Category Archives: Family

That’s My Daughter in the Water

When I got a promotion at work about a year ago it meant that I had to up my working days to 4 (plus a little more).  As a result and in order to make things work for our family, The Native arranged to go down to 4 working days.

Mondays are his Daddy/Daughter Day with The Duchess and to be honest, I never anticipated they would become what they now are.

He makes such an effort to take her out and do things with her.  It has genuinely become a time that he cherishes.  With my marathon of a maternity leave now only days away, we are both grieving losing that Monday because we know what it means to her and we both understand and see that it has really come to be something quite special for him, too.

Today they had a day out in Wells in Somerset.  They visited a tractor shop – as you do in the West Country – and then went on to the stunning Wells Cathedral.  Image

They trundled around the Cathedral, charming (at least in The Native’s account of things) the older visitors.  But the best bit of the day was walking around the moat.  The Native showed me this picture when I got home.  I love her mischievous face.  It tells a story.  And there is definitely a story there.  Image

“I told her that if she caught a pigeon, she could keep it.”

Thankfully she hasn’t yet inherited my insane fear of pigeons and seagulls (and I will argue that there is a VERY good reason to fear them).  She took the challenge seriously.  As a girl should.

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“But then she came across this freakishly over-confident pigeon.  The thing wouldn’t move and came right up to her.  She was reaching out to grab it and I had to scream, ‘DON’T TOUCH IT!'”

Hey.  He set the challenge.

Even when The Native “loses” his Mondays, long may Daddy/Daughter Days reign.

A Big Night In – American Food, Fun and Films

The last time I was pregnant, The Native and I really did sense the change ahead.  A change we were excited to embrace, but one we also knew would mean a more sacrificial stage of life – where adult conversation is a rarity and usually takes place over the bar of a pushchair or in the front of the car once the kiddo has nodded off.  As a result we tried to soak up the final stages of being a two-some by going on as many dates as humanly possible in my final weeks of pregnancy.

And we were right because over two years later, we know firsthand that it’s REALLY hard to go out.  Since we are working parents and because my in-laws provide so much help with childcare in the week, we feel too guilty to ask for anything more when we want a night for grown-ups and often find ourselves in our pyjamas by 8pm on a Saturday.

A Big Night In is just what we need.

So when Little Stuff said they were teaming up with 2 Little Fleas to see what bloggers would classify as a great night in if they had £750 to spend, my mind started to put all of the dates we haven’t gone on since The Duchess’s birth into one night.  And I have to admit that in true Foreigner fashion I went for the extreme opposite of what we’ve been living for the last 27 months.

“A Big Night In.  Red carpet attire.  Catering.  A candelit dinner.  Fine wines (or Schloer for us preggos).  A stringed quartet.  A make-up artist.  Maybe hair too.”

I got a little carried away.

I soon came to my senses and realized that even if I blew 80% of the budget on styling myself like Jennifer Lawrence, I’d likely be the only one to enjoy it.  (Even though I would enjoy it.)

Some of the best nights of our lives have been the most relaxed when we are in the company of people who we absolutely adore.  And as a foreigner, something that has been so significant to me on those nights is when I get to share and enjoy little bits of my culture with those people.  It’s a chance to share a unique part of who I am.

Our annual Thanksgiving meal is one occasion to bring a little bit of America to my beloved Brits.

Our annual Thanksgiving meal is one occasion to bring a little bit of America to my beloved Brits.

So the Big Night In would absolutely have to be an American barbecue.    Because in the Expat Family book, there is always room (and a season) for barbecue food.

Eight of our nearest and dearest would arrive to a cozy backyard layout.  Picture it.  Picnic blankets strewn about with cushions scattered on the ground, a couple of comfy seats, bunting dangling above and fairy lights hung overhead, acting as our British fireflies for the evening.

We’d have a menu solely dedicated to feel good American grub (you guys KNOW how I feel about a good burger).   We’d dip our sweet potato fries in homemade sauce as we sip on fresh lemonade and root beer floats from Kilner glasses.

But the real fun is that when the sun sets.  There was a drive-in movie theatre not far from my house when I was growing up and I remember so clearly going there for the first time as a young child.  It’s an experience I’d LOVE to share with The Native and would love to introduce to some of our friends.

Sure, it’s not quite a drive-in, but a sit-in movie theatre under the stars sounds just as magical.  My in-laws have a projector and screen and so we’d serve up hot apple cider (not the West Country type – but of the spicy, non-alcoholic kind), set up the speakers, light the firepit, cozy up on our blankets, start to toast the S’mores and project a classic American film onto the garden wall.

So what’s in my shopping bag to make our Big Night In happen:

  • £220 for beautiful, adaptable outdoor seating.  And yes, I will be making use of these chairs and cushions after the Big Night In.
  • £40 for fairy lights
  • £40 for Kilner jars for decoration and drinks (You can never have too many!)
  • £169.99 for Leisuregrow Grillstream barbecue
  • £80 for food
  • £59.90 for firepit
  • £129.95 for Yamaha speakers for watching an American classic under the stars

Total: £739.84

That is date-doing, soul-filling, memory-making, life-sharing stuff.

Oh, and if you don’t know what s’mores are – I’m glad you’re here.  I’m about to change your life.

……………………………………………………….

How would you spend a Big Night In?  I would love to hear your ideas.

Check out my Pinterest boards for a complete look at the menu, decor and film selection.

Further Tales of a Pink Potty

Months ago, we bought a pink potty simply to start the conversation around what would happen in the months to come as we transitioned from nappies to pants.  But recently, we’ve properly decided to explore potty training with The Duchess.  I am three months away from my due date, which means either she potty trains now or we wait until the kid is pushing three.  Because Lord help me if while sleep deprived, I am constantly running a toddler to a potty while an infant is treating me like a milk machine.  I am not made with that kind of patience.

She occasionally goes where she’s meant to at the moment, but mostly she goes in her pants.  Sometimes, she asks me to put pants on her SO she can go in them.  Last week she came home and bragged about pooping on my in-laws floor.

Somehow I’m not sure she’s getting the concept.

So when I unearthed this horse puppet from a corner that The Big Brown One had hidden him in and The Duchess made old Mr Horsey her go-to guy of the day, I am not above saying that I took advantage.   Image

I gave that horse a voice and talked to her as Mr Horsey until my throat became sore.  When the golden opportunity presented itself, I held him over her potty when she wasn’t looking, poured water in and shouted, “OH.MY.GOSH!  Horsey wees on the potty.”

The kid about fell over.

I’m just praying she’s not now expecting him to poo.  Image

25 Weeks 6 Days

Today I am 25 weeks and 6 days pregnant.

A strange milestone to point out, admittedly – not a round number – not even the milestone of the 3rd trimester.  My family will know this number.   They will remember it.   For my sister and brother-in-law those numbers will conjure intense memories of fear and hope because on January 1st at 25 weeks and 6 days pregnant, my niece and nephew were born.  Unbelievably small.  Fragile.  Dependent on modern medicine for survival.  Oblivious to the road ahead.  Here.  Living.  Loved.

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There were times in the earliest days that we feared the worst.  The absolute unthinkable.  Where we longed to wrap our arms around my family – to hold them because we could do nothing else.  My husband and I made tentative plans in case I needed to get on a plane in a moment’s notice.  It seemed we were all holding our breath.

We did make that trip home.  Weeks ago we flew across the Atlantic to meet thriving, growing, beautiful babies.  They are home from hospital.  Living.  Loved.  And so unbelievably adorable.  Am I right?  Image

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Today, I feel the movements of the baby within.  He’s a kicker in a way that his sister never was. I watch my stomach jump as he faces another bout of hiccups. I look forward to the day we go to hospital, hold him in our arms and introduce him to his big sister.   And I am so grateful that I am blessed to continue to carry him.  I don’t take these precious days and weeks for granted.

No one should because mothers all over the world, today, this very night, are facing the emotions that my sister and brother-in-law did just over 7 months ago.  Those same emotions of overwhelming fear as they hold on to hope, praying through each moment of each day because their sweet babies have arrived far too soon.

To find out more about premature birth and to support families who will so appreciate the smallest acts of care and kindness for their babies, please have a look at the links below.

If you are in the US and know a family who has had a premature baby, you can arrange for a free care package to be sent by visiting Graham’s Foundation.

If you are in the UK, you can order a free TLC package from Pop N’ Grow for families who have a premature or ill baby.  You can also order a free clothing modification pack for babies who have special medical needs.  Their clothing is adapted to fit over the wires and tubes that often come with treating these little ones.

Pop N’ Grow is aiming to raise £3000 by the end of this month.  Would you please consider donating via their site or sharing their site to raise the profile of this great organisation?

Of Jetlag and Late Night Conversations

We have been away.  Just your last minute, run of the mill quick getaway.  To America.  It took us 2 travel days and we were there 6 full days.  It was to meet these two:SONY DSC

but more on that to come.

Long-haul travelling at 24 weeks pregnant is not to be scoffed at, but it’s hard to call the look anything other than scoffing as I passed fellow jet-setters in the airport with my emerging bump and toddler in tow.  People stared.  Especially middle-aged women type people.  Sure they could have been admiring the miniature-sized Thomas backpack I had stylishly slung over my shoulder, but I think it was the bump.  And I was never sure if it was a look of concern or of judgement.

I often underestimate how your body really does demand more of you when you’re pregnant (especially my back, legs and digestive tract).  When travelling in the past, I normally adjust to new timezones quickly, but this time, at 24 weeks pregnant, 12.30pm would roll around and I’d feel like I was dying.  On my feet.  Dead.  Sleep or die.  SLEEP or DIE.  I could not shake the tiredness.

And after adjusting to that 5 hour time difference – oh – like ONE DAY before left, we are now 2 days on from our arrival home and our bodies are struggling to swing back to British Summer Time.  This means the Duchess is raring to go at 1am and I am back at work tomorrow.  And oh.my.gosh I am actually going to die.  At work.

Last night when the awake-ness struck, I thought I’d try to get her to softly sing songs to lull her back to sleep.

Me: Do you want to sing a song?

TD: Yes please, Mummy.

Me: What would you like to sing?

TD: 5 Currant Buns.

Me: …………

I think that is a British song.  Do you sing it with Granny?  Mummy doesn’t know it.  How about another one?

TD: (Indecipherable…I think it was something about bananas.)

Me: Hmmm.  Don’t know that one either.

TD: Wheels on the Bus?  Mummy, you KNOW that one.  You know that one!

Me: Hey, thanks for being patronising.  I do know it.  And I am going to sing the poo out of it.  That bus will be taken to places it’s never dreamed.  The WORLD will be talking about that bus.

Call it American competitiveness, but that’s when the plan back-fired because in the haze of jetlag, I was about to show her that Mummy may not know 5 Currant Buns or a good banana song, but she could take that bus to a higher plain.

Bump Update: Week 17 & Birthing Plans

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Today I tweeted a lady who had a bowl of sick in her lap on her drive home because she is 9 weeks into pregnancy and struggling with morning sickness.   That is pregnancy (or one part of it, anyway).  I am SO glad to be on the other side of all of the nausea and am feeling really good, despite some occasional hip pain.

I saw my lovely midwife when I hit 17 weeks and we started talking about birthing options for this little one.   When I was pregnant with The Duchess, The Native and I were pretty relaxed about our birthing plan, opting to use the birthing centre and pool if it was free (there is only room to facilitate one birth at a time there), knowing that we’d likely end up on Labour Ward instead.  We were possibly a bit TOO relaxed about it all because I nearly popped that kid out in our upstairs bathroom – only making it to the hospital in time for the grand finale.   We are talking a Richard Curtis style labor.  Yeah Rich, call me if you want some ideas for your next film.

While speaking to the midwife this week, we got onto the topic of home births.  I was only curious about how many women opt for them.  Genuinely.  It’s not something that I know is commonly done in the States, but we have known a few people here who have gone that route, including our very best friends with their 2nd child.

It was then that my midwife is all, “You would be PERFECT for a home birth.”  And that is when, friends, I got this image of my husband’s face that will be forever seared into my memory bank.  That look he had when I woke him up in the middle of the night shouting, “THE BABY IS PUSHING!”  That is the look I knew I’d likely get if I went home and said, “Hey honey, Let’s do this thing in the family room.”  Because when we nearly unintentionally had The Duchess at home, it was pretty freaking terrifying.

Who knows?  We have time to think about it.  I know planning to stay at home is different than not having the choice.

Anyone reading who can offer guidance/thoughts on home birthing?  Would you or wouldn’t you?

Staying Put

About a month ago The Native and I agreed that some holiday time was long overdue.  In the UK, it’s typical to get around 28 days of annual leave each year, excluding national holidays.  You guys, that is a guaranteed 7 weeks off EVERY YEAR.   Crazy, right?   How does this country get anything done?  I mean forget relaxing, warding off sickness, managing stress, and spending precious time with your family – you have an empire to re-build, Britain!

We toyed around with a ferry to France, a cottage in Cornwall or booking an all inclusive place like Bluestone Wales, but with a baby on the way and my impending maternity leave, we are being responsible adults and trying to stash as much cash away as possible which means seriously questioning whether a booked holiday was the best option.  Our recent day out on the water challenged us that being refreshed is about how we choose to use our time, not about where we go.  So, we are currently on a staycation.

Can you spoke her stone? Hint: It's white and not going in the direction you think.

Can you spot her stone? Hint: It’s white and not going in the direction you think.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of a staycation – it is where you become a tourist in your local area.  You plan days out, choose to dine out instead of cook, and live as though on holiday, all while being able to return to home comforts at the end of the day.

We have just seen out week one with one more week to go.  Week one took us to Paignton Zoo and the beach.  Image

By the way, if you ever take a 2 year old to the zoo, strap them into their puschair and NEVER release them.  I admit that before our arrival I may have said to The Native, “Okay, so to enjoy this experience – I need to make sure she is completely safe and not too close to the edge of the enclosures at ALL times because I have read  the news TOO much. ”  We got there and took her down from her puschair and she did not.stop.running.  The way she was parkouring through the Desert House, I really thought we were going to lose her to a poisonous dart frog or a komodo dragon.  Image At one point The Native may have shouted, “If you don’t get back here, we’re buying reigns!”  By lunch, we were exhausted from trying to herd her away from danger.

If you live within driving distance of Devon, we certainly suggest a visit to Paignton Zoo.  We had a  great time and loved the feel.  Although it had its fair share of uphill treks, it has plenty of animals to see and is in beautiful, leafy surroundings.  Image

ImageSeriously, there were actual homes overlooking the zebra enclosure.  Mmmm- imagine the smell on a boiling hot, summer’s day.  Good thing those don’t happen here often.  Image