Thursday, December 31, 2009

God Save the Queen - or Not?

This time of year always makes me really homesick, so I'm currently on You Tube looking at songs performed at my favourite patriotic concert -  "The Last Night of The Proms".   Ahhem, Craig - I've been hinting for 10 years - please take me before I croak. 

Anyhoo - I do like the official "God Save the Queen" as our national anthem but if I had a choice I'd choose JERUSALEM.  Here's the videos - which song do you think would make a great UK national anthem? ...





I have to say that I love the USA anthem nearly as much as the UK anthem, but I don't know if there are variations of the USA anthem? All I know is that at every single sporting event when the anthem is played, and the flag gets flown, the hair on my arms go up. So here it is.


So it is fitting that "The Last Night of the Proms 2009" concluded with the traditional New Years Eve song of  Auld Lang Syne, sung by a British crowd and conducted by an American ...


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Getting in on the Action

A friend came to see me today to talk about her pregnancy and have a little rant. She's 33 weeks along and due mid-February. Her problem is, her mother-in-law wants to be involved every step of the way and this past weekend my friend got strict instructions to call her when they are on the way to the hospital so that she can jump in the car and be there during labor & delivery. My friends wants to be on her own with her hubby during L&D and to call her in-laws once they have bonded with baby and settled in the hospital room. Her husband doesn't want to upset his mum so is trying to avoid all eye contact with both women. What a conundrum to have - enjoy your big day and upset your in-laws, or be pissed off on the big day when they take it over. 

It reminded me of a story I heard when I was pregnant. I used to go on this forum for women expecting in the same month - we all chatted and shared horror stories about gyno visits and bodily functions and chosen baby names. A girl came on the forum one day terribly upset that her sister-in-law had really stuck the knife in. The SIL wanted to be involved in the birth and when she was told no it got ugly. About a month before the baby was born the SIL bought a dog and gave it the same name this girl had chosen for her new baby.  It it wasn't so obnoxious it would be funny.  I told her to buy a pet rat and name it after her SIL.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Just a Little Missing

So Christmas is over and forgetting the fact that we couldn't find brussel sprouts for Craig all things went well. The snow eventually turned up and the kids were happy with their presents. But it could have been just a smidge better, just a smidge, if I'd have had the following:

1. My family from England in my house for the day
2. English chocolates - Quality Street, Roses, boxes of liqueurs, Cadbury's chocolate fingers
3. Mince pies
4. Decent crackers
5. Christmas pudding on fire
6. The afternoon outing to the local pub to see friends
7. The Royle Family Christmas special
8. Only Fools and Horses re-runs
9. Advocaat

That's quite a big list isn't it. Makes me sound like my Christmas was pants, but it wasn't. I just missed the things I'm used to and that make it extra special.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Great Christmas Day!

It's been a magical day, it really has. It started last night when Eric came over and helped Jack track Santa's progress on the computer and before he went to bed he left out cookies. This morning he ran into the kitchen and exclaimed "the cookies are gone! Santa came!". I wish I would have captured the moment on video now as it was heartwarming. I wasn't organized enough though  as we had a few too many drinkies with Eric last night and I was a bit blurry round the edges. Good times though. 

As soon as he donned his football gear he said "can I go to a football game now?" and it took some effort to convince him he couldn't play for the Buckeyes quite yet. 

Their Auntie Sandra sent an inflatable car and it was a big hit all round. Thomas train sets were also the toy of the day, which was a new challenge for me. "Mummy help me set it up" was like asking Paris Hilton to help change a spark plug. Craig came to the rescue again and slipped me one of those sideways glances which says "and you have a degree?"

Our living room at 10am this morning. You have to understand that I'm a neat freak so I tried really hard not to clear it all immediately away but when it started raising my blood pressure all the paper & cardboard had to get binned. 

Linda came over for dinner and we had a very cool coincidental moment when her and I were sat at the dinner table watching the Queen's speech. I like to watch it as I'm a closet royalist but Craig had left the table in disgust mumbling something about parasites and old wrinklies. Anyway, as Linda and I were watching, the Queen made a big deal about the Commonwealth meeting in Tobago and Trinidad this year and there was lots of footage of the area. That's where Linda is from - so it was like we both got to see our homeland as commonwealth citizens, together. Now that I've typed it all out it doesn't sound that good but it felt really nice at the time, like we shared a common bond. 

The highlights of my day were speaking to my family & friends on the phone & Skype, watching my boys go nuts with toys, eating a fabulous dinner made by my genius cook of a husband, Craig and spending some quality time with Linda. Oh and I do just love the Spongebob Christmas video "Don't be a jerk it's Christmas" that's been playing all day on kids tv. And I really love the new book Jack got from his friend Noah about a mole that gets poo on his head and sets off to find out which animal did the dirty deed. 

The lows of my day? Well the sink blocked up and poor Craig spent a few hours dealing with it (that's what happens when you pour old pancake mix down there) and the cracker toys were awful. Even the plastic fish didn't curl up!  But the best crap cracker joke was this: What do vampires sing on New Years Eve? Old fang syne!

Now Craig & I are partaking in a few festive drinks and getting ready to watch Tropic Thunder. I love my life, my family, my friends and I feel lucky to be where I am, even if I do get homesick now & again. I hope you all had a fun day too.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Humble Beginnings & a Fast Cat

I posted baby stuff to sell on Craigslist and a young and lovely Bulgarian people came by to buy it because they are having a baby girl in March. I asked them how long they had been in the States - one year they said. I asked them where they lived and they told me. And it took me back 10 years because I remember me and Craig when we first got here and we lived at the same apartment complex as them. As I showed them the baby item she said "ohh, is beautiful!" and she meant it. I was thinking how old and scruffy it looked but then I thought back to me and Craig again, when we had nothing and how beautiful anything looked because the alternative was nothing at all. 

When they had left I stood and looked all around me, at my home, my things, my Christmas tree and piles of presents and shiny wood floors and precious things. I wondered how my house looked to these people. Did they walk away whispering to each other "such a nice house - they must be so rich!" like we would have done 10 years ago. Here's the thing. My house isn't posh. By my friend's standards I am the back sheep - no solid wood antique furniture or kitchen appliances worth a grand. But we have so much more than we did 10 years ago that to them it must seem like luxury.

I hope I don't sound condescending for the young couple - it's just that they reminded me of how we were when we got here. In a new world. Trying to gather all of life's necessities for little or no money. Craig and I dumpster-dived for a stereo cabinet, inherited a flea-ridden couch and on many occasions didn't have money for gas or food. At one point my husband sat in the work truck while all his colleagues went into McDonalds and had lunch while he sat in the freezing van eating dry bread. It sounds so far-fetched now but at the time that was our life. I still remember coming home from work and Craig had been out to buy a mop and a bucket and some cleaning supplies. All together it cost about $25 but it felt great, like we'd started to finally make it. One of the funniest stories from that era involved my cat Frank. We had a tin of tuna left to eat so we mixed it with mayo and got some bread out for dinner. As we left the room to get a drink, Frank got stuck in. I think we spent the next two hours chasing the little bugger round the room with the new mop. 

I wouldn't change any of it for the world of course, as I think it made us who we are and it gives us funny stories to tell at dinner parties. Life is actually pretty great when you have some challenges isn't it.   I will be thinking about the Bulgarian couple a lot this Christmas though and hope they are okay. 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Low-Key Snowy Weekend

We got a couple of inches of snow this weekend, though nothing like the east coast. Both boys are fascinated with it and this morning Craig took Jack out sledding for the first time this winter. He loved it. 
Danny is too young yet to go sledding so hung out with me in the house. He says 4 words now: Mama, Dada, Linda, and kitty-cat. I was rather hoping he'd be saying "mama" a lot but he's said "Linda" most of the weekend. That's one of the downfalls of not being a stay-at-home mum - he's spending his time with someone else. I'm trying to remind myself that being jealous is childish and not how a mature and loving mummy would act but the old green-eyed monster rears it's head now and again.

It's been a low-key weekend really. We watched "The Hangover" which really made me laugh - a must after the heartbreaking "Precious" that I watched earlier in the week. The Hangover will join the ranks of "Superbad" and "Snatch" & those films that I could watch 100 times over. 

My neighbour has about 2/3 of his tree lights done and I'm in the festive mood! We have Christmas music playing and Jack is getting steadily more excited about Christmas Day, even if he has no concept of time. Last night we wrapped their presents and put them in their sacks. Poor Danny has about a tenth of Jack's presents but he'll probably be happy with some wrapping paper won't he. I wrapped Jack's train set and labelled it "from mummy & daddy" before realising it's supposed to be from Santa. It's a good job my boy can't read yet. 

Right then, Jack and I are going to cuddle up on the couch & watch Frosty the Snowman for the 10th time this weekend. Danny is chewing on a skittle set. Craig is out in the woods, in one last ditch attempt to get Bambi. Then it's back to work tomorrow for a couple of days before the big day. I'm getting just as excited as the little ones!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Splashy Boy

As promised a couple of posts ago, here's a short 30-second video of Danny going nuts in the bath. He does it for the duration of the bath and I am soaked by the time the little bugger gets out. It's great to see him in action though. He's a superstar.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Film Precious - Wonderful

It was a girl's night out tonight for the first time in, oh, years I think. We went to watch "Precious" on my request. I'm a sucker for true stories - whether it's books or films, the true stuff rules. It's far more fascinating than fiction. I've always been this way, reading books about history, war, nature, love and crime. Case in point - when I was expecting Jack I read the book about the BTK killer and had to look under the bed and in the wardrobe when I went to sleep & I still do. Even so, I bought a $3 version of the movie last week because these things fascinate me even if they scare me to death.

I absolutely loved this film, "Precious". It will not spoil the film if I say that it's about a 16 year old girl in Harlem who's abused so badly you bring your hands up to your mouth and you say "no" on many occasions during the film. I cried a bit, but not big sobs like I did in "Marley & Me" (the director of that film needs shooting!) No, it's not a soppy crying movie - it's far above that. It's a film that shocks you at a time when you didn't think you could be shocked by anything anymore. It's sometimes a bit too much, a bit far-fetched but then you remind yourself that it's a true story. My friend Gina came out and said she wasn't quite sure how she felt about the film, because it was "too much" and I know exactly what she means. Linda and I drove home and discussed how lucky we were, even in this terrible economy. At this point, in my post-film mood, I'm hoping that Mo'Nique (who played her mum) gets an Oscar and maybe even the film gets best picture. I liked it that much.

For the first time in years I also loved the soundtrack to a film, so will be snaffling buying it soon. My favourite song was the last one in the film by Patti Labelle "It Took a Long Time". It made me cry AGAIN.

"Precious" soundtrack:
1.I Can See In Color - Mary J. Blige
2.He Is The Joy - Donna Allen
3.Was That All It Was - Jean Carn
4.Did You Ever See A Dream Walking - Sunny Gale
5.Come Into My House - Queen Latifah
6.Just A Closer Walk With Thee - Mahalia Jackson
7.Love Is The Message - MFSB (featuring The Three Degrees)
8.Now That I Know Who I Am - Nona Hendryx
9.System - Labelle
10.Somethin's Comin' My Way - Performed by Grace Hightower
11.It Took A Long Time - Labelle
12.Letters - Mario Grigorov

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Water Babies, Daft Goats & Believers

On Friday I said to Craig, let's not organize anything this weekend and just relax and it turned out to be one of our busiest weekends in a while. 
Yesterday we took the boys swimming and they loved it. It was Danny's first time and he had a bit of a wobbly lip at first but soon got into it and was splashing like a loony after a few minutes. 
Danny is definitely more of a water baby than Jack and I don't know why. I'm a bit afraid of water so I try my hardest not to influence them but since Jack was a  toddler he hasn't been able to stand water up his nose or in his eyes. If he so much as gets a trickle in his eye he has to dry it with a towel. Danny, on the other hand, is crazy in the bath. He splashes so much Craig and I drape ourselves and the floor in towels. I'll take some video sometime because it's so funny how much he loves the water.

Last night two of Craig's friends came over. At one point I just sat and watched them in action, which was a sight to behold. Three men sat on the couch, the middle man with the laptop perched on his knee. "Hey" said one of them "type in, camel gets hit by train, that's a good one" and so the middle man searches YouTube and then they recoil and go "arghh" and laugh in unison. At one point there was hysterical laughter as they were watching a goat keep licking an electric fence.  The differences between men and woman are just so amazing aren't they? It's a wonder we all get along but I'm glad we do.

Today we went to the zoo to see the light displays and to catch up with Brian & Emily. I really enjoyed it - great company, nice weather, great lights, kids loved playing together, we watched them dance. I wish there were more opportunities to get together in winter at things that were almost free. Ohio winters are LONG and we get stir crazy.  

So, 12 days till Christmas now and I'm so excited for Jack. He's really in to it all and he can't wait to put cookies out for Santa and carrots on the front lawn for Rudolph. He believes in it all so completely and earnestly that it's lovely to watch. 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bye Bye Fence

I am sat with a glass of Chianti in front of a roaring fire while it's frigid outside and blowing an icy hard wind . Yesterday our fence got blown down, killing all the plants that were in front of it, and today while crossing a major road to go to a conference I stepped on ice and did a very comical "River Dance" move in front of stopped traffic. Hopefully no one knew me. The fence blowing down has upset me. No longer can I let Cody out and know he's safe. All those bets are OFF. As soon as he sees a squirrel he'll run after it all the way to Canada.

My wonderful industry conference is dying. In the old days the place was so busy I couldn't find a place to park, 4,000 friends and colleagues got together and went to educational sessions, looked at the new equipment and had a good time at night. We told stories of those nights for years after - still do. Not this time. I've been able to park with no difficulty, the halls are empty, the speakers fly in from 1,000 miles away to talk to twenty people. I don't know how to save it but I'm going to give it a bloody good try.

On to other things ..

Danny has 2 teeth and is jabbering a lot. He says "mama" but I'm not certain that he really means me yet. He's cruising around the furniture and bouncing balls and starting to play with toys. He's growing so quick it's sad, but his cheeks have been consistently fat, red and kissable, so that's the good news.

Jack is gorgeous and crazy, amazing and annoying. 3. 4 years old. I read somewhere that 3.5 got better so in two weeks time he should turn into a cherub, right? My husband is the most laid-back person on the planet and came in the front room tonight after the bedtime routine, clutching his chest and saying he couldn't take any more. People who's kids have flown the nest tell me to cherish every moment but that's hard to do with a toddler who's hell bent on annoying you to death. On the flip side, he's wonderful. Huggy with lots of kisses. Tells me he loves me. Plays and dances and sings with me. My heart aches with how much I love him. I just wish I could erase those moments of, well, exhausting lunacy.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Santa Video

I was at a work conference today and got home at 10.30pm, knackered. The absolute highlight of my day was meeting National Geographic photographer Dick Dorrance. 
When I got home Craig poured me a glass of Chianti and showed me what he's been up to tonight. I think it beats any kind of Elf Yourself video (see link below).  Talking of Santa, I asked a colleague today what his daughter wanted for Christmas and he said "I don't get sucked into all that. She doesn't ask for anything".  This is insulting to me in two ways - he's letting me know his daughter is more well behaved than my kids and that I'm an idiot that obviously does get "sucked in" to Christmas. He's probably right on both fronts but I was tempted to say "ba humbug" and put my hand up to my nose, wave and do "na na na na na" at him. I just asked Craig what the word for that action was and he looked baffled. It's been a long day. 

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Santa Claus is in Town

The tree is up & my lights are hung outside. My neighbour Dave is working on his fabulous Tree and I did wonder if he'd get it done by Christmas but he's retired now so can work on it during the day too. He came over this afternoon to help me with my lights. I had sections that didn't light up and he used his magic clicker gadget to make them work again. I have no idea how it works but it's marvelous.

Yesterday we took the boys to see Santa. The same Santa Jack has seen each year. Jack was so excited to see him but then withdrew like a clam once we got in the room. He didn't want to sit on his knee or really talk to him but as soon as we left he said "can we see Santa again?" He asked for a train and a track and a tunnel, the same thing he asked for in his letter to Santa that we posted yesterday.

The second Danny was placed on Santa's knee, his bottom lip curled down and he whimpered. Craig got him before he cried but as you can see from the picture, our boy Danny isn't ready to mingle with the big jolly man in the red suit quite yet.

You might see a small plaster/band aid on Jack's cheek. Lesson learned - It is not a good idea to bang two small glass snow globes together. 

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Craig's 40th

It was Craig's 40th birthday yesterday so we went off to a cabin in the woods. The plan was 2-fold: we were going to lounge in a hot tub and he was going to hunt. He took his tree stand and shotgun and saw a few doe but he hasn't got one yet. Gun seasons ends Sunday then he could go out with his bow again until Feb next year. 

The cabin was in the Hocking Hills region on 25 acres of private hunting ground. Here's the view from our cabin as my OH comes down one of the hills after a hike. I ventured up a big hill with him too but I think I talked too much to get within 50 miles of a deer and by the time I got to the top my lungs were on fire and I was gasping and clutching my sides, so I scuttled back to the cozy cabin.

While Craig hunted I watched terrible romantic films that were in the cabin. "Fake Fiance", "Cinderella Story" and "A Walk to Remember" to name a few stinkers that I really embarrassingly enjoyed. There was no telly or cell phone reception at this place but hey - I had a bathroom and electricity and a HOT TUB  so I was not complaining.  We got in the hot-tub a couple of times, which was outside in the woods, and it was marvelous but I did think (1) the man that owns the cabin is video taping us and (2) we'll hear a rustle of leaves and then a black bear will jump in and bite my head off. I have so say though - there's not much that beats lying in a hot tub in the woods with your hottie.  
So gun season ends on Sunday and Craig has yet to get his bambi but this chap got 3! Sorry for the graphic picture but I was asking why they got hung up for 3 days and Craig said it's so the rigor mortis goes away before they process the meat. 

We got home this afternoon and started to get the house Christmassy by getting our real pine tree and it smells lovely. Jack and I also sat and wrote his letter to Santa. He's asking politely for a train and a track and a tunnel.