Category Archives: Holidays

Bump Update: 33 Weeks

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Weeks ago it was as if someone pushed a button and Autumn just was.  There was that crispness to the air and the need to start to layer after a summer where we got to wear SHORTS and feel good about it (pretty significant for England).

We’ve got so much to look forward to in autumn.  The food, Bonfire Night (that is an ACTUAL thing),  traditional carnival in the Southwest, our annual Thanksgiving, celebrating six years of marriage, and of course, the arrival of this little one.

I feel my natural instincts kicking in that delivery isn’t too terribly far away.  Today I spent hours de-cluttering and reorganizing our bedroom – and it.was.glorious.   After doing my Big Night In post, I have this CRAZY desire to make S’more cookies.  I want to paint.  I want to do furniture renovations.   My body is telling me to get this house ready and I’m glad I have (hopefully!) a few more weeks to do it.

And to spend time with this little monster once I begin my maternity leave.

Here’s to autumn!

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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

Choosing Not to Plan It All

I moved down to Somerset and The Native and I were still in the early stages of our relationship.  We had been getting to know each other long distance for a number of months and now were finally in the same place where we could venture beyond the shallow waters of the beginning stages of a relationship, to the dark, murky waters of properly getting to know each other, unearthing the good and bad of what would lie beneath.

One summer’s evening he turned to me with a smile on his face and said, “Come on!  Let’s take a drive.”  On the spur of the moment he had decided to hop into the car and drive up into the picturesque hills of Somerset to try and catch the sunset.

And that is when he found out I don’t do well with spontaneity.

We were in the car and I questioned where we were going, how long the drive would be and doubted that we’d make it there for sunset.  Yeah, I know.  I hate myself for it, too.

There are things to plan for – a family, a marriage, buying a home, your work week – sunsets should not be on that list.

Time hasn’t entirely changed my hesitancy to throw my arms up in the air, toss my head back and enjoy the ride, but being with The Native has made me more aware of the things in my life I need to refine – like letting go sometimes.

So today when we made our way to a local lake and The Native had decided that it was time to go home, you can imagine my surprise when some women’s voice, that sounded very much like mine, rose from my throat and said, “No.  Let’s stay and let’s go out on a boat.”  It was beyond nap-time, I had weekend work to get back to, we were going to put a 1 year old in a capsize-able boat in freezing water.

It ended up being one of the best days we’ve had in the last 12 months.

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Now That It’s Over – Happy Holidays!

We are back on UK soil.  It has been great to exchange work and the responsibilities of life for exploring New York, lazing around in my pajamas in my parent’s house, and eating my own weight in takeaways.   SONY DSC

Time away has been good for me.  It’s been good for us.  Parts of the trip stripped me of all of the energy I possessed, but parts restored my spirit and refreshed my soul in just the way I needed.  We’re honestly pretty sad to be back.   Sure, a little bit of it is post holiday blues (both  Christmas and vacation), but these funny and familiar feelings have reminded me, once again, about the challenges of living this weird expat life.   It’s a longing for a home that doesn’t exist anymore because time and living as a foreigner have changed you.    And yet, the questions still linger.  What if I returned and loved it?    What if it’s exactly where I’m meant to be?

It is never easy, but we are certainly glad to have family and friends on both sides of the Atlantic that make the decision so hard.

Hoping that you and yours have had a very merry Christmas and wishing you a great year ahead!

From our jetlagged family to yours.

From our jetlagged family to yours.

O’ (Real) Christmas Tree

Have I ever told you the story about the time The Native and I bought our first real Christmas tree?

No?  Well, you’re in for a treat.

When I was growing up, every year just after Thanksgiving, my family would make that long journey to our cold, unfinished basement to pull out the box that held our artificial Christmas tree. It sounds like a magical time, doesn’t it?

But the truth is I never really thought about it.   In fact, I loved it.  I never questioned whether this was an inferior way to do Christmas until I met the real tree enthusiasts of the world.

It started with my best friend from aged 13. With a lilt in her voice that only the spirit of Christmas can bring, she described how excited she was to go and choose the tree, to trim it, to let the smell fill their small ranch house.  I listened intently and felt a pang of sadness.  Had we been doing Christmas wrong?  Was I missing out year on year as we erected our tree in a box?

I went around to her house expecting to bask in the natural glow that would emanate from this gift to the world – real Christmas. I opened the door and looked it up and down, waiting for its glory to shine upon me.

There was no glow. There was no basking.  It was asymmetrical with a fat bottom.

Years passed. I got married. And when you marry, you marry someone else’s habits, their lifestyle and their Christmas traditions. And let me first say – they are not wrong, they are different from yours. (They are different….they are different…..)

The Native was from a real tree family. Our best friends were real tree enthusiasts.  It was time.    In spite of a little asymmetry and necessary pruning,  I was ready to discover that love for a real tree that existed somewhere deep inside me.

It was exciting. We’d only been married a couple of months and it would be one of the first traditional things we had done together. We were young. We were in love. We were ready to buy our first tree.

And then we started shopping.

The Native wants to go, select, buy and come home. I treat it as a challenge to find the alpha tree…..the one tree to rule them all.

The rules are:

• It must be of equal height or taller than both of us (he is 6ft+)
• It must be low drop – big brown makes hoovering challenging enough
• It must not be too sparse. This ain’t no Charlie Brown Christmas, people.
• It must not be obese. British homes are small. If it’s too fat it will easily take up half the room.

He started to lose the will to live as I held one tree up against another listing the reasons this one was that bit better than the other (….or was it?).  After comparing no less than 20 trees, we finally settled on a Norwegian Fir that we dubbed “Norman.” For as my brother says, all significant things in our lives must be given names.

It seemed the worst was behind us. Until The Native insisted that the way to erect our tree was with a terracotta pot.  I couldn’t understand how this would act as a tree stand (would we get compost for it?!) – but I trusted it.  He was the real tree pro.

I don’t know when things really started to fall apart. It could have been when we lugged it through our lounge and needles flew everywhere. It may have been when, at my insistence, we tried to chop off the bottom of the tree stump with a blunt hacksaw.  But I think it was most likely when The Native was scouring through our garden to find large stones to fill the terracotta pot to try and get the tree to stand in an upright position. It was leaning, and then leaning some more, then falling on me a little, and then leaning approximately 15° off centre when The Native was insisting it was now straight. It was then that I no longer saw the romance in buying a real Christmas tree.

We would try for a few more years and each year, with some variation (we’d give up the sawing, not the list), the anticipation would build, but the reality of our experience of buying a real Christmas tree just wouldn’t measure up.

This year we knew we’d not get much time out of Christmas tree since we’ll be visiting family. We decided it was time to buy an artificial tree.

We walked into Homebase. We looked at the line-up of those glorious imposters. Within minutes I moved towards one that was 65% off. I pointed and said, “That one is nice.” The Native grabbed that tree in a box, turned to me, grinned and said, “Best Christmas ever.”IMAG0176-picsay

A Looker and a Leader

It’s Mother’s Day in America and my cousin – COUSIN! – has had beautiful flowers DELIVERED to MY Mom.  My MALE COUSIN!  Are you trying to make me look bad?!  But dear cousin, I have something better – your flowers will die, but I hold the power of the pen – the immortal written world.  So Mom, this post is for you because that’s what Mother’s Day is all about – sibling rivalry that isn’t even with one of your siblings.

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Truth be told, my Mom is a hottie (I hate that I just used that word).  It’s true.   See for yourself.

This was at my sister’s destination wedding in the Dominican Republic in 2010.  I know you’re probably scanning that palm tree to see if some wrinkled matron is peering out from behind it but I swear to you that my mom is on the  far right.  She is sans Spanx or support hose.  It was just the woman and her sandals.  And I know what you’re thinking ladies; no work done – just a little bit of hair dye, but what woman doesn’t indulge in a bit of colour enhancement by the age of fifty-ahem?  Life is a bit cruel when your mom is hotter than you are.  But I don’t begrudge her — now that my therapist has helped me work through it.

And she’s smokin’, sure, but she’s shown me, by example, how to face life too.  Our family life hasn’t always been easy, but she never let herself emotionally drown in it.   She would allow herself to be sad or angry or frustrated and then she would pick herself back up and face the next day and often with a sense of humour.  That is some serious Mom strength.  And it has seriously meant  that even when life has overwhelmed me, I have allowed myself to feel it and then I pick myself back up.  Thanks for teaching me that you can face most things with a little bit of hope and perspective, Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day.