Category Archives: Family

This Old House

So in its final… er, um good riddance… our adorable rental house has decided to fall apart on us, starting  a few weeks ago with the roof.

It was the first time it had rained (and I mean REALLY rained) in several weeks and water was coming through the roof,  into the attic space on the third floor, and down, down, down along the wall into our bedroom below.

I called the property management company as soon the  “drip…. drip… drip” drove me out of my warm, cozy bed. Since it was Saturday, I didn’t expect a whole lot of help and approached it from the attitude of…

“Look, I know London is hundreds and thousands of years old and it rains A LOT, so I’m not sure if a leaky roof is necessarily a BIG DEAL around here. In my world, it is so I figured I’d report it anyway and let YOU decide how to handle it…”

(Read: This isn’t my house, I’m leaving in a month, and I don’t care. Besides, the leak hasn’t actually affected our daily life. Just the paint on the walls…)

bucketI received a call back sometime later. I hoped it was a repair person, but instead it was the property manager again.

She says, “I’ve been sitting here for the past 45 minutes thinking about your issue with the roof and trying to decided whether or not it’s an emergency…”

(If you have to spend 45 minutes deciding whether or not to do something, it’s probably easier to just do it…)

“… and I decided that it is an emergency. I’ll have the engineer pop ’round at 1pm, yeah?”

(oh phew… I was hoping they wouldn’t let wood rot and mold win this round!)

So when the engineer finally arrived at… ahem 3:45, he determined that the roof was indeed  leaking. (Duh!) He put in a temporary fix (bubble gum?), advised us to keep a bucket around for a “rainy day”, and promised to return with tools on Monday.

That was about a month ago and there’s still no word. Of course, it also hasn’t rained much since then… and oh yes, it’s still not my house and I still don’t care.

After that, the shower door started leaking again. The exterior doors and windows stopped closing properly, and we found gaps where there really ought to be weather stripping.

The doorbell, which has been out of order since the day we moved in, mysteriously started working again at Christmas, then promptly stopped.

A light socket burned out, more paint started chipping, and last week, in its final encore, the oven stopped working for no particular reason…

A very jolly repairman looked at it and after an hour of disassembling the whole thing  and some very colorful British phrases, he couldn’t figure it out either.

Instead, he learned that whoever put together our kitchen did it wrong. The oven was installed first with the cabinets and counters built around it. Now, the only person small enough to reach for the oven’s plug underneath and behind the cabinets is…well, Avery and umm, NO!

In spite of all of these quirks, I still think we lucked out in terms of London housing First of all, we were fortunate to have found a  house and NOT a flat.

We may not live in the liveliest part of town, but we are in London proper with easy access to transport and a high street, a park across the street, a back garden, and best of all, no upstairs-downstairs neighbors to irritate.

That and I’ve seen a whole lot worse. Can you say “out-house style bathroom”?

For all this, I’m willing to overlook certain things. That is, until I have to explain them to other people… like say, visiting relatives…

All right. So we get hot water all the time in the kitchen, but only twice a day in the bathroom… and only for an hour each time. If you need to take a shower any other time, you have to open this rickety cabinet, reach past the water heater, and press this button that says “boost”.

“Boost” will give you more hot water, but only for one shower and you have to wait at least half an hour for it to heat up… Oh and it makes this scary churning noise anytime any water in running, cold or hot. Got it?

I also had to explain that insulation and clothes dryers don’t come standard in homes and any technology beyond wood burning stoves qualifies as “central heating”.

While our radiators do a crap job at warming the house, they have proven to be a useful place to dry laundry…

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… provided you only wash five articles of clothing at a time.

We’re going to miss you, you crazy, frigid, old house.

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6 Comments

Filed under Daily Life, Family, Room and Board

Everyone Needs a Christmas Break

In the midst of moving, the LAST thing I wanted to deal with was two weeks of holiday house guests… even if said “house guests” were my family.

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It’s not that I didn’t want to see them… or didn’t miss them like crazy.

After having gone from seeing them all the time to never ever, nothing could be further from the truth…

It’s just with NO IDEA where we’ll be living in California, plotting a cross-country drive with a toddler, and packing, packing, packing… I just didn’t think I could handle a two week break from everything going on.

Well, what do you know… a break was exactly what I needed and even though I declared “only gifts for Avery this year” (i.e. I can’t handle shopping on top of everything else right now), hanging out with  my favorite crazies was the BEST present I could have ever gotten.

(Well, that and the fabulous  new digital SLR awaiting me in the States…hehe)

My family being in town also gave us a chance to do some sightseeing, which we probably wouldn’t have been very motivated to do on our own. We started with a bus trip to Leeds, Canterbury, and Dover…

Okay, so we’ve been to Leeds Castle before, but not at Christmas time when the entire castle is decked out “Nutcracker theme”, which was both delightful…

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… and SCARY!

img_22961(Why, yes. It IS a giant rat surrounded by dozens of smaller rats in the royal bedchamber. Sweet Dreams and Merry Christmas.)

Next stop, the white cliffs of Dover and the fr-fr-freezing British coastline.

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I’m told, on a clear day, you can invade… er, I mean see France from this beach.

And for our final destination, Canterbury Cathedral… beautiful stained glass windows, site of a famous murder-turned-martyrdom, medieval tales of pilgrimage

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Sorry, but there really is no way to make this stuff funny…

What was funny, however, was running into this family from Houston. They found out we’re from Dallas/Fort Worth and wanted to know everything about us… and guess what, my family proceeded to tell them everything about us.

Oh friendly, outspoken Texans! How I miss you!

You see, all of the things one would consider standard small talk — “where are you from”, “what do you do”, “how do you like…”, “Hi, I’m… what’s your name?”, etc., the Brits consider instrusive and off-putting… or so I’ve been told.

I ask anyway, which probably explains why I only have one British friend, and I think she only puts up with me because she lived in the US for a bit and is “used” to  Americans…

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In other family news… I got a (future) brother (in-law) for Christmas!

(Because it’s all about ME. ha!)

My family took a  side trip to Paris before heading  home and in the most romantic gesture ever, my sister’s boyfriend proposed at the Eiffel Tower.

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Alex (or “Mr. Alex” as we have had Avery call him so as to not be presumptuous) has been part of the family ever since first I met him. He’s good peoples and everything I could every want in a brother.

Could not be more excited for them!

5 Comments

Filed under Family, Holidays and Merrymaking, Sightseeing

Happy Boxing Day

There’s been some debate at my house over what the heck is Boxing Day, which just so happens to be TODAY!

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My sister says it’s the day we’re supposed to box up all of the Christmas decorations. I say it’s the day you give the servants gifts and the day off.

Since I neither have servants nor the inclination to pack up our (sad) little Christmas tree, we settled for sleeping late, flying the London Eye, and taking a boat ride on the Thames with my family!

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Not a bad Boxing Day if you ask me… whatever it is.

Boxing Day is a public holiday in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and countries in the Commonwealth of Nations with a mainly Christian population… It is based on the tradition of giving gifts to the less fortunate members of society. Contemporary Boxing Day in many countries is now a “shopping holiday” associated with after-Christmas sales.

Boxing Day dates back to past centuries when it was the custom for the wealthy to give gifts to employees or to people in a lower social class, most especially to household servants and other service personnel.

2 Comments

Filed under Family, Holidays and Merrymaking

Glad Tiddings To You And Yours…

Four days ago, my parents, my two younger sisters, and one sister’s boyfriend flew in from Texas to celebrate our first (and presumably LAST) London Christmas with us.

The past few days have been a whirlwind of eating, sightseeing, eating, laughing. eating, shopping, eating… and well, more eating… and it has been FAN-TASTIC!

Of course, when my family planned their trip to London back in September, we were still expecting (hoping for) a much, much, MUCH longer stay abroad…

“Who knows when we’ll get to see one another again. Come on over, Mom and Dad!”

HA!

It cracks me up that I’m actually going to see them again in two weeks. At least, I’ve  managed to convince each of them to take home an extra suitcase filled with our stuff.

Favors aside, it really has been so much fun to have my family here, which explains the total abandonment of my blog.

Don’t worry. There’s more fodder being generated every single day…

But while we’re in the holiday spirit…  here are the Christmas cards (yes, multiple cards) that I designed in OCTOBER, but no one, not friends, not family, will ever see  them (in print) all because I couldn’t FIND a decent photo developer.

Yes, I’m sure London, of ALL places, has them.

Yes, I could have searched further… asked around more… shlepped myself all over town…

Except that by November, I clearly had several OTHER things on my mind and settled for one designed by Kodakgallery.co.uk

Sorry, I’ll do better next year… Promise.

Still, I’m rather proud of myself for doing something with Photoshop beyond cropping, so I’d like to share them anyway…

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! God Bless us, every one!

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Princess Diana Memorial Playground, Kennsington

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Leeds Castle

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Stonehenge

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Filed under Family, Holidays and Merrymaking

The Anglification of Mr. A

While Avery hasn’t exactly developed a British accent, he has managed to pick up hundreds of little words and nuances. Here are a few of my favorites.

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To pass the time spent waiting for trains and buses, I quiz Avery on his numbers, letters, colo(u)rs, etc…

One day, we came across this…let-z

Me: What letter is that?

Avery: ZED!

Ah, yes… “ZED”, otherwise known as the British “ZEE”…

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His breakfast of choice was once pancakes, but lately he’s been requesting…

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“Toast and jam, please, Mommy. Thank you!”

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… and for lunch, it’s  a “cheese toastie”, which I have to admit sounds a lot cuter than an American “grilled cheese sandwich”.

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Usually,  it’s a “truck”. Sometimes, it’s a “lorry”.

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Fire trucks go, “Nee-nar Nee-nar”…

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…trains “chuffity-chuff!”

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… and this is a badger!

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(Okay, so it’s probably called a “badger” at home too, but we had never SEEN one until we moved to the UK. )

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Filed under Daily Life, Family

Do You Have An Abortion Quota or Is This Just Prenatal Care in the UK?

I think it’s so obnoxious strange when people ask if a pregnancy was “planned” or “expected”, especially since we all know where babies come from… ahem! ahem!

Oh no! How ever could this have happened… eek!

Planned or unplanned, we are no less THRILLED about the it and that’s all there is to know.

However, it did take a few weeks for the news to sink in. I still have moments of denial now and again, but I still managed to book an appointment with my GP (i.e. general care family doc) nonetheless…

In the UK, you go to your GP for everything from a heart attack to the flu to wart removal…

He or she then grants you access to a specialist, but only if you really, really need it and ONLY after the proper paperwork has been filled out, faxed, and you wait the 8-12 weeks for someone to ring you (you do NOT call them) for an appointment…

Oh and by the way, OB/GYNs and pediatricians are considered specialists rather than primary care in the UK, so my appointment with the GP was merely a formality.

Granted we’re only four weeks and counting away from moving back to the US , but I thought I’d try for a referral to a “specialist” anyway. You never know, right?

Still, I was very excited about my appointment. Surely there would be another test to confirm the pregnancy, a prescription for some prenatal vitamins, an official DUE DATE…

Nope!

Upon telling the doctor my very good reason for walking 30 minutes in the London winter followed by another 30 minutes of sitting in the nasty waiting room, her first question was, “Are you okay with that? I mean, are you happy about it?”

Stunned, I said, “Of course I am.”

“Well, you don’t seem very happy. Are you sure you’re not wanting to terminate the pregnancy?”

“Uhhh….NO! We very much want this baby.”

“Okay. Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

“Really?”

“YES!”

I’m not exactly sure what level of enthusiasm I wasn’t registering here. I’m generally a happy person anyway, but not exactly prone to cartwheels and high kicks…

Perhaps it’s because I knew this appointment was a TOTAL waste of my time… hmmm.

Next, she guessed at my due date by counting to nine on her fingers, which I could have done (and HAD done) only a million times on my own.

After several tries, she figured that I was seven weeks along at that point, even though I was only about five based on an actual calendar…

When I asked about prenatal vitamins, she told me I would only need them in the first trimester and since I was already halfway though it (which I wasn’t), I really shouldn’t worry about it anymore… Eh! who cares?!

Oh and I saved the BEST part for last…

While discussing my medical history, I mentioned that I already have son and added that he’ll be three years old when the baby is born.

She looked up, tilted her head “compassionately” and said, “Well… you know, you can’t always plan these things. Sometimes we just get surprised, but I’m sure you’ll do fine. At least you still have your options.”

What? Seriously, WHAT? !

11 Comments

Filed under Family, National Healthcare

A Reason for Everything

I’m a big believer that there’s a reason for everything. God has a larger plan for all of us and the like, but I just could not understand the reason for sending us back to the States so soon.

I mean, the “bigger” reason… beyond visas and global economic collapses.

Sure, Mike has a great job waiting for him in the US, but he already had a great job… in London.

Yes, we’re moving back the States, but it’s not as if we’re going “home” to our family and friends in Texas. California may be closer, but it’s still going to be miles and miles away. What difference did it make?

We just got settled in London. Our expat life may entail a LOT of compromises, but we have friends, daily routines, bank accounts…

Avery is finally sleeping at night again! Do you know how long it took  him to recover from the “time change”? Do you know how much I’m dreading going through that AGAIN?

Why, God, why would you send us back now?

Well, a few days ago, I got my answer.

Life just got 150% more crazy and we couldn’t be happier!

14 Comments

Filed under Family, Life In The States, Packing Up and Moving