something different - and while I'm all for that and think the photo is unique, different, and whimsical it's not at all what I want for my daughter to have for the rest of her life.

What came instead is a long photo - not the traditional size, but a long photo with clusters of children photoshopped together in a row. There are about 4-7 children in each cluster, all in different poses. The unfortunate and most outrageous thing is that my daughter - in her cluster - is laid out on the floor on her stomach with her elbows propping her up and another child standing over her, straddling her, hands on hips (the other child's hips, not Cate's). It's deplorable.


This is for her to have to remember all the children she started her education with - the kids who were her first BFF's and the kids who will remember her - years from now when they're all adults and successful (or not) they can post of Facebook and say, remember when we were in reception? And my child is on the ground with another child looming over her as if she shot her in a big-game safari.

To say the least, as I'm wont to do, I freaked out completely. This is not what I want for Cate. I am trying to teach her to stand up for herself, to be her own person, etc.etc. and here she is laying down with someone on top of her.  When I finally looked at the photo (we had it for a few days but I've been too busy to deal and just pulled it out this morning so I could order it) I nearly exploded. I know I have a tendency to get a bit hot under the collar when it comes to my children (lest ye forget - here's how I handled the Great Pumpkin Debate while pregnant).

I cooled off and then complained to the school that I wasn't happy with the photo. I then called the photographer to see if there were any alternate poses we could choose from. No there were not. So I spoke to the other mothers and some were not happy with the photo - and their children weren't even on the ground! So, I've proposed to take another photo outside the classroom, on the steps in a traditional fashion with the teachers. The photographer mum in the class has agreed to take the photo and we'll provide a free emailed copy to everyone so that people have alternatives.

I'm waiting for permission from the school that it's okay. If they no... well, let's not think about that. Once I get a bee in my bonnet no one will rest until I get what I want. And I want a normal, traditional, decent photo for my Cate to have of her reception class that will make her proud. Then, and only then, will I be happy and let it go. I overreacting?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Jolly Jubilee

Thar she is - the Queen! Of all the times to be in London we did luck out: with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics this year there is a lot of merriment to be had. So often I forget we're even in Britain but when the Royals have something to celebrate - EVERYONE -  the whole nation breaks out the champagne. I love that.

Last year during Will and Kate's wedding we attended a wedding party with friends and then Fen and I dragged the kids down to the mall - the long stretch of road leading up to Buckingham Palace - and St. James Park to see the festivities. You can read about that and see the pics here.

But during the wonderful flotilla parade we decided to skip the crowds along the Thames and stay home - mostly because it was pouring rain - not just drizzling but relentless sheets of rain. We skipped the street parties too for the same reason. Instead we stayed in, had a party of our own - I broke out a fancy table cloth, we had cloth napkins and ate: BBQ ribs, corn on the cob and apple pie. Not British at all, but we had fun. The kids loved it.

It's really nice to see the country come together to celebrate their Queen. It's not part of the daily discussion really, she's just there, doing her thing. People complain about the royals (including me. I don't like the fact that my tax money went to fund part of the royal wedding!) but when it comes right down to it - no one, and I mean NO ONE does pomp and circumstance like the Brits. And they have a Queen! Come on - that's just fantastic.

I was a double major - 18th century British Fiction and History - Britain 1600-1800 with a minor in Creative Writing. So I do fancy the royals a wee bit, always have.

And NO ONE does documentaries like the Brits. There's usually one on a royal or historical figure or a castle/manor house every Saturday on the BBC. They are brilliant. I don't miss them. I've learned more about the Queen's behind their famous husband kings than I ever cared to know. And I'm grateful for it.

I'm very rah-rah the royals today! God save the Queen ('cause heaven knows we don't want Charles at the helm!).

Sunday, June 3, 2012

2 1/2 Years Ago

So sweet - my two little chickens. X was only 8 days old, Cate was 2 1/2, same age X is now. Seems like a lifetime ago (which I guess it was). Taken in our lovely Cobble Hill Brooklyn apartment which I still miss daily.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Freedom to Dress in Dresses

Here's my two-year-old son in one of his favourite outfits. he loves my 5 year old daughter's dresses - the pinker and sparkly - the better. He likes Barbies (especially Mermaid Barbie), dolls, tiaras, tutus and fairy wings. Loves them.

And we let him wear whatever he wants when he's at home, or at a friends house, or playgroups. He's happy putting on a dress, some princess heels, and then dancing. It's hilarious. I never really gave it much thought. He's 2, for heaven's sake and he has an older sister who loves dressing them both up to sing and dance.

However, recently, I've been questioned. The head teacher at Cate's school, who is a lovely, lovely man, was delighted that I let X play with his mermaid Barbie and Ariel dolls while we held a meeting. I told him how I wanted both of my children to have the freedom to make their own choices and play with whatever makes them happy.

But then a few weeks later X had his dolls and was dancing down the street with them. As I tried to grab him and lock him into the stroller two men complimented me on how cute he was. I thanked them and one said, quite earnestly, 'Is he gay?' I nearly keeled over laughing. My reply, 'Don't know. He's only two.'

yesterday I was at a big play center where X immediately donned a pink fairy dress, a hard had and a tinkerbell watch. Then he proceed to run amok everywhere, playing, as little boys are wont to do. He's a tough little bugger, loves to climb, run, squeeze into impossible places. He'll put up a good fight if someone tries to take his toy away (he has to battle Cate half the time so he's no stranger to defending himself). As he ran and jumped, my friends and I laughed at how cute he was. One of my friends said he's a true Samoan - a tough guy in a dress (my husband Fen is half Samoan). But I noticed other mums looking at him funnily and making remarks behind hands. One said to me, 'You don't care that he's in a dress?' I replied, 'No. Of course not.' she said, 'It's so girlie.' To  which I replied, 'Not a problem. I'm man enough for us both.'

He kept the dress on until we were ready to leave.

Then last night we went to a friends house. He was the youngest by at least 2 years. He immediately came out of the kids bedroom with princess slippers on and a Snow White costume in hand. A friend helped him slip into it. He then danced and ran around for at least an hour. There were 10 kids there (ages 2-8) Only three girls, who were busy painting together, but the boys laughed at him and pointed at him. He pushed them aside and carried on, completely oblivious to their taunts. Eventually, on his own terms, he took the dress off and played with the toy garage for the rest of the visit.

The boys laughing at him are all good friends kids, all good boys. No harm intended. They're boys after all! I watched my son, doing his own thing and how he just pushed them aside and carried on. I was proud of him. He's his own little man. Even in a dress.

I hope he continues to play with dolls and dresses until he decides he doesn't want to on his terms (or not). he's a smart, charming, funny little guy and I think he's going to be a very interesting adult one day. Both of my children make me proud as they are not wall flowers. I have only Chiefs, no Indians.

However, I'm growing tired of having people look at my X like he's weird or wrong. And God forbid someone say something to him. I'm getting too old for fist fights. But put your money on me folks, I still got some fight left in me! I'm scrappy.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Somewhat Silent Sunday

That is X. He kept escaping his room last night. I told him that I did not want him coming out of the bedroom again, very sternly. He is fast asleep in this photo. Bless! He did not come out of the room - but he fell asleep trying! That's his doll 'Jack' nearby who dared to cross into the forbidden hallway. Jack is a rebel!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Catching myself

These past two weeks have been absolutely hectic. I have a lot going on with work, Cate's school, the PTA, my women's club charity event, my writing group, planning Cate's birthday party and our upcoming trips to Scotland and New Zealand. I'm as busy as ever but I think I'm burning out now. I've been rather emotional and drained. the stupid tennis elbow and tendonitis is not helping either.

Maybe it's the pace I've been keeping that's made me weepy. I've been thinking of my sister quite a bit lately. It's little things that just trigger a lost memory and the grief of loss slams you against a wall. That happened to me this week as I was tagging all of Cate and X's clothing for our charity Nearly New Sale of kids clothing and toys. I couldn't bring myself to sell a few items that Tracy gave to them. She had wonderful taste and showered Cate with dresses and X with outfits. Those that were most precious I gave to friends I love. I've saved a few for my pregnant friends expecting girls as well. It makes me happy to know they are going to little girls I know and adore.

But no one wanted the snowsuit Cate is wearing in the photo above. She's only wearing the top as the bottom is too small.  But Tracy picked that suit out. And I remember us in our backyard in Brooklyn when Cate was just 2 wearing that suit which was too big for her, plunking around in the giant piles of snow with the neighbor's yellow lab Emma. Tracy and I laughed our heads off. She had so much patience with Cate and they made a snowman and snow angels while I watched from the window (I had just had X two weeks earlier). It's a good memory for me.

Since no one wanted the snowsuit I decided to put it in the sale. I didn't realize what a mistake that was going to be for me throughout the day. I saw a family walking around with it and was happy that it found a home. But they put it back on the rack. All day I watched that suit hanging on the rack being pushed aside, overlooked, fingered and replaced on the bar - all day. It was torture for me. How could no one want the suit that Tracy bought and we loved so much? How could it possibly not be good enough for any of these hundreds of people milling around?

It didn't sell. I watched it being put into the donation box at the end of the day and it seriously crushed my soul. I had run into the bathroom a few times during the day to snap out of it. I called poor Fen a few times who kept telling me that it was just a piece of clothing, we had photos of them together with Cate wearing it and I needed to let it go. I knew I had to which is why I didnt' take it off the floor. I held out hope that it would be bought but it didn't.

Grief just creeps up on you in unlikely places and it's hard to hold it together. Little things trigger emotions I've tried really hard to come to terms with for the past ten months since Tracy died. But the one year anniversary is coming up. It's Cate's last day of school so I'm happy for the distraction. I just thought it would get easier to deal with her absence but it doesn't. It gets harder and more painful. I don't think it will ever be easy.

But after a good nights sleep I realize that a child in need will get that suit and that makes me happy. I didn't need to worry about it. It's gone where it needs to be. Tracy would have loved that. All is good again. And I'm not selling anything at the sale next year!