Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Week 20

So, the thing about winter I had conveniently forgotten not having experienced a true winter in a long time, is that it just keeps going.  And going.  And going.  It starts inconspicuously enough.  One weekend you’re in shorts, the next in jeans, but you don’t really mind because those jeans look pretty good.  Occasionally the spring jacket comes out as the sunlight slowly diminishes.  The anticipation of Christmas is a welcome distraction and then, all of the sudden, you can’t remember the last time you wore short sleeves and your tank tops are buried in the drawers beneath new sweaters.  New Year’s passes, resolutions quickly forgotten, and the dark days are dismal.  But, the snow comes next and for a moment, it’s bright and fun and exciting and beautiful.  The dark days don’t matter because you have a new red sled full of four year old giggles.  Then it’s gone. Just like that.  The snow turns to dirty sludge and leaves a thick layer of dried mud on everything, including your new coat.  The sparkle of snowflakes on the branches, on your soul even, gone.  But winter?  No.  It’s still here.  Hovering.  Like an unwanted houseguest.  In your favorite chair.  Settling in, oh so comfortably.  Living abroad has been a learning experience on so many levels, but perhaps the lesson most pertinent this week is living with winter.  And so, I will say a few words about Winter Gear.   

Winter Gear Lesson #1:  Wool pea coats from the Gap don’t cut it.  Recently, I searched for the perfect winter coat to replace that very pea coat I had owned for four years.  I was determined to find something very warm, but also unique.  When I looked , the only thing I saw women wearing around here were pea coats and black down parkas.  Well, after a few weeks of precursory glancing and then a couple of hours of intensely searching January sales on Oxford Street, I finally decided that the ridiculously poofy down parka was, in fact, for me.  Because the one I selected was tan in color, or champagne as I like to call it, and the black belt gave it . . . well, not exactly a pear shape, more of a swollen eggplant shape really, rather than a pumpkin shape I feared, it was different enough for me.  Seriously though, there is a reason why everyone is wearing this coat.  It is damn warm.  

Winter Gear Lesson #2:  I didn’t stop there.  Oh no.  In the same outing I purchased a down vest, because well, I’ve always wanted one.  And if you can’t go for a hike in the muddy Heath without a down vest, where can you really?  

Winter Gear Lesson #3:  Long underwear is an absolute must.  Multiple pairs.  However, tights underneath long underwear, underneath a pair of jeans is NOT a good idea when running after Liam to school.  Chafing . . . . . well . . . . I will leave it at that.

Winter Gear Lesson #4:  Somehow, wrapping a wool scarf around my neck is cozy and wonderful.  On the other hand, wearing wool socks inside a pair of boots is like putting your foot inside a red ant hill.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact I bought the lovely scarf in Edinburgh and the socks from Gap.  Which brings me to:

Winter Gear Lesson #5:  Truly, the more money you throw at Winter Gear, the better.  Typically this is not my mantra.  In this case, it’s true.

Winter Gear Lesson #6:  Wellies in snow are not warm.  Wellies are also not good for any amount of walking farther than to the grocery store and back.  My feet were bloody after the week of snow we had.

Winter Gear Lesson #7:  I literally have six different kinds of “therapuetic” lotion designed for very dry and irritated skin, including one of Norwegian Formula and 5 tubes of chapstick strategically placed in coat pockets, purses, camera bags, and back packs.  None of this matters.  My fingertips are still completely cracked wide open and lips still chapped.  Come on, Norway.  I expect more.

Winter Gear Lesson #8:  The good news is I never need to worry about bringing Liam perishable snacks because they stay perfectly chilled in my backpack.  And, no need for a wine fridge.  Our constant Flat temperature of f-ing freezing (that's in degrees celsius, if you're wondering) just happens to be the perfect temperature for wine.

Winter Gear Lesson #9:  Art, curtains, and accessories do not a home make.  A floor heater . . . now that’s the secret ingredient....not to mention it doubles as a warm little stool, because frankly in my flat, you'll pretty much need to sit on it.

Winter Gear Lesson #10:  When the 50 degree, rainy weather does finally return, it almost, almost feels like a balmy, Hawaiian day.  Sort of.  If you're trying to end the blog post on a positive note anyway.

Lots of indoor photos this week.  If you were wondering what day it is here, just check the knickers :)  This is the way we roll on Fridays.

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We bought Liam a bike this weekend.  The smile on his face was so priceless.  He literally couldn't contain it.  I think it was the most genuinely happy he has been since we got here.  Out of all the things we left behind, his beloved bike is probably the one I felt the most guilty and emotional about.  It was his birthday present when he turned 4.  He rode it everyday.  We would take him to the track on the weekends and he would bust out 2 miles before we knew it just going round and round, as we looked on in complete amazement.  It was such a source of confidence for him and we would always ride with his 2 best little buddies so there was that emotional attachment as well.  It was so good to see him back on it.  We found a used bike here, EXACT same bike as home…same color and everything.  It was fate, no doubt ;)  This folks, is how we will make it through winter!

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Love this kid.  Ridiculously messy hair and all.  
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Cheers and Happy Winter.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Week 19

One word.  


And lots of it.  On Monday morning, we had a tiny glimpse of how beautiful London looks covered in a layer of snow.  While we walked to school, I started having grandiose illusions of charming winter wonderland images littering my blog this week, but by the time I picked Liam up from school, it may as well have been raining.  The snow was falling, but melted by the time it hit anything.  We were soaked when we arrived home.  And disappointed.  I tried to be positive, “Isn’t this so cool Liam?”  “No,” was his simple, bordering on defiant, reply.  His attitude bothered me and then I realized, my child was born in California.  He is, for all intents and purposes, a California boy, floppy hair and all, and therefore, I can only guess he is predisposed to surfing over skiing.  In other words, snow does not fit his sensibility at all.  Besides, the one time we actually did go up to Tahoe for some sledding (or shall I say sledging from now on per British pronunciation), the sun was so intense, it burned his eyes and he couldn’t open them for 24 hours so you can see how snow might not excite my very particular four year old.  I, on the other hand, grew up in Ohio, so while the last nine years in California have made me incredibly soft, I still feel like a giddy child waiting for school to be cancelled when I see snow.  I’ve heard mixed reviews of snow in London, so when we didn’t see any further flurryious developments over the next few days, I had all but given up, thinking that might be all we were going to get for the remainder of the winter season.  I was wrong.  Friday morning was the opposite of Monday morning.  When it was time to collect Liam, the snow was unleashing on the city streets and my neighbor offered to drive.  Up to this point, I have refused, not wanting Liam to think we could go in someone else’s car every day, but when I looked out at the whiteness growing exponentially and then back down at my boots designed for some light puddle jumping, I didn’t hesitate accepting her good will this time.  She also said something about homemade soup, cappuccinos, and the boys playing in the snow at her place afterwards.  This day was just getting better and better.  And to my very pleasant surprise, after an afternoon of snowball throwing, angel making, snow shovelling, and jumping on a snow covered trampoline (oh, we pulled out all the stops), Liam’s outlook on this foreign concept of trudging through piles of cold fluff changed completely.  I will make a skier out of this boy yet.  The inclement weather coincided with our planned trip to Bath and we spent the rest of the weekend touring an already magical place, made more spectacular by the icicles and snow.  What is it about snow that is so completely fantastical and peaceful?  If there seem to be a ton of photographs of Liam walking through the snow, well, that’s basically what we did for 2 days straight.  And not one single grumble from him.  This, after his initial luke warm response.  We couldn’t get over it.  Throw some long underwear on that kid (and some snowballs at Mommy, I might add) and give him some mountains of snow to conquer, and suddenly we have a little world traveller on our hands.  AND...my grandiose illusions were realized after all!  Cheers.

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It actually didn't snow at all in Bath while we were there, but when we returned home to London, it was coming down like crazy!!  Made for some good sledging Monday afternoon :)
Week 19-003

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Week 18

This week was all about getting Liam settled back into his school routine . . . i.e. wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, out the door, meet buddy outside, scooter to school.  It sounds simple enough on paper, but in reality, there is more drama before 9am in my life than on an episode of Real Housewives.  Here‘s how it really plays out:  

Liam wakes up with an hour to go before departure, lays in bed for 5-10 minutes enjoying the coziness (no, he does NOT get this from my lovable yet freakish husband who bounds out of bed like an over eager puppy dog with a full bladder), finally makes his way to the breakfast table like a floppy doll with equally floppy hair, spends a good 30 minutes eating the amount of breakfast comparable to a baby bird’s meal and then of course wants more, but if you’re doing the math, now we are down to T minus 15 minutes and counting and Liam still looks like he just rolled out of bed.  We spend the next ten minutes arguing about what trousers to wear (Liam prefers 2 pairs out of about 10 that are in his drawer and because I refuse to do laundry every other day, at least 3 days out of the week I am in for it), what socks to wear (see above scenario and just thank the Good Lord he doesn’t mind if his socks don’t match), what extra layers should be added (Damn you, Winter), and oh crap, you forgot your knickers?!  Seriously, Buddy?!  By this time, our 3 1/2 year old scootering buddy is outside the front door, all smiles, rosy cheeks, and looking as stylish as a babyGap advertisement.  Moment of truth:  brush teeth or put on knickers?  We go with knickers.  If commando doesn’t fly at his school in California, I know for a fact it’s not going to go over well at his British school.  Besides, his breath doesn’t stink yet so no one will know that little secret.  We fervently throw on shoes, coat, gloves, hat, and helmet.  This usually does not go down without extreme difficulty and well, if I’m being honest, maybe some yelling (I won’t say from whom).  Nice and patient Mommy left the building 3 meltdowns ago.  All of the bullshit fun songs and games that "good parents" play to motivate their children have somehow escaped my memory.  We finally get out the door without killing each other and have about fifteen minutes flat now to scooter a mile to school.  With 2 preschoolers.  And a stop to pick up a third one on the way.  I won’t get into the whole dynamic of three uber competitive preschool boys, on their scooters (with matching union jack helmets, mind you), fighting to the death jockeying for the lead, winding themselves through rush hour commuters on a 3 foot wide footpath, AND obeying traffic laws except to say, hey, these are life lessons we are learning here.  I can’t even imagine how insanely ridiculous the other 2 parents and I look chasing after these mini daredevils.  We are in complete control.  I swear.  Really.  The good news:  this is the quickest part of our morning.  The bad news:  tears and bickering are always involved and almost always some kind of crash is involved.  And yes, at least one of the boys has taken down a civilian.  Now we are back to painfully long, sad, pleading goodbyes at the school gate *sigh* and I am supposed to be ready to “get some work done” by the time I get home?!  The upside is now I have a whole extra hour and forty five minutes before I have turn back around again and collect my little drama queen sweetie for the scooter home.  I will say, I have yet to return home and go back to bed.  I swear.  Really.  

As much as I would love to take my camera some morning and record this spectacle I have described, and some day I might still, I think someone might actually die if I was busy taking photographs and not minding the action packed adventure that is our ride to school.  Cars . . . eh, who needs 'em?!  Multiple people have asked me why the parents of the other 2 boys and I don't share drop off responsibilities.  Again, the word death comes to mind.  I just give a little chuckle and look forward to the next morning.  It always holds something new and exciting.

I can never fully understand how something this completely beautiful, small, and lovable can be the source of so much hair pulling sometimes.  BUT, when I pick my buddy up in the afternoon and the rest of the day holds no agenda, we have the best time together.
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This week I challenged myself to shoot 500 photographs so hence the somewhat random photographs.  I came not at all close to my goal, but I did have my camera on me so much more than last year so it's a start.  I want to really take advantage of this time to continue growing and getting better so hence the loose resolution to shoot more.
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And . . . lo and behold . . . my New Year's project . . . our bedroom . . . the "Before" . . . stay tuned for the "After" . . . IMG_3486

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Week 17

This week, we were all a bit underwhelmed by our return to normalcy.  Strangely, I was completely comforted by this fact.  I’m not sure what I expected to feel upon re-arrival into Heathrow, but I was kind of pleasantly surprised by my relief to be “home.”  So we still have loose ends to be tied up dangling every which way I look, our nest could use a little fluffing (read:  the flat continues to look like we only just unpacked and stopped, which . . . well . . . we kind of did actually), I still haven’t managed to visit Buckingham Palace or Westminster Abbey, my outerwear could use some revamping to fit the weather extremities, and I don’t know nearly enough British colloquialisms to impress my wanna-be-British-lad big brother, BUT, somehow, at some point during the last 3 months, we managed to make ourselves at home, literally.  I don’t think you can ever fully feel comfortable living out of a suitcase (unless, of course, you are on some beautiful white sandy island with turquoise water and the contents of your suitcase includes a couple of bikinis, some shorts and tank tops, a pair of flip flops, and sunscreen) even if it is only for 2 weeks and even if it is in said wanna-be-British-lad's beautiful, immaculate and roomy resort house surrounded by the warmest, most welcoming family.  I would be lying if I said I wasn't glad to come back to London.  After the last few months, normalcy is bliss.  Maybe I would’ve felt differently if we had gone to California for Christmas, so I’m glad we didn’t, but even then I’m not sure.  Yes, our memories as a family are there, some of our best friends are there, the Pacific Ocean, Wine Country, and abundant sunshine is there, maybe even my heart is there, hell, maybe Liam’s too . . . but . . . someone else is living in our little house.  Our little green house with white gingerbread trim perched up on the hill, where we used to sit on the front steps with a glass of red wine, a California Pinot no doubt, and watch a young Liam toddle around in the front yard as the sun sunk into the Pacific Ocean with a sigh of contentment.  That’s not a scene in which we belong anymore.  Some other young couple is starting their life together on those steps now.  We wouldn't fit in that house anymore anyway with all of Liam's legos!  I have come to the conclusion, home actually isn’t where the heart is.  I’m not sure I’ve ever really liked that saying anyway.  Home is where you can throw all your crap on the floor at the end of a long day, where you can walk around in your jammies drinking coffee and eating cereal straight from the box all day without a sideways glance from anyone, where you tuck your little guy into bed every night with familiar blankets and all requisite stuffed animals at arm’s length, in essence, where you unpack all your stuff, set up fort, and make a life.  Home is here.  For now.  Your heart can be anywhere.  I guess that doesn’t really fit on a bumper sticker as well.  And so to our painstakingly mundane and uninteresting to anyone but the 3 of us routine we have gladly returned and now we cast our eyes to the year ahead.  It’s going to be a good one . . . full of photography and hopefully, an improved repertoire of British jargon!
Week 17
Liam's interpretation of what to do after you've scored a soccer goal.  Something I'm sure he'll be perfecting soon enough!
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*Sigh*  I suppose I should get my cute little hobbit a haircut...
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