December 10, 2013
I took myself to the movies this weekend.
It’s not something I’m in the habit of doing. In fact, I can’t recall ever going to the movies alone. I am sure, though, that my last trip to the cinema was to see Les Miserables when I was approximately 9 months pregnant; or, about a year ago.
I saw a listing for Nebraska in the Picturehouse newsletter, which I rarely briefly peruse before deleting from my inbox. A sleepy spot in my brain blinked. NEBRASKA, where I lived for 6 years before moving to England. Where I watched beautiful movies with a friend at Film Streams. Suddenly I felt duty-bound to see Alexander Payne’s latest film, being an ex-Omahan and one-time Film Streams member. I had to go. It was time to get out.
So Sunday afternoon during the baby’s nap, I drove myself to town, picked up a double espresso and bought a ticket for one. I started to feel awake.
Then something surprising happened (as I reclined in my very comfortable seat). I felt at home. The interstate signs, wide roads, strip malls… the imagery was so undeniably American. The Grant’s post-war home. The Hawthorne watering holes. The people. Their clothes. The family. The conversations. I was completely and utterly floored at how familiar it all felt. Then I felt a strange smugness at being THE ONE in the theater in this market town in the east of England who had ever (probably) been to this place. Who had that great aunt, who’s reminded of someone by the cousins, whose memory echoes the niceties exchanged when extended midwestern families gather. I’ve BEEN to the home a/v store where Will Forte’s character, David, works. I’ve had a beer at that corner tavern, to the restaurant with the salad bar and karaoke.
It was just so spot on.
I’m no film critic, and this post isn’t a review. All I can tell you is that I really think I loved this film. It was beautiful. It was funny. It was moving. It said so much about an America that millions have no idea exists.
Have you had a chance to see it? Was it familiar to you, too?
December 3, 2013
On Thanksgiving I said to my husband, “Let’s go to that train museum in York this weekend!” Then we couldn’t find a suitable hotel room. So we decided to go to Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park instead, mostly because I NEEDED TO GET OUT.
We did a little research to confirm the weather wouldn’t totally suck and find the best tube route for our entourage. Then we went.
We followed the steady stream (er, flood?) of people from Marble Arch to the entrance by the Giant Wheel. Then we shuffled along with thousands – THOUSANDS! – of merrymakers.
Not having much experience with Christmas markets, I can best sum up the experience as something of a Christmas-themed state fair. Just subtract the livestock and 4H projects. Substitute fried foods on a stick with bratwurst and funnel cake with waffles. Add some mulled wine. And there you go.
There are a variety of rides, for kids of all ages. Midway games. Vendors selling Christmasy wares. A Bavarian village with, of course, a biergarten. There’s a circus, an ice-skating rink, and indoor ice sculpture garden. We missed all of the ticketed features; pre-booking tickets is advised to get the times you want. (Admission into the park is free.) Plus, the day was full enough for our two tinies.
We don’t celebrate Christmas and are kind of crowd-adverse, but I’m glad we made a point to go. There’s something satisfying about sharing an experience with the millions of visitors that will walk by that wheel in the next few weeks . If you want to share it, too, the fair (er, fayre) runs through January 5, 2014. I highly recommend a weekday visit.
November 13, 2013
You can safely assume we’re in the home stretch of this deployment, with me writing that headline seriously.
The past few months have been no cakewalk. No, they’ve been more like a smooshed Cheerio/LEGO/crusty Kleenex path covered in pee/spit up/pureed food which you must cross barefoot, in the dark, on no sleep, with 50 pounds of dirty diapers hanging unevenly from your shoulders, and Nickleback playing on repeat very loudly. In the rain. (Or maybe not the rain, because that would be too much like a shower.) Through Heathrow, after a Transatlantic flight with a backpack full of rabid koalas while pushing an 80-pound stroller with a broken wheel. With fireworks going off, at bedtime. And a back injury.
[Except for that week or so around when one of my best friends got married back home. That was a ton of fun.]
But here’s the thing. Three months of that is nothing compared to some deployments. To a year-long remote. There are many parents (a dear friend and my new stepmom among them) who walk this path alone for years and years. While knowing this doesn’t make the rough days suck less , it does remind me that I’m not the only person to parent solo far from family. That everyone can come out the other side just fine.
I like to scroll through my iPhone photos while I’m feeding my baby when I should be sleeping. Lately I’m struck by how much my kids have changed and how much we’ve actually done together since my husband left. There were three whole months of memories that the boys and I don’t share with their dad. Adventures, laughter, new milestones. (Mobility, teeth, sleep training…)
What a gift!
Once my husband walks through our front door, I’m back to “just mom.” Rolling out Play-Doh with me will never be as awesome as doing wrestling moves with dad. I’ll never know enough about airplanes, or train parts, or race cars, or Transformers. But for just a few months, I have been the Awesomest. I’ve gotten to be the one to splurge on sweet treats. I’ve chaperoned all the bike rides. I’ve been Play Buddy #1.
At least we’ve gotten that out of this deployment. I’m so glad it’s nearly over. Three cheers to those of you who have endured even longer stretches of solo parentdom!
October 15, 2013
Among the reedy rattle of near-harvest corn, knowing exactly how long it takes to get anywhere plus three back-road alternate routes. “Visiting with” relatives. Passing one day at a time until the deployment ends, on the banks of the Wabash.
September 12, 2013
The light had that tilted-from-the-sun amber glow of an early autumn afternoon. The winding English road was being swallowed by green in spots where it was certainly no wider than 1.9 sedans (or 1 lorry and 3/4 of a Puegot hatchback). Then something clicked.
This is our last English fall.
Trailers stacked impossibly high with hay bales and wagons spilling onions into the road bounce behind tractors. The pheasants are about to take their place in the harvest stubble. Soon the smell of overcooked beets from the British Sugar factory will saturate the air.
The leaves will turn and drop. The lush tunnels of the wooded roads from here to anywhere will turn gray.
My last English fall.
I’ve finally memorized the B and C roads that cut through fields to neighboring villages. I can distinguish the sounds of the freight and passenger trains that rumble nearby. And in less than a year, I’ll have to regain my bearings and learn the nuances of a new place.
At least I get it. I know that this is my last chance to make the most of here. I’ve finally bought a bag of Kentish cobnuts from the market. I left the boys with a sitter to drink wine in the sun at Wyken Vineyardssuff. I’m planning to take the boys to Sandringham to pick apples. We’re building our Must See list.
As much as I feel the end of our time in England approaching, I feel the force of Bertie rocketing through babyhood even more. There’s a finality to that, too. He’s not crawling yet – thank goodness! – but I know he will be soon. One day he won’t study my face and giggle while batting my nose as milk spills from the corners of his smile. He won’t always wave his arms and reach to me to be picked up. He’ll outgrow his 9 month footie pajamas (soon!). This might be the last baby I get to hold as my own.
And now, at last, Gretchen Rubin’s sentiment that “The days are long, but the years are short” is registering as a punch-in-the-guts truth. These unbroken 15 hour days (and the following broken nights) with the boys can be so, so hard, physically and emotionally, but I know that some distance of time will mark them as precious.
September 6, 2013
I didn’t tell you we spent 10 days in America in July. Something about jet lag and family and babies and toddlers and “life” getting in the way.
We flew from London Heathrow to Minneapolis. “Eight point five hours on an airplane with a 2 year old and a baby? Have you gone MAD?” you ask? Well, perhaps. Of course we were delayed an hour after boarding, too. The thing is, I set my expectations realllllllllly low. I packed Pull-Ups for the toddler (which he has only ever worn at night since potty training, and at that never used). A backup bag of spare clothes, diapers, snacks, formula, everything, was fully loaded. I told myself I would get no sleep (I didn’t), that the toddler wouldn’t sleep (he didn’t) and that the baby might sleep for an hour and a half total (exactly). What I didn’t anticipate? That my two year old would sit in his seat and entertain himself the entire way.
The kind folks at AmSafe sent me a CARES Child Aviation Restraint System to test drive on my little big guy. No thanks (thanks?) to the military mail system, it arrived the day before we left. Phew!
The CARES system attaches to the plane seatbelt and around the seat back, creating a harness much like you have in your toddler’s car seat. If you’ve ever flown with a tiny person in their own seat, you know that lap belts are pretty much pointless. As much as you’d LIKE him to sit down when the captain turns on the fasten seatbelt sign, chances are he’s squirming out to peek over the seat or just Be Obnoxious. The CARES harness takes care of that. It’s small, comes in its own stuff sack and is easy to install. Since you’re allowed to check your car seat with your luggage, it really is a no-brainer. Unless lugging a massive car seat down too-narrow aisles of the plane and hissing at your child to stop kicking the seat in front of him the whole way sound like a good time to you.
That said… we didn’t use it on the return flight. Our guy played with an iPad Mini for pretty much 10 hours straight. Except for take-off and landing, when he played with a space sticker book with his dad. Probably not the best parenting move, but, come on. It worked.
If you’re keen on the iPad, I recommending downloading a new movie and some new games for the ride. My guy loves Duck Duck Moose apps, and More Trucks was a home run surprise. He is also learning how to write letters with Letter School. Seriously. He’ll be three in November and he can use his finger to draw – not just trace! –the letters. I’M impressed. And I’m much less terrified for our next flight to the States next month.
Read more of my adventures in transatlantic toddler travel here.KidSafe provided the author with a CARES safety harness at no charge for the purpose of this review. All opinions are the author’s.