Saturday, December 28, 2013

Our first steps towards independence

There are lots of milestones around at the moment. Lady P is now an advanced crawler and she cruises from coffee table to footstool with ease, so we're sure first proper steps can't be far away. And she already has her first words, at least if 'dadadadada' and 'mamamama' count.

But there's another milestone, which we anticipate with a mix of eagerness and trepidation. It's a first for me and TLOML: a night away without Lady P. We have booked a mini-mini-break, a night away in Edinburgh.

Our plan for the day time is to leave Lady P at my mum's place. She'll have six other grandchildren there, as my three sisters and their families are all in town, so we can pretty much just pop Lady P in and go, safe in the knowledge she'll be a drop in the ocean of chaos. We've spent quite a bit of time there already this Christmas and the babysitting is basically built in because of the sheer number of people in the house. Lady P roams the long carpeted hallway (ours at home is short and wooden-floored, so this is a corridor of luxury) mthrilled by the fact that there are people in every room - cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents everywhere.

It's great for me. Lady P crawls towards the door, her little bottom wiggling as she gathers pace, and when she leaves my line of sight I just call out 'Can any one see the baby?' So long as I get an affirmative - even if it is from a three year old - I can relax.
Lady P attempts to get in on some gift opening action
And at night, she'll stay at my sister's house, which is just down the street from our place, so we spend a lot of time there as a rule. She'll fall in step with her rufty-tufty twin cousins who are extremely patient as she trails a Godzilla-like path of destruction across their train tracks and Lego cities. She's eaten plenty of meals with them and will be quite happy to join them for bathtime and a bedtime story.

I sincerely hope she then sleeps for twelve solid hours, as she does at home. But I rather suspect being in a travel cot in a different room will mean any periods of light sleep or vague wakefulness could rapidly deteriorate into angry, 'where the hell am I?' crying. I hope not, or at least I hope that my sister calms her down with her usual ease. To offset my anxiety I've spent hours printing out schedules, laying out bathtime, bedtime and morning stuff at my sister's house, and prepping little dishes of food, so my sister doesn't have to do too much. Lady P is pretty easy, but nonetheless, she does require a bit of looking after.

Three years ago, when the twins were just a few weeks old, my sister and her husband were both getting up every three hours to feed them through the night. One night I stayed over and took a shift with each of them, so they could sleep for a full six hour stretch. She still talks about it with misty eyes, as an incredible gift I gave that she could never repay. Well, now its payback time. And it is a coin I can only spend once.

So I will keep my fingers tightly crossed that Lady P is easy, happy and calm, like she is with us. I'll keep then crossed till that first cocktail. After that, we'll toast to the night I did twin-duty, back in 2010, and determine to forget all about Lady P for the evening.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas 2013 in numbers and pictures. Oh, and some words.

0: the number of mince pies consumed so far. Zero. I know. Weird, right? I just haven't had one yet. As this is my last British Christmas for the foreseeable, I need to put this right, and fast. I aim to rectify this by eating at least four tomorrow.

1 turkey leg smuggled out of my mother's house and presented to a gleeful TLOML. He missed out on cold turkey today as he spent the day working, bearing witness to the fact that in the US there is no Boxing Day. Boooo to that.

2: the number of Christmas cakes baked by my mum. One is for her house, the other is quartered and given to her four grateful daughters who still haven't had to master the art of baking a Christmas cake.

2 turkey dinners. One, hot, on Christmas Day, with my parents and my sister and her family. The second, cold with hot sides on Boxing Day, with an additional sister and her family thrown into the mix. Fun!

2 runs, so far. One full of pace and a decent distance on Christmas Eve. One slightly jaded jog on Boxing Day - I used the fact there was a little ice on the ground and dozens of dog walkers out to excuse my slow pace.
Lovely condition for a dog walk. Treacherous for running. Honest.
2 carol services. One in church, where Lady P rampaged about being distractingly cute during all the serious bits. One by the Saltburn tree, which involved a brass band and a carol sheet full of typos. Loved it.

3 walls of the gingerbread house still standing. Three reindeer, one and a half person, seven trees, a chimney and most of the roof have already gone. And we've only been eating it since yesterday morning.

4 cousins who have played with Lady P so far. Two more arriving tomorrow. There's a lot to be said for a big family, with plenty of volunteers to read stories or play with building blocks.

10: the number of minutes, on average, I go between bites of the gingerbread house during waking hours. Given the rate at which it's disappearing, I wouldn't be surprised if I'm also sleepwalking and taking nibbles at night too. Not long before the next wall crumbles, I'll warrant.

14 photos of Lady P in her Christmas pyjamas. At the last count, anyway.

I hope your Christmas was as abundant with goodness. Happy Christmas one and all. And happy Boxing Day, Brits.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

American teeth for an American life

My festive frenzy - I do so love 'the holidays' - is heightened this year by a fever pitch of excitement. Our time in limbo is almost over. I have a job offer confirmed from Big Corp, to start on 1st Feb. And we have our Green Card interview on 6th Jan - which will hopefully be a Depardieu/McDowell style 'Mr and Mrs' quiz. I'll ace it. I know everything about how he likes his coffee and what colour his toothbrush is. Easy.

So this move is no longer hypothetical. In between wrapping presents and taking Lady P to the crib service, and gazing longingly at the gingerbread house (one more day till we can break in!) we are booking flights, and cancelling Virgin Media, and scheduling movers.

We started talking about this move almost six months ago, so I've had plenty of time to reach an accommodation with the idea of our new (or revisited) life in California. It now feels like it's been a long time coming. And I'm ready. I'm ready to stop living in limbo. I'm very ready to live in the same timezone in which TLOML works. I'm ready to be reunited with the blue skies and palm trees of Los Angeles. And I'm ready to become a good American wife.

I know I'm ready because I've got the teeth to prove it. My invisalign treatment is complete. The last step was a whitening treatment through which my dentist promised to make my teeth shiny and brightly white. 'How white?' I asked. 'European white,' he answered. 'Don't worry, I won't make you look like Simon Cowell'.

In the cold grey light of Yorkshire I think this was the right choice. They look like the nice, straight, white teeth an American wife should have. I only hope my Californian friends, colleagues and neighbours will agree. I'm ready to go native. Bring on 2014 - a new year, a new life, with my new teeth.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Gingerbread House 2013 - the best yet?

Long standing followers will I'm sure be dying to know if I attempted a gingerbread house this year. And if so, whether TLOML had to get his Dremel out to sand down the sides.

Yes. And no.

Yes, of course I attempted a gingerbread house. We're parents now, and have 2 nephews who are always popping in. At last the gingerbread enterprise doesn't just look like the time-filling crafting of a bored woman who accidentally fell onto a pile of Martha Stewart Livings. That said, Lady P has no interest in the house at all. But my nephews were pretty into the idea, so that was licence enough for me.

And no, remedial sanding was not required. This time I didn't leave the gingerbread cooling (and spreading) while we swanned off to Argentina for a week. I used the same pattern as last year, but made way more dough. This meant I could roll it out thicker - no need for the marzipan bolstering that was a feature of last year's attempt. It also meant I had tonnes left over for Christmas tree decorations - despite having a pretty full tree already - and a veritable forest around the house.
Half way through and there's enough dough left to make a small town
It also meant my nephews could have fun with icing and sweets without me worrying they were wasting gingerbread trees. Yes, there is such a thing as 'wasting gingerbread trees': I have a vision here, people. It involves several tidy trees clustered in little groups, decorated strictly with green and red sweets only. My nephews were a bit more creative with their use of colour, taking a 'layered' approach - or 'cram as many sweets on as we can'.

I let the boys sneak a couple of their vibrant trees in, but for the most part the forest - and the family of 3 gingerbread people - are pleasingly uniform. I made a snowman, a bit wobbly but definitely a snowman. And Rudolf on the roof has a nice red nose. Other improvements include TLOML's almond-tiled roof, and the use of mint matchmakers for door and window frames.

I think this is our best yet.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lady P's First Christmas

Fortunately we found the Christmas decorations. I wasn’t quite sure where we’d stored them, as we thought we’d be back in London by Christmas. Instead, here we are in lovely Saltburn limbo and I was poised for an afternoon of baking Skandi-style tree decorations*. But nestled under the ski gear (again, stashed away in expectation of a winter spent elsewhere) there they were.

So we’ve decorated our house, stockings by the fire, lights on the tree, and so on. I was hoping for some wide eyed excitement from Lady P. Frankly, she’s still more interested in chasing the cat, chewing on a doll or playing hide and seek under tea towels. It’s probably a good thing. There's half a chance the tree will still be standing by Christmas.

One thing no-one who’s seen the tree has mentioned yet: the prominence of our California tree decoration. I put it up nice and high and central, for we are heading to California soon and it’s on my mind every day.

Is there something to be read into the relative size and gaudiness of this LA-sourced decoration, next to our vintage Victorian-style Father Christmases, and little European dolls? Probably. As they say, if you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly.
*I may not be able to restrain myself from that activity anyway

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Small Town Christmas

We were at the Big Switch on last weekend. Perhaps ‘Big’ is relative. Certainly the tree is no Trafalgar Square NorwegianSpruce. And the lights pale rather if compared to those at New York's Rockefeller Plaza.

Still, Saltburn got properly festive. It was more than just a light switch on. There were roasting chestnuts to be had, and a brass band playing – my nephews got to join in and shake bells along to their rousing rendition of Jingle Bells. The butcher and the local restaurateur tycoon were selling hot dogs and mince pies, and all the local cafes had mulled wine on offer. A little teacup ride and face painting gave the kids something to do while their parents sipped mulled wine and waited for the big switch on itself.

In fact the build up may have been a little much. After much festive waiting around, there was a count down, MCd by an exuberant Geordie. TLOML couldn’t understand a word he was saying as he whipped the crowd up into a mild murmur - but he caught up by the time we’d got down to 7… 6… 5… After ‘1’ there was a brief pause, a technical hitch perhaps. Then the tree lit up, and while all the crowd cheered, TLOML muffled a surprised laugh. He had expected more lights, I think. ‘Modest’ was the watchword for the 2013 Saltburn Tree Committee, I think.

After the tree lights went on a small parade took place. First Mary, on a donkey rather confusingly lead by a Christmas elf (Joseph, getting in the spirit? No, wait, that doesn’t make sense.) A steady stream of beaming Brownies and Cub Scouts. Then Father Christmas on the back of the fire engine. Hard to say who my 3 year old nephews were more thrilled by, the firemen or Santa. Suffice to say there was high excitement all around.

In a former life I might have scoffed a little. But in lovely little Saltburn I brushed away a sentimental tear and took a tonne of photos.

The next day the Yarn Bombers had visited, and added two festive knitted figures to the fence around the tree. Like the tree, and like the town, they are small, good humoured, and perfectly formed.
Post turkey collapse

A lady laden with Christmas shopping

The tree by day (it's prettier by night)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Whatever happened to my cute threshold?

I used to be a cynic. Sarcastic, frequently sceptical, and prone to scoffing. Even a little dark at times. For example, I didn’t used to want to have children because of the dark and terrible world they will be brought into. Then I met TLOML and that whole attitude changed.

At the other end of the spectrum of seriousness, but informed by the same cynicism, I used to despite cuteness. Or if not cuteness – for who could resist a kitten? And what are they if not cute? – then let’s say I used to despise cutesiness*, the artful pursuit of cute. This would include hairbands and bows on babies with little hair. Any kind of ‘Mommy and Me’ clothing or behaviour. And themed outfits or pyjamas. Like a Thanksgiving outfit emblazoned with 'Mommy's Little Turkey' and replete with a turkey on the bottom.

Turkey butt cat botherer. Grrr!
Then along came Lady P. And she is just SO damn cute. My radar is completely shot by her nose wrinkling smile, her excited wiggles and her giggles. That’s my excuse anyway.

So when a dress arrives from an e-tailer with a matching hairband, I might cry in my defence ‘Oh, it came with the dress, I didn’t realise when I ordered it,’ but I go ahead and put that hairband on her. And take multiple photos because I think it’s so, well, cute. 

Ditsy sub-Liberty print matching hairband and dress. Ouch!
Ditto the green cords she has which are very similar to a much loved pair of my own. Sometimes I can’t resist putting her in a top that’s the same colour as mine. And lo and behold we are wearing a Mommy and Me outfit. Yikes.
Double trouble pink jumpers and green needle cords. Aah!
By the way, I call it Mommy and Me because I’ve never seen or heard the expression ‘Mummy and Me’. Does that mean the concept doesn’t exist in the UK? Or isn’t catered for, at least? I suspect so. Sigh. Cynical, sarky old Britain, eh?! Perhaps California, where no amount of schmaltz and saccharine cuteness is too much, is the best place for us after all.

*With the possible exception of folk art owls (before they were everywhere, too, honest).