Category Archives: miscellany

Ribbons Undone: The Whirlwind of Being Six

She sat at the dinner table and said, in all confidence, “Daddy. When I snap my fingers, it means you need to bring me more water.” This one sentence sums up my daughter in so many ways. First, she’s six. She still calls her dad “Daddy.” Second, she’s clever. In her mind she’s made up a new rule and calmly states it as fact. Third, she’s taken on the persona of Queen Victoria a bit too literally.

After a brief moment of surprise (awe?), we gently laughed and said, “Yeah, nope. That’s not how we do things in this family.” But “A” for effort?

This girl, this six-year-old, is, in all honesty, the most emotional, beautiful and frustrating thing in my life right now. She’s up, down, all around and doing cartwheels and sword fights all the while. She can’t stand to be corrected, and yet is eager to learn. She hates to be hugged but longs for affection. She rolls her eyes and is disrespectful yet starts weeping at the first sign of discipline. She speaks with the air of a queen but her words are that of a child. She’s a conundrum to me, and once she finally falls asleep, I leave her room an emotional, exhausted mess.

People say girls are full of drama. I’d like to agree but can’t quite. True drama is intentional, a choice to behave a certain way to elicit certain results. While Victoria certainly knows her choices have consequences, I’m fairly confident that most often, she’s not being dramatic, she’s just being SIX. And this is where my difficulty lies.

She can be so all over the place that it makes me want to scream. It’s so hard to handle emotional whirlwinds of other people when at times I’m an emotional whirlwind myself! When I collect her from school I never know if she’ll approach me with a smile or a stuck-out tongue and rolling eyes, therefore subjecting me to make reprimand be the first of our conversation together.

It’s the hardest thing for me to be the “good mom” who goes through the checklist of why she might be acting that way (is she hungry? Did she quarrel with a friend? Did she perform badly on a test? Etc). Rather, I jump right in and address the behavior, not the reason, and in the end we both feel miserable.

My most ardent prayer is that God will show me the way to be the mother she needs. Because, in the brief moments of peace and laughter, I can see that this age is truly precious and one of the most beautiful things I’ll ever see. Victoria is in a delicate balance of willful confidence and still desperately needing her mama. She’s developing a strong personality and I pray that I can encourage and refine it, not thwart or deflate it. Most of all, I want her to know that I love her, and that God loves her.

There’s a beautiful song called Ribbons Undone by Tori Amos (click to listen!). It’s been one of my all-time favorite songs, and now that I have a little girl of my own, it means that much more to me. Victoria is my own flash of lightning, my thoroughbred, my little girl running with ribbons undone. And, as she would add, my own little queen.

She’s a girl
rising from a shell
running to Spring
It is her time it is her time
Watch her run with Ribbons undone

she’s a rose in a Lily’s cloak
she can hide her charms
Is it her right there will be time
to chase the sun with Ribbons undone

she runs like a fire does
just picking up daises
Comes in for a landing
a pure flash of lightening
Past alice blue blossoms
you follow her laughter
And then she’ll surprise you
arms filled with lavender

Yes, my little pony is growing up fast
she corrects me and says
“you mean a thoroughbred”
A look in her eye says the Battle’s beginning
From school she comes home and cries
I don’t want to grow up Mom at least not tonight

you’re a girl
Rising from a shell
Running through Spring
with Summer’s hand in reach now
It is your time It is your time
so just run with Ribbons undone
It is your time yes my angel
It is your time
so just run with Ribbons undone
run run darlin’
Ribbons undone

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Parenting in Public

I could feel people staring at us as they walked past. My daughter was crying and so was my son, and, to be honest, I was near tears as well. We were walking home from school and it had been one of those afternoons when not a single nice word had come out of Tori’s mouth since I picked her up. Whining, complaining, sassy-I-don’t-care kind of words came instead. “MOM! Get my jacket NOW,” was the first thing she said to me. Not, “Hi Mom!” or “Can you get my jacket?” We had made it about half-way home (a full mile one-way commute) when she chose to snatch her brother’s snack from his hand, eliciting tears from him. When I made her give it back AND give him a piece from her own snack, she lost it. “How dare you?!” she yelled. “NO!!”

Meanwhile, cars and cyclists whizzed by, dozens of people walked past, and we were in the middle of the sidewalk. I stopped walking, squatted next to her, and gave her a stern talking-to. We didn’t start walking again until she apologized and chose to change her attitude. It was a cold, wet wait, and we certainly received our share of curious looks from passers-by.

I’m sure this kind of thing happens to every parent. Whether it’s in the grocery store, at a restaurant, or even just with friends, we parent around other people. But here’s the thing that’s changed for us since living here: we don’t own a car, so I am CONSTANTLY parenting in public, even on our way TO the grocery store or restaurant.

There is no moment in which I am ever alone with my children except when we are literally in our house. No drives home from school, no road trips, no seat belts limiting the kids’ movement, and certainly no drive-thru restaurants. And, when bad choices or tantrums start happening, there are no threats of “don’t make me pull this car over, young lady!” haha!

Don’t get me wrong, driving with kids can be so very stressful; they’re yelling or crying or whining, all while you’re trying to pay attention to the road. BUT. In a car, there are not random strangers listening to every word you say. No one watching you, just to make sure that you don’t seem abusive or inappropriate. No random person walking by and offering unsolicited advice or an eye-brow raised stare when you’re choosing to let your child continue with his tantrum on the sidewalk.

Overall, we really love not having to drive! But it can be hard to be constantly scrutinized and judged (or feel you are) by the behavior of your children, and not have the respite of getting into the privacy of your car.

Parenting in public can be so, so exhausting, can’t it?? The looks and stares are enough to make you question your parenting choices. “Maybe I’m being too hard on her. Maybe I’m not being hard enough. Yes, thank you, ma’am, for saying ‘oh my’ when my son hit my daughter. Should I even bother addressing Tori’s attitude right now? But if I wait until we get home it will lose its effect… But it’s raining out and I really don’t have the energy to wait out here in the cold while we talk about this…” and so on. Sometimes I deliberately speak loudly so people around me can hear that, yes, I am addressing the issue, and no, I’m not swearing at her or threatening her with violence. But then speaking loudly can seem like I’m yelling at her. Yet speaking softly seems to imply malice!

I’m most grateful when I make eye contact with a stranger and they give me a sympathetic, smiling look which says “I’ve been in your shoes, hang in there,” and then go on their way.

Our extra time in public has forced me to stay true to my convictions, and to learn to just ignore the people walking by, and to realize this: It’s a lose-lose situation if I start to care what strangers on the street think about me and my children. My psyche can’t handle trying to impress people. It’s an exhausting and dangerous downhill battle that can lead to dark places.

We’ve all had that moment when someone offers you unsolicited advice or condemnation when you’re already stressed about your children. We must choose to stick to our convictions and instincts, and, dare I say it? parent our children the same in public as we do in private. Otherwise we’re sending our kids a mixed message and that’s not fair to them!

It’s so much easier said than done… I’d love to hear your thoughts about parenting in public; do you parent the same way at home as you do in the grocery store? Is it really possible to parent in public WITHOUT taking into consideration that you have an audience?

Well, I’m off to do the “school run,” as they say here; praying that our walk home will be full of good attitudes and happy kids :)

an addendum… the REAL way I survive

So, about three, (ok, more like ONE) days after writing this sweet, naïve post, it hit me again. That nagging, dulling, glimpse of the dark cloud that so strangely beckons me to just enter. Just enter, it says. Enter, succumb to the need. YOUR need. The need to be self-centered, to be ALL CONSUMED with how I feel, how I need. Look, it says. Look at how tired you are. Look at how poorly your kids behave. Look at how bad your skin is. Look at lazy you are. Look at how dirty your floors are. Look at how much weight you’ve gained.

You guys, it is in these moments, (NOT the moments in which I wrote that darling previous post) in which I realize that I am sometimes still merely surviving. And I scramble desperately to all the things I’ve learned, I’ve read, I’ve lived, to grasp the hook of hope to pull me the hell out of hell.

So. After reading that quaint list from that cutesy post, here’s the reality of what the last few days have looked like. First, I started getting a cold. No biggie, right? Then I wrote that lovely post. Then my adorable children woke me up at least 6 times for about four nights straight, because, you know, they’re sick, too. Get over it, you’re a mom, I think. So I’m literally sick and tired. Meanwhile, it rained for like four days. So much for that sunshine I was talking about. And, as one does when one is sick and tired and grumpy, I totally drank plenty of fluids, got exercise, took my vitamins, read the Bible, and spent lots of time praying. (You guys, I did NONE of those things. Not a one.) And the last three days have been some of my lowest since we’ve moved here.

What is it about our lowest moments that make us forget about the things that can HELP US?? The twisted spiral that is depression is like no other medical illness. If you break a leg, you go to the doctor. If you have a headache, you take some pain meds. If you have depression, you just sit. You sit in your depression. The very existence of depression means you are almost completely UNABLE TO HELP YOURSELF.

Unless… unless you know the signs. Unless you can catch it BEFORE you completely succumb. I thank the Lord that I am finally at the point where I can catch it. I can’t erase the feelings, but I can ease them. So today, these are a few things that I actually did. So while my previous list was groovy, here’s more of a real one.

First, I sent a few SOSes. I prayed. It was a I’m-in-the-middle-of-making-breakfast-for-the-kids-who-are-yelling-at-me-from-the-other-room-and-making-each-other-cry-and-I-haven’t-had-coffee-yet “Dear sweet Jesus HELP ME” kind of prayer. But I truly meant it. Then I sent AJ a text that said something like, “My patience and sanity is wearing thin and I think I’m getting a sinus infection” at about 8:30am. (He knows me well enough to know that it was a cry for help and support, sweet man.)

Then I made the kids help me clean the house. (This was after I assessed that my stress level would drop a little if there were not DOZENS of ripped stickers all over the floor and if I could walk down the hallway without stepping on markers.) A tidy house can really do wonders for one’s sanity.

Then I took them outside. I was cranky, they were cranky, but we did it, kicking and literally crying (the two year old was so. angry. about having to sit in the stroller) and I forced them to lie on a swing and close their eyes to absorb the weak, 9:30am sunshine. Because I’m so mean.

Then we had to go to a birthday party, which meant INTERACTING. As in, with PEOPLE WHO ARE ADULTS. This is no small feat if you’ve been beckoned by the dark cloud, but it can often be one of the best remedies.

And later in the afternoon I sent a group text to three ladies I knew would give me the right dose of laughter and practical advice.

So here I am, finally aware that it’s been a rough few days but seeing the light. (And I’ve found a cocktail combination of meds to help my sinus pain…so there’s that…)

Guys. You’ve got to stick with it. All the things you’ve done to pull yourself out, DON’T FORGET THEM. USE THEM. And never think that it’s over. Because, if you’ve suffered from depression once, you’ll probably suffer again. But there’s hope :)

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The worst day of the year: surviving the days with no sunlight

An [American] friend asked me recently, “So are you guys still enjoying your stay over there?” To answer in a word, YES! These last couple of months have flown by so quickly that it’s hard to believe that in a few weeks we will have been in the UK for six months. SIX MONTHS, PEOPLE. That’s a long time. And a short time. You know what I mean.

And, as is the usual, I managed to take a break from writing for, um, a “few” weeks.

To me, these last couple of months have been critical in several ways, but mainly: I’VE SURVIVED THE DARKEST MONTHS OF THE YEAR WITHOUT REGRESSING INTO MY DEPRESSION!!!! Big deal. Huge. You guys, on what I often call “the worst day of the year,” aka December 21, aka the Winter Solstice, the sun rose at 8:00am and set at 3:50pm here in London. Less than 8 hrs of sunlight. And high noon looked like 4pm because the sun is so low here.

Those of you familiar with depression know that the depths of winter can be a trying time. Lack of sunlight = lack of vitamin D and also a lack of visual brightness, both of which are clinically proven to help reduce the effects of depression. Not to mention the potential of added stress of holidays and family and after-Christmas-blues.

I’ll be brutally honest: of all the unknowns and fears and general disruption of moving our family to London, my biggest inner fear was that, even while still taking my anti-depressant, I would not be able to handle the darkness of winter again and my mind would slip back into a state of depression. I was coming from a place where there is sunshine literally 360 days a year, and all I could remember about winters in Boston was being filled with dread, discontent and a general grumpiness.

BUT. So far so good! And here are a few things I believe have contributed to my “staying afloat” these last couple of months.

  • We walk EVERYWHERE.

    We walk EVERYWHERE.

    I’ve been outside a lot. We don’t own a car here (!) so I literally walk EVERYWHERE. I make the point to walk even when I could/should take a bus or cab. And while I wish I could say it was great exercise, it’s moderate at best. BUT being outdoors during the day makes such a big difference than when I was either in school or at work all day, and it was dark when I left home and dark when I returned. My little buddy Anders and I are out and about during the day, which means that when the sun is actually shining, we’re in it.

  • I own a “light therapy” light box, an amazing gift from my mother-in-law. This one, to be exact. It is not UV rays. It’s basically just a bright lamp that you sit in front of to give your eyes the illusion of being in daylight. I use it a couple of times a week, and while it’s not an immediate mood-booster, I’m positive it has benefitted my overall mood.
  • Sunrise Alarm Clock

    Sunrise Alarm Clock

    I also use a “sunrise alarm clock.” It slowly brightens as the hour gets closer to my “awake” time, so that when I need to get out of bed, it’s not pitch black in my room. I also use one in the kids’ room! It’s been most useful, actually, for my son when I need to wake him from his naptime and it’s pretty much dark in his north-facing bedroom.

  • I’ve been pretty regular at taking my vitamin D supplements, along with fish oil (omega 3s) and my multi-vitamin.
  • I’ve been praying against my depression, and I know my close friends and family are, too. (For which I’m so very grateful!!) When I start feeling anxious or stressed, I claim these promises. We’ve also found a church we can truly worship in, yay!
  • I’m still taking 50mg of sertraline. As I’ve written before, this is not a “happy pill”. But for me it’s made a major difference in my life and has enabled me to “wake up” and literally smell the hundreds of roses that are in this lovely city of London :-)

Don’t get me wrong. There are certainly times I can feel hints of my past depression and short-temperedness, usually when I’m tired and trying to haul my stroller/”buggy” and a “soccer/football” and a few bags of groceries and two whining kids up the stairs to my flat and my darling son chooses that moment to lie on the third step throwing a tantrum because he wiped his nose with his hand and now his hand is wet… (Our poor, sweet neighbors have never once complained about our kids…!!)

But for now, for this moment, I’m doing ok. (So thanks for asking!!)

Tough Questions: Handling Cultural Diversity with Young Children

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We were at our local grocery store in north London when my four-year-old daughter, Tori, tugged on my sleeve.

“Mommy. MOMMY.” She whispered fervently, eyes wide and face solemn. “There’s a MONSTER over there.”

She then, as children do, pointed. And when I saw who she was pointing at, I was taken aback. Not because of who I saw, but more because I wasn’t sure how to respond in the moment.

She was pointing to a woman dressed in a full abaya and niqab, a black cloak and veil Muslim women sometimes wear, which draped her from head-to-toe, covering everything except her eyes.

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London’s markets are rich with diversity.

I’m going to be brutally honest here. I wasn’t sure what to say to my daughter. What I did say (whisper) was something like, “Oh, no, that’s not a monster, she’s a woman just like me! I think she’s even a mommy! And do you see how by wearing those clothes we are forced to look at her pretty eyes?” And then we kept shopping.

Yeah… I still have no clue if that was the right thing to say. Here’s what I was feeling: “I know it LOOKS like she could be a monster to you. She is wearing the color of Halloween, she has a mask on, and she’s staring out at you through that mask. And you don’t see people like this very often, do you? It sometimes startles us when we see things we aren’t used to seeing.”

But of course I didn’t say that there. We talked about it more at home, but even then it was on the level a four-year-old could understand, and my main point to her was that those women are mommies and sisters and are just like she and I, and are nothing to be scared of, and should be loved just like everyone else.

Cultural diversity is one of the big reasons we chose to take our adventure to London, and we haven’t been disappointed! Tori literally had NEVER seen a woman in a niqab before. In fact, she had barely seen women wearing a hijab (head covering) until we moved here. I’ll be brutally honest again: our corner of Tucson just wasn’t very ethnically diverse. I’m not saying Muslims and Buddhists and people of MULTIPLE different religions, languages and race don’t live there, I’m just saying it’s not nearly as prevalent as in a city like London. (And, admittedly, we didn’t make a huge effort to leave our little corner often…)

Tori's adorable "Reception" class.

Tori’s adorable “Reception” class. She’s the one with the blonde pig-tails :-)

Tori, with her blonde hair, fair skin and light eyes, is a minority at her school. Many of her playmates are bi- or tri-lingual! They speak Spanish, French, Farsi, Hindi, Italian… One of Anders’ friends has an Italian dad and African-Muslim French-born-in-Paris mum! Tori has a playdate with a friend from India this afternoon, our babysitter is from Romania and we’ll be seeing some German friends later this week.

I love that we are here while my children are young enough to have this become a “norm” for them. One of our goals as parents is to provide our children with the opportunity to LOVE EVERYONE they meet, and to be able to look beyond race or ethnicity or religion or any other lifestyle that might be different from theirs, and show them the love Christ would have shown.

But I’ll admit, answering the cultural questions of a four-year-old is HARD. “Mommy, why does my friend wear a scarf on her head every day?” or “Mommy, is that a man or a woman?” or “Mommy, why is that old man wearing a skirt and a funny hat?” or “Why does my friend live with her mommy and not her daddy?” or “Why are there shops in that church?”

Ummm…. :-) It’s been a challenge for us, but a good one. A NEEDED one. We were getting too lazy and complacent in our little bubble. Answering Tori’s questions has forced AJ and me to really be thoughtful about all those topics, and to be very deliberate in answering them in a way that she’ll understand. Or, in some instances, say, “Um, I’m not sure” and go home and do an internet search to find the answer, haha! (Because, I’ll be honest, I had no idea what the Muslim woman’s face veil was called until I researched it, and even now I HOPE I called it the correct name!!)

How DO we want our children to view the world? It’s a very tricky question but one we’re excited to explore answering.

Culture-shock! A list of things that make England foreign to Americans

Even as I wrote my previous post, I experienced a culture-change: for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to insert the British currency £ symbol!!! Thank goodness for google.

Anyway, I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought that moving to England wouldn’t be a huge culture shock. And that’s not incorrect in the sense that they do technically speak English, and it certainly is a first-world country. But I’ve truly been surprised at how different things are here than in the US! Especially compared to Tucson, AZ. So, besides the obvious they-drive-on-the-left, below is a short-list of some of the funny-to-us things we’ve noticed! Enjoy :-)

Cheers! – This is not always used as a “good-bye” but rather as a “thanks”! If you open the door for someone, they respond, “cheers” in a fairly monotonous tone.

Peeing on the playground – No joke. If a child needs to pee, their mum or dad just holds them over a bush and the kid does his/her thing. Only rarely do they make an effort to go somewhere discreet! This is probably due to the lack of public loos. (And my sister in Cambridge, MA says the same thing occurs on the city playgrounds in Boston, too…) So maybe just a city thing, not necessarily a London thing.

This is one section of the ham aisle.

This is one section of the ham aisle.

Ham – the other white meat. Seriously! There’s so much ham here. They have an aisle dedicated to it! All types of ham. Smoked ham. Chicken ham. (?) Ham salami. Ham turkey. Ham-I-know-what-you-did-last-summer-ham. Even their bacon is more like ham than bacon. It’s amazing and so very British.

Half-and-half – My search for half-and-half coffee creamer (or any type of Coffeemate thing) will continue ceaselessly and probably fruitlessly. This tea-drinking city does have coffee drinkers, but they add only skim or semi-skim (still not sure what this is?) milk. And the true cream (think heavy whipping cream) is sold in a container that looks like yogurt so it took me a full 6 visits to the store to find it, haha!

Trash pick-up – “Oh, you know, just leave your bags on your front stoop and they’ll be grabbed” was the reply when we asked a local when and how to get our trash picked up. So, on any given day, you might see a black trash bag on someones steps. Technically our trash pick up is Friday, but it’s hard to tell… It’s kind of weird if you’re used to a rigid HOA sending you threat letters because you left your empty trash bin out overnight. And the CRAZIEST thing: at AJ’s work, HE’S NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE A TRASH CAN AT HIS DESK!!! So crazy! Apparently it’s to force people “to use the proper rubbish receptacle” and to recycle even used tissues. (OK, maybe another exaggeration.) But he does not have a trash can under his desk. I can’t even imagine.

A playground across from the Tower of London. The brick wall on the right is part of the original Roman wall.

A playground across from the Tower of London. The brick wall on the right is part of the original Roman wall.

Playgrounds everywhere! – There are parks and playgrounds around every corner. I kid you not. There are at least 7 within reasonable walking distance from us, and I’m sure there are more that I haven’t discovered yet! It’s really great. If I ever, say, have to drag the kids to the Islington Council to talk about our taxes and school applications (fun fun), there’s always a playground very close that I can bribe treat my kids with.

School– While it’s not legally required for children under 5 to attend school, it is presumed by EVERYONE that your child will start full-time “Reception” at the age of 4 (essentially kindergarten with less academia and more free-play). Now, in preparing us for the move, I had read the “legal” part and thought, ok, we’ll just find a preschool for Tori that’s part-time! Yeah! So easy! Easy peasy. NO. WRONG. There basically is no such thing for a preschool for a 4 year old. Because it’s assumed she’ll be in reception. Even though legally she doesn’t have to be in school, there’s no place for her except in a reception class. The preschools all say she’s too old. It’s been an incredibly stressful and confusing process, as every mum I meet has a different view on how the school system works. And the one preschool I found that would offer her a part-time place was £12,000 a year. That is, as of today, $19,581 USD. For a PART TIME preschool. Not an option for us, so into Reception she will go, starting Tuesday. :-)

"British" semi-skimmed milk.

“British” semi-skimmed milk.

Total patriots – Even more than Americans, I’d dare say! All the food is labeled with “British” as the description. “British tomatoes” and “British milk” and “British pasta” and “British orange juice” and “British toilet paper.” Ok, that last one is an exaggeration. I think. I’ll look next time. While it’s true that Americans love to “buy American,” they don’t label EVERYTHING as American. Maybe American cheese. But they don’t say “American! Cheddar Cheese.” Unless I was totally unobservant in my US grocery shopping?

Our pile of burnt out electronics – this makes me so sad. I had read about needing adapters for the outlets (duh) and needing to purchase new “hot” appliances such as curling irons, crock pots and coffee makers. But nowhere in all my web-based research did I read that even a simple table lamp will literally POP when you turn it on. There are a few things that work (why, I’m not sure) but so far we’ve busted two lamps, a sound machine, and our gorgeous Dyson vacuum. (Moment of silence, please…) Even with the power converter, these things still couldn’t handle the UK’s higher wattage. A very sad, and very expensive, part of our re-location!

Laundry in the kitchen!

Laundry in the kitchen!

Washing machine in the kitchen – this is very standard-European.  You clean your clothes in the kitchen. It’s just the way it’s done, especially in a flat. And most flats/apartments don’t have a clothes dryer, so there’s an entire section in each grocery store dedicated to clothespins and laundry lines and racks. And an obscene amount of fabric softener. (Although I’m so excited to try out this scented vinegar rinse that supposedly acts as a softener…will let you know how it goes!)

Lemonade – isn’t always the lemonade as we know it! Lemonade here is often another name for Sprite. So, needless to say, we made the can’t-go-back mistake in one of our first dinners and now Anders asks for “lemo-lade” at every meal :-)

These are just a few of the things we’ve noticed. There are so many more! Paper towels are shorter, toilet paper squares are longer (aka, rectangles, lol). Of course everything is done in litres and kilos and Celsius. Utilities are less expensive but there’s a “Council Tax” every month, so it kind of evens out. Rent is absurdly high. Absurd. But overall, if you don’t consider the exchange rate, most groceries are comparable to Tucson, except for meat. Clothing and shoe sizes are different. Clothing is slightly less expensive (for instance a pair of Gap baby jeans that in the US are usually $24.95 are £19.95 in UK.) But the exchange rate kills ya :-)

Anyway, none of these differences, except maybe the school issue, has been detrimental to our experience here. If anything, it’s been fun to explore the new culture! Have you ever heard the idea that you should take a different route to work/school every few days to build up synapses in the brain? Well, moving overseas is like doing that ALL DAY LONG. There’s always something new! I think our synapses have been built up enough to last for quite a while :-)

Have any of you been to Britain? What other things did you notice as being culturally unique to the UK?

Adjusting to Britain

So, I haven’t written in a while. Again. Sorry. I’ve been pretty busy so I’m not going to beat myself up about it.  :)

I am now officially a “migrant spouse” living in the UK! It’s been a whirlwind 4 weeks (whaaat? FOUR WEEKS ALREADY!?!?!) but it’s also been an amazing journey.

We’ve been tested in so many ways. My children have been amazing-super-troopers and have withstood said tests. My marriage has, so far, also withstood said tests. We celebrated our 9th anniversary last week, sitting on our couch paying bills, ordering delivery groceries (my entire grocery list delivered for 4 quid? Yes, please.) and celebrating our newly installed wifi. And we were both so happy.

On the Tube!

On the Tube!

People have been asking me, “What been the biggest adjustment?” Well, in short, the biggest adjustment has been for my children. They’ve slept in 4 different beds in as many weeks (5 if you count the airplane?), experienced an 8 hr jet lag, been traipsed through a foreign city via buses, cabs, the Tube and their little feet were blistered and sore from all the walking. They’ve learned to drink from adult cups because there’s no such thing as “kids’ cups” at restaurants here. They can’t always understand the other kids at the playground. (“Hi, my name is Jennifer!” said one little girl. Tori replied, “Hi Jannika!” lol.) The Bubble Guppies have British accents. And. The. Big. Deal: THERE IS NO BLUE BOX MACARONI AND CHEESE IN THE ENTIRE BLOOMING COUNTRY.

New habit of using fingers instead of pacifier...

New habit of using fingers instead of pacifier…

We’ve seen the effects of the stress on them. Anders still uses a pacifier (we had deliberately put off weaning him from it until after the move) and during the first two weeks of being here, if he didn’t have his pacifier, he’d put his fingers in his mouth at all times. He’d never done this before!! Thankfully this habit has stopped, but it certainly was a sign that he felt stressed, poor guy.

Crying all the way home from the market.

Crying all the way home from the market.

Tori has shown her stress in a more verbal and behavioral way… Lots of tantrums and acting out, and random-to-us bouts of major tears. She’s expressed sadness about being away from her friends and family, and gets easily offended if a child won’t play with her at the playground. We’re in the (stressful) process of finding a school for her, which I think will help quite a bit. It will get her into a routine, will give her an outlet for play and learning, and will, hopefully, reinforce some of the behavior training we’ve been teaching her. (For example, it’s not ok to call anyone, especially a grown-up we’ve just met, “poopy face” and then stick your tongue out and spit. Sigh.)

The most stressful part for me, so far, has been seeing my kids stressed! It’s amazing how many of my thoughts and actions are centered around trying to make them comfortable, even more than before. I’ve questioned my ability as a mom, I’ve questioned why I even bothered to have kids in the first place. My heart has been broken time and time again as my daughter weeps uncontrollably on my shoulder.

But. BUT. I have not once questioned whether we made the right decision in moving here. AJ and I both have a sense of right-ness, for lack of a better word. These adjustments are exactly that: adjustments. With, in theory, an end. It will take a little while but we’ve come so far. We’ve been loving our location, in a north-eastern borough of London, where everything we can possibly need is within a few blocks walking distance. There’s a playground or garden literally around every corner, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of seeing all there is to see here. We’ve been thoroughly enjoying exploring the city and chatting with the local mums and dads on the playgrounds.

Exploring London!

Exploring London!

I think next I’ll compile a list of the things we’ve found surprisingly different here; that’s the other big question people have been asking me: “What are some of the cultural differences?” So stay tuned for stories of creamer in yogurt containers, trash collection, burnt out electronics, peeing on the playground, and ham. :-)

Cheers!