Thursday, 26 February 2009

What's the colour of worry?

The Big Move is getting closer, and I'm starting to stress about it. While I know I should be thinking about the Bigger Picture - our new life in an exciting new world, Obama's America - I keep waking up at 3am in a cold sweat thinking of some new horror. So I thought maybe writing my fears down would help me address them......

First of all, I think they can be divided into three levels of severity. In fact, in the spirit of 'traffic light' warning labels so popular these days, let's call them red, amber and green....

Red Alert worries. (Basic 'to do' stuff)

1. Make final decisions on whether to put stuff into storage, take it with us or leave it in the house. Despite having made a house inventory, we still can't agree and I foresee a last minute panicked stuffing of everything into the cellar and hoping that our hypothetical 'tenants' don't object....
2. Making sure house is ready for rental. Co-ordinate Ivo the electrician, Tom the builder, Mark the boiler man and Gregor the decorator not only to do their stuff but actually agree with each other about whether things are legal. If only it were possible to get them here at the same time. Maybe I should invite them to a party....?
3. Actually renting out the house to hypothetical 'tenants'... plus, will 'tenants' will be able to cope with our idiosyncratic house? Will they mind that there is no door on the shower room? Will they understand the quirks of the central heating dial (I certainly don't). And what happens when they see the mice, who will inevitably return?
4. Finding packers and organising shipping of stuff to the US (but what stuff? That is the 64,000 dollar question...)

Amber alert (not so urgent, but longer-term domestic worries)

1. Can I cope with being full-time, 7 day a week Mum to the Littleboys for the forseeable future?. I looked after each of them as babies for almost a year, but since then they've been at nursery three days a week. On the days I do spend with the two of them, unless we have a regimented activity plan they tend to go nuts and wreck the house. Will I be tearing my hair out within weeks of our arrival?
2. Also on this note, will the Littleboys live off spaghetti bolognese, hummus and baked potatoes forever? Litltleboy 1 is incredibly fussy, so I tend to give the same little repertoire of meals that I know they will eat, in rotation, relying on the nursery to feed them a more varied diet involving green vegetables and suchlike. Now I am going to be in sole charge of giving them a balanced diet. Help!
3. How soon will I be able to find a cleaner? I hate housework (sadly, the result of a privileged, expat childhood with maids - you can blame my parents) and am no domestic goddess. At the moment I have a cleaner for three hours a week. Although with the boys I have no choice but to clean the kitchen constantly, I never lift a finger in the rest of the house unless a total disaster strikes (ie. wee on the carpet, drinks poured on the sofa - actually, thinking about it, all those are pretty well daily occurrences with the boys). And I haven't done any ironing since 2005, as I delegated this, too, to the cleaner when Littleboy 1 was born.

Green Alert (silly stuff that nevertheless hovers at the edge of my radar....)

1. Will we be forced to own two cars, one of which is bound to be a gas guzzling station-wagon, because it will be impossible for The Doctor to walk to work?
2. How soon will the Littleboys start calling me 'Mom', insisting on wearing baseball caps and talking with American accents?
3. How will we cope without Cbeebies? Here, I convince myself that Cbeebies is educational, public service broadcasting so it doesn't matter if the Littleboys watch it for hours on end. But I can't say the same for crappy cartoons. Does this mean I will have to (horrors) stop them watching telly altogether?
4. Can we get Shreddies and Weetabix in the US? I already know I can't get Earl Grey tea and Marmite - but what other brands am I forgetting?
5. If I want to buy wine in America, do I have to go to a special shop that only sells it in a brown paper bag? Or is that just in Florida?

Please, please, someone tell me to get a grip and reassure me that it's going to be fun.....


Anonymous said...

Don't worry, I will send you care packages of Shreddies, Weetbix, Earl Grey and Weetabix, but I can't solve the wine question I'm afraid....

Mud in the City said...

Phew. You will be FINE - although your list must be very daunting.

I can't help with some of the issues (other than offering to whip up some canapes for your Builders' Party) but you CAN get normal wine, you can find Marmite, Earl Grey etc - just look on line for an expat shop or in the international aisle at the supermarket. It will be full of ex-pat Brits sobbing over Robinson's. You might even make some new friends!

Scary yes, but sooo exciting as well!

P said...

As to the foods, you can get all those products, trust me. Shops even carry ribena, rich tea biscuits, and bird's custard powder these days! Whole Foods is usually a solid bet, along with other nicer supermarkets. Or Indian/Chinese ones, they usually stock British products (gotta love that colonial appreciation). And as to cbeebies, my mum used to buy sesame street dvds (well vhs tapes then) and play them on repeat to replicate the effect when we moved out East and then the States. I repeated for children I nannied for (alternating with Dora the Explorer, who I still find rather suspect) and it works brilliantly.

rosiescribble said...

Wow! That's quite a list, what an incredible amount to organise. But I would have thought the wine purchasing needed a higher priorty surely?!!

Iota said...

It's going to be great fun.

This is a serious suggestion though. Make dvds of Cbeebies. I'm serious. I was so appalled at kids' tv when we first arrived here, that I got a kind friend in Britain to make dvds of Cbeebies and post them to me, and lived on those. If you make your own, they seem to play on US dvd players, but of course UK shop-bought ones won't (did you know that?) Dvds here are expensive, and there isn't a high street full of charity shops round here, so I didn't know where to go to get cheapies. I have subsequently sniffed out a few decent kids tv channels (well, one...), but you have to be organised, and record stuff which might be on in the middle of the night. And most of it is chock-ful of adverts. I find the programming unintelligent too - 4 episodes of Dora in a row, then 4 of something else, not much attempt to put things on at appropriate times.

And we wasted lots of money on horrid wine in our first weeks, until someone told us where to go to buy it. Get the Doctor to sound out a few friendly colleagues when you get there.

I'm sorry - this is all sounding rather negative. This is a fabulous adventure for you, and you will rise to the occasion. You always come across as very sensible and organised.

Oh, and the mom/mum thing? It's negligable in reality. Imagine your child standing at the bottom of the stairs and yelling "mahm, mahm, maaaaaahm" until you shout back "for heaven's sake, what IS it?" Now imagine a child with an American accent standing at the bottom of the stairs and yelling "mahm, mahm, maaaaaahm". See. No difference.

Sorry to sound like a voice of doom, but this is one thing that I really wish I'd known in advance.

Iota said...

Oh, my cut and pasting on that obscenely long comment wasn't quite right. The "thing I wish I'd known in advance" bit is about bringing dvds of Cbeebies with me.

Expat mum said...

Where to start? (What - you knew I would have something to say). Yes, you can get Weetabix here, not sure about Shreddies as I hate them. Plus Earl Grey. There is a delicious variety here called Earl Grey Creme by Argo Tea, which is a chain thing like Starbucks. Yum.

There are millions of mom and tot things to do over here both free and not. You won't run out of things to do but obviously you have to go out and look. The US is a very transient society and people move to new towns etc all the time.

If you move to the suburbs, they will probably come with a welcome package for you and force you out to meet the neighbours. There are also loads of expat groups all over the US. If you know exactly where you are going to be living, go to the Expat Women web site and see if there is a mentor there who can point you in all sorts of directions.

Cleaners - are quite cheap here and there is a recession on! Make sure you get some recommendations before you hire someone but you don't necessarily have to go through an agency.

Whatever you do, don't lock yourself away as that's a sure fire way to get lonely and homesick.

At least we're coming out of winter here so most places in the US have glorious summers.

Please post any and all questions for us to help.

mothership said...

Red Alert worries. (Basic 'to do' stuff)

1. Leave most stuff in cellar. You won't miss it
2. & 3 Reputable letting agent should do both of these things for you. Make them worry about this as it's what you pay them for.
4. Oh, packers.. Yes... Just get ones that pack for you and try not to overthink it. Really, it's too stressful otherwise.

Amber alert

1. No you can't, Yes you will. Find nursery/babysitter/mum's group with people willing to trade off time asap.

2. Add mac and cheese to your list of kid food. Consider fruits same as veg (this is my rationale) and lower standards.
3. Will be able to find cleaner very soon. Ask your new neighbours, they'll be likely to have someone, possibly hispanic, and they will have other relatives to recommend. Expect to pay between $10 - $14 an hour (this west coast, anyway)

Green Alert (silly stuff that nevertheless hovers at the edge of my radar....)

1. Yes! You will need 2 cars. Welcome to the USA!

2. As soon as they hit school

3. Do podcasts for Cbeebies. You can let them watch Nickelodeon Sprout (I think) on cable which is educational (sort of, so I'm told) or PBS in the morning which is also fairly innocuous and no ads (regular tv). My kids don't watch telly anymore as they are vile when they do although I caved and let them watch Bagpuss on youtube the other day..

Weetabix YES! Shreedies, no. Earl grey, yes, usually. Trader Joe's actually does very nice bags. Can get Marmite at loads of places, but quite pricey. Recommend buying many enormous jars and putting it in your shipping crate. Can get digestives at $5 a pack. Choccies are rubbish here. Bring stash of your favourites. Even if you don't eat them at home, you'll want them.
5. You can get wine at most supermarkets in New York state, don't worry! If you're really lucky, they'll ask for ID which makes you feel FABULOUS!!
Fret not, and contact me if you have any other questions.

Home Office Mum said...

Repeat after me: IT WILL ALL BE FINE. IT WILL ALL BE FINE. And it will. Oh, and my cleaning regime sounds so much like yours its spooky.

nappy valley girl said...

Anon - thanks. You will be much appreciated.

Mud - canapes for the builder party sounds like a good plan! Do you think they go well with PG Tips?

P - I loved Sesame Street as a child! That is the one programme I'm looking forward to them watching in the States....I even found them some old clips of it on Youtube recently.

Rosie - wine purchasing will be top of the list when we arrive...

Iota - I knew you would be helpful. Thank you. I know Brit DVDs won't work in US, but didn't realise you could make ones that will work. I may have to enlist my brother in law, who knows about stuff like this! (I'm not really worried about the Mom thing - really I should have put in far more pressing things like finding a place to live, but it was all getting a bit too serious!)

Expat Mum - and yes, I knew you would be good too. I hate Shreddies too, it's the boys who like them, but I'm sure I can get them onto something else. Thanks for the Expat Women tip - will try it - and glad to hear that cleaners are cheap. And I am really looking forward to the hot summers....

Mothership - wow, THANKS for going through my list so comprehensively....I already count fruits as veg, so glad to hear I'm not the only one! Podcasts sounds good and I'm relieved to hear that you get wine at the supermarket, so I won't have to feel like a bag lady with my brown paper bag....

Home Office Mum - glad it's not just me....

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

I can't get weetabix, shreddies, marmite or Earl Grey. But people send me food parcels.....
My 4 y-o now has American vocab- candy, bathroom (for loo),recess, awesome, good jarb, calls her friends Conner & Carl, Karner & Kar-ol, co sthat's how she hears them. She goes to an American schl. But the thing I dread is her developing that 'interrogative intonation'; you know when your voice goes up at the end & everything you say sounds like a question? - drives me absolutely nuts.
An dlivign abroad has mad eme wax positively elegaic about Cbeebies. believe me it IS educational, and it is superb. Just you wait, I guarantee you'll feel the same. And yes I get it copied onto dvds too;-)

It IS a hugely stressful time. And I think if anyone had told me just how much there is to do, I don't think I'd have done it.

My advice wd be: be absolutely shameless about enlisting help from anyone &everyone. Don't worry about THERE till you get there!

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

p.s Oh, & yes you WILL have a great time!

Frog in the Field said...

Anything you've left a new one.
Anything you fancy a new one.
Anything you hated, accidently leave it behind,
most of all remember the righ tside to drive on and keep to the speed limit.

Wife in Hong Kong said...

I put way too much into storage: bring favourite books, bring all your framed photos, bring photo albums and pictures of the kids when small, bring pictures for the walls and favourite clutter as you won't want to buy more of that when you have stuff you already like. Bring the things you like to have around you and that will make you feel quickly that your new place is a home. Don't use the move as a way of turning out half the kids toys as I did - they need toys in a new place as much if not more than at home. You'll be fine and I'm sure you're going to love it. But I'm missing your view of Wandsworth already.

Cassandra said...

Hi Nappy Valley Girl, (I popped in once when I was Red Rum at Definitely Stopping at Two - I now have new blog!)we relocated at the end of the summer last year. Only from Herts to Kent, but it was hard enough. I COMPLETELY understand how you are feeling and frankly I am very impressed that you are posting at all - I was so stressed that I was petrified and couldn't function! I was similarly worried about finding tenants who would appreciate our house but miraculously we did, and very quickly too - don't worry about that, it's a great rental market at the mo. Also, we didn't have cbeebies for AGES as our freeview box died and we took ages to install Sky. We watch it all the time too - we survived by watching DVDs. Why don't you buy a few region 1 DVDs from amazon before you go out then you'll know that you've got something to rely on? I don't want to leave an endless comment so will check to see if you've an e-mail address on this blog. But honestly, it'll work out, and it WILL be fine. And adventures in life are GOOD! All the very best, Cx

Cassandra said...

PS Am adding you to my blogroll. Have been meaning to for ages!

nappy valley girl said...

Wow, thanks very much everyone for all this really useful information - I wasn't trying to get free advice, but it seems I did the best thing possible and whinged!


PLIT - I can see the CBeebies DVDs are a must. And I will be shameless about asking for help.

Frog - as always, the voice of reason (But are you sure you aren't Michael Winner?). And yes, the driving will be a whole new thing to worry about once I'm there...

WIHK - good tips. I was definitely going to take all the children's books and toys, but will bring photo albums too and the framed pictures of children - I hadn't really thought about that.

Cassandra - hello, and I've popped over to see your new blog. Good name - I also love I Capture the Castle. Will add you to mine as well. And yes, do email if you have any other tips!

that girl? said...

You sound quite sorted in your head compared to how I would be I think! Am so excited for you and look forward to hearing about your new adventures (hopefully you'll continue blogging out there?). It's a massive undertaking but I know you will be just fine and if you do buy wine or other groceries that come in brown paper bags, don't forget to cradle it in your arms to avoid it dropping out of the bottom and having Merlot spillage on the sidewalks! Sacrilege!!

Nunhead Mum of One said...

Wow, your worries worried me!

I'm sure we can all, by rotation, send you anything you need.

Surely with the gazillion and one channels that the US of A churn out, am sure you can find Cbeebies or similiar? If not, we'll campaign for it to be transmitted on your behalf!!!

Bee said...

OK, I'm just tuning in . . . so I'm not sure where in the States you are moving to. If it is a fairly biggish sort of place, you will be able to get all of the foodstuffs listed in number 4 of the green area. There is plenty of children's programming. Depending on where you are moving to, you will be able to find the housecleaner of your dreams. Plenty of nurseries/day cares/similar. Plenty of booze. Prohibition ended a long time ago.

The children will probably start calling you Mom, though. Maybe not.

It will be fun!!
P.S. Email me if you have specific questions. I'm a Texas native living in Berkshire.

Melanie said...

Oh honey! I feel your pain, your angst, your worry. Ok here goes...

Movers: Doree Bonner. 0800-021-4290. They've moved me locally, cross-country and internationally and the move went like clockwork. Not one thing broke. They pack, they unpack, they're brilliant.

Food in America: Same as here and you can get EVERYTHING. If not in the local shop then online. If you know the postcode for your new home, go to and see if they deliver to your area. They are great. Avoid Whole Foods. Too expensive and you can get good organic at the supermarket or farmers' market. We call Whole Foods Whole Paycheck!

Littleboys management: that's your call but I'm sure you'll be able to find nurseries there to give yourself a bit of space. I'm assuming you're going on your hubby's visa which means you can't work. The non-profits will love you as a volunteer. Go for it.

Two cars: Yes, I'm afraid this is unavoidable. Not sure what the cost and waiting list is for a Prius but worth a bit of investigation to soothe your green consciousness.

New Yawk accent: LOL! That'll be interesting. The boys will either want to fit in or be fussed over for their adorable Brit accents. I hope for the latter.

TV: Nickelodeon and PBS. Get Tivo as well so you can stock up on mum-approved content. My friend Zoe is French and swears by Tivo for that reason.

Wine: Shouldn't be a problem depending on where you are. Some shops don't sell alcohol on Sundays. Annoying.

Meanwhile here are a few things that you will LOVE about being in the U.S.:

The Container Store. I cannot describe it. You will just have to go. Go as soon as you arrive. It will help to sort your house. They also deliver.

Real Simple magazine. Better to show than tell.

Good bagels. There's no bagel like a NY bagel. If you like bagels.

Customer service. Horray! What a concept.

Summer. Autumn. Winter. Spring. Four seasons. Four ways to pretend you have a new wardrobe.

9,161,923 sq km of a new country to explore.

Seriously though, if you have any questions, I'm happy to help:

Hang in there.

nappy valley girl said...

That girl - No fear, any wine will be well looked after in my hands.

Nunhead Mum - unfortunately the more channels doesn't necessarily mean the better content, but maybe one day the Beeb will deign to allow iPlayer for expats!

Bee - Thanks, you have reassured me. We will be living in Long Island, and I am sure you can get anything in New York - which is why it is actually rather a silly worry. But still.

Melanie - wow, what a mine of information. Thank you so much. I'm going to look up Doree Bonner right now. And definitely get Tivo. I'm, hopting that even if I can't work for people out there, as a freelancer I can still write for magazines back here. But after the stress if the move I might be glad of a few months off....

mothership said...

I need to let you know that you shouldn't bother making any new dvd's . Just buy a region free dvd player when you get here - not much more expensive than a US only one, then you can play all your UK ones on here and any European ones, plus home DVD's that people send you and anything that you get on trips home or buy on Ebay from far flung places (like my entire pirate set of teletubbies region something weird in asia . They will of course play US DVD's too.

And welcome to customer service. Just had delightful experience where my neurologist, pharmacy and insurance company all worked together to get me extra migraine meds with great dedication and good cheer within 24 hours andrang me to let me know they were ready and available at - get this - the drive through 24 hour pharmacy. love it.

Almost American said...

PBS has some good kids shows, and if you get cable TV you'll probably be able to get the shows "On demand." We pretty much only watch PBS and BBC American nowadays.

Buying wine - depends on which state you're going to be in. Some states allow sales in supermarkets, others make you go to the liquor store. (Or as my son calls it, the "liquids" store!)

You'll probably need two cars unless you're going to drive the good Doctor to work and pick him up every day!

You can get most foodstuffs, depending on where you live, and Long Island isn't exactly the boonies. I live in a fairly rural yet very cosmopolitan area and have little difficulty finding most things I want from the UK. As a last resort, you can always order online!

ella said...

We're moving to the US too!

Only, my Red Alert worries look more like your Green Alert worries. Perhaps I should focus more on the real priorities...

I'll be back to make notes on all the advice you've been given in the comments here.